A group of 20-somethings with a lot of money and a large social media following walk into a bar and ask for a lot of drinks. Then they tell the world where they are, drop hints about where they’re about to go, and repeat. If you think you know the punchline to this joke, it’s because you do — but that’s exactly how Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) 21st birthday goes down in “Strange Bedfellows” (April 5) and, in a weird twist, was the central focus of the episode.
Maybe it’s that “Empire” is giving us a bit of a breather before the true chaos hits, or maybe because the Lyons and their respective crews are actually just tired (we would be!), but everything that happened tonight seemed to be in a bit of a holding pattern.
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Angelo (Taye Diggs) actually seem to be a in solid place for once, free of the drama cloud of Lucious (Terrence Howard); except for when Angelo finds Cookie’s illegal gun stashed in her liquor cabinet. Explaining in a surprisingly rational manner that this time type of thing is what derails a mayoral campaign, and potentially their life together, Cookie agrees to get rid of it… Which she sort of does, by a) stashing it in her purse for a while, and then b) shoving it in Angelo’s coat pocket and making him take care of it.
Jamal (Jussie Smollett) found himself wedged, yet again, into his sexy love triangle between the hot puppy dog D-Major (Tobias Truvillion) and the sultry and honorable PTSD sherpa Phillip (Juan Antonio). After being told by Jamal that they couldn’t be together because D-Major was still in the closet (plus the whole pills thing), D-Major decided to come out in the most 2017 way possible: by live streaming himself walking up to Jamal’s apartment to tell him, and the world, he’s ready to live his truth.
Sadly, he didn’t anticipate Jamal having a slumber party with Philip and the whole thing kind of blows up in his face in real time. Jamal is pissed at D-Major, Phillip is annoyed at Jamal and the whole situation, and D-Major is now left to deal with the blowback from the homophobic hip hop community alone. This is why you should always at least shoot a guy a text first.
Anika (Grace Gealey), it turns out, didn’t actually go with Tariq (Morocco Omari) last week, but hopped into her parents’ car instead. Once she gets her dad to buy her a burner phone, she calls Lucious to ask if she can come home to explain the plan she’s hatched to seduce Tariq, breaking federal law, and therefore getting him off all their backs for good. Lucious gives her a week to put things in motion, otherwise Mama Lyon might just come for her.
We’ll definitely be curious to see how this plays out next week. Given that wickedly cunning smirk on her face when Anika meets with Tariq again makes us think that she’s actually got a few other things up her well-tailored sleeve as well.
Andre and his new friend Giuliana (Nia Long), meanwhile, are bringing the true heat of the episode with their new Vegas plans, and a sudden flirtation that quickly gets dialed up to 11. After a… unique first meeting, the two agree to move forward with their shady dealings to refurbish Giuliana’s old strip club into a music venue worthy of Empire Records talent. Andre sees it as an opportunity to create a showcase for Nessa (Sierra Aylina McClain) and get out from under Lucious (before he presumably kills him, if that’s still on the table) — and for Giuliana, we learn, it’s a chance to pay her now-dead husband’s debts, by getting her dubious overlord in business with the Empire.
As they discuss these contracts over drinks and dance around the fact that Andre is putting hard moves on her, we can’t help but brace for the explosion (and probable hair-pulling) that’s inevitable. Turns out Andre “Wharton Business School” Lyon has moves!
After the inevitable brawl at Leviticus that shuts down Hakeem’s birthday, there are a few hints at what’s hopefully in store for the rest of the season: Lucious’ sudden wheezing could foreshadow a relapsed health scare; Anika’s scheme with Tariq could go sideways, in which case Mama Lyon could get her wish; Giuliana clearly has ulterior motives with Lucious; and we’re assuming that gold-plated gun now in Angelo’s coat pocket is going to come back to haunt him.
Plus, with Demi Moore incoming by season’s end… Is it Wednesday yet?
“Empire” airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.