‘Empire’ Recap: Cookie’s Night at the Opera

Warning: This recap of the “Cupid Kills” episode of Empire contains spoilers.

Probably the main reason we love Empire — more than the clothes, the music, the Chris Rock cannibalism — is how relatable it all is. Yes, most of us are multimillionaires who’ve spent much of our adult lives in prison, but that doesn’t mean we know how to behave at the opera. Personally, when I see a woman standing onstage screaming beautifully, I too will stand up and scream my approval mid-aria. And, yes, I may just get into a tussle in the restroom afterward. I don’t know any other way! That’s why Cookie’s adventures at the opera in “Cupid Kills” weren’t just good entertainment; they were real life.

“Cupid Kills” was a good and fun episode of Empire! I have to say, I am enjoying this season a lot so far. Season 3 seems to have found the right balance of reasonable versus insane. Not many shows have episodes that end with a possibly paranormal ménage à trois, but this week Empire sure did! Let’s talk about it!

We began with the siren call of a future superstar wafting through the grittiest neighborhood in New York.

Much like the Greek deities that beckoned lovelorn sailors to certain peril, so too did Nessa’s sweet sounds summon the Lyon men.

The only problem was, Lucious and Andre weren’t the only ones trying to sign Shyne’s kid sister to a record deal. … Every other shady A&R person in the nation was crammed into that crappy recording studio as well. On the upside, it was nice to know Shyne’s bonsai collection was still thriving. For a frightening thug, he certainly did have a green thumb!

Lucious was mad at Becky for not signing Nessa sooner, but Becky just sort of pulled up her LinkedIn account on her phone and pointed at it: “Not my job.” She’d been asking for that promotion ever since she became a brunette, but neither Cookie nor Lucious had listened to her. Live and learn, jerks!

Then a trio of children broke into the lobby and began to serenade Cookie with a truly filthy ditty.

Just kidding, it was only “Frère Jacques.” Except, as we all know, that song is sung in gibberish, but what if that gibberish were secretly lurid and obscene? I suppose we’ll never know what the lyrics mean for sure, but I don’t trust “Frère Jacques,” and I never will. Anyway, these children were sent by Taye Diggs, who was still trying to win Cookie’s heart. It worked! But the ploy worked even better on Porsha, who, it must be said, was sporting an especially special look in this episode. Porsha’s character has always been treated as more of a garnish than a main course, but, man, does she put a smile on my face. Look at her hairdo!

Lucious then tasked both of his sons to sign Nessa to Empire by any means necessary. It was probably not the first time they’d agreed to some kind of tag team (which is a sexual innuendo, did you know this?), but they seemed pretty confident they’d get the job done. Good luck, fellas!

I’m loving this weird friendship between Jamal and his megahunk trauma counselor. Why was this guy now following him around all the time? Either they better start kissing on the mouth soon or else we find out he’s actually a figment of Jamal’s imagination, because I do not understand what’s going on here. Easy on the eyes though!

Jamal finally worked up the courage to visit Freda Gatz in jail again, but when he arrived he discovered that somebody had beaten her up real bad.

Like, real bad. This made Jamal feel guilty, so he set out to get her released on bail somehow. This required hiring a shady lawyer and also bribing a doctor to claim Freda had mental problems. But do you know something? It worked! Freda was now out on bail! The downside was, now that she officially had mental problems (according to her file), she probably wouldn’t be able to prove that Lucious had murdered her father, Chris Rock. Which was exactly what Lucious had been going for when he hired people to beat up Freda in jail. Full circle! Do you see how tricky this guy is! What a trickster. Anyway, welcome back, Freda.

That poor pig. The worst part was the fact that “Empire” was branded onto its tum-tum. Personally I can’t think of anything less appetizing, nor a worse visual metaphor for this company.

Hakeem had decided to confront Nessa and Shyne during a live stream about getting them to sign a record deal on the spot. Shyne asked Hakeem to secretly write the asking price on a napkin, but then showed it off on camera and dared the other record labels to outbid it!

This was NOT what Hakeem had in mind. Clearly Shyne was a complete jerk, bonsai expertise or not.

Oh, so now there was a new white guy on the staff, but his thing was he was constantly behaving as if he were black. If you’ve ever needed to roll your eyes more, this was a great new character for you. On the upside, he involved himself in Cookie’s getting-ready-for-a-date montage, and anytime there’s a montage involving Cookie and clothes it’s a good thing.

Even though Porsha had tipped Cookie off that Taye Diggs was taking Cookie to a hot club, she had apparently misspelled it in Bing, and the place turned out be an opera house, not a club! But even though Cookie had never been to the opera before, I think it’s safe to say she nailed it. That opera singer did not seem mad when Cookie shouted her approval during the opening of La Boheme. I think more opera singers could use that kind of encouragement.

Unfortunately, some of the fancier opera-goers did not approve of Taye Diggs’ “low-class” date and openly wondered what he saw in her. That’s when Cookie came out of her bathroom stall and threatened to whoop their asses. Tell ’em, Cook! Still, though, the fact remained that Taye Diggs was possibly going to run for mayor and probably would not be wanting an ex-con on his arm, so Cookie decided this romance was a dead end and ghosted on the rest of the opera. This hurt Taye Diggs’ feelings, but he was just going to have to deal with it.

It was Andre’s turn to get Nessa to sign to Empire, so he confronted her alone and talked some sense into her: Empire was her best bet, plus she and he had a lot in common (they both knew how to use Excel). But when Shyne found out that Nessa had signed with Empire, he stormed into Lucious’ office and started fistfighting everyone! He ended up losing this fight once Andre got warmed up, and also when Lucious hit him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. And despite Shyne spitting blood all over the contract, he decided it would be a good idea to sign it after Lucious pulled a gun on him. In general this was a normal business meeting, but it resulted in Nessa coming into the Empire family for real. Congratulations, everyone!

I loved when Taye Diggs showed up at Tiana’s video shoot and found Cookie wearing an ice dancing outfit and tried to win her heart again. He doesn’t give up! But he especially loved it when he realized that Tiana’s video was a riff on La Boheme, the opera that Cookie had ghosted on. She may have only seen the first half, but it had made quite an impression on her! (Also, why was Tiana’s video shoot being broadcast live on every jumbotron in the world? Can I get some figures on how expensive that is?)

Despite telling his hunky PTSD counselor that he was cool and didn’t need drugs or alcohol anymore, Jamal needed tons of drugs and alcohol! Here we go with another lame Jamal plot line. It’s nearly impossible to care about his PTSD and pill popping, but it’s fine. At least it’s something.

Shyne was not ready to give up so easily. Yes, he’d been beaten up very badly by a father-son duo, but he still had a team of helpers and tons of guns. This was about to get ugly!

This episode ended on a truly ludicrous and amazing moment, when Andre and Nessa began making out, but then he lost his boner because of his dead wife. But then Rhonda appeared and commanded him to do sex with Nessa! And she even sorta gyrated against his booty while they did it. Almost none of it made sense, and that’s why it was the best. Whether it’s mental problems or a haunting, few can deny the thrills of a ménage à trois with a nonexistent third. You know, we should all be so lucky.

I liked “Cupid Kills” a lot, mostly because it felt eventful. That is the problem when TV shows slow down their storytelling and save their twists for premieres and finales. Empire needs to be crazy always, and this episode remembered that big time. The cast is big enough where several people can sit out the episode and not be missed, and the storylines still feel strong and, in the case of the flashbacks, even poignant. There’s still a lot going on, but it’s not feeling jumbled or overly dense. And, again, things remain just as insane as we’d hoped. If this were an opera, we should all stand up and shout in approval.

What did YOU think of “Cupid Kills”?

Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Watch clips and full episodes of Empire at Yahoo View