Every major character on Empire has a trusted sidekick of some sort. Lucious has his attorney, Vernon. Cookie has her personal assistant, Porsha. And the three sons all have a significant other (though, in Hakeem's case, that role isn't totally clear thanks to splitting time between NotRihanna and Naomi Campbell). So this week, Empire takes the time to show how important these sidekicks are, even if they often go unappreciated. Sidekicks keep you grounded, and organized, and out of jail on murder charges. Just like Alfred!
Before we get there, though, Lucious took my advice last week and finally organized a dinner party outside of the house. Cookie's invited, but Cookie doesn't know that a) the rest of the family's coming and b) the point of the dinner is for Lucious and Anika to announce their engagement. Had Cookie known either a) or b) or both, she likely may have chosen a different outfit. (WARNING THAT LINK IS VERY NSFW DON'T COMPLAIN THAT YOU WERE CAUGHT UNAWARES)
CRUMBLING EMPIRE IMMINENT WARNING
3. Vernon. Here's our sidekick having the biggest crisis. Vernon learns that Lucious was, in fact, the one who shot Bunkie, which troubles him on a few levels. Like Bunkie, Vernon's spent the bulk of his life working for Lucious, but has that all been a waste if Lucious doesn't trust him enough to keep him in the loop? And does Vernon want his life to be about protecting a man who murders close friends like this?
Fortunately, Vernon has a solution: pay someone who's already facing a murder charge to confess to Bunkie's murder as well and keep Lucious's name clear. This will one hundred percent backfire on him. Even if it doesn't, Vernon's also made the choice to back Andre in the war of succession. Surely the brother who's already shown a quick willingness to manipulate his family against each other will be a reliable and safe ally.
Oh, and Vernon's also a recovering addict of some sort. Place your bets on "Vernon is murdered but the scene is set up to look like an overdose" now!
2. Jamal. A somewhat surprising entry here, because in this episode Jamal's new single blows up thanks to Cookie sweet talking a famous football player who hears the song at Leviticus. (He definitely doesn't play for the Giants or Jets because Cookie congratulates him on scoring four touchdowns last week.) That leads to him getting a live spot on "Scorpious" satellite radio, hosted by Sway.* But Jamal's clearly drifting away from his boyfriend, and when Sway asks him if there's any special lady in his life, Jamal's response is "I'm just in love with my music right now."
Let's give Jamal a pass for not choosing this moment to come out. Everyone knows that the satellite radio personality you want to share that kind of deeply personal information with is Mad Dog.
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE. At the very end of the episode, we get a new character from Jamal's past - a backup singer played by Raven-Symoné, who shows up at the Empire offices with a toddler. She claims the toddler wanted to meet her daddy, and the strong implication is that said daddy is Jamal. The really fucked up thing, though?
Raven-Symoné's character is named Olivia.
*Sway plays himself, because Sway can only be Sway.
When we started this episode, one person knew for sure that Lucious shot Bunkie. That person was Lucious. When we end it, three other people share that knowledge - Vernon, Andre, and Rhonda. I set the odds that either Andre or Rhonda try to pressure, if not blackmail, Lucious with this at some point at 1000000000000000000000000 percent.
Lucious has also decided that his best approach to treating his ALS is an experimental drug that he can only get by dealing with sleazy Russian doctors. This is the equivalent of relying on Yahoo! Answers for childrearing advice. He's also beefed up security around him, hiring a former Navy Seal (played by Derek Luke) who will almost assuredly end up sleeping with Cookie, hopefully setting up a new plot where Cookie ends up becoming the most decorated deep-cover operative in CIA history.
And now his company's about to put out an album of Courtney Love covering Al Green. Holy shit, Lucious, you are so fucked.
COOKIE'S WEAPON OF CHOICE
Just go back and click on that link.
A SCENE THAT I IMAGINE WAS CUT FROM THIS WEEK'S EPISODE
JUDD NELSON: So, um, are you still trying to steal my most notable rapper?
LUCIOUS: Judd, we're not dealing with that subplot this week.
JUDD NELSON: Can we though? I've got a house payment coming up really soon.
LUCIOUS: Look, I said I'd sneak you in to snag some craft services. Please don't push it.