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‘Empire,’ Season 2, Episode 2 Recap: Cookie and the Michael Scott Paper Company

The second episode of Empire’s sophomore season opens with what’s essentially a montage recapping an episode that… doesn’t exist. Armed only with cardboard boxes full of their stuff as they walk out of Empire, Cookie, Hakeem, Andre, and Anika are starting their own record label, having apparently made the decision to jump ship sometime between the end of the last episode and the start of this one. It’s a major, potentially season-shaping change that’s told very abruptly, pushing Empire’s ruthless storytelling efficiency to its limit, but not breaking point. After all, it’s much more exciting to see how Cookie and Co. deal with their sudden rival label rather than wringing their hangs about whether or not to go out on their own.

Jamal doesn’t seem all that concerned about his backstabbing family members and their cute little startup label. Maybe it’s because he watched The Office, and realized that what Cookie just started is the Michael Scott Paper Company. Feeling betrayed by their company and family, Steve Carrell/the disloyal Lyons attempt to start their own company in the same industry with fewer resources and little chance for success beyond an enjoyable mini-arch. The endeavor does give Hakeem a chance to start an all-girl group and mack with Becky G  (side note: God bless Becky G) in a hot tub. Hakeem’s personal IRL Tinder is supposed to be a sign that their new company has management talent. So, yeah, this is gonna go great.

[articleembed id=”162291″ title=”The 50 Best Fictional Songs of All Time” image=”162778″ excerpt=”Writing a real song is easy; writing a fake song is hard”]

Lucious is still in jail, and apparently none of the guards seem to care that Chris Rock (who apparently was also a cannibal?) was brutally murdered there the other day. Just life in prison, you know? These things happen, no big deal. Lucious is feeling inspired, and wants to rap a couple bars from behind bars, but a nasty, rap-hating prison guard — played by Ludacris — really has it out for him. And while Luda is kind of a dick, belittling Lucious and attempting to stop him from recording a song with a studio made of contraband, it’s worth remembering that Lucious is a murderous super villian. Naturally, it doesn’t work out for Ludacorrections Officer, because he get the snot beaten out of him so that Lucious’ new track, with a delightful chorus of “Snitch / Bitch / Snitchin-ass bitch,” can get the radio play it so desperately deserves. It features Petey Pablo. God bless Petey Pablo.

What’s not getting radio play, however, is Hakeem’s album, which Jamal and Empire records are sitting on because Jamal’s a little vindictive, and also because Hakeem has openly and repeatedly tried to screw him over. Hakeem, being the little twerp he is, decides a cool thing to do is leak the album (Angel Haze, we see you), under the assumption that Jamal won’t actually sue him. He’s wrong, though Jamal seems, at most, mildly annoyed at what’s likely a massive hit to Empire’s reputation and finances.

Andre, on the other hand, realizing that leaking an album — and more importantly, attempting to start a record label with a name Keyser Söze’d from the empty Jewish warehouse they bought — wises up and tries to bail on Lyon Dynasty. (This is approximately the millionth change of sides this show has seen.) However, what Andre didn’t realize is that his dad is a cold, vindictive bastard who won’t let him back into Empire. So Andre and his pregnant wife are in no man’s land, and Lucious, thanks to his skeezy new lawyer and some embarrassing blackmail material, is free on bail. Cookie thought she had more time to get a competing, multi-million dollar record label off the ground before he got out of bars, but managed to get pretty far in what looked like an afternoon.

We are 88 minutes into Empire season 2.

Read our recap of the season premiere here