This episode didn’t matter.
Seriously. Because of Empire’s breakneck plotting, and the way it picks up and jettisons plotlines from episode to episode (or even scene to scene) sometimes they need to resort to a little bit of filler. Seeing as the driving narrative of the first part of this season ended well before the opening titles, and what looks to be the next A-story doesn’t kick off until just before this episode’s closing credits, everything in-between is largely a waste of time. Albeit, a waste of time that involves Ne-Yo giving relationship advice.
The episode kicks off with CNN’s Jake Tapper announcing that all the charges against Lucious have been dropped, because he dropped Uncle Vernon’s decomposing corpse in prosecutor Roxanne Ford’s car last week. So, that storyline’s all wrapped up! (Remember how Lucious was in jail two episodes ago?)
Now that Lucious is in the clear, the focus turns largely to Andre, who is not well. His return to Empire is scored by the saddest, most ominous-sounding music, and his pa half-shafts him by putting him in charge of the Gutter Life Records imprint, which seems exactly as desirable as it sounds. Andre, a married man, isn’t a big fan of the celebratory dancers, but it might be because he’s torn up about all the horrible things he’s done (accessory to murder, blackmail, putting his brother in mortal dangers, so on, so forth). Andre decides that baptism will cleanse him of his many sins, and reaches out to his preacher, Otis Williams from the Temptations, to set it up while he tries to get his entire fractured family to attend.
While all this is going on, Jamal is recording with Ne-Yo, and getting conflicting advice about whether or not to bring his boyfriend on tour with him. His father — a noted and savvy scumbag — says no, while the “Closer” singer is low-key in favor of the idea. Jamal decides to heed Mr. Yo’s words, but not before the Rolling Stone photographer from the last episode — who looks like the guy you hire when you don’t want to spend thousands on a name-brand Alan Rickman — tries to blow him. Jamal rejects this advance. Good for Jamal.
Also getting rejected this episode is Hakeem, who brought in that jazz singer he found in a Brooklyn bar last episode. As Tiana snidely remarks, they’ve heard she can “really blow.” She is not one of “those types of girls,” though, and walks away from Lyon Dynasty after Hakeem tries to mack on her. He later finds her and makes another go at her while stressing that he’s not going to try anything like that again. Hakeem’s either the perfect gentleman, or a f**kboy. Could go either way.
Cookie’s storyline sees her planning a concert with a roguish character played by Adam Rodriguez, and calling Lucious on his bull, as she is wont to do. She’s very suspicious of the claim that Vernon committed suicide while she and her ex-husband are playing “not me” with his ashes. (Fun fact: Terrence Howard has a booger in nose during this whole scene.) When her newly acquired dog hears a strange noise in the Lyon Dynasty office, she pulls a gun on the hired goons that tried to plant a bug on Lucious’ behalf. Cookie is amazing.
This all leads to the actual baptism, where all of the family does attend even though Lucious looked like he (reasonably) feared that his skin would burst into flame if he stepped foot in the church. He leaves halfway through, because he has flashbacks to when his manic mom almost drowned him while attempting a DIY baptism in the tub.
If all this sounds like a lot has happened, that’s on SPIN. In reality, almost nothing that occurs in this hour has any real meaning. We double down on previously established character traits (Lucious has mommy issues and mental health fears, Andre has regrets,) and maybe set up a C-plot or two (Hakeem’s jazzy paramour). But it’s not until the last 30 seconds of the episode where some masked men — who made an all-too-brief appearance in a threatening video earlier — kidnap Hakeem. This startling, twisty cliff hanger, is what part two of this fall season is all going to be about; everything in the episode before this was just treading water.