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Empire Watch: Hakeem Is Back, But Is He All There?

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Filled with doubts, Cookie discusses the recent kidnapping with Laz, her concert promoter. He suggests that Cookie hire the kidnappers and put them on payroll. You know, because putting ne’er-do-wells on the company 401k is a great deterrent to crime. I mean, it worked for The Rolling Stones at the Altamont. Cookie thinks about it, but decides she’d rather have wolves at the door than in her house. “The Lyons are the ones you need to look out for,” she says proudly. “Especially the lioness,” replies Laz smoothly, before moving in for a kiss. Cookie melts like butter in his arms, showing a vulnerability we aren’t used to seeing since she fell for Malcolm in season one.

Realizing that her baby needs to get his mojo back, Cookie decides the best way to do that is to take him to confront his kidnappers.Of course this backfires with Hakeem pulling a gun out and threatening the crew. Cookie manages to talk her baby down off the ledge, threatens the kidnappers herself, and then decides to hire them. That’s one hell of a job interview.

Later that night, things are on and poppin’ as the Gutter Life artists are performing at Leviticus. Becky tries to play it cool while her beau J Poppa spits hot fire on the stage, but can’t front when Jamal asks her what that thang do. Then J Poppa spoils the moment by inserting a Bible verse into his flow as subtle as a brick through a window. Becky and Lucious look at each other dumbfounded. Andre explains that J Poppa will be his new Archangel Michael helping him save souls in the ghetto one hit at time. Next up, Freda Gats aka Hoodtasia Barrino, jumps on stage and pretty much kills it. That is, until someone starts heckling her and she delivers a swift kick to the face.

Empire isn’t the only label experiencing performance problems. Hakeem and Mirage á Trois are supposed to open at the Big Apple Jam. However, while the girls are on their game, Hakeem is still shell shocked from his kidnapping experience. Lucious rolls up on his son outside in the alley, trying to help him get over his ordeal. Lucious plays a brand new track he produced for Hakeem about his son and their struggle, and promises to give it to him with no strings attached. Hakeem throws the gift back in his face stating that there are always strings attached to anything from Lucious Lyon or ropes that will choke you.

Lucious doesn’t take this too kindly and blasts his son and tells him to man up instead of wallowing in self-pity. Jamal and Andre step in and try to diffuse the situation, asking their parents to leave. The brothers have a heart to heart and Hakeem emerges stronger and ready to perform. Or so we thought. When Hakeem hops on stage to perform "Runnin'" with his girl group, Lucious is messing with him, playa hating from the sidelines and throwing him off his game. However, Laura refuses to let Hakeem mess up her check and brings him back from the brink.

While Hakeem and the girls are celebrating a successful performance at the after party, Anika shows up at the door worried sick about Hakeem. He pretty much pushes Anika out the door and says he's okay. You know, until his next nervous breakdown and he needs some sexual healing.

After being disrespected by Hakeem, Lucious decides to go find Freda Gats and pretty much spits the exact same game and plays the same beat trying to endear the new artist to Empire. Freeda, who is obviously looking for another father figure, eats it up and starts freestyling over the “boom boom boom boom…bang bang bang bang!!!” beat with Lucious.

While most of the episode was pretty lackluster, it closes with an intriguing cliffhanger. Laz shows up at Cookie's door ready to console her after a difficult week. Cookie just wants him to make her forget everything that happened this week, as the background music goes “boom boom boom boom… bang bang bang bang!!!” Then we see that Laz has the same bull tattoo on his back as the men who kidnapped Hakeem.

Next week promises to deliver answers about Laz's relationship with the kidnappers, Hakeem casting doubts on the new security detail and Jamal potentially working with Cookie again.

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