Because we’re smack dab in the middle of a holiday, I must give thanks to Lee Daniels for blessing us with this episode of Empire, titled “Sinned Against.” Thank you for allowing an entire den full of my family members to come together in collective silence — radio silence — when Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who let the world know he is a proud card carrying member of the LGBTQ community, plant a fat juicy one on singer Sky Summers’ (Alicia Keys) perfectly pouty lips. It is just the right way to start a holiday full of “did you see this” and “what about that” around the dinner table as we chow down on Patti Pies.
I’m giving thanks for the cameo from Rosie O’Donnell appearing as Pepper, who is apparently one of “the baddest bitches on the block.” Pepper was the “Red” (Kate Mulgrew) in Cookie’s prison when they were both locked down. Now that she’s out, she’s just a sweet old bakery owner, cooking cakes and pies… or is she? She’s still well-connected to the streets and assists Cookie with finding her missing sister Carol (Tasha Smith), who’s gone rogue.
And, Lee Daniels, I’m truly thankful for you appearing as famed director Lee Daniels on your own show. I must say, you had your character down pat. You even sashayed, hands on hips, and it was everything. When you shut Lucious (Terrence Howard) down about his ideals of how Jamal’s Pepsi shoot was going to go — I kind of got the feeling that’s how you run your Empire production in real life.
I’m so thankful for the mess that is Anika (Grace Gealey). I don’t think anyone else could pull off her special brand of crazy, convincing herself that Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) loves her while painstakingly dancing around telling him that she’s pregnant with his child. She instead seeks out Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), who doles out advice on how to get crazy with the bitch who’s trying to steal your man. Little does Rhonda know she is already staring crazy in the face. Now she’s set Anika on the path to crush Hakeem’s “Jenny from the block jump off” Laura (Jamila Velazquez). Raise your hand if you think Anika’s going to end up somehow giving her real baby to Rhonda’s not-really-pregnant ass.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how thankful I am for the gift that is Cookie’s bougie sister Candace (Vivica Fox). Watching the two of them clomp around Philly dressed head to toe in leather, fur, dresses and high heels (because that’s exactly what you wear when you’re trying to find your drug addict sister) is a blessing. And it’s because of dear sweet bougie Candace that we now know Cookie’s real name is “LaRetha.” Plus, getting to witness Cookie scream at Candace to “Get yo’ hands off my fur” – red fur to be exact - is a Thanksgiving gift in and of itself.
And finally this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Lucious Lyon, who constantly dances the line between good and evil. He is busy snaking around Hakeem still trying to entice him back over to Empire, and away from Cookie. He’s treating Rhonda like royalty now that she’s carrying his legacy in her womb, buying her and Andre a mansion. He’s selling off parts of Empire to seal the deal with the streaming company, all while having the wherewithal to do a hood approved background check on Laz (because nobody else thought to) to find out he is part of Big Heavy’s (Victor Almanzar) “Longhorn” crew. And, when Cookie and Hakeem find out Laz (Adam Rodriguez) is dirty — with a few unspoken winks, nods, and twitches between Cookie, Lucious and his goon squad, it’s lights out for poor Laz.
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