‘Empire’ Season 3, Episode 8 Recap: ‘The Unkindest Cut’ Paints Divided Lyons As Gangsters
This episode began with Tiana (Serayah McClain) set to perform at a very elegant fashion show called HVW, organized by a very uppity, demanding and difficult designer named Helene Von Wyatt (Gina Gershon).
‘Empire’ Season 3, Episode 8 Recap
Helene begins to request Tiana look exactly the way she wants, with straight hair and a very specific type of dress. Tiana, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Porsha (Tah’ronda Jones) who are also helping with Tiana’s look for the show, all quickly become exasperated with Helene’s arrogance and uncompromising demands.
Meanwhile, Andre (Trai Byers) begins devising a plan to get his new girlfriend Nessa (Sierra McClain) to replace Tiana as the fashion show’s headline performing artist. We soon see that part of the plan includes Nessa, another of Tiana’s wardrobe assistants for the show, purposely sets Tiana’s dress for the show on fire when nobody backstage is looking, but makes it look like a simple accident as a result of carelessness. Tiana, naturally, becomes furious and begins screaming at Nessa, who plays dumb and gives several fake apologies. Tiana goes on a long rant about how mad Helene is going to be at her after seeing this disaster, but then adds that she didn’t even want to perform at the fashion show in the first place because she hates Helene. She even goes as far as to call the fashion mogul a racist who has a history of ‘whitewashing’ her shows instead of letting black female models appear at them, even when the show has black or African themes.
It is later revealed that Tiana’s tirade against Helene and the fashion show was secretly recorded and goes viral, and although it’s never explicitly said by who, we assume it is Nessa or someone who is colluding with her and Andre. Andre uses his business acumen and promises Cookie that as CFO and president of Empire XStream, he will help fix this mess. Andre’s mother says if he can help Tiana make this scandal disappear, she will forgive him for missing last week’s dinner with Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs) and his mother (Phylicia Rashad). Andre promises and rolls up his sleeves to hatch his devious plan.
Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) becomes angry with Andre for sabotaging Tiana, his ex-girlfriend, and claims he knows this because the camera shows that during Tiana’s rant, somebody else was shown filming behind her and that Nessa was that persson. Andre denies this, saying his little brother has no proof, and he and Hakeem fight.
Meanwhile, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is still attempting to get over his PTSD at his father Lucious’ (Terence Howard) behest. His latest remedy? Using a pair of virtually reality goggles given to him by his friend Phillip (the guy who led the PTSD group Jamal attended after Freda shot him) to get Jamal used to being surrounded by large crowds, lights and camera-carrying paparazzi. The simulation goes fairly fine for Jamal, until Lucious walks into his apartment, and he tells Philip to stop the simulation. After analyzing his responses, Phillip realizes Lucious is Jamal’s ‘PTSD trigger’ and tells him this, but Jamal waives it off, saying ‘Lucious is everybody’s PTSD trigger,’ and that he wants to keep trying the simulation.
Andre visits Helene to attempt to convince her to get another artist to replace Tiana following her scandal, and very casually suggests Nessa as an alternative option. However, Helene refuses, citing among her reasons that Tiana is a good fit for the show as a very popular, mainstream ‘soulful singer,’ and that a lot of young girls including her daughter, idolize. Andre does not attempt to make his case for Nessa again and simply walks away smiling devilishly, all while complimenting Helene’s daughter’s long, blonde hair.
The next day, the scene cuts to Helene’s daughter waking up in her bed to find most of her hair cut into large chunks. The little girl screams in horror and Helen comes rushing over and equally begins freaking out, wondering who has done this to her daughter.
Andre’s Godfather-esque plot (let’s face it, that scene was eerily similar to the bleeding horse head scene from the 1972 classic movie, right?) works, as Helene ultimately decides to let Nessa perform at her fashion show. Andre expresses his appreciation, and Cookie goes to talk to her eldest son after the successful show and says she is considered about the way Andre is changing. Andre says nothing is wrong. After the show, Helene also warns Angelo’s mother that the Lyons are ‘gangsters’ who are willing to do anything to get what they want, and that Mrs. Dubois should stay away from them. Helene tells Mrs. Dubois she believes the Lyons, and especially Cookie, are merely using her and Angelo to get him elected mayor.
Finally, one of the most mind-boggling surprises of this episode related to the subplot involving Lucious and his mother Leah Walker (Leslie Uggams). Leah, who is still living in Lucious’s house along with him and Anika (Grace Byers), is revealed to be secretly meeting with Lucious’s half-brother, FBI agent Tariq Cousins (Morocco Omari), disguising her visits as doctor’s appointments. Tariq, obviously, is still desperately looking to put Lucious behind bars.
Although we initially believe that Leah is betraying Lucious and helping Tariq by giving him information, we later learn that she is actually playing Tariq and has not revealed anything to him. Lucious and his mother are actually colluding together to get rid of Tariq and Anika, who is still mad at Lucious for not naming her head of Empire’s A&R department. Anika goes on a destruction rampage of Lucious’s precious and most valuable items in his house until he promises to her in writing that she will get that job.
Jamal writes a new song about his anger toward Lucious for raising him and his brothers wrong and for dividing the Lyon family further with his selfishness and Machiavellian ways, since the day he met Cookie. After performing a demo of the song in front of his whole family, Jamal makes one final plea for his father to either change his ways or let the rest of them lead their own lives. Lucious becomes angry again and tells Jamal he, Andre and Hakeem should be grateful to him for everything he has provided for them, and explains how far he has gone to ‘save the family.’
Luciuos even reveals that it was him who ‘took care’ of Freda’s father Frank Gathers by killing him when he and Frank were both in jail, after Cookie asked him to do something to keep Frank quiet after Frank learned that Cookie testified against him regarding a murder he committed during their drug-dealing days. Lucious said he was the one to ‘answer Cookie’s call for help.’ Jamal, being close friends with Freda, is shocked by this and initially refuses to believe it. However, when he asks Cookie, ‘Mom, that’s not true, is it?’ Cookie looks away and says nothing.
Next week is the Empire fall finale! Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.