Poet Robert Frost famously once wrote of choosing between two roads diverged in a wood, and that's exactly what happened to the Lyon crew on Empire last night, when half the artists defended the show's namesake record label while the other marched towards Cookie Lyon's Dynasty side.
So what continues to rip the family apart? As always, Lucious (Terrance Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) can't help but bicker over control of their sons and the rights to their music. And while Freda Gatz is spitting witty one-liners song after song, Hakeem is also in the studio amping up his sound, which means the two, naturally, have to engage in an epic, drama-filled rap battle that shutters any doubt about who's in charge. Gatz, to boot, embarrasses Hakeem with a new, Empire-backed track in which she calls him "daddy's little girl."
Don't think that's as juicy as it gets, though. Jamal and Cookie are finally caught in their behind-closed-doors recording sessions and, not surprisingly, Lucious is ready to hit the panic button. "I'm sorry, this is not the Disney channel. We have no happy ending!" Cookie says as she tries to convince Jamal of sticking with Dynasty. Thanks to his calm demeanor (and who can say no to a hunk with a form-fitting henley?) and soothing sounds, the middle child convinces his parents to join forces on a new single that ultimately lands him a big-time collaboration with Pepsi.
Meanwhile Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) suspiciously continues to pressure Lucious and Andre into acquiring Swiftstream while Mirage à Trois lead singer Laura almost loses her virginity to Hakeem. It's Anika, though, who captures the main spotlight. We learn that the former Mrs. Lucious Lyon is now pregnant with Hakeem's child and she enters a downward spiral in which she first tries to tell Hakeem and later hilariously (and creepily) disguises herself as a black-car driver that basically kidnaps Laura, Hakeem's new girl.
As tensions reach a boiling high, the drama progressively escalates. Cookie and Lucious now agree that if Hakeem wins the rap battle Jamal is to release his new album with Dynasty, while Hakeem is to return to Empire if Gatz takes home the gold. The showdown, of course, is a hit. Cookie drops everyone's jaws and arrives in a head-to-toe Balmain look that not only fits like a glove, but also screams "don't mess with me." "She tried it on and it was her perfect on her. I loved it on her. We put super high Christian Louboutin pumps with it because the pants were so long," Paolo Nieddu, Empire's award-winning costume designers, tells InStyle. She also carries a personalized "Cookie" Judith Leiber clutch, which Nieddu "really wanted on her because she gets called by her real name" in the scene.
After the musical showdown, Hakeem overreacts and decides to announce that he's officially dropping Lyon from his name. We then pan to a flashback scene of Lucious as a boy left alone in the streets and learn that the surname is his own creation. As the episode winds down, we're left with another plot twist: Cookie apparently has another sister, portrayed by Vivica A. Fox, and she runs into the club and calls Cookie her by her real name: Loretha! The two step outside and we learn that Carole, their sister, has left her children, which leads them both to panic and decide to immediately leave for Philadelphia, though we're not entirely sure why.
So what's next for the squad? We'll have to wait until next Wednesday for more action. In the meantime, click here to see last night's most daring fashion looks—and visit Empire's costume designer Paolo Nieddu on Instagram for more style details.