'Empire' season 3, episode 16 recap: There's a new evil mama in the den and she's not a Lyon
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“Empire” on FOX is not holding anything back as season three blasts ahead toward what is bound to be an explosive finale. Last week we were left wondering who snatched baby Bella from the Lyon den. Her family is convinced it was Mama and Son DuBois. The families confront each other and later, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) puts the squeeze on Angelo (Taye Diggs). Elsewhere, Lucious (Terrence Howard) makes some surprising choices about Vegas and Andre (Trai Byers) seems to be losing his grip.

Family Faceoff

The Lyon clan sure knows how to strut through a lobby like they mean business! They “lawyer up” in the opening sequence for a sit down with Diana (Phylicia Rashad) and Angelo. It’s Streets vs. Socialites and Cookie fires away, verbal guns blazing, “I know what connections you got. B**ch, do you want me to jump across the table?” Mama DuBois taunts her, “Feelin’ froggy? Then leap.” Ooh, this scene is juicy catfight good! The DuBois family ultimately denies any involvement in Bella’s capture. They seem sincere. But, the Lyons don’t buy it.

Raise Your Hand if You’ve Been Shot

Lucious is still “not feelin’” his Inferno album. He brings a young rapper in to rap in the song he's supposed to do with Jamal (Jussie Smollett). The kid is just out of the hospital after being shot yesterday. Blood seeps through his t-shirt as he performs. Lucious tells Jamal he’s “too soft” and this is the dedication he’s talking about – this kid would bleed and die for the song.

Jamal shakes his head in disbelief and asks for a show of hands from everyone who’s been shot. Everyone raises their hands except Lucious. Lesson: Lucious doesn’t get to tell others how to deal with the aftermath of something he’s never experienced. Touché Papa Lyon, touché!

Lucious finally gets it after a surprisingly rare emotional conversation with Mama Walker. She shows Lucious pictures of his own father and tells him Jamal is like him. She says Jamal is "special" and "has a little bit of God in him." Lucious eventually lets Jamal do his version of the song and it rocks!

Cookie Takes Vegas – Almost

Cookie plots to take Vegas out from under Lucious by brokering a deal to launch When Cookie Met Lucious instead of Inferno. Andre balks because he doesn’t want to work with Lucious. When Cookie tries to persuade him otherwise, Nessa pipes in and Cookie promptly smacks her in the face. Hard! The worst part? Andre just lets it happen. Poor Nessa!

C’mon Give Us Dirty Laundry!

We know something bad is about to go down when Cookie and Shine meet up at “the laundromat!” That secret back room might as well be called the “Doom Room.” Did anyone else hear Don Henley’s “Kick ‘em when they’re up/Kick ‘em when they’re down” “Dirty Laundry” chorus pulsing through your head as Shine and his boys work Angelo over about Bella? It definitely would fit here, just sayin’!

Anyway, Cookie unleashes plenty of crazy on Angelo and he swears he had nothing to do with the baby. She doesn’t believe him and warns him he’d better talk to his mama. She leaves as another punch goes straight to Angelo’s pretty face.

Andre is Coming for Boo Boo Kitty

Andre spins out of control, busts into Anika’s place, shoves her around and threatens to kill her for murdering his wife and child. Anika begs him to do it, because she deserves it. But, he decides to let her live and suffer with her guilt, without her own child, because it’s worse than dying.

It’s hard to believe these two bitter enemies are actually husband and wife in real life. Grace and Trai Byers make such a stunning couple. But, venom and anguish is filling their eyes in this uber-intense scene. They do such an amazing, gritty, believable job!

She’s Not a Lyon But She’s A-Lyin’!

Cookie tries again to appeal to Lucious to “come together” by doing the “When Cookie Met Lucious” show in Vegas. But, Giuliana sweeps into the room, snuggles up to Lucious and coyly shuts her down. Ooh, this woman is diabolical! C’mon Lucious, why do you have to go there?

Giuliana actually seems tame, though, when the final scene reveals Diana tending to Angelo’s wounds and he tells her he won’t stop until every Lyon is in jail. She smiles an eerie little smile and tells him no. She rings a bell and a servant wheels Bella into the room in a carriage. Then she says, ““Meet the newest member of the DuBois family. They ruined one of mine so I took one of theirs. Didn’t I? Yes. I. Did.”

Oh. No. She. Didn’t! Only two more episodes to find out where this speeding train of "Empire" deceit and destruction is going from here.

“Empire” airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT on FOX.