Welcome to the Empiredome! Two mothers enter, one mother leaves. Which one will it be?
In this corner, we have Cookie Lyon. She started out on the right side of the tracks, but after three kids with Lucious and 17 years served in prison on his behalf, she's developed some rough edges that no amount of money will ever sandpaper away.
In this corner, we have Diana Dubois. Her family has loomed over high society in New York for years, but the apex of all their hard work – Angelo's impending mayoral election – recently crumbled to the ground and left them stranded amongst the ruins.
On the surface, these two women couldn't be more different. As over-the-top flashy as Cookie's wardrobe is – all leopard print dresses and big furry coats – Diana's is understated and classy. When Cookie yells, Diana whispers in measured tones.
Cookie: Bitch, do you want me to jump across this table, because I don't have all day for this, okay?
Diana: You feeling froggy? Leap.
Despite these apparent differences, Diana can go toe to toe with Cookie for ruthlessness. But in this fight to the death (because you just KNOW someone will die), which woman will come out on top?
On Empire Season 3 Episode 16, the Lyons battled the Dubois family over Bella's disappearance. Cookie and company assumed Diana utilized her extensive political connections to get child protective services to snatch Bella from the Lyons, but Diana repeatedly denied her involvement.
Cookie: The Dubois have a kind of power we haven't seen before.
Lucious: No, we are a monster they've never imagined dealing with.
Of course, we all knew that Diana was going to be the culprit anyway. There was literally no other suspect who could have pulled off this coup.
Even Shyne, who is quietly one of the most powerful characters on the show, mostly because everyone else relies so heavily on him, couldn't have coerced government agents into snatching a baby. And Tariq, thank goodness, is out of the picture.
No, the only surprise here was that Angelo was not involved in the plot – nor does he seem to approve of it.
The final scene of "Absent Child" was delightfully creepy, which is entirely to the credit of Phylicia Rashad. I never thought Clair Huxtable could be so menacing!
Ain't nobody have told you how to deal with your father getting shot so don't tell me how to take a bullet for mine.Jamal [to Lucious]
Diana might look and sound posh and proper, but behind that pristine facade, she's just as dangerous as the toughest hood on the street corner – if not more so, as she's more likely to get away with her crimes.
Diana doesn't come out guns blazing. She doesn't make big, brash moves that bring the authorities down upon her head. Instead, she ruins your life while wearing pearls and a smile, leaving no one else the wiser.
From Diana tending her son's wounds in that special Oedipal way she has, to the reveal of Bella being rolled into the room, to Diana's final words about taking a member of Cookie's family as revenge for Cookie ruining one of hers: everything about this final scene felt as though it had been cribbed from a high-end horror movie.
Baby, I've climbed through many a tight window in my day.Cookie
(On that note: I can't be the only person who thought the Dubois mansion might have been designed by the same person as The Overlook Hotel? I definitely got some Shining vibes off of that big room Diana and Angelo were in.)
The moment that Angelo realized his mother was in fact responsible for Bella's kidnapping – meaning that Cookie and her henchmen were right about Diana – was excellent.
Lucious: Do you think I'm a good father?
Leah: You're not even a good person.
Angelo went from being comforted by his mother to realizing that the source of his solace was in fact utterly unhinged.
Watching these thoughts scroll across Taye Diggs' shocked, bloodied face was a delight – especially considering the beating he had just suffered through for denying his mother's crime.
Diana keeps accusing Cookie and the Lyons of giving black people a bad name by embracing too many cliches with their foul-mouthed lyrics and violent ways. Yet she's just as bad as they are, if not more so.
I can't wait to see Diana's hypocrisy exposed to the rest of the world when the Lyons get revenge. Because you know they will.
You see the chitter-chatter on Twitterverse? They can't keep Coocious out of their mouths. They want to know our love story. They want to know how we built our empire.Cookie
Hakeem got off to a good start when he decided to livestream all of his anger and grief over his missing daughter, channeling his emotions into a heartfelt message that rallied all of his Empire Xstream followers behind him.
The look on Diana's face when Hakeem's followers confronted her about Bella's disappearance was another priceless moment. Even if the Lyons left her alone after all of this, you know that Hakeem's loyal fans would get their own kind of vengeance on his behalf.
You say you're looking out for us, but you always end up protecting Lucious.Andre [to Cookie]
We know the Dubois family is going down. The only thing we don't know is how.
Of course, a missing granddaughter might seem like the biggest possible crisis to your average family, but this is no ordinary family. The Lyons have other drama playing out right now too.
That boy Jamal is special. He's got a little bit of God in him.Leah [to Lucious]
The biggest source of anxiety, apart from Bella's disappearance, is the Vegas deal. Empire is getting ready to launch their casino in Vegas with the help of Giuliana, but there are two competing camps over what show should be performed at the big launch.
Cookie and Andre are all about thrusting Jamal into the spotlight with When Cookie Met Lucious, but Lucious refuses to cede the spotlight to anyone – not even the son who he finally acknowledged is the new musical legacy of Empire.
Cookie [to Lucious]: I did seventeen years for you.
Giuliana: Thank you for that. But I'll take it from here.
It doesn't help matters when Giuliana is lurking over Lucious' shoulder, practically putting words in his mouth. She seems to have a kind of control over him that even Cookie never had.
The song that Jamal and Lucious recorded together was smoking hot, and no matter whose album is performed at the launch of the casino, that song should definitely make the cut. But, I really want it to be Jamal who gets the big gig. He is the most deserving of it.
I've grown tired of the Vegas plotline and could care less whether the casino is a success or a failure. The Dubois drama is far more entertaining than watching Andre complain about his father and Nessa complain about Andre, over and over again.
Andre has become such a caricature of himself that I feel his days on the show are numbered. And since the only thing I'd really miss about him is how smoking hot he is, that's totally fine.
Also, can we talk about how bizarre it was to watch Andre threaten Anika over the death of his baby, considering that Trai and Grace Byers are married in real life? It made me so uncomfortable to watch him throwing her around!
You know all those things your mama said about me, being ghetto and hood? She was right.Cookie [to Angelo]
What did you think of "Absent Child"? Will Angelo do the right thing and tell Cookie that his mother has Bella, or is he too much of a mama's boy to tattle on Diana? Whose show will end up going down at Inferno? And will anyone else besides crazy Andre ever realize that Anika shoved Rhonda down the stairs?
Remember, you can watch Empire online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.