Empire begins with The Lyons and the rest of the company preparing for the ASAs. Lucious drills his band on their performance during rehearsal, prompting Cookie to intervene. She tells him he is only going so hard to avoid spending time with his mother. Lucious tells her his mother is dangerous. Elsewhere, Laura tells Hakeem the icy decor for their wedding and that US Weekly is interested in featuring them. She feels it is the perfect plug for her music. Hakeem, however, has reservations about having the paparazzi at their wedding and then tells her that her career has peaked. Laura is saddened, but tells him she does not care about fame, she only wants to marry him. Leah remains at Lucious’ home under watch by his maid. The latter prepares breakfast for her, but she refuses to eat it because she does not season her food. She then finds Lucious’ music on television and becomes angry, calling him a liar.
Rhonda prepares for a fitting with some of Empire’s artists, and is interrupted by Anika. The latter was concerned since she had not seen or heard from her in awhile. Rhonda questions her about the events of the night she fell down the stairs. Anika seems confused. Jamal and Freda perform their newest track for D-Major. He likes the sound, and when Freda leaves tells him that he should stop working with his mother and allow him to produce his next album. He tells Jamal he is bigger than what his parents are trying to make him into. He also tells Jamal when he sees him on the Red Carpet with a supermodel, not to read into it. Jamal admonishes him for being DL, but quickly forgives him when they begin to kiss. Lucious walks in on them and D-Major pretends like Jamal tried to come on to him and leaves quickly. Lucious reveals he always knew D-Major was on the DL, and then admonishes him for attempting to hook up in the studio. He berates Jamal about being gay and how intolerable his lifestyle is. He then reminds him of when he threw him in the trash years ago. Jamal in turn lashes out at him about being afraid of his mother for nearly drowning him in water. Lucious is about to punch him, but then pauses and tells him he is nothing but a disappointment and will celebrate the day he dies of AIDS!
Jamal tries to tell Cookie about what has transpired between him and Lucious, but she only hears him working with Freda. She pulls him aside and reveals their role in killing her father. Cookie has Lucious investigate Tyrik, feeling it is too suspicious that he is so interested in Carol with all of her faults. Lucious reveals his records are sealed, meaning he is an FBI agent. Cookie goes to see Tyrik before Carol arrives for her date with him. She tells him she knows he is with the Feds and believes he is coming for them. He assures her is not, and that he still honors the code of the street. He then tells her he is surprised she is still dealing with Lucious even though he killed Bunkie. Later, Carol confronts Cookie about speaking to Tyrik. She tells her that she will not steal him from her the way she “stole” Lucious. Cookie realizes Carol is jealous of her life and admonishes her for being so foolish. Carol tells Cookie that never cared for her, prompting the latter to kick her out!
Andre goes to visit with Leah, who reveals she is furious with Lucious for lying about her on television. She asks Andre to help her get to the ASAs to see her family on stage. He tries to dissuade her against it, but she remains intent on going. The night of the ASAs, Lucious asks Cookie to be his date and gives her an expensive bracelet. The Lyons work the Red Carpet, each dealing with their own issues. Meanwhile, Andre tries to take his grandmother to the ASAs but Thirsty and his goons lock them in a vault at Lucious’ request. On the carpet, Jamal reveals that night would be the last time people would see him on stage with family and that he is shelving his album, wanting to create his own music. He runs into Freda and tells her to try and get away from Empire. Carol tries to storm the Red Carpet , but is dismissed by Cookie. She bumps into Carol, who in a drunken stupor reveals Lucious’ involvement with her father’s death she would not be there. Freda mentally pieces everything together and takes a gun from a security officer. She races Lucious and shoots at him, but Jamal jumps in the way! Jamal is rushed to the hospital, but loses a lot of blood. Cookie blames Lucious for what has happened, and he is guilt ridden over what he said to his son before. They learn that neither one of them won the ASA award. Meanwhile, after Thirsty releases Andre and Leah at gunpoint from the vault, Leah wonders away from the hospital and walks up to the paparazzi, seemingly ready to reveal to the world she is alive.