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The Unseen Cost of Subscription Boxes

UNBOXING MATCH Are the monthly surprises worth the mess that popular subscription services create?
UNBOXING MATCH Are the monthly surprises worth the mess that popular subscription services create? Illustration: Dominic Bugatto
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WE’RE LIVING in a Golden Age of subscription services. Gone are the days of boring cheese-of-the-month clubs or Columbia House five-for-a-penny album deals that eventually drain your funds. Now, the offerings that can show up at your door monthly range from custom-pressed vinyl records to sleek shaving kits to bags of idiosyncratic specialty coffee.

It’s simple to see why subscription boxes have taken off: More than just a relatively easy way to acquire a fun mix of necessities and luxuries, they’re also a method for discovery—snacks from around the world (trytheworld.com), nerdy toys (lootcrate.com) or an odd pairing of Swedish-made headphones and a moonshine kit that might arrive in consecutive months (bespokepost.com).

Yes, you can find all these things in stores. But you have to spend the time hunting and be willing to pay more; since most subscription brands don’t dole out overhead for bricks-and-mortar locations, they can charge surprisingly reasonable prices. And who really enjoys the stress of shopping? If like me, you have found yourself paralyzed by the glut of toothbrushes at CVS, the ability to outsource that low-stakes decision without paying a premium is a hassle-zapper that saves time, money and energy. My Quip toothbrush subscription costs much less than an average electric brush; paste and heads are delivered on a dentist-recommended schedule; and the brush comes in a handsome rose gold finish that (a trivial benefit, I know) matches my iPhone.

Another proponent of subscription boxes is Roy Baumeister, author of “Time and Decision” and a social psychologist who coined the term “decision fatigue” to describe how easily our decision-making abilities can be depleted. “We evolved under conditions where there were fewer choices,” he said, “so the immense number of choices, from what to wear, to what to listen to, puts a lot more demand on our system than it evolved to handle.” Accordingly, the way subscriptions limit decisions can ease stress. “Things just happen—you don’t have to exert your free will to make decision after decision.”

A service that both allows you to conserve your free will, and delivers handmade products, fresh socks and underwear, or cocktail recipes to your door? Count me in. Bonus: Subscription boxes make really smart, simple gifts for mom and dad.

Hate

WHEN MY FRIEND receives her Fab Fit Fun wellness subscription box in the mail each season, we film a cheesy video of ourselves oohing and ahhing at each product. My welfare has never hinged on an encouraging ceramic mug (and feigning excitement over one can be hard work) but I admit there’s joy in a monthly mail-order surprise.

Beware: It is a false, fleeting joy. For hoarders like me who cling to junk for a lifetime on the off chance it may someday prove useful, subscription boxes are a problem. Sure, they introduce me to items I might have otherwise overlooked, but they also eliminate the crucial step of inspecting those items before they occupy valuable space in my home.

Then there’s the cost. “A subscription box may sound like something that makes you feel good in the short term, but in the long-term it could end up impacting your financial well-being,” said Amanda Clayman, a Los Angeles-based financial therapist. “After a few months, even when it works a good percentage of the time, the novelty is gone.” And some sources of novelty are truly inane. Hankering for a house coated in slime? Get Squishtastic (squishtastic.shop), which delivers slime kits. Have a bone to pick with the lack of skeletons in your closet? Try Skulls Unlimited (skullsunlimited.com).

In an era when self-determination is in vogue, subscription boxes atrophy our decision-making muscles, making us lazy consumers. As a subscriber to a beauty box that delivers five random products monthly in hotel-toiletry-like sizes, I felt taken advantage of. But I didn’t know why until I spoke to Barbara Kahn, professor of marketing at the Wharton School, who explained that subscription services tend to offer several cheap items instead of a larger, well-made one, since each item provides its own high. I’ve never felt more like a lab rat.

I had passively paid a $10 monthly fee rather than cancel—$120 annually I’ll never get back for products I don’t want or need. To help other subscribers avoid the same mistakes, Ms. Clayman had this advice: “At least once a year if not semiannually, cancel all of your subscription products and see which you choose to add back.”

We all have our own motivations as consumers, but I can’t justify monthly expenses to laugh and gawk at something that will just end up in storage.

YOU SEND ME / Three Subscriptions Worth Signing Up For
The Unseen Cost of Subscription Boxes
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Vinyl Me, Please sends a custom pressing of albums, cocktail recipes and artwork inspired by the music. From $29/mo., vinylmeplease.com

The Unseen Cost of Subscription Boxes
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Quip sends tubes of toothpaste and replacement heads for its sharp-looking electric brush. $25 to start, $5/mo., getquip.com

The Unseen Cost of Subscription Boxes
Photo: Atlas

Atlas Coffee Club sends 12-ounce bags of single-origin coffee from places like Burundi to Brazil. From $9/mo., atlascoffeeclub.com

More in Gear & Gadgets

Ariana Grande Just Trolled Herself So Hard

Ariana Grande‘s year hasn’t exactly been the easiest. In mid-October, news broke that she and fiancé Pete Davidson were splitting up after a whirlwind summer relationship. That breakup was one of the events that inspired “Thank U, Next,” Grande’s new song, which pays homage to her exes. She name-checks several of them in the song, including Davidson and Mac Miller, who passed away over the summer from an overdose. Grande performed the song for the first time on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Wednesday (November 7), and she got emotional during her set—no doubt from the aforementioned reasons and more.

But she’s taking all this hardship in stride. The singer took to Twitter on Wednesday night and made a joke at her own expense. “Remember when i was like hey i have no tears left to cry and the universe was like HAAAAAAAAA bitch u thought,” she tweeted, referring to her hit song “No Tears Left to Cry” that kicked off her Sweetener era in April.

See the tweet for yourself, below:

And check out her first performance of “Thank U, Next” here:

She styled the performance after The First Wives Club, complete with a white outfit and a set that included a wedding cake and reception tables. Since Davidson is the only ex of Grande’s whom she almost married—to our knowledge—it’s safe to assume the performance was heavily inspired by him.

Grande dropped “Thank U, Next” with no warning on Saturday night (November 3) following the joke Davidson made about their engagement for an SNL promo. “You wanna get married?” he asked the musical guest Maggie Rogers, who curtly responded, “No.” “0 for 3,” Davidson then cracked.

“For somebody who claims to hate relevancy u sure love clinging to it huh,” Grande tweeted (and promptly deleted) shortly after this promo went live. “Thank u, next.”

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospitalized After a Fall

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hospitalized early Thursday morning after falling in her office Wednesday evening and fracturing three ribs, according to a statement from the court.

“She went home, but after experiencing discomfort overnight, went to George Washington University Hospital early this morning,” the statement said. “Tests showed that she fractured three ribs on her left side and she was admitted for observation and treatment.”

Ginsburg, a lifelong champion of women’s rights, has become a cultural icon and is revered and beloved by feminists across America. The Notorious RBG, as she is often called, was the subject of a documentary earlier this year that covered her incredible career, marriage, and, yes, even her workout routine—which is incredibly impressive for an 85-year-old.

“These days we rarely go out without people—mostly women—asking to take a picture or telling her they admire her,” Ginsburg’s granddaughter Clara Spera wrote of her “Bubbie” for Glamour in May. “It’s equally strange and touching for me to see a young woman, probably my age, ask Bubbie if she can give her a hug.”

Spera further explained her grandmother’s significance to women of all ages. “As a young lawyer, Bubbie won several landmark gender equality cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s. Most people who wear ‘You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth’ T-shirts or sport ‘I Dissent’ tote bags might not be able to name any of them or point to a specific opinion she’s written on the Court since. But they don’t need to,” she says. “They know that her search for justice and for legal and social equality has been relentless. She doesn’t have one case or moment that has defined her career. Instead, to many, she’s a feminist icon because of her tireless persistence at inching us all closer to equality.”

Given the current makeup of the Supreme Court, which shifted toward the conservative side with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh in October, and the overwhelming affection for RBG, there were strong reactions to the news of her hospitalization on social media.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, RBG.

This story is developing and we will update accordingly.

MORE: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Granddaughter: ‘You Know Her as the Notorious RBG, but She’s Bubbie to Me’

Even Meghan Markle Is Confused by This Habit of Prince Harry’s

BBC is airing a new documentary all about Prince Charles, aptly titled Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70. However, in between all the tea about the future king of England are some other fun royal tidbits. At one point in the film, for example, Prince Harry reveals that Meghan Markle is a bit weirded out by one of his habits: turning off all the lights in their house or wherever they’re staying.

“My wife certainly goes, ‘Well, why turn the lights off? It’s dark,'” Prince Harry says in the doc. “I go, ‘We only need one light, we don’t need, like, six,’ and all of a sudden, it becomes a habit.”

On the one hand, Prince Harry’s methodology does make sense; using unnecessary lights wastes electricity. However, Markle brings up an excellent point too: It’s no fun sitting in the dark. Wherever you stand in this argument, it’s nice to know Markle and Prince Harry quarrel about humdrum things like this. The royals really are just like us.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Markle and Prince Harry, who just ended their royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji. Right as they started, Kensington Palace revealed Markle is pregnant and due in spring 2019.

“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019,” Kensington Palace posted on social media at the time. “Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public.”

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Prince Harry Reveals How He Asked Prince Charles to Walk Meghan Markle Down the Aisle

Does the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle feel like it was about 100 years ago to you too? So very much has happened since the couple tied the knot in Windsor on May 19. And that includes the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s recent official overseas tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand. They kicked that off days after Princess Eugenie’s royal wedding by dropping some big news: They’re expecting their first child in the spring. Like I said, a lot has happened.

Still, any new tidbits about that magical royal wedding day are always welcome—and the latest comes from Prince Harry himself.

In a new documentary celebrating the seventieth birthday of Prince Charles—Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70—the Duke of Sussex opens up about asking his dad to walk Markle down the aisle. At the time her own father, Thomas Markle, was making headlines because he backed out of attending the wedding, citing health issues.

TOPSHOT-BRITAIN-US-ROYALS-WEDDING-CEREMONY

PHOTO: JONATHAN BRADY/AFP/Getty images

“I asked him to, and I think he knew it was coming, and he immediately said, ‘Yes, of course, I’ll do whatever Meghan needs and I’m here to support you,’” Harry says in the documentary. “For him that’s a fantastic opportunity to step up and be that support, and you know he’s our father, so of course he’s gonna be there for us.”

BRITAIN-US-ROYALS-WEDDING-CEREMONY

PHOTO: OWEN HUMPHREYS/AFP/Getty Images

Who can forget that sweet father-son moment when Charles and Markle arrived at the end of the aisle and Harry said, “Thank you, pa.” Looking back on it, Harry says, “You’ve gotta say thank you. Just because he’s my father that doesn’t mean I can just sort of go, ‘OK, that’s all, I’ll take it from here.’”

“I was very grateful for him to be able to do that,” he adds.

Charles’ wife, Camilla, also opens up about the day in the documentary—and reveals that royals had the wedding on replay just like us. “I think that was very touching, sitting where I was, you couldn’t hear what he said,” she says. “But afterward watching it on the television, I…I think it was a very…it was a lovely gesture.”

BRITAIN-US-ROYALS-WEDDING-CEREMONY

PHOTO: OWEN HUMPHREYS

Camilla also offered a little insight into her husband’s relationship with Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland. “A lot of people, seeing my husband actually take the bride’s mother by the hand to sign the registry, it’s something that moved everybody,” she explains. “It’s the things he does behind the scenes that people don’t know about. I don’t think people realize quite how kind he is.”

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Once Upon A Time’s Ginnifer Goodwin Is Heading To Netflix For Next TV Role

Ginnifer Goodwin was a regular presence on the small screen for years thanks to her role as Snow White on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, and her departure (combined with many others of the original cast) marked the end of an era for that series. Now, Goodwin has signed on for a new role on a new show, and she won’t be playing a fairy tale princess this time around. She landed a role in Netflix’s upcoming Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.

Yes, you read that correctly! Netflix has a show in the works with the unlikely title of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings. The project is slated to be an anthology series with episodes inspired by Dolly Parton’s music. The first season will consist of eight episodes and adapt “stories, memories and inspirations behind Parton’s most beloved songs,” according to TVLine. Ginnifer Goodwin landed a lead role in one chapter of the anthology.

The episode featuring Ginnifer Goodwin is called “These Old Bones,” and she’ll play a Washington D.C. lawyer by the name of Genevieve. She leaves D.C. behind and heads to her hometown in the Smoky Mountains, determined to prove that she has what it takes as a lawyer. Given that the setting is the 1940s, it’s no wonder she has her work cut out for her!

Genevieve will run into trouble when an old woman from the mountains with the reputation for telling fortunes gets mixed up in a lumber company’s business. The woman is named Miss Mary Shaw, although she is known as “Old Bones.” Her arrival will bring about secrets from days gone by that test Genevieve’s faith. Old Bones will be played by Kathleen Turner.

Kyle Bornheimer of Casual will play a character known as Landon, although no details are currently available about his part in “These Old Bones.” Now, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings is not an anthology like American Horror Story, which reuses the same actors for new parts on a regular basis. Ginnifer Goodwin is currently slated only to appear in “These Old Bones.”

Interestingly, Dolly Parton herself will introduce each episode by sharing the meaning behind each song, so Dolly Parton fans will definitely want to tune in. Parton will appear in certain of the Heartstrings episodes, but viewers may need to wait until the show premieres to find out the particulars.

Ginnifer Goodwin’s role in Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings shouldn’t be so major that it prevents her from working on other projects, and she had another show in the works as recently as June. She was slated to take part in an ABC comedy that was an English-language remake of a Swedish series. Only time will tell if anything comes of that.

The former Snow White’s Prince Charming is doing quite well for himself on the small screen since the end of Once Upon a Time. Josh Dallas — who is both Ginnifer Goodwin’s real-life husband and played her fairy tale hubby on Once Upon a Time — currently stars on NBC’s smash freshman hit Manifest. Could Goodwin make an appearance someday and delight Once Upon a Time fans?

The only thing we can safely say for now is that Ginnifer Goodwin will make her Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings debut when the show premieres on Netflix at some point in 2019. Dolly Parton-based projects have become huge hits on the small screen, so Heartstrings may prove to be a very sound investment from the streaming giant.

Innovator Awards 2018: A Roomful of Legends


Film Innovator Jonah Hill and presenter Channing Tatum
Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com

Some personal news travels fast, especially when delivered to a crowd of luminaries by Chrissy Teigen. “Is that wrong, that I announced that?” Teigen coyly said as she presented David Chang with the Food Innovator award Wednesday night.

“Thank you Chrissy Teigen and thank you Grace,” Chang said when he took the stage, nodding at his wife. “Yes, we are expecting our first child.”

The speeches at WSJ.’s annual Innovator Awards paid tribute to friends, collaborators and idols. Apart from Teigen, award presenter Channing Tatum recounted how Film Innovator Jonah Hill had talked him into appearing in “21 Jump Street” (“I have this terrible idea for a movie.”) Cara Delevingne gave Television Innovator Phoebe Waller-Bridge a warm—and charmingly unfiltered—introduction. Lena Herzog presented the Technology Innovator award to Nonny de la Peña, Dasha Zhukova praised architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron for achieving a balance between the world of real estate developers and museum curators. And Lupita Nyong’o, presenting the Design Innovator award to costume designer Ruth E. Carter, cited the many corners of African culture Carter had intensively researched as she helped create Wakanda, the fictional nation in Black Panther. After discarding his notes, Designer Virgil Abloh gave an impromptu tribute to Fashion Innovator Ralph Lauren. When he asked the audience who had ever worn something designed by Lauren, nearly every hand in the room shot up. “Therein lies an innovator,” Abloh said.

Some speeches were calls to action: “Almost every American can contribute to others,” said Philanthropy Innovator Agnes Gund in her acceptance speech. Gund’s sale of a Lichtenstein painting netted $165 million, kickstarting her Art for Justice fund dedicated to ending the racial biases of mass incarceration.

The end of the night held a final surprise. After Gayle King presented John Legend with the Entertainment Innovator award, Legend playfully called out Teigen (“I want to thank my wife for naming me as her second-favorite man in the room, after David Chang”). He then sat down at the grand piano, center stage, where he delighted the audience with a cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” followed by two of his own songs, “Ordinary People” and “All of Me.” After which guests were invited to enjoy dessert while taking in MoMA’s Bruce Nauman exhibition, “Disappearing Acts.”

More from WSJ. Magazine

Richard Madden Compares Fan Reactions Between Game Of Thrones And His New Netflix Show

Richard Madden has come a long way since playing Robb Stark on Game of Thrones. The actor is currently the star of the successful series The Bodyguard, and fans worldwide are loving his performance as David Budd. Of course, folks were also quite fond of his portrayal as Robb Stark, but Madden said there’s a difference between how David has been received versus Robb.

Richard Madden may be phenomenal in The Bodyguard, but even the most glowing future television performances will have trouble outshining Robb Stark‘s exit on Game of Thrones. Richard Madden seemed to acknowledge that in his interview with Variety, and notes that a lot of people are still broken up over the Red Wedding. While his portrayal in The Bodyguard may not be as tragic as Robb’s fate, Madden’s getting credit from audiences for his emotional performance as David.

Richard Madden added that he’s been surprised by the response to The Bodyguard, which set records in the UK. The series gained massive viewership in a short amount of time and earned the title as the biggest British show of the decade. The drama has celebrated even greater success on Netflix and has been well received by critics and audiences alike. Madden spoke about the phenomena surrounding the program, and how the response has exceeded his expectations.

The success of The Bodyguard has left Richard Madden hungry for more episodes. Madden mentioned to other outlets like Digital Spy that he’d love to continue David’s story in Season 2, although he’s not sure how it would happen or whether or not it will. Madden noted Season 1 was easy to film due to the show’s lack of notoriety. Should the series return for Season 2, folks will be paying closer attention and attempting to capture secrets during filming.

Curious audiences who have yet to check out Richard Madden’s performance on The Bodyguard can do so right now on Netflix. For a look at other potentially great shows invading the air waves over the next couple of months, visit our fall premiere guide.

Veronica Mars Revival Just Added One Of Kristen Bell’s The Good Place Co-Stars

Kristen Bell is in the process of bringing Veronica Mars back to television, and it looks as though she’s enlisting folks from her other shows to help the cause. Specifically, Veronica Mars has snagged Bell’s co-star on The Good Place, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, for a recurring role. Be on the lookout for Howell-Baptiste when the revival kicks off, as she plays the owner of a nightclub.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s character Nicole isn’t just the owner of a nightclub, however, she’s head of the most popular club in Neptune in the eyes of Spring Break tourists. Unfortunately, Veronica believes the club plays a factor in a string of deaths that are happening in the area. Deadline reports the investigator thinks the killer is selecting their victims at the club, which might explain the connection between the victims and the business.

The murders have been teased as the central part of Veronica Mars Season 4, which is said to be 8 episodes. According to the synopsis, Veronica’s investigation of the murders will put her between the wealthy residents who would rather tourists leave Neptune and the workers who rely on the revenue that comes to the area. It makes it sound as though Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Nicole won’t secretly be the killer based on that description, but we don’t know for sure!

The gig will bring the flawless Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste back together, who only spent a brief time together on The Good Place. Bell’s Eleanor was friendly enough to Howell-Baptiste’s Simone, but the two didn’t have a ton of bonding moments outside of a pep talk Simone gave Eleanor outside of Tahani’s engagement party. In all fairness, the distance between them was probably because Eleanor was secretly jealous of Simone and Chidi’s relationship, even if she wouldn’t admit it.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s casting on Veronica Mars is another big get for the actress, who has had a knack for getting roles on acclaimed television. In addition to her role on The Good Place, Howell-Baptiste also plays Sasha Baxter on Barry, and was on BBC America’s Killing Eve. Given her recent work, it’s no wonder she found her way into a series as highly anticipated as Veronica Mars, even if she did have her former co-star to vouch for her.

The casting is just the latest news out of the Veronica Mars revival, which had been in talks for a while. After nearly a year of rumors, word finally became official in September that Hulu had secured the rights to bring the series back for Season 4. The announcement came alongside the fact that the first three seasons of the show plus the film would be available on the streaming service beginning in the summer of 2019.

Veronica Mars Season 4 is in development, with its release happening sometime in 2019. For a look at all the television coming out before the end of 2018, head on over to our fall premiere guide.

Empire’s Latest Flash-Forward May Have Revealed One Major Character’s Survival

Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 6 of Empire Season 5, called “What is Done.”

Empire kicked off its fifth season with a shocking twist that revealed an upcoming death. The first flash-forward revealed that somebody was going to die within six months, but the identity of the person who died was not given away. Up until “What is Done,” the only significant characters confirmed to still be among the living in the flash-forwards were Lucious and Thirsty Rawlings. Now, the latest episode may have revealed another survivor: Cookie.

The latest flash-forward picked up shortly after the previous flash-forward set at the funeral. Lucious was being questioned by federal agents about a man by the name of Damon Cross, who Lucious had denied knowing. The Cookie twist came when one of the agents pulled out photos of Cookie with Damon and said this:

The plot has officially thickened! The key word there is “does.” Although this flash-forward didn’t settle the question of Cookie’s survival definitively by showing her alive and well, the agent’s use of “does” to describe Cookie indicates that she is not the one who died. Could this be a slip of the tongue on the part of the fed? Sure. But it seems far more likely that this was Empire‘s way of ruling out one more candidate for the death.

Assuming Cookie isn’t the big death, she’s going to be in hot water with her husband. Lucious clearly had no idea that Cookie knew this Damon Cross person, and he didn’t exactly look surprised in the happiest way when confronted with photographic proof of their acquaintance. Of course, it probably didn’t help that the photos didn’t just show Cookie and Damon hanging out like platonic pals.

No, the images showed Cookie looking quite cozy with Damon, and Lucious was visibly upset to see his wife in such close quarters with him. At this point, we can only speculate about whether he’s more upset about Cookie getting so cozy with another man or that the man is this Damon Cross. Empire hasn’t delivered much in the way of info about the new character.

Luckily, even if the show hasn’t revealed details about Damon Cross, there was news about the character released when it was announced that The Wire veteran Wood Harris would tackle the role. Damon is an international money launderer with a dangerous edge, but he also has a distinctly charming side to offset some of his intimidation.

Lucious actually met Damon in “What is Done,” so his claims to the feds about their history are not entirely accurate. Damon was in the mix with Lucious in the episode, joining forces with the Lyon patriarch after he joined a high-stakes poker game in pursuit of a new artist to sign. Given that the Lyons aren’t rolling in cash the way they once were, Lucious sold a valuable painting he’d given Cookie for their wedding so that he’d have the necessary buy-in for the game.

The idea was that he would buy the painting back from his friend, who made the purchase, with the winnings from the poker game. Lucious did win the poker game and made off with a lot of cash, but he learned some bad news: the painting had been sold to a buyer who made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Lucious is going to be in trouble with Cookie if she finds out. The big painting twist came with the reveal that the painting had been purchased by none other than Damon Cross. Does the painting have something to do with Cookie’s future intimacy with Damon? If she finds out that Lucious sold the painting, it would set the stage for her to perhaps seek companionship with somebody else, and she could meet Damon in pursuit of the painting.

All we know about Damon Cross and Cookie at this point is that he “will tempt” Cookie, and Lucious comes to want to kill him. It’s not clear whether Lucious wants to kill him before or after he sees the pics of Damon with Cookie, so we’ll have to wait and find out. We do know that Lucious is probably going to get his handy dirty (and wind up very bloody) in the not-too-distant future.

Elsewhere in the episode, Hakeem attempted to exorcise his demons and work out his rage via recording. He was so intense about his work that he was forgoing food and hygiene, which alarmed both his mom and Andre. Hakeem’s relationship with Andre was tense due to the little fact that Andre killed the mother of Hakeem’s child. Andre finally got through to his brother when he mentioned Rhonda and her unborn child, both of whom died due to Anika. Loss was something the brothers both understood.

Hakeem ended the episode showered and eating, so perhaps he is on the road to recovery. Jamal was actually knocked off the road to recovery when he accidentally ate a bunch of Becky’s edibles, believing they were just snacks. He wasn’t thrilled that he was accidentally high, but the incident actually provided most of the laughs of the episode as Becky and Kai snacked on some edibles to keep Jamal company. Hilarity ensued when they tried and failed to play a game of Truth Or Dare.

To find out what happens next for the Lyons and whoever winds up dead by the time the present action catches up with the flash-forwards, tune in to Fox on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of Empire. As of now, my money is still on one of the Lyons to be the one to bite the dust. Just because Cookie was almost certainly ruled out doesn’t mean the Lyon boys are all safe!