Harvey wants to know where Donna is, but if he knew, he probably wouldn’t want to know. He thinks she’s at the dentist, but we know that she’s in bed with Stephen. Harvey doesn’t have time to wait to further interrogate her. He and Mike are soon arguing a motion to dismiss in front of the presiding judge on the Hessington case, alongside Cameron and his ever-prevalent mustache. They can’t get the case dismissed, but that wasn’t actually the point. Harvey gets what he really wanted: an expedited trial. Then the guys decide to kick it up another notch by aiming to get Cameron thrown off the case, which they can only do by proving he colluded with Tony, the corporate raider that set his sights on Hessington Oil. Game on…even if it’s not eloquently stated as such.
Mike: Turn Bullshit Highway into…Fact Highway.
Harvey: Fact Highway?
Mike: Yeah, it’s right next to I Don’t Want To Talk About This Anymore Lane.
Nice try, Mike, but no extra brownie points for you on that one.
Back at the firm, Louis is irritated to find out that Nigel hasn’t been in the office since he took over the associates, and Donna worries about keeping her relationship with Stephen “there” separate from her work with Harvey “here.” Stephen is amused by this, just before he walks into Harvey’s office and tells him that although Ava lost her company, his deal with Darby to become managing partner is still valid, provided that Harvey wins Ava’s murder trial.
Encouraged, Harvey reveals his strategy to Stephen, who says that he can do better, and is willing to bet on it. Unwilling to pass on the chance to one-up the new guy, Harvey takes the bet, which makes Stephen his new number-two guy on the case, much to Mike’s annoyance. However, Mike immediately understands what’s up when he vents to Rachel, and Rachel reveals that Donna slept with Stephen. He then takes Rachel along with him on his next case, making her the Mike to his Harvey.
While Louis confronts Nigel about his “memos from a distant land,” and Nigel makes jokes about Louis being home-schooled, Harvey takes Stephen with him to meet Tony, and they serve the corporate raider with papers for a pending lawsuit in London. Tony responds by showing his bravado by burning a $50,000 bond in front of them. Harvey pressures Tony to admit that he colluded with Cameron, but he doesn’t answer. Because let’s face it, if he did, this would be a really short episode. Although anyone with half a brain should really just do what Harvey Specter tells them to do.
Mike thinks he and Rachel should celebrate their first case as a couple, and when she says she has dinner with her parents, he tries to invite himself, which catches her by surprise. This, in turn, bothers Mike. “I don’t want them to find out your secret,” she insists, and Mike can’t convince her to change her mind.
Harvey gets back to his office to find Donna waiting there, and everyone except him knows what’s coming. “I’m sleeping with Stephen,” she tells him, to which he calmly (albeit with the world’s best unenthused face) replies, “I can see that.” Donna’s surprised that he’s not upset, but he tells her that her personal life is personal.
Donna: And this isn’t?
Harvey: Donna, I don’t want to make this a thing.
So it seems like that went swimmingly, but given the complex nature of these characters, just because it’s easy now doesn’t mean things won’t get complicated later. It’s a scene that’s well written and perfectly played by two great actors, but we’ll get back to that.
While Mike puts the screws to the woman he and Rachel are deposing in their embezzlement case – much to Rachel’s disappointment – Louis is surprised to see that Nigel has given all the associates offensive gifts, since he thinks Louis is trying to undermine his authority. And Jessica, finding herself with a lot of free time she didn’t want, hauls Harvey into his office to tell him to “work on his people skills.” Seems Tony bought a bunch of companies for the sole purpose of firing Pearson Darby as their legal firm. She thinks he and Stephen ought to call their new boss Darby and tell him about this turn of events.
That’s not the only annoyance for our hero, either. The mere sight of Ava in the office now causes Harvey a headache. She wants to know why her stock is being driven into the ground, and when she finds out it’s due to the fight Harvey and Stephen picked with Tony, she’s not happy. Again. Seriously, every time she shows up, someone should just hand Harvey an Advil. Or possibly an alcoholic beverage.
Rachel’s changed her mind about wanting Mike to meet her parents, and brings him to dinner, which is hilariously awkward for the both of them, but no moreso than you haven’t seen on any other TV show. Mike does find out that Rachel was hiding something from him: she applied to Stanford – which, for those of you who don’t know, is in California, and whose unofficial mascot is a really amusing tree.
Harvey and Stephen are still back at Pearson Darby, trying to figure out what Tony is doing, burning through huge amounts of money just to spite the firm and Ava. What could make him that out of control? Stephen reveals that he subpoenaed Tony’s daughter, which Harvey thinks is a stupid move, because they ultimately need Tony to help them prove collusion. “I attacked his business,” Harvey insists angrily. “You went after his family.”
Not necessarily on board with the idea that he screwed up, Stephen believes that Harvey is angry more because Stephen is sleeping with Donna, which crosses another line in the Book of Specter. That’s the last straw, and Harvey throws his counterpart out of his office – and off his case.
Harvey then tells this to Jessica, saying that “now we have a problem” and he needs her help to fix it. Once he explains the situation, Jessica suggests that maybe they can broker a compromise between Ava and Tony, where she gets voting rights in return for him receiving her shares in the company, and then Tony will give up Cameron Dennis, solving everyone’s problem.
It goes without saying that the fact that Stephen has ticked off Harvey irritates Donna, and she doesn’t return his call. When he finds her in the file room the next day, she tells him how she doesn’t like complications, like her boyfriend throwing their relationship in her boss’s face. When Stephen wants to extend their “arrangement,” Donna merely responds by flatly saying she’ll take his offer under advisement. You go, Donna. However, after Louis tells her she can’t let Harvey get in the way, she decides to give Stephen a second chance.
While a sudden invocation of spousal privilege and the Stanford revelation cause another disagreement between Mike and Rachel (can these two be happy for more than one episode at a time?), they still have to win their case. They confront the new wife with accessory charges from Connecticut – not the state they’re married in, so spousal privilege won’t save her there. She caves, saying she’ll get them the money back. This resolution leads Mike and Rachel to deal with their own issue, with Mike agreeing to let Rachel go to Stanford for her entrance interview, and see what happens.
And Jessica gets Ava to agree to their deal, while Harvey gets Tony to come around, so the two can celebrate a victory. Well, a partial one. From his conversation with Tony, Harvey finds out that Cameron didn’t explicitly say anything that could be used against him, but, as Harvey tells Jessica, “He left [Tony] alone in the room with that tape.” The door might not be open, but the window is.
Harvey visits Cameron’s office and confronts him with Tony’s statement, and only gloats a little bit. “Admit it, Cameron, I beat you,” he says. “Save yourself the embarrassment and cancel this trial.” Yet Cameron refuses to go anywhere. And when Harvey returns, having gotten the damning tape thrown out and Ava reinstated as CEO of Hessington Oil, there’s Stephen in his office to fling one more zinger about Jessica having helped Harvey “dig her own grave.”
But then Jessica gives Harvey the one thing he’s wanted: his name on the wall. “I want to know if this is a gesture or if it’s a move,” he tells her, and she replies by saying she wants him back on her side. But can he trust her – and can Harvey stop the plan he’s already started? Chew on that for seven days.
What did we learn from this episode of Suits? Quite a bit, actually. Once again, this show has proven itself basically to be a how-to for television writers. Whereas last week we talked about establishing a universe, this week it’s all about payoffs and tone. Let’s take the second part first: when most shows get to a pivotal episode, there is usually a lot of sound and fury. Network promos will hype the episode for weeks, and edit the teaser in such a way that makes it seem like the world will end if you don’t watch it. Then when you get into those episodes themselves, the tendency is to make big moments have to appear as Big Moments. There will be yelling, or crying, or someone has a monologue, or dramatic music will be prevalent, because you have to understand just how huge this episode is for the show.
Suits has refreshingly never bought into that approach. It respects its audience enough to know that we can tell what a big moment is without it needing to be pointed out in some fashion. The writers also know that big moments don’t happen as Big Moments. The most major moments of our lives generally don’t happen with dramatics. So when we come to Donna revealing to Harvey that she’s sleeping with Stephen, or Stephen having it out with Harvey, those scenes aren’t overblown. They’re done simply, just allowing the actors to act and the writing to get right to the point, creating something organic rather than overdramatic.
Let’s get back to the scene between Harvey and Donna in Harvey’s office. There was a fair amount of build-up to that scene. A lesser show might have had it result in an argument, or dragged it out longer for dramatic effect, or put some sad piano underneath it to manipulate our emotions. Not this show. It puts the two characters in a room, alone, lets them settle the issue (at least for now) and get on with it. And the characters act like reasonable, mature adults. Because Harvey is Donna’s friend, and cares for her deeply, he’s not upset even though his feelings for Stephen are vastly different. He doesn’t get stupidly territorial or want to know why. He just accepts it. Likewise, Donna is honest, and doesn’t try to preface her reveal with any disclaimers or justify it, because she doesn’t need to. Both actors say what they need to say without overdoing it, and we see so much more in their expressions, too. If you don’t understand why Gabriel Macht and Sarah Rafferty are two of the best actors working in television, watch this scene until you get it.
And while we’re at it, a tip of the hat is due to guest star Max Beesley, who’s come in and played Stephen with just the right amount of attitude and arrogance that while we’re totally behind Harvey kicking his ass off the case, we don’t necessarily want to punch him in the face. Another actor could’ve come in and played this character as a one-sided smarmy interloper purely there as a dramatic obstacle, but Beesley’s got it down pat, able to create friction between Harvey and Stephen but while also making us feel okay that he’s dating Donna. Way to go, new guy.
Then we come to Mike and Rachel, who continue to have more ups and downs. Their normal is abnormal at this point. The show uses its case of the week to shed a light on their issues, similar to how Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s monster of the week often had some correlation to whatever those characters were going through. Whether or not that works is up to the audience, but what’s important is that the show revisits the idea of Rachel going to law school, which hopefully will happen for her. She deserves to be something other than “Mike’s girlfriend.” And while we’re at it, don’t say that she won’t go to Stanford, because this show is willing to go there (see: Donna getting fired). It might upset fans of the ‘ship, but it’s time for Rachel to step out and be her own woman, and that train is now officially leaving the station again.
This is also a great time to put in the show’s next flashback episode (see below). Harvey has a big decision to chew on, which in turn means the audience has a lot to think about for him, so why not take a step back? It not only heightens the suspense as to what will happen now, but it allows us to give our brains a break and consider everything that’s happened before while we make up our minds as to what we think should happen, and you can also bet there are going to be clues in those flashbacks that help us better grasp what’s ahead. Not only does this show know how to put together a good story, it also knows how to pace it.
Suits returns next Tuesday, with its second flashback episode; if you can’t wait till then, check out my recent interview with Sarah Rafferty for a hint as to what you can expect. See you next week!