Suits returned last week with Pearson Specter revisiting Mike Ross's past. This week, it's both Mike and Jessica Pearson who go under the microscope again, resulting in one of the series' most emotionally charged episodes for Jessica and Harvey Specter.
Harvey's hanging out in Scottie's office since his girlfriend is back in London wrapping up her old business, much to Donna's amusement. He's somehow managed to procure a $12,000 bottle of scotch, which his assistant doesn't think is an appropriate welcoming gift. Talk again turns to the future of his new relationship. "We both know you're going to screw it up," she tells him. "I'm just trying to delay that as long as possible." There's something oddly cute about the fact that for as smart as Harvey is about many things, he's completely clueless about gift shopping - or the fact that there's such a thing as Secretaries' Day.
Meanwhile, Louis tells Mike that he invited Mike's old ethics professor, Henry Girard (Stephen Macht, the legendary father of Gabriel Macht), to the firm. It's his underhanded way of putting pressure on Mike, because he doesn't believe that Mike got an A-plus in Girard's class. He still isn't sure Mike went to Harvard at all, and threatens him with launching a formal investigation unless Girard recognizes his former student. "It's over, Mike," Louis warns. "I'm on to you, and I'm going to expose you for the lying piece of filth that you are." Ouch.
This naturally sends Mike running to Harvey for help, and Harvey decides to inform Jessica about the problem. Except when he goes to see her, Harvey finds out that Jessica's ex-husband Quentin has died from his ALS. Harvey offers to fill in for her if she wants time off, but Jessica tells him that her ex's second wife Lisa (Sharon Leal) is on her way to Pearson Specter for a discussion of his will, as Jessica and Harvey were named executors of Quentin's estate.
What follows is an awkward meeting where Lisa informs them that she already has a plan to sell Quentin's pharmaceutical company to another corporation. Her wanting to do this less than a week after her spouse's death doesn't sit well with Jessica, who gets a little snippy, much to Harvey's annoyance. "This is personal for you," he reminds her. "It's not personal for me."
After breaking the news to Rachel about the hot water he's in, Mike makes the drastic move of showing up on Louis's doorstep and making half an admission - saying that he never attended Girard's class, but sticking by the story that he went to Harvard. Mike spins a story about falsifying the A-plus in order to save himself, and how recalcitrant he is about that one mistake. Louis, however, isn't buying Mike's earnest attempt at misdirecting him, and slams the door in his face.
Rachel even tries to chime in on her boyfriend's behalf, going so far as to out their romance to Louis, which only results in Louis going to see Mike and insisting that he needs to come clean to Girard when the professor visits the firm. Mike knows this is impossible, and panics all over again.
Lisa asks for a one-on-one meeting with Harvey, which he ends abruptly when he discovers that Jessica put his name on a letter she didn't tell him about. Another disagreement between them ensues, with him point-blank telling her that she needs to step aside if she can't evaluate the proposed sale objectively. He has a point when he says it's not much different than her questioning him about Scottie just a few days before. It's clear at this point that the business and personal are always going to mix at Pearson Specter in some regard - the real issue is everyone dealing with it appropriately.
Jessica visits Lisa at the pharmaceutical company and admits that she may have let their history affect her handling of the business situation. She asks Lisa why she's so eager to sell the company, and the two women end up having a vulnerable moment together. "The only money I cared about is the money to find the cure [for ALS], and we don't have the resources," Lisa tells her, insisting that the other company does. Jessica retorts that's not the way out, and she's got an idea that could satisfy the both of them. It's a provision in the sale that the new company will continue to develop the ALS drug Quentin and Lisa have been working on.
She returns to the firm just in time to hear that Harvey is heading to Boston, allegedly to see his troubled brother Marcus, but he's really going to pay an office visit to Professor Girard. Girard is not impressed by who Harvey's become since his Harvard days, calling our hero's career "compromising your way through life." Harvey responds by tossing an envelope on Girard's desk and referring to him as "you smug son of a bitch." He wants Girard to cancel his trip and stop taking Louis's calls. But Girard simply destroys the envelope and says he won't change his mind, leaving Harvey to get one hell of a look on his face as he leaves the office. The kind of look people should be afraid of.
Harvey comes back to New York and tells Mike the cold, hard truth. "It's not going to be okay," he says, and Mike refuses to believe that the great Harvey Specter can't solve his problem. "I'm not Superman. I failed and I don't know what to do," Harvey snaps, just before Donna suggests that Mike get the hell out of Harvey's office. Our hero is going to need a minute, or probably several minutes, and possibly a stiff drink.
His situation isn't the only one spinning out of control. Jessica finds out that with the addition of her provision, the sale of the pharmaceutical company has collapsed. Furthermore, the company counsel - who's so obviously jealous he wasn't named executor of the will - subpoenas her, alleging that Quentin was incompetent when he decided on Jessica to handle his affairs. Even though Lisa insists that "Quentin knew what he wanted," Jessica knows that the details about his declining health will be damning when she has to admit them under oath.
Sometime late that night, Mike has apparently come to terms with the impending disaster. He tells Harvey that they were always playing on borrowed time, and that he plans to resign. "Then I'm going with you," Harvey replies without a second's hesitation, but Mike doesn't want to take Harvey down with him, calling them friends and saying he's not going to betray his friend.
The next day is doomsday for everybody, and Harvey finds a smug Louis setting up a meeting room for Girard's arrival. The two discuss a moment in their past where Louis covered for Harvey, and Harvey tells him that what he's about to do is sell out a friend. Louis insists that what Mike has done is a lot worse than what Harvey did in the past. "A friend would not ask me to do this," he says, but he's clearly thinking about it as Harvey walks out.
In court, Jessica is sworn in, and launches into a statement about the truth being subjective. "The truth is much more complicated," she insists, arguing that while Quentin might have not been competent by the letter of the law, he still knew what he was doing when he named her executor of his will. The motion to remove her is denied, and she and Lisa make peace with each other.
Girard arrives at the firm and is met by Louis. Mike swallows his pride and goes to meet the both of them head-on, expecting to meet his downfall, and is shocked when Louis dismisses him under the guise of Mike not having taken care of work that needed to be done. Realizing that Louis just saved his ass, Mike offers him an apology and gets the hell out of there, while Harvey looks on with a smile.
Donna is waiting for Harvey in his office, with a proper present for Scottie. And we find out that Harvey doesn't even know his girlfriend's middle name, but his assistant does. Some time later, Harvey then finds Jessica in his office, and the two of them share a drink after an emotionally grueling couple of days. Heck, we feel like we need a drink after just watching them go through all that.
"Yesterday's Gone" principally invokes two of the qualities that have made Suits the best show on television. The first is its strong sense of continuity. Any other show wouldn't have reached all the way back to the fourth episode of season one to revisit Jessica's relationship with her ex-husband and his new wife; those are normally the kind of plots that are used once for those "very special episodes" and you're lucky if they're even mentioned again. Yet we've seen this show unafraid to pull from anywhere in its history at any time (Clifford Danner, anyone?). It's rewarding for the audience members who've been with the show since the beginning, and it also lends the show credibility, because we know this isn't the series that's just going to make something up for one episode's sake and toss it aside. Sure, some ideas have worked better than others over the past two and a half seasons, but they're all part of the story.
The second tentpole put to amazing use here is that the series doesn't play by the general TV rules. On another show, you'd never really fear for Mike's job, because everything would be wrapped up neatly in 42 minutes. You wouldn't see Harvey fail, because Harvey would be Superman, since that's the simplest way out and also something the audience loves to see. And things would end with laughs and smiles and probably rainbows somewhere. Guess what? That's not this show. Instead, we're kept on pins and needles, because we're watching Mike prepared to fall on his own sword - and we know from precedent that it could happen, because Suits isn't afraid to follow through on the threats it makes to its characters.
And while there's a nice humorous moment near the conclusion to temper all the drama that had us literally tense in our seats, we're also made well aware - in a final subtle scene, not beating us over the head with it - of the toll events have taken. There's a great saying we heard once about it being easy to find an actor who can flip over a table, but hard to find one who can really portray the emotion behind it. Suits is a show that doesn't just talk a big game and tell us we're supposed to be concerned. It actually turns the screws.
A large reason why that's possible is the strong performances from our ensemble cast, which deserves kudos all the way around tonight, with special consideration for Gina Torres and Gabriel Macht. Sure, the writers can pen that great speech about Mike intending to resign from the firm, but it's Patrick J. Adams that had to sell it to us with the tone of his delivery and the look in his eyes. Jessica's subplot could've verged into soapy melodrama, but Torres has the class and the restraint to keep from simplifying her into just a woman scorned, while also making us privy to the emotions that are well hidden behind her character's strength.
And we've pretty much run out of superlatives when it comes to talking about Gabriel Macht, but as badass as Harvey Specter is and as much we love him for it, there's a certain appreciation for watching him come apart. We enjoy him when he's a champion because we care about him as a human being, a connection between character and audience that wouldn't exist if he were perfect all the time. We don't love Harvey just because he's a winner; it's because we love who he is, that we're so pleased when he wins.
Of course, one can't discuss this episode without mentioning the scene between Gabriel Macht and his father Stephen, whose guest appearance has been known for awhile now. It's definitely a cool happening to see the two of them sharing the screen together, but what's really great about it is that if you didn't notice the resemblance, you wouldn't have known they were related. They disappear into the characters so perfectly that the audience is still pulled into the scene and its meaning, rather than being distracted by who's in it. Kudos to the USA PR department, too, for not splashing that all over the promos and taking away from the content of the episode itself.
Almost every drama show has done the episode where it digs into a character or characters' past for the tension of the week. There's the cop show where someone's best friend/significant other/old partner is suddenly accused of a crime. Or someone's old flame or lost relative or presumed dead acquaintance makes an unexpected return. As we mentioned before, those are the "very special episodes" that really aren't that special. But with "Yesterday's Gone," we're treated to a nailbiter of an episode, because of the foundation on which it rests. This isn't the first time Suits has dug into its own history or the pasts of its protagonists; heck, Mike's background is a theme of the show. But that works here where it fails elsewhere, because of the way it's handled, and because these characters are so rich.
When we read the summary of an episode like this, we know that we're going to see a story that not only serves drama, but also elucidates more about who these people used to be, and who they are today. We're adding a piece or pieces to the continually evolving picture of these characters. And we know that we're going to go through that experience with performances that always do justice to the material. Really, at this point, the Suits characters don't feel like characters; they feel like people. So go ahead and put them under the microscope all you want. Let us discover their pasts and speculate on their futures, because it never ceases to be not just entertaining, but moving and ultimately, memorable.
Suits continues Season 3 next Thursday at 9 PM ET/PT on USA. In case you missed it, you can also check out our interview with Rick Hoffman.