Can you believe this season of Suits is almost over? Yeah, we can't either. Yet with that knowledge comes the fact that things are going to get more intense and more complicated, because this series is a freight train of awesome that only speeds up as it approaches the station.
While Louis is still understandably broken up over losing Sheila, everyone else has boatloads of pre-finale drama to deal with. Harvey's still trying to make nice with Scottie (Abigail Spencer), to the point of actually apologizing, and it seems to work for at least the next thirty seconds. Yet ten seconds after that, he's blindsided by an attorney who's been waiting for him to get to the office, just to tell him that he's coming after one of Harvey's clients. And Mike tells Rachel about his job offer from the investment banking firm, with Rachel telling him that he has to tell Harvey. Yep, you can see all of this creating a drama tornado right now, can't you?
Mike decides to talk to Harvey, but he's pushed off in favor of dealing with the emerging situation with the client, given that said client's IPO is days away. After a touchy not-settlement meeting, Harvey realizes the opposing counsel is a poker player with a debt issue. Just as they uncover where his nightly game is, Mike finally reveals the job offer. "If it were me, I'd take it," Harvey says, catching Mike by surprise. After Mike leaves, though, Harvey doesn't look thrilled at this development. And if you needed extra confirmation of his irritation, he snaps at his girlfriend. Seriously, dude, just break up with her already.
Not to be left out of all the fun, Jessica deals with an unwelcome visitor, her former boss (played by Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Jamey Sheridan), who hands her a formal notice to demand to audit the firm's books. She wants Louis to handle the problem, so Katrina (Amanda Schull) approaches Rachel instead. "You're the best paralegal here, and you're his friend. So will you help me, or not?" she asks. Unfortunately, their Plan A blows up in Jessica's face.
After hours, Harvey plays some poker and compares resumes with his newest adversary, while Mike finds out that Jonathan Sidwell doesn't want to negotiate the terms of his job offer. In fact, he's not even sure Mike really wants the job, and he's going to start interviewing other candidates the following day. That ultimatum keeps Mike up all night - and in the morning Rachel admits that she wants him to take the job, if only to get the burden of being outed off his shoulders. At work, she shows up just moments after Jessica fires Katrina for covering for Louis.
Mike tells Donna that he plans on taking the job, which makes her finally say what somebody should've. "Do you know what that man has done for you?" Donna asks him, before reminding him of everything Harvey has done for him, and how much they need each other. "I don't want to live my life like this anymore," Mike retorts. "Then you better be the best goddamn investment banker this city has ever seen," she replies. Harvey's downstairs, not knowing that he's about to get even angrier, because not only does he not know about Mike's decision yet, but his opposing counsel informs him that he's discovered what really won Harvey the Hessington Oil case, and he's going to hold it over Harvey's head for all it's worth.
While Mike tells Harvey that he's leaving and Harvey doesn't think that changes anything, Rachel tells all to Jessica, which sends her to Louis's house to drag him out of his post-breakup stupor. "I know you loved Sheila, but do you love your firm?" she asks him, motivating him to come up with Plan B: the firm becomes an LLC. And Louis saves the day once again.
Scottie tries to advise Harvey on his Mike situation, and her continued pressing regarding the one thing he can't discuss creates yet another argument between them. As she points out, it's a vicious cycle. He starts drinking, at least until Mike shows up on his doorstep with a solution to their problem. He's looked into the opposing counsel's bank accounts with a little help from his hacker friend, and found a smoking gun: the guy took money from the competition to trump up his lawsuit, which can get him disbarred. Harvey tells him that he should be the one to use it, saying, "Be a lawyer one last time. Knock this guy out."
Mike does as he's told, and his confrontation with the antagonist of the week is actually kind of painful. There's a whole monologue about how the guy's already lost everything except being a lawyer, and he agrees to drop the suit in order to hold onto his career. It comes across as Mike looking in the mirror at one potential future, just a little bit. Back at Pearson Specter, Harvey wants to tell Scottie the truth about Mike, but Donna doesn't think that's a wise decision, because Scottie "keeps finding a reason to be pissed at you...You want me to tell you what you already know. You can't, Harvey." Once again, Donna knows all.
That's when Mike arrives and wants a moment with his former mentor. He announces that he's an official member of the New York Bar. "I made a mistake," he says. "I want to stay." And we're happy for about fifteen seconds, until we remember that next week is the season finale, so that's probably not the only mistake he's about to make.
Every TV series wants to build to a season finale that is the Biggest Thing Ever. That's just good business. This is why you see cliffhangers, character deaths, and shocking reveals. However, in part because this happens every season, this only works maybe half of the time. Just the simple act of doing something big isn't enough; the best shockers mean something and aren't just done for the sake of surprising the audience. Suits has been on both sides of this spectrum. We spoke at the beginning of these back six episodes about the show needing to move away from the 'somebody new finds out about Mike as a cliffhanger' concept, and judging from the preview for next week's finale, it technically hasn't done that - but instead, it's played into the situation that was going to happen from the moment this show went on the air.
And that's what actually works about this episode. It doesn't pretend like the rules of TV aren't there; common sense tells us Mike wouldn't actually leave the firm for very long, because Suits wouldn't be a show without Patrick J. Adams. Yet the suspense isn't really in what Mike is going to do. It's in what he goes through while trying to make that decision, and what impact his decision has on the people around him. Similar to last week's "Heartburn," it's not the actual event that matters, it's how that event serves as a catalyst to further push these characters. It's the Mike situation that drives a wedge into Harvey and Scottie's relationship, for example, and that explores an interesting angle. The show has talked so much about what keeping Mike's secret does emotionally to Mike (even in this episode), but it hasn't discussed what it does emotionally to Harvey nearly as much.
Then look at the scene that wraps up the case of the week. One could argue that in dealing with the opposing counsel, Mike is looking at what could happen to him, or even Harvey, if they're not careful. Sure, the guy was still a lawyer, but he lost everything else - and he started with good intentions, just like Mike. We've seen Mike lose Rachel at least twice over the course of the series, and Harvey seems headed for potential splitsville (or an aneurysm) with Scottie. It's not hard to imagine one or both of them, especially the more idealistic Mike, trying to make a difference and ending up crashing and burning. Look back to earlier in these back six, when Mike showed the lawyer who screwed his family that he wasn't afraid to go the ruthless route. What if someday he goes too far? This episode isn't just setting the stage for next week's finale - one could argue it's almost foreshadowing potential futures for these characters if they don't play their cards right (which makes the title oddly appropriate).
It goes without saying that Suits will eventually outlive its original concept. Hopefully, the show will go on for years and years, and we're going to get to that point where either everybody knows about Mike's secret (almost all the main cast knows already, and we're in season three), or the secret gets handled (which might happen here next week or into early season four). But here's how you know a show is built well: this series can absolutely outlast that happening. Just like Burn Notice at a certain point stopped being about the truth behind Michael being burned, this show isn't really about keeping Mike's secret. That's what got the game started, but what this show is about, is these strong characters and the challenges they face. We're not sure how Mike would get himself out of the 'fake lawyer' pickle for good, but it could happen and the show would turn the page into a whole other new direction. Everything's building nicely to dealing with the elephant that's been in the room since the beginning. And that's how you do the lead-up to a season finale.
The Suits third-season finale airs next Thursday at 9 PM ET/PT on USA.