It's always a pleasure when Suits is on TV. Now we get to enjoy the last six episodes of season three, before we all run out and pre-order the DVD so we can rewatch them another half-dozen times. This show is that good; it's complex, captivating and completely addictive.
"Buried Secrets" picks up with Mike and Rachel having another of their cute couple moments while she mocks his furniture. This is her way of telling him that she wants to take him up on his offer of living together. Meanwhile, Harvey and Scottie are doing their best at coupledom, too, as Scottie seems poised to join Pearson Specter. It's nice to see everyone happy. Yet it's almost a false sense of happiness, because we know not all will remain well in the Suits world. As Harvey points out to Jessica, "You've had three name partners in two years." Way to call yourself out there, show.
Mike tells Harvey he wants to jump on one of Harvey's cases, but Harvey declares it "not worth our time," because the opposition's in-house lawyer already negotiated a settlement. Mike tells him that the lawyer is Nick Rinaldi, the man who screwed with his family, and Harvey lets Mike loose. Elsewhere, Louis is having an "epiphany" that Mike may not have gone to Harvard, and understandably, he's not a happy man.
Jessica tells Scottie that Harvey has convinced her that she deserves to be part of the firm, and the two begin to negotiate the specifics of her contract. "The name of the firm is Pearson Specter. It's changed too many times and it's not going to change again," Jessica warns her, though she adds that she'll never say never. She knows Scottie wants her name on the wall, and how committed Scottie is to her new firm. She wants Scottie to buy into the firm up front.
This prompts Scottie to walk into Harvey's office and ask him to clarify what he wants from her; he replies that he wants a relationship, but isn't ready to give her a ring. She responds by revealing that she had an offer from a Chicago law firm, and the music underneath his moment tells us we're supposed to take this as a Serious Moment. To us, it kind of reads like a guilt trip.
After Mike has way too much fun chewing out Rinaldi on the street, he returns to the office to find that Harvey wants to sit in on his deposition. "Why are you babysitting me?" he asks. "I'm not babysitting you. I want to watch you kill this guy. That's why I brought snacks," quips Harvey.
Louis asks Donna why Mike didn't show up on the list of Harvey's interviews the day that Harvey was interviewing new associates. Donna explains to Louis that Mike pretended to be one of the other associates on the list, got past her and impressed Harvey enough to be hired. Louis comes back with the reveal that he knows Mike doesn't have a file in the Harvard file room. Donna insists that Louis is jumping to conclusions, and suggests that if this really bothers him, he should just call Harvard and ask for a copy of Mike's transcripts.
During his deposition, Mike begins to have flashbacks about Rinaldi negotiating a settlement with his grandmother over the deaths of his parents. It takes him out of the moment, and Harvey has to jump in to help him, putting a quick end to the deposition then and there. Outside the conference room, he calls his associate out on losing control of the situation. "I know I got thrown, but I can still recover," Mike insists. Harvey isn't convinced, and warns that he'll give him one day before "pulling the plug."
Donna tells Harvey that Louis might be on to Mike, and recounts the details of her conversation with Louis. Harvey doesn't see the situation as a problem, and is more mortified by Louis's relationship with Sheila. The look on his face says he's picturing it.
Rachel finds an overworking Mike elsewhere in the firm preparing for the next day's dismissal hearing, and asks him if it would really be so terrible for Pearson Specter to take the originally offered settlement. Mike responds by telling her about the last moments he had with his father, and how Rinaldi "didn't kill my parents, but he did try to tell me what their lives were worth." Rachel offers to stay and help her boyfriend.
Over dinner, Harvey and Scottie are discussing what first client she can land for the firm, in order to change Jessica's mind about her early buy-in. She cracks a joke about his not being able to secure Michael Phelps, who just happens to be in the same restaurant at that same moment. Yes, this whole dinner date was a set-up on Scottie's part, down to sending Harvey home so she can close her deal. The whole scene comes off like her impersonation of Harvey, and it probably doesn't help that Phelps is a little bit wooden in his cameo.
Mike attacks Rinaldi's expert witness in court, leading to another conversation with Rinaldi. Here's where Mike drops the hammer: he pulls out a photo of Rinaldi's client drinking alcohol before his surgery, going down the exact same road Rinaldi did years ago when he made Mike's father's blood alcohol content an issue. Rinaldi recognizes the tactic and calls him on it, but Mike stands his ground. The moment gives us a glimpse into the kind of lawyer Mike Ross is becoming, and it's an intriguing one.
Louis presents Donna with a copy of Mike's Harvard transcript, but still has a hard time believing Saint Sheila could make a mistake. Donna's second attempt at dissuading him from probing further is chewing him out for accessing her files, giving a great performance perfectly on the edge of histrionics. As if Louis's day doesn't suck enough, Sheila (recurring guest star Rachael Taylor) is unexpectedly in his office. She hands him a hotel room key, and walks out so he can wonder if the sky is about to fall on his head.
Rinaldi shows up at Pearson Hardman to warn Mike that he's getting into "bullying" territory, which, he has an actual point about that. "Congratulations, because you just became me," he tells the younger lawyer, re-stating the reasons Mike's grandmother settled their case before leaving Mike to read them for himselves. As our hero digests that, Jessica and Harvey have another argument over Scottie's buy-in, even though Scottie has apparently landed Michael Phelps. "I chose to trust you when you said you didn't want to be managing partner. Was that true or not?" she asks, and he tells her it is, but he has another idea, too.
He presents Scottie with an offer: instead of buying in up front, she has to sign an iron-clad non-compete clause. And this is why Harvey Specter is known as the closer, folks. He knows how to solve problems. At home, she tells him she's headed back to London for two weeks to get her life in order, and he reveals that he paid her buy-in. "You paid so that I could sleep with you and be here at the same time. Do you know what that makes me?" she retorts. Wow, he really can't win with her. They fight more, then make up again, and the cycle continues, folks.
Most importantly, Mike admits to Rinaldi that he understands where the other man is coming from. He offers another way for the other man to get his client compensation: by pointing him in another direction. Not only that, he gives him a handy piece of advice about social media. So maybe he's still got a heart after all. But he's not out of hot water yet, as Louis is perusing Mike's transcripts, and spots something he doesn't like: an A+ in a class where nobody's ever gotten one.
"Buried Secrets" is typical Suits, which is to say that this is a series on top of its game. Depending on how you look at it, this episode will either make you hate the ten-six season model USA operates with, or love it, or maybe even both. It picks up so briskly from where "Stay" left off, that it's impossible not to wonder how well the season would have flowed uninterrupted. The best TV series are like massive feature films, projects that you can watch through without wanting to break stride. You could have placed this episode right after the midseason finale and it would've worked perfectly.
At the same time, it's a great way to dive back into the Suits universe after a few months apart, precisely because it does fit with the previous episodes so perfectly. Aside from the beginning "previously on," it doesn't waste time hand-holding the audience through getting reintroduced to characters and plotlines. We're dropped right back into the action, and it's like we never left. On top of that, we continue to see the series weave in connections to things that came before, most notably the death of Mike's parents. What's great about Suits is that it's so layered; nothing is thrown away. Everything has meaning. As a result, you are watching the characters blossom every week as the pieces come together.
Take Mike, for example. It's hard to imagine the fresh-faced, idealistic Mike Ross of season one use tactics as ruthless as he does in this episode. He's clearly found confidence - and a certain degree of predatory instinct - as a lawyer. It's obvious that he's learned from Harvey over three seasons. Contrast his confrontation with Rinaldi to the scene before it, where the show gives us Scottie using Harvey's tactics to snag a client Harvey couldn't get. Mike's scene rings true, and Scottie's does not, because we've seen Mike find his claws over the course of the series. Scottie, on the other hand, all we have is people telling us how good she's supposed to be.
And one of the things that puts Suits over the top, into that elite class of TV dramas, is its consistent willingness to question itself. The choices that the writers make, they stand by in continuity, rather than just do what works in the moment and move forward. We see it in Harvey pointing out how many name partners the firm has had; it's pointing out that the show has gone there often, when that niggling fact could've easily been ignored. Or even as we see Mike pull a hard-hitting tactic like that, against a character we have every reason to dislike, the show has us still question if that's the right move and what it means about him. Just because our characters are our heroes doesn't mean they can't be examined.
That's not to say the show is perfect; we've been over our objections to the character of Scottie, her relationship with Harvey, and how she impacts the writing of his character last season. This episode doesn't push us off any of those criticisms. But if those are the only things we can complain about, well, we're still pretty lucky. Even the little things on this series work - Sarah Rafferty's Donna basically exists in this episode to support Louis's storyline, and she still makes the screen pop every time she shows up. Missteps here are few and far between.
Like all good season or midseason premieres, "Buried Secrets" leaves us wanting more, and remembering what it is we love about these characters. Too bad there are only five more episodes left, but at least we'll see a whole fourth season after them. This series is not slowing down whatsoever, and we're better for it.
Suits continues Season 3 next Thursday at 9 PM ET/PT on USA. For more on the show, you can check out our interview with Sarah Rafferty, and the 5 Things We Want To See From Suits in the future. Season 3 is available for pre-order now.