Can you believe we've reached the midseason finale of Suits already? Neither can we. But after nine episodes of consistantly excellent work, episode ten blows it all out of the water, for both good and evil, but mostly good.
Bringing everything from this season and then some back into our memories, "Stay" opens with a really uncomfortable conversation between Harvey and his ex-flame slash current nemesis Scottie (returning guest star Abigail Spencer). He apologizes and tries to convince her to honor the existing dissolution agreement before things get any more chaotic. She remains convinced that she's going to right Darby International. They still don't see eye to eye, but they're ultimately on the same page, whether or not they like it.
Things are even more tense between Mike and Rachel, because Mike doesn't want Rachel moving across the country to go to law school at Stanford, and he thinks that it should be an easy decision for her. In fact, he's still as big a tool in the box as he was last week, and he leaves her looking uncomfortable.
The next morning, Harvey tells Jessica that Scottie still isn't going to honor the agreement, which prompts Jessica to tell him they have no choice but to handle Ava Hessington's lawsuit on their own terms. Harvey doesn't want to broker a deal with Ava, and he definitely doesn't want to see Travis Tanner (returning guest star Eric Close), who's her new lawyer and still as smug as he's ever been. Tanner tells Harvey that "Ava has no intention of letting her off the hook," but Harvey correctly deduces it's less about what Ava wants and more about Tanner's desire to renew their rivalry. Harvey then wins the comeback of the year award by telling Tanner to call his mom.
After Harvey tells Mike who they're facing off against and the two trade high school-related barbs ("emotionally, you never graduated," Mike quips), Louis is reunited with quirky recruiter Sheila (returning guest star Rachael Harris), and Rachel tries to convince Mike that a long-distance relationship can work. He responds by saying that her going to Stanford most likely means that their relationship is over. He might be right, but could you try to say at least one positive thing, Michael? But if they don't break up, Jessica might break them up. She's not thrilled that they're dating, because it presents another opportunity for Mike's secret to be exposed, given who Rachel's father is.
A freaked-out Mike shows up at Harvey's apartment looking for personal advice, which is just all kinds of awkward. Harvey is absolutely no help whatsoever, except for offering Mike the morning off to get his head on straight.
Harvey and Ava have a terse conversation in the Pearson Darby Specter conference room, with her accusing him of intimidating people and looking for apologies Harvey has no intention of giving. She's as irrational as ever. After she leaves, Tanner shows up for his scheduled deposition of Harvey, with Scottie and Jessica there to keep the two from punching him in the face again. Sadly, there is no face-breaking involved, even after Tanner takes another very cheap shot at Harvey by bringing up Scottie's former engagement and how she didn'tmenti on that she was engaged back when she and Harvey first slept together in Season 1's "Play The Man." What we do get is Gabriel Macht doing the best angry face in the history of television.
After the deposition, Harvey and Scottie have a fight in his office, with Scottie ticked off that Jessica tried to send Harvey to cut a deal at the beginning of the episode. At least Mike and Jessica are making up, with Mike telling Rachel that should she choose to attend Stanford, they'll beat the odds.
The next morning, as Louis realizes his relationship misstep, Tanner and his nine pounds of hair gel try to get Scottie to turn on Harvey. When she refuses to betray him again, Tanner decides to go after her next, which leads into another way too personal deposition in which he accuses her of setting the entire Pearson Darby merger up out of her anger at Harvey. Furthermore, he shows her a signed affidavit from Stephen Huntley claiming that Scottie knew everything. Donna and Mike get to see the deposition afterward, which prompts Donna to ask Mike to get her into jail to see Stephen. She wants to protect Harvey by protecting Scottie from Stephen's false accusations. "He may not know how he feels, but I do," she tells Mike.
Left alone in a room with Stephen, Donna pretends that she's trying to reason with her ex-boyfriend. In reality, because all conversations except attorney-client ones are recorded when you're in custody, she's getting him on tape admitting to fabricating the contents of his affidavit. It's been said many times, but let's say it again: never, ever, ever underestimate Donna Paulsen. She's just as dangerous as Harvey or Jessica.
While she passes this information to Harvey, who shoves it in Tanner's face to no avail, Jessica shocks a breakfast-eating Mike by turning up at his dive of an apartment. She confronts him about telling Rachel his secret, and tells him that he's going to get her to sign an affidavit saying that she knows Mike is a fraud, or risk losing his job. When Mike brings this development to Rachel, he tells her that he thinks the only way out is for her to go to Stanford.
Harvey is drinking when he tells Scottie that their choices are to settle the lawsuit or expose her to further humiliation. "I can't stand to see them come after you," he says, admitting that "I can't take it." His momentary emotional outburst convinces her to play along with his next move, which is convincing Ava that her real issue is with Edward Darby.
At Ava's deposition, the team does a good job of reminding Ava that they've got plenty of dirt on her, before Harvey goes off the record with her. He offers the apology she was looking for earlier, with the qualifier that "I'm not sorry that I did everything in my power to help you every chance I got." That's what Ava wanted to hear, and it leaves Tanner looking dejected.
After everything legal is said and done, Harvey finds Mike even further on edge, and offers an apology to him, too. As Mike tells Harvey about his predicament with Rachel, we cut to Rachel visiting Jessica's office with the unsigned affidavit in hand. She wants to broker a deal: she'll sign it if Jessica will waive the Harvard graduates-only rule for employment at Pearson Hardman.
Harvey and Scottie are all smiles back at his apartment, before she asks him why she's there in the first place. He tells her that he wants to work with her, and says she should come to the firm. She initially rebuffs his offer, because she's still motivated by wanting a personal relationship with him. For whatever reason, that makes Harvey finally tell her "I want you in my life."
In the final minutes, Rachel informs Mike that she's staying to be with him even though Stanford is the better law school, while Louis finally makes up with Sheila...and in so doing, discovers that Mike doesn't have a file from Harvard.
There are two major criteria for judging a season or midseason finale: does it wrap up everything that's come before, and where might it be taking us next? On those merits, "Stay" isn't the best Suits ender we've ever seen, but it does ultimately leave us wanting more.
First, let's get to the things that give us pause. Suits is clearly building up a stable of recurring characters that it can draw upon. This is potentially dangerous ground. While it can work to a show's advantage to have memorable players return to the fold (see, for example, Law & Order's recurring defense attorney Shambala Green, who was a great foil to original prosecutor Ben Stone), you also don't want to play the same card too many times and have the audience able to predict who's going to be walking through that door. We've seen most of the show's big antagonists come back in Season 3, from Cameron Dennis to Allison Holt to Scottie and now Travis Tanner. When we return for Season 3.5, it's time to leave some of these folks on the bench - and come up with some more people we can love to hate.
We're going to say that even extends to Scottie, because no matter how many times somebody else says that Harvey loves her, and no matter how many "moments" the show tries to give them, we've never been convinced that she and Harvey belong together. We don't feel the chemistry. (Besides, the quota of Suits relationship drama is more than aptly filled by Mike and Rachel, who have more to deal with every season than whole ensembles on other shows.) Harvey functions perfectly well on his own, and there's more than enough to tinker with in his personal life without sticking him in a romantic relationship that's always seemed more like an obligatory device.
Then there's that last moment of the episode. If you have deja vu, we don't blame you, because we've already been through this with Rachel finding out about Mike, and Jessica before her. Speaking of going to the well one too many times, we don't want to keep relying on "someone discovers Mike's secret" as a cliffhanger. It's losing its dramatic impact, and it seems too obvious a choice for a show that's established itself as not taking the easy way out.
Gripes aside, there's also a lot to play with here going into Season 3.5. The most obvious is that the firm is now Pearson Specter - that means that Jessica and Harvey are now eye-to-eye (if not in title), and they're also having to work together on a whole new level. As Jessica has reminded Harvey, being a name partner comes with different priorities. It'll be interesting to see if or how that changes how he operates, and if they can work together effectively in the new dynamic, because as we've seen throughout the course of the show, just because they make a good team doesn't mean they have to even like each other.
It'll also be interesting to see how far the show takes Rachel on her path to becoming a lawyer. Barring a massive time jump, she's not going to be a full-fledged litigator for awhile, which is fine (it's nice to have two characters on the show who aren't lawyers), but she does need to have more to do outside of her relationship with Mike. Donna is a great example of that; she works so well with Harvey, but she's a half-dozen other things besides being Harvey's assistant. It's time to see what else Rachel can do, and how that will temper her relationship with Mike, given that they both seem to have their insecurities even if they ultimately love each other.
What's really exciting here is the way that "Stay" kind of clears the decks for the next big thing in Suits history. We've seen the name partner get shelved from the firm, we've seen the merger, we've now seen the merger fall apart. There's been a lot of change, and most of it's wrapped up at the end of this episode. So that leaves things wide open as to what new challenge could be in front of our heroes. Aside from the ongoing problem of Mike's big secret, which is likely to be a problem for most of if not the entire duration of the series, it's all fair game. And that's exciting, because we've seen what these writers and actors can do, and we know that they come up with challenging, complex ideas.
This isn't a perfect finale, and there are issues here that could make the show even better if they're fixed in Season 3.5, but ultimately, it's an episode that takes care of business and says, "What's next?" And like every episode of Suits from the pilot since, it leaves us damn excited to find out.