'Suits' Recap: 'The Other Time' - Harvey And Donna's Excellent Adventure

August 21st, 2013 5:57am EDT

Suits Something else Suits has figured out that most of us haven't? Flashback episodes. This week, "The Other Time" takes us back even further than last season's "Rewind," a full decade, to piece together a lot of things that need piecing.
Arriving at work the morning after the events of last week's installment, Donna and Louis are both surprised to see Harvey's name added to the wall. She goes straight to Harvey's office to ask him about it, but he's a bit blase about the whole thing. "Why didn't you tell me?" she asks, and he retorts that "Your focus hasn't been where it usually is." She infers that has something to do with her relationship with Stephen, but he tells her that she's generally always known.
Ten years earlier, at the New York City District Attorney's Office, Donna is grilling Harvey about his coffee intake, and when he doesn't believe she's that observant, she rattles off a list of other details she's noticed about him, including the names of several ex-girlfriends. This throws our hero for a moment, before Cameron (guest star Gary Cole) interrupts with a horrible Sean Connery impression. That doesn't stop Harvey from quipping that his assistant wants him. "I'm not into you, I'm Donna," she replies coolly, adding that "If you were ever lucky enough to have me, you wouldn't wanna share." Ouch!
Elsewhere, Mike and his useless best friend Trevor (returning guest star Tom Lipinski) are generally taking up space, at least until Trevor reveals to Mike that he got into Harvard, and then a celebration is in order. This celebration involves getting drunk, making bad passes at girls, and losing at poker to an old nemesis. Pretty standard twentysomething stuff, this.
Back in the present day, Mike visits Harvey and tells him that he doesn't think Ava Hessington's murder case is truly over, as he's discovered that Cameron's been booking hotel rooms and calling in the U.S. Marshals to provide protective custody. "He's got another goddamn witness," Harvey deduces.
In the following flashback, he's called into Cameron's office, where his boss promotes him to head litigator, despite saying that he knows "you've got a deal with Jessica." After Cameron leaves, Harvey gets into the scotch, but Donna thinks that's not a good enough celebration. She suggests a ritual of some sort, and he writes down a suggestion that requires whipped cream. We don't know the rest of it yet, but does it really matter? There's whipped cream involved.
Harvey also wants to revisit their conversation from earlier in the day. "You know you've thought about it," he tells Donna, "and you would." He thinks she's afraid she'd fall for him, and she retorts that if anyone fell for anyone, it would be him falling for her. This horribly charged moment is hilariously interrupted by another of the office assistants, who hands Harvey a misplaced file that causes the smile to vanish from his face. He realizes they left something out and it's about to screw them over. Anyone who remembers the season one episodes "Rules of the Game" and "Dogfight" knows what he's referring to.
While modern-day Harvey admires his name on the wall, Stephen (guest star Max Beesley) wants to know what's going on with the Hessington case, and calmly goes away when Harvey brushes him off. Well, that was too easy. Mike emerges from the elevator saying he knows who the new witness is, and wanting to know what his boss is going to do about Jessica. "I don't know," Harvey admits.
Back in the past, neither Harvey's name nor Jessica's was on the wall; the names there are new to us: Gordon, Schmidt and Van Dyke. Harvey tells her he wants to spend more time at the District Attorney's Office after his new promotion. Her response is to tell him that she and Daniel Hardman are taking the name partners down. "We're lawyers, we're not in the honor business," she says when he questions her approach. Speaking of questionable, Trevor owes money to a drug dealer, and wants Mike to help him by using his test-taking skills for evil. We know how that turned out.

Donna walks into Harvey's office and finds him trying to cover for the missing toxicology report he discovered the night before, causing a fight between the two of them in which he makes the very wrong move of telling her that he's above her. A rightly infuriated Donna slams the door behind her as she leaves him there.
While he may have been bluffing in the past, Harvey calls Cameron's bluff in the present, questioning the viability of his witness, but Cameron and his ego will not be stopped. He merely offers Harvey a deal for Ava: nine years with the possibility of parole.
Time for another flashback. Cameron likewise wants to chew out Harvey over the missing report. "If I wanted it disclosed, I wouldn't have misfiled it in the first place," he snaps, which makes our hero realize this wasn't a mistake. Cameron defends his action by saying it's for the greater good, and furthermore, he doesn't care if Harvey's comfortable with it or not. When he gives the same line to Harvey that Harvey used on Donna earlier, Harvey's wheels start to turn.
Stephen goes to Mike to try and convince him that maybe a deal might not be a bad thing, which reminds Mike of the time he went with Trevor to meet the drug dealer, who is the most atypical drug dealer you'll ever see on TV. Mike's ability to quote Pulp Fiction somehow saves the both of them from a beating. Unfortunately, they're immediately stopped by campus cops, who haul Trevor off for selling answers to a stolen test, prompting a very nervous look from Mike.
Back at the District Attorney's Office, Donna isn't convinced when Harvey tries to justify the burial of the report by saying that "it's just one time." She responds by saying that she went back through Cameron's old cases and this is definitely not just a one-time deal. She's intent on giving him a piece of her mind. "If you do this, you're going to keep doing it," she warns. Cut to the present day, where neither Harvey nor Stephen know where Donna has gone to.
Our next flashback introduces us to Harvey's father, Gordon (James McCaffrey - who else is disappointed Stephen Macht wasn't available?), who hits a few baseballs with his son. The two talk about Harvey's brother Marcus before Harvey asks his father's advice on his current predicament. He thinks he can still take a hard line with Cameron and manage to keep his job. Gordon shares Donna's skepticism, saying that even if Cameron believes he won't ask Harvey to cross the line again, "he will."
This leads Harvey to walk into Cameron's office, holding an affidavit in one hand and his resignation in the other. He tries to get through to Cameron, saying that if Cameron's a good prosecutor, he should be able to secure a conviction anyway, but his boss doesn't want to hear any of it, resorting to name-calling. (Really, Cameron? That's the best you've got? What are you, five?) The two don't part on good terms.
Meanwhile, Mike talks to his grandmother (while we're at it, we still miss Rebecca Schull) about Trevor being busted for his transgression. Their conversation leads Mike to turn himself in, in hopes of keeping Trevor from being expelled. The administrator retorts that since they got his daughter in trouble, and by extension him, he's not only expelling Mike, but he's also calling Harvard, ensuring Mike will never go there.
A newly liberated Harvey shows up at Donna's apartment and breaks the news to her, surprised to find out that she also left the District Attorney's Office. This leads to part three of their ongoing conversation: he points out that they no longer work together, and she's armed with a can of whipped cream. She invites him inside, and the audience can easily infer the next part. And flail, and scream, and whatever other celebratory things you want to do at the moment.

The next day, Harvey comes back to Jessica and says he's changed his mind about joining her firm. He tells her that he started thinking about who he wanted to be working with, and he insists that he's not coming without Donna, even when Jessica tells him it will cost hm personally. He then meets Donna, and tells her "I don't want to lose you," offering her the job even if it means they never discuss the previous night ever again. What's next is as adorable as we've ever seen Harvey Specter. "If I'd known that this was going to happen, I never would've come over," he admits. "I don't want to find out what kind of lawyer I'd be without you." Melt, America. Just melt.
This is also where the can opener comes into play: they need a new ritual, and Harvey's somehow got one. Donna calls the can opener "the dumbest thing I've ever heard," but then she gets it.
Present time, Harvey meets Donna and finally admits that he's bothered by her relationship with Stephen. "It's good that you finally were able to say it," she tells him. She's further disappointed that it took him so long to say that. They exchange another awkward, vulnerable look. Meanwhile, Mike is finally on board with Rachel going to Stanford, because he got into Harvard, and Harvey declares that the Hessington case is over again, because he thinks Cameron actually was bluffing. This just before he informs Jessica about his deal with Darby to remove her as managing partner of the firm. He may as well have stabbed her. Even though he says he's no longer interested in that, she tells him to get out of her sight. Making matters worse for Harvey? Cameron tells Mike that his witness does exist - and it's Stephen that led them right to him.
Firstly, let's discuss the choice of packaging here: flashback episodes. This writer loathes flashback episodes. A marathon of 16 and Pregnant would usually be preferable to the heavy-handed, trying too hard to be different, all too often forgettable flashback episode which is turned out 99 percent of the time on TV. Kudos are in order to Suits for turning out one that is not only not that, but had us buzzing with anticipation more than any episode of anything so far this season. This is one of those shows, right up there with things like Breaking Bad and The Newsroom, that shows us that the medium of television is only defined inasmuch as the writers, producers, actors, et al. choose to define it.
Another reason to cringe about flashback episodes is the very nature of their setup. Since you're operating in the past, that removes a large amount of the suspense, because the audience is already privy to what happens afterward. It's not if Harvey is going to leave the District Attorney's Office, it's how. Having said that, "The Other Time" does a remarkable job of deriving just as much tension from the how as any other episode might from the if. In particular, you get a real sense of how the relationship between Harvey and Cameron soured so quickly, and how that prompted Harvey to become the man we know and love today. It's as if you can see him moving through the various stages, from disbelief, to attempted justification, to anger and then peace with the eventual outcome. One of the real pleasures of Suits is not just the strength of the show's characters, but that we're privy to the evolution of those characters, which in turn makes us appreciate who they are more, because we understand how they got here and what it took them.
Certainly, the talking point of this episode will be that we now know (short of turning this into a TV-MA episode) that Harvey and Donna previously slept together. (Granted, one could argue we saw this coming as far back as season one, but it's nice to have some concrete proof.) Allow me to make a perhaps unpopular argument, but it doesn't really matter. Yes, it shows that they do have chemistry together, but we already knew that. The fact that it was romantic once just shades it a little differently. If anything, it provides a deeper respect for the relationship they have now, because clearly that one night together did not somehow screw up their entire friendship or working relationship, as other shows often either imply or fear.
They've moved well past that and if anything, the best part of bringing that revelation up is that it allows Harvey to be as vulnerable as we've ever seen him. There's an earnestness in his scenes with Donna that's legitimately heartwarming. Whether you want them to get together or not (and this episode can be seen as proof that's still a possibility at some point), it's more important how that revelation deepens our understanding of both parties, rather than that it happened. And again, thank you Suits writers for not making some huge melodramatic deal out of it.
Which brings us to Stephen Huntley. Discerning TV viewers likely all had their spider-sense go off when he showed up all friendly with Harvey and then promptly left. That was just too easy. Definitively stabbing Harvey in the back is going to be a disaster for not just Harvey, but his relationship with Donna, whatever it currently is. Yet if you were paying attention over the last few weeks, what happened tonight was just connecting the dots. Perhaps not this specific instance, but it's been demonstrated that Stephen can be a ruthless, self-serving pain in the ass, and clearly there's never been any love lost between him and Harvey. Plus, Max Beesley not being a regular, his character's arc always had to have an ending at some point. Whether it's next week or the end of the season, who knows? The question next week is going to be how Harvey and Donna respond to this new revelation, both separately and together.
This exemplifies something else worth driving home about Suits. We speak often about how this show teaches us not just about itself, but about the craft of writing as a whole, and here's another lesson: this show is so well written that it never stops making sense. None of the developments in tonight's episode came out of left field. There wasn't any "hey, where did that come from?" or "wait, are they just doing that because it seems like a good idea for this episode?" If you've been watching the show to date, what you learned tonight tracks perfectly with what you knew before. It's as if these writers pulled a J. Michael Stracynski and have been planning everything from day one. We're pretty sure they haven't, but that's how consistent they are, and consistency is perhaps the hardest thing in entertainment. When you can craft a show as uniformly strong as this, we'll forgive you the occasional flashback episode. Heck, we'll even encourage it, when they keep opening our eyes like this.
Suits is back in the present time next Tuesday.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

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