Time for a sweeping, broad generalization: television needs to retire the poker subplot. It’s easy to see the appeal; poker has immediate, recognizable stakes, can be set in either a highly glamorous or completely sleazy world, and the action is easy to follow onscreen. The problem is it’s all been done before. Many times before. So many times before that, when I see that poker is going to be featured on a show, my brain does a silent, pitiful scream in protest.
Unlucky for me and my screaming brain poker was prominently featured in the case of the week, which revolved around a gambling addicted client of Harvey’s who misguidedly leveraged his $30 million company on what he thought was an unbeatable hand, only to lose it to a bad river card. Hasn’t that happened to everyone at some point? At first it seems like it will be smooth sailing as the contract was forged on a bar napkin while Harvey’s client is drunk, but there’s one problem: the contract is somewhat credible, and the other guy’s lawyer is good.
Harvey up against a worthy opponent almost always makes for a better story, but this week the actual machinations were less in service of the case of the week and more to enlighten us on Harvey’s state of mind now that Donna is gone. The interesting thing about the way the show played it was that he didn’t appear to go that far off the rails at all. Yes, Harvey offering to win the case via a poker game instead of going to court is a drastic, silly move, but it doesn’t feel that different from something Harvey would do even in his best state of mind. Which is why when Jessica confronts him for all his reckless actions, her concerns makes logical sense for a normal person, but not for the Harvey we’ve gotten to know. Harvey going off the deep end in his despair over what happened to Donna is the inevitable conclusion. The show just needs to show us more, and tell us less.
Although the poker aspect wasn’t necessarily Suits at its creative peak, the story did have good moments. Everything about Harvey and Mike’s journey to Atlantic City and wearing of tuxes was their relationship at its very best, full of give-and-take barbed banter and well-tailored tuxes. More than anything, their relationship this week illustrated how their mentor/mentee relationship is evolving into a true partnership. Even though Harvey still puts Mike in his place (a place lower than Harvey’s, naturally) he is much more willing to try Mike’s ideas without protest and work collaboratively. It’s an evolution that’s fun to watch.
Elsewhere, Rachel and Louis continued to strengthen their personal and professional relationship by teaming up not only to watch the ballet but to defend it against what appears to be a shady landlord. The case itself was a bit silly: Louis’ idol, the ballet master for the New York City Ballet, complained about the poor condition of their rehearsal space, but in actuality was siphoning the rent money into his own account instead of actually paying it to the building. The ballet was just a tool, though, to give Rachel and Louis something to bond over and to again showcase how Louis’ quirks make him one of the most passionate and interesting characters on the show. This was also a great episode for Rachel: she had a purpose, she had a personality, and none of it had to do with Mike Ross.
Finally there was Jessica, in a story I just plain didn’t like at all. Jessica is embroiled in the firm’s fraud case, which hits a snag when the judge denies their motion to seal the records so Harvey’s reputation isn’t hurt by these allegations. It turns out the new judge on the case is an old classmate of Jessica’s, one she purposely humiliated (in a fairly shameful way, especially as a woman-on-woman crime) in order to get a leg up for a job they were both in contention for. The idea that Jessica is ruthless isn’t a new one; we’ve seen it many times before. Gina Torres plays the ruthless side of Jessica so well it’s a pleasure to watch no matter the story, but hearing about how Jessica sexually shamed another woman was pretty disappointing. It seemed like she had better character than that. Which does do something interesting for the season-long Hardman arc: Is it possible Jessica isn’t the good guy in that situation, either?
- Poor Donna was the elephant in the room, but there was no indication of what she’s doing now. This week we got Harvey’s perspective on her absence; maybe next week is her turn.
- Harvey now knows Louis revealed his plan Hardman. Harvey’s threatening “you owe me” was deliciously dramatic, and the show is still doing a fine job slow-playing the Hardman plot to make it a season-long runner.
- Harold used to be fun comic relief, but these past few episodes he’s been fairly awful. It just feels like they’re trying too hard to make Harold happen. I’m not sure it’s going to happen.
- The brief new assistant moment was a bit odd. The point was to make him the opposite of Donna, but the flower arrangement bit felt a little uncomfortable for me with the stereotypes it implied.
- Harvey: “It’s a nice building. How long ago was it condemned?”
- “I’m not Bruce Wayne!” “Don’t I know it.”