Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Suits 7x01 Review: "Skin in the Game" (You Stay in the Game) [Contributor: Jenn]

"Skin in the Game"
Original Airdate: July 11, 2017

“When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. But you don't get a win unless you play in the game,” Hamilton tells Burr in the oft-quoted and popular musical Hamilton. The song is primarily Aaron Burr lamenting that he's left out of the room where decisions are being made. While Hamilton makes rash, bold decisions, Burr can't seem to commit to a particular vision. His hesitancy in life is contrasted by Hamilton's risk-taking. And the two clash over it (and more) until it ultimately leads to their demises — one physically, the other socially and historically.

And in “Skin in the Game,” we find one of our characters (and our arguable hero) in the midst of a major upheaval that leaves him unable to do what he normally does. The alternative title for this episode, in fact, is: “Harvey Specter and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.” Problems are thrown from every angle at Harvey: from internal firm issues to Donna’s request to handling a shady client... and apparently in his romantic life as well, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

While the season premiere was not bad, necessarily, I found it to be a bit of a letdown from the pretty stellar season six finale. Even though no significant time has passed at all since the finale, watching this episode felt like reclamation in a lot of ways. There are a whole lot of changes that are happening at Pearson Specter Litt, and as a result of them, we are watching our favorite characters act pretty out-of-character. So let’s dive in, shall we?


Harvey assumed the role of managing partner, but has yet to tell Louis of that information. With Jessica officially gone, Harvey spends most of the episode trying to fill her shoes rather than be his own person. It’s understandable that he’s stressed and the way that he’s dealing with it is vastly different, but no less harmful, than Louis. Harvey believes he has to become Jessica in order to be successful as a managing partner. He’s trying to walk in her footsteps rather than just be the same person he has always been, with a different title.

We see conflict arise in Harvey’s life in so many ways in “Skin in the Game.” For starters, near the beginning of the episode, Donna approaches Harvey about wanting a seat at the table — namely, she wants to become a partner. Harvey is hesitant because of the fact that Donna is not a lawyer, but promises her that he will think about it. And then, Harvey spends the rest of the episode not thinking about it. You could use the excuse that he’s overwhelmed and busy, trying to put out forest fires with a watering can. But the truth is that Harvey spends most of the episode just plain scared. And rather than lash out at other people, he just shuts down and rolls over — or ignores the problem altogether in hopes that it will resolve itself. (We’ve all done that before, right?) The episode is difficult to watch for this reason: Harvey doesn’t seem to be himself. Apparently he has a crush on Dr. Agard, whom we haven’t seen in a long time, and asks her out on a date. Considering what I remember from the season six finale, there was no indication that she was even on his radar. So for the show to throw these two characters together and expect me to believe something of significance is there is... well, not happening. I’m not biting, Suits. Please stop throwing random women at Harvey and trying to make them stick.

But back to Harvey as a character for a moment: essentially, Harvey keeps being asked to fix problems and keeps realizing that he’s scared he’s not Jessica and can’t be her. I enjoy seeing Harvey a little unnerved, but what I really enjoyed in the episode was the fact that Harvey and Jessica had one thing in common, though they ultimately ruled differently: they always stood up for themselves.

Our plot this week involves a jerk named Neil, who owns a vodka business. He’s looking to sell his company and even though he’s a client, he’s being really shady about why he wants to sell it so quickly. In the eleventh hour, Harvey and Mike realize that he’s selling because he’s being sued by another company for using their vodka recipe. The dude is a jerk, but after a pep talk from his protégé, Harvey realizes he needs to not just try and do things the way Jessica would do them. He needs to lead in the way HE feels is best. Trying to live in Jessica’s shadow and run a firm under that would have actually done more harm than good in the long run.

Harvey’s story this week boils down to the fact that for as much as he tries to conceal it, Harvey has weaknesses and vulnerabilities just like everyone else. He would rather bury them than have them exposed, while some of our characters take out their issues on others.

Like Louis, for example.


Rick Hoffman is such a dang delightful human being that it constantly impresses me he plays the ruthless Louis with such ease and believability. If you’ll recall from the season finale, Tara broke up with him via voicemail (ouch), and Rachel is the only one who knows. Louis lost a lot in this relationship — most importantly, he lost the chance to be a father. This doesn’t just send Louis into a spiral though. It sends him into a place we’ve never seen him before: totally and completely unhinged.

I’m used to watching Louis yell at people, but never to the degree we see him do so in “Skin in the Game.” In this episode, he’s ruthlessly cutting down anyone who stands in his way, and his words fall into the territory of verbal abuse. Even Donna, the woman who is usually revered by Louis, gets torn to shreds. And the lack of remorse from Louis is what is so striking. He barely flinches after telling Donna that she ranks lower than Rachel in the pecking order of the firm. He dismantles her self-esteem on purpose and shows no regret for doing so. And stoically, Donna takes his wrath until she sees how his words are cutting everyone else.

By the end of the episode, Louis — like a scolded puppy — shrinks back into his cage and apologizes to Rachel for hurting her, purposefully. It’s a nice gesture and all, but it was really startling to see Louis go so far off the rails. We never see him this way and to see him as heartless and cold as a person could be was really difficult to watch, honestly. I’m glad there seemed to have been some remorse at the end of the episode and that Louis realized he needed closure with Tara before he could move on. But still, watching Louis verbally decimate everyone around him just because he could was hard to stomach.


Donna drops a bomb on us at the beginning of the episode — she wants Harvey to make her a senior partner. Harvey is a little bit stunned that this is what Donna wants (after they had that conversation in the finale and, you know, held hands) and hesitant to say yes. Donna rightly points out that it took a lot of courage to even ask Harvey for a seat at the table and that she deserves the respect that he would give anyone else who asked. When Harvey departs, he promises that he will think about it and give her an answer.

Honestly, Donna deserves this. And everyone knows she deserves it. She works just as hard as the partners and keeps the firm afloat on a daily basis. For years, she’s gone above and beyond what a secretary would do. She, as she explains to Harvey later in the episode, tells him the things he needs to hear and gives him the sound advice that any equal partner would. She has worked for a seat at the table and it’s about time she’s treated like the partner she really is.

All that’s left, really, is for me to find a mic to drop.

Donna is one of the best characters, and definitely the best on this show — in my opinion. She’s quirky and fun, but also uses those qualities to treat other people like people and see them as human beings. While Mike and Harvey can often get wrapped up in fine details and crunching numbers, Donna is able to see the people behind the cases. She’s an essential member of the team because she reminds everyone of why they do the jobs that they do in the first place. Donna is consistently the person people come to for advice and help, and she’s always been able to deliver — whether that means giving them the advice they needed or the words they didn’t want to hear. Every step of the way, Donna Paulsen is the driving force behind Pearson Specter Litt.

But when Harvey pushes Donna’s request to the bottom of his to-do list, Gretchen offers some sound advice: In order to earn a seat at the table, she might need to fork up some cash. So she does — and it’s a LOT of money. When Harvey still doesn’t jump at the chance to offer Donna a role as partner, she gets upset. Again: rightfully so. (At a point in the episode, when Harvey is just too flustered to deal with Donna, he begrudgingly tells her, “You win” and names her partner just so she can deal with Louis’ antics.)

All’s well that ends well, though: Donna will have to be officially approved (I think that’s how this works, considering there’s a board and everything) but Harvey wants her at the table — her rightful place, after all, because she’s the queen.

I’m really excited to see where Donna’s story develops this season. She’s an incredibly strong character and I love that we’re seeing her develop just beyond being one half of Darvey or Harvey’s quick-witted sidekick. With the failure of The Donna last season, I think it spurred our favorite redhead into thinking about what she really wants out of life. And what she wants is this: to be recognized for what she does and treated like a partner — in every area of her life. She deserves nothing less.


Mike mostly serves as the background character in this episode — he’s the Harvey Lite, providing quips and retorts and also steering Harvey in the direction he knows he should go. I appreciated that we got back to the dynamic we used to have between the two: one of banter but also substance. I’m still a little confused as to Mike’s role in Pearson Specter Litt (my assumption was that he was working for the clinic from the office but now it seems like I was wrong about that), but anything that brings him back into the fold and the team dynamic is good I suppose.

Honestly I don’t really have thoughts one way or another on Mike in this episode. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing...


Rachel is going to now be in charge of the associates, because Louis is literally mentally unstable. Which I think is good, because Rachel also deserves to have some sort of story this season that doesn’t involve Mike, her wedding, or her relationship with her dad. I’m looking forward to see her develop into more of a leader now that she’s in a better position in the firm. I also really appreciated the fact that Rachel held her own against Louis, even when he was spitting vitriol in her face. She’s come a long way and didn’t let him see her crack. Respect, Rachel Zane.

Overall, “Skin in the Game” is an okay start to Suits’ seventh season. I’m a little bit baffled and jarred by some of the dynamics (I literally don’t understand how Harvey went from holding Donna’s hand in the finale to wanting to date his therapist. In what world does that make sense, really? No world.), but I’m looking forward to the season regardless. ... If only because I know Dulé Hill will show up soon.

And now, extra points:
  • I really do like the car Harvey was driving though.
  • “Well I got news for you: I'm not Dominos.”
  • “Yeah, I liked you better when I was drunk too.” Did I mention that drunk!Mike is hilarious? Because I have had my issues with Mike in recent years but that was comedic gold.
  • Seriously I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY DR. AGARD IS EVEN BACK HERE. Why is Harvey suddenly convinced he has feelings for her? Where did this all come from?! Sound off in the comments below if you’re as confused as I am.
  • The music in the show continues to be great, and the episode closing with “Back to Black”? Perfect.
What did you think of the Suits premiere? Hit up our comments or tweet us and let us know!


  1. Same some confused about Harvey and I'm a little bit disappointed about the star of this new season not like the other ones sorry ��

  2. Apart the fact that is so gross the relationship between a therapist and a ex-patient...This plot don't make any sense. You can imagine Paula having feeligs for Harvey during the sessions, with all that advices and clarications os his mind and insecurances? I can't.

  3. I really liked this episode. I liked that it was surprising.
    I've seen a lot of people expressing frustration that Dr Agard is randomly back but I am glad to see her. I think she's here to help ;)
    I had been thinking that Harvey would have a new love interest this season (my money was on Zoe coming back!) I didn't think it would be Donna because Donna has become too focused on herself now (like Joan from Mad Men did), which is great for Donna, but not great for a relationship with Harvey.

    Harvey should have manned up and told Donna she couldn't be a senior partner. Lawyers work for years to make it to that level, a secretary stepping in like that is insulting to everyone and I think the firm will not gain respect for such a move.

    I am very much looking forward to the heartbreak, angst, learning and frustrations ahead! ;)

  4. I'm coming in with a long comment here, so brace yourself.

    Okay so, I was not happy with this episode at all, although perhaps not for the reasons most people have. To be frank, I found the quality of the storytelling, dialogue and character interaction to be shocking. This might be because of the way you put it - which was quite insightful - about them trying to recapture the first season so now everyone feels very out of character. And it's true. It all felt so asynchronous from the story of the last 2 seasons.

    A great example, and something that really grated me, was the poor banter between Mike and Harvey. Comments like, "Why did I even hire you?" etc were funny and sweet back in season 1 when Harvey's affection for Mike was a strictly unspoken understanding, but now? It's completely nonsensical when he's just spent the last day groveling on his knees for Mike to work for him again, offering up huge amounts of money and perks, and like 2 minutes ago basically cried while telling Mike how happy he is to have him back. I mean, update the banter, y'll ... even jokes about his hair and shitty little apartment are funnier.

    So, okay, the Donna thing. Unlike most haters out there, I agree with you. She deserves this. On the other hand, I thought the way it was done was just terrible storytelling and I strongly believe that's the reason people are so angry. Donna storming up to Harvey and demanding a seat at the table is just very presumptious and frankly a little out of place for a secretary (even Donna) to do considering how wildly unusual it is. It just felt so unlike her. I know that they're shooting for a strong woman going and getting what she wants, but ... I just feel like it needed to be more of a collaborative kind of thing.

    How about Donna goes to Harvey and Louis and says basically what she said, that she is worth more, she deserves more, she has kept this firm together and taken care of it as if it were her own. Without her they would be in a shambles etc. She has earned the right to be more than a secretary. She is asking for them to find her a position that offers her this status, recognition and power within the firm.

    Harvey and Louis, who both know the amount of money she got from selling The Donna, discuss between them. Then they approach her and say, "Donna, you're right. We can't run this firm without you. So how about this - we know you have this money. Why not invest it with us, and in return, we give you a seat at the table ... as a partner!" Gasp, what, oh my word, that's amazing, we're all happy and honoured. This way she did go and ask for what she wanted, but then they honoured her by giving her more than anyone would have expected was possible.

    I'm sorry, but this just tells the story in a much better light, where you feel as though all three of them contributed to this very necessary and mutually beneficial change. It would have been so much more powerful and a much better way to solidify her status in the team. Even I was annoyed with Donna in this, and that has never happened to me, which is why I feel so strongly about it.

    To be continued ...

  5. Rant Part 2

    Moving on to the gagworthy Harvey and his therapist thing. So I have more issues with this than simply the totally justified "Gross this is so incestuous" thing, or even the whole I want him to end up with Donna thing. To me, this is just a symptom of my problem with the whole episode, which is lazy storytelling. 

    Like you pointed out, there is absolutely no reason to assume this chickity was ever on Harvey's romantic radar. It's been over a year since we've seen or thought of her, and last time we did, they gave no indication of anything more than a good therapeutic relationship. If they insist on doing this story, the very least the writers could have done was bother to give us a few episodes of lead in and investment, where they run into each other after so long, grab a coffee perhaps ... allow for a shift in dynamic, some complications, a little sexual tension and then this. Have some respect for the audience and just put in a modicum of effort here.

    In truth, though, I wouldn't have been thrilled with that either. Again, for more than it's just gross. But why oh why do the writers never put in any effort in finding Harvey a decent believable romantic interest?! Aside from Donna, I mean, who they seem determined to keep as a toy with which to play with the audience's emotions.

    Even though I'd like for Harvey and Donna to get together (and you were right in your observation - the last season spent a lot of time slowly and carefully changing the dynamic between them, and now they're like, Yeah, forget that) I don't mind if he has other love interests on his way to her. But I need for them to put in some effort here, rather than consistently plucking out inappropriate past characters with whom he has little to no chemistry and throwing them at him with no warning.

    My example is Gilmore Girls. I, like everyone else, wanted Lorelai and Luke to end up together, right. But I liked and was invested in every one of Lorelai's boyfriends before Luke. Max, Alex, Jason were all great characters and I actually rooted for their relationships with Lorelai because the writers actually bothered to cultivate them. Really, is this too much to ask for Harvey, our hero? 

    But no, I consistently have to just put up with this rubbish. Plus they've now gone and ruined an important therapeutic relationship!

    In closing, I feel that I, and all the viewers, have a right to be disappointed and annoyed. This episode felt oddly out of place and cobbled together in a way that felt like they only started writing it like the night before filming. I'm not complaining about the actual story arcs here but I just want to see some quality effort from these writers. That's what I expect from Suits!

    Phew. My fingers hurt from all that.

    Thank you for reading.

  6. I totally agree with Helene. I came here to write what she already did. In my opinion, this episode was the worst season premiere of the series so far, if not the worst episode ever. All the characters were acting out, I didn't recognize them.

    Donna was acting out. I understand, she wants more for her in all aspects of her life. Now she`s dealing with her professional side (and I believe, later in the season, she`ll deal with the personal one) but she`s doing it in a way that doesn't sound like her. The Donna I know would never ask for being a partner. Actually, It sounds weird to me that a person could be a partner without being a lawyer. I think the real Donna would ask for more. Just say she needs more! More everything! More recognition! More power! More status! She really deserves more and I get it that the writers are trying to show a strong female character, but not in this way. I don`t think it`s believable Donna as a firm partner.

    Harvey... what can I say about Harvey? I don`t recognize him in so many ways!

    And now, for Paula Aagard and Harvey Specter ( You can get a HARVARD here! Got it ? LOL) together? OMG, I don`t know where this came from! It was so, so unbelievable. Harvey was not, for even a second, attracted to this woman! She was his therapist! He didn`t see or mentioned her for over a year and then out of nowhere he is at her doorstep saying that she was the only one he could think of to celebrate an important moment of his professional life? Seriously, Harvey? Seriously? OMG who are you and where is the real Harvey? Were you or were you not sharing a celebratory drink with Donna LAST NIGHT? Were you or were you not HOLDING HANDS with Donna LAST NIGHT? I don`t know what to say. This was the first time Harvey Specter let me down as a fan in 7 seaons. Harvey would never say something like that to a woman he had a professional relationship and whom he didn`t see for more than a year. He simply would NOT! He could say that to Donna. He could say that to Jessica. Not even Rachel would be believable. Saying that to Paula Aagard? No. No. And no. This new relationship is not believable. Please, Aaron Korsh, stop while you can! Bring back Zoe, bring back Scottie, bring back his high school sweetheart, I don`t care! Give him a new love interest who was never in the show! Everything is more believable than him and Paula together.

    That being said, analyzing the relationship itself, I can`t imagine Harvey, with all kind of problems being thrown at him at work, would stop everything to call Paula in the middle of the day just to tell her he spent an hour with a dozen of models and only thought about her. WTF ? Who are you?I don`t recognize you, Harvey Specter!

    Also, when he finally get to have a date with her, what is he doing? Thinking about Donna and what she said to him the entire date. Paula actually ( and rightfully) leaves him alone at the table. And apparently all he has to do is go to her door and kiss her for all problems go away. Talk about a powerful kiss! I don`t recognize this Harvey !

    In closing, I am deeply disappointed with Suits premiere and this new storyline where Donna is partner and Harvey dates his therapist after one year without thinking of her. And after holding hands with Donna just last night. They spent the entire season 6 slowly improving (in so many ways!!) Harvey and Donna relationship that getting Harvey and Paula together in the way they did is the same thing that throwing everything good of season 6 in the garbage. I don`t get it. Suits disappointed me for the first time. Deep disappointment. I hope they can fix it but it seems already tainted for me.

    Please, Aaron Korsh, do something!