Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Suits 4x04 "Leveraged" (From A Place of Strength)

Original Airdate: July 9, 2014

“Good lawyers negotiate from a place of strength, not weakness.”

And just like that, this week’s episode of Suits titled “Leveraged” can be summed up. Thus far, this season of USA’s hit drama has been all about fighting – it’s focused on how to fight fair, fight dirty, fight against yourself, and fight FOR yourself. It’s allowed us glimpses of Harvey Specter in vulnerability, torn because of his desire to win and also his care for Mike; it’s shown us Mike Ross at his most cunning and conniving. It proved that you should never back him into a corner. It’s also showed us what a managing partner torn between romance and her career looks like, as well as a man (Louis) desperate to be seen as an equal and a partner, rather than an afterthought. The dichotomy between strength and weakness is strong within this week’s episode and this season in general.

Have you ever noticed that the metaphorical claws only ever come out during conversations in which you feel threatened? I’ve noticed that about myself, to be honest. I’m a rather pleasant person in general; it takes a lot to rattle me. But when I am rattled the most is when I’m cornered – when I feel trapped and weak and lash out to hurt someone before they hurt me. Brand it what you will, but the bottom line is that everyone has a pressure point and the more they feel cornered and smothered, the more vicious the attack. We justify how we act in these moments by labeling it “self-preservation.” We excuse our behavior by spinning ourselves as the victims or telling ourselves that we had no choice.

But what we learn in “Leveraged” is this: there is always a choice. And sometimes once choice can mean the difference between success and failure, but it can also mean the difference between maintaining a relationship and destroying it.


Loyalty is one of the central themes of Suits so it’s no surprise that it comes into play heavily in this story. Mike is appreciated by his new boss because apparently though the newbie investment banker is a huge risk, he’s also brought in a huge reward. There’s only one snag: Mike has to land a client within the week or else he’s out of a job. And not just any client: a big client. Back at Pearson Specter, Harvey and company are still trying to cut Mike off at the knees in regards to Walter Gillis and when Mike realizes what is being done, he finds a way to one-up Louis (the person coming after him): using Shelia. You see, Mike realizes that he keeps hurting people to win but that it’s the only way he can win. He begrudges it slightly in this episode in a conversation with Amy, but that doesn’t mean he stops. He pinpoints Louis’ weakness and manipulates it. Louis and Mike were friends, after all, and on the morning of the hearing, Mike fabricates an engagement for Shelia on Facebook knowing that it will render Louis useless.

And it DOES render Louis useless so that Mike lives to fight another day and Harvey berates – seriously berates – Louis for allowing Mike to pinpoint and abuse his weakness. Harvey really rips Louis apart and while it’s true that Louis should have known better than to be used by Mike, I also don’t think that he necessarily expected Mike to fabricate something so personal and so meaningful. Louis is a rather trusting individual who, as he admits in this episode, is also emotional. He’s not cold and calculating all the time. He’s softer around the edges and cares about people; he believes in and values trust and loyalty. Louis also believes in a line – there are some lines that no matter how tempting, should never be crossed. While Harvey yells at Louis for allowing himself to be duped, Louis is crumbling under the revelation that Mike, someone he considered a friend, would stoop so low as to hurt him like that in order to win. Louis actually breaks down crying over the whole thing which is just so sad. I wanted to give Louis a hug and tell him that being an emotional person is not a weakness. However – and this is a big however – if there is anything that Suits has taught me, it’s that being emotional and being hot-headed are not one in the same. You see, when Louis finds a way to strike back and ensure that Mike doesn’t land a high-paying client, he begins to brag. He allows himself to be carried away by anger and bitterness and vengeance. There are two things that Louis Litt loves to do: wax-poetic about how right he was and wax-poetic about how wrong someone else was. Louis tends to allow himself to be swept away by emotional monologues and the problem in this instance is that he inadvertently gives Mike an idea that lands him a new high-paying client.

When Mike approaches Louis in the episode, the latter realizes what he’s allowed Mike to do and he snaps at his former friend. Mike insists that he isn’t a bad guy, not really, because he’s not going to approach Harvey and sell Louis out through bragging. It’s then that we, the audience, come to the following realization: Louis was in the wrong and it’s his fault that Mike has a high-paying client who also happens to be an enemy of Harvey’s. The most emotionally substantial moment of the entire episode comes when Harvey, under the prompting of Donna, congratulates Louis for managing to cut off Mike from acquiring a new client.

Louis then confesses to inadvertently giving Mike an idea that caused him to land a bigger client that also has a vendetta against Harvey. To Harvey’s credit, he remains rather calm and collected throughout the revelation. But finally, he tells Louis that he simply cannot help but be constantly mad at him when he allows his emotions to rule over his better judgment. Louis breaks down then, in a scene that is poignant and beautifully heartbreaking, and point out the difference between himself and Harvey: Harvey is cold and calculated but Louis will never be that way. He will never be able to simply turn off his emotions and will forever be hated because of them and the mistakes he may make because of them. It’s such an intriguing parallel that Louis draws between himself and Harvey, believing his friend to be cold and himself to be emotional. I’d argue that Harvey is often just as emotional, if not more so than Louis. Harvey has acted rashly numerous times. His emotions often manifest themselves in anger though and I think that it’s more socially acceptable for a man – especially a powerful one like Harvey – to manifest those emotions in anger or rage rather than through tears or heartache.

The confrontation is extremely interesting and also sad because it’s clear that Louis wishes he was different in nearly every way; he wishes he was Harvey. If he was Harvey, Louis explains, then he could be cold and beloved by everyone. He could be respected. But as Louis currently is with his emotions and his heart, no one will ever take him seriously, especially not Harvey. And Harvey is the one person whose opinion matters most to Louis. The Harvey/Louis dynamic is one that I’ve missed and “Leveraged” put such a gut-wrenching emotional spin on it that I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship repairs itself from here.

Meanwhile, Harvey and Mike continue to exist in two separate bubbles that occasionally bump and sometimes full-on collide. Harvey approaches Mike after Louis’ admission and Mike explains that he never had a choice in what to do in order to win. It is Harvey who wisely tells Mike that there is ALWAYS a choice and he is right: Mike can walk away. He can lose. He can pack up and choose a new career and live somewhere in the Midwest like Harvey originally suggested in order to start over. But Mike has tasted power and he craves respect and adoration too much to throw the game. So he continues to hurt people in the name of necessity, continues to stab friends in the back for the sake of a win. And now even his relationship with Rachel is beginning to increase in friction (Rachel is not too pleased when she runs into an emotionally distraught Louis in the copy room and makes no hesitation in telling Mike how she felt about seeing her friend that upset). Rachel is caught between Mike and her job and it’s beginning to tear her apart little by little as well. But the point I this: Mike is just beginning to feel powerful; he’s fluctuating from week to week of course in terms of position and authority. But the first few episodes have seen some staggering characterization changes in Mike: he’s becoming more brash, less patient, and more like… well, Harvey. Mike’s challenging his former mentor by throwing all he’s learned at him and then some. It’s one thing for Mike to want a win, which I believe he does.

But it’s another for Mike to want to decimate the competition and make sure they never return to try and attack again.

Everyone else

Everyone else was feeling the effects of both the Louis/Harvey/Mike triangle of deception and emotion this week (Donna opens the episode by warning Mike to never cross her personally again; Amy disapproves of Mike’s decision to move ahead with a deal that would cut their boss out of the profits), and Jessica and Jeff battled their own demons this week. Jeff lied to Jessica, you see, when he approached her requesting a job. He failed to mention that he was about to be fired from his current position. Whoops. That little misstep is not the only thing to go wrong in their story: the SEC is personally targeting Pearson Specter in order to cause clients to leave the firm (they would drop the cases afterward) and Jessica wants to ensure that this doesn’t even remotely happen.

Through some teamwork and arguing, Jessica and Jeff manage to get Sean Cahill to drop the subpoenas by threatening him with a malicious prosecution… except that there’s a tiny snag to their victory (isn’t there always?): Cahill just wanted Pearson Specter’s clients to give up dirt about Harvey Specter. Of course, the clients would never do that. Right? Jessica and Jeff don’t seem entirely certain while they try to convince themselves.

Elsewhere, things take a turn for the almost-romance when Logan and Rachel spend the episode together, the latter helping Logan with cases. As Rachel leaves for the evening after bonding with Logan and proving her worth to him as both a person and a lawyer, he moves to kiss her. She rebuffs him but it seems pretty likely that there are still some lingering feelings there for her former beau. In the immortal words of Scooby-Doo: “Ruh-roh.” Look, I’m not for a Logan/Rachel/Mike triangle because I think it’s rather juvenile and beneath Suits by this point (remember that former love square with Mike, Rachel, Jenny, and Trevor?). So I hope that whatever exists or doesn’t exist between Logan and Rachel will be resolved soon.

“Leveraged” wasn’t one of the most action-packed episodes of Suits but it was a very telling one and definitely one that set up some interesting future conflicts. The Harvey/Mike/Louis story was emotionally intense and also captivating as it illuminated issues and characteristics within each of these characters. It reminded us why Louis and Harvey clash on a level deeper than their personal hobbies; it set up some complexities for Mike down the line in his relationships with Harvey, Louis, Amy, and his boss. Finally, the most important takeaway from “Leveraged” is this: while you should never negotiate from a position of weakness, it’s important not to be blinded by your perception of power. If you do – if you believe yourself to be above your emotions or above your circumstances – you’ll often fall flat on your face.

And by God, it will hurt when you do.

And now, bonus points:
  • MVP by a mile goes to Rick Hoffman for his portrayal of Louis during this episode. Absolutely A+ work in conveying both Louis’ emotions and fears while managing to make him compelling, believable, and empathetic. Bravo.
  • This episode needed about 75% more Donna.
  • “She’s even better than I imagined.” Oh Amy, I think I like you a lot more this week than I have. Also I think it’s pretty awesome that she doesn’t care about investment banking and wants a degree in Psychology.
  • Is it weird that I miss Katrina? I miss Katrina. 
  • “Like, on the one hand, I feel for you. And on the other hand, you’re an idiot.”
  • “It’s not fair. I’m emotional; you’re cold. And yet, you’re loved and I’m not.”
  • “You always have a choice.”
Thanks for sticking around, Suits fans. Check back next week for my review! Until then, folks, have a fabulous remainder of the week. :)


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