Sunday, February 8, 2015

Suits 4x12 "Respect" (Find Out What It Means)

Original Airdate: February 4, 2015

Isn't it strange how even the people we utterly detest, we still want to impress? It's in our DNA, I'm convinced, to want to be loved and respected by the people in our lives... even the ones who don't respect us. The biggest theme in this week's episode of Suits is the titular idea of respect -- what does the word mean in regards to our relationships? Can we earn respect, even when it's been lost? The thing about Suits is that the scale of right and wrong constantly fluctuates in regards to the characters. Moral gray areas are frequented more than anything which makes it difficult to define, concretely, any terminology.

But every storyline in the appropriately titled episode of "Respect" involves that term. Harvey is vulnerable and honest in the episode, something that we rarely see from him as he deals with a case involving his former ethics professor Henry Gerard. Gerard was the one man in law school that Harvey thought was above it all -- above doing everything to win; above bending the rules and bathing in the morally ambiguous; above lying to get something that he wanted. Gerard and Harvey butt heads throughout his academic career because of it -- because Harvey wanted to do whatever it took to win. That's what he thought being a good lawyer meant, to him, at least: doing whatever possible to win the case. (Harvey has always been about winning no matter the cost and has often done some questionable things to do so.) But when Gerard lies and places Harvey in the position to win if and only if he commits perjury for his former professor... we see Harvey's world begin to crumble a bit. The man who he always respected turned out to be nothing more than a man after all.

Elsewhere in the episode, Louis tries to earn the respect of the rest of the named partners by taking one of Harvey's clients. The result is disastrous at first and later throughout the episode is even more so as Louis continues his defiant and angry victimizing. Don't worry, folks, because as always, Donna is there to set people straight. But let's talk more about this episode and the concept of respect, shall we?


One of the foundations that Suits was built on, as a series, was the mentorship between Harvey Specter and Mike Ross. In the fourth season of the USA series, we got the opportunity to see the fracturing and reparation of that relationship, which I appreciated. Harvey and Mike are two fundamentally different people and lawyers with two very different views of the world. But over the course of a few years, we've begun to see how they've influenced and changed each other -- how Mike humbles Harvey; how Harvey makes Mike fight for things he believes in and stands up for what's right.

Mike is the one lecturing Harvey in "Respect" and it's pretty awesome, really, to watch the man who has been mentored by him for so long speak actual truth. Harvey initially refuses to take Gerard's case because Harvey is egotistical and he and Gerard never saw eye-to-eye. The problem isn't just superficial, though: Gerard never respected Harvey. Everyone worships the ground that Harvey Specter walks on in Suits. Everyone thinks he's the best and it's because in a lot of ways, Harvey really is. He's extremely good at what he does. He never loses. But it's that pride that often cases Harvey problems and Mike pinpoints it at the episode's beginning (Donna does too). Both know that Gerard never showed Harvey respect and now, Harvey is refusing to take his case because he's letting a Gerard-sized boulder of pride and ego and hurt feelings get in the way of helping innocent people.

When Harvey does take the case (after a great speech by Mike), it isn't long before we discover that this Harvard ethics professor of Harvey's? He's lying. And now he's roped Mike and Harvey into his lies. And it's then in "Respect" that we begin to see Harvey's resolve crumble. I thought this was such an interesting episode for him because we rarely have the opportunity to see Harvey Specter humbled and completely honest. He tells Mike that he's always respected Gerard, even in their law school disagreements because he thought that the professor was... well, he thought he was worthy of that respect. He thought Gerard was good and exemplary. Harvey always thought Henry Gerard was better than him. And now? Now that Harvey realizes he's just a man, who's lied and dismissed his own ethics -- the very ones he preached about in class -- and become a hypocrite? Harvey wants nothing to do with him. He doesn't want to earn THAT man's respect and he certainly doesn't respect him anymore.

But what's so interesting about this whole episode to me is the very notion of "respect." Just because someone loses our respect doesn't mean they don't deserve our help. Just because someone has messed up doesn't mean they don't deserve to be fixed. Not, as we may presume, for THEIR sakes, but for ours. Harvey tells Mike that he always thought Gerard was better than they were. And Mike's response is to tell Harvey that they will just have to MAKE him better. See, so many times, people think that respect is equivalent to admiration and liking someone. Most people respect those that they admire and most people worth admiring are also respectable human beings. But sometimes, respect becomes this tool that we use -- a thing that we can take and cut down branches and trees in order to forge a better path not just for someone else because they deserve it, but for ourselves. Sometimes respect, like forgiveness, isn't for the other person -- it's for YOU. And I think that Harvey and Mike realize that in order to help other people, they need to help someone who doesn't deserve their help.

(And at the very end of the episode, Henry Gerard apologizes to Harvey for letting him down. It's a moment of closure, too, as the men both acknowledge that they've messed up over the years. Moreover, though, it's a moment of respect between Gerard and Harvey and one that genuinely touches him and changes him.)


In this episode, during a confrontation with Donna, Louis shouts: "I want respect." And while I do think that to be true (and have always thought that to be the case about Louis), I think that Donna is right in her own response: she tells Louis that in order to earn the respect of his team members, he needs to put himself aside and get on the team. It's a beautiful, prickly little speech that Donna Paulsen gives (because hello, she's Donna and awesome) and reminds  Louis that just because his name is on the wall doesn't mean he's allowed to treat other people however he wants to. Donna's reminder is proof that respect at Pearson Specter Litt isn't just earned, it's also returned. And what Louis has done since he's been named partner is think about himself. He sabotages a relationship with a new client because of his ego and pride and his insufferable attitude, his desire to beat Harvey. Also throughout the episode, Louis treats Rachel horribly.

She's done nothing but try to help Louis, in spite of the fact that he's been nothing but horrible to her since he's discovered Mike's secret. And I think that the combination of Donna's speech and Rachel's reaction to Louis in "Respect" causes him to realize the fact that just because you get everything you want doesn't mean that you'll be respected. Respect isn't dictated by a title or a corner office -- it's determined by how you use your power and your resources. No one respects the person who only helps themselves. And for so long, Louis has been driven and determined to earn Jessica and Harvey's respect and admiration. In this episode, he realized that the way to do that -- the way to the heart of this firm and to others seeing his worth and value -- is by participating. By being sacrificial for the sake of the team. Donna tells Louis that the team protects its own and they all have spent so long sacrificing and working to protect Louis while he's done nothing but berate them and insult them.

And in "Respect," I think that Louis recognizes a universal truth: just because you feel like you deserve respect doesn't mean you will earn it. In order to gain respect, you always have to sacrifice something -- your pride, your ego, your time, your money. But the relationships you form and the closure you get are always worth the price.

And now, bonus points:
  • MVP for "Respect" goes to Patrick J. Adams who always brings it as Mike Ross but who had the opportunity to really shine in this story, as he doled out advice to Harvey. He makes Harvey a better person and Harvey makes him a better one. I love that this episode was focused on not just the idea of respect but the idea of protecting your own. It was refreshing, for a change, to see Mike go out of his way to teach Harvey about respect, closure, and healing. Patrick J. Adams did a fantastic job with this particular story.
  • "Who's the better pilot?" "The one who got the trophy."
  • "According to me is the only 'according to' that matters."
  • "I'm gonna start calling you 'unemployed.'"
  • Donna and Harvey scenes are always the best, mainly because our resident redhead is right about everything (nearly, I should say) and always tells Harvey what he least wants to hear but most needs to.
  • "I think the word you're looking for is 'awesome.'"
Well, Suits fans, what did you think of "Respect"? Are you excited for our yearly flashback episode next week? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then! :)


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