Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Suits 5x08 "Mea Culpa" (Boom! Goes the Dynamite)

"Mea Culpa"
Original Airdate: August 12, 2015

There are a few constants in this life that I can always rely on. And one of those constants is the fact that the things you've buried and the things you've left unsaid will always blow up in your face at the most inopportune times. You can stuff your pain down, trying to ignore its existence. And that will work for a while until it spews out of you at some unsuspecting person like volcanic ash. You can repress your emotions, but they'll always be there, bubbling just below the surface like a barrel of gasoline just itching for a lit match. You can even turn your entire life around... but the mistakes that you've left unresolved will somehow find their way back into your life.

The bottom line of "Mea Culpa" is exactly that: we can blame other people for our problems. And maybe they're to blame for a lot of things. But the only way we'll ever truly resolve relationships is if we're honest about our faults with one another and others are honest and receptive in return. Until walls begin to crumble in Harvey's life, he'll never be totally at peace with the people around him, especially Louis. The only way for relationships to grow is if they're cultivated in honesty and in mutual respect. There's no mutual respect in blame. The theme of honesty and our pasts coming back to haunt us play prominently into both storylines in this week's Suits, as we see the return of Claire (the beautiful, wonderful, talented Troian Bellisario) in Mike's life which complicates matters when he's assigned his first case as Junior Partner with Rachel as his associate; elsewhere, Harvey tries to use honesty to make amends with Louis and everything essentially blows up from there.

Let's dive in, okay?

Harvey/Louis (+Jessica)

I got into a bit of an argument with my mom this weekend, and when I started to apologize with the sentence: "I'm sorry, but..." she immediately stopped me. "That's not what an apology is. You don't get to say that you're sorry to someone and then qualify it." There's a fair amount of apologizing in "Mea Culpa" (which essentially translates to "my bad"), but there's also a fair amount of qualifying. In the wake of the whole Harvey/Louis debacle in this episode, I waffled on whether or not I felt pity on Harvey or Louis throughout the episode. The truth is that I didn't feel pity for Harvey at the beginning of "Mea Culpa," because he was doing what all self-righteous people do. He was shifting blame and refusing to acknowledge his own faults. It took Jessica's strong hand, her words, and the words of Dr. Agard to get Harvey to a place where he recognized that he did to Louis what Louis did to him.

Louis is all about setting the score and Harvey is all about doing whatever it takes to ensure that he wins. As you might suspect, those two mindsets don't exactly coincide very often (see: at all). But when Harvey recognizes the fact that his literal punch was just as wrong as Louis' metaphorical one, he began to soften. He began to grow more humble. And he didn't apologize to Louis to gain anything in return. Harvey opened up to Louis about therapy and about his panic attacks because setting scores didn't matter. What mattered was repairing a relationship.

There's a huge difference between settling arguments and patching relationships. Relationships require a few things to function, chief among them honesty, mutual respect, and trust. After Harvey's apology, Louis is genuinely moved, emotionally, and invites Harvey back to work at the firm especially since the following day, Mike will be named Junior Partner. And as Harvey walks out of Louis' office, his thanks is genuine. He revealed the weakest parts of himself to Louis not to gain a foot back into the door, but simply because Harvey recognized how much he hurt Louis and how deep that hurt actually ran. Louis did more than just strike a nerve, as Harvey notes. What Louis did was strike a match and light up years and years' worth of repressed emotions that had been left unchecked.

What I thought was really interesting though was how Dr. Agard approached the topic of Harvey and Louis' respective anger. She gave weight to both, without excusing either of their actions. She said that both man's pain had value; she didn't try to excuse either of their actions, but she also didn't paint one person as evil, either. In doing so, she allowed Harvey to see the effects of pain and anger. She allowed him to step into Louis' shoes for a moment.

And everything would have been great... had Louis not done what he always does. Remember how last week I said Louis was insecure? Yeah, well, he went a bit too far this week when he used Harvey's confessions against him. Louis is so insecure that he second-guesses literally everyone and everything. And I know that's jokingly my motto for Pretty Little Liars ("TRUST NOTHING AND BELIEVE NO ONE"), but in the world of Suits, this is extremely problematic. The thing about Louis is that he and Harvey are a lot alike (as evidenced by Dr. Agard): they both blow other people up before they can be hurt themselves. Louis assumed that Harvey would do what he always does and so in order to ensure that didn't happen, Louis swung the first punch this time.

Wrong move, Louis.

I get it: when people have lied to your face so many times, it's hard to know when they're being sincere and when they're trying to manipulate you. But recall what Harvey said was Louis and his biggest issue as a pair: whenever Louis gets himself into trouble, he tries to fix things himself instead of asking others for help. Similarly, when Louis latches onto an idea or a belief, he doesn't let other people -- rational people, like Donna and Jessica -- in. He strikes first and asks questions later. This is damaging, not just to the fabric of the firm but to relationships. Harvey is genuinely trying to build trust with Louis and Louis is constantly doubting Harvey's sincerity. How can they ever have a successful working relationship or friendship if that continues?

Louis also learns his lessons too late. He realizes how his decisions can backfire when Donna (after being put in the middle of the Harvey/Louis debacle by both of them) reveals that she knows Louis recorded Harvey confessing he goes to therapy and has had panic attacks just to use that information in order to take him down. The thing is that Donna isn't upset with either man for the fight. She's upset with Harvey because she doesn't want to defend him and ruin her relationship with Louis without knowing if Harvey was ACTUALLY in the right during the fight; and she's also upset with Louis because of all the things Louis does in his lifetime, using someone's honest weaknesses to exploit them and humiliate them for the sake of feeling superior is the worst. Donna tells Louis that if he goes through with that -- regardless of whether Harvey was in the wrong or not -- she cannot work for him anymore. She cannot work for a man who doesn't have standards.

The episode doesn't neatly resolve, as Suits episodes often do. Louis cannot backtrack on the vote he called on whether or not to suspend Harvey. And in order to gain respect of the partners voting, Harvey needs to (as Jack suggested) find a way to humble himself that'll endear him to the partners. Want to take bets as to if that will include admitting he's in therapy? Anyone? Bueller?

I found a lot of "Mea Culpa" to be really fascinating, emotionally, even if it left me frustrated again with Louis and his inability to trust the people he works with. Donna reminds him at the beginning of the episode that they're all a family at the firm -- they may fight like a family, but that also means they need to trust and communicate and resolve conflicts like a family. I sure hope he learns, but... well, I'm not holding my breath.

Mike/Rachel (+ Claire)

In the most surprising turn of events, I really loved the B-story involving Rachel this week (with ONE scene as the exception, which I'll explain in a bit). "Mea Culpa" saw the return of Claire, the beautiful lawyer who once dated Mike and also knows that he never went to law school. Whoops. Mike really didn't think a lot of things through before embarking on this spectacular journey of lies that has lasted five years. We've seen his lies unravel before and entangle everyone around him in the process. But this week, what I found really interesting was that the episode focused more on how Mike's lies affect Rachel than it did focus on how they affect HIM (or Harvey).

Jessica bestows Mike the title of Junior Partner and as his first act, Mike assigns Rachel to be his associate... and quickly removes himself from sight once he realizes the client's lawyer is Claire. This throws Rachel for a loop, obviously, as she's underprepared at her first meeting with Claire. Soon though, it becomes quite evident that the problem Mike has is that he's constantly dangling loose ends in regards to his secret and he really never thinks about how those loose ends will impact the people around him until he's in the middle of a crisis.

And that's where we find Mike and Rachel in this episode -- Rachel weathering the storm because Mike cannot; Rachel having to make judgement calls and being berated by Mike; Rachel reminding Mike that she would not have had to make difficult calls if he hadn't been a faux-lawyer who revealed his secret to Claire (however accidental) in the first place. It is RACHEL who is carrying the burden of Mike's secret and it is RACHEL who is carrying the consequences and the stress of it all on her back, too. Mike is sidelined. And I wonder if Rachel realizes that this is a glimpse into her future. I think Mike tries, as Claire notes at the end of the episode, to pretend their lives will be fine. They'll get married, live happily ever after, and maintain normal jobs and a happy home.

Even though Mike's secret doesn't bother Rachel anymore, that's not -- as Claire so accurately points out -- the problem. It's not a matter of whether or not Mike is dishonest. It's not even about whether or not Rachel is in love with Mike. It's about whether or not Rachel realizes what that means. And up until this episode, I don't think she really did. Oh, sure, they've faced difficult times together. But they've always shared the burden of his secret. This week, it was all on Rachel Zane.

And she crumbled, emotionally.

There's this heartbreaking moment where Rachel tells Mike she's wearing her engagement ring at work because she just loves him so much. She breaks down crying and hugs a stunned and confused Mike. Rachel does love Mike, I have no doubt. But Claire tells Mike that he must not love Rachel because he's not being realistic with her about their future. If he really loved her, he would not marry her. If he really loved her, he would keep his distance. And if he really loved her, he would be the one fighting battles beside her, rather than sending her off into the onslaught alone and unprepared.

That's how it will be for Rachel, whenever things like background checks and ghosts from Mike's past pop up. She'll ALWAYS be alone. And that's kind of heartbreaking, really, when you think about it. I don't often connect emotionally with Rachel, but it was easy to feel her pain -- to hear the anguish and longing in her voice when she told Claire how much she loved Mike and begged her to not turn him into the DA. It was palpable and it was really, truly sad.

(Aside, before I close: I hated the fact that the show decided to make Rachel's dislike for Claire based on jealousy. Firstly, it was completely unfounded. It made total sense for her to be angry at Claire simply because that anger was actually transference -- Rachel was really mad at Mike for leaving her to deal with the case and then MORE mad when he got mad at her for handling it in the way she did. Secondly, it's a stale trope and it needs to end. Claire and Mike barely dated and Rachel's insistence that she was jealous because she wondered about what would have happened if Claire had dated him longer seemed like a half-baked attempt to create girl vs. girl drama about a man when THERE WAS NONE TO BEGIN WITH. Apart from that scene, I loved the B-story.)

The truth is that "Mea Culpa" found nearly everyone watching the mistakes they made in the past catch up to them very quickly and very painfully (whether physically or emotionally). We can run from a lot of things. And we can try to make amends for the wrongs we've done. But the only way we'll ever be able to do that is if we stop running long enough dredge up those demons and ghosts and face them with humility and honesty.

And now, bonus points:
  • Honestly, Jessica Pearson just needs theme music whenever she walks into a room because she's an epic, amazing boss. She LITERALLY MARCHED INTO THE MEN'S ROOM TO PUT LOUIS IN HIS PLACE. I keep saying this every week, but all hail Jessica Pearson.
  • MVP of this episode goes to Meghan Markle. What an absolute star she was, truly. I loved how she was able to portray such a wide range of Rachel's emotions this week -- shaking in the board room from nervousness, confronting Claire with fire and ice, breaking down emotionally in front of Claire and Mike -- and she played all of them with such class and heart.
  • Fashion Police: HIT - Donna Paulsen is wearing white again in this episode. I need to tally how many white dresses she's been in this season already because I've loved all of them. MISS - What the crap was up with Jessica's dress with the puffy sleeves? The color was great but those were a hot mess. HIT - Gabriel Macht in a cardigan and casual clothes. Yes please.
  • "Well, that doesn't seem very nice."
  • A theme I've noticed these days: the women who love Mike and Harvey lying for them.
  • The scene between Harvey and Louis where he confesses how he's been in therapy and has had panic attacks since Donna left... that was brilliant and emotional. What a tour de force on the part of Gabriel Macht, whose typically stoic Harvey Specter gives way to a softer, gentler, more nuanced one. And Rick Hoffman was stellar in that moment, too, as Louis absorbing all of the confession with shock and empathy.
  • "I have a guy." "You have a guy in custom engraving?"
  • There was a teeny, tiny sub-plot which probably sets into motion the return (again, UGH) of Hardman next week where Jack is sent two packages by Hardman and has to choose one of them to do something with. I... wasn't admittedly paying a whole lot of attention so if you saw what was in the packages, let me know in the comments below!
  • "Don't 'hey' me."
  • I find it really irritating that Harvey still CANNOT BE HONEST WITH DONNA ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN HIS LIFE. She finds out about therapy and the panic attacks from Louis, instead of Harvey telling her why she should sympathize with him over Louis. Like, really, Harvey? You can open up to Louis but not a woman you claim to love? I CALL SHENANIGANS. Dr. Agard needs to re-evaluate the whole "the dream about Donna is really about your mother" angle. I'm pretty sure at this point the dream about Donna is actually about Donna.
  • Game of Thrones references were made and went over my head. WHOOOOSH.
  • I guess Daniel Hardman is coming back (again, again)? Can Donna please slap him like she did before?
Well, there you have it, folks! How did you enjoy "Mea Culpa"? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then. :)


  1. I am seriously butt ugly in love with Darvey. The irony tonight was that Harvey couldn't be honest with Donna because he doesn't want her to pity him. Maybe he thinks she would return to him out of pity.

    I really wish we would see more ensemble cast scenes. It has seemed really divided this season.

    Will dr agard ask the inevitable question "are you in love with Donna ?"

    Ps does dr agard know the events that lead to Donna resigning ?

    Amazing review!

    1. First off, you have an awesome name! I just wanted to put that out there first. ;)

      I guess I can see the concern over Donna returning to Harvey out of pity. We all know that his pride is one of the most important things to him. But I don't know... he confessed to Louis, so wasn't that really humbling? He didn't know what Louis would do with that information. I hope that we get more honesty between Donna and Harvey because at this point, they're not much better off than they were before she left him. I bet the entire team will be strengthened, though, with the return of Hardman. And that's probably just what they need -- nothing unites a typically divided force like a common enemy!

      I don't know if Dr. Agard will be fixated on Donna since they've seemed to move on from that topic? I hope it'll come back around and I hope that Harvey will at least take the steps he needs to repair the relationship (see: complete honesty). And I'm not sure HOW much Dr. Agard actually knows about Donna and Harvey's relationship at this point. I think she speculates but I'm not sure it's actually an issue that's been confronted.

      Thanks so much for your comments!

    2. Yea that's something that I've been wondering too: does Dr. Agard actually know everything about Donna and Harvey's relationship? I honestly thought they would have talked about that more in therapy but it looks like they're covering everything except that. I think Dr. Agard has to know though, because she understood the dream, and she saw how messed up Harvey was when Donna left. I think she knows but she hasn't discussed it with Harvey. At this point I'm half expecting her to have this whole big session with him about Donna and then at the end be like, "Do you know why so and so happened, Harvey? Because you love Donna.", and instead of some big mic drop moment for her, Harvey goes, "No shit, you think I don't know that?"

      In any case I would really like for them to discuss Donna more in therapy. I'm starting to think they're not going to do anything for Darvey till the second half of the season....and that's so far away ='(

      And yes, I think it's stupid that Harvey couldn't open up to Donna but he could open up to Louis. Actually, I just think that it was stupid that Harvey could open up to Louis at all. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Even if it's possible, I thought it was way too easy for Dr. Agard to convince Harvey to do it. It should have taken about 6-8 weeks to convince him to do that.

  2. I agree about the 'B' storyline. Normally I'm not that interested in the Rachel & Mike drama but I thought it was great in this episode. (And Meghan's illness during this episode actually added to her performance making her sound super stressed lol).

    I hope Jack Soloff can get around Hardman's blackmail because I think he's actually an interesting character to have in the show. If Hardman tries to get back into the firm while Harvey is suspended, they are screwed. While I am over seeing Hardman, it's clever of the writers to bring him back at the worst possible moment.

    I do find it hard to believe that the Partners at the firm would vote to suspend Harvey just because of the incident with Louis. Let's face it, I bet they've all thought about putting Louis on his ass too!

    1. Hello there, anon! Yes -- usually I care about 0.01% for the Mike/Rachel stories but this was a particularly compelling one. And you could totally tell she was sick during the episode, poor thing. It really did add though to her performance so that's good.

      I hope Jack Soloff can get around Hardman's blackmail because I think he's actually an interesting character to have in the show.

      If it's a choice between Jack and Hardman, I'll take Jack every time. I like the angle of Jack having been an ally of Hardman's and now seeing just how evil and manipulative Hardman can be. We haven't really gotten the whole "co-conspirator turns on the conspirator" trope thing in the show yet and I think it'll make Jack a better character.

      I do find it hard to believe that the Partners at the firm would vote to suspend Harvey just because of the incident with Louis. Let's face it, I bet they've all thought about putting Louis on his ass too!

      BUT SERIOUSLY, RIGHT? Also business-wise it makes no sense: they'll have 100x more work with him gone for THREE MONTHS so why wouldn't they just keep him on for that sake?

      Thanks so much for your comments! :)

  3. Hey Jen!! Great review, I loved how you made Meghan Markle the mvp for this episode. I mean honestly she did such a good job this week, she is a fantastic actress. I always though she was very talented but the writing for Rachel was very poor and it sometimes made her seem whiny and a little annoying. But finally they did something that allowed Meghan to show her skills.

    Now i have a lot to say about this episode because it made me realize a lot of things:

    1. louis and harvey are very similar. They may have different issues but they express them exactly the same. I mean the therapist was so right about that! I found it so weird though that Harvey would tell Louis but not Donna. And I have to say, if Donna does not speak to Harvey about this in the next episode I will be so pissed haha.

    2. Why do we like Mike? Honestly now that I think about it, why is Mike a likeable character or someone we look up to and hope the best for him? Because he is a main character. Because when you think about it, he is a fraud!! Yes, he did feel remorse at one point but he still is a criminal and it's not like he is trying to do anything good with it. I mean he works in a corporate law firm, helping companies make millions and he is not doing any good to society while doing that. He does not help any charities, he does not donate any of the big money he makes (at least we don't see it) and to top in all off, he drags Rachel into his mess. He did do all this to help his grandma at first but now she is gone and we don't get to see and actual good and meaningful thing that Mike is doing. I mean if this was some charitable organization he was working for and helping people instead of international businesses I would probably feel different but he's not. He does have one or two Claire was right about Rachel! If he loved her truly he would probably leave her because she will have to live with the fear of him being discovered her whole life. Technically, Mike is not someone we should admire.

    3. Why on Earth did they not fix this Claire thing differently? Am I missing something or did I misunderstand something in the show? Why could they not just tell her that somehow he got into law school anyways because he actually turned his life around? I mean he is in the Harvard data base, the Bar Association etc. He could have at least tried to convince her of that no?

    Also, why are they not talking about Donna in therapy? Seriously what the hell!! Why does she not ask him about the events that led to Donna leaving when that is what triggered his panic attacks in the first place. I don't know I feel like the begging of this season was amazing and there were some brilliant moments in there. But the writing has been getting way worse as the season progresses and it is personally starting to be one of my least favourite seasons. Ant that makes me very sad!

    I also read a tweet from Aaron Korsh and he was answering a question regarding his idea about how Suits will end. And he said some people will be disappointed and some will be very ecstatic. Also, Gabriel Macht said that when then Darvey situation will be finally clarified, for him it will feel like the end of the series is close. So it is obvious that Darvey will happen at the end of the series, which apparently will last for at least two more season. That is incredibly long and i am so sick of waiting, they are dragging this way too much and it's becoming to feel fake. I hope we get to see at least half of season of Donna and Harvey actually being together as the power couple they for sure could be!

    And as an end note, I can't believe Hardman is coming back. He is so annoying i can't deal hahaha! I might actually skip his scenes! :P

    1. still me : my sentence got cut at one point for some for some reason haha

      ***He does have one or two....cases where he actually helps people and brings justice in a general term,like his first case, the case with the train rails and the one a few seasons back with the teenager and the car accident, but that's about it. Usually it is about some merger or acquisition he has to do for some millionaire and his firm.

    2. yea point on with every paragraph here!
      in terms of mike, i think thats the point that we will begin to realize this guys a pathological lying fraud and even turn out to be worst than the arrogant cut throat harvey from season 1. his character growth, or better yet movement is negative growth, but none the less growth in a direction.
      rachel seems to be less and less annoying every episode its possible she might actually become someone we like again....aslo i totally agree that mike handled the claire situation poorly, he could have easily pulled a harvey and "point the gun back at them" by saying he changed his life.
      In regards to your comment on the therapist and her knowledge of the donna situation and what led up to it...i think she knows. because in Ep.2 when Harvey has that imagined conversation with donna (communicate his anger to donna by pretending Dr.A was donna, as the therapist encouraged him to do) the way he talks to her about her leaving reflects that is was because she wanted more (according to harveys p.o.v of donna) and that he couldn't engage with her. also the therapist has approached his mother issues by pleading to harvey that he will in fact continue to have issues with his relationships with women (implying romantic not platonic because they have discussed jessica and no issues with that woman), so i think Dr. A gets the gist of the precarious nature of donna and harvey, that harvey keeps important people close to him through work (hiring them, paying them well to keep their job tied to him). ...But I NEED this doc to stop being so passive about donna and address it with him. ...i will be surprised at the writers and Korsh if we don't get some definitive darvey relationship dynamic with in these last two episodes.

    3. Completely agree. I actually can't believe we've had eight episodes and the therapist hasn't really gone down the Donna route with Harvey yet. They started out with his issues with her leaving but I thought those conversations would naturally evolve to a discussion on exactly WHY it Harvey so much = because he loves her and someone else he loved left him too (his mother). Instead they have gone down that route but completely forgotten about Donna.

      It's very frustrating. They were so clooooose.

  4. I really don't understand how Rachel is going to be a successful lawyer. She has no poker face. I couldn't believe how quickly she spilled everything to Claire.