Thursday, February 4, 2016

Suits 5x12 "Live to Fight..." (How Deep is Your Love?)

"Live to Fight..."
Original Airdate: February 3, 2016

I’m really intrigued by the theme that the back half of Suits is presenting this season. Sometimes the show can feel like a hamster wheel — churning out the same tried and true plots and circling around Mike’s secret like a tango dancer. So when Mike was arrested in the midseason finale, I was inwardly dreading what would come. Surely, I reasoned, the show would wrap up Mike’s problems in a neat bow like it often did by the end of the winter premiere. 

Instead, Suits has really impressed me in proving that things like Mike’s fraud aren’t easily wrapped up, nor should they be. In “Live to Fight...” we get an awesome glimpse into the kind of inner conflict that the back half of this season will be about. This season is all about determining when you stand by the people you love, and when you need to walk away to protect yourself. There’s a really great dichotomy present of “others vs. self” and it’s only going to escalate the more characters and relationships are pulled into the fray.

It’s character-focused action and conflict rather than plot-focused for the most part, and if you know anything about me at all, you know that I LOVE this kind of stuff.


Usually, Suits will devote one episode per season as its “flashback episode.” In it, we will get to see all of the terrible wigs the show acquired from Arrow, and experience our actors trying to pretend they are ten years younger than they are. But I love the flashback episodes because they always provide us with a glimpse into the “why” of these characters — why did they make the decisions they did? Why did they end up at Pearson Specter Litt? Why are they the kind of people they are in the present? This week’s episode wasn’t a full-fledged flashback one, but it featured flashbacks of Donna, her father, and Harvey. At the opening of “Live to Fight...,” Donna’s father is detained and — eventually — charged for some shady real estate deal he made seven years earlier. And the person who refused to give him the money for this shady business deal? None other than Harvey Specter.

Donna’s father squandered away their money when Donna was younger, forcing them to move. And when she became Harvey’s secretary, her father approached her for more money that Donna was willing to give him from her 401k. Because in spite of this evident  issue, Donna loved him. She loved him so much that she was blinded to the problem in front of her. Harvey was not blinded to the problem. But he is blinded, no less, because he approaches dear old (soon-to-be-father-in-law, right? Right?!) Papa Paulsen and tells him that if he takes money from Donna, he’ll make him pay. Big time. Harvey will not let him hurt her or take advantage of her.

And when he explains why he would do such a thing, Harvey says this: “Because people who love other people don’t put them in positions to break the law.”

We flash forward seven years and daddy Paulsen brings Harvey’s words bitterly back, saying that if Harvey hadn’t been self-serving and smug in hiring Mike, Donna wouldn’t be in the precarious position that she currently is in. And in a beautiful, underplayed moment by Gabriel Macht, Harvey’s eyes begin to tear up. Because he’s spent the better part of this season justifying Mike’s lies and his career. He excused Mike’s behavior just an episode ago, don’t forget. But this is the moment in which Harvey realizes that in the middle of all of the problems Mike’s fraud has caused, there is Donna. And it’s his fault she’s there.

(Not to be outdone, of course, Mike blames himself for Donna being in the position that she is in. At least he is self-aware enough to comment on that, right?)

Harvey and Donna have a huge blow-out once she realizes how deep of trouble her father is in. Because once Donna realizes her father did something illegal in his deal, she realizes who might have had a hand in his decision to do that. Harvey, as I mentioned earlier, threatened Papa Paulsen to leave Donna out of his business, saying that if he took Donna’s money, he would shut the deal down with everything he had. And Donna is absolutely LIVID that Harvey went behind her back seven years ago. Harvey’s excuse is — like it always is with Donna — that he wanted to protect her. He wasn’t going to put her life and future in jeopardy by letting her give her father money for a deal that would fall to pieces. He could not watch her do that then and he sure as heck won’t now. 

Because he loves her. 

It’s the unspoken thing that has been hanging between these two for years and was only briefly addressed last season. Harvey Specter loves Donna Paulsen so much that it hurts him and clouds his better judgement. So much so that he refuses to let other people help him save her. He barks at Mike in this episode, and goes to see Papa Paulsen himself. Harvey does everything that he does – protecting her, rescuing her, preventing her from giving money to her father – because he loves her. When you love someone as much as Harvey loves Donna, you’ll do anything to keep them safe, even if it means at the cost of you and everyone around you.

And that’s exactly what happens.

Harvey and Mike make a deal with Anita Gibbs — they will turn over a vaguely-worded letter about Mike being a (not really) great student (penned by Professor Gerard) if she drops the charges against Papa Paulsen. She does and they turn over the letter, and things go back to relative normal with Harvey and Donna (who make up, but not out. Ugh, I guess I can’t have everything I want). But here’s what I find to be most impressive about this whole storyline — Harvey is now acutely aware of the fact that he loves Donna.

In the flashbacks, he talks about what love means like a vague concept or notion. In the present-day, Harvey recognizes the fact that his selfishness put her into the situation she was in, and she was right to call him out on that (even if he did all of it to protect her). He is, no doubt, reminded of what he said years ago and nearly echoes the same phrasing back to her during their apology. If he loves her, he can’t keep putting her in these positions. He feels guilty for the reason she’s roped into this all to begin with (because he blames himself, and Mike blames himself), and he won’t let himself make the same mistake again.

Harvey loves Donna, and from here on out, I have a feeling he’s going to try to show her that in the way she deserves.


I think this is the most apt simile right now to describe how Mike Ross is being seen by the rest of Pearson Specter Litt. No one wants him to do anything in the episode because they know they will have to follow closely behind him, ready to clean up whatever mess or protect whatever valuable thing he’s going to knock over next. Everyone is in the position that they are because of Mike, and tensions are running high among the characters because of it.

No one wants him to do anything, and no one wants to clean up his messes, but everyone is bonded together by this fraudulent secret they now bear – for better or for much, much worse. Knowing that Anita Gibbs could very well subpoena all of the firm’s documents, Jessica has it in her right mind to tell Mike and Rachel to destroy the evidence they have, and hire Jeff Malone (!!!) as her lawyer. Throughout most of the episode, everyone is trying to protect the firm, themselves and — occasionally — Mike.

What’s really compelling is the fact that Mike contemplates turning on Jessica in order to make everything go away. If he turns himself in, Donna’s dad is free and so are Donna and Rachel and Harvey. But in a weird and random outburst, apparently Mike decides he could take Jessica down with him because of all of the shady things she’s done before. I really don’t understand his logic, considering she probably could have you killed and no one would know, Mike, but sure. Go ahead and pick a fight with the most powerful woman in the firm for no apparent reason. 


Speaking of picking fights, Donna and Rachel have it out in the firm’s bathroom (where else does anyone have a fight on this show, really?) about how it’s crossed Rachel’s mind that Mike should make a deal and turn his back on his firm. He’s placed in an impossible position and Rachel reasons that Donna should know all about that. After all, surely she’s thought about turning her back on the firm in order to save herself and her dad.

Donna is — once again — livid and, practically spitting venom, tells Rachel that there’s a difference between thinking about something and actually vocalizing it. Donna may be inwardly struggling, but she’s having faith in Harvey. That is what she is choosing to focus on at the moment. While Rachel is okay with staying beside Mike and his fraudulent self, she seems more than willing to ditch Pearson Specter Litt if it comes down to it. Her ties there are less tight than most everyone else’s, and Rachel could justify turning on anyone. 

Donna and Harvey are bonded in a way that no two other people are on this show. And to her, the firm isn’t just a job or a bunch of random people. It’s not even work.

It’s family. And family, as Lilo and Stitch taught us, “means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”


As it turns out, Gretchen wrote an article — meant to be a surprise and encouraging present — that alerted Sheila to Mike Ross’ fraud. We didn’t have to wait until the season finale to learn that she was the one who sent an anonymous tip to Anita Gibbs. When Louis approaches Sheila about this, she finally connects the dots and realizes that Louis knows — and has known — about Mike’s secret. Ouch. Louis walks away from the conversation, hopeful that maybe something he said to Sheila clicked.

It clicked, all right, but not in a good way. Because by the end of the episode, Sheila comes forward and turns over all of Pearson Specter Litt to Anita to be examined under a microscope. When Louis discovers that she did this, he’s aghast and more hurt than we are and needs time alone to process.

It’s one thing to be betrayed, after all. It’s another to be betrayed someone you used to love.

And now, bonus points:
  • I always love how the flashbacks are lit in an orange-y tint. How much did you all love seeing little Donna?! And when we get flashback!adult Donna, she definitely has the best flashback wig.
  • The dress Donna wore in the opening scenes? SO gorgeous. That skirt is beautiful.
  • D.B. Woodside returned as Jeff Malone, and I’m very thankful he roughed up the snarky, insolent Mike Ross in one scene.
  • “I’m gonna take care of her.” Yes, yes you will. Because you love her, you idiot.
  • Here’s a game we can play: every time Harvey says “my secretary,” replace it with “my love.” The fact of the matter is that he says “my secretary” so lovingly that he might as well be saying “my love.”
  • “I never should have put you in that position.” Can we please have an episode where Harvey finally admits he loves Donna without backpedaling or anything? Please?
  • “If you’re okay, then I’ll be okay.” The Louis/Donna friendship means more to me than anything else.
  • “They’re gonna try and pit us against each other even more.” Aaaaaand that’s it. That’s the whole season in a nutshell.
What did you all think of this week’s Suits? Hit up the comments and let me know. And feel free to tweet me how much you love Donna Paulsen.


  1. Awesome reviewww

    I've wanted to know more about Donna since I started watching the show and my prayers have finally been answered. It is a happy day. On top of that, I'm actually surprised that the relationship shown between Donna and her dad was pretty much what I always imagined. I feel proud of myself. Poor baby Donna...I felt so much for her in he first scene. She really works hard to put on a brave face for her Daddy. I relate to that so much. I nearly cried right then.

    Oh and also, Donna's father apparently lost all their money when she was 13. That girl did not look 13 =P But oh well.

    This episode was just 40 min of drama and the characters constantly second guessing each other. So much tensionnnn. Wow.

    Agreed. Really didn't like Rachel this week. I can't believe how many times she's vocalized her desire for Mike to turn on Harvey so he can get off. What is this woman? Does she not understand loyalty at all? Harvey needs to give her a nice long lecture on the subject.

    Can't say I'm surprised that it was Sheila and I've also weirdly had a feeling Gretchen would be involved but not purposely. The latter idea was just a random thought I had, but wow turns out it's true.

    Oh and btw I feel Gretchen and Louis are the new power couple to watch. I'm so excited.

    Basically, I loved the general feel of the episode. The constant tension and suspense that anyone could turn on anyone at any moment made for great TV. Sadly, the only part that I found lacking was all things Darvey...I didn't see as much between them as you did =(

  2. Based off everything we've seen so far in this show, esp 4x15 onwards, it is pretty obvious that Harvey loves Donna. Her leaving him triggered panic attacks. He was really REALLY hurt by her leaving and was being a baby about it for a long time after. We KNOW he loves her. We have always been sure about this because even when the writers (apparently) aren't writing necessarily romantic lines for them, the actors play them in a romantic way because they know more about their characters than anyone. I've always been grateful for Gabriel and Sarah's portrayals of their characters and how they really let it be known that there is something between them.

    I did not get that from Gabriel this episode. I felt like the lines were actually written in a way that could easily come off as romantic, but he said them in such a stoic way. I see in your review that he does all that he does for Donna out of love, and I don't actually doubt that, but...he did not seem in love in this episode. Normally when there's some intense stuff going down between him and Donna he'll show some kind of emotion in his eyes. Not romantic or always even affectionate, but something strong. This episode he had this expression on his face that was weird...his chin was up, his eyebrows were raised, his jaw was set and his nostrils were inflated. He seemed annoyed half the time, and just not that into it the rest of the time.
    Few examples: 1) When he turns and sees Donna and Papa Paulsen walking out, he doesn't seem distressed or worried, he's just expressionless. 2) When they're arguing, he just seems annoyed. 3) When he apologizes to her for putting her in this mess he's so stoic it hurts my heart to watch. Harvey always gets all soft and his eyes always get all big and adorable during moments like this, what was wrong with Gabriel's face hereeee? 4) Even in the flashback scene when Donna comes in asking for a favour, the way he says "I'll do anything for you"....I cannot even. He said it in a monotone. He literally sounded like he didn't mean what he was saying. I doubt that's how the writers imagined it being said. It just sounded tired and not genuine at all :(

    Also, you mentioned him tearing up after James accuses him of putting Donna in jeopardy, but I watched that bit 50 times and I didn't see tears...isn't that just the light reflecting in his eyes?

    I don't know...I'm not losing faith in Darvey completely, but I can see they're putting it waaaay in the background for this second half. And now the characters are just acting like everything 4x15 never happened. It makes me sad. What was the point of those small baby steps of development if they were just going to turn around and do this?

    1. I agree !! i think they (the actors) are really pushing for it to be platonic, and honestly I'm kind of getting over Darvey at this point. As long as we see Donna happy with someone next season I'm good. and i honestly didn't feel like the "love" harvey portrayed in this ep was the romantic type of love which people are interpreting it as, it seemed like a best friend/i got your back, "your family" type of love. Anyways my predication is that they will in fact hook up in 4x15 but it'll be a one night thing and in S6 things will go back to normal

    2. if things go back to normal normal between Harvey and Donna in s 6 i'm done with the show. 5 year is enough wait

    3. Anon another one who is tired too. Regarding Darvey I have the feeling that what happened in the first half of the season it doesn´t matter. And it´s obvious that the actors are pushing for the relationship to be platonic and maybe that´s the reason that nothing happened yet. Because overall the relationship hasn´t changed at all. I Still watch the show but at this point I don´t care what happens.Not so enthusiastic as I was before that´s for sure.

    4. Normally when there's some intense stuff going down between him and Donna he'll show some kind of emotion in his eyes. Not romantic or always even affectionate, but something strong. This episode he had this expression on his face that was weird...his chin was up, his eyebrows were raised, his jaw was set and his nostrils were inflated. He seemed annoyed half the time, and just not that into it the rest of the time.

      So I've been thinking about this, and the most important scene to me was in the cell with her father. Watch Gabriel there and you'll see the emotion you're craving. But here's why I think that there's some emotion lacking and more stoicism present -- this wasn't about Donna, necessarily.

      In the episode where DONNA was in jeopardy, we got all the things you mentioned. We got the raw emotion and the fear and the love. But this episode wasn't about Donna being in jeopardy, but her father. And it's pretty clear that Harvey thinks he's a piece of crap, so there's more anger and coldness in this story than anything else. Because Harvey stepped in to protect her years ago and he doesn't think her father is worthy of Donna -- not her time or affection and certainly not her money.

      So while I understand totally what you're saying, keep this as your frame of reference. If this was a case about DONNA'S life being on the line, we would see all of that. Because it's not -- and because Harvey hates her dad, clearly -- he's a lot more cold than usual. And the way he expresses it is different in this episode because of that.

    5. Sorry to break all the other anons' party but we can implicitly understand from Gabriel Macht that Donna and Harvey will not get together anytime soon. I disagree with him though and agree with all of you. At this point it's just annoying!

  3. I would love to know if there were new writers responsible for this episode because something felt off about it and I can't work out what it is.
    I felt like the characters were just going through the motions and saying way too many redundant lines.

    I know the characters are under extreme stress but they didn't seem like themselves somehow.

    Although I was surprised to feel disappointed with this episode I am looking forward to the upcoming mock trial! And also Scottie coming back will be fun ;)

    1. ughh where did you hear Scottie is coming back? God I hope not

  4. Hi! Another anon..I love your reviews they are so well written all the time.

    Just want to say something about the flashback scene that opens the episode, the one with teenage Donna. Is it just me or was that scene a little off? I don't know why but that girl did not seem like Donna at all. Completely different personality. I mean I know people change and all but I feel like it was a whole new character. No sassy at all. What was that about?

    Also, whoever plays Anita Gibbs...freaking awesome job because I hate her already! She is like the Dolores Umbridge of SUITS.
    I mean we can see she is a great prosecutor but why doesn't she use that evil and power abusive talent to go after more serious criminals like I don't know rapists, child molesters, mass murderers, terrorists, etc. She wastes her time of fraud cases? C'mon!!!

    Anyways I hope just like the other anons that there will be some development with Darvey even if they are not central right now.