Thursday, February 25, 2016

Suits 5x15 Review: "Tick Tock" (Like You're Running Out of Time)

"Tick Tock"
Original Airdate: February 24, 2016

When I was in high school, I was really bad at taking standardized tests. Why, do you ask? It wasn’t because I was unintelligent. It was because I was just not a great test-taker (which I remedied by getting a degree in something that rarely required tests — only papers!). I hated sitting in a desk and feeling like I was constantly racing the clock. When the SAT or the ACT administrator would tell us we only had a few minutes left, my heart would race and I would frantically try to skim the final few pages of the booklet and jot down the answer I thought was best to each remaining question. But the panic building within me was the worst, because I knew that the more rushed I felt, the more careless I would be.

In this week’s episode of Suits, everyone at Pearson Specter Litt is racing against a ticking clock. “Tick Tock” is the episode’s title for a reason, after all. Anita Gibbs gave Louis a window of opportunity in which to turn his back on his firm in order to secure his future (and, by proxy, Sheila’s), and he is tempted to do just that throughout most of the episode. But the real pressure, of course, is put on Mike himself as he spends the episode waiting to hear a jury’s verdict. In the meantime, he’s trying to occupy himself with a random case that he acquires while outside of the courtroom, and Rachel grows more and more irate by the moment. Elsewhere in the episode, Harvey and Jessica attempt to remain calm in the face of their dwindling time and plan a way to secure a mistrial. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t exactly end well.

Let’s dive right in, because we have a lot to cover.


I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t totally been sold on this whole “Mike gets picked up by the feds and might go to jail for fraud” arc, but “Tick Tock” is the first episode of the plot where I’ve genuinely felt that there are real, emotional stakes involved. That’s partially due to the outstanding performances of everyone in the cast, and partially due to the fact that this arc helped progress our characters.

Mike plays back over what happened in court (he’s representing himself now, remember?), and realizes that his good arguments might not be enough to win the case because Anita Gibbs drove some pretty compelling points home. Rachel and Harvey assure them that he will be okay, but Mike doesn’t want to leave the court because he wants to be there when the jury returns with a verdict. While Mike frets about his uncontrolled future, everyone else has similar concerns on their hands. Harvey works to secure a mistrial, once he and Jessica realize that Anita would never have instructed them to NOT do it if there was some reason she wouldn’t be able to get a mistrial. Harvey’s quest to do this leads him to blackmail and bribery — not the two most upstanding things to be involved in, really. But Harvey is desperate. Because the time is winding down and whatever way the case swings, there’s a very good chance it will come back to smack him (and the other partners) in the face.

Harvey’s knee-jerk reaction to problems is to solve them by whatever means necessary. He doesn’t want to pause and take enough time to think. He doesn’t want to dwell on what could happen. The way that he has constantly won cases is by blocking out every other thing that distracts him and throwing himself head-first into his problems. That’s not always a good thing, as we’ll talk about in a bit, but it’s where Harvey is at for most of this episode.

And then there is Mike. And then, more specifically, Mike and Rachel.

So Mike gets offered a deal by Anita Gibbs because his perceptive skills have led him to pinpoint a few flaws in her character and reasoning as to why she’s doing this all in the first place. She wants to earn respect with the people she works for and if she bags Mike, that’s a huge win for her. But what Anita points out when she offers Mike a deal is this — she can’t let him off the hook. Not without looking incompetent in the process. She offers him two separate deals: either he pleads guilty and faces two years of jail time (and everyone at Pearson Specter Litt won’t be touched), or walk free, but hand over at least one of the people who knew about and hid his fraud. Everything about taking one of Anita’s deals seems to be pretty appealing to Mike, who is coming closer and closer to the precipice and the knowledge that he might not be enough to convince the jury and things could go downhill very quickly if he falls.

While Mike is staunchly loyal to Harvey (the past few weeks it seemed like he might be okay with selling Jessica out, but whatever), Rachel doesn’t share the same obligations. In a really dramatic and emotional fight (one-sided, since Rachel is the only one who yells and Mike is weirdly solemn and calm throughout all of this), she tells Mike to stop thinking about the partners and to start thinking about what will happen to her if he goes to jail. Rachel has no loyalty to Harvey or Jessica, and she would recover from throwing them under the bus for the sake of Mike.

But Mike will never turn in the person who gave him his chance and who has been giving him chances since. And I hate to break it to you, Rachel, but the reason you’re in this mess is because of Mike. Rachel could have walked away a thousand times but she hasn’t. Her outburst in this scene was about HER and not about anyone else. She tried to cover it up with talk about Mike ultimately having faith in himself, but... everything just fell flat to me. Ugh.

Mike, using his final few verdict-free hours, works a case because he saw a client being taken advantage of. And for all of his flaws, Mike has learned the value of helping out the disadvantaged. He wields his power one last time in this instance in order to get a man out of a prison sentence. ... That is, until the client has the option to walk away from the case by turning on his friends. The heavy-handed allegory aside, the one thing that stuck with us — and with Mike — was this client’s vocalization of a truth: it doesn’t matter if he gets jail time or walks away free; his friends are going to jail either way.

And that is when it hits Mike. All of this time, he has been protecting the people he cares about by trying to make everything go away. He wants to put this trial behind him and move forward from it. But what didn’t click was the fact that this trial is going to impact the people who are trying to protect him, no matter which way the pendulum of verdict swings. So Mike races to Anita Gibbs’ office and tells her that he’s ready to take a deal.

The only question is... which deal?



Let’s spend some time now talking about Harvey Specter in this episode. Because something really significant happens — a shift in Harvey that we very rarely see. Early in the episode, Jessica expresses the fact that she wants to secure a mistrial to ensure everything can be put behind them. She doesn’t trust that a jury of people will see Mike as innocent. She doesn’t know those people and therefore can’t predict how they will act. So Harvey goes about trying to secure a mistrial — by any means necessary.

This whole “any means necessary” includes blackmail and bribery. Harvey approaches Donna and tells her that she needs to get one of her friends at the District Attorney’s office to give him the names of the juror. But Donna draws a line in the sand, saying that she will not ask a friend to break the law for Harvey. And Harvey shouldn’t be asking her to do that for him. Remember a few episodes ago, Harvey? Remember when we all talked about how if you love someone, you don’t ask them to break laws for you? Thankfully, Harvey comes to his senses in that regard but decides to go about securing a mistrial in another less-than-favorable way — through blackmailing David Green into buying a juror coffee. When David doesn’t show up, Harvey tries to threaten and intimidate him. And to his credit, Harvey is a bit taken aback by David’s harsh words. He talks about how the only reason Harvey is a winner is because he bullies other people into getting them to do what he wants. And David is not about to be blackmailed into helping out someone he knows to be a fraud.

This conversation knocks Harvey off his game a bit. Couple that with the conversation Harvey and Louis have in the episode in which Louis tells him that everything they’re facing should come down on Harvey — he’s the one who hired the fraud, after all — and you have a very distraught Harvey Specter. And what does distraught Harvey do? 

He shows up at Donna’s house.

(I love, however, the acknowledgement and apology that he showed up in the first place. He recognizes boundaries now with Donna and is sorry for overstepping them.)

Because if there is one person in the world Harvey needs to set him right, it’s Donna Paulsen. On the verge of an emotional breakdown, Donna figures out that Harvey is greatly considering confessing to hiring Mike knowing he was a fraud. Harvey is beginning to lose faith in himself and he’s actually, genuinely afraid that they won’t win the case and that Mike will be sent to prison, and the firm doomed. I don’t think Harvey is worried for himself though, not like Louis is. I think that unlike Louis, Harvey doesn’t feel fear — he feels responsible.

So here’s the thing: Donna knows about Dr. Asgard (remember her?!) and tells Harvey as much, wondering aloud why he didn’t go to his therapist with this crisis. And honestly, I think it’s because Donna’s opinion means more to him than anything else ever could. He trusts her. And, on what might be the last night of his freedom (if he confesses and goes to jail), he wants to talk to HER. Donna’s presence is about more than just comfort though; it’s about intimacy.

Because as Harvey and Donna begin to talk, Harvey starts to vocalize his plan to Donna. She incorrectly assumes that he wants to confess because he needs to be the hero. She says that she cannot see him fall on his sword again, but Harvey’s frustration begins to mount. It’s not about being right. It’s not about being a hero. It’s about being responsible. And then this moment happens where Gabriel Macht exclaims in the most heartbreaking voice ever that it is his fault.

Everything is his fault — everything that has ever resulted from hiring Mike. Every little bit of fear that Louis is experiencing. Every fight Rachel and Mike are having. Every time Donna was caught in the crosshairs. Every time Jessica had to clean up a case or a mess. It all comes back to him. HE is the one who hired Mike in the first place. He is the one to blame. And Harvey feels like he deserves to face the consequences for his actions. If anyone should suffer, it should be him.

First of all, this performance by Macht was outstanding. Harvey can barely get the words out because he’s yelling, but also crying. And Donna — our sweet queen Donna — begins to reaffirm Harvey. She tells him that it’s not his fault. No one of what they are going through is a burden that he should bear alone. He has nothing to feel guilty for. The way that Donna sees it... Harvey should begin to see himself the way that she sees him.

Harvey doesn’t know how Donna sees him (or he does, and he just can’t comprehend that kind of faith), and so she tells him: “I’m asking you to believe that the two of you [Harvey and Mike] are worthy of being found innocent. ... Because I think you’re worthy. And I don’t want to lose you.”

At the point in the conversation in which Harvey hears that Donna believes him to be worthy, he looks back up at her and doesn’t stop looking at her when she says that she does not want to lose him. In this moment, Harvey and Donna are being their most honest and vulnerable selves. It is only through Donna’s affirmation that Harvey has the courage to return to court the next morning and support Mike without fear, and it is only through her tentative honesty about not wanting to lose him that Harvey reconsiders turning himself in (perhaps even remembering how he felt when he almost lost Donna a year ago). 

Donna reminds Harvey that he doesn’t bear the blame for the actions of others, and everything that has happened is not because of him. This is honestly such a perfect moment for the two, because it’s probably the first time in the entire series where Harvey can clearly see the depth of Donna’s love for him. And it’s terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. So much so that it spurs him toward the door. (If Tumblr hadn’t pointed it out, I would never have noticed that the last time Harvey was in Donna’s apartment was one season ago, exactly, when he talked about her faith in him. Beautiful parallelism, show, even if you didn’t intend it.)

But Donna knows Harvey better than he knows even himself, and she knows that she needs to affirm him one more time. So she looks him in the eyes at the door and tells him to have the same faith in Mike that she has in him. You can see Harvey visibly soften upon hearing her words. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. And that’s pretty much indicative of their entire relationship. She’s Harvey’s anchor and he knows it.

Speaking of anchors, Pearson Specter Litt is pretty adrift these days with this case. How will it all pan out in the season finale next week remains to be seen. But I’m glad that “Tick Tock” allowed us into the most vulnerable and emotional hour of this journey yet. And I can’t wait to see how it ends.

And now, bonus points:
  • Hello, penultimate episode of this season! It’s still so weird to split seasons up into summer and winter.
  • I didn’t really talk about Louis above, but he has a fight with Harvey and spends the majority of the episode convinced the only reason that Harvey let Mike represent himself is because Harvey knows they’re going to lose. When Jessica tries to reassure him, Louis is even more anxious than ever and turns to Anita Gibbs. If he can provide proof of Mike’s fraud, she’ll spare him. Of course Louis considers this, going so far as to even taping a conversation with Harvey. But he doesn’t turn in the tape. (Progress, I guess?) Because Jessica affirms her faith in and loyalty to Harvey, so does Louis, even though he’s terrified. The best way to describe him really is “panicked,” as he spends most of the episode doing exactly what I assume someone would do if a big storm was coming: run around in circles and find the easiest and quickest way out.
  • “And the Harvey I know isn’t that kind of person.”
  • “Just remember... tick tock.”
  • “Because I think you’re worthy. And I don’t want to lose you.”
  • The song selection on this show is so good. The final montage was beautifully directed and also had such a great song playing over it.
Next week is the finale, Suits fans! We’re promised that someone is going to jail. But who? (What if it’s Anita, for some reason? It’s something Suits would do and you all know it.)


  1. Hellooo. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and Darvey is once again warming my heart...FINALLY!

    The apartment scene was just beyond words...I second everything you said above. The way she says she thinks he's worthy, the way he looks at her like he can't comprehend how she thinks he's worthy UGH I WANT TO HUG HIM WHY DOESN'T HE THINK HE'S WORTHY *ugly sobs* He absoLUTEly went to her and not Agard, because he needed that boost, but was it like a subconscious need? Because he doesn't accept Donna's words at first.
    Also, is it just me or was Harvey fishing for another answer when Donna said she didn't want him to turn himself in and he asked, "Why not?" I mean, it's not really a question you need to ask, is it? Obvious answer is because she cares about you and doesn't want to see you carted off to prison. Why bother asking the question? Did he want her to say...more? (because I sure as hell did!)
    I do have one complaint though (I know, I should just be happy, but I like perfection, SO SUE ME) I still feel like Darvey have been acting really off since 5x11. I don't mean the acting itself, I mean these are two people who confessed their love, fought about it, with Donna leaving him for months during which time Harvey was an asshole and then slowly they adjusted, and then BAM she's back at his desk and they are acting like NONE OF THE ABOVE HAPPENED. Why are they acting like this?

    About the rest of the episode: I am seriously about to bitch slap Rachel. Like you said, she CHOSE this. She and Louis are both acting like this is happening to them for no reason, but hello you had years to do something about it and you didn't so shut up. And honestly, Rachel is the only one really annoying me, not Louis. Idk why that is...maybe just the general lameness of her character?
    I have to admit...I was actually hoping Rachel would do something as a last ditch effort to save Mike, but that thing would be to sell out Harvey/Jessica/Louis. And she would do it JUST as they were implementing a plan to get everybody off scot-free. THAT would be drama. And it would make Mike and Rachel the tiniest bit interesting. AND everybody would hate Rachel. Yay. Ok I just read that and realized I'm a child.
    Help me out here though: I don't get why PSL is still in trouble even if Mike is found innocent. How does that work? That's the analogy they made with that random case Mike took right? But I don't get it because I thought the whole reason they're soooo desperate to be found innocent isn't just so Mike gets off, it's so everyone gets

    1. I think Donna and Harvey are doing what they do best. They're compartmentalizing. Right now everything needs to be focused on this crisis with Mike. And so they have both completely put aside what happened last year, and they are able to pick right back up with the relationship they've had for 12 years. They're experts at setting aside their deeper feelings and issues, and just being what they need to be in the moment. Once all this passes, I imagine we'll see those issues come out again. I hope so. Because they really shouldn't be able to put that all back in the bag for good.

    2. I completely agree. It's fine that they're not thinking about that now, I don't expect them to have time to deal with that as well as Mike's case. All I ask is that once this is all over, they revisit their issues. If the writers make the issues disappear into thin air and have Harvey and Donna act as though they never existed, well, then I will be pissed. Because that is the number 1 sign of sloppy writing.