When Daniel Hardman returns to the firm, he and Harvey Specter clash in a big way

★★★★½

He’s baaaaack. Cue the Darth Vader theme music because Daniel Hardman is back at Pearson Hardman, much to the displeasure of Harvey and the gang.  In their first case together, Daniel and Harvey are at one another’s throats as they battle a union of striking nurses as well as each other.  “Meet the New Boss” functions mostly as a demonstration of how disruptive Hardman’s return will be, but in between the Harvey/Hardman battle scenes there are a number of exceptional scenes for the rest of the ensemble as well.

“Meet the New Boss” opens with Mike returning to his apartment to find the door ajar, as if somebody had broken in.  Cautiously entering, he warns the intruder that, “I am armed… with a big gun.”  The trespasser turns out to be his own grandmother, who reminds him that today is a special day.  Mike forgot about the plans to commemorate the date with his grandmother (possibly the anniversary of his parents’ deaths?),  and talks about being too caught up in his work.  The relationship between Mike and his grandmother is amusing, but occasionally it can stray towards the cliche. The writers have to be careful not to make her into the oft-used “wise-crackin’ granny,” who says things like, “Someone’s gonna think I raised a pussy.”  A little humor is enjoyable, but too much could cause the character to becoming boring quickly.

Back at Pearson Hardman, there’s a meeting held with senior staff members.  Daniel interrupts Jessica just to announce to the room that nothing has changed at the firm and that he is most definitely number 2 to Jessica’s number 1. He tries to pounce on a new case about striking nurses, but Jessica insists that Harvey has got things covered.  Everybody is so fake-polite and fake-cheery in this meeting that you can tell a storm is coming.

Daniel Hardman, happy to be number two…?

After the meeting, Jessica talks to Harvey about the nurse case.  She tells him that she put him on the case because he still needs a “chance to get out of the dog house,” referencing the still-stinging Mike Ross situation.  Harvey defensively insists, “I got your tea service for you!” to which Jessica replies, “You think that’s gonna cut it?”  Though this bit was meant to be comical, let’s take a second to appreciate the fact that Harvey’s tea service stunt at the end of last week’s episode wasn’t enough of a peace-offering.  On other shows, that would’ve been a perfect bandaid and all would have been right again come the next episode.  But on “Suits,” it’s going to take more than a cute gesture to patch things up with Jessica Pearson.

Mike’s sleeping at his desk when Harvey approaches him about researching the nurses case.  He awakes abruptly with the comment, “Huh?  It’s the can opener!” before coming to his senses—a fun reminder from the writers that the mystery of the can opener is still very much alive (and unsolved).  Mike balks at the notion of asking Rachel to help him with the research, so he gets Donna to function as a go-between. But Rachel recognizes his play and Donna quickly throws Mike under the bus. The Rachel / Donna relationship has been a great development on the show—it constantly fluctuates between a friendship, a mother/daughter dynamic, and a mentor/mentee situation.

Harvey brings Hardman a pro-bono case for him to work on, in an effort to keep him off the nurses strike case and out of the way. But as Harvey warns him to stay out of his case, Hardman smugly reminds him that, “If you hadn’t noticed, my name is on the door.  They’re all my cases.”  This scene features a great back and forth between the two of them that highlights the well-crafted, loaded dialogue that the show excels at.  It’s also a preview of the Specter-Hardman royal rumble to come.

Mike and Harvey meet up with Nell (Margo Martindale), the nurse leading the charge and representing the union of nurses that is threatening to go on strike.  Harvey is confident that he can persuade her to settle, but she shoves the deal back in his face and abruptly leaves the office.  Harvey decides to file for an injunction, which would put an end to the strike altogether.  But Mike thinks that a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) would buy Pearson Hardman more time with the case and eventually lead to a settlement.  Their disagreement on how to handle the case causes Harvey to leave Mike behind when he heads to court.

Meanwhile, we drop in on Louis in his office, happily putting his new voice recorder to amusing use.  But his thoughts are cut short when Jessica drops by to give him some troubling news—Harvard University is threatening to rescind the firm’s on-campus recruiting privileges after a story was published in a law magazine.  A hilarious exchange happens here when Jessica tells Louis, “The annual survey of associates came out. Pearson Hardman ranked second-to-last in quality of life,” to which Louis cleverly remarks, “Who beat us?”  When Jessica warns not to get into histrionics, Louis follows it up with, “Histrionics?  This is the greatest day I’ve ever known. Jessica, let me handle this.”  This interaction between Jessica and Louis highlights how Louis can be a real source of comedic relief for the show, something the writers hopefully persist with.  And yet later in the episode we get to see a much deeper side to Louis as well.  Say what you will about the other characters on the show, but Louis is one of the strongest and most dynamic of them all.

Louis having an amusing moment with his voice recorder

Louis arranges for a representative from Harvard to visit Pearson Hardman and assess the associates’ quality of life.  He warns them ahead of time that they better make the right impression. When one associate asks if they are supposed to lie, Louis comments, “No. I want you to convince this woman that Pearson Hardman makes you shit rainbows.”  But when the Harvard rep (comically named Sheila Szass) interviews the associates one-on-one, she doesn’t see rainbows.  Sheila informs Louis that they all believe he doesn’t work as hard as them, even going so far as to say that he passes his work off to them.

When Harvey arrives in court to request an injunction, he is surprised by the presence of Daniel Hardman. The judge tells them that he will grant Hardman a TRO as he requested.  Obviously Harvey is pissed that Daniel went behind his back and got a TRO before he could ask for an injunction. Hardman warns Harvey that if he doesn’t try to work with him, this is how it’s going to be. All Harvey seems to take away from their conversation is that this means war.  He makes the next move in his battle with Daniel, approaching Nell and tearing the TRO to pieces right in front of her.  Harvey tells her that the deal is off the table, and the new one will get worse each day that they do not settle.  As he and Mike walk away, he says to Mike, “Trust me, they’ll cave.”

When Daniel finds out what Harvey’s been up to, he confronts him in his office.  He claims that what Harvey did backed the firm into a corner, because now they can’t approach the nurses to find out what they even want out of a deal.  Harvey insists that this wouldn’t be an issue if he’d go this injunction, and reveals that Mike had the same TRO idea that Daniel did.  This is where Harvey slips up, because now Daniel has the idea to use Mike for his own plans.  Daniel sends Mike to talk to Nell since neither he nor Harvey can, and Mike uses his own grandmother to get Nell to confess to what the nurses really want out of a deal.  Nurses often work far too many hours, a number of which they don’t even put on their time sheets because they know they won’t get paid for it.  Armed with this knowledge, Mike reports back to Harvey with the news.

Mike uses his grandmother to get the upper hand in the case

As Mike clues Harvey in on his recent rendezvous with Nell, it’s obvious that Harvey is silently seething beneath the surface. Not only did Hardman go behind his back again, but he used Mike to do it and as a result possibly compromised their position with the nurses.  This scene, though fairly short and simple, demonstrates why Gabriel Macht deserves an Emmy nomination for his work on “Suits.”  Even though Harvey stays calm and collected on the outside, it’s clear that on the inside Mike’s tale is igniting a fire within.  That fire explodes when Harvey confronts Hardman in the bathroom about this latest development in the case.  He accuses Daniel of “lying to one of his own” and putting the case in jeopardy.

Back in Louis’ world, Sheila’s news has hit him hard, and his internal struggle leads into what has possibly been the best scene so far in the second season of “Suits.”  Feeling dejected, Louis stays late at the office to go over all of the associates’ cases.  Harvey catches Louis dictating into his voice recorder and makes a typically sarcastic comment about, “Can’t you just keep a diary like every other twelve-year-old girl?”  But Louis makes it clear that tonight he’s not in the mood for Harvey’s antics.  He reveals what the associates think about him, and in a shining moment of rare compassion, Harvey actually tells Louis that, “anyone who doesn’t think you’re the hardest working lawyer at this firm is an idiot.  You may be a dick, but as far as I’m concerned, the associates have it pretty good.”

The two of them reminisce about the old days when they were associates, recalling how much harder it seemed back then. While they talk, something Louis says gives Harvey a brilliant idea that will win the case against the striking nurses, prompting him to say to Louis, “You’re the man.”  After Harvey leaves, Louis pulls out that sneaky voice recorder of his and plays back Harvey’s comment again and  again (another showcase of the character’s comedic potential).

Louis: “Harvey, did you say somebody’s the man?”

While Mike is hanging out at his apartment, Rachel pays him a surprise visit.  She insists that there is still chemistry between them and that his reasons for not being with her are bullshit.  She puts two and two together and tells Mike that she knows he must be hiding something from her.  But when he refuses to tell her his secret, she storms off.  Though the Mike/Rachel relationship has been a roller coaster lately, it’s for the best of the show.  Take a look at any of the iconic television couples and most likely it took them at least two or three seasons to finally get together, if not more.  At the end of “Meet the New Boss” Mike makes it clear that he’s looking for a girlfriend besides Rachel, which was the right move for the writers to make.

To close the nurses case, Harvey, Mike and Daniel meet with Nell with a new plan of action.  Harvey used the information that Mike provided to gather evidence of nurses illegally refraining from accurately filling out their time sheets when they work extra hours.  In exchange for making those “pink slips” go away, Nell is forced to sign the deal.  The look on Mike’s face makes it clear that he feels blind-sided by this move, and after the meeting with Nell he yells at Harvey for using his information to hurt the nurses rather than help them.  He also takes the opportunity to call Harvey out on his obsession with beating Hardman, accusing Harvey of using him to defeat Daniel. In response, Harvey clues Mike into Daniel’s background and how he embezzled money from the firm to pay not for his sick wife’s medical bills, but for his mistress instead.

As the “Meet the New Boss” comes to a close, Rachel is seen taking the bar exam.  She may not have moved on from Mike yet, but she’s finally past her issues with re-taking the test again.

“Meet the New Boss” finally brought Daniel Hardman into the mix and the fireworks exploded from the very start. But while the episode fully established the magnitude of the chaos Hardman has brought to the firm, it also highlighted a number of other interesting subplots and relationships.  Three episodes into the new season and the writing remains as sharp as ever, and the characters as dynamic as ever.  The only concern at this point would be the Hardman storyline overshadowing and detracting from the other aspects of the show.  Once again, this week’s episode of “Suits” has left us begging for more.

 

About The Author

Bell Peloquin is a Blast staff writer. He writes the Film and Television Buzz blog.

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