“All In” took a break from the internal conflict at Pearson Hardman surrounding Donna and the disaster of last week’s episode, but there was still plenty of drama at the firm. There was also a welcome respite from Hardman and his power struggle with Jessica, which was replaced with some bonding between two unlikely characters and the reveal of somebody’s secret. Overall, “All In” wasn’t as intense as “Break Point,” but it still had its fair share of brilliant “Suits” moments.
The phone at Donna’s empty desk rings unanswered, as if we needed any reminders as to how sorely she will be missed this episode. Still, “Suits” fans had a way of making sure she was not forgotten this week, by heading to Twitter and including the hashtag #savedonna to their tweets. Harvey doesn’t seem to be taking Donna’s absence very well either, as he makes a rash decision to bring Mike to a casino in order to check in on his gambling addict friend Keith. They arrive at Keith’s poker table just in time to watch him wager millions of dollars by going all in. After Keith and his opponent show their hands, things are looking promising for Keith until he loses everything on the river card (the last card revealed in Texas Hold’em poker). To make matters worse, it turns out that Keith didn’t just lose millions of dollars—he also forfeited the ownership of his company to Thomas Walsh (a guest appearance by ER’s Scott Grimes) by signing a contract that was written on a bar napkin. Now it’s up to Mike and Harvey to prove that the napkin contract is somehow invalid.
While Mike and Harvey go to work on their case, Louis is attending the ballet by himself. But during the intermission, he runs into Rachel, who also seems to be there by herself. Louis and Rachel unexpectedly begin to bond over their mutual love for ballet, and they decide to sit together for the rest of the show. After the show, Louis mistakenly insults Sergei Vaskoff, the director of the ballet. Eventually Sergei tells Louis about some legal issues he’s been having with the studio that they practice in, and Louis swears to help him out in any way possible.
This sudden friendship between Rachel and Louis exhibits one of the best parts of “Suits,” which is its ability to continually explore new dimensions of the characters’ relationships with one another. There will always be the prominent bonds between Harvey and Mike and Donna and Harvey, but the writers aren’t afraid to spend an episode exploring the unlikely pairings of Mike and Louis or Rachel and Louis, or delve into a friendship between Donna and Rachel. One of the ways the show remains fresh and entertaining is by adding these new layers to the characters’ connections with one another. It was also good to see the Rachel/Louis camaraderie stay alive through the end of the episode, unlike the recent Mike and Louis matchup that ended bitterly and far too quickly.
Louis at first takes the Sergei case to the office idiot, Harold, who expectedly blows his opportunity at a shot at the big leagues. Later on, Harold again stumbles when he makes fun of ballet right in front of Louis. Recently Harold has been popping up more frequently in episodes, and it feels like the Harold-as-comic-relief plan has already run its course. It used to be amusing when he would appear for a few seconds in every other episode, but now the writers are starting to beat the class-clown to death. It’s one of those lines that is difficult not to cross—once a show realizes the potential for a character to be funny, how do they feature him more prominently without wearing out the joke? Unfortunately it seems that they’ve crossed the line, because already Harold’s antics make it seem like the writers are trying too hard (especially the bit where he prances around imitating ballet). It’s time to dial it back a bit with Harold, guys. Less is more.
With Harold’s poor display of competence, Louis instead turns to Rachel, who is eager to help out after their recent ballet bonding session. Her passion for ballet and Louis’ new confidence in her leads Rachel to give the case her all. She works hard and impresses Louis with all the research she’s done. Rachel and Louis pay a visit to the owner of the studio in question, threatening to take action if he doesn’t immediately fix a lead paint situation and make certain repairs. But their threat backfires when the owner points out that the ballet hasn’t been making its payments, and that instead he is going to file for the eviction of the ballet from the studio.
Meanwhile, Harvey and Mike plan to argue that Keith was drunk and therefore unfit to make the decision to sign the napkin contract. However, the plan is sabotaged when the plaintiffs tell the judge about Harvey making an offer to settle the case. Harvey’s sudden change of mind convinces the judge to rule in favor of a trial, shooting down Harvey’s call for a dismissal.
The new plan of attack is to poke holes in Walsh’s ability to run Keith’s company. Mike sets Walsh up, revealing that he knows very little about engineering, which is what the company specializes in. But when they present this to the judge, Walsh insists that it’s a non-issue: just like all of the other companies he owns, he simply hires experts who do know what they’re doing. The judge buys it and rules that Walsh will take control of the company during the interim before the trial.
After the judge rules against them for a 2nd time, Harvey tells Mike that there’s no chance of them winning the case. He explains that Walsh’s lawyer isn’t better than him, he’s just holding the better hand. As he’s done before, Mike rights the sinking ship by insisting that they stick it out. Using the “gun to your head” analogy that Harvey uses so often, Mike explains that they just need to take off their jacket and show the bomb strapped to their chest (“figuratively!” he comically adds, as people walking by start giving him strange looks). It’s time to figure out a way to somehow outsmart the defense.
It’s always nice to see Mike swoop in and pick Harvey up, dust him off, and get him back on the right track. But it’s beginning to feel like “Suits” is afraid to have Pearson Hardman ever lose a case. It has happened before, but it’s a rarity. The ongoing fraud case against Harvey and the entire firm isn’t settled yet, but almost every case that they take on these days ends with a victory. It is a nice change of pace to watch Harvey get set back a few times in his cases, but he and Mike always manage to figure out a way to triumph in the end. It might be nice if for once, somebody was able to best the unbeatable duo of Mike and Harvey.
Louis isn’t taking the news of Sergei’s betrayal lightly. His ballet idol has been revealed to be a scheming thief, routing the money for the repair fund at the studio into his own bank accounts. Louis is flustered and doesn’t know how to handle the situation, but Rachel gives him a much-needed pep talk. She convinces him to go after Sergei and make him pay for betraying Louis’ trust and admiration. He and Rachel go to Sergei and confront him about stealing money from the ballet. They inform him that they’ve already notified the board, which plans on firing him immediately. All he can do now is resign and maintain some small shred of dignity.
Back at the office, Rachel admits to Mike that she’s starting to actually like Louis. But her feelings may be short-lived. Mike grabs Louis’ personal voice recorder and starts listening to all of the notes he’s been giving himself, most of which are hilarious reminders such as, “come up with a catch phrase.” But the last recording Mike plays is of Louis’ secret recording of Harvey discussing the Coastal Motors case in his office. Mike knows that if Harvey finds out Louis has been eavesdropping, he’ll kill him.
For Keith’s case, Harvey has come up with an offer for the defense. He tells them that Keith is more than willing to address a number of allegations against his company, in a way that would bring the company down and make it worthless under Walsh’s ownership. So the defense has three options: the suit can go to court, they can take a very small settlement, or…Thomas Walsh can play a game of poker for it. Walsh agrees to go heads up against Harvey, and they take their game to the storage room at Pearson Hardman. Harvey knows that he’s got Walsh now, explaining that he always has his experts and advisors do everything for him. After toying with him at first, Harvey quickly wins the poker game and the case.
Winning a lawsuit at a poker table was a brilliant twist to “All In” and really demonstrated how far Harvey will go to win a case. When it seemed like there was no hope for a win by playing by the book, he decides to circumvent the law entirely and take matters into his own hands. It did seem like there was a missed opportunity here for a very high-stakes, climactic poker scene—instead, the writers skipped the game entirely and just got right to Harvey explaining to Jessica how he won. Maybe they could’ve cut the Jessica storyline in this episode and used that extra time to show a tense scene in which Harvey goes all in against Walsh and emerges victorious after sweating it out.
Jessica isn’t pleased to hear about Harvey’s poker stunt. She lectures him about taking such a risky move, arguing that for all he knew, Walsh could have been a pro. Harvey insists that they would’ve lost the case in court, so this was the only way to come out on top. Jessica tells him that he should have just gone to court and lost, because they are all human and it’s okay for Pearson Hardman to lose once in awhile. She realizes that some of Harvey’s recklessness comes from recently losing Donna, and asks Harvey if he’s got the bullshit out of his system and can focus now. Annoyed, Harvey says that he isn’t in the mood for a lecture and that he is focused.
Mike tells Harvey about Louis’ voice recorder, so he confronts Louis about secretly recording him in his office. Harvey gives Louis the “Godfather” speech, explaining that there will come a day where Louis will pay back the favor for him ignoring the whole eavesdropping business. He also adds that Hardman is not the answer to Louis’ problem of feeling unappreciated at the firm. Louis defends his actions by insisting that he only eavesdropped because nobody ever tells him anything about what’s going on internally at Pearson Hardman.
Though it was clearly wrong for Louis to spy on Harvey and record his discussion about the Coastal Motors case, he sort of has a point. He’s right in claiming that he’s constantly kept out of the loop. Rather than use Louis’ skills to their advantage by including him in the fraud case against Pearson Hardman, Jessica and Hardman continue to push him away. It’s about time somebody cut Louis a break and actually recognized how great a lawyer he really is. They need to stop treating him like a child and let him sit at the grown-up table for once. Maybe if they did, he’d have less reason to sneak and scheme his way into knowing what’s going on behind the scenes at Pearson Hardman.
After last week’s blistering episode that focused on the culmination of the Donna debacle, it was bound to be difficult to match that level of excellence. “All In” was a very good episode (something we’ve come to expect from “Suits” every single week), but it wasn’t the best. And that’s okay. Not every episode of a television show can be a 10 out of 10—there needs to be calmer episodes to create some breathing room that will make the best episodes that much better. “All In” was far from a throwaway episode, as it introduced a new bond between Rachel and Louis, put Louis’ voice-recorder mischief out in the open, showed how Harvey is manifesting his distress over losing Donna, and demonstrated how far Harvey will go in order to win a case. That’s not too shabby for a good-but-not-great episode. “All In” was more of a straight than a royal flush, but in the end it was still enough to win the hand.
Judging by the teaser for next week’s episode, it’ll be back to the high-stakes drama with a return to the Tanner case and the return of Donna as well. Next Thursday can’t come soon enough!