SUITS Recap: The Ballad of Jessica Pearson

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After Mike Ross was finally released from prison, there was still one more major thread for the SUITS mid-season finale to tie up: Jessica Pearson and Rachel Zane’s Innocence Project case, dedicated to getting Leonard Bailey, an innocent man, off of death row. Just in case those stakes weren’t high enough, the firm’s very existence was still hanging in the balance. Not only was Pearson Specter Litt still struggling to get back on its feet after losing all but the three name partners (and two larger than life secretaries) following Mike’s case, but there was now the possibility that William Sutter might make good on his threats to tell the world that Harvey purposely lost his case. With Jessica faced with the choice between saving an innocent man’s life and saving her own firm, her decision might have been obvious in past seasons. But if SUITS season 6 has shown anything at all, it’s that people (most notably Jessica herself) can and will change. Or maybe, they can just remember who they were all along.

Welcome home, Mike. “P.S.L.” kicked off with a homecoming party of sorts for Mike Ross, but instead of including the entire main cast in the festivities, the opening scene focused on some brotherly bonding. Harvey and Mike’s relationship has always been central to the SUITS narrative, so seeing these two sharing every kind of scotch available was the perfect way to prove that Mike’s life was getting back to normal. The one question that needed answering, though, was what that life would entail now that he’s not exactly able to go back to playing lawyer. Question answered: Harvey offered Mike the chance to work for the firm as a consultant, making the same amount of money he’d made as a junior partner.

Too convenient? Yes. Kind of a cheap way to force Mike and Harvey back into their original working relationship? Absolutely. The good news here is that Mike didn’t accept the job right away. Even by the end of the episode, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. My guess is that SUITS 6.5 will open with Mike coming back to work for Harvey, but his hesitation to do so right away was necessary. Maybe if Mike takes the time to think about what he really wants out of life and what he’s willing to do to get it, he will finally emerge as a better version of himself.

Mike Ross’ mentor has already grown up quite a lot over the past 5.5 seasons. Now, it’s time for the boy wonder to do the same.

An innocent man: saved. The real story in this mid-season finale, much like throughout the entirety of this first half of SUITS season 6, was Rachel Zane and Jessica Pearson’s attempt to save Leonard Bailey’s life by proving his innocence. The time had finally come for Leonard to have his day in court, and both ladies representing him finally knew what was at stake. So, when Robert Zane brought Jessica the news that Jim Reynolds was shopping around for another lawyer, she didn’t abandon Leonard in an attempt to save her oldest client as she might have done in the past. Instead, she left saving the business up to Harvey because she had more important things to do. 

So, while Harvey was left with the daunting task of saving the firm alone (and later with Louis Litt’s help), Jessica and Rachel had to go before a judge and prove that their client was innocent. Putting Leonard’s original lawyer, Georgina Casey, on the stand backfired when she told the prosecution that she believed he was guilty twelve years ago…and still did. Giving Leonard the chance to testify, per Mike’s brilliant suggestion, seemed to affect the jury in the same way that it had both Jessica and Rachel. Unfortunately, the prosecution used the same type of strategy by providing testimony from Mr. Forest, the victim’s father.

Enter Rachel Zane, superhero.

After having done a wonderful job of questioning Leonard in court, Rachel still found herself worrying that she hadn’t done enough for Leonard. But then, as she was discussing the day’s events with Mike, she realized that Mr. Forest had known far too much about Maria Gomez when he’d originally visited the firm. After a (probably sketchy) visit to the Forests’ home, Rachel and Mike were both convinced that the bereaved father had been the very reason Leonard’s one and only witness had disappeared before his original trial, which meant he’d obstructed justice.

More importantly, it was exactly the type of evidence — masterfully gained by Jessica when she cross-examined Mr. Forest the next day — that would prove Leonard’s case had not been handled properly. It was all the proof needed for Leonard Bailey to finally be a free man, as he should have been for the past twelve years.

Taking the P out of P.S.L. As wonderful of a character as he has been, though, SUITS is not about Leonard Bailey. This series is about a law firm; or to be more clear, it’s about the unlikely family that makes up the firm. Until recently, the firm’s name partner, Jessica Pearson, has been somewhat of a mystery. Viewers knew she was strong, independent, and not to be crossed. Her firm was her life, and losing was not an option. Aside from that, though, it was difficult to know who exactly Jessica Pearson was or what, if anything, she wanted out of life that didn’t involve the next big win.

Jessica Pearson came to life because of at least three things, though: falling in love and losing it because she couldn’t let go of her work, watching her firm nearly crumble to the ground because of Mike Ross’ trial, and representing Leonard Bailey.

As SUITS season 6 opened, we heard Jessica’s confession that she was tired of being seen as cold, even though it was exactly how she’d had to appear in order to avoid being seen as weak. Over the next nine episodes (including “P.S.L.”), we saw her acting as Rachel’s mentor, rather than just hearing about what a great mentor she’d been to Harvey. And as her work on Leonard Bailey’s case progressed, so, too, did the proof that Jessica Pearson was anything but uncaring. Instead, she managed to keep her feelings under enough control to get the job done; but somewhere along the way, she learned from Rachel that sometimes listening to one’s heart can produce the same kind of success as keeping everything bottled up.

Immediately before Leonard’s case went to trial, we learned via flashback that Jessica’s father had put his work before his family, to the point where her mother left him; and a young Jessica had to learn about it by overhearing one of their arguments. Later, when she made the choice to remain in court with Leonard, rather than go to Jim Reynolds in an attempt to save the firm, we learned even more about Jessica. Through another flashback, it was revealed that Jessica had originally gone into law to help people. She even warded off her father’s accusation that “lawyers are nothing but power hungry bottom feeders” by telling him that he didn’t know her at all if he thought she’s wind up like that.

Somewhere along the line, though, Jessica became the very thing she’d told her father she’d never be. And she realized it right before winning the most important case of her career — one that actually saved an innocent man’s life. So, after the trial, Jessica turned down Robert Zane’s offer of a merger. She told him it was because her name had been on top for too long for her to find herself back on the bottom, but in reality, Jessica Pearson was walking away.

When a triumphant Louis and Harvey returned to celebrate their brilliant recapturing of Jim Reynolds’ business, she broke up the victory party — and the firm itself — by telling her two partners that Pearson Specter Litt was no more. She was leaving, so the firm wasn’t hers anymore; it was theirs and theirs alone.

Louis lashed out at Jessica because he clearly couldn’t comprehend why she’d leave. And even after she’d explained her reasoning, which she should never have had to do, Louis wouldn’t listen. Even Harvey couldn’t make Louis see sense; but luckily for everyone involved, Donna overheard the whole conversation and came to save the day. She reminded Louis that everyone had vowed to put everything into saving the firm, but nobody — including him — had done that. She and Harvey had focused on Mike, Louis had put everything into finding love with Tara (gag), and Jessica had been busy saving Leonard’s life with Rachel.

See also: Everyone was busy following their hearts, rather than chasing down corporate success. That’s exactly what Jessica ultimately decided to do by leaving. As long as she stayed mixed up in everything, she’d never be able to listen to her heart, much less follow it. She’d also never be able to be the kind of person she’d originally set out to be: someone who cared enough to help others.

And so it was that Pearson, Specter, and Litt shared one last toast before everyone went their separate ways. Jessica found her happy ending with Jeff — but only after explaining to him that she was leaving her firm for herself, not for him. Louis ran off to promise Tara that he would be there for her and her baby, sealing the deal with a proposal (why). And Harvey…Well. Harvey spent some time with his scotch, his coveted balls, a view of the city, and Donna.

Additional thoughts.

  • Harvey and Donna’s closing scene was beautifully subtle, yet packed with so much subtext and so much hope for the future. How many times has Harvey insisted on going it alone? This time, when Donna asked if that was what he wanted, he delivered that sexy half smile and a simple “no.” So, there was already massive character growth, which is always great to see. Then, there was the imagery of Donna reaching out and clasping Harvey’s hand before the episode closed on the two of them, looking out over the darkened city…together. If that doesn’t deliver a powerful message, I don’t know what does. We didn’t close this episode — or this half-season — of SUITS out with Harvey Specter stoically drinking his scotch and keeping watch on his own. Hopefully, that will never be a thing that has to happen again.
  • Take the P out of P.S.L., and you get spice latte. Wait, no. You get Specter Litt. Harvey’s going to be the top name on the door now. With everything that’s happened to his reputation because of Mike — because Harvey always has to face consequences, even if Mike never does — that should cause some interesting conflicts.
  • “Everyone left that firm because of me. I’m not going to do that to you again.” Has Mike Ross finally managed to learn his lesson, even in spite of all the entitled demands he made from within Danbury’s walls?
  • Gina Torres is disgustingly talented, and I wish Jessica’s journey had allowed for more of the emotional awesomeness that she delivered in this mid-season finale to have been more of a common occurrence. But at least it was there when it counted.
  • “She was my mentor. But yeah, I’m going to be okay.” What was implied: “because I have you.”
  • “I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing this for me.” Harvey, when he and Mike disagreed over the job offer.
  • “I’m not doing this just for you. I’m doing this for me.” Jessica, when she told Jeff she was leaving her firm. There’s nothing I love more than seeing the way SUITS takes two seemingly different situations and proves that they can actually be quite similar, if only you care to look.
  • You always know something important is going to happen when SUITS tosses a flashback out there. Was Jessica’s decision telegraphed a little bit too strongly, between the reappearance of Jeff Malone earlier this season and then the flashbacks in “P.S.L.?” Probably. Does it matter? No. Jessica’s exit still packed an emotional punch because of the character’s importance to the series as a whole, the story behind her departure, and some stellar performances from the main cast (Gina Torres’ chief among them).
  • “Listen: Somewhere along the way, I forgot why I became a lawyer in the first place, and it wasn’t just to fight for money and power. It was to fight for something more.” Jessica Pearson, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like she understood Mike Ross’ bleeding heart far better than she ever let on.
  • “No one’s saying you have to give up the firm, Louis. You just have to let me go.” Jessica’s entire farewell scene was gut-wrenching, but this line was probably the most emotional of them all. It felt like a character death, rather than a leader walking away. Maybe that was the point.
  • Rachel was brilliant in court. My greatest wish going forward (aside from, perhaps, one involving Harvey’s lack of desire to be alone) is that she’ll continue to be the strong woman she became during the first half of SUITS’ sixth season. I’m also hoping she’ll learn from Jessica’s mistake and become the kind of lawyer she wants to be, not the power hungry kind that it was too easy for her mentor to slip into.

Stay tuned for news on the SUITS winter premiere on USA Network.

 

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  • John

    I am going to miss both Jessica and Torres. I was shocked (I didn’t have any spoilers) when it dawned on me she was leaving. I am glad it was the actresses choice.

    But as interesting and important a character that Jessica is, I think painting her as a reborn saint is a stretch. Although we haven’t gotten a lot of history for her, there was (at least) one episode where we did. This describes her actions in law school, which wouldn’t have been that long after last night’s flashback scenes with her father. She was competing for an internship or some other law school thing, and her main competitor was another female law student. Jessica got what she wanted by getting the other student passed out drunk and then stripped her and left her in the classroom to be found passed out by the professor who would make the selection and her classmates.

    As for the Louis love story, it is literally not credible. The woman, name escapes me, must be mentally disturbed.

    I do hope they follow through on Donna and Harvey. They have started it a couple times and always dropped it.

    If Mike truly decides there is more to life than his massive sense of entitlement, that will be show shattering. I haven’t seen any evidence it will happen.

    Looking forward to more reviews when the show resumes.