'Suits' postmortem: Inside Harvey and Donna's 'Other Time'

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Image Credit: Ian Watson/USA Network

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Suits, which flashed back 10 years to “the other time,” stop reading now. Creator Aaron Korsh and Sarah Rafferty (Donna) phoned EW separately to break down the episode fans have been waiting for…

What we learned: Ten years ago in the DA’s office, Harvey (Gabriel Macht) was a flirt and wanted to start a celebratory tradition with Donna that involved an act with whipped cream that a gentleman would not dare speak. (So he drew her a picture.) She informed him she doesn’t sleep with coworkers. A misfiled piece of evidence was brought to Harvey’s attention, and when he took it to DA Cameron Dennis (Gary Cole), he told him to rebury it. Harvey considered doing it this one time, but Donna talked him out of it, knowing that Dennis would ask Harvey to do it again after having found other cases he’d fudged. Harvey ultimately resigned, and that’s when he showed up at Donna’s door because her rule no longer applied.  She told him she’d quit, too, and Harvey said he couldn’t get her another job. Not a problem: Donna already had multiple offers. She also had a can of whipped cream in her hand. He stepped inside.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When was it decided they actually slept together during the other time? I’m guessing most fans weren’t expecting that.
Sarah Rafferty: I had thought a lot about what this energy was between Donna and Harvey, and I stick to it that in the present, in the whole time we’ve known Donna, Donna has not been pining for Harvey in any way. That’s what she believes. That’s what she tells herself. That’s what her experience is. But I think subconsciously, people are complicated. When it came up in season 2, when she referred to “the other time,” we definitely had a discussion about what that meant. It wasn’t decided that they had necessarily done that, but that there had been some romantic energy in their past.

Aaron Korsh: What’s funny is, some people always anticipated it, some people didn’t. I will say it was not my idea. In my mind, the other time referred to maybe they started to fool around and derailed it in the middle because their heads got the better of their desires. But the writers’ room collectively came up with that idea, and when they pitched it to me, I was like, Whoa. I thought it was awesome. I’m like, “Let’s do it.” We just went for it.

The door closed as Harvey leaned in, so we didn’t really even see them kiss. Was more filmed?
Rafferty: [Laughs] No, we did not film anymore. No more was filmed.

I love that this makes you giggle. Is that because you and Gabriel are such good friends in real life?
Rafferty: [Still laughing] Yes. We close the door and we start laughing hysterically — that’s what’s happening on the other side. I think we gave each other the goofiest hug and fell down on the floor. I mean, not exactly that. We probably punched each other. I kneed him in the balls, and he cried. No. [Still laughing]

That would’ve been great for the gag reel!
Rafferty: We should have had some B-roll going getting that other angle. Somebody should have been on their iPhone getting the other side.

Was it purposeful not to show a kiss? It gives fans something to still look forward to, should it ever happen in present day.
Korsh: That is a good question. The truth is, I don’t remember our rationale, but that sounds like a good reason. [Laughs] I think we just thought we weren’t going to dwell on that story point, and actually, maybe it was a subconscious thing, because I do think if it were to ever happen in present day, it would make it more impactful. Though I’m not gonna sit here and guarantee that it will ever happen in the present day.

Harvey went to see Jessica and rejoined her at the law firm, which she and Daniel Hardman had just taken over. He insisted upon having his own assistant, and Jessica said that person’s salary would have to come out of his own pocket. Harvey then met Donna at a diner and told her that he didn’t want to lose her — professionally. He didn’t want to know what kind of lawyer he’d be without her. She agreed to work with him, on the condition they never speak of “the other time” and that it never happen again.

What was Donna thinking when Harvey said he didn’t want to lose her? Was she thinking he meant personally?
Rafferty: It’s like the next day or something — it’s too soon after that event for her to be expecting him to say, “I’m in love with you” or “I want to marry you.” They were having fun. It’s light.

Korsh: I think they were just two young people who were flirting with each other and liked each other, and Donna was like, “I’m not gonna sleep with someone I work with and certainly not my boss.” And then they find themselves in the situation where they’re no longer working together, and they’re like, “let’s just do this.” I think Donna, to a small degree, was affected by that night a little bit more than Harvey was. It made her a little more willing to at least entertain the notion of a relationship with Harvey.

That scene had to accomplish so much in that we had to believe that Harvey really didn’t know he was going to offer her a job when he slept with her and that they really could put it out of their minds and continue a professional relationship.
Korsh: It’s after he slept with her that he realized holy s—, I don’t want to take another job at another firm without her. She’s my conscience, she’s my everything professionally. And that’s when he has the conversation with Jessica. When he goes to the diner, to me, he kinda did a calculation of, s—, I shouldn’t have slept with her, because I violated her code, but I didn’t know I was gonna have this change of heart. He’s going in there like, “I’m so sorry that we slept together because I can’t lose you professionally, and I messed up.” To me, her feelings are a little bit more confused because partially, she’s like, “You shouldn’t have slept with me if you knew you were gonna do this,” and she needs assurance that he didn’t. And also, I think, there’s a little bit in there of like, “Why don’t you want me in a different way” and not just this. She gets over that quickly and realizes this is what their relationship is destined to be, and she does want to work with him, and she does feel a connection with him, and she chooses to move on.

Rafferty: I thought that scene was really beautiful because in its own way, he’s proposing something to her about their future. It had all that in it: How they were gonna move forward through their lives, and she sets a very clear boundary. I think Donna has a really strong, really smart reason for not letting that boundary be crossed in her personal and professional life. I think she knows that it can mess everything up, both ways — whether it’s the professional will mess up the personal or the personal will mess up the professional. In the same way we know Harvey’s mother cheating on his father has really affected Harvey’s level of trust for the women in his life, I was thinking why is this rule so important to Donna? There must be a reason in her past, before Harvey. [Believing they can move on] is everything. Donna’s really human, she just needs to be needed. We all want to feel connected and important and valued and that we’re contributing. I love that she was kind of take it or leave it about that with him. Either you’re gonna go this way, or you’re gonna go that way, and I’m only sticking around if you’re going that way, and I’m fine either way because I’ve got three other offers, and I’ve got an incredible sense of self-esteem and I’m not gonna suffer fools. And she’s a straight shooter. The writers did a beautiful job setting up why they are the way they are with each other, why they have such a symbiotic relationship.

Donna still has no idea that her salary came out of his pocket?
Korsh: Correct. She has no idea. And over the years, her salary stopped coming out of his pocket.

Harvey grabbed a can opener from a waitress and Donna came up with a ritual to replace the whipped cream — which we still haven’t seen. Was it decided off-camera what it was?
Rafferty: The exact ritual that occurs with the can opener we haven’t discussed. We don’t know what it is. It’s kinda just more fun not knowing what it is. I’ve personally made up something stupid up in my head, so that it’s specific to me. But life imitating art, it’s so stupid that I won’t share it just like Harvey and Donna’s ritual is so stupid they won’t share it.

In present day, Harvey showed up at that same diner and found Donna drinking coffee. He finally admitted that it bothers him that she is with Stephen. He was interrupted when he continued on to say that doesn’t mean that…

What was Harvey going to say?
Korsh: We talked about that scene a lot. What was interesting was that it basically means that he has feelings regarding Donna. It doesn’t mean that he wants a relationship with Donna. It might mean that deep down inside, it might not. I would say probably not at this point and maybe someday, maybe not. But just because you don’t want a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you want them having a relationship with someone else. And I think he’s admitting to her that he has feelings surrounding her and that it does bother him. It’s not like she’s dying for him to have that, but I think she knows that he does and feels satisfied that he’s willing to admit that.

Rafferty: It’s just like, “Good, can we just get over the bulls— and say it like it is.” She also knows that it’s a big step for Harvey as a person to admit any vulnerability. That’s a step for him that she wants him to take as his friend because she wants him to move on and have a relationship with woman. She knows that he needs to open up, and be more present, and grow emotionally, and to have the courage to accept all that. I think the reason she’s teary when she says, “Because I have to live my life” is because what she wants from her life may be coming up for her in that moment, and she’s looking at her friend and just being really honest. Stephen brought up in last week’s episode that he’s feeling more [toward Donna], and because he brought that up, she realized that she was open to that idea of potentially taking their relationship to the next level.

Moving on to Mike: His flashback revealed that he lost $1,000 of Trevor’s drug money to cheating frat boys at a party. Trevor suggested Mike let him sell the answers to a test for a grand, he did it, and they paid off Omar, the Wire-obsessed dealer. But Trevor got nabbed for selling the exam. Mike explained to Grammy that Trevor wouldn’t turn on him to save himself from being expelled, but Mike also said that he felt guilty and thought the college couldn’t hurt him because Harvard had already accepted him as an undergrad transfer. Mike confessed, the school official revealed that the test was sold to his daughter and that his last act before he was fired was going to be expelling Mike and phoning Harvard, which rescinded its offer.

The return of Trevor…
Korsh: Trevor is not a beloved character for the fans of Suits, and the more we go into the past, the more you understand why Mike put up with Trevor’s nonsense in the first place. Grammy talks about how they’ve known each other since they were little kids, and how Trevor cried [when Mike's parents died until Trevor's parents at least offered to let Mike move in with them], and how he may not be the same kid but that kid is in there — which is nice. I also liked that Mike and Trevor will each stand up for each other. Like Mike will go over to Omar’s with Trevor, and when Mike is holding weed on the way out, Trevor says quietly, “If they catch us, that’s mine.” Trevor has a chance to throw Mike under the bus with the test thing and does not do it. Trevor makes two decisions that he is willing to sacrifice his own good fortune for Mike in this episode. In addition to just showing them having a fun, good time with each other, we just wanted to see that side more.

In present day, when it looked as though Harvey would win the Ava Hessington case, he told Jessica about his deal with Darby to take over the firm after that victory — and also that he no longer wants to do that. Remembering how he chose her over Cameron Dennis before made him want to work with her again.

Can Jessica forgive Harvey?
Korsh: That obviously is gonna have a ripple effect with Harvey and Jessica, and Jessica and Darby, and Harvey and Darby. It will take a little bit for them to work through it, as it always does. At the beginning of the year, we weren’t sure where we were gonna go — how this attempted coup was gonna end. When Jessica put his name on the door, it felt to me like I don’t want him to continue to pursue this. That kinda happened in the course of writing the flashback episode. I was like, “I don’t want him to keep going after her!”

Cameron Dennis dropped the bomb that Stephen led him to the witness that he was originally bluffing about having had. Stephen wasn’t trying to screw Harvey, right?
Korsh: We answer very quickly what happened in the next episode. But the truth of the matter is, Stephen isn’t trying to tank the case. The idea is Harvey knows Cameron so well that Harvey knows Cameron is bluffing about having a witness, and all we have to do is leave well enough alone and we’ll win. Stephen doesn’t know that. So Stephen really thinks Cameron might have him, and he’s trying to win the case.

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