Television Review – Suits 9.07 “Scenic Route” takes us on a reflective trip in to the past

Personally, I was grateful for last week’s hiatus from this final season of Suits. With so few episodes to go, I’m happy for it to last as long as possible, but as this week’s episode was one I had been looking forward to for some time now, I was also keen to see what an episode promising to delve in to the emotional psyches of at least two of the characters would deliver.  

Aptly entitled “Scenic Route” the episode clearly had a central focus, which was Samantha’s roadtrip with Harvey to go and see her father, but as with every episode of Suits, there were also a couple of sub-plots ticking away back in NYC while they were on the road. Overall, I enjoyed 9.07, finding that each of the story strands moved the narratives on for a number of our favourite characters, which with so little time in this world left, was good to see. I did however have a few niggles about some dialogue and story choices and would also say, that although this was an emotional episode, I’d expected it to be more emotional than it turned out to be, but perhaps that’s a result of my expectations being raised in advance of the episode airing.

Anyway, time to break it down a little more.

Samantha finding some closure on her painful past was lovely to see

We may have only known Samantha Wheeler for a season and a half, but I’ve very much enjoyed her presence within the firm and have been interested to gain more of an insight in to her past over the episodes. We’ve learnt about her difficult childhood and the foster mother, Judy, who finally helped her start her life again, but it was always clear she’d suffered as a child and 9.07 gave us a glimpse in to that, seeing the foster parent who hit her and who she refers to when talking to Robert Zane after her mugging last season.

Harvey has previously commented that they were similar characters and here we see Samantha struggling to make peace with the past and move forward in much the same way as we watched Harvey grapple with the same emotional burdens over the years and therefore it made perfect sense for it to be Harvey, now freed from such pain in his own life, to go with her for support.  More on the effect 9.07 had on his story narrative shortly, but when it comes to Samanatha, I was so pleased to see it had a positive outcome. This is Suits after all, but having her father not reject her, or have even abandoned her in the first place was the ideal conclusion and on knowing her mother didn’t either, hopefully Samantha can now move forward with her life without the weight of the rejection of her parents on her shoulders. 

With the focus being on her character this week, Katherine Heigl did a great job of conveying Samantha’s fear of what she’d discover, while also allowing us to see her fun side, as her and Harvey prank Louis (more on that later). Also, top marks to the young actress playing Samantha,  who I thought did a great job of realistically portraying a younger version of Heigl.  My one grumble with this plot line – did she have to have an affair with a married family man? I totally understand the fact none of us are perfect and sometimes we do things in life we’re not proud of, but with her past, it did surprise me that she’d even consider such a fling, although it does add a new dimension to her previous encounters with Eric Kaldor, which will prove interesting on my next rewatch.

It wasn’t just an emotional episode for Samantha, as Harvey reflects on his most important relationships along the way too!

I feel as though every week I talk about Harvey Specter’s remarkable character development, but it continues to be a strong element of this last season (not to mention the series as a whole) and 9.07 further added to his 9 season arc. It may have been a trip for Samantha but, personally, I found the effect it had on Harvey and the insights we see in to his thoughts, the most exciting aspect of this plot line and which I’d been most excited about leading up to Scenic Route.

Take a minute to let it sink in, that the emotionally closed off man from season one, who pretended not to care and who kept most people at a distance, while letting the pain of his past damage his adult life, willingly volunteered to accompany a colleague on a personal trip, during which the subject of parents and childhoods was unavoidable; a trip which also required him to be the suportive voice, encouraging Samantha to forgive the past and let go of her anger. Not only that, but he enjoyed it, finding it a positive opportunity to move past his own recent run-in with Samantha too, while treating viewers to some wonderful insights in to just how he feels about Donna.

I loved all of these scenes with Harvey this week, from his call with Donna, in which they were able to joke together, before freely saying that they missed each other (he loved speaking to her so much, he forgot what he was supposed to be doing, which was just hilarious!), to him admitting to Samantha that on some level he’d always wanted to be with Donna, but couldn’t access it. Now that’s what I call validation for those of us who’ve thought this for years! My only grumble in this story element was that I wanted more of it! I’d have happily seen his conversation with Samantha delve a little deeper in to all of this material, but I suppose there isn’t ever time for everything.

The episode also threw in another satisfying strand for Harvey, which was him coming to see that his father wasn’t perfect, that he’d sometimes let him down as a parent and that his mother had clearly tried her best to protect him from such disappointments. Seeing Harvey be so well developed emotionally now, that he can come to these realisations without Donna having to point them out, is a testament to the years of writing and Gabriel Macht’s ever-impressive performance, culminating in my favourite scene of the episode, when Harvey calls his mother to say sorry and to tell her he loves her and feel that love and acceptance from her in return. For me, this was the most emotional scene of 9.07 and I loved every second of it, as it truly felt like the final piece of the puzzle for Harvey letting go of all of that pain. Also, this was a lovely callback to last week, where he discovered Faye had done exactly this for her own child. Yet again, Suits emphasises one of the show’s founding storylines – family. 

…….There was another key aspect of 9.07 that involved Harvey, but that deserves its very own section…!

As Donna & Harvey’s relationship continues to grow, we saw the return of a very important canvass!

The iconic duck painting is back folks! I admit, I’d missed seeing it hanging on Harvey’s wall. It was always such a strange addition to Mr Cool’s world, until it’s importance was laid out for us, only for it to be so cruelly taken from him in 6.02. Yes, it was replaced by the photograph of his mother painting it, which had powerful significance all of its own, marking the start of Harvey’s new relationship with his mother, but I’d always hoped the painting would come back home and who better to get it back than Donna! The fact that the writers were able to weave Alex in, thanks to his former client’s art world connection and Katrina with her cultural contacts, again highlights the attention to detail the Suits writers include in their stories and it’s these touches which add to the enjoyment of watching the show for loyal fans.

There’d been plenty of discussion online about whether it could be a new painting, but for me it had to be this one for it to make sense and I was relieved to hear Donna confirm that Harvey has the real version, not the copy. We don’t need to know how she swapped them, she’s Donna!

This storyline also gave me scenes with two of my favourite pairings in the series – Darvey (obviously!), but also Harvey and his mother.

Over season nine so far, I’ve felt Harvey has been the more emotionally open one out of the Darvey pair and I’d been keen to see Donna show a little more emotion and vulnerability towards him, so having her tell him she loved him, not once but twice this week was lovely. Hearing them acknowledge to others and each other in 9.07 that they missed the other was also a sweet addition, further highlighting just how far they’ve come at communicating how they feel and having Donna retrieve such a special item for Harvey was also a beautiful way of her showing him just how much she loves him. As for his reaction? I loved him calling her perfect and that he seemed somewhat overcome by his emotions (which Macht always delivers so damn well) and as I’ve already said, I liked that he wanted to call his mother.

However, I was disappointed that, having missed each other and then seeing this incredible gift and hearing the woman he loves say she loved him, Harvey didn’t even look at Donna. It seemed a bit odd to me. No loving smile? No quick kiss before he made that call? This wasn’t my only Darvey grumble this week either, as I personally didn’t love the opening scene. The I love yous were both sweet, but again, no kiss? Also, what was that “most women wouldn’t like their men doing this” dialogue?! It felt very out of character for Donna and Harvey. Why would she be jealous of Samantha? Why would he feel the need to say it and “their men”?! Maybe Harvey likes the idea of Donna being possessive, but for me it was just a bit cringeworthy.

……..speaking of cringeworthy…….

Louis Litt is…………..Harvey Specter????!!

Maybe the writers understand how much we’ll all miss the quirkiness that is Louis Litt and that’s why this season seems to have taken him to another level when it comes to bonkers behaviour. We’ve had the blindness to Darvey (which I can accept seeing as they’d messed about so long, it may have seemed impossible to him that they’d ever sort themselves out!), the mankini, the Cinderella role play and now we’ve had Louis Litt donning a wig and acting like Harvey.

Was it fun? A bit, but it also felt a step too far into fantasy land for me. I kept expecting him to be dreaming and wake up (similar to the bonkers court scene earlier this season), especially during that surreal lunch scene. I’ve always loved the complexity of Louis’s character, who has been nasty, vindictive, caring, vulnerable and so very quirky, all of which Rick Hoffman has nailed over the years, but he’s never felt like a joke and this storyline was taking him down that path. It was also a little strange to see how Louis supposedly sees Harvey in this episode, as he portrays him as an arrogant, rude, greedy person during that lunch scene. Also, referring to Rachel as Mike’s woman?! No Louis. None of this is Harvey and hasn’t ever really been Harvey. The Louis of a few seasons ago, I can buy viewing his friend this way, but season 9 Louis? After all they’ve been through? Is this really how he still views Harvey, or thinks the world views Harvey? I wasn’t convinced.

Of course, I also understand that the writers wanted a plot line this week which lightened the mood, to balance against all the emotional content and I didn’t dislike all of Louis’s storyline in 9.07. Donna’s reaction to the wig was a classic, as was Louis’s comment about how Harvey can eat so much and still be so thin while he needed a nap. I also loved seeing Harvey and Samantha pranking him over the phone, especially as this allowed us to see Harvey practically crying with laughter! Plus, it was lovely to see Louis and Harold reunited, when their dynamic was such a big part of earlier years.

It also seems clear that this had a bigger purpose for Louis’s narrative as, it seems, he finally realised that he doesn’t need to be Harvey (or what he thinks being Harvey means) and is comfortable and happy with who he is. I hope the Louis we see for the rest of the season is one people can take seriously. It’s what he deserves.

A few final observations

This week there were also a few moments that I wanted to comment on, but which didn’t fit in to any of the story narratives.

  1. Someone please give Harvey a burger! The man has been desperate for them for nearly two seasons now!
  2. Someone (I’m looking at you Donna) take Harvey on a proper vacation. If he thinks this 2 day road trip is so much fun, the man clearly needs to take more time out!
  3. The hilarity of the Suits timeline continues – this week with Louis suggesting in the last six months Zane has been disbarred, Faye arrived and he lost his title. Umm, 9.01 and 9.02 followed straight on from 8.16 and in 9.05, they said it had been a month since Harvey gave Samantha his client in 9.02. Then 9.06 followed straight on, as did this one, so six weeks yes, six months? Nope!
  4. I loved the Gandalf references, especially Katrina thinking he’s connected to sports!
  5. Where was Faye when Louis was strutting around the office in that wig?! Did she have the day off?!
  6. Oh and during that lunch scene with Louis, did anyone else immediately think of Chris Pratt on hearing the song used in Guardians of the Galaxy?!

Looking ahead!

Next week is called “A Prisoner’s Dilemma” and from the promo we know that Malik is back, arresting Harvey for conspiring with a federal prosector. Is the prisoner Harvey, or could it be someone like Forstman, trying to get a deal for release by ratting out Harvey? We also know Sean Cahill is back this season and I assume he’s the person Harvey is accused of colluding with, which means this could all track back to their dealings surrounding Mike’s release in season 6. I bet Malik would love to nail them both for that, but why is Harvey punching Cahill in the face in the promo released last week? Has he turned on Harvey?

The episode also looks to see Donna going up against Malik, which is going to be a charged scene after he accused her of sleeping with Harvey to get to COO and now they are together, I bet Malik has something to say about that! I also don’t think it’ll be Faye who’s turned on Harvey, that feels too obvious, unless she fires him immediately, as she did with Samantha.

From the promo photos for 9.08, we also know that Louis’s sister Esther is back as well, which is interesting, after her coming up in conversation between Harvey and Samantha this week. The synopsis says she has a problem only Louis can help with. Is it business, or personal? I’m guessing the promo scene of Louis asking Samantha for help links to this plot line and probably also Katrina wanting to help too, seeing she’s always there to support Louis. I guess we’ll find out next week!

Suits season 9 continues next week with 9.08 “A Prisoner’s Dilemma” which airs on Wednesday on USA Network in the US and Canada and will be available in the UK on Netflix on Friday. You can watch the promo here: https://youtu.be/w78Fc3ibLvs

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