Welcome to EW’s Suits season 5 recaps. The always fashionable USA procedural kicked off its fifth season with an interesting episode that picks up where last season’s finale left off, with Donna announcing that she was leaving Harvey as his secretary. “Denial” is mainly concerned with how Harvey is processing Donna’s decision, and it does a good job of humanizing him. Although it’s a fairly heavy hour emotionally, the show finds much levity in its patented Harvey-Mike pop culture banter and other moments.
(Sidebar: Forewarning, there will be little discussion of the particulars of the case of the week because they aren’t particularly as important as the character work and interpersonal drama done in the episode, which is the standard for Suits.)
Donna’s departure hangs over the entire show in the opening few scenes of the premiere. The Pearson Specter Litt offices look darker, and almost everyone is dressed in black like they’re in mourning. As the episode unfolds and we get adjusted to the new status quo, things start to lighten up.
Actually, Harvey’s journey through this episode does feel like he’s moving through most of the five stages of grief. No surprise, Harvey isn’t handling Donna leaving well. It’s so bad that he’s started seeing a therapist because he’s suffering from insomnia and wants a prescription to help. Sitting on her couch with bloodshot eyes and pale skin, Harvey looks awful (shout-out to the make-up team). He’s convinced his problems will go away once Donna returns. But, like most of the women on Suits, she’s not easily fooled and knows he isn’t telling her the entire truth. So, we flash back to six weeks earlier to see what’s been going on.
When Donna hands in her two weeks’ notice, Harvey—confident that she’ll be back and hurt that she even thought about leaving—tells her to not even bother staying to find her replacement and to just clear out her desk now. Donna rightfully points out that this isn’t how adults who care about each other move on, to which Harvey responds, “Two adults who care about each other don’t move on along.”
The next time we see Harvey, he’s washing his face in the bathroom sink. Or, so we think. His therapist, who read Harvey from the moment he walked in, deduced that he was actually washing his mouth out after having vomited because he’s been suffering from panic attacks. Yes, the great Harvey Specter is succumbing to something as mundane and common as panic attacks. They stem from fear that he can’t succeed without Donna by his side.
Looking for a distraction, Harvey agrees to help a man save his trucking company from bankruptcy. But, this still doesn’t soften his mood and he’s colder than usual when Mike tells him about his and Rachel’s engagement. To help him with the transition, Rachel and Mike decide to go easy on him, and Rachel even starts doing Donna’s job.
Unfortunately, there’s a screw-up in the case, which sends Harvey on a rampage. Wanting to save Rachel from being unnecessarily chewed out, Mike takes off the kid gloves and tells Harvey that he needs to swallow his pride and ask Donna for help. Which he does, but Donna refuses because she knows that it’s a slippery slope. First she’s helping him on tiny things, but eventually she’ll right back outside his office. Donna is trying to make it clear that this—her and Louis—is the new normal.
His conversation with Donna leads to another vomit-inducing panic attack, which convinces him that he needs to get help. And, that was the first night he visited his therapist claiming to have problem sleeping in order to procure anti-anxiety medicine.
Realizing how much he’s suffering, Jessica pays Harvey a visit and offers to undo Donna’s move. But, Harvey declines because he’s still convinced that she’ll come back. Some of the strongest Suits scenes are the ones between Donna and Harvey because the characters play so well off of each other.
Back in the present, his therapist, noting that Jessica sounds like a “hell of a woman,” says that she won’t write Harvey another prescription for medicine. However, she will give him a sample packet with enough for the week to insure that he’ll come back. The pills will only do so much. The key to overcoming the anxiety attacks is to accept that Donna’s leaving.
NEXT: Donna and Louis’ first six weeks