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Suits - Pecking Order- Review: "Friendly Howdy-Do"

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"Pecking Order" scrambles the players, as Suits settles into its new groove. Samantha Wheeler tries to make a second first impression, and Litt finds himself without a seat at the table. This episode was masterminded by writer Genevieve Sparling and director Michael Smith.

When I type Chicken into Google, the fourth suggestion it makes is Chicken run panic, a reference to a memorable scene from one of the greatest movies of my time. By the end of "Pecking Order", there's a delightful sort of panic brewing at the newly named Zane Specter Litt firm. Harvey promised Alex he would become a named partner next. Out of necessity, due to the merge, this promise has already been broken once. Robert just gave his word to Samantha she'll get that promotion next. Not only did Robert not consult Harvey before agreeing to put Samantha forward, but also Harvey didn't tell Robert about his promise to Alex. That's already a dilemma and a half. There is more. Putting them both up would dilute the value of the promotion, as Donna points out to Harvey. Furthermore, a lovely timepiece might not pacify Litt forever. He might have his own candidate, even though Katrina's current goal is senior partner only. In any case, this episode was all about measuring up the other birds in the barnyard. Samantha, especially, works on carving out her space.

"You handle your clients, and I'll handle mine."

Harvey ceded managing partner to Zane. At this point, what that looks like to Harvey is that he'll be flying the coop, free to operate as he pleases. Robert sees things differently. When Harvey takes on an old client of Mike's, Robert orders Samantha to make sure it turns out in the firm's favor. This translates into Samantha popping open a loaded briefcase in the middle of Harvey's discussion with the man suspected of fraud. It's so delightful and shady, and Gabriel Macht delivers the perfect amount of aghast amusement.

This story line works on another level, because Harvey is acting as Mike would in this situation. He wants to protect Max, the innocent party in this situation. It's a nice little way to invoke Mike's spirit. Samantha wants to make sure Zane Specter Litt retains the client, by not doing anything that could reveal Max's partner Nick committed fraud when the company was started. So when Harvey finds out Max is stepping down, he assumes Samantha blackmailed him. She did not. Samantha tells Harvey the truth after Robert encourages her to make peace. Harvey insists that Robert tell him to his face next time there's an issue. Later, Harvey admits he's beginning to see Samantha's value, after she helps him wrap up the case. This was basically what happened in the first episode of the season, so my one wish is that we see collaboration sooner between Harvey and Samantha next week.

"Is it because I didn't say please?"

One person everyone should want in their corner is Donna, but Samantha doesn't realize that. She presents her expense budget for approval. It is much higher than anyone else's. Samantha says it's not that high, compared to her old firm. Donna, however, has done her research and knows that is not true. 
"It's what I had before," Samantha insists, saying if Donna wants specifics she can try to get them from Robert, which gets her half the budget she asked for. There is the faintest undertone to this scene that Donna is predisposed against Samantha, for all her talk of not getting off on the wrong foot. Picking up on that, Samantha goes over Donna to Robert for the additional funds. Donna's feathers sufficiently ruffled, a secret meeting is called in the ladies' room. She asks Gretchen's help to uncover who Samantha is. When word reaches Samantha, she confronts Donna about going behind her back. Donna makes it plain that Samantha has to prove herself by having the firm's back, which means having Harvey's back. These interactions Samantha views as being shown the pecking order of the firm, something Donna denies but is clearly the case. 
Each of these scenes between Donna and Samantha did much to humanize the latter. When she first greets Donna in her office, Samantha is slightly nervous, perhaps even excited for this connection. The moment Donna challenges her, though, the temperature drops, and Samantha puts up Robert to justify her requests. There is real disappointment mingled with her frustration when Samantha later challenges Donna about "running to Harvey". Like Alex said, not here to make friends, but that doesn't mean she wants enemies.

"The one I'm going after."

Alex, taking Litt's advice, asks Robert what he can do to prove himself. Rustling up a big, juicy worm that's what. It won't suffice for Alex to bring in just any new client. He goes after one that used to be Samantha Wheeler's: Starboard Airlines.

The CEO Gavin Andrews is willing to consider the idea. First, though, he wants Alex to do something off the books for him. Negotiate the return of a Renoir painting from Andrews's soon-to-be ex-wife. One ballet diss and promise of a French villa later, Alex appears to have this in the bag. Say it with me. 
"Things are not always as they appear." 
Samantha pays him a visit, warning that someone with Alex's past (involved in a shady business cover up) should want to be more careful about picking up someone like Andrews. Alex is irritated that she's aware of his history, reacting negatively. Samantha decides to not give more details. Her point that he should have done more research is a valid one though. It doesn't feel like there is a true competition between these two, however, as Samantha thinks much farther ahead. Alex is not sitting with the grownups yet.

"True power is not pretending to be who you are not. It's admitting the truth of who you are."

Speaking of mealtime, Litt wakes up to a power breakfast, courtesy of Sheila. A power breakfast fit for a king. Like a proud lioness, Sheila (Rachael Harris dynamite as always) informs Litt that this new merger is his moment to take control of the firm, as managing partner. She expects no less. 

Pumped up, Litt walks into work to be informed by Harvey that Robert is now managing partner, so if he can just sign here and here, this little piece of business can be swept into the filing cabinet. There are no poultry metaphors to express how wrong this is. Just because "Litt always comes last" on the letterhead doesn't mean he should be excluded from making big decisions that affect the future of the firm. He's a named partner too. Litt visits Sheila later, but is unable to tell her the truth or make love! He quickly visits Dr. Lipschitz the following day to process both this entire ordeal. Keeping the truth from Sheila for "two to three years" is one option. ("I can't lose her again.") Naturally, Lipschitz encourages Litt to be truthful about not wanting to be managing partner.

"Three names on that wall."

A very funny, yet also lovely, scene follows. Sheila cannot believe that Litt doesn't want managing partner, so she visits Lipschitz, as a lady whose "brother" had his "confidence undermined by some crackpot". He realizes almost immediately that this is THE Sheila. Lipschitz notes that it's interesting that she sees him as the one responsible for Litt's current state, when it's her. He says Litt knows her better than she knows herself, calling her out for viewing Litt as being afraid.
"People are not set in stone, and I suspect something has replaced managing partner as Louis's heart's desire." There's a fleeting bit of apprehension in Sheila's face, as her first thought is he means a baby. But, no, it's love. Lipschitz says that Louis would do anything to not lose her.

"He will respect us for being dirty."

With that, Sheila visits Litt to apologize and to be honest with him. It's fine that he doesn't want to be managing partner, but she's upset that Harvey and Robert didn't even hear him out. Litt agrees, saying he deserves the common courtesy to be treated as an equal. He interrupts Robert and Harvey, informing them that leaving him out of the conversation is a big hell no. Robert asks if that means he wants managing partner.
"NO, ROBBIE, but you wouldn't know that because you never asked! I will not be the third wheel just because my name comes last."

There's a reason Rick Hoffman should always be playing Litt putting people in their places. It is satisfying. The little eye roll he gives when Litt exits the room after verbally socking Harvey and Robert in the noses is perfection. Sheila definitely clocked that power move. She's ready to decorate a nest box. Big time ready.

"When I said you're the perfect man, Louis, I meant it.
And I want to make the perfect baby with you."

Closing Arguments

A breakthrough for Louis and Sheila, a frigid start to Donna and Samantha's relationship, a risky move from Alex, elevator talks and powder room talks....this episode had it all. But there was one more thing: Katrina.

Katrina has two scenes in this episode. In one she literally sits in the shadows. The first time Alex comes to her to ask which of Robert's previous clients he'd be happiest to get back. She points him to Starboard Airlines but tells him not to go after it because it was Samantha's. I wonder if that was a little bit of reverse psychology, in retrospect, after her second scene in the episode. Donna meets Gretchen in the file room to get the scoop on Samantha. And, as the only person who previously worked with her, Katrina was invited. She tells Donna that Samantha is "as good as they say", somebody you want in your corner. Whether she's in their corner or not depends on if Zane and Harvey are in the same corner.

I just found it interesting that the information Katrina delivered in both scenes could possibly be a little bit detrimental to Alex and Samantha. Perhaps my mind is too devious. Perhaps not.

The conclusion to Harvey's case was Samantha bringing him a solution to keep Nick accountable, handing back control of the case. He complimented her good work. 
              "I just want to be part of the team," she told him. Iron sharpens iron, and Samantha is definitely enhancing an already formidable lineup of power players. 

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