Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty
[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Suits. Read at your own risk.]
Will they or won't they? They did — 10 years ago!
Suits shed a whole lot of light on Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Donna's (Sarah Rafferty) relationship on Tuesday's flashback episode — not to mention sent Harvey and Donna 'shippers into a tizzy. A decade ago, Harvey was pursuing Donna hard when they worked for Cameron Dennis (Gary Cole), but she refused to hook up with a co-worker. That was no longer a problem when they both quit — after which Harvey showed up at Donna's place, where she was waiting with whipped cream. You know, to do that thing Harvey had sketched out earlier.
Fall TV Preview: Hot scoop on your favorite returning shows
"I think we all knew on some level that [something happened between them]," Rafferty tells TVGuide.com. "In Season 1, we had a moment with Donna and Rachel (Meghan Markle), where Rachel asks, 'What's up with Harvey and Donna?' And it takes Donna a second to reply. [In Season 2,] Donna agrees to come back to work after she was fired and she does make a reference to 'that other time,' so I had a lot of ideas in my head about what their past was. I had some conversations as a result of that line. That was fun for me to read. I gotta tell you — when I got the script, I was so excited!"
While Rafferty figured that the two had hit the sheets, creator and executive producer Aaron Korsh says that he originally envisioned them never having slept together. "In my mind, they hadn't slept together, but fooled around and stopped in the middle for whatever reason — I hadn't thought it through then," he says. "That was in my head the way it had been conceived. But the writers pitched this to me, and I was like, 'Holy sh--! Let's do it.' So it was a change from my original conception, but I loved it."
The flashback, of course, ties in to the duo's present-day story line and office romance woes. After their one night together back then, Harvey asked Donna to work with him at the future Pearson Darby Specter, to which Donna agreed under the condition that they obey her "all business, no pleasure" rule. They have with each other, but Donna has since broken it by sleeping with Darby's right-hand man Stephen (Max Beesley). In the episode's closing minutes, Harvey finally admits that he's bothered by it.
"That was hard for him. I certainly don't think Harvey regrets their deal and asking Donna to work for him, and I don't think Donna does either," Korsh says. "I think Donna would've made a different decision about the outcome had she known how things would turn out 10 years later. But I don't think she would've not worked with Harvey. She accepted the relationship on the terms that were available to her then. I think had Harvey wanted to pursue a relationship with her 10 years ago, she would've. ... If Harvey were to pursue Donna now, I think she might accept it, but it wouldn't be easy and she'd have to be convinced he wants a relationship with her and he doesn't right now."
Fall TV preview: Must-watch new shows
But is Donna ready? Explaining her "arrangement" with Stephen, Donna told Harvey, with a hint of sadness in her voice, that she has to "live my life." "I'm not sure if she wants a boyfriend or to settle down or to date Harvey. I think what happens with Donna is a lot of these moments, she's surprised by," Rafferty says. "The stuff that comes out of her subconscious surprises her. Last year, when Harvey said, 'You look beautiful' it turns out he was talking to Jessica (Gina Torres). For a moment, she thought he was talking to her and she was surprised that he wasn't talking to her."
Adds Korsh: "They have rules about not mixing work with their personal lives, but they have to grab their opportunities for happiness when they can get them. I think that's what Donna is realizing with Stephen. It's tied to the comment Rachel makes in Episode 2: 'It's about having a life, but I guess you don't know about that.' Rachel regrets it, but it's not a coincidence that Donna starts flirting with Stephen the next episode and they make this arrangement."
That arrangement is due to expire after six weeks when Stephen returns to England, but he has since asked for an extension after developing feelings for Donna. Those feelings might be reciprocated, according to Korsh and Rafferty. "She's a grown-up and she's going to consider Stephen," Rafferty says. "She may be surprised by what's coming up for her as a result of her deal with Stephen." Things might be complicated, however, by the fact that Stephen gave up a key witness to Cameron in Ava Hessington's murder trial, but Rafferty doesn't believe Donna would ever be involved with Stephen if she thinks he's undermining Harvey.
"I see a lot of messages online and on Twitter — people don't trust Stephen and I understand that, and there might be more to Stephen that meets the eye," Korsh says. "But that does not mean he's deceiving or using Donna. I think that's completely separate from the case and I think you'll see that."
Suits' Meghan Markle: Mike and Rachel are on a "learning curve"
So what's next for Harvey and Donna? They will discuss her relationship with Stephen more in depth next week, but with the Brit in the picture, don't expect Harvey and Donna to do anything else with whipped cream any time soon. "I'm so relieved that I don't have to make these decisions about them getting together!" Rafferty says. "I think their relationship is incredibly dynamic the way it is. Donna believes that she and Harvey are not right for each other. I think she thinks there would have be some shift for them to be right for each other and there isn't right now. ... But what I love about these flashback episodes is that we can give fans little pieces of what they want."
Speaking of that, we finally learned the origin of the can opener! After Donna agreed to work with Harvey again in the diner 10 years ago, they decided they needed a new ritual, and so Harvey stealthily stole a can opener from a waitress' apron. But, like Harvey and Donna's past, that was not the original idea.
"We definitely wanted to have the origin of it in this episode, but there was a different origin in the first draft of this," Korsh says. "But the cast read so much into it and the network read so much into it in a way we didn't mean to — they read it as a sexual device! So we had to change it."
What did you think of the flashback?