What is Pearson Specter Litt without Pearson?

Suits closed out the first half of its sixth season last summer with its most game-changing twist yet: founding partner Jessica (Gina Torres) quit to move to Chicago with Jeff (D.B. Woodside). When the show resumes Wednesday, Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Louis (Rick Hoffman) have to pick up the pieces without the Queen Bee to mediate.

"Jessica being gone is a massive thing. It leaves a power vacuum," creator and showrunner Aaron Korsh tells TVGuide.com. "She's the leader and the mom. She's not just the leader from a business perspective. She's a mother to, at a minimum, Harvey and Louis. But she's got her own unique relationships with Rachel (Meghan Markle) and Donna (Sarah Rafferty) and even Mike (Patrick J. Adams). To me, metaphorically speaking, your mom has passed on. Everything is in response to that. The episode title is 'She's Gone.' What's going to happen? What are they going to do?"

If there are two things that Suits loves to do besides drop movie references, they are: writing itself into a corner and figuring a way out, and living with its consequences in the immediate aftermath. It doesn't shy away from them, sometimes to a fault, and to be fair, this one is too big to ignore. At times, the winter premiere feels like Korsh & Co. are readjusting to the void left by Torres — who chose to depart to spend more time with her family in Los Angeles (Suits shoots in Toronto) — in real life, partially in denial, slowly accepting and trying to show that they'll be OK.

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Which is what Harvey and Louis try to do. "There's an interesting dynamic about them," Korsh says. "They both want to put the firm first, but it's hard for them to land on the same page."

The main conflict: who should be managing partner. On paper, Harvey is more qualified, but Louis, of course, wants to prove his case by poaching some associates. The thing is, Korsh says, they don't actually want to be fighting with each other in this instance, and how it unfolds and concludes will make you happy that this isn't a retread to their old bickering ways.

"I think they both know they need each other," he says. "But [Jessica's exit] is so sudden and such a shock that each of them deals with it differently."

Gabriel Macht and Rick Hoffman, SuitsGabriel Macht and Rick Hoffman, Suits


They each also have other things on their minds. Louis is engaged to Tara (Carly Pope), who's pregnant with her ex's baby. And Harvey is still desperate for newly freed Mike to return to the firm as a consultant, even more so in the wake of Jessica's exit. Mike is still adamant about staying away — especially since his relationship with Rachel might have dire implications on her passing the character fitness portion of the bar — and starting anew as a convicted felon, which is exactly as hard as it sounds.

"The challenge is we did not want to bring him back right away," Korsh says. "For me, it was from a character perspective. This kid said in his speech to the jury that he was given a gift and he would never throw it away, and he meant that. So for me, I felt like if Mike got out of prison, that's what he wants to do."

Mike does catch a lucky break, but unfortunately, his rap sheet precedes him. But will that be enough to drive him back to the place he vowed never to set foot in again? The show has sent him away before (remember that interminable investment banking arc?) only to bring him back once they navigated out of that corner. "I think Mike is going to do his best to try to stay away from the firm," Korsh says. "We'll see where his journey ultimately leads, but for the time being he's not back at the firm, and just like Jessica, that has an affect on everyone.

"[The first two episodes back] are really great character studies," he continues. "You find out a lot more about everyone from their actions and reactions. [Jessica's] absence is really like a character in and of itself. On the other side, how Mike is going to reintegrate into life post-prison. They set up some really interesting stories."

Suits returns Wednesday at 10/9c on USA.