While “Silicon Valley” has been pilloried for whiffing the ball when it comes to current techie misbehavior in Palo Alto, I suspect that was never really a hard target for co-creator Mike Judge and company. A lot has been made of the fact Judge worked in Silicon Valley 25 years ago, but, other than using the setting as a backdrop for a few inside jokes, the show pretty clearly has a broader aim. There's certainly a laser-sharp parody of Silicon Valley to be made, but this isn't it — and, I think, doesn't want to be anyway.
If anything, “Silicon Valley” could be a useful primer for any fledgling entrepreneur, whether he or she has created the latest app or a new take on the household sponge. This week's lessons? Don't expect everyone to play nice when you're handing out points that could someday be worth millions or nothing at all. Oh, and make sure you've drawn up your business plan. And gotten the rights to the name you want to use. I would hope these are basics that would be covered in some college class somewhere, but, hey, as Peter Gregory repeatedly tells us, college is a waste of time, right? Maybe we're all just supposed to watch “Shark Tank” and figure it out. Richard hitting up Google for tips on how to write a business plan may seem witless, but I suspect more than a few entrepreneurs have beached themselves pretty much the same way.
Erlich, who seems to have fallen out of an old Doonesbury cartoon or a Rodney Dangerfield movie, kicks off the episode stomping around the house and, as usual, spending someone else's money (this time on an African-American stripper, who squeezes in the expected lame joke about how these guys are so freaked out around women they can't even handle a free lap dance).
He's furious when Jared shows up with a celebratory bottle and platitudes about Richard's bravery and sends him off with a dismissive “we'll call you when we need pleated khakis,” but we know he'll be back. There's no reason to cast a scene-stealer like Zach Woods (“The Office”) otherwise. While the stoner/slave driver (whose facial hair is starting to seem normal the more episodes I watch) feels threatened by anyone else making a substantive contribution to Pied Piper, Jared is the only person who has a shot at saving Richard after a disastrous meeting with Peter.
The meeting with Peter is almost uncomfortable to watch, as Richard (Thomas Middleditch) squirms and Peter stares agog at his cluelessness. “I thought this was the stuff you'd be guiding us through,” Richard mumbles before Peter launches into him.
“I can't guide you until you give me something to guide,” Peter says before addressing his far more useful employee Monica. “This is going very poorly. He doesn't seem to know what he's doing.” He's right, of course, and eventually Richard is sent packing with marching orders: come back in 48 hours with an airtight business plan, a clear go-to-market strategy and a three year summary P&L or there will be no check.
Erlich can't offer much beyond a lecture on why Richard needs to be an asshole instead of a tool, leaving Richard to call up Jared (who has quit his job with Hooli) to join the team. While Gilfoyle and Dinesh are able to quantify why they each deserve more than the other when it comes to compensation (one of the funnier scenes in the episode), everyone is in agreement on one thing — Big Head serves no purpose other than being a pal to Richard. As Jared puts it, 'the comradery is quite apparent, but the CEO of Microsoft doesn't have a paid best friend.”
While it's painfully funny when Gilfoy dismisses Big Head as a useless appendage not once but twice as the programmer tries to slink out of the house for a bike ride, it might have been more interesting had Big Head been less agreeable about it all. As he admits, he doesn't serve much of a purpose, and when Richard finally fights everyone to keep his buddy around, even Big Head doesn't see much of a point. It helps that Gavin Belson comes swooping in with the offer of big money to keep Big Head on his team, handing him a promotion based entirely on vengeance (and, sure, to fulfill the show's need to put an inside man at Hooli). It's an obvious concession that helps the plot along and keeps our ragtag bunch of outsiders cuddly, but it's still a disappointment.
We do get a sense of big business gears in motion thanks to Big Head, though — the Hooli brogrammers are working overtime to deconstruct Richard's algorithm and put the company on the fast track to beat Richard to market. The race is on, and we now have a ticking clock while Richard faces setback after setback. It's clear that to play with the big boys, Richard will have to take at least a little bit of Erlich's advice to “stop being a fucking pussy and start being an asshole,” though it may be too little too late.
Oh, and about that check — even though Richard has a business plan thanks to Jared, he still has to set up a corporation. Though Peter cuts him that much-needed check for $200,000, it's pointedly made out to the company, not to Richard himself. Thus, week Richard will be dealing with another irritant — that of wresting away a common business name from its current owner. Turns out that takes more than just squatting on a URL, and, happily, has nothing to do with the increasingly caricatured Big Bad that is Hooli. Where “Silicon Valley” is best when showing us the death by a thousand cuts that is starting your own business, and the good news is that there are plenty of cuts to be had — if the show is willing to explore them.
Are you watching “Silicon Valley”? Do you think Richard was right to fight for Big Head? Do you think he needs to be more of an asshole to keep Pied Piper alive?