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Silicon Valley, Ep. 3.01/3.02: Pied Piper Returns Just as Strong

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Silicon Valley, Season 3, Episode 1: “Founder Friendly”
Written by Dan O’Keefe
Directed by Mike Judge

Silicon Valley, Season 3, Episode 2: “Two in the Box”
Written by Ron Weiner
Directed by Mike Judge
Airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO

The great success of Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley has been how effortlessly it manages to mock the excesses of the tech industry, while never straying too far from reality. The ridiculous euphemisms and New Age affirmations don’t sound too far from the drivel spewed by the average tech guru. Judge has long been concerned with the failings of leaders, whether the luminaries of Silicon Valley or the brain dead administration in Idiocracy. In season three of Silicon Valley, Richard Hendricks learns what happens when those luminaries decide to chew him up and spit him out.

At the end of season two, Richard was fired from his CEO position by Pied Piper’s board after the uncertainty caused by the lawsuit against him. He won (on a technicality), but it was too late. In season three’s first episode, “Founder Friendly,” Richard struggles to tamp down his rage. He’s allowed people to walk all over him for the show’s duration, but now he’s filled with anger and determination (just as it’s too late to be constructive). Richard tries to get Dinesh and Guilfoyle to leave the company with him out of solidarity, but they have no interest in sacrificing everything just for Richard’s pride.

Jared has become one of the greatest comedic forces on the show, and his nurturing attitude toward Richard helps to further develop his persona. He lives to serve, and it’s not really clear why he is so devoted, which makes it even funnier. Richard has no interest in taking the Chief Technology Officer position at Pied Piper, but Jared finds him multiple other companies that are interested in him as a CTO. It’s the same position, but Richard would rather do it elsewhere than be reminded of his failures at Pied Piper.

Richard visits a company called Flutterbeam to interview as their CTO. However, they’re not interested in any of his strengths; instead, they want him to work on a special project for them – a video conferencing platform that inserts surprisingly detailed mustaches on your face. The scene might have come off as a bit too broad, but in light of how much people are obsessed with things like face swapping apps, it seems just right. While Richard is realizing that another company might not be a great change, Guilfoyle and Dinesh realize that they don’t know enough about Pied Piper to carry on with it if Richard leaves.

Richard eventually decides to visit the new CEO, Jack Barker (the great Stephen Tobolowsky). Instead of making a pitch, Barker abruptly announces he won’t take the job if he and Richard can’t work together. That attitude leads Richard to think that he might actually be able to work with Barker, so he changes his mind and decides to stay on as the CTO.

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Episode two, “Two in the Box,” opens with Richard visiting his doctor, played by Andy Daly of the painfully short-lived Review. Richard’s doctor pops up periodically just to vocalize the painful choices he’ll have to make. The doctor could never imagine working for someone else at his own company, and Richard realizes the same problem might apply to him.

Barker has completely redone Pied Piper’s offices and created a building that gives the company some real prestige, but his goals aren’t in sync with Richard’s. Richard wants to create the best possible product, as that’s all he really knows how to do; Barker also claims to want to make the best possible product, but he makes it clear toward the end of the episode that they’re talking about different products. To Richard, his platform is the product, but Barker considers the company’s stock to be the product. Whatever needs to be done to raise the stock price is the best approach to the product as far as Barker is concerned.

Instead of bringing in new engineers, Barker hires a force of salespeople, none of whom really understand what Pied Piper is or what it does. Instead of learning how to sell the product, the salespeople just decide to change the product; Richard will have to jettison the most ambitious portions of the platform in order to conform to their conceptions of the product.

While Richard is fighting for the direction of Pied Piper, Jared is slowly going crazy from lack of sleep. He’s been renting out his condo on Airbnb to help pay for the mortgage, but the current tenant doesn’t have enough money to move or find a new place, and the laws in California could draw the process out for nearly a year. The way that Jared continues to be walked all over by others is one of the funniest parts of the show, but the storyline is also a pretty obvious way of Mike Judge voicing his libertarianism. Sometimes that political slant leads to great comedy, and it often helps him to point out hypocrisies, but this time it seems a bit strained. Jared’s prolonged homelessness is just a bit too ridiculous, even for this show.

That’s a small quibble, though; the first two episodes of Silicon Valley’s third season suggest that the show is still going strong and is just as funny as ever. Pushing Richard out of the company creates many new avenues for the show to explore the dysfunctional workings of the tech industry. There’s no sign of slowing from Silicon Valley.

Stray Thoughts

  • Richard hits a Stanford Robotics deer bot with his car. It’s hilarious, but also kind of horrifying.
  • Matt Ross continues to be excellent as Gavin Belson, and his speech firing the Nucleus division is a great example of his narcissism.
  • I loved how Erlich’s list of old roast jokes just turns into a string of insults aimed at Barker
  • “Stache lag.”
  • Mustache options at Flutterbeam: Tom Selleck, Fu Manchu, John Waters, Alex Trebek, Hitler, Sam Elliott
  • Jared on his homelessness: “I simply imagine that my skeleton is me, and my body is my house, and that way I’m always home!”
  • Jared again: “I have too many dietary restrictions to leave breakfast to chance.”

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