This week’s Silicon Valley took a page from the soap opera playbook by ending with a cliffhanger. Faced with a decision that seems untenable on the surface, Richard opens his mouth to respond and, BAM, the closing credits show up. Richard remains onscreen throughout, mute out of respect for the restaurant mariachi band that caused the interruption. Being forced to watch Richard was a preternaturally cruel and hilarious trick: We waited on tenterhooks, hoping that Richard would say something. Instead, we got to watch him eat nachos until the production company logos showed up. At least The Sopranos had the mercy to cut to black for its cliffhanger!
“Runaway Devaluation” successfully serves up a series of battles between the familiar nemeses of the show. The matches on tonight’s card are Dinesh vs. Gilfoyle, Hooli vs. Pied Piper, Dinesh vs. His Programmer’s Pride, and Erlich vs. Humility and Tact. On this fight night, I’ll be your personal Howard Cosell, announcing each bout and its judges’ card. In the immortal (and trademarked) words of Michael Buffer: “Let’s get ready to rum-BULLLLLLL!”
Undercard Match 1: Erlich vs. Humility and Tact
Remember when your mama told you about not burning bridges? Well, Erlich wishes your mama had talked to him. Pied Piper’s “three-feet-high stack of term sheets” from the venture capitalists is courtesy of Erlich’s short, brutal reign as the King of Negging. When Richard decides to stay with Raviga, Erlich’s extreme nastiness appeared to go unpunished. However, Erlich soon finds himself swimming under the ruins of his incinerated bridges en route to the sites of his former crimes against humility.
Hooli’s lawsuit scares Raviga off, leaving Pied Piper completely without funding. Laurie cancels because the last thing she wants is a scandal during her first week as Peter’s successor. When Monica points out that the lawsuit is mere intimidation and therefore nonsense, Laurie responds, “Nonsense is not a quantifiable metric!” Apparently, she’s never worked in politics.
As all bosses are wont to do, Laurie sends Monica to deliver the bad news. She advises Monica to dress as plainly as possible, as a study showed that the less sexual attraction a guy feels, the less it will hurt when he’s given bad news. “Might I suggest you wear the ensemble you had on last Tuesday?” Laurie asks. Monica shows up wearing the beige equivalent of Violet Beauregard’s outfit in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It does not work.
“First off,” begins Erlich, “you’re not fooling anyone with the dress-shitty technique to ease the pain. It’s a classic chick breakup move, and you’re terrible at it! You look GREAT!
Now, I don’t know about you, but whenever a woman broke up with me, she did it while looking as fabulous as possible. I’m talking spectacular outfit, industrial-strength fan blowing through her hair like Beyoncé, spotlights hitting her from above, a full choir behind her, etc. I don’t know where the hell this episode’s writer, Ron Weiner, got that “dress shitty” idea, but he makes up for it by showing that Erlich is human after all.
Weiner’s verbal barrage of VC revenge was catnip for all the Erlich haters. The VCs make Erlich pay for his earlier utterances of what Jared refers to as “pretty assertive vaginal metaphors.” In response to this chewing out, Richard’s mantra of “we’re really excited to be in business with you guys” became surreal, though not as surreal as the last VC offering Erlich a taste of his own genitalia-based medicine.
Despite Erlich’s surprisingly earnest show of eating humble pie (which T.J. Miller pulls off with the utmost sincerity), the VC remains unmoved. “I sat here and watched you put your testes on this table,” the VC said. “And now you’re gonna sit here and watch me do the same thing!” Despite airing on a network that once broadcast a stage show where guys twisted their junk into balloon animals, Silicon Valley spares us the sight of the VC’s balls. HBO, you disappoint me.
Decision: Humility and Tact by TKO in Round 12.
Undercard Match 2: Dinesh vs. His Programmer’s Pride
When it comes to the ego we have regarding our code, a programmer would make Kanye West look modest. I love how Kumail Namjiani depicts this overabundance of pride and self-congratulation, though he also accurately adds a thin layer of insecurity underneath. After Richard takes back the TechCrunch Disrupt prize money he promised each employee, Dinesh freaks out because he donated $5,000 of it to his cousin’s Kickstarter campaign. In this plotline, Silicon Valley skewers Kickstarter campaigns and useless apps in one fell swoop. Dinesh’s cousin’s app is a rip-off of the actual Yo app, except instead of only sending the word yo back and forth to people, this app sends the word bro. It’s the Groot of apps, except it’s devoid of the varying emotions in Vin Diesel’s Oscar-worthy readings of “I am Groot!”
To avoid having to pay the donation, Dinesh meets his cousin and tries to talk him into canceling the Kickstarter. On the cusp of victory, Dinesh is reminded of the project he was working on before Pied Piper. His cousin says everyone thought Dinesh quit working on it due to failure, when in actuality Dinesh put it on hold to do Pied Piper (or so he says). Dinesh’s passionate, ego-filled defense has the unintended effect of inspiring his cousin to throw a fund-raising party for his Kickstarter. As the Bible says: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.”
Decision: Pride by TKO 91 seconds into the first round.
Undercard Match 3: Dinesh vs. Gilfoyle
This battle has had more rematches than Ali–Frazier, and the outcome is always the same. Our resident Satanist, Gilfoyle, decides to contribute to the Bro Kickstarter (under the clever alias Gilfoyle_Luci4). In his words, he’s the “Warren Buffett of fucking with Dinesh.” Gilfoyle threatens to pay off the rest of the Bro Kickstarter unless Dinesh pays him a bribe. Just as Dinesh acquiesces, the Kickstarter succeeds. Gilfoyle's plan to aggravate Dinesh backfires, but he’s only out one tenth of the money Dinesh is.
Decision: Split Decision for Gilfoyle at the end of the fight.
The Main Event: Hooli vs. Pied Piper
Last week’s cameo appearance by the Winklevii hinted at the Pied Piper lawsuit that ended “Sand Hill Shuffle.” “Runaway Devaluation” runs with that lawsuit under the guise of describing two practices that occur in the tech world, and how similar practices exist in other businesses. Hooli’s “intimidation lawsuit” is designed to freeze Pied Piper’s development while Hooli continues to work on its competing product, Nucleus. Since Hooli has more lawyers than the bar, and the money to pay for them, Pied Piper cannot compete. Richard’s dude-bro lawyer lines up a credible legal team, but the $2 million price tag is too steep for a company with only $50,000 in cash. You can look up numerous David vs. Goliath cases like this, and not just in tech. Goliath usually wins, which is why Richard takes a meeting with the Devil.
Before he does, he and the team visit a competing compression engine company interested in bailing Pied Piper out. A few minutes in, Erlich and Jared realize they’re being “brain-raped,” an iffy term for a company tricking another into revealing the secrets of their code so that it can be stolen. It’s sort of like when a screenwriter pitches a story to Hollywood, gets rejected and then sees the same story on the screen attributed to the studio that rejected the idea. This was a rare moment when Erlich and the tech guy formerly known as Donald Dunn worked together, sparing us an Erlich vs. Jared bout this week.
Richard’s mysterious phone call was also an unusual moment. We’ve never seen Richard being secretive before, and it doesn’t suit him at all. We discover that it’s Gavin on the line, asking for a meeting at a Mexican food joint. With his Hooli hoodie, Gavin looks like the Emperor from Star Wars, and he’s brought with him a contract to bring Richard to the Dark Side of the Force. Hooli wants to acquire Pied Piper, bringing Richard full circle with the first episode of this series. Richard’s answer, which I had hoped would be full of profanities and the word NO, is interrupted by that damn mariachi band!
Decision: The fight isn’t over, but Hooli’s way ahead on points.