Silicon Valley Recap: The Lady Is a Champ

By
Photo: HBO
Silicon Valley
Episode Title
The Lady
Season
2
Episode
4
Editor’s Rating
4/5

Pied Piper is hiring!

In order to make the deadline for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Richard is seeking assistance with the next iteration of Pied Piper. His top candidates are a cyborg, who’d fit right in despite his “metal parts,” and a woman, whose mere presence requires legal action. I don’t know where Richard got the cyborg from, but the lady in question, Carla (Alice Wetterlund), came highly recommended by Dinesh and Gilfoyle. Her badass code endeared her to both men, to the point where they demand that Richard hire her. However, their goodwill goes straight to Hell (or in Gilfoyle the Satanist’s case, straight to Heaven) when they discover she makes more money than they do.

More on this intriguing development shortly. But first, an important message from Silicon Valley’s technological Goliath, Hooli. Roll Gavin Belson’s announcement!

What is a moonshot? They said man could not go to the moon, but we did it! And now, using some completely unrelated bullshit comparison to the moon landing, we at Hooli are proud to announce a new division, Hooli.xyz! This latest achievement in technology will be run by our new Head Dreamer, world-renown robotics expert, Dr. Banacek! It will also be run by Nelson Bighetti, who is known around these parts as Bag Head! Bag Head was one of the original developers of Pied Piper here at Hooli!

Dr. Banacek is as confused about Big Head’s involvement as Big Head is about being called “Bag Head.” Through HR manager Gary Irving (last seen in “Fiduciary Duties”), Dr Banacek sends Big Head an ominous message expressing his displeasure over having to share control of Hooli.xyz. Big Head is also displeased, as he thinks his cushy do-nothing job is a thing of the past. To his surprise, his job duties remain the same. Rather than “working” on the roof with his former crew, he’ll be residing in a spacious new office, complete with an assistant. The assistant will assist him in doing nothing, which I’m sure will be harder than it sounds.

While Gavin creates the Seinfeld of Hooli departments (a department about nothing), Richard is finding much ado about nothing during his hiring process. Erlich hates the cyborg, a guy with a pacemaker named Jared whom Erlich once tried to hire at his company, Aviato. Cyborg Jared took the offer, then used it to get a better offer elsewhere. Since many places of employment today demand to see, in writing, how much you made elsewhere, this dirty trick can result in a higher salary offer. Companies look at these tactics with the blind eye of a person who earned a new lover via adultery:  They know how this relationship started, but they think, Oh, they’ll NEVER do that to ME!

Richard is one of these blind fools. Showing some balls for a change, he shoots down Erlich’s objections and submits both Carla and Cyborg Jared for approval at Russ Hanneman’s board meeting, where they are both accepted. The five-member board consists of Richard, Erlich, Monica (repping Raviga), Russ, and his company’s second board member, a girlfriend who barely speaks English and is very likely an anti-Semite. “Jew! With business!” she says, pointing to Richard. “No, Episcopalian,” Richard responds.

Before the meeting starts at his mansion, Russ shows off his latest acquisition, a software called "the Lady.” It’s a mean, disembodied female voice designed to chastise and nag his children. “It makes her the bad guy instead of me!” says Russ. If she plays her cards right, the Lady has a prosperous future as the voice of the countless political attack ads that will play in 2016. For now, she’s banished to using countdowns as agents of potential threat against disrespectful little boys.

Silicon Valley often uses women as a means of punishing its disrespectful little boys. Before we get to Carla and her wonderful way of subverting the male-dominated system present at Pied Piper, let’s look back at some of the women depicted on this show. Not counting series regulars Monica and Laurie, we’ve had:

  • Moccacino, a stripper whose upfront sexuality terrorizes the team, and who calls Big Head’s Nip Alert app “sexist.”
  • The Sexy Hot Actress Chicks Who Only Pretend to Care, an agency that Peter Gregory hires to mingle and flirt with the predominantly male attendees at the Flo Rida party.
  • Tara, the “Amy Winehouse–type” girlfriend of Gilfoyle who inadvertently plays a part in Gilfoyle’s biggest humiliation of Dinesh.
  • Charlotte, the woman coder from the Cupcakely company, who provides the “vortex of distraction” for Dinesh and Gilfoyle at TechCrunch Disrupt. She uses their lust to trick them into writing her code for her.
  • Dan Melcher’s second wife, whom Erlich sleeps with, resulting in Erlich’s ass-kicking at the hands of Dan Melcher.

Your mileage may vary, but I don’t think Silicon Valley is misogynistic. The show has always been aware of its use of female characters as a satire of how women are seen and presented in the real version of its fictional universe. On last week’s Vulture podcast, our own Matt Zoller Seitz said the male characters exist in a world of “chauvinism in the absence of women.” Mike Judge and his writers are always mocking how wrong-headed and clueless his male characters are when it comes to dealing with women and homophobia. These guys are done in by their own hypocrisy, while all of the aforementioned female characters have more agency and common sense.

With the addition of Carla as the new programmer, writer Carson Mell really twists the knife in this episode. Despite his awe at her skills, we’re not sure if Dinesh’s statement “I’m not jealous of her, I just want to make sure she makes less than me” is a statement on Carla’s gender or her newbie status. And Carla is not only aware of the way this world operates, she’s often poking at its insecure notions in the same manner Dinesh and Gilfoyle poke at whatever’s aggravating them. She’s a true programmer type, and she’s also very astute about what her presence means to the unenlightened — and she wants them to know that she knows. As a minority programmer, I get it. I like her a lot.

Jared makes a fool of himself because Carla will break up the “distinct overrepresentation of men” at Pied Piper. That’s because the policy wonk in him can’t see past her bean-counter status. “I’m not a female programmer, I’m a programmer,” Carla responds to Jared, and be that as it may, it still forces Jared to explain Pied Piper’s new sexual harassment policy to everyone. (According to law, he should have done this eons ago, regardless of whether the company is all male.) This could have been a “oh what a drag!” plotline, where the bad boys lament what it used to be like before that girl showed up, but it’s Carla who puts the worry on Jared’s shoulders, using words that, at least at my job, would get her fired with the intensity of a flamethrower.

Alice Wetterlund is slated to be on for the rest of the season, so I look forward to seeing what they do with Carla.

In other news, Russ still gets on my nerves! But he did score some brownie points in this episode. He sticks a big pin in Erlich’s ballooning desire to rub elbows with “the three comma club” (a.k.a. billionaires, as $1,000,000,000 has three commas in it), a fitting punishment for Erlich’s earlier betrayal of Richard. And Russ has a point about company swag: CUSTOMERS WANT IT! I don’t know why. It’s usually some cheap-ass, mass-produced nonsense like stress balls that explode when you squeeze them, flash drives that burn out, or a pen that doesn’t write for shit.

At practically every job I’ve worked at, customers have asked me for swag, even outdated swag like the $30,000-worth of crap Russ ordered with the wrong Pied Piper logo on it. My dot-com job back in Y2K gave out boxer shorts with their logo on them, which couldn’t be done today. They were made out of the itchiest material I’ve ever felt against my skin and, in a stroke of engineering genius, didn’t have a hole in the front of them. A customer had heard of them and asked me for a pair. “Dude, take a pen instead,” I told him. “These drawers don’t even have a hole to pee out of!”

“It’s okay!” he told me. “I can just pull my dick over the waistband! Can I get two pairs?”

That dot com went bankrupt as hell, but I bet that customer still has those drawers. So, score one for Russ and his swag idea.

(Full disclosure: I am currently wearing a T-shirt with my company name branded all over it. It’s thin enough to roll a reefer with it, but I love this shirt. Programmers can be so hypocritical!)