Last season, I was quite the Cassandra here in Silicon Valley recap land. I repeatedly predicted a dark end for Richard Hendricks, yet he bested Hooli, won TechCrunch Disrupt, and became a hero to little guys everywhere. I gladly took my lumps from readers for being a whiny soothsayer of doom. Now that you’ve seen “Two Days of the Condor,” the dark second-season finale, I just have one thing to say:
“Cassandra Henderson was RIGHT!!! Who’s your Miss Cleo now?!!!”
Yes, I’m being petty. If this show has taught you anything, it’s that we can be some petty-ass people here in Information Technology. In this regard, I plead Guilty with a capital G. This plea is appropriate, because Alec Berg’s excellent “Two Days of the Condor” script has a streak of pettiness running through it. Almost everyone gets their shot at this trait in the finale. Let’s put them all on blast, starting with:
Petty Gavin Belson: Not content with making Big Head merely the VP of Spite, Gavin promoted him three times in a year as a means of underhandedly trying to win his intellectual property lawsuit against Pied Piper. He announced the lawsuit at Peter Gregory’s funeral in “Sand Hill Shuffle,” flanked by a flock of doves. He then spent more time trying to destroy Richard than he did investigating the disaster that is Nucleus. We can chalk all of this up to Gavin’s insatiable desire to be a winner. And his case seemed victorious even before Richard admitted to the crime that handed Hooli Pied Piper on a silver platter.
But Gavin had to twist the knife. He had to try to get that extra, useless ounce of flesh by suing Richard over Donald Dunn (“a.k.a. Jared a.k.a. O.J., apparently,” as the arbitrator tells us). Jared was hired away from Hooli back in “The Cap Table,” and he’s served as Pied Piper’s resident explainer, cheerleader, and emotional core. Back at Hooli, however, Jared served no valuable purpose for Gavin outside of being another Yes Man so deeply entrenched in Hooli evangelism that he never corrected his employers about his name. Jared’s non-compete-clause-violating hire was such a minor issue that Richard’s lawyer Pete pled guilty to the charge. Yet it’s the gust of wind that brings down Gavin’s house of cards. “If you hadn’t brought it up, I wouldn’t have noticed it,” the arbitrator tells Gavin.
The arbitrator is right about California having laws against non-compete clauses (non-disclosures are a different story). Since Hooli put the offending clause in its contracts for Richard and Jared, neither of them legally worked for Hooli during the time covered by this litigation. So in a rare case of a law loophole helping someone who isn’t rich and sinister, Pied Piper gets to go home with its rightful owner.
“What’s happening?” Richard asks when the arbitrator explains the loophole. “Justice, baby,” says Pete. Pete gets spared any tainting with the pettiness brush, but a dishonorable mention goes to Gavin’s guru, who, sensing Gavin’s imminent demise at Hooli, hooks up with Big Head.
Petty Erlich Bachmann: Do I even have enough word count for Erlich’s crimes of pettiness? Noah tells Erlich he’s sold his ferret-filled house. “The ferret laws in Arizona are more enlightened,” he says. It’s the first time the words “Arizona laws” and “enlightened” have been used in the same sentence. More important, Erlich learns that Hacker Hostel is worth a shit ton more money on the real-estate market.
“You sold the house from under us?” Richard asks. Erlich explains that “all I’ve succeeded in doing is running a flophouse where guys shat, jerked off, and paid me no rent!” This sale is a soulless grab for money, a grab that gets looser once Gilfoyle starts destroying the house in order to keep the suddenly popular Pied Piper feed running. (I’ll come back to what’s on that feed shortly.) As more and more servers get spun up to keep up with the traffic, machinery overheats, fires break out, and Gilfoyle rewires the circuit breakers, turning the about-to-be-sold house into a potential Towering Inferno.
While all this is happening, Jared gets all gooey with awe. “It’s magical!” he says of the team coming together for Pied Piper’s last hurrah. Even Erlich finally comes to his senses, abandoning the house sale and, in a stand-up-and-cheer moment, making a triumphant return to coding in order to save his one successful incubator project. If only Richard could have seen it! Alas, he was too busy getting on this list.
Petty Richard: When Hooli’s victory seems imminent, Gilfoyle suggests the ultimate solution to screw Gavin over: destroying Pied Piper. “We can’t give it to him if we have nothing to give,” he says. When Richard balks that no one would believe they accidentally deleted the system, Dinesh reminds him of the Intersite deletion debacle from “Black Hat/White Hat.” “We’ve established our ineptitude beyond a reasonable doubt,” Dinesh reminds him. Richard then gives a speech about why we programmers get into this business. It’s a rousing speech about how if we create things, great things that will change the world. “Woo-hoo!” I yelled, my programmer’s heart going all pitter-patter.
Richard shames Gilfoyle for suggesting another journey down the left-hand path, but the second the arbitrator sounds like he’s giving Hooli the win, Richard forgets his self-righteousness and jumps on the Bandwagon O’Destruction. “It’s my program,” he messages to Jared. “We lost. Destroy it.”
Richard’s lucky that programmers are sentimental about their code, especially when it becomes obsolete or is being retired. The Pied Piper crew take forever to delete Pied Piper, opting instead to have one final symbolic toast in its honor. This gives Thomas Middleditch the opportunity to enact a great, slapstick-filled tour-de-force of a race against time. Director Berg gets maximum suspense from this setpiece, especially the moment when Richard gets home too late to stop the deletion. Thankfully, Dinesh’s delete code crashes the operating system, saving Pied Piper. Neither Dinesh nor Gilfoyle are willing to concede that an error served a greater purpose. Their bickering over whether hardware or software caused the malfunction gets them on the petty blast list, too. They are joined by you, the viewer.
Petty Regular People: Not content with sticking it to us tech folks, Silicon Valley widens the net for an homage to Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. In that film, a guy trapped in a cave became a media sensation, with the public showing up to gawk while evil newsman Kirk Douglas reaps the publicity benefits of keeping the poor guy trapped. “Two Days of the Condor” refers to the two days that poor camera-removing guy spends trapped after falling off the cliff in “Binding Arbitration.” The camera remains running, streaming Condor Guy’s suffering. People start watching, and as the old Faberge Organics commercial goes, “They told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on.”
Suddenly, the Pied Piper stream is hot, and gets even hotter when Manny Pacquiao tweets about it. (I wonder if that tweet said, “This is more exciting than my last fight.”) Condor Guy’s pleas for help were unnerving, and they play throughout the episode. The Pied Piper team nonchalantly watches him, with Dinesh hoping the rescue mission gets stalled to prolong the publicity. Condor Guy eventually gets rescued, and Pied Piper’s triumph is that it streamed until he did.
You know you would have watched Condor Guy’s livestream. Don’t even try to get out of this one.
Last, but not least:
Petty Laurie Bream: Our Peter Gregory replacement gets rid of Russ (who, shockingly, is not on this list), giving Raviga a majority on Pied Piper’s board. Richard’s lawsuit victory means little to her analytical mind, however. Correctly, she points out that many of Richard’s victories were assisted by, or were the outcome of, pure blind luck. This cannot stand! So she fires Richard from the company he created, giving us the cliff-hanger jolt that will sustain us until season three.
To close, some of my fave season-two highlights:
- The suspenseful races against time here and in “Black Hat/White Hat.”
- Matt McCoy’s laserlike deadpan performance as lawyer Pete. If they ever do a Naked Gun reboot (please, God, no!), we have our Frank Drebin.
- Matt Ross’ Gavin Belson freakouts. Put him on the Emmy shortlist, please.
- Kumail Nanjiani’s line readings, which are mini master classes on stating the obvious.
- The pornography site names, and Richard pleading for Pied Piper’s life, both in “Adult Content.”
- Erlich and Jian Yang’s Smocation pitch.
- The numerous T-shirt-worthy lines: “Outed by Wi-Fi,” “I’m not gay, just busy,” “Secondhand heroin never killed anybody,” “It’s time to walk the left-hand path,” and so many more.
The sophomore jinx didn’t sink Silicon Valley, and I hope it didn’t sink these recaps, either. Thanks for reading, everyone. See you for season three.