On this week’s Silicon Valley, HBO stands for “Horses Bonin’, Ooh!” The network went the full monty in a huge way, juxtaposing the figurative screwing of Richard Hendricks with the literal screwing of Action Jack Barker’s horses. But before we get to Animal Planet After Dark, let’s see how Richard wound up in this compromising position.
“Isn’t it great to not have to do everything?” Jared says. Richard admits it takes some getting used to, but he’s accepted his new role. Earlier, Richard’s doctor visit revealed he was basking in the aftereffects of Action Jack’s Psychological Foot Massage. “You’ve got a glow about you,” the doc says. “If it were medically possible, I’d say you were pregnant!” Richard explains that he’s now the CTO of his own company. When the doctor makes a snide comment, Richard downplays the demotion: The new CEO has done a great job handling all the managerial minutiae that tech guys like Richard hate doing. The doc responds to this by checking Richard’s testicles to see if they’re still attached. Everyone’s a comedian on this show!
Well, almost everyone. Gavin Belson doesn’t find anything funny about the awful truth: He is covered with the stench of Nucleus’s failure. After spending last season unsuccessfully trying to land a fall guy, Gavin intends to spend this season in denial. He meets with the remaining Nucleus team members — guys who have been terminated, but who are awaiting their severance packages — and presents them with their final project. After Googling himself, or rather, after Hooli-ing himself, Gavin is displeased with the results. “Why is it that when I type my own name into my own search engine, the fucking internet rains shit bolts down on me?” he yells. “I want this to stop!!”
When someone points out that the resulting articles are part of the public record, and that altering the search engine would violate the public trust, Gavin spouts his usual brand of language-bending bullshit. “I would never ask a Hooli engineer to alter the search algorithm for this,” he says, just before the scene cuts to Gavin’s yes men telling the team to do exactly that. Leave it to Mike Judge to explain the concept of net neutrality better than any news program.
Back at Pied Piper, the team is getting a doozy of a P.S.M., courtesy of Action Jack’s procurement of kick-ass office space. The new digs include a pool table, an on-demand micro-kitchen with a daily mystery menu, a fridge full of disgusting hipsterish gobbledygook like coconut water, and enough space for everyone to spread out. Pied Piper even has a new logo, which looks like the calling card of the Bishop Don Juan of Sherwood Forest. “It’s clean and elegant,” says Jared of the new logo, “but not without some danger.” Action Jack has even calmed the rivalry between Gilfoyle and Dinesh. After seeing them Rochambeau for rights to the biggest monitor in the office, their new CEO points out the equipment-request list hanging on the wall. Gilfoyle can order a monitor just like the one he lost when Dinesh’s rock crushed his scissors.
Richard senses danger. “How are we going to pay for all this?” he asks. The answer raises Richard’s level of concern, even though Action Jack assures him, “I’ll never compromise the product.” Our hero is about to learn that, when you’re no longer in charge of everything, the new boss will always do something to seriously mess up your day.
He’s sharing this lesson with Jared, whose homeless status was a bit of a misnomer. Jared couldn’t afford his condo after joining Pied Piper, but instead of selling it, he’s been using it as an Airbnb. Now, call me paranoid, but I’ve always found Airbnb to be more than a little skeevy. The concept of staying in some stranger’s house raises every red flag in my safety system. Silicon Valley does Airbnb no favors; as we’ve seen with prior plugs for Burger King and Chick-Fil-A, this show has a funny way of dealing with product placement. Jared’s Airbnb guy is still living in Jared’s condo, and he refuses to leave because, as he says quite accurately, the tech market has made rent in San Francisco untenable. Due to California’s rental laws, Jared’s only recourse is to sue to remove his new squatter. This can take up to a year.
Of course, Jared accepts this obstacle with his usual cheery attitude, but Zach Woods does allow us to see a small crack in his façade. If this season ends with Jared burning down the new Pied Piper offices the way Stephen Root did in Office Space, I will not be surprised.
The Pied Piper team is surprised, however, when they find a roomful of new people invading their office. These folks are “the best salespeople in the world.” Much like the model employed by End Frame last season, these folks are here to sell software rather than create it. Richard knows what happened to End Frame, so he pulls Action Jack aside. “Shouldn’t we hire engineers to build the platform before we sell it?” he asks. “No!” says Action Jack. It’s the first of many no’s that Stephen Tobolowsky will exclaim in this episode, and the first sign that he and Richard have vastly different ideas about the future of Pied Piper. When I described Action Jack’s variety of leadership in the last recap, I left out a key detail: His psychological seductions feel mutual, but are actually for his sole benefit. Richard signed on as CTO without knowing his software had become cannon fodder for Action Jack’s ridiculous managerial theory, the Conjoined Triangles of Success, which sounds like sales-department drivel to this techie.
The label on the shared hypotenuse of the Conjoined Triangles of Success says “compromise,” which leads us back to that compromising position with the porno horses. After learning that the salespeople want to dismantle everything Pied Piper originally did so they can more easily sell it, Richard confronts Action Jack at his horse farm, where $150,000 worth of equine semen is about to be graphically dispensed the old-fashioned way. Director Mike Judge is shameless, framing the conversation between CEO and CTO in the foreground while horse rumpy-pumpy fills most of the background. Even Richard is distracted; he moves the conversation to a G-rated location as a temporary respite.
“You said you’d never compromise my product!” Richard complains. “But my product feels pretty fucking compromised!” Action Jack explains that the product isn’t the algorithm, but the stock. (The way writer Ron Weiner rope-a-dopes us into thinking this will be a motivational speech is the week’s best moment.) “Whatever raises the value of that stock is what we’ll sell,” Action Jack says before returning to the horses, who now join the Silicon Valley Sexytime List. If you’ve been keeping track, you know the list also includes Gilfoyle, Erlich, and the Statue of Liberty.
This week’s episode is called “Two in a Box,” which may refer to the two pairs of natural enemies it depicts. The first set is techies vs. salespeople. Silicon Valley has spent 19 episodes going after people like me, so it’s a beautiful day when they relentlessly nail the sales department. It was so spot-on, I had PTSD-like flashbacks to my own torturous dealings back in my software-architect days. One time, I was on the phone with a sales guy who attempted to sell the exact opposite of what our product did. When I called him on it, I got the same type of speech Action Jack gives Richard about how to keep “good salespeople.” If you polled both sides, you’d almost certainly find mutual hatred, and I love that the show chose this as Richard’s newest battle.
The other set of enemies? Company leaders vs. their employees. The former care so little about the latter, but a quick vengeance may be on the horizon. While busting their humps trying to scrub Hooli’s search algorithm, the Nucleus team hits upon an idea. Coupled with the information the programmer bros stole from Richard in season one, the team not only cracks Pied Piper’s algorithm, but sees a way to make it even better. And they have no intention of telling the bastard who fired them. Considering that Pied Piper’s salespeople have turned the company into some kind of Iron Mountain from Hell, and EndFrame is hors de combat, the newly independent Nucleus team is in the compression engine driver’s seat. For now.