This week’s episode of Silicon Valley is a love letter to diehard fans. Writer Carrie Kemper digs deep into the crates, pulling out numerous references to the series. “Intellectual Property” also features a shocking yet delicious comeuppance, a major character finally getting laid, and physical comedy gold from Thomas Middleditch. The biggest reward, however, comes from a bittersweet callback to my favorite character from season one, the late Christopher Evan Welch’s Peter Gregory.
More on the beloved Mr. Gregory in a minute. First, I have to deal with a very sleep-deprived Richard Hendricks. He’s at his wise-cracking doctor’s office, and the doc is none-too-happy that his patient is drawing schematics on his examination-table paper. “You change this after every patient, right?” Richard asks. “I guess I’m gonna have to now,” he moans in response.
Richard’s drawing maps out an architectural issue he can’t yet solve. As a programmer, I can attest to the veracity of Richard’s sleepless nights. Once a problem gets its hook into you, you’ll thrash around on the line like an angry fish. Time becomes immaterial until you realize you’ve zoned out for hours if not days. Although I’ve never walked into a pool with my clothes on as Richard does here (note that he still has enough common sense to take off his shoes and socks), I will admit to writing more than one of these recaps in a similar sleepless state. If you’ve ever wondered, “What the hell is wrong with that Odie guy?” now you have your answer.
“They say that after Alan Turing was chemically castrated, he got less annoying,” the doctor says, interrupting Richard’s incoherent babble. Clearly, the writers of The Imitation Game didn’t get that memo.
You know who else hasn’t accepted a crucial piece of information? Erlich Bachmann. At Jian-Yang’s venture capitalist meeting, Erlich still refuses to accept that the software in question is nothing more than eight octopus recipes written by a loving Chinese grandmother. The VCs are also confused: They thought Jian-Yang was saying “see food,” not “seafood,” and are expecting a Shazam-like app that works on food. In a fit of desperation, Erlich brokers a $200,000 deal for this non-existent product.
Over at Hooli, Gavin is walking through the campus in a state of shock. He’s realized that his vengeful scheme to punish Action Jack Barker has resulted in inheriting PiperChat’s $21 billion in FTC fees. Blindly, Gavin walks past Action Jack, who catches up to him. As they begin walking together, Action Jack offers Gavin the ne plus ultra of Psychological Foot Massages: “What if, hypothetically, I had a way to delete all the chat data in question?” He continues: “Hypothetically, I could blame it on a malfunction of my Endframe box servers. The board would have nothing to blame you for!”
Gavin is speechless at Jack’s generous offer. But as I told you back in “Two in a Box,” Psychological Foot Massages only seem like they benefit the recipient. It’s really a Trojan horse for the masseuse’s evil plans. “I was beginning to question your loyalty,” a grateful Gavin says. Once again, the great Stephen Tobolowsky shows he’s the master of ominous line readings: “Well, you should’ve questioned it!” Action Jack says, “I said [my plan] was hypothetical. I didn’t say I would do it.”
Cut to the Hacker Hostel. “Guys, Gavin Belson got fired from Hooli!” an excited Dinesh calls out to the guys. “HOOLI HELL!” I yelled at the TV. Sure, Gavin’s done more than enough to deserve an ouster, but I never thought it would occur before the series finale, if at all. Yet, this shocking development is in line with the Silicon Valley’s consistent statement on the fine art of self-sabotage. The worst of every character’s wounds have all been self-inflicted.
It’s not just Gavin’s turn on the rack, either. Monica also gets hers when an attempt to trick her nemesis Ed Chen into investing Raviga money in Erlich’s SeeFood app backfires spectacularly. Ed Chen speaks Mandarin, so he’s able to ask in Jian-Yang’s native language if Erlich is conning his investors. A drunk Jian-Yang dishes the dirt, and soon a very pregnant Laurie Bream is calling Monica into her office and putting her on the SeeFood account.
At least Erlich realizes he’s on the hook for the app. He attempts to persuade Jian-Yang to accept the $200,000 and write SeeFood. “You know who walks away from money?” he says. “Richard! A crazy person!” Pointing to a drenched, fully clothed, and still rambling Richard, Erlich asks, “Is this how you want to end up?” (Richard did indeed turn down Gavin Belson’s offer of $10 million for the then-unfinished Pied Piper compression app in the very first episode.) “He is a cautionary tale,” Jian-Yang says, agreeing with Erlich. “I’m not crazy!” yells Richard.
“I can help with the SeeFood app,” Big Head says. “I did some image recognition code for my Nip Alert app.” Back in season one, remember when Erlich chose to invest in Big Head’s Nip Alert app instead of Pied Piper? It was described as “foursquare for titties,” a sexist app that alerted users to erect nipples. (Silicon Valley has gotten some serious mileage out of Nip Alert; it turns up on occasion in the most surprising developments, most memorably in “Binding Arbitration.”)
Erlich turns down Big Head’s help, but if he were more observant, he’d jump on it. Big Head is the exception to that self-sabotage rule. No matter what he does, there’s always a windfall. Through no doing of his own, Big Head became a VP at Hooli in “The Cap Table,” which eventually led to him getting a $20 million severance package. Granted, that money was squandered by Erlich in “Bachmanity Insanity,” but that disaster is what gets Big Head into Stanford University. Unfortunately, Stanford wants him to guest-lecture rather than attend as a student. As usual, Big Head responds with a complete lack of worry.
If this were the “what me, worry?” version of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, Dinesh would be the Sam Jackson to Big Head’s Bruce Willis. Dinesh feels great about dodging the FTC fine bullet and taking Gavin down in the process, but Gilfoyle quickly throws cold water on all that. He points out that Gavin is a beyond-vindictive billionaire whose newfound unemployment gives him infinite time to plot murderous revenge. “People don’t kill people in the Valley!” Dinesh says, looking to Jared for confirmation. “I once saw Gavin throw a sloth down a flight of stairs,” Jared says, referring to the star of one of Gavin’s animal-centric meetings.
Dinesh’s worry increases when he gets a message from Mia. Impressed by his “takedown” of Gavin, she asks him for a date. “That’s probably Gavin catfishing you,” Gilfoyle says. Fortunately for Dinesh, Mia is not only real, but she also knows Gilfoyle from Bovine Dawn. Their date is a master class in discomfort … until they discover their mutual hatred of Gilfoyle.
The next morning, Dinesh brags to his co-workers. “I did sex on her!” he says excitedly. Let’s add him to the Silicon Valley Sexytime List! He joins Gilfoyle, Erlich, Jared, Action Jack Barker’s horny horses, Laurie Bream, and the Statue of Liberty! None of those folks are as dangerous as Mia, whose hacker skills scare the Chinese government. Gilfoyle warns Dinesh that she’ll destroy him if he so much as disagrees with her.
While Dinesh stews in his worry, Richard gets a reprieve from his insanity. Monica reveals that Peter Gregory had the same decentralized internet idea. It’s the first we’ve heard of Peter in a while, and his contribution to the plot serves as a fine tribute. “Why didn’t you tell me?!” Richard angrily asks. Monica points out Peter’s tendency to obsess over things. “But he gave up on this, Richard,” she warns.
Richard talks Monica into letting him into Peter Gregory’s storage room at Raviga. “It’s like we walked into Peter’s brain,” Richard says of the room. Inside, he finds his mentor’s notebooks on the new internet concept. Peter ran into the same architectural problem Richard did, but the real reason he quit was due to a “revenge patent” taken out by one of the guys in the mysterious photo of Peter and Gavin from “Fiduciary Duties.” The patent killed Peter’s project. Since the guys in that photo went on to create Hooli, the decentralized internet concept is now owned by Richard’s mortal enemy, Gavin Belson.
Richard’s reaction is to clumsily kick a hole in a closet door at Hacker Hostel. “Nope, he’s not crazy!” Gilfoyle says sarcastically. Oh, but Richard is clearly certifiable, because “Intellectual Property” ends with him standing at the front gate of Gavin’s huge mansion. Could he be going into business with Gavin?