Silicon Valley Recap: Hot Dog or Not Hot Dog?

Silicon Valley

Teambuilding Exercise
Season 4 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Jimmy O. Yang as Jian-Yang, T. J. Miller as Erlich. Photo: John P. Johnson/HBO

Some people like doing things the hard way. I have a techie friend with an uncanny ability to turn the simplest activities into jaw-dropping exercises in unnecessary complexity. The obvious solution always eluded him; it was just how his brain worked. Since he was a master of examining and processing extremely complicated technical issues, I guess he saw life as just another of those difficult issues to be solved. But life is a lot simpler than anything a computer can throw at you.

Richard reminds me of my pal. Just look at how he attempts to get the patent for Peter Gregory’s work. Gavin has just been fired from the company he co-founded, and Richard shows up at his mansion at 3 a.m. with a contract. Gavin answers the door, revealing that he’s destroyed everything in his house. “Mind the glass,” he tells Richard as they walk over the carnage. Now, a normal person would have said, “Why don’t I just come back tomorrow?” But this is single-minded Richard we’re talking about here. He won’t even leave when Gavin blames him for destroying his career. “My legacy is in ashes!” Gavin says, quoting The Wall Street Journal.

Richard presses on, much to Gavin’s dismay. “You’re a mean person, Richard!” he yells. “You’re a bad guy!” I was shocked to feel a bit of sympathy for Gavin, so kudos to Matt Ross. Before tearing up Richard’s contract, Gavin says, “I should let you have a crack at it just to see you fail!” Richard pounces on this momentary return of his rival’s vengeful side. On a giant photo of Gavin, Richard sketches some graphs and numbers to show how the peer-to-peer Internet will work. “This would, over time, render every Hooli server obsolete,” Richard says. “And make Jack Barker shit himself.” For this reason alone, Gavin becomes Richard’s partner in Pied Piper: The Next Generation.

Back at Hacker Hostel, Monica, Erlich and Dinesh eagerly await the SeeFood demo. Dinesh has done a great user interface for it, and Jian-Yang has written the image-recognition algorithm. Everyone rejoices when SeeFood correctly identifies a hot dog. Their joy is short-lived, however, because SeeFood only has two responses to the food it sees: “hot dog” and “not hot dog.” To soften Monica’s freak-out — her job hinges on the success of this app — Dinesh explains that Jian-Yang’s core algorithm is solid and can work if it’s better trained. Unfortunately, that requires showing the algorithm pictures of every single food in the known universe.

Jian-Yang balks at doing grunt work, but Erlich tells him they still have $150,000 of Raviga’s money to burn through, not including the cash he’s set aside for the palapa he’s building. Until the money runs out, Jian-Yang is on the hook for the education of SeeFood. Jian-Yang rectifies this by spending Raviga’s money on a bright-yellow Corvette. You might consider this an “easy way of doing things” idea. Hold that thought, because Erlich will make a case for this Corvette’s hard-way status later.

Dinesh’s hacker girlfriend, Mia, has a front-row seat for the Jian-Yang/Erlich scandal, even though she’s not physically present. She texts a good-luck message to Dinesh before the demo, which is odd because he made no mention of it. This raises Gilfoyle’s paranoia. “Did you tell her what router we use?” he asks Dinesh. Dinesh says she was complimentary of Gilfoyle’s choice. With this knowledge, and whatever information she gleaned from Dinesh’s phone, Mia could have full access to Hacker Hostel’s network. “You have to assume she’s everywhere!” Gilfoyle warns. He disables the Wi-Fi and puts the network on wired connections.

While we wait for Mia’s eventual bombshell, Richard drops his own. He tells everyone that he’s gone into business with Gavin. “Oh God, Richard! No!” pleads Jared. “When you don the skin of the beast, the man within dies!” If anyone knows what working with Gavin is like, it’s Jared. The former Donald Dunn was Gavin’s assistant before Richard stole him away for Pied Piper. The last thing Jared wants is to work for his former tormentor, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the team. Richard tells them that he understands their feelings, which is why he’s not asking anyone to join him at PP:TNG. Instead, he’ll be hiring people with the help of that scourge of the I.T. profession, the recruiter.

Nobody’s happy about this new deal initially, but Erlich changes his mind when he realizes that, with Gavin’s bottomless pockets financing Richard’s dream, Erlich’s 5 percent stake could buy 1,000 palapas. Hell, it could buy him a dozen Bachmanity Insanities too! “Okay, so we’re fine here!” Erlich says triumphantly while everyone else complains.

Jared also comes around when his desire to serve Richard morphs into a fierce Mama Bear protectiveness. After seeing Richard interview Bret Saxby, a dorky former Hooli engineer whom Jared describes as “both tardy and fresh,” Jared realizes the recruiter has sent too many of Gavin’s right-hand men to interview. Richard needs an unpredictable barrier between him and Gavin’s old crew, and Jared aims to be that barrier. He offers to stab, shoot, and murder any enemies with his bare hands if necessary. While Jared remains Silicon Valley’s most empathetic creature, Zach Woods plays him like a ticking time bomb. A few episodes back, Jared told us he was adept at taking the shape of whatever shoe crushed him. I get the feeling the next shoe is going to push him over the edge.

As if his security mistakes with Mia weren’t enough to troll Gilfoyle, Dinesh also mocks how concerned his frenemy seems to be with Richard’s candidates. None of them is worthy of Gilfoyle’s approval. Dinesh teases that Gilfoyle really wants a job with Richard, and he’s right. Gilfoyle marks up Richard’s candidate list with profane comments, but Jared notices something odd about the insults. “Gilfoyle’s insults are normally well-crafted, almost poetic,” he notes. These are just pathetic. Jared explains that this is Gilfoyle taking the hard way of expressing his desire to work for Richard. “So, should I beg him?” Richard asks. Jared suggests something a tad more minor. After Richard puts a James Brown–worthy number of “pleases” into his request for Gilfoyle to join PP:TNG, Gilfoyle rejects the offer … for about 5 minutes.

Dinesh is the only person who rejects PP:TNG, but before I get to his new job, let’s check in on Professor Big Head’s Stanford class. It’s more of a film class, with a curriculum that included “the Facebook movie, A.I., The Net, and half of Tron.” After I bitched about Big Head not including Sneakers in his list, I remembered that The Net featured a scene where an “anonymous” source represented by an emoticon in Sandy Bullock’s chatroom is easily discovered by the film’s killers. They go to the apartment complex where he’s living, and they ring the bell that has his emoticon next to it. So much for anonymity!

Big Head’s students are a lot smarter than this. When Erlich shows up in class to berate Big Head and to assign scraping the internet for food pictures for SeeFood, the kids instead do research on Erlich himself. They not only discover the real reason for this homework assignment, they also hook up with the Coleman venture capitalist Erlich screwed over. Their version of the SeeFood app will easily beat Jian-Yang’s to market. And where did these students get such an idea? “It’s exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did to the Winkelvii in that movie Professor Bighetti had us watch,” one student admits. “And he was the hero of that movie.” Once again, Big Head’s incompetence doesn’t hinder his catlike ability to always land on his feet.

Erlich’s incompetence is another story. In a fit of rage, he takes a dick pic with the SeeFood app on Jian-Yang’s phone. “See, it says hot dog!” he yells as SeeFood misidentifies Erlich’s wang. “It doesn’t even work!” Jian-Yang tells Erlich he has interviews at Airbnb and Periscope, so he’s done with the SeeFood app. Erlich accepts Jian-Yang’s resignation so long as he gives Erlich the Corvette and tells Monica why there’s no app.

At Raviga, Laurie calls Monica into her office. But instead of exiting her, she tells Monica she’s pleased with SeeFood’s newfound success. “Jian-Yang unwittingly crafted an app for the detection of penile imagery,” says Laurie. “And Periscope bought it for $4 million.” Erlich’s dick pic made it all possible! SeeFood is now SeeDong! Monica calls Erlich in his Corvette to tell him he could have had $500,000 had he not dissolved his partnership with Jian-Yang.

Of course, Erlich’s not happy about Jian-Yang’s success. Even less happy is Dinesh. His new job is at Periscope, where he’ll be testing Jian-Yang’s app. That means looking at dick pics all day long. “I would say ‘not safe for work,’” teases Gilfoyle, “but this IS your work.” Talk about doing things the hard way!

Silicon Valley Recap: Hot Dog or Not Hot Dog?