Silicon Valley Recap: The Importance of Being Petty

Silicon Valley

Season 5 Episode 2
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: HBO

“Do I really hate someone so much that defeating them is worth more than money?” asks Dinesh late in this week’s episode of Silicon Valley. “Is this what I’ve become?” Of course, the answer is yes, because as I wrote in my recap of season two’s finale, “if this show has taught you anything, it’s that we can be some petty ass people here in Information Technology.” “Reorientation,” one of the best episodes of the series so far, is a dissertation on this statement. So in honor of that, Vulture presents a second installment of The Petty People’s Awards! Our first award goes to:

Petty Gavin Belson: Mr. Belson is the Meryl Streep of these awards. He is the embodiment of one of this show’s major themes — that vengeance is a major pastime of narcissists with too much money and time on their hands. But the Reigning King of Petty gets dethroned in this episode — in fact, he commits the least of the infractions we’ll see in “Reorientation.”

With sales of Box 2: Electric Boxaloo going through the roof, Hooli creates version three of the product made famous by Action Jack Barker. To erase any trace of his former rival, Gavin introduces the Gavin Belson Signature Box III. It’s the same as Box 2, except it has Gavin’s signature on it. Like Apple, Hooli preys upon its customers’ “fear of missing out” to peddle a new version of the exact same product with worthless minor adjustments. Unlike Apple, Hooli actually listens to its customers’ opinions.

The problem here is Gavin’s signature, which appears prominently on the front of the new hardware. Gavin’s chicken-scratch handwriting tested lower with focus groups than Pied Piper’s new interface did back in “Daily Active Users.” And there’s a good reason for their terror: A handwriting analysis expert’s report uses terms like “troubling traits, sociopathic tendencies, a lack of empathy, and the inability to accept bad news.” Gavin responds to the report by firing the poor woman who is reading it to him.

Next, Hooli Box designer Dang makes his first appearance since “Maleant Data Systems Solutions,” an episode that shares several similarities with this one. Dang hires famous underground artist Banksy to remove all the bad energy from Gavin’s John Hancock. Unfortunately, Banksy’s contract stipulates that his name also appear on any artwork he delivers. “On what planet does a signature have a signature on it?” asks Gavin before firing Banksy and telling Dang to create a Hooli-wide signature-designing contest for employees. “It’s free!” a cost-conscious Gavin bellows. It’s also pornographic; the winning signature looks just like a penis. While Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg sing “Dick On a Box,” let’s present our next award.

Petty Programmers, Part One: As if car manufacturer Tesla doesn’t have enough problems, Dinesh and Gilfoyle drag them into their latest game of one-upmanship. “Reorientation” opens with Dinesh buying a sleek black Tesla, which comes complete with “insane mode” and a frunk, which is a trunk that’s in front of the car rather than the back. “Was that a wise decision,” asks Gilfoyle of the expensive purchase, “considering Richard just obliterated Pied Piper’s runway by hiring all those coders?” Dinesh isn’t worried, so Gilfoyle twists the knife a bit.

“Cars depreciate 10 percent as soon as they fall off the truck,” he says. “So if this car were $100, you’ve just lost $10. Did this car cost $100?” It didn’t, but karma seems to be on Dinesh’s side when he lands a primo parking spot on the first level of the five-level parking garage at the office. Gilfoyle is stuck on level five. “The world has finally rewarded me for trying to save the planet,” gloats Dinesh before rambling on about how he’s saving the planet. I tuned him out because I’m from New Jersey and as such am contractually obligated not to care about the environment.

Gilfoyle twists the knife harder. He buys a craptastic electric motorcycle off Craigslist, the site that shut down its personal ads but will still allow you to buy a crotch rocket that might electrocute you on the freeway. Gilfoyle plugs his new vehicle into the Dinesh’s normal spot, banishing Dinesh to level five. As a result, Dinesh must now try to beat Gilfoyle to the office. Director Mike Judge stages this as a drag race where Gilfoyle has the fortunate advantage of being able to use the much faster bike lane. To combat this, Dinesh fires up his Tesla’s “insane mode” feature, which is like Knight Rider’s Turbo Boost minus the cool sound effects. Dinesh turbo boosts directly into a Bright Color Juicery truck.

As Dinesh pulls his battered vehicle into the garage, Gilfoyle is waiting for him. “Something’s wrong with your frunk,” he deadpans. “It’s all frucked [sic] up.” Unfrucking a frunk costs $17,000, money Dinesh doesn’t have. But he decides to do it, because defeating Gilfoyle will be worth the money. Dinesh commits to this fallacy of logic while talking to our next award winner:

Petty Jian Yang: Jian Yang continues his quest to be the next Erlich, which will give him control of Hacker Hostel and 10 percent of Pied Piper. He just needs to convince a probate court that Erlich has shuffled off this mortal coil. Since it’s too expensive to send a dead body from China to impersonate Erlich, Jian-Yang’s corrupt Chinese uncle sends him an enormous pig carcass. Jian-Yang cremates it into ashes — wasting all that delicious pork in the process — and brings the ashes to court. Judge Coulter (note that last name!) tells Jian Yang that, if he takes over as New Erlich, he’ll be responsible for all of Old Erlich’s debts. “Would you characterize Mr. Bachman as a financially responsible person?” asks the judge. One need only revisit “Bachmanity Insanity” for the answer to that question.

Jian Yang discovers that Erlich was up to his neck in debt. “He had seven credit cards,” he tells Dinesh, “none of which had reward miles.” But Jian Yang’s hatred of Erlich trumps his common sense. He pays all the bills, takes over Hacker Hostel and evicts Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh. “The Erlich administration is over,” Jian Yang tells his former housemates. “You are victims of a circumstance.” Before Richard gets evicted, however, he has to deal with:

Petty Programmers, Part Two: To paraphrase a famous rap song, “the more coders we come across, the more problems we see.” Richard learns this lesson when the Optimoji folks and the Sliceline folks turn against him. Jared, our resident details man and empath, tries to get Richard to lead his troops, to inspire them to devote their lives to PP:TNG by doing three days of job orientation. As usual, Richard’s public-speaking skills are disastrous. “Reorientation” opens with a bloody-nosed Richard being comforted by Jared. Richard explains why he ran into the glass surrounding his office, and the description is so disgusting I’ll just leave it to Gilfoyle to sum up:

“What we saw was an oily man vomit and then violently thrust himself into a glass wall. I suppose it’s less embarrassing the way you explained it.”

Richard’s attempts to unite Optimoji and Sliceline beget massive failure. Writer Carson Mell presents the series’s most brutal jab at IT by making the leaders of both teams little tyrants who would immediately be fired by a competent boss. Their demands lead to a change in coffee, coding habits, and, in the show’s funniest moment, an influx of dogs. That last thing causes one of the stallions to go into anaphylactic shock. “This is why we had the no-dog policy!” Jared tells Richard before demanding Richard speak to his crew. But not even Jeff Cardoni’s familiar inspirational music motif can help Richard, who tells the team that if they can’t see his vision, they can leave, and he’ll offer them severance pay until they find another job. All 50 programmers take the offer.

Undeterred, Richard starts coding his ass off. His Herculean attempt to do it all himself inspires his former coders, who one by one start coming back after Jared emails them about Richard’s prowess. Silicon Valley correctly states that we as coders are inspired more by results, action, and skill sets than flowery prose and empty inspirational platitudes. (But we’re still petty. Sorry!) Everyone bears witness to Thomas Middleditch’s best pratfall since the face-plant in the aforementioned “Maleant Data System Solutions.” An exhausted Richard, who has been up four straight days, simultaneously burps, sharts, pukes, and shatters a glass wall with his body. This only makes his petty-ass team love him more. Everyone, that is, except Jeff Wasburn, the spy Hooli planted to take Richard down.

Bonus: Petty Silicon Valley Opening Designers: I love how the opening credits change every season to comment on the state of tech. I usually keep my mouth shut on this, opting instead to let you find the goodies in that complex animation. But I couldn’t resist mentioning the animators’ nasty, completely appropriate jab at Facebook. That’s some good petty right there.

Silicon Valley Recap: The Importance of Being Petty