Silicon Valley Recap: Here Come the Octopipers!

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Photo: HBO
Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

Tech Evangelist Season 5 Episode 4
Editor's Rating 3 stars

In the IT world, the “tech evangelist” preaches the gospel of the product, and does so with a fervor bordering on zealotry. Though the position has always existed in some fashion, Steve Jobs is responsible for bringing tech evangelism to the forefront and making it such a big deal. It is the marketing job to end all marketing jobs — one I couldn’t do if my life depended on it.

A good tech evangelist has to have a religious devotion to the product, which is why this week’s Silicon Valley episode’s title is so clever. As we’ll see, it’s a play on words that puts the tech world and religion on a collision course. But the title is the only clever thing this episode has to offer; “Tech Evangelist” plays as if someone wrote a coming-out story and then substituted “Christian” for “gay” in every scene and joke. Now, I have never sought religious counsel of any sort in the 12 years I’ve worked in Silicon Valley, so I’ll have to take the show’s word on how Christianity is as verboten as cigarette smoking. But the usage of gay metaphors to depict it as such feels as half-assed and lazy as the tech industry’s lame attempts at diversity.

“Tech Evangelist” begins with Richard conducting a meeting outside of the office, away from the prying ears of the Hooli Mole. Richard has brought together eight companies willing to be the first sites hosted on Pied Piper: The Next Generation. A bocce ball court provides the location, though the 20-something CEOs seem weirded out about the elderly players. “They look so old and yet so happy,” says the owner of the music site. “I don’t understand it, either,” says Richard before revealing that PP: TNG is now live. He presents each attendee with a phone for testing and christens his app “PiperNet.” Since we now have an official name for the decentralized Internet, I shall retire the PP: TNG moniker.

Richard should follow my lead and immediately retire the name he gives his first eight customers. “The Octopipers” consist of a diverse group of CEOs including a woman of color and a gay man named DeeDee. DeeDee runs an LGBT-exclusive dating app called First Sight. Richard acts a little odd whenever talking about First Sight, so DeeDee asks if the site’s exclusivity is upsetting. Richard quickly denies any discomfort. “I may as well be straight,” says DeeDee. “I’m boring. I have been with the same man for seven years and I go to church every Sunday.” He then hugs Richard, who clearly has a problem with that.

Nevertheless, it’s a good day for Richard. It’s made even better by Jared and Gilfoyle, who reveal they have found the mole. “I can’t keep this smile forever,” says Gilfoyle as Jared rambles through a long-winded explanation. Turns out that Jared’s police work and Gilfoyle’s mastery of decryption discovered that Jeff Washburn is the Hooli Mole. “How did he get all this information?” asks Richard. “By exploiting our most glaring weakness,” says Gilfoyle.

Cut to Dinesh, who is karaoke singing “Don’t You Want Me, Baby” to Jeff just before Richard & Co. barge into the apartment. While Dinesh whines about betrayal, Gilfoyle brutally murders Jeff’s laptops with a drill. An angry Richard reminds Jeff that violating Pied Piper’s NDA results in immediate termination and one helluva lawsuit. But instead of hiring Michael Cohen, Richard forces Jeff to remain employed at Pied Piper so Hoover won’t know his mole has been smoked out. Dinesh later blackmails Jeff into spending time with him as part of this agreement. “You know what happens when I get drunk, Jeff? I get real sincere,” warns Dinesh. I’m surprised Jeff doesn’t run to Hooli and confess immediately, especially after Gilfoyle tells him to “wash your fucking hair.”

Over at Hooli, Gavin is practicing his latest tech evangelist performance. He’ll introduce Box 3: The Domination, a.k.a. The Gavin Belson Signature Box, next Tuesday. And yes, the penis-inspired “signature” is still emblazoned across it. Matt Ross tops himself here: Not only does he give us the standard Gavin bullshit we expect, he effortlessly glides through a litany of tech specifications as well. Gavin’s yes men may understand all that technobabble, but they are absolutely clueless when he tells them, “The bear is sticky with honey.” Gavin is referring to the bear-shaped honey dispenser next to the teapot, but two of his lackeys think he’s giving them some kind of animal-based coded message about the presentation. It makes sense when you think about it, given Gavin’s track record of using animals as props in his speeches. The duo embark on two different paths of interpreting Gavin’s “message,” one of which features the CGI bear from The Revenant.

Gavin goes off to Jackson Hole unaware that his spotlight will be usurped by Richard’s Octopipers announcement on Monday. It’s about to get even better for Richard: The super-successful gaming company K-Hole, makers of Undead Sex Offender, are interested in joining PiperNet because Professional Badass Laurie Bream takes MDMA with K-Hole’s owner, Colin. Not only is Laurie so badass that she can see Richard dancing in celebration through the phone (“Stop doing whatever it is you’re doing!” she yells), she’s also qualified to record a cover of Tweet’s classic ode to ecstasy, “Oops (Oh My)!”

It’s always dangerous to look in the background while watching this show. As Richard and the Octopipers visit K-Hole, their gamers are playing a game so gory it looks like a Lucio Fulci movie. Richard is supposed to let the Octopipers sell PiperNet, but of course he starts rambling incoherently and “outs” DeeDee as a Christian. After the meeting, an upset DeeDee runs off, leaving Richard confused.

“You know my default position is blind support of anything you do, but this was not your finest moment,” says Jared. Apparently, you can be as nasty as you wanna be in Palo Alto, you just best not be asking Jesus to forgive you for it. Even Gilfoyle, who hates anything to do with “the Nazarene,” agrees that Richard was wrong. Because of DeeDee’s belief system, Colin is ready to call off the deal — and this is a guy who believes that life is one big computer simulation!

Making matters worse, DeeDee has decided to embrace his “outing” by creating a gay, Christian dating site. Richard objects to the Christian part before revealing his heretofore unknown mastery of gay terminology. “How did you know all that?” asks a surprised DeeDee. “Ask Dan Melcher!” I yelled at the screen. Richard tells DeeDee that he can’t host the site without losing K-Hole. So DeeDee resigns from PiperNet and takes his Grindr/Christian Mingle mashup to Pied Piper’s competition. No, it’s not Gavin. It’s Jian-Yang!

If you recall, Jian-Yang had a list of Chinese knockoffs of famous software written on the whiteboard at Hacker Hostel. Jared saw most of them, but Jian-Yang secretly erased “New Pied Piper” when Jared wasn’t looking. Richard has been ignoring Jian-Yang’s numerous phone calls demanding to get more involved now that he’s “inherited” Erlich’s 10 percent of the company. The newly obnoxious Jian-Yang looks poised to become the new Erlich – he even shows up at Pied Piper HQ driving the yellow convertible his nemesis used to own. But things don’t always turn out as planned. When Jared mentions that Russ Hanneman pissed in that same car back in “Customer Service,” Jian-Yang leaves the convertible parked across three spaces in the garage.

“Should I bill Mr. Bighetti for this tow?” asks the tow truck guy who Jared hires for the abandoned convertible. Jared is surprised that the car isn’t registered under Erlich, so he goes to visit Big Head at his new apartment. Big Head’s new digs come with the 8,000-pound tiki head Erlich bought for Bachmanity Insanity (and subsequently lost in San Francisco Bay). Bighead tells Jared that his dad forced him to dissolve his partnership with Erlich, so the tow driver was mistaken. But Big Head goes digging through his paperwork and discovers that, lo and behold, he mailed a Chinese menu to the lawyer rather than the partnership form. So, legally, Big Head is Erlich’s next of kin, which means he owns Hacker Hostel and 10 percent of a company he was fired from four seasons ago! Can you say “deus ex machina”?

While Jian-Yang’s reign as the new Erlich may be over, that doesn’t mean he won’t still be trouble for Richard: He’s escaped to China to make that New Pied Piper.

Silicon Valley Recap: Here Come the Octopipers!