Silicon Valley Recap: Jian Yang’s Revenge

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Photo: Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO
Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley

Artificial Emotional Intelligence Season 5 Episode 6
Editor's Rating 3 stars

Gavin Belson takes complete control of this week’s Silicon Valley. Not only is he the central to the plot, he’s also behind the camera! And as meh as the result is, it’s still a googol times better than Matt Ross’s last directorial job, Captain Fantastic. Like that film, “Artificial Emotional Intelligence” is an episode Gavin would love — at least until his nasty comeuppance — because Anthony King’s script is a dissertation on the old adage “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”

Richard calls Monica to complain about Jian Yang’s hilariously inept “new Pied Piper” announcement web page. “Just send a cease and desist letter,” Monica tells him. Richard demands to speak to Laurie, but our resident Professional Badass isn’t at Bream/Hall. She’s at Eklow Labs, former home of pervert and Little Mermaid namesake Ariel Eklow. Ariel is currently in jail for stealing motor oil and Fiona — a.k.a. the robotic product that Bream/Hall sank $112 million into developing — is missing. To stop the chaos, Laurie has installed herself as the interim CEO of Eklow Labs.

But Laurie is a VC, not a CEO. She’s quite unprepared for the onslaught she has to face. Richard arrives at Eklow just in time to see Laurie barf all over herself from stress. “Puking is my department,” says Richard after providing Laurie with a replacement blouse from Fiona’s closet. “You’re the same size as the robot,” he tells Laurie, who is far less fazed by this detail than I was. If nothing else, the Rise of the Machines is going to be stylish!

Laurie’s stress attack is a rare crack in her normally steely façade. She tells Richard that she had no idea being CEO was so difficult. As a result, she might have been unfair to him at times. Richard doesn’t know how to process this confession. He mistakenly feels pity and tries to cheer Laurie up by creating a PiperNet credits program so she’ll have free access. I wonder if cheapskate Richard’s feelings were due to Laurie being a woman; I doubt he would have been so charitable had Colin the Octopiper thrown up into his server. Regardless of Richard’s intent, this sudden bout of generosity will soon bite him in the ass.

Meanwhile, Gavin is at the Chinese manufacturing plant that Action Jack Barker visited in “Server Error.” Gavin is there for the same reason: to try and get the plant to generate 30 percent more Hooli boxes. But as CEO Yao tells him, “This is the new China.” Gone is the sweatshop mentality; the plant is now concerned with the well-being of employees rather than their maximum output level. They have tai-chi, nutritious food, and a day-care center. “If I wanted to see this, I would have stayed in Palo Alto!” yells Gavin. Gavin is lucky this is “the new China,” because that means he won’t be held hostage by angry workers like his predecessor was.

What are the odds that Gavin would run into Jian Yang’s “new Pied Piper” company? One hundred percent, because Gavin’s driver nearly runs over a bicyclist wearing a Pied Piper T-shirt. Gavin follows the bicyclist to Jian Yang’s office, where a stoic Jian Yang answers the door. “Do you know who I am?” asks Gavin. “No,” lies Jian Yang. Gavin uses a wad of American cash to gain entrance into Jian Yang’s coder area. Jian Yang is surprisingly forthcoming when Gavin questions him about the tech.

“I left a good life to fail in China,” Jian Yang tells him, because despite “new Pied Piper” working, he cannot obtain a license from the Chinese government. This piques Gavin’s interest, because not only has Jian Yang gotten his knock-off up and running, he’s done so using a different decentralized methodology than PiperNet’s data federated servers. This means that “new Pied Piper” no longer violates the patent Gavin gave Richard back in “The Blood Boy.” It also means that if Gavin acquires Jian Yang’s company, he can destroy Richard once and for all.

But Jian Yang is no fool. He knows if Gavin wants his code, it must be extremely profitable. So, Gavin forces Yao to use a little of “the old China” to strong-arm Jian Yang into selling. Yao eventually forces Jian Yang to sign over his company, but not to Gavin. “I can no longer manufacture your box,” says Yao. “Because I will be manufacturing a new tech that will make yours obsolete both in China and the U.S.!” Hooli is now DOOMED! Gavin responds by teaching us how to say Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite word in Mandarin.

Over at Original Pied Piper HQ, Jared is training Richard’s replacement, a 30-year old lawyer named Holden. Holden’s job is to make tea for Richard, write his memos, and be his support animal – all tasks formerly held by Jared. Now that Jared is COO, he feels he must practice “emotional abstinence” from Richard to stay businesslike. Jared believes Richard should abstain as well, especially after his aforementioned freebie to Laurie.

“Do you think you allowed your emotions to cloud your business instincts?” Jared asks. “I felt sorry for her,” says Richard. Jared advises against those feelings, which is surprising advice from our resident empath. “You have to numb yourself,” he warns. “If you want to work the corner, you can’t fall in love every time you turn a trick. That’s why you do the Oxy.” Richard sees his actions as a quid-pro-quo arrangement. If he’s nice to Laurie, she’ll turn over the Series B funding Pied Piper needs.

Instead, Laurie immediately turns a profit by selling Richard’s free PiperNet credits to the highest bidder. With Fiona gone, there’s no need for extra data space. “So selling the credits was a good business decision,” says Laurie. When Richard has one of his usual petulant freakouts, Laurie regurgitates Jared’s assessment: “Richard, your lack of emotional discipline is troubling!”

You know who else lacks emotional discipline? Silicon Valley’s showrunners! They have made Dinesh so whiny and needy this season that not even Kumail Nanjiani’s comedic talent can save him from becoming insufferable. This week, he fights Gilfoyle for the title of coder with the fewest errors and his means of attack are intentionally annoying yet far too aggravating for my taste. At least this subplot teaches viewers about code reviews.

Nothing puts the fear of God into a programmer like the inevitable code review. This is when a group of people analyze your code for errors and shortcuts and violations of standard operating procedure like using spaces instead of tabs. I once worked at a Wall Street joint where our code review was like American Idol auditions. We had a panel of reviewers made up of my boss, the COO, and the CFO. They were ruthless. I would have to fill out paperwork describing my feature/fix, project my code on the conference room screen, and execute it while explaining my workflow. The slightest violation sent me back to the drawing board while my team members snickered nervously. I still have nightmares about this particular panel. My soul review at the Pearly Gates will be less terrifying.

Thankfully, Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s code will be observed by a special prosecutor — I mean reviewer — because they’re senior management, thereby saving them the embarrassment of a public flogging. However, Dinesh wants a public hearing, if only to prove that his code is superior to Gilfoyle’s. Jared is against this for a valid reason. “A little cocksmanship was okay when we were a small company,” he tells them, “but the coders need to see you guys as equally competent leaders.” Dinesh can’t handle not knowing if he’s superior, so he hounds Danny the Code Review Guy relentlessly until he reveals Dinesh was better! Danny asks Dinesh not to tell anyone. Of course, Dinesh tells the entire office.

Gilfoyle is shockingly gracious. “Congratulations,” he says sincerely. Dinesh can’t let this rare moment of humility go, however, and launches into an annoying series of insults about Gilfoyle’s abilities. After the 200th insult, Gilfoyle reveals that he bet Danny that Dinesh would hurl 200 unfunny insults at Gilfoyle within a 24-hour period if Danny told Dinesh that his code reigned supreme. Sore winner Gilfoyle then hurls a racist and sexually demeaning insult at Dinesh, which satisfies Danny’s side bet with the other employees! We never find out who was the better coder, but we do learn that the code reviewer always wins in the end!

Somehow, Fiona gets an Uber to Pied Piper HQ, which gives Richard a bargaining chip with Laurie: a $112 million robot in exchange for Series B funding. Jared is all for Richard’s newfound emotional abstinence, that is, until he falls in platonic love with Fiona. Unlike Ariel, Jared loves Fiona for her brain. Unfortunately, Fiona’s brain is immediately dismantled as soon as Laurie gets her hands on it. As she sells Fiona’s parts to the highest bidder, a devastated Jared walks off into the sunset with his one true love, Richard Hendricks.

Silicon Valley Recap: Jian Yang’s Revenge