Silicon Valley Recap: Money for Nothing

Silicon Valley

Fiduciary Duties
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Silicon Valley

Fiduciary Duties
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: HBO

Riddle me this: Would you work at a job where you did absolutely nothing for $600,000 a year? Before you answer, I’ll throw in oodles of those worthless pieces of paper affectionately known as “options.” All you have to do is show up for work, sit on your keister, and wait for your options to vest. There is nothing you can do that will get you fired because your actual job is doing nothing. Your options will vest in five years, and when your contract is up, you’ll have made $3 million (before taxes).

Sounds good? Nelson Bighetti, a.k.a. Big Head, would disagree with you.

Richard’s best friend is back with a vengeance after sitting out last week’s Silicon Valley, and this episode, entitled “Fiduciary Duties,” continues to draw amusingly ironic parallels between Pied Piper’s CEO and Hooli’s VP of Spite. After realizing that Big Head knows less than nothing about the Pied Piper code the Brogrammers are trying to reverse engineer, HR manager Gary Irving changes Big Head’s status to “unassigned.” One of his new co-workers explains how the “unassigned” department works:

“Gavin believes in this Japanese form of management,” he tells Big Head, “where not being assigned is the most shameful outcome.”

It’s like being sent to the Island of Misfit Toys, except instead of rescuing you, Santa flies by weekly to shower you with money. One of Big Head’s colleagues reassures him: “You’ll go numb about it in a week.” He then suggests the team walk to Arby’s for lunch, which would get him fired in a normal employment environment.

While Big Head is making Big Bucks doing nothing, Richard is facing yet another threat that his funding will be pulled. Peter Gregory wants to discuss Richard’s “vision for Pied Piper,” but Richard still can’t explain what the damn product does. Dinesh highlights this problem in his inimitable, blunt style:

“You turned down $10 million to be able to develop something that you, as the head of the company, can’t even describe to another human being.”

Richard’s failure to communicate seems like a cliché, but I’ve known many an IT person who was far better at the doing than the telling. They’re masters at all manner of complex functionalities, but would rather be skinned alive than explain how it all works. I love doing both—and I’m good at it — because my mom dropped me on the head when I was a kid. This forcibly split both halves of my brain, which now function as two separate entities. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, unless he gets hit in the head with a crowbar at an accurate hemisphere-splitting angle, Richard is going to need a big-picture guy —someone who can cook a gumbo of bullshit phrases that sounds delicious but is full of empty calories. In Apple terminology, he needs a Steve Jobs to complement his Steve Wozniak. Erlich fits this bill, but it takes the entire episode before Sober Richard realizes this.

Drunk Richard realizes this a lot earlier. At Peter Gregory’s toga party, I mean, at “Peter Gregory’s Orgy of Caring featuring Flo Rida,” Richard learns two things:

1. He can’t hold his liquor, which leads him to sign Erlich to his board of directors.

2. There’s a start-up company for women whose job is to flirt with nerdy partygoers and pretend they’re interested in the resulting conversation.

No. 2 is dispensed with a hilarious line of truth from one of the employees of Sexy Hot Actress Chicks Who Only Pretend to Care. When asked how one can determine which partygoers work at this establishment, she says, “Anyone that’s over a 7 is with us, and anyone under a 3 is a guest.”

“It’s a really fun job!” she tells the guys.

No. 1 is a tad more problematic. Erlich seems to be the worst person to have any control in Pied Piper outside of the 10 percent he currently owns. “He and Peter can vote you out of the company,” Gilfoyle warns. Richard listens to his employees and rescinds Erlich’s board of directors appointment.

But Erasmus didn’t say “in vino veritas” for nothing. Richard’s bacchanal of booze extracted the awful truth from his subconscious: Erlich has been explaining how to communicate product information throughout the series. Peter Gregory ponies up the dough, but he’s reactive about advice. In “The Cap Table,” Gregory says, “I cannot guide you until you give me something to guide!” Compare that to Erlich’s proactive responses like the orgasmic product name comments and his Vision Quest from “Articles of Incorporation.”

When Richard’s two mentors are in the room together at the end of this episode, you can sense the scales of Richard’s respect tipping in favor of Erlich, and not just because Erlich spouts some Gavin-worthy corporate marketing malarkey to describe Pied Piper’s vision and save Richard’s ass. Drunk Richard quotes Jerry Maguire, saying “you complete me” to Erlich. Sober Richard realizes just how true that is. He lets Erlich joins the board, and Erlich’s response is the IT equivalent of “you complete me”:

“You’re my Wozniak!”

“Fiduciary Duties” drops some pebbles into the narrative waters of the show, and I’m thinking the ripples are going to be huge. What’s with that mysterious picture of Peter Gregory and Gavin on Peter’s wall? And since Pied Piper isn’t the only compression engine Gregory has invested in, will another company emerge out of nowhere to compete with both Pied Piper and Hooli?

I don’t say enough about the actors on this show, so let’s close out with some well-deserved praise for a fine cast.

TJ Miller’s performance as Erlich gets richer and funnier every episode. He rocks that terrible beard while walking a razor-thin line between hero and villain. He plays some of the broadest scenes in the series and he never loses credibility. I always feel that his antagonism of Richard is a warped form of tough love.

The late Christopher Evan Welch continues his fascinating descent into Peter Gregory’s genius-slash-madness. His delivery is impeccable, whether calling Flo Rida “Florida” or ending this week’s meeting with a curt “you can go now.” The faces he makes, and the pauses he employs, are as hilarious as they are true to life.

I’d like to see more of Martin Starr (Gilfoyle) and Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh), but their frenemy relationship yields some great lines when they’re on. Starr is amusingly deadpan, and Nanjiani easily handles his long-winded, snarky, and obvious explanations to Richard. Josh Brener makes Big Head into a likable goofball, and Matt Ross wrings maximum value out of his short appearances: Gavin looms over Silicon Valley like Goliath to Richard’s David.

Despite every week revealing some new aspect of damage to Jared’s psyche, Zach Woods makes him Silicon Valley’s most emotionally revealing character. I like how he supports Richard with a mixture of common sense, knowledge, and cheerleading.

As Richard, Thomas Middleditch is great at capturing Richard’s frustrations. He grows every episode, but it’s a Paula Abdul–MC Scat Kat kind of thing: two steps forward, two steps back. The panic attack that results in him getting into Jared’s pants in the bathroom before his big meeting with Peter Gregory was Middleditch’s finest comic moment thus far.

And no, Richard doesn’t “get into Jared’s pants” euphemistically. I meant literally, as you series viewers know. But I’ll bet you could make some Fifty Shades of Grey kinda money out of Richard-Jared fan fiction. Call it 256 Shades of RGB. You’re welcome.

Silicon Valley Recap: Money for Nothing