Richard Hendricks finally grows a pair, and Silicon Valley rewards him with the best episode of season two. Amy Aniobi’s script has everything I love about the show: physical humor, challenges for our underdog heroes, repeatable catchphrases, more self-sabotage from Dinesh, double-talk from Gavin, and some worthwhile evil committed by the patron saint of programmers, Gilfoyle. Hell, even my nemesis, Russ, contributes some big laughs. And it ends with one hell of a cliffhanger, too.
With Pied Piper on the ropes after the End Frame/Homicide partnership, Richard has no choice but to fight for his company. The team heads to End Frame headquarters in San Francisco, and while waiting in a brick-walled office that looked suspiciously like one of my company’s old office locations, the receptionist mistakes Erlich for Pied Piper’s CEO. Before Richard can protest too much, Dinesh interrupts him with something even more important.
Seems Dinesh has been, to quote Buckwheat, “Wookin’ pa nub in all the wrong places.” More specifically, he’s on Tinder, the matchmaking app I keep calling Grindr by accident. Dinesh gets “right-swiped” by Karen, an attractive woman looking for “a man on the go.” “But you don’t go anywhere,” an accurate Gilfoyle points out. Dinesh will spend most of this episode pretending to go places in order to impress Karen. But before he stoops low enough to steal artwork from a 5-year-old boy in an attempt to fake a museum visit, Dinesh has to explain to Richard why the Wi-Fi password for the office next door to End Frame is saved in Dinesh’s phone. Seems Dinesh has also been looking for work in all the wrong places.
“Outed by Wi-Fi!” says Gilfoyle shamefully. Before this episode is over, Dinesh won’t be the only one betrayed by an insatiable need to get on the internet by any means necessary. Karen, too, will be “outed by Wi-Fi,” but in her case, it’s the Wi-Fi in Erlich’s incubator. Dinesh’s date turns out to be a once and future conquest of Mr. Bachmann, whose endorsement of Sade as sex music is the best advice Silicon Valley will ever give its viewers. “Early Sade,” he advises, “before her arrangements became too baroque.” Erlich uses Ms. Adu’s music to snatch Karen from Dinesh’s pathetic clutches. As usual, Gilfoyle rubs Dinesh’s misfortune in. “It’s a mystery you think you’ll ever see a woman naked,” he tells Dinesh.
Richard has bigger problems than disloyal employees or Erlich’s incorrect assumptions about Sade’s late-career “baroque arrangements.” (“Soldier of Love” is an awesome Sade song, folks!) Richard crashes the End Frame team meeting, which is being held in a conference room plastered with pictures of the Pied Piper team’s prior folly. “Those pictures are proof you GAVE us the algorithm,” says the End Frame CEO. Before Richard can give End Frame even more information by correcting a mistake on their whiteboard, he learns of End Frame’s sales model. A room full of salespeople are on the phone selling End Frame’s inferior services, proving that a product doesn’t have to be good so long as it’s being vigorously sold to the consumer. Just ask Apple, the master of suckering you guys into buying overpriced shit you do not need.
Speaking of Apple, the Great Satan of tech companies gets name-checked in Gavin’s latest meeting with his board. As usual, Gavin’s spin features the PowerPoint Slide Deck O’Bullshit™. One slide has an equation that would kill math and English majors alike: “Failure = Success” appears in big letters behind Gavin as he tap dances around that UFC Nucleus disaster from “Homicide.” Gavin proceeds to make his case, and for once, his bullshit contains some kernels of truth.
“Before the iPhone, Steve Jobs brought us the Newton!” says Gavin, before going down a list of tech people who first tasted failure before achieving success. He mentions Mark Zuckerberg before putting a mean-ass burn on Digg’s Kevin Rose. When finally called on his bullshit by a board member, Gavin plays his ass-saving trump card.
“Imagine, if you will,” begins Gavin, “a function so game-changing that its integration into Nucleus will justify any miscue in the platform’s roll-out.” The board is impressed with this “secret new feature” of Nucleus and can’t wait to see it in action. Neither can Gavin, who immediately runs to Hooli.xyz, the new department run by Big Head and his potato-cannon firing underlings.
Gavin instructs Hooli.xyz to “imagine, if you will, a function so game-changing that its integration into Nucleus will justify any miscue in the platform’s roll-out.” Then he adds “Seriously! Imagine it, and do it quickly! Please don’t disappoint me. Please, please, please don’t disappoint me.” Was that line reading by Matt Ross full of vulnerability or threat? Regardless, the incompetence of Hooli.xyz is a tune Gavin requested, and now it’s time to pay the piper. Of course, Big Head disappoints him big time (though his ridiculous idea is closer to real-life fruition than you may think). As an aside: Somebody should make a GIF of Gavin putting his head in his hands.
Russ is so distraught about losing a comma in his net worth that he attempts to get Richard to merge Pied Piper with End Frame. Richard refuses, and Russ cusses him out before peeling off in his regular door car. I have to give Chris Diamantopoulos his due here. In this episode, he not only executes some hilarious physical comedy, but his ejaculate-filled story about the moment he became a billionaire gave Thomas Middleditch a rare opportunity for some physical comedy as well. I also have to give props to the stunt people credited in this episode, as I assume they’re the ones who executed Russ’s car maneuvers. Was there anything else in this episode that required a stunt man?
This episode, by the way, is called “Adult Content,” and as the HBO ratings system tells you at the beginning of each episode, Silicon Valley always contains “adult content.” The content in question here is porn, which accounts for 37 percent of internet traffic (“38 percent if I’m on it,” says Erlich). End Frame has a deal with Intersite, a porn company whose software conference gives director Alec Berg the chance to show several raunchy XXX-site names I’m sure Vulture won’t let me print. They also mention a product called iWhack, which I’m too afraid to look up to see if it’s real. If it’s made by Apple, I would not advise putting it anywhere personal.
We learn about End Frame’s deal courtesy of this episode’s MVP, Martin Starr’s Betram Gilfoyle. “Fucking ninja!” says Dinesh in admiration after learning Gilfoyle has hacked into End Frame’s server to retrieve the contents of their streaming deal with Intersite. Well, actually, Gilfoyle just stole the username/password written Post-It note the idiots at End Frame left on the conference room table, but never mind.
“Okay, I was not in the room when this happened!” laments Monica, who leaves the room but still contributes to the conversation on the down low. Gilfoyle’s stolen info can get Richard to counter the deal with Intersite, even if knowledge of the deal is illegal. Richard immediately resists.
“It’s time to walk the left-hand path, Richard,” says Gilfoyle. It’s a reference our resident Satanist would be familiar with, as it entails using that old black magic, or at the very least, involves breaking some taboos. Richard meets with Intersite’s CEO and, in the best dialogue Middleditch has been given in the entire series, Richard earnestly pleads for the life of Pied Piper.
In the episode’s ending scene reveal, we learn that the Intersite CEO plans a bake-off between End Frame and Pied Piper to see who can compress naughty video libraries faster. The winner gets Intersite’s $15 million deal. We already know Pied Piper’s a better compression engine, so it looks like payback is imminent. “Welcome to the left-hand path, my friend,” says Gilfoyle to Richard before we cut to end credits.
“Oh HELL Yeah!” I yelled at the screen. Richard Hendricks has gotten his groove back! Three more episodes to go, and Silicon Valley has reclaimed its groove as well.