“How the fuck does something like this happen?” Gavin bellows in the first line of “The Uptick,” the third-season finale of Silicon Valley. “He was old and depressed,” says Patrice, Gavin’s animal dealer, of the now-dead elephant he “considered” in his last board meeting. “He had just been rescued from the circus, but as it turns out, he loved performing.” Gavin doesn’t care about poor dead Dumbo, though. His bigger concern is how to dispose of the carcass without arousing suspicion.
Once again, Gavin’s security guy, Hoover, proves to be a godsend: He knows some guys with a crane. They can scoop up the elephant and drop him into San Francisco Bay, where he’ll join the lost Tiki head from Erlich’s Bachmanity Insanity party.
So, yeah, Hoover deserves a massive raise. Some potential funds have just become available, too: When Patrice gives Gavin a gentle talking to about his use of live animals in his misguided board meetings, he fires her. Never use an egomaniac’s words against him, Patrice! Especially if those words are, “We can only achieve greatness, if first, we achieve goodness.” This line is a callback to Silicon Valley’s debut episode; it’s the first bit of Gavin Belson bullshit we ever heard. As Patrice turns in her Hooli badge and parking-garage pass, she sees an ad soliciting tech-company gossip for C.J. Cantwell’s blog. A vengeful smirk appears on Patrice’s face.
The current 25-percent owner of C.J.’s blog, Erlich Bachman, is quite adept at his new job as Chief Evangelism Officer of Pied Piper. Due to his keen ability to manipulate others who think like him, Erlich uses FOMO to achieve a Pied Piper bidding war. The lesson here? Investors will react, sometimes against their best interests, if they fear “missing out” on the next big thing.
Erlich gives us explicit details on how FOMO works. And I do mean explicit: Erlich’s speech is as memorable for its endless inanity as it is for its grotesque references to masturbation. The speech climaxes with the revelation that Coleman Blair Venture Capitalists has offered $6 million to float Pied Piper through its next round of development. “And it’s all because of this little uptick!” Erlich proudly announces, pointing at the screen that shows Pied Piper’s Daily Active Users (DAU) growth.
Upon hearing this, Jared squirms uncontrollably. Unbeknownst to Erlich, the uptick is fake, a by-product of Jared’s fake-user skullduggery. His attempt to come clean to Richard begins with an awkward offer of tea and spider-covered Russell Stover candy. “Is this about the fake users?” Richard asks. “So you knew?” Jared says with relief. Clearly, Jared forgot how easily it was for Pied Piper’s God view to expose Dinesh’s fake friends. Richard must have forgotten as well: He figured it out based on file-loading activity, rather than Pied Piper’s GPS locator. “We have a secret,” Jared whispers to Richard.
It’s a pretty lousy secret. Everybody but Erlich seems to know. Gilfoyle and Dinesh tag-team Richard regarding yet another walking of the left-hand path. Director Alec Berg (who also scripted the finale) tightly frames the three actors for comic effect. The back-and-forth verbal interplay between Gilfoyle and Dinesh, and the bewildered look on Richard’s face, made this one of my favorite scenes of the season. Richard is seduced into taking Dinesh’s flash drive, which contains a zombie script that will create an even bigger, undetectable false-DAU uptick.
“This is fraud,” Jared says of Dinesh’s zombie-script-inspired “Fear of the Walking DAUs.” Richard responds, “Well, every time I do the right thing, I get fucked. And if I do the right thing, we’re finished.” “Don’t weaponize my faith in you against me,” Jared pleads. Though Richard’s mind is made up, he can’t shake the parting image of a pained Jared staring out the window as the Aviato van barrels off to the Coleman Blair office. It haunts him to the point that, to Erlich’s horror, Richard comes clean about the fake uptick. For the second time this season, Pied Piper’s potential demise is orchestrated by a team member’s mendacity regarding a crucial piece of information.
Erlich furiously confronts Richard in the parking lot. His anger is justified, as this confession will put an even bigger blight on his name. “From the time we walked from the building to here, everybody in Silicon Valley knows about this, Richard!” he yells. T.J. Miller’s anguished delivery tops his “my dignity is in your hands” speech.
Erlich’s rep may be destroyed, but the good news is that C.J. Cantwell sold Gavin her blog for $2 million in blackmail. (Leave it to this series to make even the tech writers rich.) C.J. and the now defunct Bachmanity split the pot. Money aside, Bachmanity is still dead, as Big Head’s Dad threatens to “get very Italian” with Erlich if he ever sees his son again. So, Erlich books a trip to India to find Steve Jobs-ian inspiration. He also throws Richard out of Hacker Hostel, which means Monica’s visit to him will be her last at this address. She has bad news: Laurie wants to sell Pied Piper immediately.
Based on this scene, you can’t tell me the Silicon Valley folks aren’t aware of the erotic Jared-Richard fan fiction that’s cropped up in certain parts of the internet. First, Monica finds Richard and Jared in bed together — innocently, as there’s no way Richard Hendricks is ever getting laid on this show. Second, as Monica explains the Pied Piper sale, we see a huge poster for Al Pacino’s Cruising on Richard’s wall. Third, all that talk of secrets and weaponizing faith is just plum kinky. Nice to see the show throwing all this red meat to the fan-fiction writers while we starve until next season!
As usual, I digress. Professional Badass Laurie Bream runs into Gavin and Action Jack, who gloat about their Maleant box. Since anyone can make a Pied Piper bid, Gavin offers Laurie $900. She writes him off until he counters with a million. “I want to put the nail in Hendricks’s coffin,” he says. With three Raviga board votes, Pied Piper will finally belong to Gavin Belson.
Laurie votes yes, but Monica votes no. “Richard worked too hard to see Pied Piper sold to that asshole!” she says. “While I also find him contemptible, Pied Piper is still being sold today!” Laurie responds. She pulls in a random employee, anoints him, then forces him to vote yes. Alas, Laurie’s third vote is no longer guaranteed. New board member Evan also votes no. “I can’t vote yes, because I love you, Monica!” he blurts out.
“Do all meetings go like this?” Jared asks.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Laurie yells. “Am I gonna have to call the receptionist in here?!” Richard saves her the trouble, voting yes to sell his pride and joy. “It’s approved,” Laurie says. “Pied Piper, its IP, and all its assets are now property … of BACHMANITY, LLC.” Turns out that Big Head convinced Erlich to pool their blog windfall and buy Pied Piper. They outbid Gavin by one dollar.
Erlich doesn’t hesitate to point out that the sale was a business transaction only. “I don’t trust you, Richard Hendricks,” he says. “And it’s going to take a long, long time for me to regain that trust. Are we clear?” Cut to the next scene, where Erlich eagerly allows Richard to toss food into his mouth in celebration. Pied Piper has returned to its original owners, everyone’s happy, and Dinesh finally inhales the sweet smell of success — his video-chat app is now the future of Pied Piper. Had this been the series finale, it would be a fitting coda. Luckily, we’ll have a new season to look forward to in 2017.
- The Emmys need to stop ignoring Thomas Middleditch. He turned in his best work this season, proving equally adept at humor, pathos, and slapstick (that face-plant, my God). His scenes with T.J. Miller (also Emmy-worthy) were some of the series’ best. The dynamic between Erlich and Richard, like the one between Gilfoyle and Dinesh, makes this show a great ensemble piece.
- Martin Starr’s Gilfoyle is my spirit animal. His line readings are brilliant, and I’m more like his character than I’ll ever totally cop to. His sick burn of the church in this episode may be the greatest line he’s uttered on this show.
- Kudos to the writers and directors for taking us in surprising directions, generating suspense, and providing a surprising amount of emotional heft in unexpected places.
- Last but not least, special mentions go to Suzanne Cryer and Stephen Tobolowsky, who made their secondary characters as memorable as the leads, and far quirkier. Cryer’s “Jack Barker has been exited” line is the kiss-off of the decade.
- Thanks for reading, folks! See you next season!