silicon valley

Who Is Silicon Valley’s ‘Jared’ Dunn? Here’s Everything We Know for Sure

Photo: HBO

For the past five years, the most puzzling part of HBO’s Silicon Valley hasn’t been the tech talk about Pied Piper’s compression algorithm, or whether a decentralized internet could, in fact, remain untainted by corporate greed. No, the real mystery is who hurt poor Donald “Jared” Dunn, Pied Piper’s painfully optimistic (now former) COO, who frequently drops random hints about his past that are as bleak as they are hilarious.

Before Silicon Valley’s sixth and final season concludes, here is everything we know about the guy who, at various times, has been described as “Frankenstein’s bulimic daughter,” “effeminate K.D. Lang,” and looking like “someone starved a virgin to death.”

His parents gave him up because he made luxury travel difficult.

In “Maximizing Alphaness,” the fourth episode of season six, Jared finally has the chance to meet his biological parents and learn why they gave him up in the first place. Turns out that putting him up for adoption was the result of having two other children already, and finding first-class travel difficult when you have five people to seat. But not long after they gave up their son, Jared’s parents decided that they did want a third child. Yet rather than reunite with their long lost son, they just had another one instead … and named him Donald, too. Ouch.

He has no idea when he was born.

Zack Woods, the actor who portrays Jared, is 35 years old. You might assume that Jared is about the same age, but he wouldn’t know. In a moment of excitement in one episode, Jared thanked the guys for a day that had been “the best birthday gift” he could ask for. When pressed on whether it really was his birthday, Jared — as unaffected as ever — replied, “Oh, I don’t know. The CPS worker couldn’t find my birth certificate, but … maybe now it is.”

He has a 40-year-old godson.

The sixth season of Silicon Valley finds Jared in a bit of a frazzled state — so much so that he admits he is “not sleeping, not eating, [and] I completely forgot my godson’s 40th birthday.” If the above math is right, that means that Jared’s godson is a few years old than him.

He has a lot of elderly friends.

That Jared would be named the godparent to a man who is older than him makes sense when considered alongside the various comments he has made about his friends — who all seem to be card-carrying AARP members. When the Pied Piper team decides to break the lease on their new office space and sell off all their belongings, it’s Jared who takes the lead on organizing the details. When he makes his first sale, he admits, “I’ve organized a lot of estate sales, so this is kind of my wheelhouse.”

Then in season five, Jared tells Richard that he has “an enormous heart. And I don’t mean in the same way my deceased friend Gloria did, which the doctors should have really caught because her knuckles were gargantuan.”

He lost half his family (presumably in some tragic way).

When attempting to acquire Optimoji, a failing start-up that employs a number of talented coders — only half of which Pied Piper will continue to employ — the company’s CEO, Kira, is not willing to cut half her staff. In an attempt at honest negotiation, Jared says, “Look, I know what it’s like to only be able to rescue half your family … and it’s awful, but what can you do?”

He was raised in group homes.

Over the course of six seasons, Jared has made a handful of references to both group homes and foster parents. When at one point he says, “When you don the skin of the beast, the man within dies,” Richard asks if he’s quoting Nietzsche. Jared replies, “One of the boys at my group home always said that. He died.”

Jared’s discomfort in his own skin can also be traced back to his childhood. “I have a lifelong aversion to my own image,” he says in one episode. “You know, it’s like my foster mother used to say, ‘Donald, you have a face for the closet.’”

In season six, Jared’s dark side has begun to emerge (or reemerge), most memorably when he chases Richard out of the Hacker Hostel and shoots him with a pellet gun. “I was state-raised,” Jared reminds Richard. “You think I’m scared to catch a case of some bullshit?”

He was adopted at some point.

When Richard attempts to get Jared onboard with a plan to plant their app on the phones of every attendee at Hooli-Con, he implores Jared, “Think of it more as forced adoption through aggressive guerrilla marketing,” to which Jared replies: “Well, as a product of forced adoption, I can assure you there are consequences.”

He’s comfortable in cultlike settings.

While trying to find a way to accommodate more employees than Pied Piper has room for, Jared gleefully suggests a plan: “I suppose we could put three more workstations here, and then two more over there. It’d be crowded but cozy. They’ll be all holed up together like the Branch Davidians.”

Harriet Tubman was his imaginary friend.

When defending the idea of an imaginary friend in season three, Jared explains, “People do create imaginary friends to meet their emotional needs. When I was little, I used to pretend that I shared a room with Harriet Tubman and we were always planning our big escape.”

He might be half Apache.

Since Jared doesn’t know when he was born, it would be difficult to presume that he knows much about his ancestry. But in season four, Jared assures Richard that he’ll have his back by telling him, “You need me. The half-crazed, half-Apache who will do anything to get your back. I’ll scalp Gavin if I have to, and all the rest of those paleface sons of bitches. I’ll kill them with knives. I’ll kill them with guns. I’ll kill them with my hands. I’ll talk them into suicide.”

He has fragile body parts.

While Jared’s mind might be half-crazed, his body is quite delicate. “I have a fragile posterior,” he explains. “My aunt used to call me ‘glasshole.’”

He watches a lot of Julia Roberts movies, but not My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Jared’s tendency to look at life as one big Julia Roberts movie has become a recurring theme. This revelation first came about in season two, when Jared went off on a rant about how much Pied Piper had changed his life: “Hooli was like an abusive spouse to me. You know, like that guy who married Julia Roberts in Sleeping With the Enemy? It was dehumanizing. But then, you, Richard, you pulled me out of the life and you gave me hope and you gave me a sense of self-worth. Like Richard Gere did to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Every day here has been like that shopping-spree scene. I’m putting on hats.”

After Jared tells Richard that seeing him sell his company to Hooli would break his heart, Richard asks, “What, like Julia Roberts from My Best Friend’s Wedding?” But Jared says he has never seen it.

In season five, Jared gets Richard prepped for a fancy dinner and tells him, “Your tuxedo is pressed and ready for the gala. I put a touch of mint in the steamer. You’re going to look like Richard Gere from Pretty Woman. Maybe tonight you’ll fall for a radiant sex worker.” And he means it with the best of intentions.

He worked as a prostitute.

Jared’s Pretty Woman fantasies make a lot more sense when you consider the many references he has made to selling his own body. He rationalizes one business decision by explaining, “It’s like stealing from your pimp to pay for your friend’s appendectomy.” And in another out-of-nowhere moment, Jared explains the importance of emotional self-discipline to Richard: “Sometimes you have to numb yourself. 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.”

He has bribed at least one person with sex.

In explaining the importance of compromises, Jared admits, “I once slept with the head of an assisted living facility to get my friend Muriel bumped up the wait-list. Am I proud of it? No. Do I regret it?” He shakes his head.

He very possibly could have murdered someone.

In yet another awkward business analogy, Jared likens cutting ties to a company as being a strong way to send a clear message. “Like killing somebody to prove you’re not a narc, or showing a john your genitals to prove you’re a legitimate male prostitute and not an undercover cop … Because cops aren’t allowed to do that. And worst-case scenario, the john walks off with a free peek.”

He has seen at least one dead (naked) body.

When lamenting how their once-bustling office now looks so bare, Jared chimes: “There is a certain sad vulnerability to it. Have you ever seen a naked dead person?”

He has slept in a box.

When Jared asks Richard if he can take a cardboard box because he’s moving out of the neighbor’s guesthouse, Dinesh jokingly asks if he’s planning to sleep in it. Jared replies, “No, I haven’t slept in a box in years.” (In another episode, Jared explains how he learned to feel at home wherever he is by “simply imagin[ing] that my skeleton is me and my body is my house. That way I’m always home.”)

He has been assaulted, possibly multiple times.

We’re not sure just how many times Jared has been the victim of an assault, but he has shared a few tips with his colleagues on how to survive, including: “If you keep screaming your name, it forces the assailant to acknowledge you as a human.”

In yet another uncomfortable moment, Jared cheerily declares, “It’s good to face your fears. I was scared of intruders until I had one of those in my room, and then I realized, you know, if they’re going to kill me, they’re going to kill me. ’Cause he kept whispering that.”

After testing out Bro, an app created by Dinesh’s cousin that just lets people text each other the word “bro,” Jared admits that he loves it: “I’ve never felt like I was anyone’s bro before. The only people who have used that term with me were assailants.”

He was abused.

In season five, Jared tells Richard, “Adversity is a great teacher. Just like cigarette burns.” Earlier on, in season four, he explains his adaptability: “I’ve always been very adept at taking the shape of whatever shoe is pressed down upon me.”

His childhood toy was a Ziploc bag.

After being introduced to Winnie, Richard’s date for the evening, Jared shares that he had a stuffed animal with the same name. Then goes on to explain, “It wasn’t technically an animal. I took a Ziploc bag and I stuffed it with old newspaper and then I drew a smile on it.”

He has a method for blocking out traumatic experiences.

At one point, Richard reminds Jared, “You’re always telling me how you spent your entire childhood pretending that everything going on around you was okay.” Jared calls it “Uncle Jerry’s game.”

He watches a lot of nature videos.

In addition to being a birder — at one point, he compares a dire situation to being “like when somebody says they want to go birding with you, but really they just want to get you alone in the woods so they can take your binoculars” — Jared loves to share factoids about wildlife. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback on the beta for Pied Piper, Jared is cautiously optimistic: “I don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch. I mean, 3 percent of hatchlings are born mutated or dead, but we may have a healthy brood on our hands!”

When deciding it’s time to put himself back out on the dating market, he suggests, “Maybe now I’ll fan out my plumage, so to speak, and see what pretty birdies might share my nest.”

And when informing Erlich that there’s a rat problem in the garage, he says, “The Havahart traps don’t seem to be working. I was thinking maybe we could just pick a day and just drench it in hawk urine, because the scent of a predator can keep rodents at bay.”

He speaks German in his sleep.

Though Jared claims not to speak German, he does so while he’s sleeping. And has an odd tendency to quote Hitler on occasion. When attempting to psyche the team up as they prepare to go to court against Hooli, Jared explains, “They have the manpower. We have the perseverance. Triumph of the will.” Dinesh then, quite accurately, describes him as “the most cheerful person I’ve ever heard quote Hitler.”

In another episode, after Dinesh describes Justin Bieber as the Hitler of music, Jared corrects him: “Hitler actually played the bassoon. So technically Hitler was the Hitler of music.”

He also knows Latin.

While attempting to tell Richard just how much he means to him, Jared explains, “The word companion derives from the Latin word panis for bread. And while I can no longer digest bread, I know that you leaven my life.”

He’s not a fan of Al Gore.

While giving Richard a pep talk about his idea for a new internet, Jared explains the importance of being a leader. “People don’t want to follow an idea, they want to follow a leader,” he says. “Look at the last guy to create a new internet. Al Gore. His ideas were excellent, but he talked like a narcoleptic plantation owner, so he lost the presidency to a fake cowboy and now he makes apocalypse porn.” Maybe in Jared’s mind that’s a compliment.

This guy fucks!

Three-comma-loving entrepreneur Russ Hanneman called it in season two when he took one look at gangly Jared and declared, “This guy fucks!” In season three, a series of attractive women are seen coming and going from the Hacker Hostel garage/server room/Jared’s bedroom. When Dinesh asks him how often he just meets a woman and has sex with her, Jared demures: “Well, if you’re asking me how many times I’ve been in love, the answer is two. But the rest I won’t talk about. It’s untoward.”

Who Is Silicon Valley’s ‘Jared’ Dunn?