Greetings from Las Vegas, the perfect place from which to report on the penultimate episode of Silicon Valley! After all, Sin City has a role in perhaps the best sight gag in the show’s history. For this, we have writer Carrie Kemper to thank. Kemper wrote two of my favorite episodes of the series — season three’s “Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride” and season four’s love letter to fans, “Intellectual Property” — and “RussFest” not only finds her indulging her penchant for putting characters in hilariously ugly costumes, it also features yet another of her heart-wrenching monologues. Maybe it’s the Vegas booze talking, but I found myself getting a little misty-eyed this week.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so let me tell you all about what’s going on a few hundred miles north of here at RussFest. We begin with the final Pied Piper implementation meeting. Russ interrupts, pointing out that his new logo contains his punctuation-based obsession, three commas. Also at the meeting is Michael from AT&T. “Crazy Town is gonna be there and so is Puddle of Mudd,” an enthusiastic Russ tells him, but his attempts to impress fall flat; the Ma Bell employee has no idea who Puddle of Mudd is. Full disclosure: Neither did I, but YouTube fixed that. In fact, I’m writing this paragraph while listening to this.
After the meeting, Michael informs Richard that AT&T has signed with competitor YaoNet USA. Dinesh and Gilfoyle arrive just in time to hear this information. “Richard, people in there have been working themselves to death in there for weeks with no pay!” says Dinesh. While Gilfoyle looks at Richard with stoic ambivalence, Dinesh the coward adds, “I’m gonna wait out here while you go in there and tell them.”
“I’m not gonna say anything,” says Richard. “If I do, we won’t make it to RussFest.” Once again, Richard has decided to walk the left-hand path, and as usual, dire consequences accompany his deception. “When this goes bad, I’ll cover your ass if you cover mine,” says Dinesh to Gilfoyle. “No,” says Gilfoyle. When things go bad later in this episode, Dinesh won’t be able to cover his own ass.
Attempting to boost company morale while hiding the AT&T outcome, Richard dresses in a hideous hoodie designed to look like knight armor and speaks to his employees as if he were at a Renaissance Fair. He engages Becky and Owen, who are in charge of cashless payments and authentication respectively. Queen Becky, as Richard calls her, is being driven mad by Russ’ bonkers ideas about festival currency. “Russ thinks everyone should be a billionaire,” she tells Richard. Every dollar spent will be represented by one billion Russ Bucks. “So a sandwich will cost $15 billion Russ Bucks?” asks Richard. Not exactly. Russ is charging $14,999,999,999.99 for a sandwich “because he thought that would sound cheaper.”
Next, Richard addresses Gabe to determine the status of the ticketing system. “It’s gone,” says Dinesh’s least favorite co-worker. “For some reason, Gilfoyle deleted the whole thing.” The drone system has also been deleted, a fact Gilfoyle reveals he knows as soon as Richard confronts him. He informs Richard that he tasked Son of Anton, his A.I. component, with debugging code in order to save time. Faced with what it perceived was inferior code, Gilfoyle’s A.I. has gone full HAL.
“It’s possible that Son of Anton thought the best way to get rid of all the bugs was to get rid of all the software, which is technically and statistically correct,” explains Gilfoyle. “But artificial neuronets are sort of a black box, so we’ll never know.” I need Son of Anton to deal with all the bugs in my code from now on! Alas, I don’t think I want S of A ordering lunch for me; when tasked with finding cheap hamburgers for lunch, the A.I. ordered 4,000 pounds of meat.
Jared asks for a tête-à-tête while Richard makes space in the office fridge for all those burgers. We learn that Holden “acted like a bitch and quit” and that Gwart is now working for Professional Badass Laurie Bream at YaoNet, thereby making her “the enemy.” “I don’t think about her,” he assures Richard, which is clearly a lie. Their moment is interrupted by Russ, who wants approval for his hologram to very personally engage with the audience. “My hologram can 100 percent dry hump festival-goers from behind if they ask for it!” he yells to the programmer creating it. “Hashtag woke!”
RussFest gets built in a very cool time-lapse sequence that segues into Festival Day. Richard checks all the computer systems while wearing a ridiculous floppy hat that bears a slight resemblance to the one Prince’s Christopher Tracy wore in Under the Cherry Moon. In addition to dealing with all the technical problems that will befall this endeavor, Richard will also deal with an increasingly neurotic Russ. Several times, Russ will interrupt the Pied Piper team in crisis to seek approval for his increasingly bonkers attire. Costume designer Christina Mongini easily earns this week’s MVP award for her contributions.
While Russ freaks out about his couture, Jared keeps hallucinating Gwart in items shaped like her. Turns out Gwart is not only really there, she’s apparently a YaoNet spy. Competitor sabotage may explain why PiperNet is experiencing deterioration of service. Things get much worse when Maximo and Michael appear on TV to announce the AT&T–YaoNet deal, forcing Owen and Becky to resign over Richard’s lies. A pathetic Dinesh tries to side with the betrayed others, but only winds up embarrassing himself. In order to keep RussFest running, Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh will have to stay up for 72 straight hours to man all the systems.
Back at Pied Piper HQ, someone keeps calling reception to inquire about the “Pied Piper Girls Club.” “Ask Priyanka,” says Monica, “That sounds like her bag of bullshit.” But it’s not; the caller says Eric Bachmann referred her. “Whoa! T.J. Miller’s coming back?” I thought, despite the misnaming, but then I remembered that Jian-Yang is the new Erlich. Monica arrives at Hacker Hostel to discover a fake Amazon review farm staffed by underage girls. “Call your mothers!” Monica yells before shutting down the illegal operation.
As Monica walks to her car, Richard calls Jian-Yang to see if the Pied Piper code he plagiarized for YaoNet had a backdoor mandated by the Chinese government. It does, but Jian-Yang refuses to offer up the SSH key for it. “Your white witch shut down my business!” he says. Richard calls that white witch (notice that both she and Jian-Yang have Richard listed under “Bitchard” in their phones), sending her back to negotiate.
Monica tries sweet talking to no avail. Her next option is violence, but as she’s whipping Jian-Yang’s ass, he swallows the paper with the SSH key on it. But Big Head, who has been playing games of Simon the entire season, has seen the key and can sing it in its entirety. Richard hears Big Head’s song and enters the key, to no avail — the key unlocks a honey pot, that is, a false shell that does nothing. The team needs to find the exact port YaoNet is exploiting to shut them down, leading Jared to appeal to Gwart via her favorite lunch of raw artichoke and mayonnaise.
“I need this information to save my sanity,” Jared tells her. “Because if I was wrong about who you are, then I don’t know who I am.” Gwart is unmoved until Laurie eats her artichoke! She sends the info to Richard, but it doesn’t help. PiperNet degrades even more once YaoNet’s kicked off.
Richard confronts a hastily exiting Laurie, who tells him the awful truth: There was no sabotage, and the degradation is a tech problem. YaoNet does not scale, and neither will PiperNet. Hearing this, Richard does what every software developer has considered: He jumps up and down on his laptop while screaming obscenities. “Six fucking years we wasted building this worthless piece of shit!” he cries before locking himself in the bathroom. While Richard broods, Gilfoyle tries Russ’s Tres Comas Tequila brand and finds that it’s fantastic.
Also fantastic is Richard’s bathroom coding expedition. He’s taken Gilfoyle’s computer and reengineered Son of Anton to serve his middle-out code, thereby creating another A.I. that learns how to optimize itself. Congratulations, Richard, you’ve invented SkyNet! Gilfoyle takes the laptop only to discover it isn’t his. It’s Dinesh’s! Turns out that Dinesh had fiddled with Son of Anton before this, and the collaboration of all three coders made PiperNet not only work but run stronger than ever. RussFest is a raging success! “You are like the Three Musketeers of code,” says Jared, “But you are all D’Artagnan!”
One of the byproducts of the new Son of Anton-based PiperNet is the supersizing of Russ’ hologram. It is now big enough to be seen from the plane carrying Michael back from Hawaii. As soon as Michael sees the Power of PiperNet, Richard messages him: “We should talk,” he writes, setting up whatever fate befalls Pied Piper in next week’s series finale.