I’m going to tackle “Fiduciary Duties” and “Signaling Risk” together partially because I fell behind and partially because I was starting to grow a little disillusioned with the show as this sharp satire about the tech industry. I came to the realization that the show isn’t really aiming in that direction. Does it have satirical elements? Sure, and those elements are often what fuels the comedy in the show. A great example is Peter Gregory’s fourth annual “Orgy of Giving” and its paid army of beautiful people there to provide small talk. It’s another great example of the ridiculousness that happens in Silicon Valley and gives Christopher Evan Welch a couple of killer lines. However the series is really more about Richard and the gang trying to make it in Silicon Valley and about all the complications that arise. “Fiduciary Duties” demonstrates just how hard it would be to make it in this business, or any business really, on your own. Richard might have the smarts to create a revolutionary compression process but he has no idea how to turn that into a successful product and business and he basically has no people skills. He enlisted Jared’s help in order to get the business side of the company running smoothly and this episode demonstrates that even Erlich can be useful.
The Job and Wozniak parallel is the clear comparison and even gets brought up in the show but it’s just the tech version of a concept that’s been around for centuries like yin and yang. Or is it ying and yang? It’s clear every time that Richard opens his mouth and tries to explain what Pied Piper is that he could use at least a little of what Erlich brings to the table. The question is whether he needs Erlich as a whole. We’ve seen in earlier episodes that Erlich can easily get carried away and do things that could hurt Pied Piper. I liked Richard’s decision to cede control to Erlich in the meeting with Peter Gregory because that Erlich excels at that type of situation. His decision to include Erlich on the board of Pied Piper on the other hand feels a bit rash. Erlich could easily have played the same role and been on the board. Richard was in a difficult position so I can understand why he made his decision.
What made me question the decision was the last minute reveal that Gavin Belson and Peter Gregory’s rivalry began as a friendship. It was a great note to end the episode on. Richard has already lost one friend because of Pied Piper when he let Big Head go. Poor Big Head even shows up to try and hang out after he is unassigned from the Nucleus team and unwittingly pisses Richard off. I hope those crazy kids patch things up. As for Richard and Erlich, they may be on good terms now but, especially with someone like Erlich, how long can that last?
Moving on, I had a really good time with “Signaling Risk.” Treating this show as just another sitcom about a group of friends that just happen to be working in Silicon Valley is working out much better for me as viewer. Silicon Valley doesn’t have to attack the culture of the tech industry in every episode and I’m fine just hanging out with the guys and seeing how they overcome the different obstacles that Pied Piper faces. Looking at the show in this manner it reminds of HBO’s Entourage. That show revolved around a group a friends in the very specific setting of the film and TV industry in Los Angeles. Each character was trying to find some measure of success in the industry, and the show often dealt with that, but at its core Entourage was about the friendship between Vince and his boys. Silicon Valley is about similar things. Richard and the rest of the Pied Piper crew are in Palo Alto to catch their big break and they think they’ve found it in Richard’s compression algorithm.
The friendship theme isn’t present in this episode as it was in “Fiduciary Duties.” “Signaling Risk” is here to provide some laughs and add some much needed stakes to the show. From the moment Hooli began working on Nucleus we knew there was some type of deadline for Richard and the team to meet, but it was vague and there was no real sense of urgency. Having two months to turn Richard’s algorithm into a full-fledged product is definitely a good way to “light a fire under the team’s ass,” as Monica puts it. Although Jared had taken care of the basics need to set-up Pied Piper as legitimate company there was no indication that anything was getting done. This is immediately apparent in the scene where Jared tries expressing his concerns about the direction of the company to Erlich and then Richard who both basically ignore him.
It was fun to watch Jared and Erlich try and move company forward in their own ways. Each of their plot lines in the episode is a perfect representation of their character. Erlich is concerned that Pied Piper is already saddle with a terrible name and the only way to combat that now is with a kick ass logo. I was worried about how the show was going to play this interaction between Erlich and the graffiti artist but my fears disappeared as soon and Chuy mentions that he wants stock options as part of the logo deal. Like I’ve said before, everyone in Silicon Valley is trying to get their piece even the people you would never expect. Having Chuy mistake Dinesh for a Latino coder was a great setup for the reveal of the wonderfully graphic mural that ends up on the Hacker Hostel garage door. It’s also the beginning of a great running gag about Erlich trying so hard not to be racist that he ends up offending just about every person of color he interacts with.
Jared’s concerns become extremely important after Monica’s revelation that Pied Piper must have a live demo ready for TechCrunch Disrupt. I thought it was important for Richard to understand where he and Pied Piper stood with Peter Gregory. It also finally gives Monica something interesting to do other than be an interpreter for Gregory. I hope that the scene where Monica tries to cheer Richard up and encourage him isn’t the beginning of some terrible romance. It’s bad enough that Amanda Crew is the only real female cast member and she’s pretty much just a glorified assistant the last thing we need is for her to become Richard’s girlfriend. All in all, this was a great episode of Silicon Valley. It was seriously funny and turned up the heat on the team as we move into the second half of the season.
- I’ve never eaten at Arby’s but between Pharrell’s hat and the “Rest and Vest” group’s love of it the Arby’s marketing team might just convince me to try it.
- For those who haven’t heard, the fantastic Christopher Evan Welch passed away late last year and I believe “Signaling Risk” was his final episode. Peter Gregory was a key part of these two episodes and it’ll be interesting to see how the show moves forward without him.
- Drunk Richard is my new favorite Richard.
- I think the best moment of comedy the show has had in a few episodes was the sequence of Gavin Belson trying to communicate with Big Head across an array of different technologies. It was great to see them go from holograms to cell phones and have them all fail in exactly the same way.
- “I was never enjoying it. I was only eating it for the nutrients.” Peter Gregory and I share an opinion on the value of asparagus.
- You gotta love Jared’s little “Booya!” when his “Psych 101 MBA mind control bullshit” actually gets Dinesh and Gilfoyle to be productive employees. And of course he calls jello shots gelatin shots Zach Woods has been killing it.