'Silicon Valley' recap: Richard must think big but the story gets small
It usually takes a few episodes for a sitcom to find its rhythm. The cast is still learning one another's language, and the writers are determining who these characters really are. "Silicon Valley" came out of the gate looking pretty polished, but this episode -- the fourth -- suggests some ruts are being worn, and much too soon. Still, there was a lot to like, give or take a puke joke.
When Richard meets Ron the attorney, he's an over-the-top parody of a Hollywood lawyer (despite Mike Judge's stint in Palo Alto, he's spent a lot more time in L.A. -- and it shows). He fist bumps instead of shaking hands, has his "enema guy" come to the office, and shows off his toys (and secretary) to Richard like they're hanging at the frat house.
In Ron's nonstop nattering important information actually dribbles out -- Pied Piper is just one of maybe "six or eight" compression-centric start-ups Peter Gregory has snapped up. "It's like those turtles that lay hundreds of eggs on the beach," Ron says with a shrug, pointing out only a few of those baby turtles make it to the water. Richard is clearly taken aback -- he had thought he was one of those turtles, and damn if it doesn't turn out he's still an unhatched egg.
Despite reassurance from Monica (who seems to have less, not more, to do with each passing episode), Richard is unnerved -- especially knowing he has to have a meeting with Gregory to talk about his "big picture" ideas for Pied Piper. So, at Gregory's toga party, Richard starts drinking. And drinking. It seems out-of-character, but Richard has become so tightly wound we knew he had to do something to ease the pressure. Given that he's at a party complete with human sculptures, Flo Rida and, best of all, Gregory being carried into the party on a litter, why not get hammered? At least the drinks are free. The cute girls, however, are not.
When Richard, Dinesh and Gilfoyle find themselves talking to two attractive women, one them politely informs them it's her job to chat up geeks and act interested in them as people. '"Anyone who's over a 7 is with us, and anyone under a 3 is a guest," she cheerfully explains as Dinesh's face freezes into a grimace.
The next morning, Richard wakes up to Erlich in a Jobsian black turtleneck bringing him breakfast in his bunk bed. Though Gilfoyle and Dinesh joke that they think blow jobs were exchanged, the reality is actually more distressing for Richard -- he's given Erlich a spot on the board of Pied Piper. As Gilfoyle helpfully explains, this could allow Erlich and Gregory to gang together and force Richard out of the company if they ever wanted to do so.
Richard being Richard, he lets Erlich dance around in self-congratulatory circles for a while before finally pulling off the Band-Aid and taking back his promise. Of course, Erlich is furious and insulted and even goes so far as to shop around for a new guy to move into Richard's room. But, as Jared explains, it may make Erlich angry but it's not against the law -- Richard just doesn't have to sign the paperwork to make the problem go away. Ah, Jared. I could do with more of him in future episodes. Even though Richard and the rest of the gang claim to forget him when he's not in the room, Zach Woods brings a sweetness to a part that could have been one note. He also got one of the better lines in the episode: "Being around angry people relaxes me, because I know where I stand." As delivered by Woods, it's a compliment to a fuming Richard.
It turns out that Richard needs Erlich more than he realizes. Before the meeting with Gregory, he ends up in the men's room with his pants off and in the sink, hysterically blathering to Jared about how he has everything under control. While Jared comes to the rescue by donating his pants and squeezing into Richard's too-short wet ones, it's Erlich who saves the day. Despite Richard's decision to renege on his promise. Erlich feels Richard is the Steve Wozniak of Pied Piper, and "you shouldn't go into the meeting alone. I just think you should have somebody in there who will actually have your back."
Erlich not only has Richard's back, he saves his ass, smoothly explaining what Richard is thinking but not communicating. It's enough to get a nod from Gregory and let Pied Piper live to fight another day. If this all seems a little familiar, it is. While Erlich is most effective (and relatable) when he comes to Richard's rescue or surprises us with a selfless response to whatever the current problem might be, it's probably time to pass the sword. Gilfoyle and Dinesh get the funniest lines, but they're starting to seem like Statler and Waldorf, barking one-liners from the balcony without joining the action.
Given that "Silicon Valley" hasn't really hammered us with scatological humor, it seemed like a bad sign when Erlich starts gushing about how Richard is "my Wozniak" just seconds before Richard projectile vomits all over him. It felt like a moment from another, dumber sitcom.
Maybe this episode disappointed due to a lack of Peter Gregory, who's almost more of an idea than a character this week. Still, there's a poignant moment when Erlich sees the picture of him and Gavin Belson flanked by equally young and eager friends on the wall. When Erlich asks if he and Belson were friends, Gregory simply responds, "I thought so" and says no more about it. It could be a harbinger of bad things to come, though I hope not.
The B-plot this week was devoted to Big Head, whose lack of aptitude was found out by the brogrammers at Hooli. When he admitted he had no idea how Richard did anything associated with Pied Piper, he soon finds himself "unassigned." Not fired, mind you. As he learns when he finds a bunch of fellow unassigned staffers on the roof, drinking beer and playing hacky sack, Belson subscribes to a Japanese management approach which dictates that employees who are given nothing to do will curl up and wither with shame. Yeah, not so much.
Big Head is happy to "rest and vest," though his life of leisure is clearly going to put a strain on his friendship with Richard. He stumbles around the incubator trying to see if anyone will walk with him to Arby's, adrift but not unhappily so. I'm not sure Richard would change places, but he doesn't have time to explain that to Big Head anyway.
Do you think Erlich will be loyal to Richard?