'Silicon Valley' recap: Richard tackles the art of negotiation
The many annoyances of starting a business, any business, are well-fertilized comic turf, and "Silicon Valley" has managed to take broad swipes at quite a few in a short window of time. This week, Richard discovers the name is the thing, and while the business name he wants -- Pied Piper -- inspires near universal revulsion (Jared makes the point that the fairy tale "is about a predatory flautist who murders children in a cave"), he's willing to fight for it. I'm not sure if this week is more about Richard showing he has the guts to go far or simply proof that he has that asshole quality Erlich so values, but it was pretty funny nonetheless.
As we know, Richard wasn't able to cash Peter's $200,000 check last week because he hasn't filed the name Pied Piper as a business yet, and Jared has even worse news -- Pied Piper is already the name of a sprinkler company. Richard decides to visit the owner, a crusty old guy who isn't all that interested in that dadgum technology. While it's pretty clear this is a set-up -- crusty doesn't mean stupid -- one of the funnier moments in the show is watching him soften up toward the twitchy Richard (Thomas Middleditch), noting, "my son has Asperger's, too."
Richard thinks his handshake deal settles the matter (it doesn't) and celebrates by buying a margarita maker for the guys. It's at BevMo that Richard stumbles across another business speedbump -- a clueless wannabe app creator (and BevMo employee) with a horrifically bad idea, more interested in complaining about his plight than helping Richard carry his box to the car. Later, when Richard returns the margarita maker, this same employee has heard buzz about Pied Piper -- and somehow takes Richard's inability to tell him how stupid his app idea is as an endorsement. It's more of a Hollywood moment than a Palo Alto moment, I think (on another show, this guy would be tucking a bad script into Richard's hands), but still effective.
While most of the storyline revolves around Richard's quest to be the one and only Pied Piper in town (and most of the punchlines go to his housemates slamming both the name and the cheesy shirts he has made -- Dinesh describes the design as, "It looks like a guy sucking a dick with another dick tucked behind his ear for later, like a snack dick"), there's still room for Peter Gregory. Well, a little bit of room.
It's hard to imagine the show without Christopher Evan Welch (who died last year -- though there's no mention of that on his HBO.com bio). His awkward billionaire genius is spot-on and maybe my favorite performance in the entire show. This week he was given a slim storyline about the crazy-like-a-fox logic behind Peter's fixation on Burger King, but Welch owned the few scenes he was in. I hate knowing there are only so many of these in the can.
But Welch isn't surrounded by slackers. This week's banter between Dinesh and Gilfoyle about the latter's illegal immigrant status (he's from Canada) was predictable stuff, but Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr had the old married couple banter needed to make it sing.
I'm not 100 percent sold on Erlich as a character. Sometimes he seems too dunderheaded to have ever lucked into Silicon Valley money (his blathering to the press only served to create problems for Richard this week), and I had higher hopes for his mushroom-induced hallucination -- the idea that he'd be chanting the Hooli slogan of "making the world a better place" was a disappointment. Still, he serves a purpose, giving Richard a place to dump his worries -- even though they're almost always dismissed.
After the expected banter between Richard and the Pied Piper sprinkler guy (he discovers Pied Piper is all over the Internet because of Erlich and demands $250,000, after which Richard finds his inner asshole long enough to negotiate him back down to the agreed-upon $1,000), Richard walks away with the win -- and a name everyone working with him really hates.
It's two steps forward, one step back, and the tango continues as Hooli's competing product steamrolls toward production (we're reminded by a fabulously ridiculous ad about how smaller files could lead to "smaller" cancer and world hunger). The ticking clock of Big Corporate in the background adds some urgency to Richard's plight to undercut the silliness, and there's no reason to believe Mike Judge will serve up a happy ending -- we've already been reminded about Beta being trumped by VHS. Yes, criticisms that "Silicon Valley" is a marginally smarter "Big Bang Theory" aren't wrong, but it's not a bad way to spend half an hour, either.
Do you think Pied Piper has a chance against Hooli? What do you think of the name Pied Piper?