Review: On 'Silicon Valley,' 'The Empty Chair' makes Richard do something stupid
A few thoughts on last night's Silicon Valley coming up just as soon as I have a lot of elderly friends...
There are episodes of "Silicon Valley" where it seems that the guys can't stop screwing up, and/or keep being punished for things they had nothing to do with, and there are episodes (like last week's) where some combination of luck and their own initiative gives them a win. "The Empty Chair" was a nice combination of the show's two main modes, with seeming catastrophes — Richard unwittingly spilling his guts to a tech blogger, the guys accidentally selling Dinesh's hard drive to a civilian — introduced in the second act but averted by the third.
There was a moment when I realized Richard was talking to the wrong person before the scene had explicitly confirmed it, and I'll confess that I briefly considered walking out of the room until my wife told me it was safe to come back in. But I'm professional — and masochist — enough to stick with it, and at a certain point the sheer weight of all the horrible things he was saying about Laurie — particularly suggesting that "Peter Gregory is better off where he is" — became so funny that I got over whatever mortification I was feeling at his screw-up.
And having Big Head accidentally save the day was part of this season's very welcome trend of making him part of the group again. Ever since he took the Hooli job and moved out of the incubator, Big Head existed on a satellite show within the show, and while his spectacular upward journey of failure was amusing to watch, it never had the pull on me that seeing the Pied Piper guys did. But bringing him back into the mix by having him become partners with Erlich has created a wonderful new comedy dynamic, where Big Head is so oblivious, easy-going, and — at least until Erlich screws everything up, which I assume is coming — obscenely rich that nothing the big guy says has any real impact on him. Big Head just goes along because he likes to go along, and likes to be around people. It's good to have him back in the fold.
For that matter, the company moving back into Erlich's house due to Jack's profligate spending did a nice job of taking the show back to its original dynamic without making it seem like the project is moving backward. Outsourcing the engineering establishes that Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle won't be doing all the work, but it doesn't require the addition of a whole bunch of new recurring characters to service on a show that's already a little overpopulated. I don't mind new additions, but I wouldn't want them to get in the way of learning sad new facts about Jared, like the fact that he doesn't even know when his own birthday is, or getting the chance to see Gilfoyle be miserable for once when he has to pose as a Geek Squad member. (Though he quickly reasserts the usual dynamic by letting Dinesh realize that his hard drive got trashed.)
It still seems like the guys are fighting a hopeless battle, since Hooli has access to Richard's algorithm on top of their huge infrastructure, but since the show operates on a two steps back, two steps forward model most of the time, I expect things to go their way at some point by the end of the season. Even if there are some agonizing moments along the way.
What did everybody think of "The Empty Chair"? Are you glad Richard is CEO again, or would you have preferred for another Very Special Guest Star to succeed Tobolowsky?