Though the previous episode of Silicon Valley left us with a big, fat punch in the gut, this week’s episode healed all wounds. “Maleant Data Systems Solutions” opens with Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) and his team being drilled by CEO Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) after he discovers their plan to undermine him. Though tensions are high, Richard successfully makes a comeback from his shameful debacle in episode 3, and not only saves his career, but negotiates for the development of his beloved platform.
Birth of the Box
Warning: Spoiler Alert
Richard agrees that he and his team will build “the box” Jack so violently requires, though promises only to meet the bare minimum specs laid out in their contract with Maleant. He declares that the box shall have no custom features, no maintenance, and saves his friends from being assigned to on-site support. Richard demands that, once the box is complete, the team be permitted to pursue the development of his golden child, the Pied Piper platform.
Richard’s rise to confidence and control is admirable, but Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what it is without sudden, painful (no pun intended) moments. As Richard leans over Jack’s desk in a show of superiority, his poorly placed hands cause him to face-plant directly onto the CEO’s desk, earning him a bloody nose. As Gilfoyle aptly puts it, “That was pretty bada—, Richard… until it wasn’t.” For once, I would like to see Richard make a dramatic, powerful move without completely embarrassing himself. Fortunately, however, he manages to strike a deal with Jack and the team beings working on the box.
Meanwhile, Erlich Bachman (T.J. Miller), conducts interviews for the remaining space within his deteriorating incubator. While attempting to sell a “room” to an applicant, Jared Dunn (Zach Woods) makes an untimely appearance to discuss their rat infestation. I have to say, Jared is one of my favorite characters and his odd sense of humor and obliviousness to the world around him makes him all the more endearing. Erlich is obviously irked by Jared’s interruption, but I have a difficult time believing T.J. Miller didn’t laugh during a few takes of Jared’s comment, “It’s funny, we’re named Pied Piper, but we’re beset with rats. Little rascals.”
Jared’s interruption, however, may have been the catalyst in the evolution of Erlich’s world. The prospective tenant informs him that he has accepted a room elsewhere, at a different incubator. Furious, Erlich appears at the residence, ready for a fight. However, discovering that the incubator is operated by Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti (Josh Brener), Erlich uses his misfortune to his advantage. Big Head once again demonstrates his lack of conceptual vision and Erlich proposes that they join forces. The key thing to note here is that the two have over $20 million in shared assets. This particular detail may play a larger role in the future.
Not As Far As Lot D
Moving on, the perspective unexpectedly switches to that of Denpok Singh (Bernard White) as he returns to the Hooli scene to supposedly guide Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) through his spiritual (i.e. economic) journey. Unfortunately, Denpok arrives to find that his afssigned parking space has been changed from that of Lot A to Lot D, the structure that sits beyond the freeway. Though I’ve never particularly cared for this character, he uses this episode to take the opportunity to express the same sort of wit we see from the Pied Piper team. During a private meeting, he skillfully maneuvers his way back into Gavin’s elite circle by playing on his employer’s fears. Before the scene cuts, Denpok tells Gavin, “Clearly we have come far, but we still have far to go. Not as far as Lot D, but far nonetheless.”
Denpok clearly wears the pants in the relationship, but we become more aware of his power over the great Gavin Belson in this episode. Gavin calls a meeting, to Denpok’s approval, with his fellow board members to discuss getting back into the game of middle-out compression. This scene and the analogy he uses are priceless. As a dog lover and canine enthusiast, I may be biased, but this was perhaps my favorite moment of the season thus far. Using a live prop, Gavin opens the meeting with, “Consider the bulldog, a grotesque monstrosity borne of relentless inbreeding.” While his board members remain both confused and disgusted, Gavin continues by comparing the bulldog to the Nucleus project, claiming that, like the bulldog, the project itself of incestuous. As he so elegantly puts it, “We mated Hooli engineers with Hooli designers in a Hooli kennel. Is it any wonder the result was just as unspeakable as that thing?” He proposes bringing in fresh blood and we can only assume he’s referring to Pied Piper’s only competitor, End Frame.
Finally, we return to the beloved Pied Piper team. Richard’s frustration with the assigned project is obvious and when asked what animal he imagines the box’s design to be modeled after, he angrily compares it to a box turtle. During the testing period, however, Bertram Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), everybody’s favorite Satanist, admits that he was unable to produce lackluster results. Instead of meeting the bare minimum specs, the team discovers that their box turtle has been transformed into a cheetah (or jaguar, or gazelle), capable of processing 200 mbps. Richard and his friends brilliantly exemplify the typical software engineer team and begin to take pride in their work. They present their success to Jack, who informs them Maleant has backed out of the deal, and, once again, it is up to Richard to save the day.
Once the drama with Maleant subsides, Pied Piper’s board of directors is called into a meeting to finalize the vote on the deal. Everything looks great and the whole team is pleased with their accomplishments. However, Monica Hall (Amanda Crew), one of Raviga’s representatives, finds a flaw in the contract. She explains that the language used in the contract implies Maleant will not only have exclusive rights to the box, they will also have exclusive rights to utilize Pied Piper’s algorithm in any form for five years. Richard is appalled by this and shocked that Jack has betrayed him, and relies on Laurie Bream’s (Suzanne Cryer) power to veto this deal. Unfortunately, Laurie is unable to put on a price point on Richard’s platform and states she is forced to accept the agreement with Maleant. It is at this critical moment that Jack’s colors truly show as he rudely claims that Laurie had no power to save the platform before, and she cannot do a “goddamn thing about it” now. Fortunately, Monica risks her career by making the vote three-to-two, denying the motion.
Saved by the Belson
Back in the incubator, the team convenes with Monica to discuss her bold move and Pied Piper’s future. While Jared makes a poor attempt at praising Monica, Richard receives a phone call from Gavin Belson and learns that Gavin just purchased End Frame for $250 million. Though the team is initially absorbed in their misfortune, they realize that Gavin has just given them what they need in order to build the platform—a price point.
The next morning, Richard and company arrive for work, excited to see Jack’s response to their news, only to find Laurie Bream sitting in his chair. She explains that Jack has been “exited,” because it turns out that she can do a “goddamn thing about it,” making this perhaps her first emotional play in the show. She tells the team that the position of CEO will remain empty until further notice, but its possible that the image of her in Jack’s chair might foreshadow her position as CEO of Pied Piper in the future. Though Laurie is no Peter Gregory (may he rest in peace), her quirky personality and odd interactions with the Pied Piper team make her nearly as enjoyable. I look forward to her future with Pied Piper and am very excited for the next episode of Silicon Valley!
Final Thoughts on Silicon Valley S03E04
The fourth episode of Silicon Valley’s third season is the turning point for the rest of season three. With the development of Richard’s platform in motion and Jack Barker’s departure, the team has a lot of work ahead of them. This episode was by far more enjoyable than “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack” and I hope the season picks up from here.
- “What is their address? … Because I want to send them a f—ing nice gift!” – Oh Erlich, I’ll never get tired of you.
- “A kindly pet or humanity’s cruelest mistake?” – Perhaps the greatest line ever to be spoken by Gavin Belson.
- Where have you seen Stephen Tobolowsky before? Could it have been… Groundhog Day?
- Fun fact: Bernard White also played Councilman Singh in Captain America: The Winter Solider.