The biggest reason Silicon Valley stands out from other sitcoms is the plotting. There’s a lot of genuine drama and suspense. The show will expertly ramp up the tension and then undercut it at the perfect time. This was on full display in the outstanding second half of this week’s episode.
The team thought there was no way that Jack Barker would let them build Pied Piper’s platform. The stakes increased even more when Bertram Gilfoyle found out that Endframe now has the rest of the code for middle out, thanks to Naveen and Eric coming over from Nucleus. Speaking of Naveen and Eric, I have a specific tangent to go on. Skip to the next paragraph if you’re not invested in the minutia of this show. I just want to say: those characters were definitely not named Naveen and Eric before and shame on the Silicon Valley writers for thinking that fans wouldn’t zoom in on their TechCrunch badges to find out their names. Yes, in-universe this discrepancy could be explained by the fact that Gavin Belson has a history of calling his employees the wrong thing and everyone seems to just go with it. So, sure, a guy named Eric could conceivably just accept that his name tag is going to say Brian Minter for the entire duration of his time at Hooli. But, if this is meant to be a joke it would have played better if they’d ever said the names Aly and Brian out loud before they were revealed as actually being named Naveen and Eric. Anyway, let’s all move on from this ugliness.
Erlich Bachman– who was adorably desperate to be a bigger part of the team again– suggested that they build it in secret. Richard Hendricks latched onto the idea, pointing out that if all they built was the platform, Jack would have no choice but to endorse it rather than admit he didn’t know what was happening at his own company. They come up with a “skunkworks” plan, meaning that they would pretend to build the appliance that Jack wants while actually building the platform.
What followed was a fantastic Ocean’s Eleven-style sequence, kicked off by Jared Dunn explaining that Ocean’s Eleven is a heist movie “starring Julia Roberts and eleven men.” The sequence was elevated above simple parody by the fact that audiences could feel genuinely invested. The tension was very real, even through comedic bits like them calling Carla Walton on to ask her to be part of the team only to have her extort them for $20,000 and Bertram Gilfoyle having a “breakthrough” that was just an idea for them all to get free pizza.
Throughout the episode, there was a subplot about Dinesh Chugtai deciding to buy a gold chain, only to be mocked by Gilfoyle and even Jared. This was an incredible source of jokes (“Chain the Virgin”) that ended up tying into the main plot beautifully. Dinesh said that he’ll only be a part of the guys’ plan on the condition that they stop making fun of his gold chain. Gilfoyle said that it’s a big sacrifice, so this plan better work. At the last minute, Jared reminded everyone of “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack.” According to Jared, it’s a combat strategy that means you can’t act differently or the enemy will notice. Gilfoyle gleefully pointed out this means that they have to keep making fun of Dinesh’s gold chain.
In the final sequence, they got on the elevator and Jared was absolutely delighted as he announced that he might just have a great zinger about Dinesh’s chain for when they get upstairs. The group walked through the hallways of Pied Piper. The dramatic tension and swelling hip-hop music gave this moment all the hallmarks of the end of a Silicon Valley episode. But, the sequence wasn’t quite over.
Jared’s comment about Dinesh’s chain turned out to be disgustingly over the top and in the midst of his surprise, Richard stumbled and all of the plans for their scheme flew out of the folder he’s carrying.
This is the kind of thing that could seem like stupid coincidence if the execution was any less perfect, but instead it was incredible to follow up a sequence so intense and dramatic with such a spectacular, ridiculous failure. This is also an instance, much like the tense sequence in “Two Days of the Condor” where the group keeps putting off deleting Pied Piper as Richard rushes home, where the show is able to get away with a lot because everything that happens is so character-based. Of course Jared would go way over-the-top with his ribbing of Dinesh and throw everyone off, of course Richard would stumble clumsily and, honestly, Richard’s explanation for bringing the documents that they have a shredder at the office but don’t have one at the house was perfectly relatable.
In “Two Days of the Condor,” when everyone was wondering if they could get away with claiming they accidentally deleted the entire system, Dinesh said, “I think we’ve established our incompetence beyond the shadow of a doubt.” That line pretty much sums up why suspension of disbelief can go so far on Silicon Valley as long as they stay true to the characters. Sequences like the end of this week’s episode are perfect in line with what a mess of a human being Richard is.
That said, viewers are already developing compelling theories about how their plan being discovered was actually part of their big plan. Evidence includes the fact that Erlich was established as being friendly with the gardener whose equipment Richard tripped over and the fact that Richard was wearing a backpack yet chose to carry the papers he wanted to shred in his arms. Furthermore, Jared doesn’t actually give the proper explanation for Meinertzhagen’s Haversack and the full definition involves allowing fake battle plans to fall into the hands of the enemy. But really, for the next week, I just want to appreciate what a great ending this was on its own and how excited it made me to see what happens next week.