The overwhelming feeling watching “Bachmanity Insanity” is that it just doesn’t feel like an episode of Silicon Valley. There are some solid laughs and the plots work on the most basic level, but this show is normally about a very distinct world and very distinct characters, while this episode felt like it could easily be an episode of New Girl or Workaholics or any other hang out show.
The basic idea of taking a break from how plot-heavy this show normally is to take a look at the characters’ personal lives isn’t inherently a bad one. Season three is a perfect time to look inward and give us some insights into the characters. But, this was not that. I feel like I understand the characters less now because they were so cartoonish in this episode.
The main plot of the episode was about Richard Hendricks meeting a girl named Winnie. Things went okay until he got so uptight about using tabs versus spaces in coding that he had to break it off with her because he couldn’t imagine bringing children into this world with someone who uses spaces. It’s very much the kind of non-conflict that would be the A-plot of a ’90s sitcom.
Meanwhile, Dinesh Chugtai fell for Elisabet Kirsipuu, one of Pied Piper’s international coders. When Bertram Gilfoyle pointed out that Hooli’s video chat is spotty and Dinesh had no idea what this woman really looks like, Dinesh was depressingly discouraged. He devoted a lot of time to building an improved video chat so he could confirm that Elisabeth is up to his standards. This backfired when Elisabet’s ability to see Dinesh clearly made her lose interest in him. On a basic level, the plot worked. Dinesh was shallow to a fault and when he gets his comeuppance, it’s satisfying. But, outside of the sitcom logic in which Dinesh deserved this fate, it felt almost too mean to have a plot that boils down to him failing romantically not because he’s weird around women, but really and truly just because of his appearance.
Which brings me to the part of the episode about Jared Dunn. Inspired by Richard dating, Jared decided to get back out there. This caused Dinesh to say, “You make it sound like you’ve chosen not to date.” This turns out to be true and Jared immediately brings a woman home. Again, within the vacuum of this episode, that turn basically worked and it was funny to see a bunch of guys completely perplexed by the idea of a man just meeting a woman and then having sex with her. But, it seems difficult to justify this actually being the best thing to do for Jared’s character.
Silicon Valley is first and foremost a satire about nerdy guys. One of the running themes I’ve always really appreciated about it is the way it dissects the “Nice Guys Finish Last” trope. On the surface, the characters who fit the nice guy archetype don’t have a lot of luck with the ladies, while more asshole-ish characters like Gilfoyle and Erlich Bachman do. But, what’s so clever about Silicon Valley is how clear it is that everyone who does well with women does so solely because they actually talk to them like people, while the “nice guys” are weird and off-putting towards women. The show has always brilliantly broadcast to nerdy guys, “It’s not that women like assholes. Women like guys who actually talk to them.”
There was nothing thematically interesting about the reveal that Jared is able to get women, in fact it was a very frustrating reveal. Maybe if we’d actually seen any of the courtship process there could’ve been something going on there, but of course the woman’s perspective isn’t remotely given so we have no idea why she went for him. Sure, we the audience know that Jared is adorable and basically a good guy, but all his previous interactions with women– from yelling at Monica for being good at her job to making condescending comments to Carla like “do you want to show Monica your work space?”– have shown that he’s not nearly as nice as he thinks he is. It was disappointing to say the least to see any satirical value suddenly dropped just for a quick gag.
The plotline that came closest to actually feeling like Silicon Valley was the one about Erlich and Big Head, which was at least centered in the tech world. But, even this plotline was bafflingly simplistic. Big Head has pointed out many times that he’s fully aware that his partnership with Erlich is a raw deal, yet he keeps agreeing to things seemingly solely because Erlich is so assertive. At best it’s exaggerating the characters’ worst qualities, at worst it’s leaving the characters behind entirely to serve the plot. That plot better be building to something great because right now I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care about any of it. It’s hard to really feel anything about Big Head losing $20 million that he acquired extremely easily just a few episodes prior.
The scene with Gavin Belson speaking to his lawyers fit the theme of the rest of the episode: it was funny, but it’s hard to ignore how exaggerated the character is. When I first saw the bit where he longs for a time when wealthy men could just have people killed, I was fondly reminded of a similar Simpsons joke. But, with more time to reflect, it’s not great that a character in a generally realistic show with actual continuity would be acting like a cartoon villain.
This is an episode where every single line was devoted to serving the quickest, easiest joke. This not only underserved the characters and the plot, but it ultimately wasn’t the best approach to take for the humor. At first, I laughed at stuff like Richard’s uncomfortable rant on his date with Winnie or him calling Dinesh a man with a “pretty cool tan” because they were quick gets and, as always with this show, very well-delivered. But, those jokes are so thin and so based in cringe humor that they don’t hold up on reflection at all.