Culture of Pop

Silicon Valley Season 3 Review: 3.7: To Build a Better Beta


This week’s episode of Silicon Valley didn’t have the adrenaline-pumping excitement I’ve come to expect from this show, but it was a solid entry with some good laughs. Its one real weakness was that there just wasn’t much substance to the main plot.

The episode begins with Dinesh Chugtai urging Richard Hendricks to release the beta of Pied Piper. He does, after some encouragement from Bertram Gilfoyle’s girlfriend Tara, and it gets almost universally positive reception. The one exception is that Monica Hall doesn’t like it, but other than that the website is in good shape and the team decides to launch. The only thing resembling an obstacle in this plot is the fact that Monica didn’t really like the website, but even that fizzles out quickly. It was interesting to see Richard and Monica have their first real heart-to-heart since the season 2 premiere and it was definitely nice hearing Richard acknowledge how much he respects Monica’s opinion, but overall the conflict just lacked real punch. (That said, I did enjoy the touch of setting the scene in a hookah bar because that’s how Monica spends her spare time).

The best thing the main plot gave us was the return of Monica’s beige rejection outfit. The callback to “Runaway Devaluation” was thankfully not commented on and I enjoyed the subtlety, especially after last week’s clunky “Russ was right” callback.

Richard told everyone on the Pied Piper team that they get ten invite codes to send to people. When Gilfoyle said that he doesn’t have anyone he trusts enough to send the beta to, Dinesh immediately mocked him for not having friends. As always, Dinesh was quickly karmically punished for making fun of someone else when he himself couldn’t think of any friends to send codes to. This led to some fantastic bits, like the stand out scene when Gilfoyle made a friend just to spite Dinesh. Gilfoyle smugly hugging a man as Dinesh shakes his head in disgust is the scene I never knew I needed from this show. At the end of the episode, Jared told them that they’re each other’s best friend which is exactly what I’ve been saying. I’ve been expecting a plotline about Dinesh and Gilfoyle being horrified to realize they’re best friends since season 1, but I couldn’t have predicted the sheer adorableness of Jared telling them, “Jinx! You owe each other a friendship!”

The reasons for the plotline with Erlich Bachman and Big Head began to become clear in this episode. Erlich was facing an amount of debt so large he had to sell his shares in Pied Piper. I still don’t believe for a minute that Erlich would gain and lose all that money in such a sloppy manner. The D.A.’s assessment that Erlich is entitled was, in addition to being too on-the-nose, an incredibly generic assessment of Erlich, who’s previously been one of the richer characters on the show. But, regardless of the shortcuts it took to get there, I understand why the writers wanted to get Erlich’s character to this place. Although I haven’t been invested in his plotline this season because of the lack of believability, I still had enough built-up investment in him from the show’s first two seasons to feel something during the moment when he had to watch Pied Piper’s launch knowing that he’s no longer a part of it.

The Erlich and Big Head plotline, of course, also had some great laughs. That has never been a weakness with this plotline, throwing the two characters together has always been so funny it’s easy to overlook some of the flaws with the plot. A stand-out moment in this episode was Big Head’s excitement about owning two cannonballs followed by the visual of teeny-tiny Big Head trying to carry two cannonballs into a house.

In the fourth plotline of the episode, Gavin Belson’s behavior led to Eric and Naveen quitting, leaving Endframe without its key engineers. Are Eric and Naveen gone from the show for good this time? I’ve been expecting them to get more involved in the plot since back when it seemed like their names were Jason and Aly, but it looks like this is it for them.

Gavin is clearly being pushed to the brink by his bitterness towards Richard and there were some nice bits like someone who runs a tech company trying to stop a virus by cutting off all the power to the building. While there were a lot of big cartoonish moments for Gavin in this episode, I also enjoyed little things like when Naveen pointed out that Gavin still has no idea who he is and tells him, “You were invited to my wedding.” Instead of looking at all apologetic or embarrassed, Gavin sincerely asked him, “Why?” He’s got a point, Naveen. Kind of on you for thinking Gavin cares about his employees.

Gavin provided some much-needed excitement to the episode when he got his security guy to get him access to a beta of Pied Piper. Unfortunately for him, Gilfoyle had already equipped Pied Piper with a Godview and he was quickly found out. What was odd about this plotline is that it mostly hammered home how far behind Hooli is, so we’re left wondering exactly what the threat to Pied Piper will be in the last few episodes of the season.

The episode ended on Pied Piper about to launch. It was an interesting choice for an ending because if we’re supposed to feel worry or tension, I’m not sure why. By all accounts, the platform will be great. The one thing keeping this from being a fully celebratory moment was Erlich’s inner turmoil, but the ending didn’t linger on his defeat. It cut to black almost as though this were a cliffhanger, although it really isn’t. Of course, not every episode has to be a cliffhanger, but if they wanted to end on a rare victory, I wish they’d really played into that and let us feel that rare happiness.

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