This week’s Silicon Valley focused on the relationship between Richard Hendricks and Erlich Bachman, which is one of the most complex and subtly written relationships on TV. This ended up being both a strength and weakness for the episode. It’s impossible not to be invested in these two after all these years and there were some great scenes between the two of them, but after how beautifully written the Richard and Erlich relationship was in the first two season of Silicon Valley, it’s hard not to notice the corners that were cut in this face-off and to long for a more convincing emotional throughline for them.
In Richard and Erlich’s big fight, Richard brought up multiple times that Erlich did this to himself by throwing a million dollar party. The fact that this storyline hangs on such a weak set up is hard to ignore. Maybe the writers felt it was necessary to make Erlich mess up in such a ridiculous, selfish way to justify Richard’s anger. But, Richard has always been quick to anger, a personality trait that would have been perfect for making this storyline more convincing.
What I really wanted was a story where rather than being silly and frivolous, Erlich’s actions were based in what has always been the real problem in his relationship with Richard: the fact that Richard only acknowledges the importance of their partnership when it’s convenient to him. I wish Erlich had been put in a position where he made a decision based on what Richard perceives as ego, but which he and the audience recognize as coming from a place of deeply wounded feelings. Sure, this was hinted at with him feeling pushed out of Pied Piper and subsequently having such fervor to pressure Big Head into creating Bachmanity, but the connection was too thin and his actions were too over-the-top.
Despite the shaky set up, the way the story between Richard and Erlich plays out in this episode was satisfying. Richard said early on how much he prefers Erlich being the face of the company. It was nice to be reminded how much Richard depends on Erlich before things went south. At the end of the episode, Richard offered Erlich the position of head of PR. It was a logical resolution that gave this episode a nice, satisfying story.
The subplot was exactly what you’d expect a Silicon Valley subplot to be: Bertram Gilfoyle finding a new way to torture Dinesh Chugtai. This time it was kicked off by Jared Dunn showing everyone the hideous new custom Pied Piper jackets he’s had made. Huge shoutout to the design team behind these jackets– they are unimaginably bad, down to the fact that the back has bright multicolored lettering stating, “Pied Piper: Because ‘awesome world-changing compression company’ would take up too much space.” Gilfoyle decides to start wearing the jacket to force Dinesh to suffer second hand humiliation. It was a pretty simple and predictable plot, but as is always the case with the Dinesh and Gilfoyle b-plots, it was very funny with some great acting from Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr. I also enjoyed the detail that Monica Hall was the only person who ordered one of these jackets.
The tying together of the two main plots was a nice bit of storytelling as well. Erlich released an embarrassing tell all admitting to how financially irresponsible he’d been in order to protect Pied Piper. This was based on his belief that rumors of him selling shares were already starting to get out. In the end, he found out that reporter CJ Cantwell didn’t know anything about him selling his shares, the rumors she’d been hearing about were just about how ugly the Pied Piper jackets were. The button was a scene of Dinesh wearing the Pied Piper jacket while singing karaoke. I can’t say this final scene had the emotional kick of other Silicon Valley endings, but it was certainly a fun surprise.
The c-plot featured the fall of Gavin Belson. Hooli’s board of directors finally decided to re-assign him. This was another plot point that suffered from how over-the-top the actions leading up to it were. In fact, moments before he finds out he’s been reassigned, Gavin does a presentation that involves bringing in an actual live tortoise and hare for a visual metaphor. I somewhat appreciate how much Gavin has unraveled as a human being, but it’s all just a bit too cartoonish. That said, I’m interested in what will come out of him running into Jack Barker. It feels a big like the writers realized both season villains were a bit too weak and are hoping that combining them will fix this.
After all, this episode gave us a pure victory over Pied Piper’s once formidable enemy when Gavin’s attempt to block Pied Piper from Hooli’s app store was instantly shot down. This gave Richard, Jared and Erlich a nice moment of victory when they heard the news, but raises questions about exactly who the antagonist of the show is now. It will take something very smart to get viewers back on board with Gavin as the main antagonist after we’ve seen him get so terrified of Pied Piper that he irrationally insists on cutting all the power to Hooli’s building.