I remarked last week in my recap of “Server Space,” one of the best episodes of television to air so far this year, that Silicon Valley has been making a sincere and distinct effort to explore the sensitive side of T.J. Miller’s deeply obnoxious Erlich. The show’s creator, Mike Judge, took this concept a step further in “Homicide,” wherein we get another taste of Erlich’s life before incubating Richard and Pied Piper. As the episode begins, Hooli is launching Nucleus with a major UFC bout and it goes, to paraphrase one of the episode’s funniest lines, Apple Maps bad. This is all gravy for the gang at Pied Piper, and the failure gives Monica (Amanda Crew) the idea to capitalize on Hooli’s failure by finding a similar event to launch Pied Piper as the new data-crunch software for streaming video. Of the show’s litany of poignant symbols, the frozen, pixilated UFC fight might be the most obvious metaphor for the Gavin Belson’s attempt to take on Richard and Pied Piper.
It’s this opportunity that leads Richard to agree to use Pied Piper to stream an “extreme” stunt being sponsored by Homicide Energy Drink, a billion-dollar company started by one of Erlich’s college “friends,” Double A (Michael McMillan). Nicknames have always been a unique focus and fascination of Silicon Valley, and here, they become especially revealing of Judge’s characters. Double A’s real name is Aaron Anderson, and Richard makes the assumption that that the nickname is a play on the alliteration of his real name, just like Erlich makes the assumption that Anderson’s nickname for him, Kool-Aid, is positive. The disconnect in perspective for Erlich, his inability to understand how annoying and egotistical he comes off as, alienates him from the deal with Homicide, but his abrasiveness, as we find out, is exactly what makes him invaluable to Pied Piper.
The other way of defining Double A underlines the familiar tendency of personal issues and business goals to bleed into one another, something Judge has reiterated in nearly every episode, often more than once. Erlich is a nagging, self-satisfied presence but he’s also very loyal and dedicated to Pied Piper’s success, much like Double A is both a condescending backstabber and a brave, ambitious man living with an embarrassing condition. These behaviors can and often do co-exist, just as the stunt performer, Blaine (Dustin Milligan), begins by callously blowing off Dinesh and Gilfoyle as attention-seeking nerds, despite the fact that they are trying to clue Blaine and his team into a fatal defect in his trajectory plan. Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s subsequent belief that Blaine is a self-involved shit, who also happens to be dating Gina (Porter Duong), a Homicide employee Dinesh grows a quick crush on, leads to the episode’s greatest comedic invention, which involves Pied Piper’s two most sardonic employees “swotting” the idea of letting Blaine die. And again, Judge is cautionary when it comes to using business tactics for personal decisions, as Blaine eventually does find their quite public “swotting” board.
Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s adventures in “swotting” is a miniature version of what Gavin Belson did by going after Pied Piper because Richard wouldn’t sell to him. Judge reiterates Benson’s egotistical weakness and lack of interpersonal skill in an uproarious send-up of focus groups, where an overt attempt by Hooli’s test administrator to act caring and friendly in a business setting, by remembering every focus group member’s first name, comes off as more cold, detached, and alien in practice, as if he were the living embodiment of Apple’s Siri. Again, this is all good news for Pied Piper, even when they decide to cut ties with Homicide over Double A’s aggressive refusal to do any PR for them and insistence on taking credit for the entire stream.
Instead, Pied Piper tests the streaming abilities of their algorithm on a personal interest, namely Jared’s intense fascination with a baby Condor’s imminent birth at a local sanctuary. There’s a genuine sweetness to the way Jared enjoys the anticipation of the Condor’s birth, though he’s also the butt of one of the episode’s most poignant jokes about the myth of the male feminist. The episode ends with the revelation that the guys that Jared took a meeting with through Bro earlier this season actually did steal Pied Piper’s algorithm in the meeting, the outcome of which is End Frame, who end up hosting Homicide’s stunt. Pied Piper’s match with Hooli may be now favoring the start-up more than ever, but as Judge sees it, every fight in business is just a preparation for the next one you will inevitably have lawyer up for.
★★★★ Very good
Check out the rest of our Silicon Valley Season 2 coverage here.