If the replacement of the late Christopher Evan Welch’s Peter Gregory with Laurie Bream (Suzanne Cryer) suggested that the second season of Silicon Valley would deal head-on with Silicon Valley’s misogynistic “boy’s club” mentality, “The Lady” confirms it. The title does not come from some mysterious woman who enters the lives of Richard and the Pied Piper team, but rather from an ingenious bit of software that acts as an intangible all-seeing mother in homes to keep children in line when parents don’t have the time. Not surprisingly, Russ Hanneman is all over this new tech, which, essentially, boils femininity down to the maternal archetype, but Hanneman was certainly not the only one who could be found guilty of trying to find an easy way to not deal with women.
For Jared, henceforth to be known as O.J., his problem with women is more based in fear of offending or being seen as a chauvinist. When Dinesh and Gilfoyle suggest Pied Piper employ Carla (Alice Wetterlund), one of their previous colleagues, O.J. gets tangled up in a classic affirmative action trap: does he want the best person for the job or the best woman for the job? And of course, as creator Mike Judge and his writers have written Carla, she is a self-assured smart-ass like the rest of the gang, who clearly gets a kick out of fucking with her male cohorts. She takes O.J. for a long spin but that’s nothing compared to how she prods Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s sense of entitlement by building them into a tizzy over how much her starting salary and benefits come out to. In Judge’s world of tech geniuses, women don’t so much shake up the work environment as they do bring out all of the petty masculine fears that men are able to hide from one another in general conversations but become severe when their sense of masculine pride and power are questioned.
Surprisingly, it’s not Carla that bothers Erlich but rather a different hire, a lanky programmer who believes he’s a cyborg and once screwed over Erlich after he made him a job offer. In fact, “The Lady” is one of the few episodes of Silicon Valley that express genuine empathy for Erlich, who is similarly feeling his power in Pied Piper slipping away as Hanneman’s investment and a bigger team lower his status and feelings of being a leader. The writing and T.J. Miller’s consistently hilarious performance ensures that he continues to act out in childish manners but what he’s getting at is genuine. What the “cyborg” did to Erlich, and ends up doing to Richard, is deeply opportunistic and the sign of someone who can’t be trusted at face value, which weirdly does seem to back up his belief that, like a robot, he has no feelings of warmth, loyalty, or gratitude. Erlich may be a paranoid blowhard but he does inarguably want Pied Piper to succeed with this team, something that can’t necessarily be said for the “cyborg,” Hanneman, or, for that matter, Riviga.
Erlich shows his dissatisfaction at a board meeting by allowing Hanneman to spend tens of thousands of dollars on promotional materials. The act looks like petulance at first, but ends up being more about nostalgia: when the materials arrive, they all feature Pied Piper’s original logo and graphics. Richard begrudgingly accepts the expenditure, despite the fact that the company needs to pay for both Carla and other new employees, which is less of an issue for Galvin Benson. As part of an ongoing scheme to assimilate Pied Piper as part of Hooli, Benson creates a new branch of his empire to make it appear as if Big Head is their new rising star, while all but ignoring a far more talented hire. In other words, unlike Pied Piper’s hiring of Carla, Hooli promotes Big Head solely for the appearance of the action, rather than Big Head’s abilities. Judge sees Benson stirred by Richard’s originality in the same way that Carla riles up the rest of the Pied Piper team, feigning promise and progress in a bid to hide his own fear of irrelevance, and going all out to shroud the fact that someone else beat him to the punch on a major idea and didn’t allow him to take the credit through his money and marketing clout.
★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television