“Sand Hill Shuffle,” the first episode of Silicon Valley Season 2, featured a conversation that didn’t seem much more than cautionary at the time, but comes to mean something much more by the end of “Two Days of the Condor.” While Richard and Pied Piper are being wooed with a party at AT&T Park, before Gavin Belson’s lawsuit sent the Pied Piper team into a full-tilt tizzy, Richard happens upon Javeed (Charan Prabhakar), a colleague who warns Richard about the dangers of accepting high evaluations, as he just recently lost everything thanks to an unrealistic evaluation. It’s Javeed’s story that convinces Richard to demand a fair, reduced evaluation, in the hopes of not ending up like Javeed and maybe, just maybe, doing the right thing rather than letting money get to his head.
As “Two Days of the Condor” ends, however, Richard is seemingly in a similar spot as Javeed, as he is fired from Pied Piper by Riviga, following their acquisition of Russ’s shares of Pied Piper. The reason for his dismissal, of course, is distrust on Riviga’s part, which is understandable considering all the fumbles that Richard and his team have made throughout this season. The not-so-subtle point that creator Mike Judge and his crew are getting at is that the bold and occasionally reckless actions needed to bring something of Pied Piper’s influence and ability to fruition by a small company would never look stable or even reasonable on paper. And yet, it’s the only possible way Pied Piper would work the way Richard envisioned it.
The subtext of all of this is the often chaotic and unsavory meeting of personal artistry and broad, unrefined business sense, something Judge, a major-league veteran of television and film production, knows quite a lot about. It’s a personal passion that led Jared to suggest Pied Piper test their streaming capabilities on an unhatched condor egg, which finally leads to a 127 Hours-type situation with a preserve employee tasked with checking in on the egg in “Two Days of the Condor.” The unique drama that they capture on the feed makes Pied Piper a viral hit, but it only happens because of Jared’s fascination and love for the condors and, as always, a healthy pinch of luck, either bad or good, depending on perspective. It was a lack of money and resources that led Pied Piper to put up the stream, and as soon as it turned out to be a sensation, Riviga comes in and essentially disassembles the team that made it happen.
Judge’s cynical outlook on such matters doesn’t lead to him overtly vilify Riviga or even Gavin Belson, due largely to how the writing consistently highlights the intimate flaws and regrets of nearly every character. For all her acumen, Laurie acts and speaks like a robot and is seemingly incapable of anything close to a personal relationship; Belson’s calculated schemes can’t mask the fact that the Hooli head is desperate, lonely, and self-centered to a buffoonish degree. Their embarrassments aren’t averted or veiled simply to stoke the viewer’s dislike or make them seem more powerful than they are, as such tactics would dilute the deeply human weaknesses that Judge has an empathetic taste for.
It is, after all, Belson’s grossly ill-conceived employment stipulations that finally loses the lawsuit for Hooli, which would seemingly leave him open to the attacks of his board members in the wake of so many Nucleus screw-ups. Richard is his perfect foil in that he thinks about the team that brought Pied Piper together, rather than just himself; he’s even forgiven Ehrlich’s myriad trespasses, at least half of which nearly sunk the company. The set of small inconveniences and hold-ups that keeps Richard from telling the rest of the team about their win in court is a minuscule version of what he’s been doing since he refused Gavin’s initial deal, twists of unfortunate happenstance or outbursts of personally held grievances. And much like how Richard’s struggles to wrestle his company away from the greedy hands of Hooli ends, his final dash to ensure Gilfoyle doesn’t delete all of Pied Piper ends happily, but doesn’t signal triumph or any kind of end to his personal and business woes.
At the opening, Javeed seemed unstable and desperate but Richard’s similar failure suggests a kink in the system or, rather, a rigorously defended fiscal philosophy that ensures the old business guard remains, even as the technology progresses beyond the understanding of those managing it, even if they had the impulse to try and learn such things. Throughout the second season of Silicon Valley, the underlying impulse of many of these characters was to sublimate personality to ensure being able to sell a product, which never quite worked out for the Pied Piper crew. As the credits roll on “Two Days of the Condor,” however, it seems pretty clear that it’s never really worked out well for anyone.
★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television