Silicon Valley, HBO’s highly successful comedy, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, finished its third season in June. This is my continuing synopsis and review — for Episode 2 “Two in the Box” written by Ron Weiner and directed by Mike Judge.
The episode opens with Richard back at the doctor [Andrew Daly]. He is either hypochondriacal or a glutton for punishment. The doc proclaims him to be healthy, so much so, he tells him if he didn’t know better, he’d say Richard was pregnant. He asks if he’s had any lifestyle changes. Richard explains he got fired and now works as CTO under a new CEO at Pied Piper (PP), Jack Barker, and is optimistic about it. The doc is incredulous he’d work under anyone at his own company, and tells Richard he needs to check his testicles. Richard asks why, a hernia or something? He starts to prepare for the exam. Just want to make sure they’re still there, the doc gaffaws at his gallows humor. To opening credits.
Erlich, Dinesh, Gilfoyle, Jared, and Richard take the elevator to the posh Pied Piper office for the first time, and see the new logo Jack had made. The old one, he claims, was “a little phallic.” Jack gives them a tour. Haroki, a Japanese gardener, works on an indoor water feature for proper feng shui. A micro-kitchen will be catered by a Chef Amy so the guys are never hungry at work. Richard inquires if they can afford it.
Jack sits Richard down in his office and explains the miracle that is Google and how by providing cuisine and massages, they succeeded in retaining the best and the brightest. He points out a plaque on the wall called “The Conjoined Triangles of Success,” something he invented and was now taught in business schools. “Growth” is at its foundation.
Meanwhile, Dinesh and Gilfoyle get themselves settled in engineering. They play Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who gets the big monitor. Dinesh wins, provoking Gilfoyle to ask if he doesn’t just play Rock, Rock, Rock, like what they’d do in Pakistan. Jack and Richard overhear them and Jack tells Gilfoyle to just order a large monitor. He asks Jared if he’d like one, too. No, Jared says, he’s a BYOC guy.
After Jack leaves, Jared shyly asks if he could have the box the monitor came in. Why? Dinesh asks, So you can sleep in it? No, Jared, replies, not missing a beat, he hasn’t slept in a box for years. He’s been living in Noah’s guesthouse. Now, with Piped Piper’s success, he can afford to move back into his condo, which he had been Airbnb-ing to cover the mortgage. He’s been missing his tub, and Noah’s been using a lot of hate speech lately. Erlich takes his leave, obviously useless, and tells them, “I gave you this.” He takes cartons of coconut water with him.
Cut to Hooli, where, in front of his staff, Gavin Belson searches himself on Hooli Search, as he does every morning. To his consternation, he sees inflammatory articles appearing, such as “Nucleus is Tanking.” He tells the team he no longer wants to be confronted with such things. An employee asks him incredulously if he’s instructing them to fundamentally alter the neutrality of the Hooli search algorithm in violation of the public trust. Google, he notes, is being sued for that very thing by Yelp. Of course not, Gavin reassures them. Moments later, staff tells Nucleus division employees Gavin’s wishes. They balk, saying they don’t work there anymore (they had been fired in Episode 1.) You do for the next ten days, they’re reminded, and they must do it unless they wish to quit and forego their severance packages. Gavin loyalist, Patrice [Jill E. Alexander], looks disgusted with them.
In an attractive building, Jared tries to unlock the door to his condo, but the inside chain prevents this. His tenant peers out. Jared politely says he’s confused: he thought the tenant would be out according to their agreement. A change of plans, he’s told. The tenant says he can’t afford to move or to pay rent, so… Through some convoluted logic, he explains to Jared that he can’t afford to pay because of all the tech companies moved in, raising rents and since he, Jared, works in tech, it all kinda evens out. “That makes no sense,” Jared says. “I know, right?” the tenant replies. Jared kindly offers to let him stay a couple more weeks max, but then he’d have to take legal action. The tenant slams the door on him.
Jared relays his ordeal to Richard back at the house, who asks where he slept last night. “I did not,” Jared admits, keeping a stiff upper lip. Then he, Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle leave for a surprise breakfast at work, leaving Erlich behind. Jared reveals the surprise is gluten-free waffles, saying he had requested them from Chef Amy since he had too many dietary restrictions to leave it to chance.
Erlich interviews a new potential “incubee” who catalogs malware, trying to entice with him with the expensive unpasturized coconut beverages in the fridge. That’s not the concern, the incubee tells him, it’s the room–it’s kind of a dump. Erlich reassures him it will look great next month, but the incubee tells him he’ll need it earlier than planned. In background, Jian Yang purposely spills water out on the floor.
At Pied Piper, Jack has hired a sales staff, who are introduced to the guys at the company pool table for the first time: You’re not hiring engineers first? Richard asks. “God, no!” Jack exclaims.
At the PP conference room table, Keith (from Northeast Regional) [Shannon McClung], Don (of Systems Integration) [Phillip Jeanmarie], Jan “the Man,” (Director of Inside Sales) [Erin Breen], and Doug, (shadowing Keith) [Eddie Liu] listen to Richard’s presentation about PP.
Jack is mysteriously called out of the meeting and Richard learns from Sales that Jack told them Pied Piper would be business facing, not consumer facing. It’s a misunderstanding, Richard says, the plan is for PP to be marketed as “freemium” to people first and sold at a premium to businesses later. Then why are we here? they ask. Richard leaves to find Jack at the elevator, and Jack confirms he said it would be enterprise. Talk to your guys, he urges Richard, promising he won’t compromise the platform. Profitability cannot wait.
Back at the house, Erlich presents Jian Yang with a Japanese kimono (even though he’s Chinese) along with a request to leave, even requesting he bow in acceptance. Jian Yang is pissed and ceremoniously throws out the kimono.
Richard informs Dinesh and Gilfoyle of Jack’s switch to enterprise, which they agree to since it seems like Jack knows what he’s doing. Gilfoyle notes they’ll still be building the neural net and not scrapping peer-to-peer delivery.
Jared learns eviction will take a year. Richard fumes having to rewrite a part of the business plan, hoping it doesn’t delay them. Gilfoyle isn’t worried since “Endframe sucks and Nucleus shit the bed.”
Back at Hooli, an Endframe engineer asks another how he script digested all the strings so fast. It’s just a predictive loop, like a context tree, he’s told. They have a Eureka! moment.
Erlich gives Jared his garage to live in pending the eviction. Jared appreciates the cozy quarters. Jian Yang observes, demanding to know why Erlich is giving Jared the garage when he must leave. Erlich explains Jared’s tenant won’t move out. Jian Yang asks why he can’t go to the police. Erlich explains he got fucked over and must go to court, but the legal process will take a year. “Do you understand?” Erlich demands. He does. Jian Yang responds that he, too, will hold over for a year rent-free, like Jared’s tenant. “No recourse,” he tells Erlich.
The Hooli engineers figure out that if they stack that same loop (from earlier) on top of the bitlevel encoder they stole from Richard and then tethered it to the routine, they’d get a huge jump in speed, like Richard did at Tech Crunch (season 1). We just cracked middle out, they realize. Should we tell Gavin? they wonder. No, they decide, since they’d been fired, and realizing how much they could get from taking the idea somewhere else.
Richard learns at a sales meeting that they now want to take away the neural net but he doesn’t want to delete machine learning or get rid of cloud peer-to-peer. No, those go, says Keith. Why don’t we just do a box, Richard asks sarcastically. “A rack-mounted server-type device?” Doug asks seriously. “That’s fucking stupid,” Richard says, leaving the meeting.
The receptionist [Chelsea Ireland] tells Richard Jack is at the vets. Richard races out to find Jack in a barn where two horses mate. Jack’s breeding mare is in heat. Richard explains there is a problem with Sales. If they’re such good salespeople, then they should be able to sell the platform as envisaged, he reasons. No, Jack says, you have to give them easy things to sell or they’ll just leave.
Richard confidently makes an impassioned plea to Jack, reminding him he promised he’d never compromise the product. Jack asks him what he thinks the product is. It’s not the platform, the algorithm, or the software he says. “Is it me?” Richard asks. God, no, Jack says, the product is the company’s stock. Worry about changing the world, making the world a better place, and miracles later. Meanwhile, he says, he paid $150,000 for that semen to come out of the stallion and he intends to watch it happen. Jack then tells Richard he got a text from Keith, who said he loved Richard’s idea. Richard’s baffled.
Cut to a Sales meeting, where Richard watches a video about how PP can help companies wanting to protect their data from spies (showing Snowden), thieves (an Occupied person in a Guy Fawkes mask), and criminals (a handcuffed man), and foreigners (Dinesh). The video promises a secure data storage solution, and then shows a black box with the PP logo, and slogan, “Think inside the box. Powered by Pied Piper.”
Dinesh and Gilfoyle enter the scene gushing over a Chef Amy creation. They see the projection of the box. What’s that, they wonder? A VCR? Why does it say Pied Piper on it? And why does everyone look so happy? The episode ends.
Thankfully, (and spoiler alert!) this will be the last doctor visit Richard has this season. At this point, it’s established he has untreated panic disorder, but Richard helps himself more than the doc will, so this has played out. We’re happy to see Richard learning to live with the situation at PP and stand up for himself and his vision.
The worst part remains the opening theme music, which I think I’ll stop mentioning as we’re stuck with it. It’s some sort of electronic piece called “Stretch Your Face” by Tobacco.
The plot advanced well in this episode with Jack basically pulling the rug out from under Richard by abandoning the peer-to-peer and neural net from the platform and replacing the whole thing with, of all things, an unoriginal black box. So much for remaining loyal to Richard’s vision.
The best character growth continues to be Richard, who stands up to Jack three times in this episode. The first time, he backs down a little, the second, he’s more adamant, and the third, he makes a passionate appeal to Jack. At the end, though, he’s thwarted when the sales department goes ahead and makes a marketing video for what it is they want to sell rather than what Richard and his team planned to develop.
A close second in terms of character growth was Jian Yang, who, despite slow English has a quick wit. Not thinking, Erlich explains Jared’s plight to him, which Jian Yang throws back at Erlich, telling him he’s staying a year, too, rent-free, like Jared’s tenant. It’s debatable whether an audience would be pleased to see him develop beyond a weak, seemingly exploited immigrant into an annoying, destructive asshole. I wasn’t.
Third, we had homesick Jared, who characteristically tried to work with his Airbnb tenant amicably, but who he decided he would, in fact, have to evict. He’s still a pushover, but is at least beginning to grow a pair. Way to go, Jared!
The funniest moment goes to Jared, too, when he laughs off Dinesh’s inquiry about sleeping in the box, and soberly explains he hasn’t slept in a box for years. Throughout the season, we’ll get small pieces of his sorry backstory.
A close second was the rationalization of Jared’s tenant as to why he didn’t think he had to vacate. As one expects in this show, the script is funny, but it’s the delivery by the actors that nails it.
The most touching moments were when Jared used magical thinking to cope with almost everything bad that happened to him. His wistful eyes and shy grin make him an almost poignant character.
The coolest moment was the horse-mating scene. This may played differently among the audience, but I kinda dug it. It humorously exhibited the type of over-the-top hobbies high-earning tech execs seemingly enjoy.
The dumbest moments were Jian Yang’s. Personally, I think this character is irritating, but unfortunately, he appears written into the script for a year. Perhaps Erlich will get lucky and come up with some creative and outlandish way to get rid of this thorn in his side. Jian Yang does nothing to develop the story and is just there for a gags, which have played out at this point.
In summary, this episode did more in moving the story and main characters forward than in delivering comedy. That’s not a bad thing. Even though the show is a comedy, there is significant drama to it, as well. Here, we leave many of the major characters in bad places, wondering how they’ll deal with it. As always, the actors have been perfectly cast so the interplay in their roles and interaction with each other are spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy.