HBO’s Silicon Valley, created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler, and Dave Krinsky, completed its third season with aplomb. Here is a synopsis and review of Episode 3, “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” directed by Charlie McDowell and written by Adam Countee.
John shows Richard, Gilfoyle, and Dinesh their future in a box.
Opening scene of a mole-ish, pony-tailed guy named John, giving Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle a tour of Maliant, a data center. This is your life and where one of the PP boxes would go, he says. And another. When they state that seeing one is like seeing them all, John says that’s what he thought, till he saw them all. John then asks if they’d like to see the desks, where they’d install a PP engineer. Huh? Your sales team told me we’d have a PP engineer on site for maintenance 24 hours a day for at least the first year, he tells them. The guys are horrified.
Even at night? Gilfoyle asks. There’s no difference between day and night, John observes. Richard suggests it might be a good time to leave. John asks which of the 16 staircases would they like to go out of. Richard suggests John’s favorite. John thinks about it for a beat, then escorts them, but the guys get lost in the maze of racks, their calls for John echoing and unanswered.
Jack Barker reads Richard the riot act.
After opening credits, Richard approaches Jack in his office, saying he doesn’t want to bury his algorithm in boxes at Maliant. Short-term, he says, it’s okay, but not long-term. Jack’s more worried a fish in his aquarium might be dead. He points out his Conjoined Triangles of Success chart on the wall. They’re in a box, he notes. Admiring the serendipity of the coincidence, he instructs secretary, Gloria, to call the fish guy.
If we build the box, will you promise to let us build the platform? Richard asks. We’ll worry about that then, Jack says.
Hearing the meeting with Jack went poorly, Gilfoyle tells Richard he’s changing his LinkedIn status to “Looking for Work,” asserting the box is “artless commerce.” Jared tells him there’s paperwork in quitting.
At the house, Gilfoyle gets swag delivered from new companies trying to recruit him, including hoverboards and an Oculus. He catches Erlich eating his Popcornopolis and Dinesh wearing a gold chain around his neck and rags on them.
Richard tells Gilfoyle to return the gift baskets because Monica just called and got him in to see Laurie. Jared questions the wisdom of breaking protocol by going over the CEO’s head, but Richard tells him when you push a man so far he goes out and buys a gun and shots and robs a bank. “I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. I’m not. I’m not going to,” he backpedals.
By the pool, Erlich asks Richard if he’s angry with him. When he wasn’t invited along to the new offices, Erlich was hurt. He wants Richard to want him to talk to [Jack] Barker. Richard reluctantly agrees.
In Jack’s office, Erlich pronounces Jack’s fish as dead and says he’s sorry for his loss. He calls to Gloria to take “this daughter of Neptune to whence she belongs.” When she gives him a quizzical look, he clarifies, “the toilet, dear.” He then broaches the problem. “What information do I not already have?” Jack demands. He doesn’t want to hear any “free-form, jazz-odyssey of masturbatory bullshit” from Erlich. Unsuccessful, Erlich reports to Richard that he needs to either build the box or talk to Laurie. On his way out, Erlich speaks Japanese to the gardener.
Erlich prepares Jack’s dead fish for her last rites.
Richard goes to Laurie, who views art with Monica–a question mark harvested from human hair from dead Indians. “It’s a pun,” she informs him, about asking the big, hairy questions. She agrees the box is an “uninspirational application of technology,” and says she’ll call Jack. “I was never here,” he tells her. “You are here, now,” she notes. Monica explains Richard meant he’d prefer she didn’t say anything to Jack. “Yes, because the other meaning makes no sense,” she replies.
Laurie critiques artwork.
She calls Jack after Richard returns to the office with the guys. Richard is called into Jack’s office. He asks Richard who he thought he just got of the phone with. Richard feigns ignorance. He tells him it was Laurie, and she said she thought the box was “woefully misguided,” and wanted a plan for the consumer platform Richard and his team wanted to build within 48 hours. Richard agrees, but Jack says no, build the box. But Laurie’s the investor, Richard protests. Yes, Jack agrees, but he told Laurie if she did that, she’d have to fire him, and she wasn’t willing to do that at this time. Get a prototype in 12 weeks, Jack demands. On Richard’s way out, he warns, “If you’re going to shoot the king, you’d better be goddamn sure you kill him.”
Back at the house, Jian Yang answers the door. A TwinX recruiter delivers liquor to Gilfoyle, telling him he must take a meeting first. He agrees.
Meanwhile, Richard approaches Monica about Laurie firing Jack. She can’t fire Jack, she says, it would look chaotic after she just fired Richard.
Unbeknownst to him, Gilfoyle’s interview is with Endframe. You stole half our algorithm, he says. He’s told they already have the other half of code for middle out, showing him a diagram, thanks to Nevine and Eric from Nucleus. They want Gilfoyle because he’s a full-stack engineer.
Gilfoyle interviews with Pied Piper’s nemeses.
Cut to the diagram at the house. They have the entire prediction loop “down to the last semicolon.” Richard laments that they’re building a box, while Endframe is building their platform. At least we’ll make a little money, says Dinesh. To buy gold chains, Gilfoyle taunts. He sees Dinesh isn’t wearing the one he had earlier and even Jared busts his balls.
Dinesh concludes they must do as Jack wants. Erlich enters the room, booming, “Or do we?” He’s ignored. Jared agrees with Dinesh. “Or do we?!” Erlich repeats. Erlich calls on the team to build the platform the way they motherfucking want to. Just tell Jack what he wants to hear. Richard reasons that Jack wouldn’t be able to complain after the fact because to do so, he’d be admitting he didn’t know what was going on in his own company, and meanwhile, Laurie was already on board with it.
The guys plan a skunk works.
Dinesh still needs some convincing. A skunk works is underway. They plan it out as a team. Dinesh points out they’re shorthanded, but Erlich knows just the man for the job.
Cut to the pool at night. Carla’s there. She wants back wages, lost wages from the old job, and damages from “Jared’s sexual harassment her into being friends with that Monica-chick” simply for not telling Jack about their plan. They pay her off with most of their remaining cash, about $20,000, in what they dubbed extortion.
Carla Walton extorts Pied Piper.
In a time-lapsed scene, the guys finish their plan. Even Dinesh is in on the condition his gold chain isn’t made fun of ever again. They realize they have to fake liking going to work. Jared calls it Meinerzhagen’s Habersack, which he explains is a principle of military deception of pretending. This also means, Gilfoyle insists, they have to keep on making fun of Dinesh’s gold chain. At 7:30 AM, they drink to the plan. Except Jared, who pours his shot back in the bottle.
The guys go to the PP offices. Richard has a file folder in hand. They get off the elevator and Richard trips over the gardener’s watering hose. The papers go flying, and Keith picks them up. Skunkworks? Keith takes the papers to Jack. Richard brought the papers into the office to shred. Jack comes out of his office: “Guys? My office. Now.”
The guys are caught in the act of sabotaging Pied Piper.
It’s hard to not be impressed by Richard’s development throughout this season as he asserts himself, but this episode shows Erlich at his very best. (Spoiler alert, he reverts to being an arrogant prick soon!) Here, he’s about as humble as he could possibly be, and manages to inspire an action that will be instrumental for Richard and the guys throughout the season.
Jack, conversely, is an asshole this episode when he seemed like a reasonable guy when he first arrives on the scene. He’s growing impatient with the development of the box and becomes downright petulant with setbacks from Richard, and later, Laurie. His admonition to Richard about killing the king was foreboding. By episode’s end, Jack’s positively apoplectic when he learns of the skunk works. He has a great arc.
Laurie exhibits character growth, as well. While she sees the inadvisability of the box, she can’t quite nix it, coldly calculating the business risk of firing a second CEO so quickly. She amplifies she has the wherewithal to contribute to PP’s anticipated short-term success.
Third, we had what seems to be a semi-satisfying conclusion to Carla’s arc when she learns of the skunk works planned and uses the information for “self-help.” It was a bit of a stretch to think the guys wouldn’t foresee this, although it could be attributed to the characters’ overall social ineptitude.
The funniest moment perhaps belongs to Laurie when she drolly replies to Richard’s request to keep their meeting to herself. All the characters in this show have very unique voices, but Laurie’s (and Jared’s) are probably my favorites. They’re inherently funny characters.
Erlich’s oratory skills almost always delight, and here, he elicits some laughs with his pronouncement of death of the fish, requesting that Jack’s secretary take care of final arrangements.
John delivered some memorably humorous lines, too. It all starts with a great script, of course, but when combined with a great cast, the show becomes a master class for the crafts of screenwriting and acting.
The most touching moments were, unexpectedly, Erlich’s. His wanting Richard to want him to talk to Jack shows a level of desperation inconsistent with his typical cockiness.
The coolest moment was when the guys got lost in the opening scene because it displayed the hermit life so many of these people live in the vast wasteland that is a data center with its sameness and drudgery.
The dumbest moments throughout the season are Big Head’s and Jian Yang’s. Big Head has been effectively infantilized, even though last season, he and Richard were BFFs. I didn’t buy it. And, in this episode, Jian Yang is again a completely dispensable character.
Fortunately, Dinesh’s gold chain gag didn’t come up again this season. It played out quickly.
The wonderful twist in this episode was Gilfoyle’s unintended interview with the Nucleus/End Frame engineers. As we as an audience gleaned they had put together the missing piece of middle-out compression, watching Gilfoyle realize it for the first time was instructive as to just how loyal to Richard and PP he really is.
This episode delivered the goods both in terms of comedy and drama. The actors, even those with minor roles, are so perfectly cast, and the interplay and interaction are all spectacular. Mannerisms and facial expressions work for great reaction shots and add a lot to the comedy. It’s an exceptional viewing experience as a result.
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