Fun fact. In Season 2's intro, a Sim City style cartoon of Silicon Valley, we've got a few new "easter eggs."
In January the New York Times predicted Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba could try to take over Yahoo. The two have had an extensive financial relationship, but that hasn't happened yet.
And yes, those are tech protestors blocking the Yahoo bus. Here's hoping that the gag is some foreshadowing, and that the show will "teach the controversy" there. Creator Mike Judge told Mother Jones that "The protesters are some low-hanging fruit. It's such an interesting clash. If you take the tech founders and the protesters separately, they will probably have similar views about just about everything—except for vomiting on a bus." Yes, THAT shit actually happened.
At the end of last week's season premiere, software giant Hooli hit Pied Piper with an intellectual property lawsuit. As legal eagle Ron LaFlamme (Ben Feldman, best known as Ginsberg on Mad Men) tells Richard, it's "an intimidation lawsuit designed to freeze you." Richard seems sincere in his claim that he didn't develop Pied Piper on Hooli time or even with Hooli computers, but while his former employer tries to reverse-engineer his compression algorithm, LaFlamme's ironic advice to Richard to "lawyer up." He'll need litigators, though LaFlamme calls the cost practically free at $2.5 million. It's a little side-eye commentary on legal frivolity in tech that's followed up on later when a potential investor rebuffs Richard and Erlich."We're here to invest in innovation, not lawyers," he says.
Though funding from Raviga Capital and its new leader Laurie Bream seemed assured at her predecessor Peter Gregory's funeral, the IP suit has Laurie calling the investment "untenable." In a scene with her colleague and Pied Piper go-between Monica, Laurie explains, "I'm being heavily scrutinized from within and without." The justification might also be taken as commentary on her new role in the show. She's also got woman-to-woman advice for Monica for how to break the news. "In my experience it's best to look a person in the eye and deliver the information with warmth and compassion." The irony, of course, is her robotic delivery. Also, she says, "Dress unattractively when you tell them. I read a study. The less sexual interest they feel for your the less perturbing it will be... May I suggest the beige ensemble in which you came to work Tuesday?"
But Erlich isn't buying Monica's schtick. "First off Monica, you're not fooling any of us for even a second with your dress shitty to easy the pain routine. It's a classic chick break up move and you're not very good at either. You look great." Jared (Zach Woods) chimes in earnestly, "Yeah. Beige is a good color for you. You're a true Autumn."
Though it's a bad situation for the team, it's a perfect set up comedically. In order to secure higher valuations, Erlich and Richard were deliberately rude to every Sand Hill Road Venture Capital firm, but now they've got to go crawling back. One VC recalls that Erlich called him a "Chode-gargling fuck toilet." Rather uncomfortably, the two have to reckon with and account for their tactic of "negging," which is basically douchebag speak for being negative to women in order to attract them. "Look, before we start negging each other," says Erlich, and now — "Neg?" — he's stepped in it. "It's a term used in sexual manipulation. Maybe not relevant here."
It's an uphill battle, since as Jared notes "apparently Erlich used some pretty explicit vaginal metaphors" last time around. Finally one VC seems interested when Erlich is honest and diplomatic for once. "Most of all, I want to thank you — thank you — for allowing me to come in here today and be vulnerable and to apologize." When the VC responds "I didn't come back here today just to have you apologize to me," we and Erlich suspect he could be interested. "Last week, you came in here and put your cojones right here on this reclaimed Brazilian wood table," he says, though perhaps we think he's speaking figuratively or even admiringly. "And now," he says, unzipping his pants, "you're going to sit there and watch me do the same damn thing." Later, Erlich is ironically disgusted. "At least I had the decency to shave mine. We live in a society!"
Though the Pied Piper team had originally agreed to split their TechCrunch Disrupt winnings, now they need the money for their "runway." But Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) has already donated to his cousin's Kickstarter campaign for an app called "Bro." Yes, this is a dig at that app that let you send the word "Yo" to your friends. The app description reads, "Bro to bro is a one bit communication messenger, the fastest way to speak your mind," Yes, says Dinesh, "As long as what's on your mind is the word Bro."
Dinesh was always the "cool cousin" in his Pakistani family ("When we were kids I was the one getting good grades... I would bring gifts for my teachers because they worked so hard...") and so, to save face, he tries to talk his relative into pulling the crowdfunding campaign so he won't have to pay up. They meet at a Philz coffee shop, where Dinesh lies that, "People are saying like horrible stuff. They're saying like 'Oh he had to go to Kickstarter, that's a charity case! Collecting money from strangers like a street beggar that sits on the ground and eats trash!'" But, after much swearing from both parties a combination of English and Urdu rarely seen on american television, Dinesh finds he's accidentally talked his cousin into hosting a Kickstarter party for Bro.
That scene is a rewarding one in which Gilfoyle, the programmer and satanist played by Martin Starr, continues his rivalry with Dinesh. By donating to Bro so that it can reach its goal, which would force all donors to the campaign to pay their promised share, he tells Dinesh "I'm effectively leveraging your misery. I'm the Warren Buffett of fucking with you."
Dinesh's hilarious sabotage attempt is telling potential donors that the market for Bro is limited because of the word's meaning in various languages. "You know what bro means in Portuguese? 'Rapist.'" And, "In Finnish, bro means 'a baby's erection.'" In one tongue, he tells a group of strangers, it means, "'Fecal eclipse. It loses something in translation. We don't have a word for it. They do. It's 'bro.'" Despite his efforts, an unknown backer helps Bro meet its goal, and he's out of the money.
In the meantime, Jared gave Bro a try and found the app "very sticky." "I've never felt like I was anybody's bro before," he says, "The only people that have called me that were assailants." But Jard has been Broing with a potential investor who wants to meet with the whole team, engineers included. "That usually only happens in a second or third meeting," says an excited Erlich. "Technical due diligence — that's good."
In fact it's not. The "investment team" is actually a group of engineers trying to steal Pied Piper's technology, which Erlich and Jared recognize. "They're brain raping us right?" Yep, it's a "classic brain rape," or as Jared puts it before they take off, "It's like when somebody says they want to go birding with you, but they really just want to get you into the woods so they can take your binoculars."
With all doors closed seemingly closed, Richard takes a meeting with Hooli's billionaire CEO Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), a character who's appearing more and more on the show. At a booth in a Mexican restaurant, he offers to acquire Pied Piper. His question "What's the downside?" is a smart one. Lots of startups hope to be acquired, it's a good "exit strategy."
When Richard calls Hooli, and by extension the companies it represents, a "giant soulless corporation," the show has the opportunity to muse a bit. "What exactly do you think you're building?," Gavin asks. "You're out there trying to get funding so you can hire people scale up roll out a product have an IPO and eventually become a what? Publicly traded... corporation." Though newer companies can forge new cultures and products, he might be mostly right. "Let's face it. What is Hooli if not the best possible future version of Pied Piper?" Just as Richard is about to respond, he's drowned out by a Mariachi band. It's a cheap cliffhanger, but the show know's it, so it's sort of a wink.
It's a good place to leave us. Belson's questions is sort of an existential one. What's the point of Pied Piper? Or Bro? Or any startup? It's a case-by-case kind of thing, but small startups provide competition to established companies, which is good for everyone. Still, the show is faithful in representing their difficulties and anxieties. Certainly Pied Piper isn't well-run or in any way a healthy place to work.
Last, a quick aside. Not only is Jared Pied Piper's best employee, he's also very funny in this episode. Last season, you might recall that his character literally disappeared (a self-driving car gone haywire), but now he's one of the bros.
Previously: Silicon Valley Season 2 Premiere Recap: Series A