In the 8th episode of the second season of HBO's Silicon Valley we open with Russ Hanneman, presumably still sulking since he's sunk below billionaire status. He's arrived at the Pied Piper house in what we expect to be a huff since Richard rejected his plan to merge with rival EndFrame. But for once Richard explains himself clearly. The $15 million bake off contest between the two companies could be a huge win for Pied Piper. Russ seems receptive so long as Richard help "re-billionize" him... and also do shots of Russ's brand of tequila, "Tres Commas."
Hooli's Gavin Belson continues hiding the fact that Nucleus is way behind schedule from his board. At a meeting, he assures his overseers "You have my word that if it fails to be everything that we need it to be, someone will be held responsible." Farhad Manjoo for the NYT maintains that this deference isn't very realistic. Belson, he thinks, should have freer reign. But the structure keeps the plot going, and so be it.
Belson comes crawling back to Davis Bannercheck (Patrick Fischler) to recruit him as a fall guy. Even though Bannercheck has already accepted a tenure position at MIT and moved his family back to Boston, he's enticed by the idea of running Nucleus. As Belson puts it, he'll get all the glory. "There's a chance no one will know I had anything to do with it at all," says Belson hopefully.
Bannercheck agrees to come on board, and next we check in with him while he's meeting the Nucleus team to take a look at a build. From there, we cut to Belson doing Habitat for Humanity housebuilding work. A colleague informs him that Bannercheck basically ran screaming from the building, and that sends Belson into a tirade, taking his anger out with a hammer on the wood frame of the house.
Back at Pied Piper HQ, Richard is busy putting his foot in his mouth. "Good job Carla, or should I say scrumptious," he creepily compliments an employee for posting to the SCRUM board. Checking LinkedIn, Richard and the team realize that the security guy at EndFrame, Seth Lee, has been fired. That's likely because EndFrame thought Pied Piper hacked their way in, when they really just got a password on a post-it note and waltzed in the front door.
Feeling remorse for taking the "left-hand path" as Gilfoyle put it in the previous episode and getting Seth axed from EndFrame, Richard sends him a note and the two agree to meet in a park. Richard can't help but admit that it wasn't Seth's fault and that EndFrame wasn't hacked at all. Of course, that makes things much worse. Seth explodes, calling Gilfoyle who has been sending him taunting texts. Seth threatens to "skull-fuck" Pied Piper's system, much to the dismay of Richard and the nearby children's birthday party.
Already prone to anxiety, this leaves Richard deeply paranoid. Gilfoyle and Dinesh couldn't care less, which troubles Richard and leads Dinesh to call him para-paranoid. Eventually Richard meets up with Seth again to make sure he isn't really planning anything crazy. Seth says he's cooled off and just needed to vent, until Richard admits that Gilfoyle didn't care or worry in the slightest. That incenses Seth once more, and the hacker says he's really going to ruin them this time.
Meanwhile in a side-plot that takes us back to Raviga Capital, Jian Yang and Erlich are headed in in to pitch an app. On the way they catch Monica smoking outside. Jian Yang, whose poor grasp of English is once again played for laughs, lets slip that Monica was smoking. That later scores her an intervention from her colleagues. "This is Palo Alto," Erlich explains to Jian Yang, "people are lunatics about smoking here. We don't enjoy all the freedoms you have in China."
Erlich gives Monica a call to see how the pitch went and we find out that the app he's shopping around is supposed to find the least crowded playgrounds. But, Monica points out, it's also the perfect tool for pedophiles. Erlich agrees that it's a problem, but for different reasons: "“Yes, and pedophiles are not typically early adopters.”" he registers his disappointment.
When Erlich and Jian Yang come back to pitch Laurie Bream, Raviga's principal, they've pivoted to a smoker locator called "Smocation," which they know will be a hit given Bream's hypersensitivity to Monica's smoking. It goes over really well, But Erlich and Jian Yang's success is short lived. Inside Laurie's office, Jian Yang lights up a smoke from Monica's purse. Previously he said he only smokes on special occasions, of which this was to be one. But now doesn't look like it.
While Pied Piper is transferring files and at their most vulnerable to a hack, Russ swings by with his tequila and a smile on his face. But deeply on edge, Richard snaps at him, letting him know Pied Piper is going to try to buy him out if they win the deal. Russ hasn't paid them as he said he would, so Richard is in the right, but Russ is hurt and vulnerable. He says that he even got a surprise for the team, leading them outside to a new version of his previous orange car. This one even has a bow on it. Only it isn't for Richard at all — it's a gift Russ got himself. "You got yourself a gift to prove that you're not an an asshole?" Richard asks, astounded.
Back inside the house in a moment of real tension, something in the transfer is going terribly wrong. It seems like the hack we've been anticipating, but turns out that the data being deleted is the result of the tequila bottle sitting on the delete button. Still, it looks like the team has lost the deal. They head in to apologize to the Intersite CEO who looks royally pissed. It seems like the deal is screwed, and once again, Pied Piper is treading water.
HBO's Silicon Valley is, too. The show seems to think it needs a potential catastrophe in every episode to maintain its audience's interest. For me, it's having the reverse effect. I'd love an episode where the team just works on the mundane day-to-day, which even the most turbulent startups must have. It's at times like those that characters can develop and do small, surprising things. Is that too much, or too little, to ask?
Last week I pinned some of the shows troubles, as I see them, on the writer Dan Lyons. Well, he penned this episode and gets the writer credit, and as with Nucleus, someone is going to take the fall for it. This was the weakest yet.
Previously: Silicon Valley Recap: Failure = Success