In the second-to-last episode of Silicon Valley's second season, we open on minor character Nelson "Big Head" Bighetti who has a run-in with a pair brogrammers from Nucleus. At a bar, one of them reveals to Bighead that Nucleus is "dog shit," and as if to confirm that fact he accidentally leaves his Hooli phone behind with a version of Nucleus on it. Bighead takes the phone to Richard, a guy he at least realizes is tangentially responsible for his "meteoric" rise. On Bighead's boat, one of the perks of his several recent promotions, the Hooli XYZ "Head Dreamer" tells Richard he should just take the phone and use it against Gavin Belson.
Next we find Richard in his lawyer's office talking on the phone to Belson. With attorney Ron Laflamme feeding him lines and coaching him, Richard appeals to Gavin's sensibilities while he carefully avoids any overt threats that would be illegal. If the phone, with its early version of Nucleus, were released to a tech blog, Richard explains, it could cause Hooli's stock to crash. But for that plan to work, the blog would have to keep quiet on where they got the tip. Gavin's retort to this will probably amuse anyone in the local media scene around San Francisco. "Keep in mind Richard, these people aren't real journalists. They're tech journalists. Do you think they'd go to prison to protect their source? I don't either." To conclude the gag of Richard secretly consulting with his lawyer, Laflamme speaks up on the phone — "Paul, you there." Not only is Gavin's lawyer also present, but several more are there, too. They'll come up with something, they say, and what they do end up with is a binding arbitration.
But for this two-day process the only lawyer that Pied Piper can afford isn't a lawyer at all. In fact, he's been disbarred, but it's technically not court, so he'll have to do. Pete Monahan, as played by Matt McCoy, provides some of the episode's best humor with his deadpan delivery. “Did I have sexual intercourse with two women under the age of 18? Repeatedly.” He admits to this crime and a litany of others unapologetically, but he's out of prison and taking the case without payment for now as part of his recovery.
Meanwhile, the Pied Piper team receives a "classic document dump" at their HQ, giving us access to characters we haven't seen for much of this episode. They'll have to go through countless printed out emails in discovery files to find anything useful to their case. "Everybody get to work," says Jared to Dinesh and Gilfoyle, since "Work will set you free! It's a triumph of the will." It's part of the extended Nazi joke that's been given to his character. “He’s the most cheerful person I’ve ever heard quote Hitler,” says Dinesh.
During this process, Jared notices that the condor egg they've been tracking on a livestream hasn't had a visit from its mother in a long time. Is it still alive? He's afraid to call the museum to have them check because Gilfoyle gives a (particularly poor) explanation of the problem of Schrödinger's Cat. That quantum physics thought experiment proposes that a cat is simultaneously dead and alive in a box until someone checks on it, at which time one state for the cat is chosen. Jared is skeptical: “If this were the case, every time you went to an open-casket funeral, you’d be guilty of murder.” but he still doesn't make the call.
Setting up the case, Richard's lawyer Mr. Monahan is confused by references in emails to Richard's "girlfriend," though Richard clarifies that this was just his and Bighead's nickname for his laptop. Still, his "girlfriend" was in the shop for a few days time during which Richard ran a test of Pied Piper's algorithm on another computer. And then he recalls that it was on a Hooli computer. He messed up after all. That's it, that's the case — unless they can convince the judge that Richard had a real girlfriend to get them off the scent of the laptop being in the shop. "Are you telling us this entire case hinges on people believing that Richard had a girlfriend?" Dinesh asks. "We are fucked."
Finally at the arbitration, Bighead is up first on the stand. Or he is when he finally finds his way to the right room. Unfortunately for Pied Piper, his bumbling modesty comes off as charming, with Hooli's lawyer implying that he's too humble to take credit for any of his successes. Of course there are none of those, and yet it's an effective tactic. "May I say, Mr. Bighetti," the judge chimes in, "how refreshing it is to finally encounter someone in the tech community who is so free of pretension and ego."
With Bighead's testimony a hit, Monahan calls Erlich to the stand. Yes, Erlich says, he does own and operate a "hacker hostel that ha been called the garden of tech eden." Okay then, says Monahan, but "Aren't you considered a joke in this town?" Erlich is taken aback, but Monahan is trying to establish that Erlich's belief in Bighead means that Bighead is no genius at all.
"You have incubated a seemingly endless stream of worthless apps" Monahan goes on, describing Nip Alert, the app that Bighead had devised to help identify the location of women with visible nipples. Erlich comes to its tepid defense: "I will concede that the cultural moment may have passed." No, says Monahan, it was as misogynistic then as it is now. In an excellent character beat, Erlich snaps as Monahan escalates his rapid fire questions. "I was high when he pitched it and it was a buggy rapey piece of shit designed by an idiot."
But Erlich goes too far, letting slip that trying to run it on Richard's computer caused it to crash, landing it in the shop for days and Hooli's lawyers suddenly put two and two together. That brings the episode to a head. Will Richard lie to save his company, or will he tell the truth and throw away his hard work? In some ways, the conundrum is an indictment of intellectual property lawsuits in the first place. Why should using one computer for one test for one block of Richard's startup idea be reason enough for Hooli to own it all? At this point, Erlich jumps in to the fray: “I am Richard's girlfriend. I was the one in the shop for three days! Because he had hit it so hard I needed a doctor!” That isn't going to do it, and since Richard can't let his company be "built on lies" and therefore "just like Hooli," he confesses.
We cut away without a complete conclusion, heading back to the hacker hostel to find that Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Jared are laboring over whether to check in with Richard about the case. It's Schrödinger's cat all over again, since if they find out they've lost, the logic goes that it would be their fault for checking on it.
Then comes a particularly brazen display of dark humor. Because Jared eventually called about the egg, it was realized that viewership numbers didn't justify leaving the camera to watch it. So someone has climbed up to the egg's cavern perch to remove it, as we see from the camera. Tugging on the rusted bolts until they suddenly break loose, the maintenance guy tumbles, maybe to his death. End of episode.
What a weird, dark, and funny bit of comedy from a show that, as I've noted, has been lagging and unclear for much of its second season. With a new lawyer to freshen things up and literally and figuratively interrogate other characters, the show has progressed as it nears its conclusion. Maybe like Dinesh, who received a text at the end of the episode from Richard and vowed not to look at it, it would be wise to stop watching Silicon Valley here lest we confirm that Pied Piper is as dead as it would appear.