To justify new office space and perks for the Pied Piper team, incoming CEO Jack Barker delivers a well-worn anecdote. While Richard, who has accepted a demotion to Chief Technical Officer, is skeptical of the new company purchases, Jack recalls that when Google was "a startup just like us," they did the same.
"When they started bringing in chefs and masseuses, we thought, they're nuts! But they were attracting the best possible people and they were able to create the best possible product." Jack' philosophy: "All of this is a sound investment as long as we're able to get the best people and make the best possible product." But what is that product?
That question underlies the tension of this second episode in Silicon Valley's third season. Consider Jack's diagram of the "Conjoined Triangles of Success," a template he designed that's now being taught at business schools, he says. One triangle: engineering and manufacturing. The other: sales and growth. Their joint hypotenuse: compromise.
With Dinesh and Gilfoyle distracted by the new office's catering, that compromise begins with Jack's newly imported sales team. Immediately, they're starting to make changes to the product. First, they inform Richard, the company should be an enterprise one — they'll sell Pied Piper to businesses, not individual users.
When Richard confronts Jack on the subject — he's always imagined Pied Piper as peer to peer — Jack has another spiel for him. "You know we're in a bubble right now, right? Or maybe you don't know, you weren't around for the last bubble, you were probably in diapers." But Jack wasn't in diapers, he says proudly.
Richard's revenue plan will take too long — "In March of 2000, do you know when a four-year plan ended? April of 2000." That's why the product needs to move faster. "We can't put all our eggs in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow basket," Jack says.
This episode, named for those "Conjoined Triangles of Success," includes three subplots. The first is over at Hooli, where Gavin Belson has just laid off his entire Nucleus division, a would-be Pied Piper rival. "I started my day, as I always do," Belson says, "by typing my name into Hooli search, which is designed to center me. Lately, it's been doing the opposite."
As he demonstrates, his search returns articles tying him to Nucleus' failure, and he want's them gone. "These articles are part of the public record," an engineer insists, saying he would never instruct his employees to tamper with them. The task, then, falls to the outgoing Nucleus team, but in executing it, one engineer begins to crack the "middle-out compression" feature of Pied Piper. Amusingly, the engineer does so after observing a fellow engineer's hands moving on an exercise machine — a nod to the show's season one finale, where a similar, more erotic motion sparked the team to imagine the technique in the first place. The outgoing Nucleus team won't share the information with their company, Hooli, and now might present a real rival to Pied Piper.
The second subplot: Jared, Pied Piper's team mom and cheerleader, reveals he's been Airbnb-ing his condo while sleeping in Erlich's garage in order to pay off his mortgage. Now he can afford to return — but a previous guest is squatting. "I don't want to be a dick," his squatter says, "It's just I can't afford to live around here cause the rent is so high, because of the tech companies, right, and you bought this place with the money you made working at the tech companies, so it kind of all evens out?"
Like the nod to the bubble, this tech-backlash joke lands well. It's as close as Silicon Valley comes to really keeping up with the events and attitudes of the world it parodies. And, as Jared quite accurately discovers, "the occupant of a residence in California has almost unlimited rights." It looks like we'll have some eviction proceedings in further episodes.
Meanwhile, in the third subplot, which becomes related to the second, Erlich wants the show's token foreign caricature, Jian-Yang, out of his house — to put him on "a slow boat to China, so to speak." Here, Erlich reprises the parting ceremony he once performed for Richard, complete with ceremonial kimono, for Jian-Yang. He knows Jian-Yang is Chinese and that Kimonos are Japanese, he explains; he's not racist. To that, Jian-Yang responds with some anti-Japanese slurs. But eventually, after lashing out at Erlich, Jian-Yang gets the idea from Jared that, since he's lived with Erlich for a year, that he too can squat — and he seems to plan to do just that.
Back at the new Pied Piper office, Richard is further troubled by the sales team, whose goals clearly conflict with his own. Jack has taken off for the vet, and Richard follows. That leads him to some stables where it turns out that Jack's prize mare is in heat. Here, the audience is treated to some of Mike Judge's lowest-brow humor: Horses fucking, in Animal Planet detail.
Away from the action for a moment, and in what could be read as a crude metaphor, Jack finally sticks it to Richard. "Do you know what Pied Piper's product is, Richard? Pied Piper's stock."
While it's bad news for Richard, Jack's point is trenchant when it comes to today's tech sector. Beholden to markets, many of whom have turned on tech, companies are vying to please investors rather than "change the world" or even remain true to their less-lofty goals. Will this be the fate of the idealistic Pied Piper?
Silicon Valley continues its comedy of errors in episode two, mining business conflict to do so. But there are actual errors too: The show's lingering relationship with racism in the Jian-Yang subplot, for example. Jian-Yang is particularly unfortunate to have on a show, as many have argued, because there are so few other minority characters, particularly Asian characters — an oversight in a field where so many Asians work. Of course, his character isn't new to this season, and evicting him unceremoniously might be worse than giving him a chance to stay and redeem his storyline.
Previously: Silicon Valley Ep. 3.1: 'Decacorn'