Like show creator Mike Judge's Office Space, the latest episode of Silicon Valley borrows the plot points — and thrills — of a prison break movie, substituting, of course, the office for the prison in a **metaphor**. Asked by new CEO Jack Barker to confine their ideas to a box — a throwaway joke idea about a security appliance from Richard that the marketing team has taken to — Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle hatch a plan to create a secret company within a company. But, as with Office Space, things don't exactly go according to the escape plan.
The first nod to Office Space comes in a tour of a massive, depressing server facility that Richard and the company take. It's here, among figurative cell blocks and dead-eyed "mole people," that Pied Piper's "box" would go. Worst of all, Richard and co. are told that a member of their team will be posted here 24/7. Not to worry, their guide tells them: "There's really no difference between day and night down here."
Nothing Richard or Erlich tries to tell Jack will work — they've got to build the box before the platform — and an attempt to go over his head by talking to investor Laurie Bream enrages Jack further. "If you're going to shoot the king," he says grandiosely, operating his remote-controlled office door, "you better be god damn sure you kill him."
Gilfoyle, for one, won't be forced to work on the inferior project, threatening to quit. "That box is artless commerce," he says, "I won't be party to it." He changes his Linkedin stats, prompting recruiters to flood him with calls, freebies, and "schwag." "This is Gilfoyle," he answers the phone moments after his status update, "dazzle me." To be a full stack-engineer is to be hot shit. "The more meetings I turn down, the more these recruiters send me," Gilfoyle says.
But when he finally does go to a meeting — in order to receive a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, of course — it turns out to be at the San Francisco offices of Endframe, a company whose leadership once posed as investors to steal part of Pied Piper's algorithm. Now they're joined by the outgoing Nucleus team members who cracked the middle-out algorithm at the end of last episode. While Pied Piper is stalled, Endframe has captured Pied Piper's entire prediction loop, down to the last tree, and could easily beat them to market.
With the team despairing, Erlich has the opportunity to launch into an over-the-top pep talk. Here's that, in full:
"When George Washington founded a little startup we've come to know as these United States of America, and he was tired of getting shit from his CEO — the King of England — did he just roll over and take it from behind? No. He called on his ride or die homeboys, Tommy Jefferson, Benny Franklin, and Alex Hamilton who was half black, so that's Dinesh. He said avast ye, fellow badasses, let's build this country the way we motherfucking want to, and so Richard, if we want to build the platform, all we have to do is, build the platform."
While, objectively, that's a meaningless and inaccurate version of history, Richard is seemingly inspired. Referencing a World War II-era project, he proposes to build a "skunkworks," surreptitiously working on the Pied Piper platform while feigning devotion to the box idea. Or, rather, not devotion. As Jared says, lending the episode its name, they've got to follow the rules of "Meinertzhagen's Haversack," another marshall rule that says, if you're doing something in secret, you should behave just as you otherwise have in order to keep it so. The team will have to keep complaining about their work, and hell, they'll even keep making fun of Dinesh's new gold chain. You know, for verisimilitude.
To get the job done, the crew even offers to recruit another coder, Carla, whom they briefly employed last season. After referencing Ocean's 11, which Jared summarizes as "a 2001 casino heist film starring Julia Roberts and 11 men,” the team meets with her in a scene by the pool reminiscent of that movie. Her terms include lost wages and "damages from when Jared sexually harassed me into being friends with that Monica chick." Then she's in, Richard asks? Nope. "That's just to keep me from keeping Barker about your secret project." She's not joining: She's extorting them for $20,000.
So, with no outside help, to accomplish the task the team pulls an all-night coding session, which is a fun time-lapse from director Charlie McDowell that permits Erlich to show off his quiver of bongs. They celebrate with the Pappy Van Winkle in the morning, Richard spitting his shot out and Jared pouring his it back into the bottle. Time for work!
Just as the crew rolls in to the Pied Piper offices to the soundtrack of Rick Ross’s “You Know I Got It” — “My smoke thick, my jewels gold” in a gesture to Dinesh's necklace — what looks to be shaping up as the plot to the rest of the season goes up in smoke. Distracted by a ridiculous attempted chain insult from Jared, Richard trips on a hose, spilling the contents of a folder containing the plans for the platform.
While it's frustrating that every episode of Silicon Valley presents new conflicts and "pivots," so many, in fact, that it's easy to lose track and even hope for Pied Piper, that could be, maybe, its own kind of point. In Office Space the best laid heist/breakout/get rich plans are also easily foiled or disrupted, nothing goes as it might, and the real escape hatch might just have been the exit door, like, the whole time. That movie's lead character becomes a happy construction worker in the end, and, with the caveat that Richard would be a terrible construction worker, maybe Silicon Valley is starting to tell viewers not to expect success from Richard and the tea — not, at least, in the senses he and Silicon Valley itself have so far presented.
Would be investors: Don't expect a Pied Piper IPO. Not this season, at least.
Previously: Silicon Valley Ep. 3.2 Recap: 'Compromise'