After its own game of thrones, Pied Piper's CEO chair sits empty, and Richard aims to prove himself the rightful heir to the company he founded. But to keep the business afloat, costs need to be cut: The team's VC funding is tranched, "from the old French for sliced," as Jared helpfully offers, and their burn rate is "astronomical." As CTO, Richard pulls rank, interrupting the sales team's indoor lacrosse game to fire them. They then will have to sell off all the fancy furniture and equipment just to stay in the game and pay for a few more engineers.
Not only is Richard gunning for the chair, but he's not-so-quietly seething to learn about Laurie Bream's meetings with potential CEO candidates on tech news sites like the fictional Code/rag. There, reporter CJ Cantell (perhaps modeled on Kara Swisher, though Swisher has appeared before on the show as herself), has called Pied Piper the next Clinkle, which Richard can't abide. Laurie agrees to let Richard meet with CJ to tell his side of the story, provided he meet with Raviga's PR person to discuss what he can and can't say beforehand.
Meanwhile, a business deal introduced last episode is coming along: The partnership between incubator founders Big Head and Erlich, which is really just a scheme for Erlich to benefit from Big Head's success. "We're both giving up a lot, and we're both gaining a lot also," says Erlich, who is at a financial deficit compared with Big Head. "That's what every successful partnership is about... committing fully blindly and without concern of the consequences, like marriage."
As they're negotiating, Big Head gets a call from Raviga to see if he would like to interview for the position of CEO. He declines, having given it really zero thought, but Richard overhears the offer and is insulted. He charges into Raviga's offices to meet with the PR rep and launch into his complaints.
As Richard goes down the list of his criticisms of Laura Bream, we cut to her, awkwardly socializing with Monica at a wine bar. After a one-sided discussion of H. L. Mencken, Laurie reveals that her "mission here is not merely to have fun." (Ha!) She wants to apologize to Monica for removing Richard as CEO, revealing her plans to reinstate him. "I'm meeting publicly with a number of high-value candidates I know to be unavailable as well as a number of less qualified candidates with whom Richard compares favorably," she explains.
Cutting back to Richard — "I'm just being honest here, I think that Peter Gregory is better off where he is," he says of Laurie's late predecessor — we learn, as you might have suspected, that while Richard thinks he's meeting with his own PR rep, he's actually spilling this all to the Code/rag reporter. When the PR person does find him (there was confusion about the conference room) she asks a flustered Richard how the interview went. "She's a great guy," Richard says of the reporter before taking off after her. Because she's a reporter, CJ says, she can't just squash the story, to which Richard fires back "reporter? Come on, you're a tech blogger." To suppress the gaffe, Richard needs to find a better story for her to replace it.
This wouldn't be Silicon Valley if there weren't other things going wrong, too, and so throughout this, we've got a subplot. Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Jared are auctioning everything from the office — "we have lost our lease so everything must go," as Jared says sunnily — but, in doing so, accidentally sold Dinesh's own hard drive. On it: all of Pied Piper's intellectual property. Not to worry, says Jared: "I found my retainer in a school dumpster. I found my biological father up in a militia in the Ozarks, this should be no problem. Don't worry Dinesh, we'll find it."
The buyer gave the hard drive to their elderly father, so Gilfoyle poses as a Geek Squad worker to go wipe it clean. "You're not wearing the shirt," the man observes when Gilfoyle enters. "I spilled coffee on it," he says, "I'm a neeerd." Gilfoyle drills a hole in the hard drive.
The first crisis is also quickly resolved. During an ongoing discussion between Big Head and Erlich, Big Head lets slip that Gavin Belson used Hooli to scrub negative stories about itself. It's a better story, says CJ, "lightyears better," than Richard's rant, and she'll use it instead.
Richard assumes his place as CEO — we don't see the board meeting, just hear the results — leaving Jared to sweetly recite most of Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" before giving Richard one thing he did keep from the auction: The empty CEO chair, to be occupied by Richard, if he can figure out how to sit in it without falling down, as he quickly does.
When the show introduces more conflicts — more challenges for its characters, more dire stakes — I find myself worried that it won't be able to resolve, like, ever, without compulsively striking new notes of uncertainty. But maybe I don't have to worry so much. This episode kept to its arc, and if it resolved its conflicts quickly and suddenly, it did so pleasingly as well.
There are episodes of Silicon Valley — sometimes it feels like every one is this ay — where a parting twist or cliffhanger leaves us with a note of uncertainty to carry into the next episode. This time, I'm looking forward to watching the next one because that *didn't happen. This time, it was satisfying to see the show let Richard take a seat in a comfortable chair — something, fittingly, that he can't do without a bit of discomfort.
Previously: Silicon Valley Ep. 3.4: 'Box Turtle'