Airtime: Sundays at 10PM on HBO
Episode: Season 3, Episode 1 (S03E01)
Tweetable Takeaway: In the #SiliconValley premiere, Richard faces a dilemma &might leave Pied Piper for good
SILICON VALLEY ended with a pretty big cliffhanger last season, with the board voting to remove Richard (Thomas Middleditch) from his CEO position at Pied Piper, an apparent ousting. The idea of ownership has been a central theme in this series, something that’s been explored both through outside forces like Hooli and from forces closer to home on Richard’s team. What exactly does one own, and take credit for?
It’s fitting then that Silicon Valley’s season three debut, “Founder Friendly,” returns to some of these ideas and continues to explore them. The episode begins just where we left off, with Richard seemingly fired, having lost his brainchild. Richard vents about his fate and Erlich (T.J. Miller) responds in typical Erlich fashion: “And what about me?” It’s a funny moment, but also an important one. I’ve always appreciated the fact that this show calls out Richard on his self-centeredness. Sure, it’s perfectly understandable why Richard would only be thinking about himself at this moment, but it’s also true that he’s not the only one with skin in the game here. Compare Erlich’s honest to a fault response to the news with Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) and Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) initially muted response.
Richard and Erlich confront Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) and the rest of the board. Monica (Amanda Crew) seems somewhat sympathetic but her hands are tied this time around. Richard, though, isn’t actually being fired but rather demoted to CTO. The board is planning on bringing in a new CEO, Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky aka Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day.) While Jack isn’t exactly the insufferably persistent chap that Bill Murray’s character had to deal with again (and again) in that great film, the effect is the same. Jack has helmed many big companies and even set up a cancer foundation to honor his late wife. Poor Richard stands no chance and seems set on taking his talents elsewhere, even if it’s in a similar CTO role at another company. Remember this is all about ownership and credit. Ego, too.
Dinesh and Gilfoyle eventually spring into action and concoct a way to advance their careers while not throwing Richard under the bus. This literally manifests as an acronym R.I.G.B.Y. (“Richard Is Great, But, Y’know”). Meanwhile, Erlich actually decides to meet Richard’s would be replacement. He confronts Jack with a forced swagger. When Erlich finally completes a rehearsed slew of ageist insults (“A fan of Metamucil?/Segregated water fountains?/Senior citizen discounts?”), Jack calmly assures him that he comes in peace and is actually a big fan of Erlich’s work.
Erlich has never been one to refuse a massage of the ego, and Jack provides that. But Jack seems honest and genuine, which might make him very different from the other rich and powerful antagonists who’ve threatened Richard and Pied Piper during this show. Erlich returns to Richard with this news but instead Richard visits another company where he hopes to be appreciated. Reality check: This company simply wants Richard to perfect a project that will insert ridiculous digital mustaches onto images, a clever reference to zany social media add ons that I refuse to use like Instagram Face Swap.
There’s also a subplot here with Gavin (Nelson Ross) and Big Head (Josh Brener). Gavin seemingly takes responsibility for his past errors and fires people, but it’s really just an act of self-preservation. Big Head, though, ends up with a cool $20 million after he signs an NDA. This sets up some interesting possibilities for Big Head down the line.
Richard finally goes to see Jack. Much like with Erlich, Richard goes into the meeting with all kinds of expectations. He’s quickly neutralized, though, when Jack tells him that if he isn’t game to be CTO, Jack won’t take the job as CEO. Jack essentially admits to Richard that there’s no Pied Piper without Richard. The episode basically ends here, with Richard driving off and mulling over his next step. As for what Richard “owns,” I think that question has been settled again. For now.
Ade Adeniji | Contributor