SILICON VALLEY is often at its best when it incorporates the Pied Piper team into the larger world of start-ups and competing technologies. And so it’s no surprise that “Hooli-Con” is one of the funnier episodes of the season. An entrance like that of the Tactical Response Team’s, or the subtle middle eastern music playing when Richard equips Dinesh with his mobile-pineapple unit, are the kind of filmmaking flourishes that set the series apart from most other comedies, and this episode is full of them. All the problems with the season aside, episode nine is a joke packed entry that manages to find a lot of heart and emotion in its main conflict between Richard and the guys.
The episode finds the team trying to hack into Hooli-Con and secretly uploading their app to all the attendees’ phones. What seems an impossible idea at first is made much easier with the expertise of a certain currently incarcerated ex-girlfriend. Yes, Dinesh is forced to confront the woman he put behind bars in the pre-credits sequence, and as always, Kumail Nanjiani delivers a great performance in trying to pretend he’s not completely terrified of Mia. Once at the convention everything seems to be going well, until Richard realizes a previous love interest is there with her sanctimonious German programmer boyfriend, who of course raises the ire in Richard.
Letting his ego get in the way again Richard blows the whole operation and finds himself at odds with the team, who meanwhile also find out that he didn’t accept the Feldspar deal. When they’ve been busted and are sitting in the security room it really reminds us how close these guys have actually gotten despite the constant barbing at one another. There’s an implicit trust that has kept them altogether up to this point, and this seems to be Richard’s worst betrayal of that trust thus far. Nobody reveals that break of trust better than Jared, who takes the reigns on Richard’s indictment.
Jared still consistently gets some of the funniest but most understated lines, “well as a product of forced adoption I can assure you there are consequences.” And here for the first time we get to see him break from his uncompromising support of Richard. We find out that above or equal to Richard’s genius, it’s his ethics that Jared respects so highly, and this time Richard disappoints him just as much his parents and the ominous “uncle Jerry” have in the past. The scene when Jared cracks is perhaps the most emotional of the show period. As I can remember we haven’t actually had any character deliver that large of a truth bomb up to this point. Characters have gotten angry with each other and especially with Richard and all his previous mistakes, but there’s something serious about Jared losing faith in Richard and Zach Woods does an incredible job of selling the complete loss of faith he’s suffering. Even later when things are saved by Hoover as a means to sabotage Barker, Jared doesn’t seem like he can completely recover from seeing this petty side of Richard.
And perhaps Jared echoes my frustrations when he realizes that Richard sabotages them over “poop share.” I found myself extremely ready for this gambit to work and for the guys to finally make some headway with their app. The one-step forward three steps back nature of Pied Piper’s movement has grown slightly stale and I’ve made the case all season that it’s time to have them deal with problems at a higher level within their business community. I stress the word “slightly” just because the show does still consistently surprise me and make me laugh in how it allows Richard and the gang to fail. But undoubtedly the laughs have gotten milder and I can feel the runway getting shorter.
Aside from all this, the show has finally revealed Erlich’s big departure, and he’s going to Tibet to shadow Gavin Belson in a Buddhist monastery. Not my favorite out as I’m guessing it wasn’t supposed to be the final good bye, but it seems that’s where Bachmann will end up until TJ Miller decides to come back down the line for a guest appearance. Let’s remember that the news of Miller leaving the show came after the season five green light, so most likely the creators were planning on motivating his return next season and now just… won’t. It’s a shame as it may have been a fun storyline to watch he and Belson’s version of the “Odd Couple” high above the Tibetan mountains. It looks like we’ll get a glimpse of that in the season finale, but I doubt we’ll get too much beyond a suggestion of their alternate-reality buddy Buddhist spinoff. Bachmann’s unceremonious goodbye was extremely funny in how it was handled, and I loved the complete and efficient disdain Jian-Yang maintains for him, but given this is Miller’s actual swan song I wonder if we’ll look back at it as a missed opportunity to do one last big thing with the character.
I’m looking forward to next week’s season finale and to see if they can end the season on an up swing that sets up some legitimately interesting options for next season. Now that the finish line is in sight I’m willing to give the creators the benefit of the doubt that season five will have some progression to it. At the heart of it is that I’ve grown to like these characters so much I wan to see them succeed a little bit finally. I don’t think I can take another season of pain without payoff.
Season 4, Episode 9 (S04E09)
Silicon Valley airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO
Greg Brecher | Contributor