SILICON VALLEY Review: “Teambuilding Exercise”

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Not a ton happened this week in , but that’s not to say “Teambuilding Exercise” isn’t an enjoyable half hour. It’s just missing a gravity that usually elevates its stakes, which in turn elevates the humor. It’s more of a by week as we get a few fun situations rise up and get quickly resolved by the episode’s end. Erlich getting in and out of businesses at a moment’s notice is now a sort of trope of the show, and it’s always good filler when the main storyline isn’t ready to move forward. The self assurance with which Mike Judge leads the show really does a good of hiding the lesser episodes and keeping the humor and tone of the show consistent.

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As expected from last week’s cliffhanger, Richard connects with Gavin Belson who realizes the potential of working with Richard, and offers to start a company with him. Richard, assuming the gang won’t want to work with Belson, respectfully doesn’t try to recruit them and leads the guys to feel left out despite their vocal distrust of Belson. Still, we can’t have a show about these guys where they’re not a team, so one by one they fall into place in Richard’s new company. I’d kind of like to just fast forward to them all back together and navigating their new partnership with Belson. But, as I mentioned earlier, the show knows its pace well enough to keep me patient and laughing at the filler of Bighead as a Stanford professor or Erlich and Jian Yang constantly sparring. The show ultimately hinges on Richard and so it moves as he does and the rest is just flourish. Richard’s storyline has been like a locomotive leaving the station, it’s taken some time to ramp up but now it feels like it’s moving at a steady gait.   It’ll be nice to refocus the show around him again and start raising the stakes again.

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It was nice seeing Gilfoyle get more play time this week. As I wrote last week the strength of the show is how all its supporting characters are able to step up and take fuller roles from episode to episode. This season has definitely been the Erlich and Jian Yang show so far, so it was a good reminder that Martin Starr is still one of the most consistent actors on the show. Starr has played smart and funny supporting characters since being a teenager on “Freaks and Geeks,” so he’s the old vet on the show. We forget that the character is the second best coder of the group to Richard, so it makes sense to bring him out of the shadows and be a more pivotal force in the new business venture. Up until now he’s been used mostly as a “foil” to Dinesh, so I’m curious to see if they give him more of a relationship to Richard.

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The Erlich and Jian Yang storyline is of course still going strong with the revelation that Jian Yang’s tech can identify what’s a hot dog and what isn’t. The pivot at the end is brilliant and the show has been so good at making the most of what is ultimately an unimportant plot. Jian Yang is still hilarious and this might be Jimmy O. Yang’s breakout season as a comedic actor. He nails the character at every turn, and it’s clear the show wants to give him more to do. I don’t think he necessarily should be doing more on this show, but I hope it gives Yang more opportunities in film and television.

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Jian Yang is a good example of a character whose focus affects the DNA of the show. If you give him too much you effectively spoil the recipe, but at the same time it’s not hard to understand why they keep giving him more to do. Take Jared for example, Zach Woods is one of the funniest people on television right now, but Jared needs to stay at his level to maintain that high level. I’m not interested in Jared’s life outside of his work with Richard, and certainly I don’t think the show is either. But this is how shows start to lose their discipline and take on more than they can handle. It’s effectively how businesses suffer from over-expansion, they see success in a certain area and think they need to keep adding to it when in fact the interest is at its saturation point. You always see this happen when shows have overstayed there welcome. I don’t think the Silicon Valley people will fall prey to it, but I see slight tendencies of it in their current love for Jimmy O Yang’s Jian Yang. Let’s hope they pull back on it now that the story is Richard’s again, and let the supporting to what it does best in the same smaller doses we’ve been given and grown to love.

TB-TV-Grade-B

Season 4, Episode 4 (S04E04)
Silicon Valley airs Sunday at 9PM on HBO

Read all of our reviews of Silicon Valley here. 
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