Sunday, April 8, 2018

REVIEW: 'Silicon Valley' - Pied Piper is Sued While Richard Considers a Major New Hire in 'Chief Operating Officer'

HBO's Silicon Valley - Episode 5.03 "Chief Operating Officer"

Encouraged by Jared to strike up a friendship with Dana, a like-minded CEO, Richard instead finds himself charmed by Dana's COO, who challenges his loyalty to Gilfoyle. Facing limited housing options thanks to his impulse purchase, Dinesh searches for a new roommate.

For the majority of its running time, it seems like "Chief Operating Officer" is saying that Richard's biggest problems are that he doesn't talk candidly enough and has too much empathy for his employees. That seems odd considering how brutally honest he can be with almost anyone in his moments of utter disgust that things aren't working out the way he wanted them. But here, Richard immediately bonds with the COO of a billion dollar company, Ben. Ben makes it a point to speak openly and honestly at every given moment. When Pied Piper runs into legal problems, he's the one suggesting all the blame should be placed on Gilfoyle. Meanwhile, Richard is reluctant to do that. And yes, Richard does have more loyalty and trust with Dinesh, Gilfoyle and Jared. They have been with the company from the very beginning. If they haven't been fired at this point, then it seems like they are staying at the company for the long haul. All of them have made some pretty costly mistakes. None of them have proven to run this business efficiently. And yet, they all still have big ideas for how to get things done. It's because of that trust that everyone finds a solution to their problem that doesn't include firing anyone while also alerting them to a new problem they didn't even realize they had within the company. The resolution is almost completely inconsequential from Richard learning anything from his interactions with Ben and Dana, the CEO of the other company. And yet, it's through those interactions that he proves he is right to be loyal to his friends while being pretty ruthless to these individuals he could have added as colleagues and respected minds in this industry.

Jared is the one who believes Richard needs to branch out and form more friendships. The joke is that Jared apparently thinks so little of Richard that he would bond with the simple-minded Dana. Jared is forcing a spark between the two through only the faintest of connections. They are both the CEOs of the companies they founded. They are both awkward in crowded spaces. They both enjoy eating a late lunch. But it more so comes across as a joke about how Jared perceives Richard and how Richard doesn't understand why Jared could think that of him. He doesn't bond with Dana at all. Despite so much pestering from Jared, Richard just doesn't see anything in the guy. When joking about injuries at work, it leads to the reveal that Dana once tried to commit suicide. To Jared, that's funny and can form a bond of friendship. Jared has always been eager to see those connections even though there's no rational reason for them to exist. He is only aware of Dana because they used to go to the bathroom at the same time at Hooli. That's his big in with Dana. It's not something that Dana is all that excited about. He doesn't seem to be enthusiastic about Richard's new direction for Pied Piper. All of that enthusiasm instead comes from Ben. He's the one who talks about how Richard's idea for a new internet is so smart. He used to code in the past but is now a member of the marketing team. As such, he has big ideas. It's fun to bounce off of him too. It's an energy that Richard finds exciting and very enticing.

Of course, it leads to the inevitable moment where it seems like Richard and Ben are sneaking off for an affair as they talk about taking their relationship to the next level. It feels so wrong for Richard to be poaching this creative voice from a company that Jared respects. He's making this move solely by himself. Meanwhile, Ben feels like he is cheating on Dana because they built this company up to a billion dollar evaluation. He's proud of the work they have achieved together. But he also feels like the relationship has grown stagnant. It's easy for Richard and the audience to see that because Dana has very little energy. It's then not that surprising when all of this sneaking around eventually blows up in their faces. Dana happens to go to the restaurant at the same time - leading Jared to believe that Richard and Dana are forming a real relationship. Then when Ben is ready to make the move to Pied Piper, Dana is suddenly assertive and demanding. He's attacking Richard for poaching his best guy. It's only then that Richard learns that Dana hasn't been acting like himself because of a head cold. The true Dana could have been a good friend for Richard to have. Instead, Richard ruined that relationship by attacking the business. He was willing to steal Ben away. Then, he turns Ben away after learning that Jared has completely solved the problems that have come up from a lawsuit. He sees Jared as the more capable chief operating officer for Pied Piper because he already understands the culture of this company and has the empathy to make it the best it can be. That may still be a mistake in the end. But right now, it feels right and Jared easily gets caught up in the emotion of the moment.

The lawsuit that comes up in the heat of this episode is from the refrigerator company whose smart devices were hacked by Gilfoyle and allowed the Pied Piper system to stay online for much longer than they thought was possible. It was an illegal hack. But it bought the company just enough time to prove that this concept was worth investing in. Gilfoyle was able to get every trace of his code off of the refrigerator at the house. He believed there was no way to actually trace it back to Pied Piper. But now, a lawsuit has been filed. It seems like Richard could just handle it by throwing Gilfoyle under the bus by saying he was operating as a rogue agent. He wasn't ordered to hack the refrigerator in order to expand the Pied Piper system. He did that on his own. It's then amusing to see how crazy Gilfoyle gets to prove that it wasn't his fault that this lawsuit is now threatening everything Pied Piper is trying to build. Instead, it comes with the realization that this company really didn't want to be in the smart device business. It was pressured into doing so by the marketing team and the competition. They really don't understand the business side of technology all that well. They are just choosing to be competitive. As such, it becomes a huge breech of privacy when it's revealed that the refrigerator system is recording every conversation people are having in front of it. It basically amounts to an illegal wiretap which could destroy this company if it was ever released. As such, Richard is able to strike a deal saying they'll fix this bug in the refrigerator system in exchange for this lawsuit being dropped. It presents as a significant problem that is able to be fixed easily because of the camaraderie of the team.

And yet, the lawsuit also makes it known to the Pied Piper team that someone has been leaking information to Gavin. The Hooli CEO was the one who went to the refrigerator company to tell them that Pied Piper was responsible for their hack last year. He's the one who gave them all the information they needed to sue. After striking a new deal with Pied Piper, they were more than happy to share everything they know about Gavin. That's the initial discovery of the mole within Pied Piper. It's surprising to see just how quickly the show is moving with that specific plot point. The audience knows who the mole is. In fact, we even know how Gavin found out about the hack in the first place. The leak came from Dinesh. He is so desperate for a roommate that he just happens to ask the mole at the convenient time when he needs to leak information to Gavin. As such, all it takes is a couple of beers and vodka to get Dinesh talking. Sure, it seems annoying at first. The mole doesn't want to listen to Dinesh go on and on about his life and his concerns about Gilfoyle. His ranting is mostly about Gilfoyle as well. He shares the truth about the refrigerators while he is drunk. So, Dinesh may not even remember sharing this information with anyone. And yet, the company will have to look at his new roommate with suspicion because that has been the only major change as of late. Yes, Richard and company have been kicked out of their home. But none of them except Dinesh have new personal relationships that they are trying to impress with sensitive information. So, it seems easy to figure out who the mole is. And so, the show better not drag it out for too much longer. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Chief Operating Officer" was written by Carrie Kemper and directed by Jamie Babbit.
  • This episode really points out that Gilfoyle isn't a good employee for Pied Piper at all. He's way too cocky about his abilities as a coder. He misses mandatory meetings and shows up hours after the work day begins. He also has an alert on his computer whenever Bitcoin dips below a certain level. It's all pure suggestion for why he should be fired. But it's a little too obvious that that's what it is too.
  • Also, is Gilfoyle's Bitcoin alert going to be a recurring joke this season? It certainly has the possibility of being so. The show has included far more random jokes multiple times in a given season. The pay off here is certainly amusing. The alert goes off even when Gilfoyle is not physically at his computer. No one has the password to turn it off either. It's funny. But it also feels like something that could still build in some way to find even better humor.
  • Richard and Jared get an update from their corporate lawyer about everything that Jian-Yang has been doing this season. None of them have ever taken Jian-Yang all that seriously. But now, they have to because they are suddenly evicted from their home. Of course, it's Jian-Yang's home and he can decide who lives there. Only Erlich could contest the ownership. Meanwhile, it then leads to a lame joke about Richard possibly being racist against Asians.
  • Jian-Yang has also started work on his next project. It appears he's trying to start Chinese versions of popular companies. It's enough for Jared to take notice and ask him what he's doing. It's also a big deal that the show points out that Jian-Yang erases Pied Piper from the board. But it mostly feels like a tease everyone will have to be aware of moving forward.
  • It's established that Richard is now living with Jared. He's getting the bedroom as well with Jared getting the pull out couch. But Richard is also just as comfortable crashing at Big Head's house. Meanwhile, Dinesh has a new roommate in the mole. And yet, it's not established where Gilfoyle is now living. That's a mystery that could stay a mystery and be perfectly fine. Or it could possibly be answered next week.