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T.J. Miller on 'Silicon Valley' episode 3

Posted on

Frank Masi

Silicon Valley

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
run date:
04/06/14
performer:
Thomas Middleditch, Aly Mawji, T.J. Miller
broadcaster:
HBO
genre:
Comedy

It’s the Dawn of a new Day, and that day is the Day of the Douche, and I hope this Day never ends. Tonight’s episode introduced us to a high-octane Internet billionaire assclown named Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos), who has either just rescued Pied Piper with a $5 million check* (*do not cash) or accelerated its demise to the tune of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” (though, yes, this dude did do it all for the nookie). We also saw Hooli CEO Gavin Belson compare something he definitely shouldn’t have to the Holocaust, Jared relate a little too deeply to the oeuvre of Julia Roberts, and Big Head bumble his way back into the picture. Want to relive Silicon Valley’s most recent half-hour in full? Let’s all take a stack of cash and light it on fire while we revisit “Bad Money” with a man who’s basically the Federal Reserve Chairman of comedy, Silicon Valley star T.J. Miller, a.k.a. Erlich.

T.J., I’ve got to be honest. I was a bit disappointed with the opening of this episode. How could we not resume mid-song in the Mexican restaurant, where Richard was last seen waiting for the band to stop playing so he could tell Gavin if he would accept Hooli’s offer to acquire Pied Piper? Yeah, I would’ve loved to have started with the mariachi band. I wish they would’ve just played all the way through this next episode. I love their music.

Instead we open with Richard trying to sell his Pied Piper partners on the only move he felt that they had left: Selling out to Hooli. The boys are less than okay about this prospect—though Erlich perks up a bit when he finds out he’d get a full buy-out. The best reaction comes from Jared, who is semi-sympathetic to Richard’s plight, but as he explains through a fantastic I-am-Julia Roberts-in-her-various-movies riff, Hooli was his abusive spouse in Sleeping with the Enemy and Pied Piper is his Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. “Every day here has been like that shopping spree scene,” he says. “I’m putting on hats!!!” My wife, Kate, was quoting that this morning! She didn’t, however, quote any of Erlich’s lines.

Sorry, man. Zach Woods had one of the best line deliveries of the season right there. And I’d love to know how Mary Reilly would have worked into Jared’s life—that is, if he’s seen it at all…. Anyway, when Richard explains that they’ve been cornered by Gavin, Gilfoyle and Dinesh say that he’s the only one cornered, and they can go their own way and work on their apps. I get that they were sticking to their guns by not chasing a payday in Hooli, a.k.a. enemy territory, but that was a bit cold. Could they have spent a little more time trying to talk him out of it before bailing? Bros before Bro2Bro, you know? It’s just funny to begin with every single person being like, “Nope, we abandon you. We will not work for Hooli.” Erlich would never work for Hooli and Gilfoyle doesn’t want to work for Hooli. Part of the reason they’re all together on this is they didn’t want to be Hooli. So to go work for them would be like a general surrendering and then asking the troops if they want to enlist for the other side. I guess I was more surprised that Richard came back going, “We gotta go to Hooli” after that cliffhanger.

Point taken. Luckily, just before Richard walked into Hooli HQ as a defeated man, a moneyed man rolled up in a flashy McLaren 650s extra trim package, which by the way, will set you back close to $300 grand. It took me a second to place the actor, Chris Diamantopoulos, who’s been everything from Lindsay’s face-blind beau on Arrested Development to a documentary crew member on The Office to Moe in the recent Three Stooges movie. I was on a show called The Goodwin Games with his wife, Becki Newton, and even I couldn’t place him when I first met him. That was kind of a fun Hollywood moment, where he’s like, “Maybe you know me from this?” And I’m like, “But I haven’t seen that.” And it’s like, “No, we’ve met in real life. It was a real actual meeting.” I love him in this role. He is so funny. After that opening scene, I turned to Kate, and I go, “Well, he might be the funniest character on the show right now.” He’s so subtle, like when he jumps into the car, he kinda hurts himself a little bit. When he says stuff and doesn’t pause—

“Knock-knock-who’s-there-this-guy!” He’s so outwardly abrasive. If people wondered if anyone could out-vulgarize Erlich… here he is! So it’s very cute that Erlich kind of looks up to him.

Let’s talk about that a little later. Like you said, he’s great comedy fodder from the get-go, whether being offensive to Asians and the mentally challenged, or feeding baby bird Richard the special $800 beef and telling him exactly when to chew it. I didn’t know how many laughs were left to wring out of such a d-bag archetype, but the answer apparently is: plenty. Part of what’s interesting about Russ Hanneman—who is all id and no superego—is that he’s set up as an outcast in the Prius-driving, idealistic Silicon Valley, and the man who dared to put radio on the Internet is so far up his own riveted-jean-covered ass, he makes the guys in Entourage look like, well, the guys in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, in the race to the most douchebaggery, Silicon Valley is fast in gaining on Hollywood. That race is neck and neck.

There are too many Russ moments to quote, but let’s do a few anyway: I loved when Richard asked him if he was worried about the Pied Piper suit and he casually dismissed it, saying, “I’ve got three nannies suing me right now. One of them for no reason.” We truly saw his inflated obliviousness when talking about his AOL-funded fortune: “All of the sudden, I’m 22 years young, and I’m worth $1.2 billion. Now a couple decades later… I’m worth $1.4. You do the math.” I’m so glad that Richard actually does the math, because, as it turns out, Russ’ ROI (that’s Return on Investment, not Radio on the Internet) was “less than a CD.” “Well no one ever got laid putting money in the bank, am I right?” Russ retorts, proving that it is extremely difficult to insult someone with, if our calculations are correct here, zero self-awareness. Is it possible to have negative self-awareness? Because I think Erlich is as close to zero as you can get. Russ seems to have pushed beyond that mathematical boundary. He’s so unaware of himself that he’s also unaware of people in addition to him, including whether or not Jared f—s. By the way, Chris Diamantopoulos is just completely the opposite of Russ Hanneman in real life. It’s a really funny juxtaposition to be talking to him on set—while the cameras aren’t rolling, he’s going, “Hey, I’m so sorry, yesterday I think I interrupted you and I wanted to let you finish that thought. I didn’t mean to be rude…” and they’ll be like, “Action” and he’ll be like, “HEYYY!!! What’s this Pakistani towelhead doing in here, right?” and then they’ll yell “Cut!” and he’s like, “T.J., did you feel like we left you out at lunch? You ate lunch alone, but I just wanted to make sure you know you’re always invited.” He’s that polite.

Speaking of the too-polite, let’s discuss Richard. For such a visionary dude, he really needs to bone up on his leadership skills—let alone his check-presenting skills. In this episode, he was Jedi mind-tricked by everyone. Whatever powerful man is sitting across from him, he will do what they say.

Exactly. First he was overwhelmed by Gavin’s rhetoric, and then Russ worked his sleazy magic, convincing him that he shouldn’t do what he should do, he should do what he wants to. And buying into Russ-ology, he says that what he wants to do is be a “self-centered irrational asshole who doesn’t compromise on anything.” So even though Jared and Monica warn him that the $5 million loan gives Russ the option to get equity and definitely two seats on the board, he spurns the devil he knows, Gavin, for the one he doesn’t, Russ. Although after Gavin’s off-color comments at a conference that billionaires are more oppressed than the Jews in Nazi Germany—which was not just the height of offensiveness but also of self-delusion—Russ seems like the lesser of two evils, at least for the moment. That’s one of my favorite scenes of the series because it so accurately satirizes the lack of self-awareness that all of these billionaires have. It was pitch perfect to a guy who believes his own rhetoric that he is making the world a better place, and that he is getting persecuted for it. And when he says it, none of it matches up. He doesn’t backtrack at all, like he did last season when he also had a publicity faux pas. We are seeing him progress to a point where he is so out of touch that they are like, “Are you comparing billionaires to Jews in Nazi Germany?” and he’s like “Yes! Absolutely! Do the math.” That is so insane. And somehow in his mind the logic works because Jewish people had some of the banking infrastructure. It’s crazy; it’s a Hitler-like comment.

NEXT: What did Jared just do?[pagebreak]

So Pied Piper is flush with cash again. Dinesh and Gilfoyle rejoin the team, as their app development was not as promising as promised, and Jared reveals that he celebrated the good news by… well, it probably involved pleasuring himself, but I’d rather think that he simply treated himself to a new pair of birding binoculars. It’s so precious to imagine what Jared is enjoying. He probably put on Indigo Girls and sat with a single candle lit on a yoga mat and just let it all sink in.

That’s even better. Dinesh and Gilfoyle further prove that their deep loyalty to the team by lying to Richard about how much additional staff they need, culminating with Dinesh quipping: “I just got you to give me three guys for a job I could easily do with two.” I expect this behavior out of Erlich, and maybe Gilfoyle, but not Dinesh. Add another name to the list of successful manipulators of Richard. The only person who is going to lose in a negotiation with Richard would be Richard. He’s the ultimate pushover. He’s already lying down. You don’t even need to push him over. That’s what a pushover he is.

Russ, the man who claimed to be “hands the f— off,” shows up to offer unwelcome running commentary on Richard’s speaking style and ooze awfulness all over the room. We have to address his introduction to Dinesh: “Hey, what’s up, Al Qaeda? Nah, I’m totally kidding, I’m diffusing the tension with humor” and “Seriously, no beheadings, all right?” And his radar is so off, as he sees Jared as the house stud. It’s a fun twist to have Erlich try feebly to gain approval from this schmuckbag (“Yo Russ, I’ve been known to f— myself!”) only to be completely ignored by Russ. I look forward to more of that dynamic develop in future episodes. That’s a softer, sweeter moment in this episode. You really see Erlich being like, “Wow, there is somebody who is even more of a douchebag then me.” Someone who’s even more outwardly id. Kate felt so bad for Erlich. She kept cringing, like, “Ohhhh, is he really trying to be friends with him? He wants a friend…” He’s just like everybody; he wants acceptance and he looks up to people, and in this case Russ could give a s—.

Were you surprised that Erlich saw a role model in Russ? Yeah. Actually, when they pitched me that he should want to get Russ’ attention and be friends with him and Russ doesn’t care, I thought, “Well, that doesn’t really make sense.” But once you see Chris actualize that part, it is right on. I love you calling out that Richard says, “You made less money than a certificate of deposit,“ and he’s just like, “Yep! You wanna get p—y, you gotta spend money.” It’s ridiculous. He’s the worst. Erlich is sort of imagining what he would be like if he had a billion dollars, and I think Russ is not super far off. He drives a McLaren. Erlich likes the flashier side. He doesn’t want to be a Peter Gregory or really even a Gavin Belson. But he kind of wants to be a Russ Hanneman. Within that realm. Probably not as outwardly offensive. “No beheadings please!” I mean, after he says he’s trying defusing the tension, he creates it? That’s amazing.

His business strategies concern me. He tries to talk Richard into staying a pre-revenue company—“If you show revenue, people will ask how much and it will never be enough”—and he wants to concentrate more on branding and less on product. This includes a very vague billboard assault, which has the added benefit of taunting Gavin, and just happens to line his own pockets as he owns the billboards. My question about this character moving forward: Will he show some more redeeming qualities, at least professionally? I think he needs to straddle the line between invaluable asset and horrific liability to Pied Piper. You’re going to find that he’s useful for a number of reasons. His relationship with the company is going to change. He’s going to be a gift and a curse for Pied Piper. I mean, curse in the sense that he’ll swear… But from my perspective as the guy who plays Erlich, he already has shown he has got some redeeming qualities in saying, “Don’t do what you should do, do what you wanna do.” That is something Erlich would say. There is no filter. “You do what the f— you want, you eat amazing steak if you want to. It’s as much about pissing off the competition as it is about not getting revenue.” All those things are like him saying, “This is the way system works,” and everybody has a different view of that. But Erlich is closer to Russ Hanneman than I think even I’m comfortable with.

Then there’s Gavin, who is pissed about the billboard in front of his HQ and wants to turn up the heat on the lawsuit, which will require proving that Pied Piper was created on Hooli time in Hooli space with Hooli personnel. His lawyer hatches a devious and highly, um, ambitious plan, which would position a Hooli employee that Richard was close to as some kind of a beautiful mind who was elevated quickly through the ranks at Hooli, which would “lead a court to agree that someone this brilliant who was there at inception of Pied Piper must be integral, if not responsible, for its creation.” That person? The work-shirking, fry-dropping, not-particularly-talented-or-big-headed Big Head. Someone is getting promoted through the roof, which means that someone is coming off the roof. I am happy to have the ineffectual, modest mouse back in the game—he is as small as Russ is big—and we can see that this isn’t going to mesh well with his lifestyle. And it will be juicy to see him positioned against his old Pied Piper friends. The most valuable position that Nelson Bighetti can hold at Hooli is the guy in charge of condiments for a cookout on the roof. He’s so wonderfully incompetent that this is going to get pretty ridiculous. Because Gavin will stop at nothing, so it won’t matter what he does. [Laughs] You’ll see in future episodes—he does rise to the occasion in a couple of ways that are hysterical. What an interesting and fun thing to have one of the guys that was ousted by the company working for the corporate monolith.

And now, we close out this conversation with a peek at next week’s episode. Tease J. Miller, toss a few tasty plot crumbs into our salivating mouths. We’re going to see how much of the success that comes with working with Russ Hanneman is offset by the drawbacks. Hopefully Erlich can get some of the acceptance that in my opinion he deserves from an even bigger asshole. We’re also going to see if Big Head can fail against all odds. The narrative is thick, and it’s only going to get thicker. It’s a thick, frothy narrative milkshake—the kind where you can’t even use a f—ing straw! You need a goddamn fork.

You’re just bypassing spoon and going right to fork? Yeah, a fork! It’s a stabbing situation, not a scooping situation. 

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