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T.J. Miller on 'Silicon Valley': 'The Lady'

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

Gather ‘round, my three-comma friends (and one-apostrophe appreciators)—it is time to talk about the Lady. Which lady, you ask? Carla, the punky new Pied Piper employee who is already keeping Dinesh and Gilfoyle on their toes and probably would hate being called a lady? Yes, that one, though she’d probably hate being called that. The creepy, soothing maternal Big Brother voice that does all the bad-cop parenting for Douchelord Russ Hanneman? Oh, right, there’s that one, too Wait, what’s that? The episode itself is also called “The Lady”? All right, well, then it looks like we’ll be talking about the whole half-hour, including the rise of Big Head and trash habits of Jian Yang. But first, let’s put our narrow spoons down, stick our Pied Piper foam fingers into the air and make some noise for our weekly guest analyst, soon-to-be-official Fage spokesman, and the man who simply must get dings, T.J. Miller.

One question before we begin, T.J. Are you… dog-friendly? Well, I’m friendly to dogs but they don’t return the sentiment. I was standing in front of a dog—let’s call him Donald—and he said, “Hey toddler-body, you make a better door than a window. And I think your work on Silicon Valley is pedantic.”

Got it. So, the stakes were lower on this episode, as we focused mostly on a very specific part of our now-funded company: Hiring new employees. Turns out, there are some odd candidates kicking around. I particularly enjoyed the dude who crushed it in 2010, 2011, and 2013, prompting Jared’s earnest vetting question: “So are we too understand that you did not crush it in 2012?” That was one of the funniest parts of the episode. I love that the guy is so earnest about not having crushed it for one year. He had some mental problems that prevented it from happening, but then he was right back to crushing it. And he really wants to move to the next level and just start destroying it.

Did you personally crush it in 2012? Not as hard as I crushed it in 2010 when I did Yogi Bear 3D.

I’m a little disappointed that it didn’t work out with Jared. No, not that one—the other Jared. No, not Other Jared—Just Jared. No, not Just Jared, the website—Jared Patakian, the self-described cyborg who’s been fitted with a pacemaker. “I like that you guys are so… weird,” he says to Richard, who takes a moment to process the absurdity of that idea before just humbly going with it: “Yes, we are the weird ones.” We do have this great opportunity to show that there are even weirder people in Silicon Valley. That’s how bizarre that world is, that, yeah, Richard and Jared are completely normal compared to this guy that lowers his shirt collar to reveal a pacemaker, which proves his point, that, by definition, he is a cyborg. You would think that there is no one more socially awkward than Richard and then suddenly, there’s this litany of people. Even the crushing-it guy is equally bizarre and out of touch.… Russ Hanneman reminds you in this episode of the spectrum of insanity that is going on there. What money does to people. What it means to be able to speak that language and code in that world.

I want to focus on the coding candidate that does join the team: Carla, who seems to be both chill and withering. Last season the show was criticized for not having enough women on the show, and the producers’ defense was: They are reflecting the lack of women in Silicon Valley and poking fun at that. For example, Gavin walking into a room of execs and greeting them with, ‘Gentlemen. Lady.” This season, they slotted in Laurie with very little commentary so far but now with Carla, they’re hitting that much harder. That’s one of the main things that people talked about and we got questions at panels and so they had to answer it. So they forced us to hire a woman. They’re sort of winking at the audience. Like, look at this, we could have organically had a woman like peter Gregory’s replacement but also here’s your girl coder. You made sure that this would happen. It’s not organic.

Carla is far from a PC hire—she comes highly respected by Dinesh and Gilfoyle—but she’s made to feel like one by Jared, who has prioritized a female hire (“It’s like we’re the Beatles and now we just need Yoko”). He is used here to amusingly satirize the affirmative-action versus best-person-for-the-job debate—“We want to hire the best people who happen to be women, regardless of whether or not they are women. That part is irrelevant”—while being so incapable of carrying out this mission. Witness his stab at connecting with Carla by telling her that he “loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I think I’ll laugh the next time I watch it, but when I was first watching it, I was like, “Wow, this is a pretty amazing piece of satire and comedy, because they’re speaking to the people who said, “Put women in! Even if it’s a satire reflecting actual life, don’t do that! Make it the ideal version!” All that was so ridiculous. Of course, there are going to be women in the show. It’s still a real-word scenario. But in Silicon Valley there are many more men than women, and in satirizing the hiring through Jared’s motives, it’s also funny that they’re speaking directly to the critics. But we’re also attacking something within this where he’s going, “We should hire a woman—even if it’s not a woman. It would be best for us to hire a woman, regardless of whether they’re a woman.” I actually know someone in Silicon Valley who’s pretty powerful in compression, and like Carla, she said, “I’m not a girl coder. I’m just a coder. Yeah, there’s a bias, but we just need to keep getting more talented women in the city but not consider them women. Just get better coders.”

Carla knows an easy target when she sees one, and toys with Jared later by asking him if it will be problematic that she has a friend named C—y:”If I can’t call C—y C—y, then I’m not going to want to have C—y over at all, which I feel like kind of violates my rights… as a woman.” Jared is taking fire from all over and processing none of it. Witness his recounting of Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s line-crossing insults of him— “Retarded Frankenstein,” “AIDS Lady,” (Another lady reference!) and “Effeminate KD Lang” — which he misinterprets as just friends-being-friends razzing. Jared is like a bukaki victim. He’s just taking it from every angle. He loves it. In some ways, I think Erlich envies Jared because ignorance is bliss. He’s not seeing anything with a cynical eye. What a great tool to explore HR/affirmative-action issues with.

And just what a great tool he is, overall. Carla shows Dinesh and Gilfoyle no mercy either, letting them think that she’s making more money than them—see: her fake D&G bag, and when they tell her how much equity they have in Pied Piper, she says: “That’s weird, I thought you got in at the beginning.” She’s a promising addition to the crew and nicely complicates the Gilfoyle-Dinesh dynamic. If you combined Dinesh and Gilfoyle, she would be that female version. She might be perfect for this crew because she brings her own level of awkwardness in being blunt and understated. She spends a lot of time in front of the computer too. The thing I love is she’s the most assertive, she’s playing a joke on Dinesh and Gilfoyle, and fire backs at Jared. She’s sort of an alpha, and showing that gender isn’t part of this picture in this world…. We see how all these guys interact with this girl in the house and we’re really seeing how someone like Jared in these circumstances, and they don’t know how to handle women, and Jared is the worst with it. You’ll see in future episodes, he’s trying to get Monica and her to be friends. It’s such a funny comment on being overly conscious of gender and not being conscious of it at all.

Let’s shift our attention from a new member of the team to a former one: Big Head. His story feels like its own Mike Judge movie, the incompetent employee rising through the ranks of an absurd company against his will. Gavin loftily introduces a new crazy-big-idea division of Hooli, XYZ to be run by robotics pioneer Professor Davis Bannecheck, who discovers at the podium that he’s been saddled with Nelson as his co-head dreamer. Instead of being happy with his lucrative promotion, “Bag Head,” as Gavin calls him, is perplexed by this shifting, golden ground beneath his feet. Big Head being forced to “dream big” while being set up as unlikely—and unwilling—foe for Pied Piper? This sounds promising. It’s classic Mike Judge failing your way to the top. It’s so fun to see how he’s going to become an unwilling part of the enemy. And Josh Brener is just hysterical. He’s so subtle and so often he’ll do a really subtle thing and swallow it, so he sort of swallows himself in every situation because he’s just drowning. He’s a stuttering comedy savant.

NEXT: Will Erlich have a break-through with Jian Yang? (No.) [pagebreak]

Jian Yang, our in-house enigma, had a few moments in the sun, too. We got a sequel to last season’s fish-guts scene in which Erlich can’t bridge the language gap with Jian Yang—right down Erlich’s frustrated “motherf—er!” response—as Erlich tries to teach him how to properly dispose of his garbage. How many times will Erlich attempt to enlighten Jian and run into a Rosetta Stone wall? Well, Erlich has paid for multiple ESL classes for Jian Yang. He’s spent time with him with flash cards. But it’s just not taking… There’s some real fun stuff with the two of us. We begin to see that we have a Laurel-and-Hardy kind of chemistry. He and I joke about it all the time that I’m this giant doofus of a white guy but with curly long crazy hair and facial hair—I’m this pot-belled pig—and he’s a very small, gentlemanly Man of the East. And it’s great that they almost connect.

One of the best Jian Yang lines arrives at the Muir Woods fundraiser, when Erlich is futilely bargaining with the staffer over the prohibitive $25,000-per-person admission and Jian Yang announces to the crowd: “Does anyone have extra ticket? My investor cannot pay.” Oh my god, it’s hilarious. First of all, I love that Erlich asked the woman, “For both?” As if he could pay $12,500 a ticket. He’s got that on him. That’s perfect. Jian Yang is the only one who could totally call out Erlich’s bluff in front of this crowd of actual billionaires.

It’s a tough episode for Erlich, who is upset that Richard didn’t take his advice to reject new Jared (because he screwed him over and used his Aviato job offer as leverage elsewhere). This is expressed through his disgust over the lack of narrow spoons for Fage yogurt consumption. We learn that if the angle is off, the JTY (jam-to-yogurt) ratio—which is not be confused with the D2F ratio—is thrown out of whack. By the way, I’ve been on the set, and the level of detail in that kitchen is great—Richard’s food is labeled and neatly stored in Tupperware, and there’s a note from Erlich that reads: “The more narrow spoons be reserved for the eating of Fage yogurts by me.” The set design is impeccable. Erlich has an immense amount of ramen noodles for his labeled section, and ample hair clips for when it’s time to eat them.

Anyway, back to Erlich’s misery. He’s spitefully votes against Richard in the Pied Piper board meeting, which we’ll get to in a minute. He’s angry that his Starblazer VHS tapes were messed with— And good god, when we find out that he cried in a Taco Bell and he blamed it on the hot sauce? Well, that is true. Erlich gets very tear-eyed near anything habanero.

Please tell me that moment was filmed and will be seen on the DVD. I shot it myself in Poland with a European crew. I never showed it to anybody. It’s too powerfully dramatic to ever be seen by the public. It would have changed the suicide rate globally.

T.J., out of curiosity, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in a Taco Bell? I watched that Polish film of me crying at a Taco Bell, and I cried while watching it on my tablet.

I’m sorry I asked. Now, Richard, ever the humanitarian, sees the toll all of this has taken on Erlich, and tells Erlich that he won’t hire Jared, but Erlich changes his tune and says that Jared is a solid coder who should be hired. They have a neat reverse stand-off, filled with lines like, “You don’t get to tell me how to respect you, I can respect you however the f— I want”. And in the end, Erlich is exonerated when Richard calls Jared, only to find out that the professional two-timer has taken a job from… Russ. It turns out Richard did need Erlich’s counsel after all. And especially when he was having trouble telling the Cyborg to f— off and needed Erlich to finish his insult with “metal dick piece of s—.” Thomas Middleditch is so funny in this scene. I love the idea that he says, “What are you doing?” “Respecting you!” Erlich loves to help and be important and be a part of it and they can’t seem to speak the same language because Erlich is so boorish and Richard is so meek. The best part of that is I had all these different riffs for “You metal dick piece of s—!” I did 15 different things. “You tin-dicked wanna-be Terminator.”  Some of them were unusable, like, “You metal-dicked a–hole. You look like R2D2 f—ed a garbage pail!”

Speaking of harsh language, after last week’s stellar introduction of billionaire savior/nightmare Russ Hanneman, I was jonesing for more power-activated superdouchery, and got it. At Russ’ house for the board meeting with Monica, Richard, and Erlich, we saw that even his art was all about commerce. Oh, and amazing nerd joke: “Do you know what has three commas in it, Richard?” “A sentence with two appositive phrases in it?” “No, a billion dollars!” That’s another example of Richard being like, “Um, am I answering you literally?”

Just like last week’s “You do the math” joke. And it led us to another great line, which was Russ telling Richard, “You know, you play your cards right and you could be in the three-comma club too. But probably not. But you could be. But probably not.” I think Erlich feels bad that moment and is like, “Yeah, Richard probably won’t be. But I definitely will.”

Russ then introduces everyone to his Maxim-hot girlfriend, Nastia, who, through some special hand-waving technology, can detect if someone is Jewish. Hers is faulty, though—Richard is Episcopalian. “My baby has got some ideas about Jews,” says Russ, “some good, some… bad.” I’m scared to hear even the good ones. She’d probably get along just fine with Gavin “We billionaires have had it worse than the Jews in Nazi-Germany” Belson. First of all, “Nastia,” in her native tongue, means “chastity.” And “Jew” for her may mean “executive” or “CEO.”

Surprise twist: The Douche has spawned! His son, Aspen, doesn’t want to go bed, so Russ triggers the app that he’s funding, called The Lady, in which a voice instructs his son when it’s time to go to bed and take a bath. This way, he can always be his son’s friend. That’s almost sweet. But I think we should still keep Protective Services on speed-dial. Can’t you see a guy like that investing in that company? My favorite part is that his name is Aspen, a wealthy, snobbish mountain town in Colorado.

“Telluride” was probably a bit too much. Anyway, the board meeting sets up the end of the episode, with Erlich striking back at Richard by childishly voting with Russ and Nastia to spend $30,000 on swag like mouse pads, puzzle cubes, antenna balls— Swaaaaaaag! Swaaaaaaag!  People will be saying that.

The good news? Russ’ marketing company will get them a killer rate. New theory: The season finale will reveal that Russ Hanneman’s investment in Pied Piper was just a way to drum up business for all his other sagging businesses. If Gavin Belson and Peter Gregory were playing chess, Russ Hanneman is playing checkers.

Checkmate with that line, T.J.! Or whatever you say when you win at checkers… So, in the final moments, Erlich’s revenge ploy semi-backfires when the delivery truck arrives with the swag, which includes boxes of foam fingers, and not just any foam fingers—ones with the old logo of a man possibly performing fellatio. Worse yet, Erlich’s got to go put out Jian Yang’s garbage fire. So, in conclusion: One step forward (welcome, Carla!), one step back (farewell, 30 Gs!). And for Erlich, it’s two steps back. One, a third citation for burning trash. And two, crying in a Taco Bell for the third time in two months.

T.J, according to the Lady, it’s time for your bath and then it’s off to bed. But before you go, can you please summon Tease J. Miller and drop a hint about next week’s episode? Pay attention to Gavin Belson’s introduction of XYZ. It will be part of a gag that rivals the D2F joke from last season. 

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