A discussion of the sixth episode of season 2 with 'Silicon' star T.J. Miller.
The sixth installment of Silicon Valley‘s second season was titled “Homicide” not because it contained a heinous crime (though we did meet two dudes who committed acts of extreme douchebaggery) or because one of its central gags killed (the Let Blaine Die board packed both lurid laughs and amazing awkwardness), but because it whisked us into the HQ of the frat-tastic energy drink that powered much of this week’s comedy. Want to crack open Silicon‘s latest adventure, which officially ushers us into the second half of the season? Let’s gather everyone (Allen, Lisa, Josh, Yana, Katie, Ramon), pour ourselves a tall cold one (of Kool-Aid, not Homicide—that stuff sounds nasty), and welcome back our man on the inside, Silicon Valley superstar T.J. Miller, a.k.a. Erlich Bachman, who just busted through the wall right now and is ready to recap.
Thanks for showing up for the sixth week in a row, T.J.! I guess we should start wi— Dan, I simply could not be happier and I just wanted to say thank you for being such a serviceable, adequate writer.
That’s sweet, sort of, but what I wanted to— and also recognizing writing talent in someone like me.
Well, you certainly have a flair, and I’m— As well as allowing me to elevate your game. I’m proud of you, Dan.
Wow, you really do interrupt people a lot in real life, too. Can I just…? Okay. So, this episode opens with sweet, sweet defeat. Instead of putting 4K UHD in a lossless compression chokehold, Nucleus wound up kicking itself in the nuts, as its livestream of the UFC fight froze/skipped the decisive moment in the fight. It wasn’t all bad for Gavin, though. Did you see how high his last kick was in that glass-shattering, amusingly-too-long pre-fight intro? That was not unimpressive. The glass smashing is one of the great jokes of this season, and the way Matt Ross reacts when people compliment him on the kicking—he is just so f—ing good at playing Gavin Belson. But as I laughed at the too-many glass shatterings, I realized that that joke reflects how out of touch and overinflated these people are, with no one to call them on their B.S., a.k.a. Breaking & Shattering.
You should take a bow for that blackbelted word play. Anyway, wanting to capitalize on Nucleus’ nuclear meltdown, Monica suggests that Pied Piper stage their own livestream to show off their technology. Everyone quickly offers very specific help, even Erlich, who says he’s “prepared to brag about it and release publicity.” What a mensch. While Jared’s suggestion of streaming a nesting pair of condors on a closed circuit feed is compelling—”I don’t want to be inflammatory but… next to a condor, an eagle looks like a common cackling”—the group opts instead to go with Erlich’s advice and team up with Homicide CEO Aaron “Double A” Anderson, with whom Erlich used to party in coll— Well, it was more of a mentor-mentee kind of partying.
That leads to one of my all-time favorite exchange of insults on the show. Erlich cocksurely—it’s a word!—explains that his relationship with Double A was “kind of a mentor-mentee kind of thing”—See? I told you so.
Just please—let me finish. That prompted Gilfoyle to deadpan: “Coming from a manatee sort of thing.” I didn’t think there was any way to come back from that scorcher, but Erlich shoots back: “You look like a ferret that gave up on himself six months ago.” It’s a double-burn, because that means Gilfoyle is illegally living in the house! Okay, this is the place where you give me a high-five for that California Fish and Game Code, Section 2116-2126 callback, or at least tell us all of the alternate insults that you threw at Gilfoyle during the shoot. I’ll give you both. High-five. And yes, I did throw some other “zingers” his way, as we say in the business—the business of bizarre facial hair:
“Well, Gilfoyle, as a manatee, I would eat you if I didn’t know you would taste like self-loathing and s—ty taste in clothing.”
“Yeah, and that coming from a sort of weasel-y, sad around the neck area sort of thing.”
“It looks like your beard was trying to face f— your chin and it prematurely ejaculated.”
Actually, all three of those get the job done, too. Before we move on, let’s quickly talk about Jared. We pick up that thread of his being sorely misguided about how to advocate for women in a male-dominated workplace. He tries to force a bond between Carla and Monica, two people who would seemingly have as much in common as Gilfoyle and… well, just about anyone. I liked his attempt at talking Carla up to Monica—”She’s really smart but not afraid to be bawdy”—as if that would appeal to Monica. But the story line never really took off. And I wish they gave Carla, who’s someone we just met, a little more to do in this episode, other than to be annoyed at Jared. I found this plot line to not hit as exactly as the hiring of Carla last episode. It’s clear that Jared is unaware of how to be gender sensitive, but I was hoping they would actually hit it off and be able to talk together about some of the terrible s— re: women in the actual Silicon Valley.
Richard, who, by the way, is less sweaty this episode— His dick in particular.
T.J, let me finish my thought…Just trying to be cool here, ‘kay? Richard worries about dedicating resources to the livestream. So Jared—who has booby-trapped the house with corporate resources (are there peer evaluation forms in the bathroom?)—suggests that they SWOT this decision. He pulls out a giant board on which one can identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and otherwise be a major corporate tool. This was Chekhov’s gun: Once it was introduced, you knew it was going to come in handy later in the episode; you just didn’t know exactly how it would be discharged as a comedic weapon. Was Chekhov in this episode? Because I didn’t see his Three Sisters. I love that Jared is SWOTing actual issues, and again we derail to minuscule calculation of tangential and, in this case, dark subjects. Not that me pleasuring four guys at a time in a conference ballroom isn’t dark, that’s for sure.
During their tour of the Homicide HQ, Dinesh meets event manager Gina and falls for her immediately, partly because she knows the difference between Pakistan and India, but mostly because she’s hot. Dinesh truly thinks he has a chance, and he’s floating on a taurine high when she says that Karachi is “a beautiful place full of beautiful people,” but then he’s yanked back to Earth when Gilfoyle spots her making out with another dude. “He’s definitely going to f— her later and she’s not going to think of you while it’s happening,” Gilfoyle says, clearly concerned with sparing Dinesh’s feelings. This tactician has got no tact. Gilfoyle knows just how to break hard news to a friend; it’s one of the things I love about him. That and his ferret-like features. Kumail Nanjiani plays this so sweetly, and Dinesh is so excited, it almost felt too harsh when Gilfoyle said the line. I also wish there was a little more dimension for the character of Gina, but hey, it is an energy drink company.
Meet Blaine, the stylishly unstyled Homicide stuntman who will defy gravity by flying a car off the roof of one building and land on another 15-story building across the street. Blaine quickly reveals himself to be an arrogant, impatient prick—if this were an ’80s movie, he’d be a Cobra Kai. He cuts off Dinesh and Gilfoyle when they realize in studying his stunt math that he’s got the velocity calculated wrong, which will result in nothing less than his flesh-smeared death. “I am too f—ing busy to deal with you!” he says dismissively of Gilfoyle, calling him Glasses. “What do we do here?” says Dinesh, marveling at Blaine’s awfulness, to which Gilfoyle responds, “This is a tough one.” Loved that moment. It’s always fun to watch Gilfyole dismantle Dinesh—see: the previous paragraph—but the writers found a really fun, outrageous way to team them up against a common enemy. And so they start weighing the merits of letting him die. “It’d probably lead to calls for regulations in the stunt industry, so in the longterm we’re saving lives,” rationalizes Dinesh, leading them to take Jared’s tedious suggestion and turn it into something so wrong. The SWOT plot is right in the show’s sweet spot: Plugging something outrageous and juvenile into a dry, mathematical for— Let me stop you right there, Dan. Chekhov’s Gun (or in our case “Jackoff’s Fun”) would be plugging something outrageous and juvenile into a dry, mathematical formula. I love how seriously they take weighing all the possible options. “Grief Threesome with Blaine’s Hot Mom?” will go down as one of my favorite lines.
NEXT: The greatness of the Let Blaine Die SWOT board
So much gold on the Let Blaine Die SWOT board. Strength: “Blaine’s last moment is realizing face is gone.” And they take it to crazy, amazing lengths, positing a scenario where Blaine doesn’t perish in the accident but becomes horribly incapacitated and gets a flesh eating virus before dying. “What if before he dies, Gina catches it and spreads it from her vagina to your penis?” asks Gilfoyle. Dinesh’s response: “Wait, so in this scenario, I get to have sex with Gina? That’s an opportunity.” And then… it happened. When Blaine walked into the room to apologize, I wanted to crawl in a hole and die 1,001 deaths right there. That was almost Mike-leaving-a-message-on-Nicky’s-answering-machine-in-Swingers-uncomfortable. And that wide shot of the three of them, where Blaine is standing right in front of the board, underneath the “Let Blaine Die” sign? Perfection. The actor who plays Blaine, Dustin Milligan, is fantastic (he was also in Extract with me, for all you Mike Judge fanatics out there), it’s pretty hard to play an arrogant d-bag, and have moments of vulnerability, and he is so perfect. He is so subtle in his comedy, I laughed the hardest at his stuff in this episode. And offstage he is Amanda Crew’s [Monica] boyfriend and the nicest guy. Super funny in person, barely a douchebag. But yeah, the framing of that sign, and Blaine saying “There I am rambling again, classic Blaine” really made me cringe. So sad. It would be like if Double A actually couldn’t stand Erlich and he found out.
Nice! And we’ll get to that in a second. As you said, Blaine delivers that heartfelt rambling apology, and then he turns around and actually sees their dirty work. As he is absorbing the awful things, Dinesh and Gilfoyle start cycling through every possible excuse—”What is… that?” “We write in code so this is compression” and “Would you believe that was here when we came in?” The boys in Pied Piper have had their fair share of “Oh, we’re so f—ed” moments over the last season and a half, and this one is right up there. I mean the 180 that Blaine does in this scene is amazing. He really has to take in that he apologized for being a dick to these two dicks that are going through the pros and cons of him dying. But yeah, their backs are up against the wall, and it’s a good thing Richard just called out Double A’s double assholes, because they are probably not going to be in long-term business with Homicide.
That’s on our list to talk about, too, but let’s first wrap up Gavin. Still fuming from his embarrassment, he vents to his guru that he would’ve never gone ahead with the livestream if he knew about the problems. When he asks Denpok if he’s simply been surrounding himself with yes men, this yes man says the only thing he can: Noooo. That moment nicely sets up the Hooli focus group scene in which everyone is trashing the Hooli Phones that are using Nucleus as its operating system, and a frustrated Gavin asks Christina exactly how bad this situation is, gauging it against other famous fails of technology: “Is this Windows Vista bad? It’s not iPhone 4 bad, is it? F—, don’t tell me this is Zune bad.” If Denpok is his yes man, Christina is his no woman, as her response is: “I’m sorry, Gavin, it’s Apple Maps bad.” I would kill to see an actual chart somewhere at Hooli titled “How Bad is This?” And I want to know where “Facebook phone” would rank on it. Wait, there was a Facebook phone? Wait, Facebook is still a thing? That sequence of lines is up there for me as for satirizing Silicon Valley. Their language has become ours. If you laugh at that joke, it’s because you know about all those tech catastrophes, the worst of which was Apple Maps. And if you didn’t know about Apple Maps, then you haven’t been outside your house in a while. Like a decade or so.
I also enjoyed the overly corporate-speaking dude running the focus group. That was such a Mike Judge scene, something that could’ve been in Office Space. “Allen, Lisa, Josh, Yana, Katie, Ramon” is the new “Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking, just a moment!” Our adherence to protocol, how brainwashed we become and how foreign our affect is—almost inhuman. These corporations send out drones to see if we will buy what they are selling. I love that what they’re seeking is what they get: a focus group saying, “It’s stupid. I hate it. Everything is dumb. They took a good phone and made it suck.” It’s a great scene and, yes, a very Mike Judge sort of satire.
Now back to Richard and Erlich, whose story boasted twists, turns, and ass-out awkwardness. After their recent spat over Erlich wanting to feel more like a part of the company, Richard is good about letting him be part of the Homicide deal. The problem is that Double A isn’t feeling it. After Erlich’s hundredth interruption—the best one: when Double specifically finishes his question with Richard’s name and Erlich still chimes in with a “Yes”—he pulls Richard aside and tells him to come back the next day without Erlich. Turns out, Double A doesn’t call Erlich “Kool-Aid,” because he’s cool and helpful, but because he comes smashing through the wall like an uninvited guest. Erlich is perceptive enough to realize that something is off, but he’s off about what that something is: “I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, I don’t think he likes you,” he tells Richard. “Trust me, let Kool-Aid do the talking tomorrow.” It speaks to how clueless Erlich is, and there’s a sadness to that. He has such a high opinion of himself, and always has such a good time with himself, he can’t imagine anyone else feeling differently, and, Dan, don’t interrupt me here: He drank his own Kool-Aid, so to speak.
And I think you speak very wisely, when you’re not interrupting me. This episode showed us the various sides of Erlich, how he can be a fool (Erlich’s inability to grasp that the Kool-Aid nickname was negative: “The dancing pitcher breaks through walls to give tasty beverages to kids in need”) but he’s not necessarily an idiot (see: the next paragraph). And when Richard finally blurts out to Erlich why he’s unlikable, there’s a genuine moment of poignancy, of vulnerability—Erlich is very concerned with making sure that the other guys in Pied Piper don’t know about this revelation. Yet he’s still deluded, nobly sacrificing himself—he thinks—by telling Richard not to bail on the Homicide deal on his account, which Richard was not planning to do. This was a weird, tough scene because I don’t really like acting. But Erlich is obviously hurt. So I pretended to be hurt, too. But in this case, I can relate. It does hurt when people nickname you something that you think is cool and it ends up being mean. I should know—they used to call me “Dirty Dandelions Dave.” I thought it was because of my florid but offensive way of speaking and the alliteration. But it was because they thought I smelled like pollen and s—. And they hated people named Dave.
Sorry to hear that, and after we finish this, I can give you the name of a gentle Yogi lifecoach… When Erlich tells Richard that he doesn’t like Double A and to watch out for him—they called him “Double Asshole” in college—you realize that it’s the Cyborg situation all over; Erlich may be lashing out because he’s wounded, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. And sure enough, he’s proven right as Richard learns that Double A—who is turning out to be a bigger dick than Blaine (no small feat)—has no plans to use the Pied Piper logo on the livestream. This is what’s tricky—and I finally started reading the Jobs biography (I’m a great actor, I do research after the second season): Erlich obviously needs Richard, but it’s becoming clear that Richard needs Erlich. He is a bit of a Steve Jobs. He knows how to get what he wants, he won’t be shortchanged (and has the universal respect of all the ladies), but he needs Wozniak. Sure, Erlich owns multiple black turtlenecks, yet Richard has the engineering chops. But for how abrasive Erlich is, he is still a visionary and an ambitious man who knows his strengths and how to play to them. More people should be like him. Curl their hair.
So Richard does the right thing, but it goes all wrong when he calls Double A “a double asshole.” Double A responds, “What did you say?,” and Richard’s answer is an incredible feat of stammer: “I called you an a double asshole because you know, you’re being an asshole, double A, double asshole you’re twice the asshole, twice hole, double asshole.” Twice hole—that’s my new favorite insult. Wait till you see the finale. Ooooh boy, they do a negative two hole, which is an inverted asshole that has then been inverted again.
It turns out this douchebag has a colostomy bag. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be 10 years old and carry your own s— around in a bag? To have two assholes?” That gag kind of landed a little awkwardly, but anyway, Richard does the wise thing here: He flees, joined by Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who are chased away by Blaine, who’s incredulously repeating more of the horrific things that they wrote. The icing on this s— cake is delivered at home when Erlich learns what Richard called Double A; he laughs his single ass off in disbelief and marvels at Richard’s cruelty in bringing up something so personal right to his face. I think a big part of Erlich’s laughter is due to him imagining Richard trying to stand up for himself without Erlich present. It certainly wasn’t the colostomy joke.
The episode winds down with the underwhelming yet impressively smooth-n-clear livestream of the egg, and as Jared points out, ”The resolution inside your imagination is infinite.” Oh, to be in Jared’s imagination. After he tries one last time unsuccessfully to bring two women together who don’t want to be, a shirtless Russ calls to congratulate them on their success. Except he’s watching the Homicide stunt, assuming that “powered by End Frame,” was the new name for their company, which he favored over the “limp-dick” Pied Piper name. A quick search by the boys reveals troubling news: End Frame is part of Branscomb Ventures, the brain-rapists from earlier this season who were wooing them only to steal their innovative middle-out technology. Russ is ready to call his friends at the FBI when Richard admits how they essentially handed over their algorithm by sketching it out on one of the VC’s whiteboards. The last thing we hear from a white-hot angry Russ is “You f—in—” before the line mercifully goes dead. I’ll assume that he’s throwing on a shirt (but maybe not) and heading over to ream them out in person— You assumed wrong. The next time you see Russ’ shirt, he’ll be losing it.
Wait, is that part of your tease for next week? Isn’t all of this part of everything? Am I not part of you, Dan? Is not Entertainment Weekly part of all of us? Come on, let’s wrap it up.
Okay, we’ll wrap it up like we always do with a little segment we call Teas— Maybe this is a good time to go into Tease J. Miller.
Yes, if you wouldn’t keep interrupting me, I was— Let me interrupt you right there for a moment, Dan. Next week it gets pretty graphic, as the guys are beginning to run out of options to best Nucleus. And wait till you see the insult “thrice hole.” It won’t make any sense.