Frank Masi
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May 25, 2015 at 06:17 PM EDT

“What is failure?” asked Hooli CEO Gavin Belson early on in Sunday’s Silicon Valley. The theme echoed throughout the episode—and was a clear and present danger for many of our characters. “Adult Content” contained bad news for almost everyone at one point or another (including Gavin, Russ, the boys of Pied Piper—Dinesh in particular—and the boys of End Frame), and what made the episode, well, good, was that it led Richard to a sharp, jagged fork in the road and forced him to make a painful decision: Do you want to be the idealistic CEO who always plays the game fairly—or would you still like to actually have a company to run? Mark the moment: Episode 7 of season 2 is when s— got real for Richard—and left us (cliff)hanging on a note of “game on, bitches” determination. Shall we break down this week’s action? First, let us figure out the password for this Wi-F—Hey! That’s weird! It connected automatically!—and then delve deep into some “Adult Content” with Silicon insider T.J. Miller, aka Erlich Bachman.

Sorry, T.J, but I don’t have any early Sade on my iPhone to cue up as your intro music. Any other requests? I will begin interviews with Sade, and only Sade. Or a spoken word reading of Marquis de Sade. 

You did always strike me as a 120 Days in Sodom kind of guy. Yeah, I’ve always been more into the S than the M.

Understood. And for the record, I only come out to “Sad But True” by Metallica. Anyway, to quote Don Henley, who has nothing to do with any of those people, this appears to be “The End of the Innocence” for Richard, who has started to venture down “the left-hand path,” as Gilfoyle terms it. His decision to use the ill-gotten information about End Frame—the compression company, yes, that stole his middle-out algorithm—from Gilfoyle, who pilfered a Post-it note containing the log-in and password information of the company’s CEO, is game-changing. For Pied Piper. For Richard himself. For our understanding of Richard. We’ve known him to be the show’s earnest center—a nervous, sweaty jumble of a gifted manboy who has been thrust into a position of leadership that is not conducive to his mentality. Last week when he tried to assert himself, he inserted his foot in his mouth. (See: Double A’s double a–hole. I mean, don’t actually see it…) This week, Richard is still struggling with his identity; even the End Frame receptionist couldn’t see him as a top dog. But when he finally does assert himself, it yields better results: He walks up to Molly, CEO of porn hub Intersite, and after a rough start, begs her for a shot at her business, as his business is on the precipice of failure. He manages to persuade her that his middle-out technology might actually be better than End Frame’s (7 megabits per second versus 20, and higher quality to boot), prompting her to offer him a bake-off with End Frame. But what price victory (or at least a shot at victory)? Do two wrongs make a right? Maybe not, but they do make for interesting television. And an interesting Richard. This season gets tricky—and brings up my favorite subject of late—morality. What is the right way to make a company, what is the wrong way to act in making that company, what is the right way to treat your competitors and peers… Richard has to deal with all of that as an emerging CEO. And as you can imagine, things like this plague a man who is more comfortable with mathematics than conversations with girls (or anyone really).

A man who has been not afraid to stray into the gray, Gilfoyle went extra dark this week. He won’t call the stolen Post-it note—which moves the ethical line into uncharted territory—a “hack,” instead preferring the term “natural selection,” rationalizing that the End Frame CEO was a Darwinian dummy for leaving his computer unprotected. But Gilfoyle’s tempting of Richard feels like the work of the deadpan devil. When Richard doth protest that stealing this information is illegal, Gilfoyle retorts, “Like lying and saying they want to meet with you to steal their tech? You want to do something, Richard? This is something.” That scene was stellar—and a bit chilling. It’s strange how the different characters represent different approaches. Gilfoyle purports to have taken the left hand path, but is it evil to wrong someone who has wronged you?  Do two wrongs make a right?  Do two rights make a left?  Does one wrong, one-half right, and zero value negation of a wrong makes three-quarters right? I have no idea. I’m more comfortable conversing with girls than with mathematics.

But I love that everyone attacks the building of a company different ways.  And everyone has their own priorities (I’m looking at you, Dinesh! Modeling agency over servers? Disgusting. Get your head out of the beautiful, well-manicured, soft, supple gutter!) Erlich has been building a company, seeking respect, and doing what it takes (no matter if it’s good or evil) to become an icon and to disrupt the world. Richard is trying to make a different kind of company, something that isn’t Hooli, but he’s beginning to realize that all companies are something like Hooli (as Gavin pointed out with a mariachi soundtrack). And I don’t know about Jared. I think he just wants to make a great company where he can have his own conference nook to take naps. As Erlich says: “He speaks German in the nook.” 

Speaking of Jared, did he stray from the straight and narrow too? During the corrupting process of Richard, I expected our docile, harmless oddball to serve the lone voice of goodness and reason, but even he was focused on the benefit of the illicit End Frame info, noting that Intersite could save tens of millions of dollars by using a more efficient system like Pied Piper’s to handle their streaming needs—and if Pied Piper could swipe the $15 million contract from End Frame, they could settle out with Russ and pay off their legal fees to defend the Hooli suit. I should’ve known that Jared was a little different this week; when the others were calling the End Frame guys “a–holes,” he agreed and used unusually coarse language: “Buttholes, indeed.” Maybe German-nightmare Jared is working his way into his conscious state. Again, we have an interesting moral dilemma. Jared is taking the approach, in the end, Intersite would benefit from their tech much more than End Frame, and so it would be right to win the bake-off because Pied Piper is the better tech and Intersite will benefit from it, not to mention, millions upon millions of pornography enthusiasts who will get their sexual images and videos faster, at a higher quality, and thus those millions will, thanks to Pied Piper, reach climax faster. It gives them more time in their day. It’s really about the pornographic consumers and their well-being. So in a way, Jared may have the best interests of the most people in mind, and that is ethically sound. That’s some John Stuart Mill utilitarian s—, that right thar!

NEXT: How to win over a woman with the smooth sounds of Sade

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