Executive producer Alec Berg hint at strife inside Pied Piper thanks to Richard's new idea
Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO

It’s time to pay the piper — or, rather, watch it try to reinvent itself.

In advance of Sunday’s season 4 premiere of Silicon Valley, you probably have been asking yourself and/or Siri: What happens when Pied Piper makes a big pivot and repositions itself as a video chat company? And what also happens when CEO Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) doesn’t quite share that same vision? (See: This trailer in which Richard tells his friends that he’s quitting and this casting news about Haley Joel Osment.) Whereas recent seasons of the pointed tech satire have revolved around pitting Pied Piper against an external force, this season ratchets up the internal strife and politics, according to Silicon Valley executive producer Alec Berg (who serves as co-showrunner with Mike Judge). “Will the company come back together, or will the guys split up?” he says. “The arc of the season involves Richard’s discovery of what he believes to be the ideal use of his compression technology and his efforts to pursue that in the face of internal and external struggle. Also, something burns down, and someone gets needles stuck in their face.”

Like we said: pointed comedy. What else can you expect in the coming weeks? Berg uploads a dozen helpful hints below.

1. First up: Second thoughts for Richard.
Even though the Pied Piper pivot to video chat appears promising, “Richard has this kind of nagging feeling that maybe it’s not the ideal use of his algorithms,” Berg tells EW. “There’s tension because the video chat looks like it could be the big break and the financial windfall they’ve been looking for, but Richard feels like he’s a concert pianist and he’s playing 12-bar blues. It’s not the ultimate high purpose that he’s looking for. Does he ride this wave or does he bring it to a crashing halt in order to steer the company toward something else?”

2. Richard is a digital revolutionary. Or a mad man. Or maybe both.
Pursuing a pie-in-the-sky concept of a decentralized internet, Richard becomes lost in a fit of inspiration… or just lost down an ill-fated wormhole. “Each character defines success in a different way, and Richard is the dreamer,” says Berg. “To him, success is the best technology, not necessarily the biggest financial windfall. … He has this idea, he doesn’t even know how to accomplish it, and he’s trying to figure out what about this idea is something that people will be excited about? You can’t say, ‘Oh, in 10 years if you use this, here’s a good thing that will happen,’ because nobody’s going to stick it out for 10 years. So, he has the 10-year plan in mind, but part of the struggle is: How do you get people to start adopting this thing now? Here’s this pot of good at the end of the rainbow, he thinks. Do you chase the ultimate dream, or do you take the bird in hand?”

3. Dinesh is dressed for success and/or ridicule.
Pied Piper’s lead engineer (played by Kumail Nanjiani) saved the day at the end of last season by helping to turn Pied Piper into a video chat company. This season, as reinvention is pursued, that success goes right to his head. “Dinesh has strong opinions that this thing that he was responsible for putting together is becoming ‘the thing,’ and he’s pretty proud of that,” says Berg. “He rightly or wrongly thinks he should be steering the ship, and there’s a bit of resentment toward Richard — and also this arrogance. You’re going to see him buy his own hype.” How bad does it get? “There may be hair, make-up, and wardrobe adjustments.”

4. Gilfoyle has complicated feelings about Dinesh.
Allow Berg to explain: “Gilfoyle [Martin Starr] is torn because, on the one hand, all he wants is for Dinesh to be miserable, but on the other hand, if Dinesh’s misery comes from the failure of the company, then Gilfoyle’s company is failing also. He wants to see Dinesh fail, but he wants to succeed, and those things are at odds.”

5. Jared is a man divided in a divided house.
Poor Jared — he’ll be torn by the turmoil within Pied Piper. “If Richard and the rest of the guys are at odds, Jared [Zach Woods] supports Richard and Richard’s goals, but he also supports the company,” says Berg. In related Jared news, Berg says that the audience will learn that he has “some skills that he had picked up when he had to learn how to survive on the streets.” How about a clue? “As Richard mentally and physically decomposes under the stress of his job,” he says, “Jared’s job of keeping him standing gets tougher.”

6. Big Head will do little to shoot up the ranks again.
The innocuous manboy — who has racked up more undeserved promotions than anyone — continues to fail upwards and “is increasingly unaware of his surroundings,” says Berg. Look for our Wired coverboy (Josh Brener) to extend his empire of ignorance in an unexpected way. “Having risen to the top of the tech business in spite of himself,” says Berg, “he begins to broaden his horizons and rise to the top of other professions in spite of being utterly unqualified.”

7. Mother hen Erlich tries to hatch more golden eggs in his incubator.
Apologies for that slightly disturbing metaphor, but Erlich (T.J. Miller) aims to “expand his footprint and put irons in other fires,” notes Berg. “He’s still trying to get Pied Piper over the finish line, but he realizes that his bread might be buttered in other places. He’s trying to get other occupants of his incubators on the path to riches.” Which brings us to the question…

8. Is Jian Yang the next Richard?
The defiant squatter (played by Jimmy O. Yang) has a big idea cooking, and sooner than later, Erlich will come sniffing around. “Erlich realizes that maybe he’s given Richard so much attention that he’s neglected his duties to Jian Yang, and he starts to concentrate on making Jin Yiang more successful.” But Jian Yang may not be interested in this partnership. In fact, “he’s trying to cut Erlich out of his new app.”

9. Monica is in the doghouse with Laurie. Or somewhere else.
Monica (Amanda Crew) may have sided the Pied Piper crew at the end of last season, but there will be a price to be paid for that loyalty with her boss at Raviga, humanbot Laurie (Suzanne Cryer). That price includes an unwanted office relocation. “She’s on the outs, so she’s trying to battle to get back into Laurie’s good graces,” says Berg. “But Laurie is a hard target to hit. Laurie is inventing ways to test Monica’s mettle.”

10. Peter Gregory’s legacy lives on.
The presence of deceased managing partner of Raviga/noted sesame seed savant Peter Gregory (the late Christopher Evan Welch) will be felt early in season 4: Richard’s Big Idea may share something in common with one of Peter’s. Monica will help Richard on that front. “Monica’s role in the company has always been to be the steward of Peter Gregory’s quality-over-quantity [philosophy] — invest in good things and good companies and help good people and not just make good deals,” says Berg. “And I think Laurie’s blind spot is she’s driven by math, not by her heart, which may or may not exist.”

11. Is Gavin Barker-ing up the wrong tree?
Hooli chief Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) brought former Pied Piper boss Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) into the company fold last season. But given Barker’s competitive nature, “he’s brought the wolf into the hen house, and the power struggles within Hooli start to get dangerous for Gavin,” says Berg. Tensions may start at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. “We always think it’s funny when people who have everything fight over the most trivial of things,” says Berg. “Private jet etiquette becomes a bone of contention.”

12. What has two thumbs and three commas?
This guy! And this guy is none other than self-consumed, d-baggy billionaire and former Pied Piper investor Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopolous). “Just when you think you’re rid of him,” says Berg, “he comes back to complicate your life.”

Silicon Valley airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

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