One of the key threads running through the first season of Silicon Valley is how technology, for as much as we rely on it, is as flawed and prone to breakdown as the people who create it. Nowhere is this most evident in this week’s episode than when poor Jared excitedly gets into a driverless car for a ride home but ends up on Peter Gregory’s personal island in the Pacific (which sits right on the International Date Line) before it is converted into a storage container and then shipped off with the skittish young man inside. (Let’s not quibble over the fact that Jared likely could have gotten out of the car at a stoplight when he realized something was amiss.)
That may spell the idea out in broad strokes, but consider how Richard has to scramble to save Pied Piper after a monumental screw-up by a young consultant they hire. Known as “The Carver” (but actually named Kevin), the high school-age programmer is brought in to help them set up the cloud service configuration for a fee of $20,000. Awed by the overly confident kid, Richard asks him to help with another aspect of the architecture, but when he comes back from the store, the whole system is, to use the show’s phrase, “skull-fucked” by a coding error the kid made.
This leads to one of the show’s best diversions involving Richard trying to score Kevin some Adderall (his prescription went with Jared to the island) from a neighborhood middle-schooler. He ends up getting ripped off, and when he tries to confront the kid, gets slapped and humiliated for his efforts. Leave it to Erlich to settle things by storming out, slapping the youngster, and forcing him to go get some real Adderall. Watching Erlich act like a parent to the skittish Richard was as adorable and funny as it gets.
The episode was a marvel of plot construction, moving each little piece forward to reveal a new wrinkle of the story, deepening the relationships between the main characters and providing at least Richard with a small boost of confidence as he heads towards the live demo of Pied Piper. Even the little inset moment where Kevin reveals that Jared was to pick up his Adderall that cuts to Jared finding the bottle in his bag (in the dark backseat of the car he’s stuck in) and wondering aloud, “I hope that’s not a problem” and then to Richard skittishly offering $50 to the neighborhood kids was a perfect layering of incident and humor.
And that’s not even mentioning the hilarious subplot where Dinesh, who has been convinced that Gilfoyle’s super hot girlfriend wants to sleep with him, wrestles with what to do. The scene of him listing the pros and cons with on a corkboard, with the only pro being “Ejaculation” was marvelous. The folks behind this show are comedy vets, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising that they are capable of such tightly constructed half-hours. But considering the loosely rendered or formulaic tone of most other comedy shows on TV right now, seeing it done this well feels like a revelation.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.