As many other reviewers, including myself, have pointed out, the sharpest barbs in Silicon Valley’s ongoing satire of the tech world are reserved for the weird language of corporate culture. Every episode offers up another stabbing reminder about the ways that cubicle drones and their overlords have managed to revamp our language and our attitudes toward office life—and how much worse it’s gotten with the rise of the start-up.
In this show, the champion of that kind of thinking is, of course, Jared, Pied Piper’s wonderfully weedy HR manager. He’s the kind of guy who has, as he put it, “booby trapped the house with corporate resources,” and the guy who feels the need to try to connect the two women in a male-centric work environment.
The most disturbing aspect of it all is how much it actually seems to work. The corporate resources at least. As the crew tries to figure out how to proceed with their plan to help an energy drink company livestream their sponsored daredevil car jump, Jared suggests a SWOT analysis, a matrix to determine the “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats” involved in such a move.
It’s a sneaky little bit of irony cooked into the show that it winds up being the most cynical members of the Pied Piper team who take to these strange tools the quickest. Just as in last season when Gilfoyle and Dinesh were motivated by Jared’s Scrum system to get them working harder and more efficiently, so, too, did the gents adapt SWOT. This time, though, it was to figure out whether to tell Blaine, the driver of the stunt car that he could get killed because his data concerning the jump was wrong, because Dinesh wanted to hook up with the driver’s hot girlfriend, Gina.
Their analysis didn’t turn out to be as raw and funny as the extended dick joke that closed out the first season of the show, but the moment when Blaine found their SWOT chart was pretty funny. As was their inclusion of “grief threesome with Gina and Blaine’s hot mom” in the Opportunities column.
The plight of the rest of the Pied Piper team was unfortunately not as interesting. We’ve moved past Richard’s night sweats and we’re stuck watching more of his social anxiety come to the fore as he tries to negotiate the strange relationship between former college “buddies” Erlich and Aaron, the CEO of Homicide, the energy drink company they are working with. Though it wasn’t terribly surprising to learn how boorish Erlich was in college (something that earned him the name “Kool-Aid” because he would burst into Aaron’s room all the time to score pot or beer), it was missing the cynical edge that so many of the other episodes and interactions carry.
Better was watching Gavin and Hooli flail around. The big webstream of an MMA event, powered by Nucleus, failed in a big way, and the focus group they brought into to discuss the Hooliphone spent their time excoriating the device (“You took a good phone and made it all shitty,” said one tester). The latter also offered up another chance to poke at the strange world of focus testing, with the moderator’s uncomfortable conversational style and his need to repeat the name of everyone in the room with each response.
The episode, at least, served to add a nice dramatic wrinkle to the mix. At the end of the half hour, the Pied Piper guys learn that the company that “brain raped” them a couple of episodes ago are now using their stolen knowledge in the open market. Here, again, the writers are holding true to the unfortunate backstabbing culture of the tech world, where each company tries to stomp down competitors or pinch lucrative ideas. It’s just the kind of plot development that will hopefully allow Silicon Valley to once again break out the knives as they’ve done so well this season.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.