Empty Chair, Full Heart, Can’t Lose: Mike Judge Bares his Heart on Silicon Valley's Latest

(Episode 3.05)

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Empty Chair, Full Heart, Can&#8217;t Lose: Mike Judge Bares his Heart on <i>Silicon Valley</i>'s Latest

Every week, critic Robert Ham breaks down the mechanics of a particularly excellent Silicon Valley scene, moment or joke. This week, things get a little warm and fuzzy.

Mike Judge is a softie at heart. Underneath the foundation of snarky laughs and embittered commentary upon which he has built almost all of his creative works is a sentimental spirit that helped keep a movie like Office Space or a show like King of the Hill from getting too dark or mean.

It’s for that reason that I’m not too terribly worried about the fate of Richard and the Pied Piper team. Even after the uncertainty that closed out last season and the stomach knots that so many scenes have tied up, I have to trust that a big victory is looming at the hopefully long end of Silicon Valley’s run.

That’s why the final scene of this episode felt so good and so earned. Yes, we had to sit through Richard firmly planting his foot in his throat as he spilled all of his frustrations out to a tech blogger, and watch as he wrestled with the possibility of being passed over for the job of CEO of his own company. But then, after Richard was finally put in his rightful place by Laurie and returned to Erlich’s house triumphant, we all got to share in that surprisingly emotional moment when Jared wheeled out the CEO chair for the boss to sit in. Naturally, what followed was the poor guy falling over as he tried to adjust it, but that again is the Mike Judge stamp: enjoy the warm fuzzy moment for just a moment. There’s still laughs to be had.

Like a lot of moments in the show, it may seem a little strange to watch most of these guys go to bat for Richard like this. Just a few episodes earlier, Dinesh and Gilfoyle were running through their RIGBY reason for why they loved their boss, but had to kick him to the curb for the sake of their careers. Erlich, too, only seems to be riding the coattails of Pied Piper as a means of facilitating his own Steve Jobs-like rise in the tech world. Yet here they are rolling out a throne for their king, and helping put together a development team to bring his compression platform to life.

This is an element of Silicon Valley that often gets overlooked in the wake of its sharp pokes at the tech industry and its brilliant dick jokes. It, like fellow HBO shows Entourage, Togetherness, and even Ballers, offers a glimpse into the often ugly world of male friendships. These may be sensitive geek types, but they also have a strain of ice that runs in their veins that they can quickly tap into if it is to their benefit.

It’s easy to understand why Jared is sticking with Pied Piper. His tender heart is always on his sleeve, even when he’s tossing out barbs at Dinesh for his gold chain. But why Erlich, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle aren’t chasing down more lucrative and prestigious jobs elsewhere is a mystery. I think that, too, has something to do with their dreams of turning this little platform into a game-changer, a la Google or Windows, something that they can cement in their epitaphs. Perhaps that’s why that similar feeling exudes from Danny Boyle’s brilliant biopic Steve Jobs. All of Jobs’ engineers and co-workers suffered the abuse and indifference of their leader because they knew they were on to something significant.

That, too, is why I think we keep watching Silicon Valley, or the U.K. version of The Office or any other show that throws its characters under a physical or emotional bus again and again. We have to believe that the ship will be righted and everyone will walk away smiling and cheerful at the end. And if we get to watch someone hilariously suffer on the way to the finish line, that only makes the happy ending that much happier.



Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing here.

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