Silicon Valley season closer: Would you like fried servers with that?

Ah the sweet smell of successful failure

Recap The final episode of season two of Silicon Valley was a blast: almost literally.

The HBO show has already been picked up for a third season, but right up to the last second, this fun and fast-paced episode had you wondering whether the whole thing was going down to melt down into nothing but hot metal and charred Ethernet cables.

Throw in dozens of well-placed and well-delivered gags, many coming with sharp satirical points that skewer Silicon Valley culture, and you have yourself a comedy almost worth the HBO fee alone.

But quick, to the plot: having done the right thing and told the truth about using his old company's computer to run one test on his genius compression algorithm, the nerd's Jack Bauer, Richard Hendricks, is doomed to watch all of his work handed over to Google Hooli in binding arbitration.

To make things more poignant, the brilliance of the compression software is on full display as a stranded and badly injured forest keeper is streamed live and in HD to thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of online viewers.

Jared: Guys, who is Manny Pa-Qui-O?
Gilfoyle: Pacquiao? He's one of the most famous people on planet Earth.
Jared: Oh, Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino legislator?
Richard: No, boxer…
Jared: Oh, well he just tweeted a link to our livestream and he had almost two million followers
Gilfoyle: Oh fuck, we're going to have to scale up if we're going to handle that kind of traffic.

Pied Piper had been forced to create its own data center in the garage of their incubator Erlich Bachman; Hooli had flexed its corporate muscles and ensured no server company would work with the startup. So the team rush to install more servers in Bachman's hone, and tweak the software to keep the stream up and live.

Holes are punched through walls; makeshift server racks loaded up on the kitchen table; breakers are bypassed. As the viewers hit 150,000, the poor stranded forest keeper – who has inspired his own meme at this point – inadvertently turns up the pressure.

Keeper: I'm going to have to urinate into my own water bottle.
Dinesh: This guy is going to drink his own piss? That's too good. We're going to fail by succeeding.

The servers ignite, and Jared reads instructions on his phone on how to put the fire out. But the stream stays up past 300,000 viewers: a fact that does not go unnoticed by the company's VC partners.

Just to add to the mix, a realtor has persuaded Bachman to sell his house amid rocketing house prices – welcome to the Bay Area. She turns up with clients and an offer just as he contemplates helping the team stay up.

Realtor: Mr Bachman, they want to make an offer right now, all cash. I think you'd be foolish to turn this down.
Bachman: Did you just call me a fool? Madam, do not call a man a fool on the transom of his own home. A home that happens to be the world headquarters of a company keeping streaming video of a man who's about to drink his own urine online for tens of thousands of Filipinos. Does that sound like foolishness to you?

This slick, sharp satire on internet and startup culture then shifts to the courtroom, where Richard is dragged in to hear the arbitration judgment. Worse, he literally has his tie done for him by arch-enemy Gavin Belson(ioff) while in the men's toilets.

Completely certain of his legal victory just moments away, Belson confesses: "I was going to have to go in front of the Hooli board of directors and ask for $250m to buy you out, believe it or not. I was ready to pay whatever it took…"

And just to rub it in: "I'm sure you'll come up with plenty more one-in-a-lifetime ideas, Richard. Or not."

And the judgment goes against Pied Piper. Thanks to insane California labor codes.

But as the crazed law giveth so it taketh away. In a nod to the wage-fixing, non-compete lawsuit that almost every tech giant was caught up in, the arbitration judge notices that Hooli's labor contract is in fact unlawful, and thus null and void. Therefore, Richard did not have a valid contract with Hooli, and Hooli has no claims over Pied Piper. In other words: winning!

What happens next is as an enjoyable piece of TV comedy as you'll see anywhere. Thinking he was going to lose and have to hand over everything, Richard texted his team to destroy Pied Piper with a digital wipe of all their hard drives – using Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN), we note.

When the decision swings the other way, he frantically tries to call to tell them not to. But his phone dies, setting up a fantastically paced farce as Richard tries to charge up his phone, can't, rushes off to a coffee shop, and then realizes he can't remember any actual telephone numbers, sends an email from someone else's account which goes to into a spam box, and finally catches a bus home (having lost his car keys) in a futile effort to stop it.

Director Mike Judge, meanwhile, messes about with the convention of countdown scenarios by adding ridiculous delays to the mouse-click that will kill Pied Piper: a decision to have a beer toast; getting a lemon for the beer; finding out that the lemon is bruised and getting a second, and so on.

In the end, Richard arrives seconds late to prevent the click… but the delete fails thanks to crappy coding. Or hardware. One of the two. It causes some argument.

And here's how you know this is good comedy. Because writing down the sequence of events in detail only makes you want to watch it again. It's a reminder rather than a spoiler. And there's not that many shows that can pull that off.

And then the inevitable

So everything is saved. Pied Piper succeeds; Hooli fails; software remains undeleted; house fires are extinguished. And even the company's nightmare funding partner Marc Cuban Russ Hannemann is bought out by their VCs, Raviga, taking the freshly rebillionated (three-commas) Hannemann out of the game.

Hannemann: Question – what's got two thumbs and three commas? This guy

All is good. And then Richard gets a call. When Raviga bought out Hannemann's share, it also got his two board seats, giving it three to Pied Piper's two.

Raviga partner Lori is not impressed with the recent shenanigans. "Their core technology is visionary. Also: the entirely of their recent stumbles, the very decision to pursue video instead of more pioneering applications – this is all routed in human error."

What happens next is a story as old and intertwined with Silicon Valley as coffee and egos: in an emergency meeting, called while Richard and Erlich are still celebrating their victory, the majority board ousts Richard as CEO. "We can take the necessary steps to ensure that Pied Piper is perfectly managed."

As a crestfallen Richard tells his team "I just got fired," it turns to Erlich to give this season's well-deserved closing line. "And what about me?"

Bring on season three. ®


Previous recaps:

Episode 8: White Hat/Black Hat
Episode 9: Binding Arbitration




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