Sunday, May 14, 2017

Silicon Valley recap, Season 4, Episode 4, "Teambuilding Exercise"

Taking up where “Intellectual Property” left off, tonight's episode of Silicon Valley opens on Richard (Thomas Middleditch) arriving at the lion's den of Gavin's (Matt Ross) McMansion (it even has a giant lion's-head door knocker) to make a deal on his peer-to-peer Internet idea. Simultaneously satiric and dramatic, their meeting makes us fear for, root for, and laugh at Richard, sometimes all at the same time. Writer Meghan Pleticha and director Jamie Babbit toss in little flavor bombs of observational humor at intervals, like the decorative suits of armor Gavin toppled while rampaging through his living room after he was fired, then wind up the scene with a crisply timed slapstick rim shot as Richard's clumsy attempt at a triumphal gesture sets Gavin's couch on fire.

So, is partnering with Gavin a canny maneuver by a man with few options, or is Richard as nuts as people have been saying lately? There are plenty of signs that the deal is headed for a dark place, starting with the fact that Gavin begins their negotiations by lashing out at Richard like the classic narcissist he is, calling him an escalating series of names, from “mean person” and “bad guy” to “sadist” and “demented,” that apply much more to the attacker than to the target (project much, Gavin?). Then again, in the crapshoot that passes for business on the show, Richard's brilliance and Gavin's ruthless ambition could add up to a match made in whatever Silicon Valley's version of heaven may be. There's a kind of karmic logic in their working together, too, since Richard's device-powered Internet would bury Richard and Gavin's mutual enemy, Jack, by making Hooli's all-powerful servers obsolete.

The negative charisma that operates as a kind of cloak of invisibility for Richard, to his great and often comic frustration, comes in handy in “Teambuilding Exercise,” allowing him to slide away from the house he shares with his once and future Pied Piper colleagues to Gavin's place every day for a week while hammering out the deal without any of them noticing that he's gone. Their interest perks up as soon as they realize he's in business again, though they're too socially awkward and defensive to admit what they want. They circle Richard like schoolboys trying to get up the nerve to approach a girl they have a crush on, lobbing insults at anyone else he shows an interest in while feigning indifference to his face. Read the rest in The House Next Door

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