Sunday, June 18, 2017

Silicon Valley recap: Season 4, Episode 9, “Hooli-Con”

The Pied Piper team’s slow-boiling crisis of faith in Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) leadership, which has been coming to a head throughout Silicon Valley’s fourth season, heats up several degrees in tonight’s episode, “Hooli-Con.” The push-pull between their respect for his brilliance as a coder and their doubts about his talent as a CEO puts the rest of the team in an awkward, can’t-live-with-him, can’t-live-without-him position.
After leaving Richard in the season premiere, “Success Failure,” his team members returned as soon as he came up with another potentially brilliant idea—well, all but Bachman (T.J. Miller), who was finally forced to come to terms with the fact that he has no role to play except as host, though he would never admit it. Even after their reunion, the others’ skepticism about their fearful leader has never been far from the surface. In various episodes this season they’ve called him crazy, said he was cursed, and griped, openly and often, about his uncanny knack for letting success slip through his fingers every time it’s within his reach. But not until “Hooli-Con” does even Jared (Zach Woods) start to doubt Richard’s ability to lead a successful launch.

Directed by Mike Judge and written by Chris Provenzano, this is a beautifully constructed bottle rocket of an episode, shooting out a cascading shower of comic sparks. When Bachman mentions having burned down his palapa the night before, it’s a shock to realize that only a day has passed since the events of “The Keenan Vortex,” as so much has unfolded since then. And it’s almost all funny, from the satire of the sanctimonious PeaceFare game, in which where you grow virtual corn to feed virtual hungry people (“I just gave an orphan her first calculator,” says Jared dreamily as he’s interrupted while playing the game), to the disingenuous teddy-bear friendliness with which Keenan masks his Machiavellian passive aggression, as he marches into his demonstration with Jack from a different direction than the one they agreed on or confronts Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) and Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) for having snubbed him by saying: “You made me feel bad. I like to feel good!”

The comic character development is deepened by a thin lining of pathos in Bachman’s latest doomed attempt at a grand gesture, an episode-long running joke that culminates in his uninvited visit to Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) in Tibet. (“There is a loud man here to see you,” the priest warns Gavin.) And there’s joyous absurdity in bits like the one in which Richard stuffs the last pineapple into Dinesh’s backpack while issuing double-entendre instructions that make it sound as if he’s arming him with a suicide bomb. Read the rest on The House Next Door

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