Zach Woods (HBO)

“Homicide” is the first episode of Silicon Valley to feel conspicuously like an episode of a sitcom rather than a cable comedy. Possibly due to its position as a middle episode of a show with an longer order than the previous year, possibly because it’s credited to The Office veteran Carrie Kemper, but there’s a definite sense of this being the sort of self-contained installment that a broadcast network sitcom would produce as filler about halfway through the season. I don’t mean that as an indictment of the episode, as the performances are still top-notch and it contains several glorious cringe comedy payoffs toward the end, but with one exception—which we’ll get to at the end—there’s a definite feeling that some of the major arcs are put on hold for the week.

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The episode’s connection to the larger Silicon Valley story comes from the foreshadowing of last week that various delays at Hooli would make the launch of Nucleus less auspicious than Gavin was hoping for. After a disastrous UFC title fight launch where Nucleus underperforms to a spectacular degree (Gilfoyle: “It’s so blocky, it looks like Minecraft”) Monica excitedly proposes that they capitalize on the failure with their own livestreaming event. There’s a fun air of a scheme about the whole story, the idea that this scrappy upstart can find a way to usurp their far more funded competition—in this case by way of “extra-douchey energy drink” Homicide and their rooftop car jump.

The introduction of Homicide kicks off two separate stories, both of which take advantage of the show’s better pairings. First, Richard and Erlich are paired up with Homicide CEO Aaron Anderson, an old friend of Erlich’s from college whose success he claims full credit. As is typical with Erlich though, his view of the situation is clouded by his own ego, as Anderson (or Double-A) can’t stand the other man’s tendency to talk over everyone else. Silicon Valley is demonstrating this season more of a willingness to undercut Erlich’s bullshit with hard truths, and this even more than others is a cold challenge to the image of mentor he’s carefully crafted for himself, painting him as less a savior than a “Kool-Aid man” smashing into walls. (True to form, Erlich finds a spin on it: “The dancing pitcher breaks through walls to give sugary beverage to kids in need!”)

However, once Richard does get Erlich out of the picture AA turns out to have equal disregard for Richard’s ability to run the meetings. Here’s where the plot loses a step, as rather than having either of the two come to some rapprochement—Erlich to admit he could stand to keep his mouth shut, Richard to admit he may have gone about this in too blunt of a fashion—it turns into another instance where Richard isn’t taken seriously in a business context. There’s little room for growth on either person’s part, or even the payoff to Erlich’s nickname where he charges through a case of Homicide bellowing “OH YEAH!” Instead, it forces Richard into a position where cursing is all he can do, albeit cursing that uses Thomas Middleditch’s gift for stammered word salad cursing, coining the name “Twicehole.”

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The other story follows Dinesh and Gilfoyle on their own adventure in the Homicide offices, where Dinesh is attracted to event manager Gina. Kemper’s script thankfully steers away from the predictable course of putting the two in competition for her, instead finding a way to unite them in mutual hatred of her boyfriend Blaine—also the stunt driver for the car jump. When they try to point out a potentially fatal flaw in his velocity calculations, they’re rebuffed in the rudest way, creating a bit of a dilemma. It relies on two established truths that have long served the show well: 1) Dinesh and Gilfoyle, despite their hatred of each other, are able to come together determinedly when confronted with logical and/or mathematical problems, and 2) Dinesh and Gilfoyle are terrible people.

That terribleness is illustrated gloriously when they try to figure out whether or not to press the issue further, leading to the deployment of one the business tools Jared has been hiding around Erlich’s house: the SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) board. It’s an expertly deployed visual gag, the sort of thing that necessitates pausing the episode to read every last reference even before they enter into a debate about what goes where. (Dinesh: “Obviously his incessant suffering is a strength.” Gilfoyle: “But our ability to enjoy it is an opportunity.”) There’s no redemptive kernel in this story, just these two demonstrating their contempt for another human being in the most creative ways.

Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani (HBO)

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Both of these stories end in tears, and do in spectacularly cringeworthy fashion befitting Kemper’s Office background. Richard finally loses his temper and deploys Aaron’s own college nickname of “Double Asshole,” and Blaine walks in on Dinesh and Gilfoyle to admit he was being a jerk. Both of those moments—the way the entire Homicide office goes silent at the nickname, Blaine finally turning his head to see the SWOT board—are the comedy where you can hear a pin drop as the worst-case scenario becomes reality. It’s a farcical extreme to close off the plot, but it works because of the degree to which it escalates the horror so heavily that running is the only option. And in the end no one learns anything, other than that maybe they should have listened to Jared in the first place when he suggested a condor egg was the best bet.

Speaking of consequences, “Homicide” also takes some time to explore the fallout of the Nucleus disaster at Hooli, where Gavin is growing to realize that his position mirrors that of Mr. Burns in the first act of “The Old Man And The Lisa.” Surrounded by sycophants and yes-men terrified of his wrath, he’s allowed his company’s pet project to slide into failure, and his reaction is about what you’d expect. One of the funniest things about Gavin is how his veneer of making the world a better place masks a petty and profane attitude—witness his glorious holographic chat meltdown back in season one’s “Signaling Risk”—and that’s no different here as his screams pierce the overly placid focus group moderator’s recitation of attendees. Said screams are triggered by the best interaction of the night, truth told in a format he can understand (“Is this Windows Vista bad? It’s not iPhone 4 bad, is it? Fuck. Don’t tell me, tell me this isn’t Zune bad.” “I’m sorry Gavin. It’s Apple Maps bad”).

The one major nod to continuity in “Homicide” comes in the last scene, once it turns out that Homicide found another company to handle their livestreaming. That company, EndFrame, turns out to be none other than the Branscomb Capital “brain rapists” from “Runaway Devaluation,” and what seemed at the time like a throwaway scene to emphasize how bad things had gotten for Pied Piper now becomes a real and immediate challenge to the one advantage they had over Hooli: Richard’s algorithm. If “Homicide” was a chance for them to pull forwarded, that last reveal proves that in the SWOT board of life, their threats and weaknesses are getting exponentially larger.

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Stray observations:

  • This week’s music: “Bandz” by Big Makk.
  • The worst parts of “Homicide” were any moment where Jared tried to force a friendship between Carla and Monica for no reason other than the fact that they’re Pied Piper’s only female members. Yes, this is a thing that happens in real life, but the way he goes about it is so cringing and unaware that it makes me hate the character. I prefer a different flavor of Jared creepiness.
  • Speaking of, thumbs up to everyone who joined the conversation about the meaning of Jared’s German. There’s no real consensus on what he was saying—if anything, the consensus was that pronunciations were largely garbled. However, the gist of it was he was talking about sneaking up on people and slitting their throats, and at one point yelling at someone to get back in the cage. Richard was right to get out of that room as quick as possible.
  • Toss-up for which moment made me like Gavin’s guru more: the fact that he’s familiar with the Homicide energy drink or the audible gulp before he lies about the sycophant problem.
  • In a callback “Third-Party Insourcing” and Dinesh’s pro/con board about sleeping with Gilfoyle’s girlfriend, the “Ejaculation” card returns in the Opportunities section.
  • “Am I getting a contact high off of Erlich, or is the edge starting to wobble?”
  • “You look like a ferret that gave up six months ago.”
  • “I’ve booby-trapped the house with corporate resources!”
  • “He’s definitely going to fuck her later, and she’s not going to think of you while it’s happening.”
  • “You tore Double Asshole a third asshole! Triple A!” Erlich’s cackling in response to what Richard did is a thing of beauty.
  • “Think of the wonderful things going on inside that egg.”

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