Last year, Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone wrote one of the best pieces I’ve read about Silicon Valley, noting that the show had become a much darker and more paranoid place to be in its fifth season. And that tone is definitely continuing into season six, the idealogical void at the center of the industry now taking over in vivid detail. “Blood Money” is an episode that emphasizes how the company Richard created is now spiraling out of control, and the playing field is getting more dangerous the higher you climb. When your lesser evil has family ties to Augusto Pinochet’s secret police and a business model that wants to emulate slave trading, bartering with farmers for a company name feel like halcyon days. And it’s also one of the funniest episodes Silicon Valley’s done in recent memory, proving that switch to the darker side is to its benefit.
Still chafing at Colin’s blatant exploitation of his platform for profit, Richard goes hunting for new investors to let him eject Games Of Galloo, only to discover he hasn’t made any friends in the valley. Richard was speaking to the largest of audiences when he addressed Congress, but he has to return to his bubble, and inside that bubble he’s been reduced to pariah status. Reminiscent of “Runaway Devaluation” when the venture capitalists that Erlich negged got the chance to throw his words back in their face, you can see the way Richard and Monica’s confidence gradually droop as they mock his poor judgment in openly challenging the titans of the industry. Pied Piper may have earned a seat at the adults table, but if your first move is to promise everyone at the table smaller portions on their plates, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re not welcomed back for dinner.
And to belabor the analogy, when that happens you find yourself eating at a different restaurant. Billionaire Chilean investor Maximo Reyes (Arturo Castro, Jaimé from Broad City) is the only person at the party who’s willing to give Richard more than the moniker of “dumbest man in tech,” and it turns out he’s willing to give them a lot more than that. After a night of drinking terremotos—which do sound disgusting—he agrees to invest in Pied Piper, and does so in staggering fashion by offering one billion dollars for a 10 percent stake in the company If Silicon Valley wants to leave the lower stakes of earlier seasons behind, they’re doing so in dramatic fashion, propelling Richard into the three-comma club on the back of one term sheet.
The stakes are so high that even the people who are on their game can’t process it. Amanda Crew is doing some of her best work on the series here, between the way her face changes as she gets into the details of Maximo’s term sheet, her physicality in lighting two cigarettes at once, and her story about giving advice when her sister got pregnant in college. (“And now my niece Dakota, who is very much with us, calls me Aunt Abortion!”) Richard hiring Monica as a full-time Pied Piper member was a smart—and long overdue—decision, but at this point the world is changing so much that even she can’t keep up. And the rest of his team would definitely be no help: Dinesh and Gilfoyle have put in the time without the idealism, and would happily cash out for an offer that’s a fraction of Maximo’s. (Gilfoyle, on Richard’s equation of how Colin has perverted the algorithm for profit: “At this point, I could stand to be a little perverted.”)
That places the final decision on the CEO of Pied Piper, and the CEO doesn’t seem to be in the best place to make those decisions. Alan Sepinwall commented last season that Richard’s turn to the dark side was turning him into a deeply unlikable character, and “Blood Money” is the closest I’ve been to agreeing with him. Richard hasn’t gotten any more savvy with his rise to power, instead he’s gotten more petty and insulting, and watching him throw insults at Jared or spit complaints at Monica is hard to watch. You start to wonder if you even want him to succeed, or if those comeuppances Silicon Valley is so fond of throwing his way should hurry up and get here.
But if Richard is unpleasant to watch this week, Jared is a goddamned delight. Let’s be honest, everyone watching Silicon Valley has been waiting for Jared to snap since about season two, his stories getting darker and darker as he shakes off more and more indignities. Being called “buddy-fucker” over and over by his former lodestar chips away more and more, and when Richard attacks Jared’s newest collaborator, the switch is flipped. You can feel Zach Woods relishing every moment of getting to play an unhinged version of Jared, spitting a stream-of-consciousness rant at Richard as the other man desperately jumps behind tables and doors. (My favorite line: “I was state-raised! You think I’m scared to catch a case of some bullshit?!”) And Jian-Yang’s pellet gun from last week was revealed to be a Chekov’s gun as Jared grabs it out of his hand, takes a few potshots, and sends Richard limping away with a well-aimed BB to the ass.
That BB may end up being the lightest threat he’s about to face. The main threat of Silicon Valley has always been how much of Richard’s sanity or soul he’d retain in becoming a CEO, and now adding Maximo to the mix completely changes that. There’s a menace to the closing scene that the show doesn’t often tap, birds crashing into the glass with an almost Tell-Tale Heart regularity as Maximo speaks wistfully of his grandfather’s oppressive labor practices and the promise of applying that brutal approach to the practice of data mining. When Richard tries to back out, Castro’s performance is genuinely unsettling, making it clear his offer was of the you-can’t-refuse variety: “You are turning this into a dick-measuring contest. Please don’t.” And if on Silicon Valley you’re being shut out of a dick-measuring contest—one of this world’s most proven means of salvation—straits are dire indeed. Like the avian corpses below, Richard let the tree draw him closer, and now he’s in danger of being nothing more than a sweaty smudge on the glass.
If Richard’s on the largest scale of his career, Gavin’s is shriveling up fast. Gavin maintained his grip of Hooli, but a majority of the company’s assets were scooped up by Amazon (“Targeted search?” “Ironically, also missing”) and what’s left of his investors have finally had enough. Faced with the prospect of dramatic cost-cutting, he decides to move his operations to Eastern Europe—a decision not embraced by Hoover and Denpok, who’d be on the front lines while Gavin would maintain the company’s face in the Valley. If Richard’s suffering a lack of good advice, Gavin has an abundance of bad. His ego forced out everyone but these sycophants, and in the end their loyalty to Gavin isn’t enough to get in the way of their loyalty to the creature comforts he provides.
The theme of higher stakes persists here, as Hoover and Denpok decide to exploit one of Gavin’s few remaining resources—Foxhole, a dating app for members of the military deployed overseas—and manage to identify a general who wouldn’t like his affiliation on that site disclosed. (Hoover shows a profile picture. Denpak: “That’s not his face.” Hoover: “No, it is not.”) While it’s just another humiliation for the once mighty Hooli (Humooliation?), it does produce another great Matt Ross outburst as he punches his way through a wall, and it’s good to see series-long players Chris Williams and Bernard White get some time in the spotlight before the end.
Gilfoyle’s plot is more low-key, but it’s an outlier in Silicon Valley’s history for two reasons. First, it’s a rare plot where Dinesh isn’t heavily involved (either as an antagonist or a target) and second, it’s an even rarer plot where Gilfoyle is off his game. Helen Hong made a strong impression last episode as Pied Piper’s HR head Tracy, and it carries over here as someone who doesn’t have the patience for either man’s distaste for each other or—as we see here—personality traits that keep them from getting the job done. As amusing as it is to see Gilfoyle try to get her off his back by hiring non-coders, it’s even better to see Tracy get the best of him by knowing which buttons to push to get an antagonistic coder to get his job done. Martin Starr somehow manages to change expression while not changing it at all as Gilfoyle realizes he’s been played, and all he can do acknowledge the winning player.
Going back to Sheffield’s piece, he cited Gilfoyle as the breakout star of the show last season, “the bitterly prickly sage who understands the apocalyptic business they’re in.” And when the world you’re in has become businesslike enough to even shut him up, you know things are in dire straits. “Blood Money” continues to promise a darker and somehow funnier final season of Silicon Valley, where getting out rich starts to become secondary to whether or not you get out alive.
- The cold open to the episode is peak Silicon Valley, as Colin’s not even trying to hide the data mining component of Games Of Galloo anymore and has now rigged it so even an offhand comment triggers a series of in-game ads. Dinesh almost crashing the game when his usual profane way of talking floods the screen with PornHub pop-ups is an episode highlight, as are the list of URLs that are the sign of this writers’ room having fun: LocalSexyDickAddicts.xxx, TitFuckCity.xxx, SingleAndReallyHorny.com, HousewifeBang.xxx (Also, I did check the Skyrim mod community to see if you can turn taverns into Domino’s. No luck.)
- Speaking of Chekov’s gun, that comment about Maximo’s term sheet being e-signable with one tap of the finger fits the bill for that if ever I’ve seen one. Any bets on who’ll be the one to push? My money’s on Big Head.
- We get our first sighting of Laurie Bream this season, having ousted Yao and taken control of YaoNet—now renamed YaoNet US to make it sound more American—and in position to be a direct competitor to Pied Piper. And in the most human gesture we’ve seen her make, she helps herself to a lot of that Hack Famine charcuterie spread.
- In addition to Foxhole, Hooli’s remaining assets include Doctor Virus, ScHooli, Tooli, and the Hooli Puck Mouse.
- It’s a safe bet Richard completely ruined that monitor in Tracy’s office by drawing on it.
- “I’m not sleeping, not eating, I completely forgot my godson’s 40th birthday.” If Silicon Valley were to pull a Kenneth Parcell on us and reveal Jared is some sort of ageless immortal, it wouldn’t come as a surprise.
- “With the Chinese out of the way, I can now be more ruthlessly efficient.”
- “I saw that very tree in the middle of his living room. And he let me climb it.”
- “Which reminds me, they need to update their LinkedIn status to ‘placaters of middle management.’”
- “There is no froth. At all. For anybody.”
- “And now we are both holding a whiskey.”
- This week’s closing track: “She’s Got The Devil In Her,” Buddy Guy.