Fiduciary Duties in the world of startup management involves defining the duties and responsibilities that one person owes to another. In the context of this episode, it also constitutes laying out the startup’s board of directors. While Jared is hard at the paperwork, a minor difference of opinion ensues when Erlich Bachman forces himself to be a member with Richard clearly not wanting so. A drunk Richard however accidentally ends up putting Bachman’s name on the list anyway resulting in some conflict within the company over his role and contributions.
That’s essentially what the episode revolves around. The key takeaway here is that Richard, as brilliant a coder that he is, sucks at handling the management and marketing related stuff. Defining and presenting the company’s vision, formulating the rules, putting a corporate structure in place, as evil as these things are, they’re necessary to allow the company to scale up and prevent employees like Gilfoyle and Dinesh from creating a scene. It’s to bring order to the chaos that Bachman is somewhat needed and in a pivotal scene towards the end, he finally makes his presence useful, justifying his inclusion among the board of directors. Richard too ultimately concedes and leaves his name up there.
Their relationship mirrors an exaggerated version of the bond shared between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Woz was responsible for much of the tech that helped make the original Apple PC and its successor, the Apple II a technological achievement. But without Steve Jobs’ brilliant salesman skills and showmanship, it would’ve rotted somewhere beneath the dungeons. His packaging and presenting of what Woz came up with helped elevate Apple to the company that it was. And even though Woz left later, Jobs carried the company forward into the era of the iPod and the iPhone. While Bachman is no Jobs, at least not in terms of intellect (and hopefully attitude), he does bring that recklessness in his attitude that Richard could never really project, nor handle.
As Bachman comes on his own, the rest of the cast take a bit of a backseat. There’s still some fun bits with an unusually stiff Jared and the warring duo of Gilfoyle and Dinesh but overall, their conversations are delegated to devote more screen time to the core trio. And interesting bit of revelation towards the end sparks more possibilities for future episodes. And Silicon Valley continues its penchant for the bizzarre by featuring “Flo Rida” in a peculiar party introducing Peter Gregory to the crowd, who continues to remain aloof.
There’s also a really fun subplot when Gavin Belson begins to get a sense of the futility of hiring Nelson “Big Head” Bigetti. Consequently, he ends up unassigned from the Nucleus project and just loiters around, without anything to do. If you’ve ever been in the tech industry, you can be sure to have come across people who have no work to do but are obligated to come to office anyway, just biding their time so they could vest their stock options and leave. We see a bunch of such people taking Big Head in, they themselves left jobless after their product was acquired by Hooli who then couldn’t figure out what to do with it. It’s starkly real and played for laughs but it’s another reality that the Valley cannot escape.
On the whole, I quite enjoyed the episode despite finding it a notch or two down from prior offerings. I guess the dip in the middle episodes is by now an accepted fact of televion; that said, the dip here is noticeably minor and it still ranks high as a super-enjoyable half-hour that I would gladly watch again if I had the time.
Silicon Valley Season 1 Episode 4 Rating: 8 out of 10
I’m doing individual episode reviews of HBO’s Silicon Valley in light of the upcoming final Season 6. While I’ve seen Seasons 1-4 before, I’m still writing with a fresh perspective, keeping references to future episodes down to a minimum.