'Silicon Valley' episode 2: 'The Cap Table' - VP of Spite

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This week on Silicon Valley, Mike Judge’s HBO tech industry satire, the fantasy of starting a successful tech business turns into cold, hard reality. It’s fitting, really, since the transition from all the excitement of a pilot episode of a TV series to the second episode is also about giving up the glamor and settling in for the long haul.

Jargon Watch: The episode’s title, “The Cap Table,” refers to how investors’ stakes in a company add up. In the case of Silicon Valley, visionary investor Peter Gregory (the late Christopher Evan Welch) demands that Richard (Thomas Middlemarch) provide him with a business plan and a cap table before he’ll write that $200,000 check that’s worth 5 percent equity in the company.

Tech World References: There’s a pirate flag hanging in the incubator. Gregory’s Siri-like smartphone feature mishears “John Lennon’s Imagine” as “John Wayne in a Mansion.” When stripper Mochaccino arrives only to see all the nerds flee from her presence, she complains, “God, I hate Palo Alto.” When Richard is on the phone at his desk, the pin-up that's commonly used as the default compression image for testing is on the wall behind him.

Bachman Behaving Badly: Only two episodes in and it seems like Ehrlich Bachman (T.J. Miller) is going to be a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character. He’s boorish and often clueless, but even so he’s got experience and wisdom that his younger (and much nicer) compatriots lack. In this episode, Gregory is aghast to find that Bachman owns 10 percent of Pied Piper because he lets the guys in the company crash at his incubator—and he doesn’t even pay for their food!

The primary target of Bachman’s ire is Jared (Zach Woods), who bails out on Hooli to work for Pied Piper. Jared’s a business-development guy who wears khakis, a guy with corporate skills exactly of the kind that Bachman doesn’t respect. So Bachman spends the entire episode trying to insert his dislike of Jared into conversation, to no appreciable effect.

Star of the Episode: I’d like to say it’s Big Head (Josh Brener), who really does get the focus of most of the episode, as Richard is pressured to dump him as a member of his team. While he’s a friend, he’s also pretty useless—except as Gavin Belson’s “VP of Spite,” hired just to take Richard’s best buddy away from him. But really, the laurels go to Martin Starr as Guilfoyle. Starr’s security-buzzword-laden rant while proving his usefulness to the team harks back to Jack Nicholson’s rant in “A Few Good Men.”

Notable Quote: “In the hands of the enlightened, hate can be a tool for great change.”—Gavin Belson’s spiritual adviser, dispensing some mighty bad advice.

Gender Problems: Last week Gregory’s assistant was the only major female part on the show. Well, good news everyone! This week there’s a second major female part, and she’s a stripper named Mochaccino.

What Did We Learn? “This is going very poorly,” Peter Gregory says. This episode is about Richard realizing the business reality of his situation. He is no longer just a programmer with a good idea: He’s the CEO of a company. All of a sudden he needs to learn about all the aspects of running a business that go beyond the programming he’s much more comfortable with.

As terrible as Bachman usually is, he’s right in trying to have Richard think like a CEO. And the moment when he decides to keep Big Head on the team despite everyone else wanting him fired is Richard’s pivot point, the moment he finally does realize that he’s in charge and he needs to call the shots.

But as this show seems to enjoy, Richard’s moment of CEO decision-making is immediately brought down to earth. He goes to a bank to deposit his hard-earned investment check, and it turns out all he has is a personal account. No business account, no federal tax forms, nothing. It turns out that he might be excellent at programming—which is good, because Gavin is in the process of reverse-engineering his code—but when it comes to business he’s a babe in the woods. So now it’s time to learn.

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