We’ve finally arrived at TechCrunch Disrupt, where the Pied Piper gang are slated to unveil their compression technology, wow the assembled Valley luminaries, and show their rivals at the Hooli monolith what-for. But first, there’s the small matter of a little lady trouble for the gentlemen of Pied Piper to resolve.
And by “gentlemen,” I mean nearly every last one of our cast members. Richard (Thomas Middleditch) runs into an ex-girlfriend at TechCrunch Disrupt who’s been falsely telling people he’s obsessed with her; he decides to fight this slander by… becoming obsessed with proving how unobsessed he is. Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) becomes smitten with a fellow TechCrunch exhibitor, only to discover it’s the Java code Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) secretly wrote for her app that he’s attracted to. Jared (Zach Woods) has returned from last week’s island adventure worse for the wear and playing second fiddle to Monica (Amanda Crew) in being of vital assistance to the rest of Pied Piper. And Bachman (T.J. Miller) may have sabotaged the company’s chances of winning the Disrupt competition by sleeping with the wife of one of the judges. About the only character not having his share of women trouble this week is Peter Gregory, but only because he’s off on a safari with Lorne Michaels and Kanye West.
In a sense, this sudden focus on women feels like Silicon Valley’s attempt to come to terms with its season-long female problem, slyly underscored when Monica points out that normally, the tech world is 2 percent woman but that the percentage jumps up to 15 percent during TechHive Disrupt. (“It’s a [damn] meat market,” Gilfoyle observes.) Still, that’s well ahead of the 12.5 percent that makes up the percentage of women in Silicon Valley’s recurring cast.
Jargon Watch: If you pay attention to no other scene in Silicon Valley’s first season, I beg you to watch the TechCrunch Disrupt montage from this week’s “Proof of Concept” episode, in which a string of startup CEOs vomit a series of buzzwords and try to explain how jargon-heavy conceits like canonical data models, and scalable, fault-tolerant distributed ACID transactions are making the world a better place. Seriously, that entire segment felt like a typical weekday morning of reading through the PR messages I delete from my inbox.
I think the highlight, though, was the presentation from a made-up company called HumanHeater that’s… wait for it… looking to make the world a better place by heating the surface of a person’s skin rather than the entire room.
“So you want to heat people with microwaves?” one of the TechCrunch Disrupt judges asks incredulously.
“That can’t be safe,” another judge observes.
“That is a great question,” the HumanHeater CEO says in a pitch-perfect delivery of condescending exuberance, “and trust me it is very, very safe. I’ve been working on it for 15 years.”
“I don’t trust you,” the second judge insists. “And it can’t be safe. And even if it was, I don’t think you could ever sell the public on it.”
“Thank you,” the HumanHeater CEO says, even more condescendingly. “I think when people see the savings on their utility bill and when they see how it saves the environment, they will be sold.”
Suffice it to say, microwaving people to save on your heating bills will not be the hot new trend in connected home technology.
Catchphrase of the Season: There were certainly plenty of instances of “Making the World a Better Place” tonight, but I’m almost certain if you were to go through the backlog of Silicon Valley episodes you’d find it cropping up again and again, whether at the defunct tech company that The Carver is helping liquidate in Episode 6 to one of Gavin Belson’s many tautologies in the pilot episode. I have no doubt that someone right now is creating a Wiki devoted specifically to chronicling all the instances where the “Making the World a Better Place” cliché has been used in Silicon Valley, and that’s the sort of initiative that makes America great.
Tech World References: We find out that Valleywag has enough street cred to get up to 12 women to show up at its TechCrunch party. And while Bachman’s Steve Jobs obsession is old news at this point, we see it in full force as he preps for his TechCrunch Disrupt presentation by donning a black mock turtleneck and placing a heavy emphasis on stagecraft. (“And one [spotlight] in the center, so that it casts a shadow behind me like a giant looking over his own shoulder,” he instructs the TechCrunch stage manager.)
Bachman Behaving Badly: When Bachman learns that a fellow named Dan Melcher will be among the judges for TechCrunch Disrupt, he has a minor conflict of interest to announce—he slept with Melcher’s wife and Dan may or may not be looking for revenge. Some detective work reveals that Melcher divorced that wife, remarried, and seems to have let bygones be bygones about his previously unhappy marriage. Bachman is relieved to find that he is likely off the hook for his past transgressions—so relieved, in fact, that he seduces Wife No. 2.
Yes, you know, you may have crossed a line when your co-workers demand to know if your adulterous one-night stand may have sunk their prospects and the best answer you can come up with is “The old wife or the new wife?”
But it’s all OK, Bachman tells the rest of Pied Piper: “She’d have to be crazy to tell him, and I asked her point blank if she was crazy and she swore to me no, she’s not crazy.” Judging by the fact that the episode ends with Dan Melcher physically assaulting Bachman mid-presentation, chances are that Wife No. 2 may have fibbed about that.
Star of the Episode: Well, Bachman certainly had the most to do in this episode. But let’s talk for a few moments about Christopher Evan Welch, who created the role of Peter Gregory. He wasn’t in this episode—indeed, the fifth episode will be his last appearance on Silicon Valley after he died during the show’s filming last year. Last month, Business Insider ran a very compelling article about Christopher Evan Welch, profiling both his acting and his life, and it’s well worth your time if you enjoyed his work on the show.
Notable Quote: “Then, at that point, we’ve got some photos we’re going to throw up on the big screen.”
“Yeah, you know, just a few. Gandhi, MLK. Me as an inquisitive child.”—Bachman, explaining how Pied Piper plans to wrap up its TechCrunch presentation.
What Did We Learn: With the episode ending as Dan Melcher pummels Erlich Bachman, we’ll have to wait until the season finale to find out if Pied Piper can live up to the promise of its technology. That means one final week of fairly predictable sitcom stunts like the subplot where Richard makes an unconvincing case for how he’s not obsessed with his ex, to some sublime bits of high-tech parody, such as MicroDrone, a startup that sends an unmanned drone flying around a tech trade show to pester other attendees. (Gilfoyle is the only one to know the best way of dealing with a drone: Give it a good swat.) Whatever ends up happening in the final installment of Silicon Valley Season One, I’m sure we can all agree that we hope it helps make the world a better place.