'Silicon Valley'

Mike Judge's "Silicon Valley," now in its third season, is back on HBO.

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If you build it they will come...unless they don't understand what the hell it is. That's a problem that the Pied Piper team has had this season on "Silicon Valley," from Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) insisting that the platform was too complicated for his salespeople to sell to the news that Monica (Amanda Crew), the board member most sympathetic to the dreams of Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch), didn't like or get what it was. At first glance, it just seemed like the skeptics were doomed to miss out on a great idea that could change the world. In "Daily Active Users," the penultimate episode of season 3, we learn that the truth is a bit...er, a lot more complicated.

Pied Piper is one of the most downloaded apps in the Hooli store, with 500,000 downloads. It is not, however, one of the most used apps. At the celebratory party, in which Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) awkwardly insists that people count down to the 500,000th download (complete with awkward waiting and stumbling over big numbers), Richard takes Monica aside. They need daily active users, and he's sputtering out a long introduction for what essentially boils down to "we're screwed." 100,000 would be bad, according to Monica. The actual number: 19,000. No one else knows except Jared (Zach Woods), who's fidgeting nervously in the background, and Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) has noticed. "What the f--- is going on with you...you're hiding something." A man who loves to make others uncomfortable while proving that he himself can't be made uncomfortable by untruths (thanks to his commitment to LeVeyan Satanism, he says), he tortures Jared by calling out his bad lies. "Would you like a beverage?" "Yes." "Lie, you just want me to go to the bar and leave you alone." "You crack me up." "Lie. I terrify you, as I should." Jared, incapable of hiding lies in any way, nervously chuckles and jokingly punches at the air. Never let this man play poker.

It turns out that Richard got glowing feedback from all of his engineer friends but criticism from the only non-engineer he sent it to, Monica. She speaks for the rest of the world: a focus group is "totally freaked out" by the platform (focus group leader: "Who else found themselves totally freaked out b the platform?" Cue everyone in the room raising their hands). Richard stammers and jerks his head behind the one-way mirror, saying that one man's confused reaction that there's no download button and the platform doesn't use any of his memory on his phone is literally describing what's great about it. He barges in to explain it in great detail on a whiteboard, and after assuring them that it isn't at all like SkyNet from "The Terminator," he's able to sell a few people on it.

But that takes hours of effort, and it's discouraging to the team. Erlich (T.J. Miller) gives one of his patented pep talks, but it's a terrible one ("will this plan work? Almost certainly not! But if Richard wants to fly us into a f------ mountain...strap in for a fiery death"), and several engineers quit. Dinesh insists they pivot to something that can be more easily sold while Jared continues to act like everything is fine, to Gilfoyle's continued derision ("Yeah, that seems doable." "Lie." "We're better off without [the people who walked out]." "Lie").

Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), meanwhile, seems resigned to having been booted out of Hooli after the disastrous Nucleus/Endframe situation, but when he learns a customer service representative left Pied Piper, he returns to Hooli to sell the board on the idea that he spent 3/4 of a billion on the rival Pied Piper platform with the knowledged that it was going to fail. They call B.S. (and demand that he stop using animal demonstrations as he begins a meeting with "consider the possum!"), but he has a better product to sell: that stupid box that Jack demanded Pied Piper work on, and Jack is there to help him sell it and spite Pied Piper.

Director Alec Berg cuts together a dispiritingly hilarious montage of Hooli's rise as Pied Piper fails: information sessions move from crowded rooms and SXSW panels to Subway parking lots, with attendance dwindling (though Bernice, the nice lady who was initially freaked out by Pied Piper and fell in love with it after Richard explained it, keeps coming back). Jack and Gavin tour the same labyrinthine facility the Pied Piper team looked at when they were working on the box...and get lost. Richard continues to try to sell the platform on Bloomberg but uses a terrible example ("What did you have for breakfast?" "Yogurt." "And we all know what's in yogurt...electrons.") that only further confuses what the platform actually does. Jared continues doing exit interviews for former Pied Piper members in the yard as they bolt from Erlich's incubator. 

Pied Piper is left with no advertising budget after spending a lot of money on one of those generic inviting ads (comparing Pied Piper to tables) and no way to explain the platform to people. The only solution: Pipey, an animated character that's like Microsoft Word's Clippy but 1,000 times more annoying (no small feat). "What in the name of *F---* is that?" Erlich asks in horror. The rest of the team has looks of disgust on their face. Jared says he likes it. Gilfoyle: "That's a f-----' lie." Richard can only retreat to the bathroom and lie in a fetal position in the bathtub, where Jared checks in on him only to get the bad news that the whole dream is over. Jared is eternally optimistic that they'll turn it around on the surface, but even Richard recognizes he's a terrible liar as his arms are outstretched, his eyes wide and terrified. Jared knows that they're crashing. 

Until they're not. Active users are way up the next day, with everyone smiling and kicking back (Erlich surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke). They were about to shut down, but suddenly, they've added 7,000 users in a single day. Gilfoyle seems to recognize something is off and asks Jared if the numbers are legitimate. Either Jared got better at lying or Gilfoyle is letting it go for now, because Jared gets a a call: he bought the users, and he's buying more. Cut to India, where a man rides his bike to a dimly lit warehouse full of people whose job is to start new Pied Piper accounts and remain active. The camera cranes over them as they click away on the keyboards through the end credits. Pied Piper has been temporarily saved, but through fraud. The whole team should be totally freaked out.

Stray thoughts:

-Jared tries to sell Richard on Pipey by mentioning that early Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1940s were garish, horrific anti-Japanese screeds. 

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-Erlich isn't used as much this week as he was in the last several episodes, but T.J. Miller's delivery of his reaction to Pipey might have been the funniest bit of the episode, the long pause and shout of the word "f---" accurately describing everyone's reaction to that hideous thing.

-Gavin won't stop with the animal demonstrations: after the possum gets wheeled out before anyone can see it and he's able to come back, he rejects working with the board that nearly fired him harmoniously by luring them on the room. "Consider the elephant," he begins, before launching into a screed about how he never forgets a betrayal.

-Laurie charitably describes her rapport with Erlich as "It's.........wanting." THis shortly after responding to his question about a picture in her office, "Is that your dog?" with "It's dog."

-Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) tries hitting on a girl at the party by describing all of his other "successes" outside of Pied Piper. The girl's horrified reaction as he says he'll give an example is priceless.

-Laurie's taste in art and parties remains weird, with a pair of sculptures that look like chairs plopped in the middle of the office (Richard, of course, tries to sit on one).

-One more episode in the season. Let's see how they get themselves out of this jam and into another one.

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