Silicon Valley Review: “The Cap Table”

(Episode 1.02)

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<i>Silicon Valley</i> Review: &#8220;The Cap Table&#8221;

What’s the quickest way to send a bunch of geeks scurrying from their computers? Bring a stripper into the room.

In one of the funniest scenes yet in Silicon Valley, set right after Richard makes his big pronouncement that Pied Piper is going to be a different kind of company, Erlich brings out his gift to the boys: a stripper named Mochaccino. Poor Big Head (played by Josh Brener), immediately panics and tells her that he loves her.

It was a great little gambit set up by the writers to set the hapless wannabe tech dude apart from him friends and, for the time being, co-workers. Because what the episode really concerns is Richard’s efforts to try to put a business plan for Pied Piper together, at the frustrated urging of Peter Gregory.

Incredibly, help arrives in the form of Jared, the former right-hand man of Hooli CEO Gavin Belson. So inspired by Richard’s decision to turn down the easy money, Jared shows up at the incubator begging to be let on board. And luckily he has the skill set needed to get the business plan put together. Unfortunately for the crew, that means one-on-one interviews to determine their worth to the company. Even worse, poor Big Head can only boast of being Richard’s best friend and having nothing to offer.

Let’s take a moment to again praise the casting of this show. Poor Zach Woods seems destined to spend his career playing weedy, kowtowing middle management types what with his, as he says in tonight’s episode, “ghost-like features.” (“My uncle used to say, ‘You look like someone starved a virgin to death.’”) That’s not even mentioning his distinctively flat, almost affectless vocal delivery. He’s used as perfectly as can be here, scrambling to keep Pied Piper on track and help shepherd a business plan into being.

On a similar tip, give it up for Martin Starr. I mean this in the best way possible as I’m a huge fan of his work, but the man has a slim acting range. But he uses it so much to his advantage, delivering lines like “While you were busy minoring in gender studies and singing a cappella at Sarah Lawrence, I was gaining root access to NSA servers. I was one click away from starting a second Iranian revolution,” with such a tasty tang of sarcasm and brio.

The story tonight really concentrates on poor Richard having to grow a spine and kick his best friend out of the company he’s building. Or to “be an asshole,” as Erlich puts it, because he’s CEO of the company. It’s gratifying in some senses to watch Richard get angry and boss the rest of the guys around, but it’s even more so (at least for a fellow pushover like me) to see how draining it is for him to do so.

In the end, though, (at the end of this episode at least) it all comes to naught because through Big Head, Richard learns that Hooli’s programmers have taken his program apart and are attempting to create their own algorithm. And when he tries to deposit the check from Gregory, he learns he can’t because he doesn’t have Pied Piper registered as a business name. Hardly the kind of heartwarming pat on the back to send you off to bed after a half-hour, but just the kind of good-natured kick in the pants only Mike Judge can provide.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.