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Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 5, “The Blood Boy”

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Blood Boy”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Blood Boy”

Tonight's episode of Silicon Valley, “The Blood Boy,” probes the disconnect between worthiness and success in a world where sizzle almost always trumps substance. Exhibit A is Gavin Belson (Matt Ross), whose brittle ego may be collapsing under the weight of a bad case of imposter syndrome. In the cluttered old garage that Gavin has preserved as a museum to “the spirit of innovation,” he shows the Pied Piper team the workstations where he and Peter Gregory created Hooli. It's a startling moment, partly because it reminds us that Gavin and Peter's bitter rivalry was initially a partnership, but mainly because it conjures up an unfamiliar image of Gavin as a true visionary with more to offer than Machiavellian maneuvering and unfathomable wealth.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 4, "Teambuilding Exercise"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 4, “Teambuilding Exercise”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 4, “Teambuilding Exercise”

Picking up where “Intellectual Property” left off, tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley, “Teambuilding Exercise,” opens on Richard (Thomas Middleditch) arriving at the lion’s den of Gavin’s (Matt Ross) McMansion (it even has a giant lion’s-head door knocker) to make a deal on his peer-to-peer Internet idea. Simultaneously satiric and dramatic, their meeting makes us fear for, root for, and laugh at Richard, sometimes all at the same time. Writer Meghan Pleticha and director Jamie Babbit toss in little flavor bombs of observational humor at intervals, like the decorative suits of armor Gavin toppled while rampaging through his living room after he was fired, then wind up the scene with a crisply timed slapstick rim shot as Richard’s clumsy attempt at a triumphal gesture sets Gavin’s couch on fire.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 3, "Intellectual Property"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Intellectual Property”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Intellectual Property”

Tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley takes a satiric look at some of the ways that the all-important yet elusive concept of intellectual property plays out in the Valley, starting with Jian-Yang (Jimmy O. Yang) and Bachman’s (T.J. Miller) pitch to the Coleman Blair venture capitalists. Jian-Yang’s modest recipe-app idea is quickly passed over and replaced by a purely theoretical but more exciting one: SeeFood, the kind of potentially transformative app every coder dreams of inventing. It’s a hook so sharp and shiny that the VCs throw $200,000 in seed money at it and Monica (Amanda Crew), aware there’s no substance behind the flash, uses it to try to lure in her douche-bro nemesis, Ed Chen (Tim Chiou), in hopes of triggering a failure big enough to take him down—or at least take him down a couple of notches.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 2, "Terms of Service"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Terms of Service”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Terms of Service”

In tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) takes about a minute to transition from underdog to overlord as PiperChat’s new CEO, getting high on his own hot air. But it only takes him another minute to come back to earth, in a crash landing so humiliating and terrifying it even satisfies the perpetually disgruntled Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), whose rivalry with Dinesh is so deep he’d rather see Dinesh fail than see his own company succeed.

Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 1, "Success Failure"

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Success Failure”

John P. Johnson

Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Success Failure”

Richard (Thomas Middleditch) bumbles his way to an unlikely victory at the start of the season premiere of Silicon Valley, posing as an Uber driver in the latest chapter of Pied Piper’s comically inept struggle to survive. The nerdily awkward pitch Richard initiates to the venture capitalist in his back seat, video-conferencing with the rest of the Pied Piper team to show off the unexpectedly popular platform they’ve created more or less by accident, doubles as a reunion for the show’s viewers, bringing the main characters together in all their dysfunctional glory.

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, "Sacrament"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “Sacrament”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “Sacrament”

Big Love's season finales often have a bit of an out-of-control feel to them, as though any given season's plotlines have gotten so all-encompassing that it's all the show can do to race just ahead of the giant boulder of story that threatens to overtake it at any moment. “Sacrament,” written by Victoria Morrow from a story by Coleman Herbert and directed by Dan Attias, managed this feat more elegantly than last season's finale, and it mostly brought the series' sporadically brilliant third season to a close, even if the finale was, itself, only sporadically brilliant. I suspect everyone here is tired of hearing me diagnose the show's problem as spending too much time at Juniper Creek (even if I'm more charitable toward those characters and storylines than some commentators), but the four episodes following “Come, Ye Saints,” the best episode the show has ever done, just got too bogged down in compound morass. Still, developments in the finale suggest that the focus of the show will shift decisively to the Henrickson compound in Sandy, Utah, and to stories of Bill Henrickson's (Bill Paxton) third wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) in the show's fourth season.

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, "Outer Darkness"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Outer Darkness”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Outer Darkness”

“What is it in us, Alby, that makes us the way we are?” Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) asks early in “Outer Darkness,” Big Love Season Three's penultimate episode, written by Eileen Myers and directed Michael Lehmann (a terrifically talented TV director still mostly known for the 80s teen comedy Heathers). The whole episode hinges on that question and returns to one of Big Love's favorite themes—the uneasy mix between the purity of religious creed and the imperfection of human beings. The things Nicki and Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Bill (Bill Paxton) have done are all eminently HUMAN things to have done, but by giving in to their own desires and their human emotions (in Barb's case), they find themselves cast out of family and faith. The entirety of human constructs like religion and society are based around the idea that we can use a greater good to overcome our messy biologies, but those biologies inevitably let us down. When the boyfriend you most likely rightfully kicked to the curb comes back into your life and says he's so sorry you lost the baby, are you going to stand firm to what you know is probably the right thing to do or welcome him back with open arms? No matter how devoted you are to your creed (be it religious or otherwise), you're always going to let it down. You're a human being. It's what we do.

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, "Rough Edges"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Rough Edges”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Rough Edges”

“Rough Edges,” written by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and directed by Dan Attias, just plunges forward, pell-mell, not terribly concerned with if it makes a lot of sense (that Woodruff letter storyline still feels dropped in from another series entirely, Mormon content notwithstanding) but having a good time going ahead anyway. If nothing else, the episode cemented Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) as this season's most compelling character; the long web of lies she's been spinning all season crumbled around her in the wake of the infatuated Ray the DA pursuing her so far as her home. The episode also dove into the headlong descent toward the season finale (in two weeks), which was no easy trick, since this season has already had, like, 50 season finales. So this time, Big Love really, really means it.

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, "For Better or for Worse"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “For Better or for Worse”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “For Better or for Worse”

Few shows on TV have as many scenes that feel like they should be dream sequences but actually turn out to be reality as Big Love does. It's probably because everyone on the show has something of an impulse control problem, so things tend to spin quickly out of control. Another show would have spent most of this week building up to the wedding with Ana (Branka Katic), but Big Love dispatched with that in the second scene. As soon as she said yes, Bill (Bill Paxton) was ready to get married in his backyard (at 3:30 that very afternoon, no less). Was it any wonder that things spiraled out of control from there?

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, "On Trial"

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<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “On Trial”
<em>Big Love</em> Recap: Season 3, Episode 4, “On Trial”

One of the best things about Big Love is that it's decidedly agnostic about its purported protagonist, Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). The show is smart enough to admit when he does a good thing but also keeps its distance from the man, as though it's always concerned that he might turn into the second coming of Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton). Critics of Big Love have frequently said the show presents a too idyllic vision of polygamy, but that's not entirely accurate. The show has frequently criticized Bill and his vision, particularly via Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), Sarah (Amanda Seyfried) and Barb's mom, Nancy (Ellen Burstyn), and it's shown how the polygamist lifestyle, even in a seemingly ideal set-up, manages to marginalize women and take away their ability to realize their potential. The show's detachment, however, gets it into trouble with its critics where other HBO series (notably, The Sopranos) used that detachment to force the audience to probe their complicity in the actions seen on screen. On Big Love, the Henrickson household is presented so appealingly that we WANT it to be the kind of idyllic place it really can't be, but it never really will be. The foundation it's built on is the one of sand from the parable.