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Silicon Valley Recap Season 4, Episode 7, “The Patent Troll”

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Silicon Valley Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “The Patent Troll”

John P. Johnson

On Silicon Valley, good things come to those who do nothing in particular, and what appears at first to be a stroke of good luck often turns out to be quite the opposite—or vice versa. In “The Patent Troll,” Bachman (T.J. Miller) doubles down on his dumb luck in “Customer Service,” when he happened to sit at big-fish Keenan’s table in a coffee shop, and gets himself pity-hired by Bream/Hall. His new position is as unearned as Jian-Yang’s (Jimmy O. Yang) windfall for See Food or Bighead’s guest lecture position at Stanford—maybe more so, since Jian-Yang did enough coding to create a hot-dog/not-hot-dog detector and Bighead shows signs of having some talent for teaching.

Bachman’s luck will probably turn soon, though, since he’s sure to do something stupid at work if he does anything at all. This being Bachman, doing nothing is always a possibility, but here’s hoping that the show’s writers will find some spectacularly boneheaded way for the character to flame out as Miller exits the HBO series at the end of this season.

A fall from the roof of his garage turns out to be the break Bachman needed, since his injured leg lets him claim the cred of participating in Ed Chen’s (Tim Chiou) VC basketball game by keeping score while sparing him the humiliation of having to play. And what initially appears to be good news for Pied Piper’s Space Saver app, the fact that it’s in the top 500 in the Hooli app store—albeit in utilities, subgroup mobile, subgroup storage—immediately proves to be bad news when patent troll Stuart Burke (Allan Miller) threatens to sue Richard (Thomas Middleditch) for patent infringement.

Male bluster and bravado is also front and center in the episode. When Bachman deflates his puffed-up front to beg Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) for a job, even that glimpse of the neediness he works so hard to hide is a reminder that his strutting-rooster façade is more pitiable than pompous. Equally poignant but funny, thanks to Middleditch’s gift for translating Richard’s neuroses into twitchy physicality, is the nerdy machismo that Burke’s challenge activates in Richard, sending him into eye-popping, neck-tensing battle mode. Their fight also gives writer Andrew Law an opening for more of the excruciatingly awkward wannabe-alpha-male slang that’s a specialty of the series, first when Richard alienates the other app developers he’s trying to organize with awkward references to apocryphal and grotesque sex acts, and then when he announces his triumph over Burke to the rest of the Pied Piper team by crowing: “Let me come into a bucket and have you all drink it!”

Surprisingly (or maybe not, since he seems capable of almost anything), Jared (Zach Woods), that meek vessel for God knows how many twisted alter egos, whips out an ace impersonation of Ed Chen, conjuring up “Ed Chambers” to bull his way through a stalled negotiation over the phone. But Jared is far too repressed to claim that part of himself, so he marvels wide-eyed at “Ed’s” accomplishments before “firing” him for inappropriate behavior.

As himself, Jared can only radiate a wide-eyed super-innocence so intense that it’s borderline unhinged. Celebrating the nascent success of the Space Saver app, he paints the weirdest word picture in an episode brimming with vivid dialogue when he says: “We may not be a global epidemic yet, but we’ve leapt from bat saliva to humans, and we’ve just killed our first few villagers!”

With his deep-voiced deadpan and contemptuous self-confidence, Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) could almost pass for an Ed Chen-adjacent bro, but his obsessive need to create and vanquish enemies keeps him endearingly weird. In “The Patent Troll,” his main focus is his war with Jian-Yang’s new smart fridge, an appliance so annoying that Gilfoyle’s race to hack it seems almost justified. Or maybe I’ve been watching this show for too long.

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