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.
That uncommon impression of Gavin is reinforced at the end of the episode, when Richard (Thomas Middleditch) says Pied Piper needs the former Hooli exec not just for his patent and his funding, but for his brain. If there were nothing more to Gavin than his bullying bluster and spoiled-rich-boy temper tantrums, it would be easy to dismiss the crisis of faith that leads him to call himself a fraud and a failure as a long-overdue moment of self-awareness. But his reminiscences and Richard’s comment hint that there may be more to Gavin than the monster he became in Silicon Valley.
Richard’s compression algorithm is a powerful solution that could vaporize countless problems in the tech world, yet he keeps getting left stranded by Silicon Valley’s VCs, flopping like a fish out of water while people throw money at inferior ideas. Gavin’s midlife crisis is just the latest upset to leave Richard without the backing he needs to launch a potentially powerful idea. Richard’s short-lived alliance with Gavin does win him back his patent, but it also allows Bryce (Graham Rogers) to screw up his carefully researched plan for a slow rollout of his peer-to-peer Internet. Bryce’s creepy, Mad Max: Fury Road-style job is to transfuse Gavin at regular intervals with his energizing young-man blood—which is apparently a thing that Silicon Valley honchos actually do. His CS degree may be in calisthenics studies rather than computer science, but in another example of sycophancy and sheer unmerited bro confidence triumphing over substance, Bryce’s proximity to power gives him enough clout to blow up Richard’s argument.
Richard’s titanic frustration at having his plans derailed by this lightweight is understandable. Even so, the scene where he rants at Bryce that tech isn’t for beautiful people like him, but for people like Richard, “the freaks, the weirdoes, the misfits, the geeks, the dweebs, the dorks,” is the episode’s weakest moment, atypical both for its on-the-nose dialogue and for the sitcom-y tidiness with which it wraps up a gloriously messy situation.
Like Richard, Monica (Amanda Crew) keeps getting outflanked by people with more political savvy. In the latest round of game of thrones at Raviga, she sucks up to Ed Chen (Tim Chiou) only to realize that she may have picked the wrong side in his attempted coup. And though she survives, it’s not because of skill. It’s because her boss, Laurie (Suzanne Cryer), who’s so socially inept that she makes Richard look almost suave, considers Monica her “best friend.”
Cryer delivers the episode’s most exquisitely awkward gesture—no easy feat in a series that’s to comically awkward encounters what the Super Bowl is to football—after Monica, shocked to realize that Laurie isn’t only aware of Chen’s effort to unseat her, but appears to be outmaneuvering him, calls her “a fucking ninja.” Laurie demurs with her usual robotic literal-mindedness, illustrating her words with a jab at her hugely pregnant abdomen as she protests: “I am a human being, just like you, like Ed Chen, this.”
Meanwhile, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), thoroughly convinced by Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) that he should be terrified of the adoring Mia (Phoebe Neidhardt), scrambles to break up with her. When he can’t shake her loose, he turns her in to the F.B.I. If Gilfoyle was right about Mia using her epic hacking skills to take revenge on Dinesh if he ever made her mad, imagine how much worse things will be once she figures out that Dinesh betrayed her, as she surely will. And if Gilfoyle was wrong, or just messing with him, Dinesh sabotaged probably the best—maybe even the only—romantic relationship he’s ever had for no good reason. Either way, chalk up another victory for Gilfoyle in the unending, hopelessly uneven war between him and Dinesh.
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This article was originally published on The House Next Door.