I didn’t get to watch Silicon Valley’s “Binding Arbitration” until this afternoon because of WWDC, so apologies for the late post. In the penultimate episode, we’re treated to some solid courtroom drama, Jared quoting Hitler, and a plotline should ring a thousand bells for anyone who read Gizmodo five years ago.
The episode’s action starts when Big Head runs into guys from Hooli at a Silicon Valley bar. Poor Bighetti finds a phone they leave behind after mocking him for “failing his way to the top.” The phone is running the Nucleus beta, which is sopping hot garbage.
“Can you imagine if a tech blog gets their hands on this piece of shit?” Big Head asks Richard, whose failure to comprehend the opportunity in the situation before noted dolt Big Head does not augur well.
Does this sound familiar? Back when I was just a twinkle in Gizmodo’s eye, our humble blog acquired an iPhone under similar circumstances. Ripped from the (digital) (very old) (like really, not very timely at all anymore) headlines, baby!
This plotline opens up a curious possibility: Does Gizmodo exist in the Silicon Valley universe? It’s already established that TechCrunch and Re/Code are functioning purveyors of startup publicity, but nary a snippet of dialog is given to the fact that Big Head’s discovery parallels the time a guy sold an iPhone 4 prototype to Gizmodo after an Apple employee left it at a bar. With how closely this show normally hews to realism, the conspicuous lack of reference leads me to believe that Mike Judge is subtly signalling that his TV show takes place in a slightly darker alternate universe, one where I am unemployed.
But anyways. WHATEVER MAN. Richard decides to use the stolen phone to get Gavin Belson to withdraw his lawsuit against Pied Piper, since Nucleus is enough of a turd to ruin Hooli’s reputation. Belson is predictably irate. “Keep in mind these aren’t real journalists, Richard,” Belson says. “They’re tech journalists.” Damn. The first cut is the deepest. Still, Belson agrees to go into an accelerated two-day trial to decide the fate of the little startup that really couldn’t.
Since Pied Piper’s money ran out, its new legal team is a guy named Pete Monaghan who was disbarred for a barrage of sleazy pursuits, including a Mann Act violation. He’s played by Matt McCoy, who you may remember as Seinfeld’s second Lloyd Braun if you, like me, are gifted with a specific and negligibly useful talent for identifying guest actors in critically acclaimed 1990s network sitcoms.
Despite being a glorious scumbag, Pete’s a pretty good non-lawyer, and he discovers that Richard did use a Hooli computer at one point to run a test on Pied Piper by digging through Richard’s emails. He realizes that Richard is screwed because he sent Big Head an email about his “girlfriend” being in the shop during the time period he was developing Pied Piper’s compression algorithm.
Richard and Big Head had a running joke that Richard’s laptop is his girlfriend, so he inadvertently hinted that he used Hooli property to work on Pied Piper. “Are you telling us this entire case hinges on people believing that Richard had a girlfriend?” Gilfoyle asks. No one is optimistic.
Erlich and Pete have a fantastic courtroom showdown where Erlich’s support of Big Head’s horrible “Nip Alert” app is eviscerated. “You liked Nip Alert, and it was terrible!” Pete screams. Then Erlich accidentally reveals that Richard’s laptop was broken because of Nip Alert, giving Hooli’s lawyers what they need to tease out the (very, very sad) truth about the “girlfriend.”
Richard decides not to lie on the stand, admitting that he did use Hooli property to test Pied Piper at one point.
Because this is the episode before the season finale, we don’t know what the truth will cost him, but there’s another weird development brewing. Jared is still obsessed with the live feed of a condor egg, and he’s worried when the mother condor doesn’t return to the nest. Gilfoyle and Dinesh warn him that he’s in a Schrödinger’s Cat situation, referencing everybody’s favorite quantum mechanics thought experiment. As long as he doesn’t know for sure, the condors could still be alive, they argue.
Jared calls the museum, and it decides to take down the condor feed cameras since so few people are watching. At the episode’s close, Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Jared watch as the man tasked with taking down the camera ends up falling and potentially dying. The horror that unfolds after Jared decides to find out the condor’s fate inspires Dinesh not to look at his text from Richard about the outcome of the arbitration.
I can’t tell whether this condor thing was a small B-story or if it’s leading up to something else. Maybe the ill-fated camera guy is still alive, and Pied Piper can gain fame by running the live feed of some kind of 127 Hours situation?
We’ll have to wait and see. Until we do, anything is possible.