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Silicon Valley Takes a Dig at Digg, and the Myth of the Reborn Genius

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Silicon Valley picked up the pace this week, with a quick, sharp episode about betrayal, failure, and the indignities of no longer being a billionaire.

Pied Piper plays dirty

In last week’s episode, Pied Piper got screwed by a new rival called End Frame, the same people who “brain raped” the team earlier in the season. In “Adult Content,” Russ finds out he’s not a billionaire anymore thanks to a series of horrible financial decisions, and tries to get Pied Piper to merge with End Frame to make quick money. Richard, who may have achieved Peak Timidity this episode, isn’t about to do that, no matter how despondent Russ is over having car doors that open normally.


Richard doesn’t have to succumb to Russ’s McLaren-sadness-induced whims: Gilfoyle steals a $15 million sales plan from End Frame by hacking its system, something so illegal that Monica insists she’s not in the room when the conversation takes place.

Despite initially staging the world’s quickest moral protest, Richard goes to oddly innocuously-named porn company Intersite and steals End Frame’s deal from out from under them by promising better delivery. It’s a fantastic opportunity for some visual gags, as Intersite’s serious CEO delivers corporate-speak to delegates from much less subtly named sites.


Richard goes from moaning about not using stolen intel to brazenly wheeling and dealing in an unbelievably short stretch of time, but then again, he is completely desperate. And I’m down with any character development that gives the often-listless main character more agency.

Gavin Belson’s Failure Failure

Speaking of desperation causing out-of-character behavior, the always-deluded Gavin Belson has tipped over some sort of edge here. It’s less that he’s acting differently and more that his usual bullshit isn’t working.


In the tech world, failure is often spun into a hard-earned lesson or an opportunity to pivot. But no matter how many times a would-be tech exec hangs a “Move Fast and Break Things” sign or reads the chapters of Steve Jobs when he’s fired from Apple, most of the time failure is just plain bad business. In “Adult Content,” Silicon Valley mocks the the sector’s fetishization of rebirth and do-overs with a perfectly wrong-headed speech by Belson.


Belson is still desperate to save Nucleus, the doomed OS he built to crush Pied Piper. He attempts to convince the Hooli board that the Nucleus failure was actually a good thing, a “stepping stone” to “pre-greatness.”


The board doesn’t buy this speech, which is both mostly wildly inaccurate, entirely unconvincing, and very funny:

Question! What is failure? To the ignorant or those in conventional industries, the recent Nucleus glitch may seem like a failure in the negative sense. But we in this Valley know that failures like this one are really stepping stones.

To bring us the iPhone, Steve Jobs first had to bring us the Newton. To bring us Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg first had to bring us WireHog. Before he brought us Digg, Kevin Rose had to bring us a whole lot of useless things...then after Digg, as well, for that matter...

The point being, what those in dying business sectors call failure, we in tech know to be pre-greatness.


Yet the only “pre-greatness” the Hooli team can come up with is Big/Bag Head’s potato cannon and the vague idea of mind-reading.

The idea of a fallen mastermind making a triumphant comeback is one that holds more water than it should in Silicon Valley, and it’s nice to see Silicon Valley take the air out of its tires like this, though I’m worried it’s a set-up for Belson to actually have a breakthrough.


Final thoughts:

  • Continuing the theme of duplicity and failing hard, Dinesh tries to woo a Tinder prospect by making himself seem more dynamic than he really is. He changes his email signature to “Sent from my iPhone” so it looks like he’s mobile, and actually gets a girl over to the house...only to discover she’s already had sex with Erlich. And then she has sex with Erlich again.
  • “Non Consensual Santa” might be my favorite porn site name, though “Poop on My Wife” was pretty good, too.

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