“Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride,” the eighth installment of the 3rd Silicon Valley season, is touching and well written. The only thing more satisfying than watching a character you hate get publicly shamed is watching a character you love experience the same. The villain will learn nothing, but the hero starts the interesting process of introspection; tonight we got both in rich quantities. With the recent focus on structured plotting and commitment to character development, this season of Silicon Valley is poised to conclude on a high note.
We last left Erlich Bachman in dire financial straits, entering a closed-door meeting with Raviga investment head, Laurie Bream. Though the details of the meeting were not explained, the viewer was left to assume that Bachman had negotiated a deal to sell his Pied Piper shares at a significant loss in order to to cover the debts from Bachmanity Insanity, his foolhardy million-dollar luau on Alcatraz Island. Unfortunately for Bachman, the devil was in the details.
As Pied Piper’s consumer-facing app becomes the Valley’s hottest new commodity, receiving tons of downloads and positive reviews in its first week, Bachman and Richard Hendricks undertake an exhausting and seemingly endless media blitz in support of the company. Ill fit for any kind of celebrity or media appearance, Richard quickly tires of the process. As Bachman looks for a way to tell Richard that he has fully divested from Pied Piper, Richard tries to pressure Bachman into stepping forward as the company’s face. Eventually Monica gives Bachman an ultimatum: she will tell Richard in 24 hours if he doesn’t.
Bachman sets up a breakfast with Richard to reveal his situation, but too late. Potential PR directors start balking at job offers from Pied Piper, saying they’re worried about rumors of a large percentage of the company changing hands. Pied Piper’s perceived value is now in jeopardy due to Bachman’s indiscretions. Despite his loyal championing of Pied Piper in the press, Richard is incensed. He advises he will keep Bachman’s situation a secret as long as possible, but once the news trickles out, he’ll have to issue a press release to reassure potential investors and employees that nothing shady is happening with the company. Believing that tech blogger C.J. Cantwell already has the scoop, Bachman agrees to a tell-all interview, detailing how he was forced to sell his shares in a company valued at $50 million (and climbing) in order to cover debts from an elaborate party.
But the inside info she actually had was that Pied Piper had commissioned the making of incredibly ugly promotional jackets. Jared took it upon himself to produce a hideous Pied Piper “tunic.” In an attempt to find new and fresh ways to humiliate Dinesh, Gilfoyle wears the terrible garment in public and loudly associates himself with Dinesh. As it turns out, no level of gaucheness in fashion can deter those who are naturally drawn to the bandwagon of a trendy startup. The tunic is a success, and Gilfoyle wastes no time relishing the celebrity that the jacket (and job) bring him, shunning Dinesh in the process.
Meanwhile, at Hooli, Gavin Belson’s second attempt to beat Pied Piper to market fails. Despite clever overtures to his company’s board, Gavin is removed as CEO. Feeling humiliated to have been marginalized in the way he has marginalized so many subordinates before him, Gavin arranges to fly his plane to Jackson Hole for a vacation. While awaiting departure at a private airfield, Gavin runs into Jack Barker, Pied Piper’s CEO from earlier this season, also about to board his own personal plane. The two commiserate with each other in the most shallow way, disingenuously looking for an hour to spend together, and eventually realizing that they have the same destination and travel times. When Jack suggests they play chess during the flight, it seems like he’s about to suggest they share a plane. In a beautifully crafted moment that subverts the thematic build of the scene, he gives Gavin his Hooli user name so they can play chess remotely over wi-fi. Of course these millionaires aren’t going to take the same plane; how déclassé.
While it’s wonderful to delight in Gavin’s fall from power, Bachman’s thrashing in the court of public opinion is what drives the episode forward. His repeated claim that being broke is “humiliating” becomes his anthem, and at first seems like a rehashing of the entitlement that was soundly fleshed out last week. It’s not until Richard has a chance encounter with Russ Hanneman, Pied Piper’s angel investor from last season, that Bachman’s financial situation becomes clear. Bachman tried to sell half of his shares at a discounted total of $5 million to Russ. When Laurie Bream learned of this deal, she used her board majority power to squelch it. She then had Bachman total all of his debts and forced him to sell all of his stock back to Raviga for that precise total. Bachman hasn’t just divested early from Pied Piper, he’s destitute. He has made no money off of his incubation, and he’s no longer on the board. Bachman’s humiliation is laid bare.
This is important because it intrinsically changes the dynamic between Bachman and Richard. Upon finding out about the sale from Russ, Richard takes pity on Bachman. He offers him the position of PR director, restoring some (though not as many) options to his possession. He also asserts himself over Bachman for the first time in the series. Acting as a responsible CEO, Richard declares that the PR director has a defined set of responsibilities and forces Bachman to undertake them. He does so humbly and it is incredibly satisfying to watch.
“Bachman’s Earning’s Over-Ride” was written by Carrie Kemper, younger sister of actress Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). She took great care in the way she wrote financial and social devastation for the most fun character on the show. Her years at Late Night with David Letterman and as a writer for The Office shine through in every moment. With the Pied Piper dynamic fully reset, success imminent, and characters forced to rebuild, the show is in a great position going into the final two episodes of the season. It’s also a great way to start setting up season four. I only wish we’d gotten here sooner.
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