Between when we last saw Gavin Belson pitching to buy out Pied Piper from Richard in a Mexican restaurant at the end of the previous episode of Silicon Valley and where we pick up in “Bad Money,” the weak-willed founder of Pied Piper brought Belson’s deal back to the office, struck by a bit of defeatism. Completely abandoned by investors due to the Hooli lawsuit, Richard now sees a buyout as the only way to save face and get some fiscal compensation for his colleagues and himself. None of his colleagues warm to the idea for getting back into bed with Hooli; Gilfoyle invites Richard to “chortle” his balls when he’s offered the deal. Their refusal of the Hooli deal is meant as anti-authoritarian grand-standing, but its not the selling out that really bothers them, as they all make clear that they want their cuts from the buyout in full. Rather, as it so often is in this series, the members of the Pied Piper team will take Belson’s money but refuse to work under him, to admit that they were, in some way, defeated.
Enter Russ Hannerman (Chris Diamantopoulos), the billionaire inventor of internet on the radio who agrees to fund Pied Piper after an impromptu meeting with Richard outside of Hooli. When I say “enter,” I mean to evoke “Enter Sandman” by Metallica more than graceful stage direction. Arriving in the most gaudy, tasteless car known to man, pumping Limp Bizkit out of its speakers, Hannerman is a creature that clearly bears the mark of creator Mike Judge; a monstrous beast of empty privilege and crass tastes, spurred by an absurdly simple idea that’s given him a reputation as a huckster. He’s a relic of the initial Internet boom and as much as he is seen as an untouchable in the modern world of technology, he’s also refreshingly honest about his servicing his basest urges and desires.
That being said, it’s fascinating to see how Hannerman reacts around Erlich, whose backstory is not completely dissimilar from the internet-radio pioneer. Whereas Hannerman glad-handles nearly all of the Pied Piper team, often in some grossly offensive way, he is cold, distant, and even nonresponsive to Erlich. It’s a matter of self-delusional reputations getting tangled: Hannerman refuses to believe he’s in the same low class as Erlich, whereas Erlish aspires to be seen as similarly obscenely entitled, stress on the obscene part. Meanwhile, the rest of the Pied Piper team, including Richard, are frustrated and annoyed by the lunatic wiles that drive Hannerman, with Dinesh crowning him the “worst man in America.” Over at Riviga, both Monica (Amanda Crew) and Laurie (Suzanne Cryer) are equally alarmed with Richard’s decision to enter into a business partnership with a man who refers to strangers on the street as “lemmings.”
Just as Erlich fashions himself to be on the same level as Hannerman, Pied Piper’s newest investor is looking to get into the big leagues to hunt bigger fish, namely Belson, whom he declares war on by placing a Piped Piper billboard right in the middle of the view from his office. One of the first scenes of the episode is Belson uproariously comparing billionaires being criticized and mocked to the plight of Jews in Nazi-occupied Germany, which gives you a slight hint as to what Judge thinks about the leaders of these industries. By the time that scene is over, it’s almost easy to root for Hannerman’s crude-is-good philosophy, as he is essentially Belson without the self-serving progressive politics and all the feigned humility and sensitivity. In other words, Hannerman represents a kind of return of the repressed, a ghastly embodiment of all the easy money and misogynistic self-obsession that Silicon Valley was founded on and has attempted to whitewash ever since. And the fact that “Bad Money” sees him coming onto Richard’s team only renders the future of Pied Piper as either a genuinely useful program for all or a cash cow simply waiting for the slaughter all the more ambiguous.
★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television