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My cousin lived in Chicago for several years and, like most people who have lived in Chicago, gets super condescending about how snowstorms paralyze New York. “It’s not even that cold,” she’ll say in a -10º blizzard, as people disappear into snowdrifts. “In Chicago, this is nothing.” The scorn-superiority swirl she must get from this is the same feeling I got on this week’s Silicon Valley, “The Keenan Vortex,” as a cold (“cold”) snap throws California into chaos.
A week out from HooliCon, Action Jack is facing setbacks. He’s planned a deeply pun-reliant presentation of The Box, the storage device he wanted Pied Piper to pursue in Season 3. But you know what happened? Cold happened. The Box is delayed, and Barker is desperate for something to present.
Pied Piper has been renting server space (thanks to Ed Chambers) for all of Dan Melcher’s insurance company data. The cold in California sends claims through the roof (“Sometimes there’s actual frost on the road!” Melcher breathlessly exclaims), and Pied Piper suddenly has far more data traffic than it can handle, forcing Richard to pursue a new customer to subsidize the insurmountable cost. If you recall, Melcher’s insurance company was also sought out to subsidize the cost of developing the technology, and if you recall further back, bringing on a new customer to be able to pay for the old one is almost exactly why Bernie Madoff is in jail and the Mets won’t win a World Series in my lifetime. Ponzi scheme, schmonzi scheme, says Richard — who has money to burn and cavalier sense risk management?
Why, how about Keenan Feldspar, played by my ex-boyfriend Haley Joel Osment*, who has finally signed his term sheet with Bream Hall! After taking a break to go kitesurfing (a sport that I once insisted couldn't possibly be a real thing, to a boyfriend who was an avid kitesurfer), Keenan is flush with cash and has Erlich locked in as his “key man” — if Erlich leaves, Keenan can too. Erlich’s ego gets a big ol’ belly rub from that, which should always be a warning sign, but Erlich is red-flag colorblind. He brings the team to pitch to Keenan, where the titular vortex starts to do its work.
Keenan Feldspar has clearly led one of those charmed lives where things just go right for him (unlike me, who once had a sewing machine needle punch through my finger on my birthday). He has an unwavering aura of perfect happiness, like an upbeat Buddha. That kind of personality can draw in even the likes of Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who spend days playing with the VR demo while Richard and Jared draw up paperwork for a storage deal. Unquestionably, the episode’s high point is The Fabulous Bicker Boys appearing in matching satin pajamas, Gilfoyle munching on a Ren Faire-size turkey leg, before revealing they might have maybe used the compression algorithm to make Keenan’s VR tech work better? Maybe? And maybe Keenan is now offering to acquire Pied Piper?
Richard has worried this episode that he is cursed, in contrast with Keenan’s Midas touch (though it should be remembered that that myth ends with Midas accidentally killing his daughter, so I don’t know, draw your own conclusions about whether you want that ability), but he doesn’t want to hand over Pied Piper. Dinesh and Gilfoyle want him to accept the offer — Pied Piper is a sinking ship, they cry, and this offer is the coast of Hawaii! — but Richard is almost fully in possession of a spine now. Scrambling to stave off mutiny, he comes back at Keenan with a dramatic counteroffer he knows he won’t get. Keenan is borderline sympathetic as he is thwarted for what seems to be the first time in his life: “Weird. I wanted this to happen, but it didn’t… This feeling sucks!”
Except he is unthwartable, our wunderbro, and he’s found a way to get what he wants after all. He flees Bream Hall by getting Erlich to quit and takes his newly compression-algorithm-improved demo to Raviga, a one-two stab that lands him enough cash to accept Richard’s absurd counteroffer. Richard’s been kicked all over Silicon Valley and is literally shrinking — he needs the win, and he takes it.
Of course, he has to tell Monica that he’s making a deal with the guy who just cut out of a deal with her, and SURPRISE SURPRISE, she’s still on Richard’s side. “What I’m about to tell you is a huge breach of ethics,” she begins, prompting me to scream “STOP DOING THINGS FOR HIM” at my TV. My god, Monica, Richard has never once put himself out for you in this friendship! If any of you readers are the Monica to a Richard in your life, BAN HIM. Ban that Richard.
Right, okay, as she was saying. Keenan’s departure from Bream Hall is a blessing in disguise, she says. His tech is poor despite a flashy demo, and the Keenan Vortex keeps people from seeing it. He’ll take the compression algorithm, push a brilliant demo to backers, and walk away rich before anyone notices — leaving the Pied Piper guys out to dry. She pushes him to walk away from the deal.
But before he gets a chance, he finds the deal has walked away from him. The team breaks it to him: Feldspar got a better deal with Hooli, cut Erlich out, and went on his merry way with an ocean of money. Yes, right after Erlich quit his job so Keenan could get out of the Bream Hall deal; yes, he’s upset; yes, he burned down his palapa in self-pity. (No palapa can protect you from exposure to dishonesty, Erlich.) Sans one palapa and with exactly enough money for nothing, Pied Piper is in dire straits, and insult is added to injury with a HooliCon commercial featuring Keenan. But at the last second, Richard has an idea for his latest trick: “Dinesh, how much are tickets to HooliCon?”
See you all next week at HooliCon, I guess.