The pilot for Silicon Valley ended on a warm and optimistic note that saw the would-be upstarts of Pied Piper Incorporated (well, they’re not incorporated just yet) promising to take Richard’s rocket ship as far as they could fly it together. The freedom Richard afforded himself by accepting Peter Gregory’s investment instead of Gavin Belson’s cash out put him in the pilot seat of that rocket ship, and “The Cap Table” is all about Richard learning to lead when there’s not enough room in that ship for everyone. It’s also a half-hour heavily focused on boners and assholes, so it’s very funny episode of Silicon Valley, in addition to one that shores up our impression of the characters, and the show going forward.
“The Cap Table” is a smartly constructed second outing for the series, as it not only provides a showcase for all the supporting cast, but also lets us see how in over his head Richard is by deciding to strike out with his algorithm all on his own. Richard called Steve Jobs a poser last week because he never coded, but no tech wizard got to the top of the tech heap just by working a keyboard. Removed even from the particular culture of Silicon Valley, being in charge means having to make decisions and executing a strategy. Richard has dreams and a potentially world-changing algorithm in his back pocket, but that’s about it. When Peter realizes this, he lays the task of generating a business plan and revenue streams for the company at Richard’s feet like an ultimatum.
“He was kinda being an asshole back there,” Richard meekly whines after what he thinks should be a meet-‘n-greet turns into an ambush. “Yeah, that’s why he’s a billionaire: because he knows how and when to be an asshole,” Erlich scolds back, speaking as someone with a history of modest success and assholery. When Jared jumps ship from Hooli to offer his business acumen to Richard, Erlich’s the only one cynical enough to suspect him of being a double agent (which makes his sniping at Jared even funnier once we find out through Belson that Jared really did leave Hooli). That Richard doesn’t even think to suspect Jared exposes his naiveté about the business world even further, and “The Cap Table” builds a very solid episode out of Richard subsequently learning to channel his inner asshole…before suggesting that Nice Guy Richard ruined things beyond repair before this whole thing even started.
The comic and character setpiece of the night is the interview sessions Richard and Jared have with the other “employees” at Pied Piper, each revealing a bit more about what makes them their own kind of asshole as they maneuver for points in the company. Gilfoyle drops a powerhouse monologue bomb on Jared instead of listing his credentials, which is perfect; Martin Starr plays unjustified contempt better than just about anyone, as also seen when he turns down a lapdance from the stripper Mochachino earlier in the episode. I’m seriously hoping the behind-the-back shots he and Dinesh trade during their interviews marks the beginning of a beautiful rivalry, as Starr with a nemesis is practically a license to print punchlines (see: Party Down).