Silicon Valley Review: “Fiduciary Duties” (Season 1, Episode 4)

T.J. Miller in Silicon Valley
Save for one almost completely disconnected subplot, the whole half hour is about defining Richard and Erlich’s relationship to one another, both personally and professionally. Richard drunkenly adding Erlich as a board member for the company, only to stumble his way through backing out of the deal, is really just an excuse to show these two relate to one another, now that Richard’s star is ascendant, and Erlich is contractually required to be along for the ride. Erlich takes the news he’s being cut out about as well as Richard fears, but the moment he does so is telling: Erlich might be shocked at the betrayal, but he puts a smile back on his face a second later for the company photo. He knows that when it comes to telling the world your story, presentation matters more than in-the-moment facts.

For as different as they might seem, Richard and Erlich are two sides of the same coin: smart guys with something to prove that are frequently undone by their social ineptitude. The contrast is in whether or not they care what other people think of them, Richard being very much defined by how he thinks he looks in any given moment, and Erlich being so oblivious to the notion of being judged that he’s free to act as his truest self at all times. What Richard calls game is just Erlich being Erlich, and while that might mean he’s a blowhard or an idiot at times, he’s sincerely a blowhard and an idiot.

And sincerity is the foundation for trust, which is ultimately what Peter Gregory’s looking for out of Richard: a guy he can trust. Erlich showing up at the last minute to save Richard’s presentation is the one note of the episode that feels rushed, seeing as we don’t get to see why Erlich makes the decision, but the point is to get the two into a position where they trust one another to have the best interests of the company in mind. The two mirror Peter Gregory and Gavin Belson in this way, just as early versions of each: Richard hasn’t learned how to weaponize his awkward genius into a mystique the way Peter Gregory has, and Erlich’s still got one more foot in reality than Belson, but getting too good at talking out of your ass can lead to your head getting stuck up there permanently.

The episode then foregrounds the comparison with a great final moment (ignoring the actual final scene of Richard blowing chunks on Erlich) where it’s revealed that Peter Gregory and Belson started out in the tech world together as kids. “Were you guys friends?” Richard asks, with Peter Gregory’s distant “I thought so,” leaving the episode soaked in ominous warnings, instead of a feel good vibe and vomit. Silicon Valley loves to undercut every small victory for its heroes, but “Fiduciary Funds” makes it clear that there’s more at stake here for Richard and Erlich than just their company.

  • Stray Thoughts

-All this talk about character relationships, and yet this was may be the flat-out funniest episode of the show yet. The introduction of hotshot lawyer Ron Flamme, Peter Gregory’s pronunciation of Flo Rida, and what seems like a contest between Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr to see who can underplay their lines more, were just a couple highlights in an exceptionally funny episode.

-Meanwhile, Bighead’s off playing the role of Ronald Wayne, the third founding member of Apple who took a cashout early, and then pretty much fell off the map. His adventures being “unassignable” don’t amount to much against the Pied Piper drama, but having access to Hooli lets the show dive into the corporate satire that Mike Judge is so good at. The best bit is the HR waste-of-space who unassigns Bighead, his name plaque bleeding into his blank shirt, with a frightening collage of Gavin Belson photos on display behind him.

-Like everybody else in Silicon Valley, I can’t help but use Peter Gregory’s full name when referencing him. As in, Peter Gregory Presents: The Third Annual Orgy of Caring, Featuring White Weird Cocaine Statues.

-Go check out the new website for Pied Piper for some fantastic in-character copy. Richard including shout-outs to his alma mater sports teams in his personal bio is too perfect, and now we know that Jared is an alto.

-As Richard is having his panic attack in the bathroom, I wonder if it ever crossed his mind that he really could have used that Panic Attack Predictor app that the terrible doctor played by Andy Daly was pitching back in the first episode.

-It’s a bit of a bummer that we’re now already halfway through the first season, but the good news is that a second season was just ordered.