Silicon Valley Review: “Proof Of Concept” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch in Silicon Valley

After last week’s episode, “Third Party Insourcing,” gave us our first glimpse of what Silicon Valley plays like when it’s slightly off (in what was an off-week for these recaps as well, thanks to screener issues), “Proof of Concept” had a bit more riding on it than previous entries, seeing as it’s the second last episode of the season. Unfortunately, it’s expressly because it’s the second last episode of the season that it ends up being less of a rebound opportunity, and more a handoff for whatever’s in store for next week’s final episode.

“Proof of Concept” may live or die in retrospect based on what the finale has to offer, as it’s not really clear which of the threads from tonight’s half-hour will carry over to the next. Pied Piper trying to recover from a disastrous presentation at Tech Crunch Disrupt will no doubt be the focus of the finale, but the rest of the lot tonight could just as easily never be mentioned again, as it could be ramping up to something spectacular.

The episode announces the season’s approaching climax by sending everyone out to San Francisco (save for Peter Gregory, who’s out on safari with Kanye), where Pied Piper will be facing off against not just the dozens of other startups at Tech Crunch Disrupt, but Gavin Belson’s own ripoff of Richard’s compression algortihm. The Nucleus team seems ready to take the event by storm like a S.W.A.T. team, while the Hacker Hostel bunch is scrambling to get their project to the finish line. Still programming even as they drive the Avi-automobile to the event, Richard allows himself one last release of bodily fluid control before taking charge of the situation, and getting his team together…

…Until a chance(?) run-in with Bighead makes Richard aware that an old flame of his is at the conference. Richard quickly becomes obsessed with the girl not because he’s still carrying a torch for her, but because he’s worried other people will think he’s obsessed with her. The plot cranks the Zuckerberg-ian qualities of the character up to 11 and breaks the knob, as Richard’s focus on the presentation quickly becomes secondary to doing everything in his power to prove to Sherry he’s not a creepy stalker.

In a lot of ways, this is Richard at his most pathetic, which is saying something when last week we saw him get hustled by a bunch of cub scouts. In terms of seasonal pacing, it makes sense to drop him this low, so that next week might offer a chance at redemption. Still, it’s not a great story to watch in motion, as it can be hard to root for a guy who proves time and again to be his own worst enemy. The plot wraps up in somewhat bizarre fashion, such that I hope it comes back next week so that Richard can end it on his own terms: Jared’s public expression of adoration for Richard dovetails hilariously into the plot, but I’m not quite sure I see how Sherry thinking Richard is gay would defuse the stalker-vibes he’s broadcasting at her.