Written by Dan O’Keefe
Directed by Alec Berg
Originally aired May 11, 2014
Where “Signaling Risk” delighted in skewing the traditional deployment of race in TV, “Third Party Insourcing” lightly teases the inherent competitiveness of misogyny while simultaneously providing eye candy for the series’ male dominated (and potentially sex deprived) audience. Milana Vayntrub cameos as Gilfoyle’s girlfriend, Tara, who’s described as an “Amy Winehouse-type.” While this leads to one of the best lines of the episode (“What does that even mean?” “Decomposing? Oh god…that was dark”), her presence is little more than a source of sexual fixation for the guys of Pied Piper. Sadly, the use of Tara as bait for an ongoing feud between Gilfoyle and Dinesh would still be misogynistic even if the results were funnier than they actually are. Regardless, the circumstances give Kumail Nanjiani a chance to truly shine as the internally conflicted Dinesh and T.J. Miller’s Erlich uses the opportunity to dress down perhaps a bit too much.
“Third Party Insourcing” was the first Silicon Valley episode that ought to have been a bit longer but not in the way you might think. Juggling three independently entertaining plots over 30 minutes leaves each a little thin. Thankfully, they each perform delightfully different functions. In the land of plot development, Richard hits a wall with Cloud programming and is convinced to hire a third party consultant known by the alias The Carver. As it turns out, this mysterious figure that apparently hacked the Bank of America database is actually an arrogant adolescent named Kevin. Threatened by his youth (“What are you like 25?”) and expertise, Richard is instinctively distrustful of The Carver, who operates on a steady diet of Mello Yello, Oreos and Adderall. Just as he is warming up to him, having made another in a series of impressive, invisible transformations, Richard discovers to his dismay the real reason for The Carver’s shadowy reputation.
As sometimes happens with Silicon Valley, the stakes never feel quite high enough. The specificity of the circumstance may bar some audience members from fully appreciating the nature of the drama at hand. The episode relies a little too heavily on the tech speak of programmers but the gist is this: having briefly handed over the core of Pied Piper to Kevin the Carver, Richard returns to discover him having a mental breakdown, having somehow poisoned the program’s code and potentially ruined Pied Piper completely. This sends things into a downward spiral that leads Richard on a desperate search for Adderall and ends with Erlich slapping a child in the face. While he is still inept at all things social and his health has apparently suffered horrifically from the imminence of Tech Crunch (“You’ve somehow aged 40 years in 8 weeks,” his thoughtlessly pithy doctor informs him), every new episode finds Richard improving as a business owner. I appreciate that the series downplays this evolution, as his development deserves a subtle hand. Furthermore, moments like Erlich’s assault on the candy selling, pre-adolescent bike gang reminds viewers that the boys of Pied Piper are learning to commit their individual strengths to fill in the gaps in Richard’s weaknesses.
Going along with the “your weaknesses are your strengths” theme, Erlich and Dinesh attend a Satanist ceremony with Tara and Gilfoyle. While they argue over the reasons behind Tara’s reputed attraction to Dinesh, the series delightfully humanizes the seriously maligned Satanists. After the induction of their newest member, the group’s leader takes time to warn the attendees about parking in the wrong lot and makes allowances for the evening’s feast, which comes courtesy of the Christian-leaning Chick-fil-A. Despite using much of the episode’s screen time provoking skepticism, it turns out that Gilfoyle was simply pranking Dinesh with the possibility of sexual relations with Tara. It’s an acceptable yet predictable resolution. Dinesh gets in a good point about the word “adorable” being emasculating and Erlich makes his second most awkward entrance of the episode. Meanwhile, Dan O’Keefe brings a Seinfeldian touch to Jared’s long voyage home and a lightly scathing critique of our increasing reliance on artificial intelligence.
In each of these variably interesting plots there is the sense that better jokes may have come with more time. There are moments of well-written discomfort but as a whole “Third Party Insourcing” feels likes the unicorn in an awkward threeway between The Net and Get A Life, trying to meet the needs of two distinctly different genres. When Silicon Valley succeeds in this admittedly gross metaphor, the results are often inspiring. “Signaling Risk” demonstrated the series’ ability to pass on the quick guffaw in favor of the longer-running gag. The success of that episode was due in part to making the main characters the victims rather than the perpetrators of the best jokes. Yet, the series does not commit as strongly to gender as it does to race. The evidence is in Tara’s only real “moment,” which involves comforting the humiliated Dinesh (who will not get to get to have sex with her) and lightly admonishing the boyfriend who used her. As a detour, “Third Party Insourcing” isn’t wholly coherent but contains enough moment-to-moment comedy to get us through to next week.