Silicon Valley, Ep. 3.07: “To Build a Better Beta”
Written by John Levenstein
Directed by Jamie Babbit
Airs Sundays at 10pm on HBO
Everything that has happened on Pied Piper up through this episode has been buildup. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been interesting or funny, but Richard and his friends have been building Pied Piper since the start of the series. “To Build a Better Beta” brings us to the point where Richard is preparing to finally release the product he has spent so much time crafting. Now Richard will have to grapple less with Silicon Valley corporate espionage and more with the actual merits of what he has created.
Dinesh and Guilfoyle are looking forward to allowing others to test a beta version of Pied Piper to help pinpoint the system’s bugs. Richard, however, thinks the system isn’t ready for anyone to see it yet. He starts to change his mind, though, when Guilfoyle’s girlfriend tells him how great it is after taking a gander at the beta. Richard’s concerns about the state of Pied Piper disappear almost immediately after he gets some positive feedback.
Richard creates individual codes to access the beta, ten for each person. This turns into a competition over who has the most friends; Dinesh taunts Guilfoyle over not having anyone other than his girlfriend to send it to, but then realizes he also doesn’t have anyone to send it to. He ends up giving Richard and Jared some of his codes, and then he just impersonates people to fill up the remaining codes.
While the Pied Piper guys are having people test the beta, Hooli is trying to get a look at it as well. Some of the End Frame engineers working on the Pied Piper competitor get an email about the existence of the beta, but they decide to just delete it to prevent Gavin from expecting them to finish their product even sooner. The problem is that Gavin has access to their company email and his search terms catch that email. Gavin’s head of security/corporate espionage makes a dummy email to impersonate one of Richard’s friends and get one of the beta invites. Gavin then has access to the beta, but Guilfoyle realizes something has gone awry when he makes a map of all user locations and sees someone on the Hooli campus accessing the beta. Instead of just locking out Gavin, they put a virus in his version of the beta, which promptly infects his computer and phone (and possibly all of Hooli, since Gavin is spying on everyone in the company). The failure to get the beta leads to some of the End Frame engineers to quite Hooli.
Even with all the espionage, the worst development for Richard has to do with Monica’s impression of the beta. She just doesn’t care for its awkward and overly plain interface. Richard is devastated, but Monica tells him to go with his gut – she’s been wrong about other sites in the past. Although there’s a caveat to her past misjudgments: those products weren’t necessarily good, they just ended up making a lot of money. Perhaps all the people who gushed about Pied Piper just saw a product that would do well, not a good product. Richard decides to go ahead and set a release for Pied Piper, but it’s not to think he might be a victim of hubris. After all, he thought Pied Piper had plenty of problems to fix until he started getting compliments on it. Now he’s all in.
The b-story focused on Erlich and Big Head and their financial woes. After doing some amateur sleuthing, Jared starts to think that Erlich and Big Head’s business manager might have stolen a large chunk of their funds. And it turns out he did! But he can’t access the money anymore, and the law doesn’t seem to be much help. A visit to the DA doesn’t go well when she says she won’t try to take their money back from innocent people’s accounts, and then chastises them for being pampered white guys who wasted a ton of money (even if they didn’t actually bankrupt themselves). It’s another example of Mike Judge’s libertarianism not so subtly intruding on Silicon Valley. I highly doubt a DA would be more interested in prosecuting someone for not paying vendors for a million dollar party than going after someone who stole many millions from them, but government is broken in Judge’s world. It’s also way too mean to white guys.
The only way out for Erlich seems to be to sell his Pied Piper stocks, which he thinks could potentially be worth billions (maybe). T.J. Miller does a surprisingly good job of downplaying his usual energy and looking morose in the moments leading up to the launch of Pied Piper, and all of the vendors from his party have now been paid, so it seems like he must have sold his stocks. Richard calls Erlich and himself “Woz and Jobs,” but Erlich is really neither. He can’t claim to the underappreciated engineer, nor the visionary designer. He’s been consigned to be a mere footnote in Pied Piper’s history.
- Big Head: “Hey, good news, they said we can each keep one of the cannonballs, so not a total loss, right?”
- Jared: “I don’t wanna count our chickens before they hatch, I mean, 3% of hatchlings are born mutated or dead, but we may have a healthy brood on our hands!”
- Thomas Middleditch’s crazy eyes were in fine form when Monica dared to delicately criticize Pied Piper.
- I originally assumed that Erlich sold his stocks to pay his debts, but after seeing the preview of next week’s episode, I’m starting to wonder if he might have done something scummier instead to save himself.