Silicon Valley Patent Troll Review

(Each week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Silicon Valley season 4 by answering one simple question: what was the most awkward moment of the week?)

If we were to tally up the most awkward moments in Silicon Valley by the character responsible, Richard Hendricks would undoubtedly lead by a significant amount. The nervous talker just never know what to say or when to say it, and this episode, titled “Patent Troll,” is no exception.

Here, his shining moment is when he calls an important meeting of people he needs on his side, only to mention limp biscuits and donkey punches. The former is explained in detail to people who are unfamiliar with the term, and it goes over as well as you’d expect. To Richard’s credit, it’s an attempt to explain how patent trolls work, but it only manages to make people disgusted…and understand why Gavin isn’t working with him anymore.

But let’s start with Erlich Bachman.

Silicon Valley Bream Hall

Mansplaining ‘Mansplaining’

Only Erlich Bachman could somehow mansplain the meaning of the word mansplaining to two women and still come out of the conversation with a job.

Yes, Erlich has done the impossible: he’s managed to get a job with Laurie and Monica at Bream/Hall, something they never wanted to happen. That’s mostly because he landed them the VR start-up from Haley Joel Osment’s character last week. While they try to pay him a generous finder’s fee he balks, letting them know that he told many people that he got hired by them and doesn’t want it to appear like he got fired.

“Can you hack this finder’s fee into 52 installments, paid weekly over the course of the next year?” he asks.

“You mean a salary?” Monica asks.

“Those are your words, not mine.”

He then goes on to explain how he would help fight off some much-needed gender imbalance, especially among other VCs, which are male dominated. Elrich then mansplains how mansplaining works as they look on in horror, and try to offer him $10k over his finder’s fee to just go away.

The only thing that works is a little humanity. After saying he’ll accept half the finder’s fee with a job, his usual boisterous voice breaks, and he states “I need this.” His pleading may have broken the robotic Monica.

“Fine,” she says, taking back the check. “You can start Monday.”

“This Monday?”

Silicon Valley Doc

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Richard has gone to his doctor for an STD check after his unexpected tryst last week, and the man doesn’t seem to believe him, or that Richard will ever have it again anytime soon. “Let’s face it – lightning ain’t gonna strike twice, is it?” his doctor laughs.

But what’s more impressive is that Richard is actually shrinking. He’s lost an inch in height since last year and has to come back in three weeks to see what’s going on. “I’ll see you then!” the doctor cheerfully says as he writes him a prescription for calcium supplements. “Or whatever’s left of you.”

Silicon Valley App Store

Under the Bridge

But Richard has more to worry about than just his diminished stature and non-stop jokes from his friends – he’s now facing a troll…and an episode that threatens to spin its wheels and go nowhere.

The troll is a patent troll, who has noticed that Pied Piper’s Space Saver app has (just barely) cracked the Top 500 of the Hooli App store, or at least the Utilities list (subgroup Mobile, subgroup Storage). Richard receives an email from someone claiming that their space saving app may be infringing upon their technology, and decides to go over and talk to him, coder to coder. But the guy turns out to be a lawyer, one who snatches up vague patents with the intent of suing people for lots of money.

Patent trolls are very real things, although they usually don’t proclaim themselves as such. But they are legion, and suck away time and money from companies who have to pause to take action against these monsters. Take it from someone who gets almost monthly emails from Nintendo about them fighting (and winning) legal battles against various patent trolls – some of which are still trying to get in on that sweet, sweet Wii money.

The troll asks Richard for $20k to go away, but Richard doesn’t want to do it. He then rounds up other companies with apps above them on the list, warning them that they are next in line to be  targeted by this guy if they don’t all work together.

This backfires spectacularly, as evidenced by the most awkward moment of the show and Richard’s dumb sexual examples, and they all instead decide to pay the troll money just to make the issue go away.

It all culminates in Richard using his very first music detection app to discover that one of the troll’s patented songs was itself infringing upon an older song, which gets him to drop the suit after Richard threatens to go public with it.

The story is a bit of a strange segue for a show that’s had some real issues with forward momentum this season. We all love seeing the crew using their brains to solve problems and one-up the system, but this one was too quick to be satisfying.

“I’m a b-boy, standin in my b-boy stance”

Of all the ridiculous things Erlich has done to save face, trying to learn how to play basketball is probably at the top of the list.

Now that Erlich has a VC job, he’s asked by Monica’s old coworker to come to a basketball game, since they have an open spot on the floor. He doesn’t realize that this means that they’re playing a game on the floor themselves, and what’s worse, Erlich is on the skins team. He backs up in fear and calls Ben to tell him that he can’t make it because his car won’t start, only to find out that they play every single Tuesday.

With a week to go, he tries to install a basketball hoop above his garage, which is not very easy since he doesn’t know the difference between a nail and a screw, and he lives with people who aren’t exactly known for this physical prowess. Fortunately, he falls off the thing and breaks his foot, putting him in a cast and sidelining him from the game. Sometimes, things just work out for the best.

Silicon Valley Beer

A Thing About Machines

Gilfoyle’s battle with Dinesh has temporarily been put on hold, as our favorite Satanist (it’s revealed he’s named his server Anton) is now fighting against a fridge. Specifically, a smart fridge that Jian-Yang has purchased for $14,000, mostly to rub in Erlich’s face that he has no need for a job. The fancy new fridge has an internal camera so you can see what’s there via an app, as well as voice recognition software that lets you start up a shopping list. Gilfoyle would be fine with the tech as long as it keeps the Old Rasputin he’s constantly drinking cold, but it has the audacity to talk, and what’s worse, it has vocal tics to sound more human.

He is so incensed by this that he makes it his goal to shut the fridge up, but it’s password protected with a 10-digit code. Gilfoyle isn’t able to figure it out, so he has to brute force his way into the system. The rest of the episode sees him running around performing various hacks as he mutters about the misuse of tech.

Gilfoyle manages to do it, only to change the display to a gif telling Jian-Yang to suck it, purposefully misspelling his name. It’s childish and dumb and maybe the best thing Gilfoyle has ever done.

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