The seventh episode of Silicon Valley takes us to TechCrunch Disrupt, where we see the Pied Piper team finally hit the stage to demonstrate its highly-anticipated compression software. The real-life startup competition is the perfect arena for the Mike Judge-created comedy to expertly skewer the fledgling apps of today, with everything from micro-drones to human microwaving technology.
In “Proof of Concept,” everyone on the Pied Piper team is getting into trouble at the convention in their own little ways—Richard (Thomas Middleditch) feels slighted by an old ex, while Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) thinks he’s actually falling in love with Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) code, and Jared (Zach Woods) begins to feel his position being compromised by Monica (Amanda Crew). Erlich (T.J. Miller), meanwhile, has slept with the wife of one of the TCD judges and needs to prevent him from finding out.
The episode opens with Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and company stomping the halls of Hooli. The two “brogrammers” from the beginning of the season—the ones who effectively stole Pied Piper’s compression algorithms—tell Gavin that their copycat app, Nucleus, is “optimal.”
We see Hooli’s meticulous digital chart, labeled “Project Burndown.” When we fade to Erlich’s incubator, Pied Piper’s own “Project Burndown” graph is scribbled messily on a white board—and the trend is going in the opposite direction. Despite the clear contrast between the two powers, both apps are set to debut at TechCrunch Disrupt.
Richard and the team pack their bags and head to the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA district in Erlich’s Aviato car. The convention center is bursting to the seams with groups of men in matching startup t-shirts.
Jared’s back after being stuck on Peter Gregory’s island for four days, but the still-disheveled ex-Hooli member is quickly overshadowed by Monica’s organization and adeptness. She hands out passes to the Pied Piper team and instructs them during their soundcheck; Jared’s told to man the booth.
Thrown off by his driverless car kidnapping to the island, Jared increasingly loses his grip over the team. He prints an endless stack of papers with each TCD participant’s headshot and bio, only to find out that Monica installed a facial recognition app onto each of the guys’ phones. He sadly dumps his paper stack—at least half a tree—into the garbage.
Jared heads to the bar to buy drinks for the Pied Piper team, only to find that once again, Monica beats him to the punch with shots. At one point during soundcheck, the team decides that while Jared is not essential to the group. Dinesh says, “You’re essential to the booth.”
Perhaps designed to mirror the real world, Silicon Valley’s cast notably features just one female lead. “Proof of Concept” brings three more women into the spotlight, but they’re not entirely flattering portrayals.
At the beginning of the episode, Monica reminds the team there are 2% of women in tech, but 15% at TCD. She tells them not to be distracted—just as the team gets distracted by a blonde “booth babe” in hot pink athletic gear demonstrating a new product called “Bounce Jog.”
Booth babes are everywhere in this world’s TCD, even at the table adjacent to Pied Piper’s booth. But even women can’t attract anyone to Pied Piper’s barren booth, which is only visited by an ad-spewing micro-drone that Gilfoyle tries to swat away like a fly. Much like with the driverless car, we see Jared’s inability to deal with, and almost fear, such technology.
“Hello, what’s your name?” the drone squawks.
“Whoever is controlling this, no thank you,” Jared speaks into the drone.
The Pied Piper booth catches the attention of a young woman with pink streaks in her hair. She compliments Gilfoyle on the app’s “sick” compression rates, and then asks for help coding her app, “Cupcakely.”
The Cupcakely woman, Charlotte (A.J. Michalka), seeks out Dinesh separately for extra help on Java. Dinesh, mistakenly taking the app’s code for hers and not Gilfoyle’s, falls in love with Charlotte for “her brain.” It is only revealed later that not only was Cupcakely’s beautiful code written by Gilfoyle, but Charlotte only manages the app’s Twitter account.
Ex-Pied Piper member Big Head shows up at TCD with the Hooli crew, but separates himself for a second to have a chat outside with Richard. There, Big Head tells Richard that he met Sherry Caldwell (Mary Holland), Richard’s ex-fling, at a party.
“I saw her at the ValleyWag party last night, which was crazy by the way,” says Big Head. “There must have been 12 girls there. She said you went out a couple times and she dumped you and you became obsessed with her?”
Suddenly noticing the two Hooli brogrammers coming their way, Big Head changes his tone and tells Richard loudly that “Wide Diaper” will be crushed by Nucleus.
Richard cannot stop—literally—obsessing over the fact that Charlotte said he was obsessive. He becomes so fixated on this that he ends up showing all of his team member’s her picture individually while expressing his own disbelief.
Unfortunately, Richard forgets to remove her image from his laptop before the team’s final soundcheck, and he ends up broadcasting her image on a giant screen in front of none other than Sherry herself.
Sherry is understandably disturbed by Richard’s “freak out,” only until she overhears a heated conversation between Jared and Monica. Jared is expressing his frustration at Monica for completely co-opting his role in the team, making him obsolete.
This, of course, comes off sounding to Sherry like Jared’s professed love for Richard and his commitment as a “partner” in their relationship. Believing Jared and Richard to be in a loving—gay—partnership, Sherry apologizes to Richard for mistakenly talking about his (very real) obsession with her.
Finally, Erlich’s plotline revolves around one of the TCD judges, Dan Melcher. Erlich is concerned about the biased nature of the judging, as he had slept with Dan’s wife in the past. In order to find out if Dan is still upset, Erlich seeks out Dan’s wife Madeline to clear the air.
Catching Dan leaving his hotel room, Erlich sneakily knocks on the door only to meet Dan’s new wife (Lynn Chen). Unsurprisingly, after discovering that Dan was no longer upset at Erlich’s affair with Madeline, Erlich then goes on to sleep with Dan’s new wife.
Unfazed by this romp and assured that Dan’s new wife won’t spill the beans, Erlich makes it to TCD just as Pied Piper is about to head on stage.
Silicon Valley’s TechCrunch Disrupt mercilessly jabs at startup culture, showcasing deer-in-the-headlights CEOs in team t-shirts plastered with names like “Flingual” and “Human Heater.” An overexcited emcee can’t get more than two people to cheer.
Each and every single competitor assures the audience that their app is “making the world a better place,” and that they are “local, mobile, social”—and the even better degenerate of that, “lo mo so.”
The Pied Piper team eventually makes it on stage in their dark green, Chuy Ramirez-crafted tees. Lights dim, music starts to swell, and spotlight is cast on Erlich in a turtleneck.
Only a few seconds into his presentation, Erlich is immediately blindsided by a furious Dan, who tackles him to the ground. Fist fighting erupts on stage, and the team is left stranded and wondering whether Pied Piper will ever make its debut.