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‘Silicon Valley,’ Season Two, Episode Six: Go SWOT Yourself

We weren't sure how we felt about this episode, so we SWOTed it.

HBO

Welcome to the fourth installment of our "Silicon Valley" Re/cap, where we connect HBO’s satire to the real world. Or, at least, Silicon Valley.

This episode focused on failure: Do you handle it by pretending it doesn’t exist, or by making sure your worst co-workers haven’t noticed it, accepting the criticism and moving on, gently slapping a bottle of energy drink into the trash as you exit?

Gavin Belson has existed in the former category for his entire professional life, and it has served him well until now — he begins to grok that his novelty-sized ego, which feeds on praise like necrotizing fasciitis feeds on subcutaneous flesh, has actually bloated to proportions large enough to squash the very existence of Hooli.

In different circumstances, the similarly-ginger Erlich could become a sycophant-draped egotistical blowhard. Fortunately for Pied Piper, he’s just a regular egotistical blowhard, and when he’s faced with humiliation, he swallows hard and takes it like a man. You see what they’re doing there with the blowhard gingers, right?

Hooli’s humiliation during a publicity stunt inspires Pied Piper to attempt a similar publicity stunt, but the impresario of an energy-drink empire quadruple-crosses our heroes — first attempting to double-cross them by not putting their logo on the livestream, then going with the brain-rapers at Endframe in their place. Silver lining: Their humiliation is private.

Meanwhile, Jared pulls out a corporate decision-making tool called SWOT, which is roundly rejected until Gilfoyle and Dinesh use it to figure out if they should allow an extreme(ly rude) stuntman to die in a fiery can-car crash. NB: Entertainment Weekly tallied up every single card on that SWOT board.

In the spirit of this episode, I have created my own SWOT matrix to judge how I feel about this episode and where the series is going:

I think what we have here is a net gain. There were enough hilarious moments to make up for the one giant cringeworthy one, and I’m willing to hold out hope that the horrendous reveal at the end of the episode will resolve itself somehow.

Thanks, Jared!

Anyone who has worked in any consumer-facing industry knows the horror of the focus group. The satirical version on this week’s episode was barely an exaggeration. But more to our point, Silicon Valley eyebrows were waggling with amusement as Gavin realized that the new operating system for the Hooli phone was a giant piece of shit, something his sycophants had been keeping from him.

"Is it Windows Vista bad?
It’s not iPhone 4 bad, is it?
Fuck. Don’t tell me this is Zune bad."

"I’m sorry, Gavin. It’s Apple Maps bad."

In the insider history of device-related failures, did the writers pick the best options? For the answers, I went to Ina Fried, who’s been elbow-deep in devices and their quirks since the first tech boom.

"‘Silicon Valley’ takes equal potshots at Apple and Microsoft," she said, "so they get points for fairness, if not accuracy. Vista was widely panned and is a great starting point for any discussion of tech flops. The iPhone 4 had an antenna issue, but actually sold well and was pretty well liked, so this one was a bit iffy."

However, "Microsoft’s Zune music player was certainly no winner in the marketplace, though some on Twitter pointed out that if one was looking for a bigger failure, they should have gone with the Kin, which barely lasted a couple months on the market."

But from a writing perspective, "using the Kin might have spoiled the ultimate insult, where Gavin is told the product is ‘Apple Maps bad.'" Which was really … ouch.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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