Rather than pose a new business challenge or throw Pied Piper and Hooli another compression algorithm curveball, “Silicon Valley” stayed firmly planted in its midseason rut with an episode devoted to dueling PR stunts.

After Hooli’s 4K HD live stream of UFC Fight Night crashed and burned in a lag-ridden mess of pixelated frozen video, the Pied Piper team decided to take its superior middle-out algorithm and do the exact same thing. Erlich reaches out to an old college buddy whose energy drink corporation, Homicide, is quite literally pulling a stunt: sending a stuntman in a sports car shooting up a ramp and over a building.

(Related: On the last episode of “Silicon Valley”)

The show briefly grants Richard another chance to show some semblance of corporate leadership when he asks whether they should really drop everything just to show up Hooli. Then in a sitcom-style bottle episode plot decision to kill time before the CES finale showdown, both Richard and the episode choose the stunt over the substance.

This season of “Silicon Valley” thus far remains just as witty and darkly satirical on a joke-by-joke basis, but this week’s plot didn’t hold much in the way of applicable real-world tech or business insight.

The more interesting side of the episode was a throwaway scene given to Gavin Belson, watching a Hooli focus group. In the fallout of the Nucleus UFC debacle, he watches as a group of millennials tears Hooli’s new, glitchy, Nucleus-integrated smartphone apart.

“Is this Windows Vista bad?” he asks an employee. “It’s not iPhone 4 bad, is it? Don’t tell me it’s Zune bad.”

“It’s Apple Maps bad,” she replies.

The pompous CEO’s best scene, though, is when for the first time in the series he finally questions whether he’s surrounded himself with a company of yes men, too afraid to tell him there was a problem with Nucleus before it was too late. Belson’s trusty shaman—making his first appearance this season—visibly gulps behind him at the revelation.

Back in the Homicide energy drink warehouse, we get a few enjoyable but ultimately filler storylines about Erlich, a.k.a. “Kool Aid,” and Homicide CEO Aaron “Double-A” Anderson’s college days. Turns out neither likes the other: Anderson tries to keep the Pied Piper logo—Richard’s only reason for streaming the stunt—out of the live feed, and Richard storms off, leaving the episode right back where they started.

The only significant plot development comes in the final scene, when one of the venture capital firms from the season premiere (the one Richard explained his entire middle-out compression algorithm to before realizing the meeting was a ploy) steps in to stream the stunt in perfect 4K. Their new startup, End Frame, leaves Pied Piper and Hooli with another player in their emerging market while showing half a season later what a cutthroat world Silicon Valley is for a vulnerable startup with a groundbreaking idea.

With four episodes left in the season and another real challenge before the little-startup-that-could, it’s time for “Silicon Valley” to stop stalling and add the legitimate tech world element back to complement its edgy humor. That’s what made the show unique in the first place.

Odds & Ends
• Jared really, really wants Monica and Carla—the only two women in Pied Piper—to be friends; classic case of well-meaning blatant workplace sexism.

• The UFC stream may have been a disaster, but Belson in a black karate robe kicking through a glass window over and over while saying Nucleus would “put HD video in a lossless compression chokehold and force the competition to tap out” was a resounding success.

• Insult of the week: Erlich, to Gilfoyle: “You look like a ferret that gave up on himself six months ago.”

• Erlich’s college nickname of the Kool-Aid Man—the guy who smashes through a wall whenever anyone is hanging out without him and never lets anyone else finish a sentence—takes a funny stab at the real reason Erlich is tough for the mild-mannered Richard to work with. Cheers to some legitimate character development.

• Quirky Jared fact of the week: He really likes condors.

• The Hooli focus group coordinator was a great touch on arguably the episode’s best scene. His over-comforting demeanor, his tactic of repeating everyone’s name in the room over and over, and his asking why the participants thought the new Hooli phone was “stupid and dumb” drove the parody home.

• Dinesh and Gilfoyle use one of Jared’s corporate decision-making tools to literally weigh whether to save a man’s life. They lay out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) board to decide whether to let the brash, cocky stunt driver know his calculations for his ramp jump are off. It was cruel, mean-spirited and borderline sociopathic humor, but hilarious nonetheless.


• Will Dinesh ever find love?