‘Silicon Valley,’ Season 5, Episode 3 — Richard’s romance and a taste of Radical Candor

Richard (Thomas Middleditch) is charmed by Ben (Ben Koldyke). HBO photo.

Daily Post Associate Editor

He meets someone glamorous and sophisticated. Sparks fly. There’s a date at a restaurant, a midnight meetup. OK, the object of intrigue is currently in another relationship, but it seems to have been on the rocks anyway.

But soon the exciting takes a turn for the alarming — just in time for the ever-faithful but oft-ignored sidekick to suddenly prove their worth.

In a Hollywood romance, this near-miss would send our hero straight into the deserving arms of his best friend/girl next door/girl Friday, but in last night’s episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” this is the story of how a bedazzled Richard (Thomas Middleditch) comes to his senses and finally pins the corsage on Jared (Zach Woods), so that Jared can become the Sheryl to Richard’s Zuck. Is there any chemistry in the Valley more mysterious, more important and more oozed over than that of a CEO and his or her COO?

Looking for that spark

Jared initially tries to connect Richard with another startup CEO, Dana. Played with a perfectly affectless deadpan by comedian Dan Mintz, Dana is monosyllabic and awkward — autistic? — and Richard is utterly offended when Jared insists they are very alike.

Richard is really intrigued by another person, Dana’s magnetic COO, Ben (Ben Koldyke). An experienced executive with a Ph.D. from MIT, Ben flatters Richard about his vision of a decentralized Internet. Soon they have a lunch date at downtown Palo Alto’s Local Union 271. (The exterior shot of the restaurant is a rare use of local color this season, in which Burbank’s San Fernando Blvd. has served as the stand-in for Palo Alto’s University Avenue.) Ben surprises Richard by proposing to become his COO: Things with Dana have gotten stagnant, he says, but with Richard he feels “that spark.”

In the low-lit atmosphere of the scene, it almost felt like Ben was about to say he practiced ethical polyamory, a romantic philosophy that has a number of Valley adherents, and that can be principled but is also a favorite cover for some garden-variety sleaze.

He does tell Richard he practices something called Radical Candor, a philosophy of telling uncomfortable truths. It sounds like a brilliant satirical jab at the Valley, but it’s an actual business principle advocated by former Google and Apple exec Kim Scott, who went on to coach CEOs like Dick Costolo of Twitter and Drew Houston of Dropbox.

However, when Dana unexpectedly walks into the restaurant, Mr. Radical Candor beats a hasty escape through the back.

Spying refrigerators

Meanwhile in the episode, Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani) manages to foist himself as a roommate upon the worst possible person: a new Pied Piper engineer who is also a mole for their chief antagonist, Hooli head Gavin Belson (Matt Ross). With a hefty helping of vodka, Dinesh blabs that the company was once saved by Gilfoyle (Martin Starr) hacking into smart fridges.

This information speeds its way to Gavin and a lawsuit from the fridge company follows.

Jared and Gilfoyle, however, realize the smart fridges have been illegally recording and storing everything said in everyone’s kitchens.

They invite the fridge execs in for a meeting where Jared politely reads them the riot act, gets them to drop their suit and brings them on as a client to Pied Piper. It’s a stunning win, and Richard’s heart is captured. Sensible Jared, so long taken for granted, is the new COO.

Email Jamie Morrow at [email protected].

Next Monday, we’ll review Episode 4.


  1. The truth is that the only thing Richard loves is his work, specifically his compression algorithm. An affair, romance, one-night-stand, whatever you want to call it, is a distraction. The character who desperately needs love is Jared, who is constantly offering one-liners about terrible things in his past.

  2. Radical Candor is about caring personally at the same time you challenge directly. What Ben on Silicon Valley did was a clear cut case of Obnoxious Aggression, until Dana walked in, at which point he beat a hasty retreat to Manipulative Insincerity. I guess having your ideas totally misconstrued is better than having them ignored. But this episode totally missed the point about what Radical Candor is!

  3. Didn’t know Richard was gay! You’d think they’d have a “coming out” episode before this. It’s really funny how they sprung it on everybody.

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