Children are monsters. They're moody and fickle, untethered by personal morality or greater accountability, and, most of all, they have an instinctual sense for weakness that's just terrifying. If you've ever seen a class make a substitute teacher cry in the span of an hour, you know exactly what I'm describing.

It's no surprise, then, that when Richard leaves Kevin, the mildly pubescent superhacker the Pied Piper team employs to shore up their Cloud architecture, alone with their system, he manages to deftly wreck it, nearly destroying Richard along with it. See, Richard's a very good hacker (the jury's still out on the rest of the team, I guess; given their incidental incorporation into PP I've never known whether we're supposed to understand them as being any better than competent), but at the beginning of "Third Party Insourcing," he's been banging his head against Cloud, to the point that, according to Andy Daly's awful doctoring, it's physically aged him 40 years in seven weeks. With a week to go before TechCrunch, he lets the team convince him to hire "The Carver," an infamous black hat hacker known for crashing Bank of America's systems.

The Carver turns out to be (very) young, smug, and full of Mellow Yellow, Oreos, and Adderall. He fits them in around his "Model UN thing" and right away becomes a source of anxiety for Richard, making him self-conscious about his abilities as a hacker at the same time as his habit of lip-pursing. I could really watch hours of Thomas Middleditch try to figure out what to do with his lips, like some kind of twitchy yule log.

Even when Richard finds him crying under the table, having wrecked Pied Piper's platform like he admits he did when he was working for–not hacking–Bank of America, he gets no satisfaction, since he's now tasked with shaking down the neighborhood kids for Adderall, who easily burn him on the deal and slap and abuse him when he comes back to argue. The confrontation ends up setting up one of the show's best moments to date, though, when Erlich, on finding Richard reduced to tears, goes enforcer on his friend's behalf. And, yeah, there's definitely some fantasy fulfillment there, when he hollers "You just brought piss to a shit fight, you little cock!", slaps Richard's bully across the face, and hurls his shitty little BMX bike over a hedge, but his immediately coming to Richard's defense is weirdly heartwarming. There's a real friendship forming between these guys, and I'm really excited to see them continue to get each other's backs.

Of course, Erlich's using the opportunity to let off frustration he's pent up in his competition for Tara, Gilfoyle's improbably hot Satanist girlfriend with an "Amy Winehouse thing going on." Turns out, according to Gilfoyle, she's got hots for the Pakistani Denzel, Dinesh, and in keeping with Laveyan doctrine, he's willing to let Dinesh do as he wilt with her. Erlich, naturally, refuses to believe he's not the obvious choice, concluding from the back of a cheery Satanic baptism that Tara must be attracted to ugliness, despite Dinesh's excellent facial symmetry. When Dinesh finally works up the courage to proposition Tara (constructing an sublime board of con's, all relating to Gilfoyle, and pro's, just, "Ejaculation"), it turns out Gilfoyle had been fucking with him. Oh, well.

Neither of these plotlines really amount to much. Apart from the Richard/Erlich tag team, and a vague sense that Richard's learned something about the limits of knowing your limits, the Carver arc basically turns out as "fine" and inconsequentially status quo as the Tara arc, which seems to serve only to put a girl on screen (the very funny Milana Vayntrub), though Silicon Valley doesn't make much use of her once she's there; she barely even has anything to do with her own plotline, which might be an inadvertent statement if this particular sitcom trope wasn't already worn pretty thin.

And then there's Jared, who accepts a ride to the Incubator in Peter Gregory's car (not his tiny van, tragically), which turns out to be self-driving and, moreover, self-directing. Mid-drive, it opts to change course to drive to Arralon, Gregory's private island on the international dateline, a two days' ride in a shipping container away. With no JohnnyCab driver to tear out, Jared's stuck pitifully exhorting "Mister Car" to change course, finally staggering out to discover the island's solely populated by robotic vehicles, Gregory's ideal, complete with levels marked by QR code. We get a gesture, too, towards the show's send-off for Gregory, who calls Monica in what sounds like a state of anaphylaxis.

It's a smaller episode, on the whole, likely in preparation for the blowout of TechCrunch, but its narrower scope (no Hooli, no Gavin, minimal Peter) makes its unambitious plotting feel like a missed opportunity to lay some still-necessary character groundwork, especially with Dinesh and Gilfoyle, who continue to be totally funny but seem to entirely define each other. Jared's plotline kept the episode vital, but I'm not sure his presence there balances what the ensemble lost in his absence. And "Third Party Insourcing" only put a finer point on the already-glaring absence of any real female characters. Silicon Valley has so much going for it, and I'm really pulling for it to soar into the season finale. It would be a real pity if the adolescents got the upper hand.

[Image via HBO]

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