“Richard; do the right thing here — [Dramatic Pause] — lie on the stand,” says Erlich Bachman, part owner of tech startup Pied Piper, in this Sunday’s episode of the hit HBO comedy series Silicon Valley. This is Erlich’s under the circumstances “reasonable” advice to Richard just moments before he is called to the stand.
Quick context for those who don’t watch: the evil tech giant Hooli has brought an absurd intellectual property lawsuit against protagonist Richard and his brilliant but floundering startup Pied Piper, in a low blow effort to tie them up in legal fees so they can beat Pied Piper’s much better app. Hooli really has no case, until the prosecution realizes that Richard did in fact make one tiny mistake, having used a Hooli company computer during his time there to perform some small and insignificant test for his app.
“I just wanted to be different…but if this company is built on lies, then we’re really not that much different from Hooli. The law says that I lose everything – my whole company, everything that I worked for, because I used one Hooli computer to test and modify one block. Is that right? I mean, is that fair? To me, if the system says that’s fair, then I guess I’m probably not meant to be a part of it…”
This is the genuine and vulnerable speech Richard makes in one of the few sincere moments the show has ever had.
Silicon Valley writers have, of course, left this episode with a major cliffhanger: what will the judge decide? Will Richard’s menschy compulsions pay off or will they be forever stuck at the bottom of the valley? It is a comedy after all, so things will probably work themselves out — but in real life doing the right thing, even at the expense of personal gain, can make or break the kind of people we ultimately become.
One more difference: our lives are not a predictable 10 episode season scripted by other people. In real life, we write our own scripts and all we really know is that every action we take directly impacts the long-term narrative for our soul.