Silicon Valley 4.8: “The Keenan Vortex” Review

NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Silicon Valley” are present in this review



Silicon Valley once again put Richard’s pride and limited business savvy to the test with an interesting new obstacle this week, as Haley Joel Osment’s new guest character, Keenan Feldspar presents an offer to Pied Piper that seems too good to be true. “The Keenan Vortex” had Pied Piper seduced by Keenan’s outrageous wealth, though Richard isn’t quite sure that he should trust the guy, especially since he has more than a few doubts about the future of virtual reality in the tech industry.

“The Keenan Vortex” was an especially outstanding episode of Silicon Valley in many respects, especially in how effectively it managed to take the show back to basics to an extent. Richard is once again made the shaky captain of a sinking ship, while his allies seem to disagree with him at every turn, even to the point where Jared starts doubting his decisions. This happens when a rare cold snap leads to Silicon Valley’s citizens to freak out, forcing Pied Piper to bleed money as Dan Melcher’s data causes transfer spikes in Pied Piper’s network. Erlich most notably goes all in with Keenan as a way of trying to protect himself, signing a lucrative deal that also leads to him quitting Bream-Hall. Erlich leaving Bream-Hall already was the only small flaw in the episode, since T.J. Miller leaving the series seemed to cut this story arc off at the knees before it even got off the ground, but ultimately, that’s a pretty minor nitpick.

This episode also proved to be a smart opportunity to check in with Hooli again however, after they’ve largely sat out most of Silicon Valley’s current season. Gavin Belson is still absent from the series, beyond an amusing cameo in some footage of his past, but Jack is nonetheless settling in as the new Hooli head, or at least trying to. It turns out that Jack’s big Hooli box has to be delayed by two whole quarters, and this leaves Jack with absolutely nothing to present at Hooli-Con, the company’s big tech expo that’s coming up in just a couple of weeks. This seems to set the stage for a Season Four climax for Silicon Valley, and that starts nicely coming together towards the end of the episode.

There were also some amusing gags as the leads start falling into the so-called, “Keenan Vortex”, which occurs when Keenan is so positive and confident that people can’t help but go along with what he wants. Dinesh and Gilfoyle getting talked into wearing the same pyjamas, or Richard vomiting profusely almost immediately upon trying Keenan’s apparently excellent VR demo, all helped to inject some solid laughs into what was otherwise an episode that was played a bit more straight than usual. The show feels like it’s moving toward the climactic event to cap off Season Four over the remaining two episodes, like I said, and that once again means putting Pied Piper into a desperate position, while Hooli once again seems to be a dangerous obstacle.

The way that the show further drew on its most classic of conflicts was actually pretty unexpected too, as Monica cautions Richard against signing with Keenan, even after Richard appears to secure an amazing deal with him. Monica claims that Keenan’s VR demo won’t hold water in the mobile space, where VR is at its strongest, and Richard then has to struggle with having to turn down a $25 million deal. Surprisingly though, the show plays against expectation here, and actually gives Richard an inadvertent win, when the guys greet him by saying that Keenan pulled out and signed with Hooli, which Richard hilariously fails to act angry about, in probably the episode’s funniest gag.

This was a great curveball, since it placed the classic Pied Piper vs. Hooli battle in a whole new light, as Richard seems to be fully aware that Hooli is about to back a dud, while Jack nonetheless grabs on to whatever life preserver he has left for Hooli-Con. For once, fate seems to smile on Richard without aggressively screwing him over first, and that was an interesting switch. Instead, it was Erlich that ended up getting screwed over, as he’s cut out of his job with Keenan, after also quitting his job with Bream-Hall. This leads to Erlich dramatically burning down his straw hut that he got earlier in the season, which is left to sort of hang as the episode winds down. We do nonetheless get a new heading for Richard’s technology though, as he suggests making his technology more than theoretical, by attending Hooli-Con undercover to exploit the smartphones of the attendees. Looks like we have our climax for the season in place.

“The Keenan Vortex” nicely positioned Silicon Valley to start wrapping up its fourth season, while also doing a solid job of preparing Erlich for his exit by hitting him with a professional blow that he seemingly can’t recover from, even if that came at the expense of another frustrating story arc being killed before it went anywhere. Still, it was great to finally have Jack Barker and Hooli become issues for Pied Piper again, even though the tables have been subtly flipped, so that Richard gets to be in the power position, while Jack seemingly doesn’t know how close he is to getting Hooli in serious trouble. Hooli-Con even seems to intentionally call back to Techcrunch Disrupt from way back during the Season One climax, especially with Dan Melcher now being back in the picture. Dan being another means of writing Erlich out of the show would also be a fitting twist, though I hope the door is still left open for guest appearances from T.J. Miller down the road. All in all though, even if the laughs were a little downplayed this week, it looks like we have an exciting season climax to look forward to over the next two weeks, as Richard’s new internet is made or broken by how things pan out at Hooli-Con.

Silicon Valley delivered another standout episode this week, as Richard tries to resist the charisma of Keenan Feldspar, while Jack is forced to go to desperate measures for Hooli.
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Keenan's amusing effects on the Pied Piper crew
Hooli finally coming back into the picture in a big way
Richard's surprising win after losing the deal
Erlich's job at Bream-Hall is too short-lived