Two characters from Mike Judge’s hit HBO comedy visit a Buddhist monastery on a trip that’s less about enlightenment, more about entitlement. What happens next? Rod Meade Sperry needs to know. Spoilers and cuss-words ahead.
I had the DVR on pause, queued up, as my partner came into the room. “Watch this,” I told her, and pressed play on the closing scene of last night’s Silicon Valley. Suddenly “we” were outside what seemed to be a monastery in Tibet. Then, we were inside, as tech genius Gavin Belson sat in front of a Buddha on its altar. Finally, Ehrlich Bachmann, let in by a monk who announces the new arrival as a “very loud man,” walked into to the solemn scene.
Bachmann, laying eyes on Belson’s freshly shaved head: “Whoa! Haircut!”
Belson, to the room, about his much-hairier visitor: “Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Just like you said it would be,” said my partner, sounding almost genuinely impressed. I had, in fact, declared to her — back a few episodes when Belson announced that he was taking off for some soul-searching — that we’d see him in a monastery in the Himalayas. “How did you know?”
Steve Jobs haunts “Silicon Valley” as a sort of saint, to be emulated — from the wearing of black turtlenecks to pitch meetings to, now, the embracing of spirituality in general and Buddhism in particular.
While I did once predict that Mad Men would end with Don Draper having some kind of enlightenment experience — which came true, at least sort of — my Quality TV Prognostication Skills end there. The fact is that Silicon Valley almost had to send Belson to the Himalayas. (That Bachmann would follow is just pure gravy, making for a perfect 2017 Odd Coupling: Can two grown tech-industry entrepreneurs share a Buddhist monastery without driving each other crazy?)
Silicon Valley, being a creation of Mike Judge (Idiocracy, King of the Hill, Office Space, Beavis & Butthead, and on and on), is not just one of the funniest shows on TV, but one of the wryest and slyest. Judge and his team have created a version of “The Valley” that’s only one notch weirder than reality. The show rings true. So it’s natural that Belson — beautifully played by Matt Ross as a sort of a self-obsessed, worst-case-scenario version of Steve Jobs — would go on a pseudo-spiritual journey.
And it’s also natural that Bachmann would follow. Bachmann — played by fireball comedian T.J. Miller (who once played a Buddhist on the quite underrated The Goodwin Games) — is crafty and loud and can be of full of himself, but he’s no Belson.
Not that he wouldn’t like to be. Bachman is so in love with Daddies of Tech like Belson and Jobs that he can’t see their faults. Jobs, in fact, haunts the whole show as a sort of saint, to be emulated — from the wearing of black turtlenecks to pitch meetings to, now, the embracing of spirituality in general and Buddhism in particular, which Jobs did, famously traveling to India as a seeker and studying Zen with Kobun Chino.
But, not before, and not after, Jobs did those things was he by any account saintlier than the rest of us. So for Belson and Bachmann — who are less saintly, probably, than the rest of us — to be following in his Jobs’s bare footsteps is all about entitlement, not enlightenment. (You’ve got to love how easily these two got into Tibet, like that was N.B.D.) This is a show, after all, in which the only “spirituality” we’d seen ‘til last night was embodied in Denpok, Gavin Belson’s sycophantic and much-abused “spiritual advisor,” whose influence leads to Belson making pronouncements like “I don’t wanna live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place — better than we do.”
It’s sad that this may be the last we see of Miller / Bachmann. (He’ll probably return for next week’s season finale, but that will be it.) He’s truly a force of nature. Either way, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Yet, I’ll have to — as I’ll be decidedly away from HBO for the next two weeks. (Not, of course, in Tibet.) If only my Quality TV Prognostication Skills were real.