Jun 27, 2016 · 3 minutes

In theory, HBO’s Silicon Valley should have the same challenge as a high school drama like Saved by the Bell, 90210, or The OC.

After four years or less-- depending when it starts-- the kids all graduate. What then?

Only startups move even faster. They burn through capital, they raise more money and with it the stakes, tell sell out or they continue to grow. It’s typically binary.

Sure there are zombie companies that seem to stay in business forever, making enough money to survive but not growing rapidly enough to get purchased. But typically that’s after gobbling up several rounds of capital and several years in business selling… something.

Death or growth. One or the other. That’s the game.

Except in HBO’s Silicon Valley, which seems determined to end every five or six episodes right back where the company started: A handful of guys, renewed in the knowledge they can build what they want their way, sitting in Erlich’s living room.

Several seasons in, Pied Piper finds itself at the end of episode 10 right back where it started: Heavily owned by Erlich, the staff comprised of nothing more than the title characters, and Richard in no way having become a better leader. If anything, he’s worse. In true this show fashion: Hapless inexplicably rich Bighead was the one who saved the day.

The episode was theoretically about “doing the right thing.” It opened with Gavin Belson firing his assistant for lecturing him on killing endangered animals to make a point at board meetings. It then segued into Richard deciding whether or not to take a termsheet that he knew was based on fraudulent numbers.

He could have not gone to the meeting. He could have just not signed it. Instead he blurted out the fraud at the meeting. At least the last time he did something this stupid he didn’t realize he was talking to a blogger. This time he was well aware he was at a venture firm. That’s right: Somehow he’s gotten worse as a CEO. Which is impressive.

Richard has wasted money, shipped a flawed product that wouldn’t scale, and lied and mislead and failed to have a frank conversation with anyone on his board along the way. He shouldn’t have had a happy ending. He didn’t deserve one.

Is anyone still rooting for him?

Enter Bighead. The only guy who ever seems to just do the right thing. Bighead-- of course-- bails him out, and buys Dinesh’s surprisingly surging chat app in the process. And so it all starts again.

I wrote before that Bighead would make a better CEO than Richard. At least now he’s the majority shareholder.

This season was supposed to be about Pied Piper actually shipping a product and becoming a real company. And yet so many episodes in, we’re back at the beginning...for the second time this season! The only thing slightly rewarding is that Richard lost his shares in the process.

But come on. We know they’ll carve out new shares for him. And we’ll start once again on the process of Pied Piper growing from a handful of guys and a basic product in Erlich’s living room to… hijinks, hijinks, hijinks…. And then a handful of guys and a basic product in Erlich’s living room.

My mounting annoyance with Richard and growing predictability of the show aside, this episode was worth watching for one main reason: An astounding opening five minutes where Erlich name checks nearly every VC in the Valley while making a masterbation joke.

The best and worst of Silicon Valley in a nutshell. Both the show and the place.