This episode starts from where the previous episode left. The Pied Piper team return triumphantly from their meeting with Intersite. Things are looking up for Pied Piper. They’re bound for success this time!
The team’s emotional high is quickly extinguished when they see Russ Hanneman’s car (the one with the doors that open out that he reluctantly drives because he lost his third comma) in the driveway. Richard clearly expects that Russ is going to be an investor completely angry with fact that Richard broke the deal that was set up. Of course, the opposite is true and he breaks out a bottle of tequila to celebrate the expected victory. We see him act like the guy that we’ve known since his introduction: oblivious to reason and common sense. His reasoning for refusing to give Pied Piper the money they needed was like a frat boy taking credit for his best friend getting a passing grade because the pot they smoked the night before helped clear his mind for new information.
It seems that despite Pied Piper being pre-occupied with Endframe, this episode inserts scenes that make a point to show that Hooli has not been forgotten. After so much effort promoting Nucleus and building a legal case against Pied Piper, we see Gavin pull back a bit and try to brace for the pending failure of their product. Failing that, he tries to place the former head of the XYZ project in the position to take “credit” or blame for the fate of Nucleus. This hope is quickly squashed when the new head of the Nucleus throws in the towel after seeing the status of the project. Gavin releases his frustration by hammering away during a “Hooli Habitat” project. This made me see him as a cartoon villain screaming “Argh! Foiled again!” by situation itself. He may have been a sort of bad guy for most of the series, but I think we’re starting to see a bit of shift in how he’s presented. Much like Pied Piper, Gavin Belson’s greatest enemy seems to be himself as he tries to do some damage control.
As much as I’m disappointed to see Elrich not being utilized much in the main story arc this season, especially after T.J. Miller accepted a Best Supporting Actor Award at the Critics’ Choice Awards recently, his pursuit in pitching Jian Yang’s app was entertaining. His scene with Monica was everything you could expect. Elrich’s comments pass through her because she has to deal with him as part of her job. They play off each other very well. It was a nice change of pace to see Jian Yang have a more prominent role than in the past. We barely know much about this character so it was interesting to see him do something other than stand in the background with the occasional line of broken English. He actually had more scene time and lines than Jared this episode, whose only lines seemed to be “Coming” and “Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!”
Speaking of Jared, it struck me as odd that he wasn’t the character that said the “scrumptious” line, considering the awkward conversations he had with Carla in the past. Instead, that was left up to Richard. Richard, as usual, was his own worst enemy in this episode. He’s a character that has you switching between rooting him on in situations that obviously overwhelm him to thinking “who left this guy in charge?” His face-to-face meetings led to many mistakes and ultimately fed his paranoia much like how a character who tries to prevent a prophecy in fiction unintentionally assists in fulfilling that same prophecy.
The namesake of this episode was a bit odd. The “black hat” in the title was obviously referring to stealing information to benefit Pied Piper. There was little that could be considered a “white hat” move other than perhaps Richard’s meetings with Seth, but those decisions seemed meant more to make Richard feel better than do anyone else any real good. A highlight of this episode was seeing Richard reach a breaking point with Russ. It was bound to happen over the course of the season, but everything Richard went through in this episode built him up to take out his frustrations on someone.
At this point last season, Pied Piper started to see a small glimmer of hope. This season so far, they stand to lose more than when their journey just got started. Coming up on Episode Nine already!