Tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley continues the series’ streak of brilliant episodes, but this one may have come with an as-yet-unexpected twist that warrants explanation because if it means what I think it means, it completely upends the ending we think we saw when Richard dropped his folder and Stephen Tobolowsky’s Jack Barker retrieved the contents and angrily called Richard into his office.
Let’s back up for a moment. The episode involved an attempted ruse that Richard and Co., were planning in order to ensure that their compression engine was not turned into a “box” for enterprise use. Richard, Gilfoyle, Dinesh and Jared conspired to come up with a plan whereby they would continue building their compression engine for platform use while working parallel to convince Jack Barker that they were actually building the box that he wanted the entire time. Basically, they would have to work as a “secret company within the company.” In order to pull it off, Richard would have to generate fake status reports, fake deliverables, etc., to convince Jack Barker they were still working on the box, and they spent countless hours doing so only to have Richard, in the end, drop his folder with all of his plans inside.
The ruse is up, right?
The episode’s title is “Meinertzhagen’s Haversack,” a term that Jared had to explain during the course of setting up the ruse. “It’s a principal of military deception,” he explained. “Essentially, it means you have to continue to act the part. As far as anyone knows, we’re still building a box that we hate, so we need to act like it.”
That’s not exactly right.
Without getting too deep into the specifics, Meinertzhagen’s Haversack is actually a reference to the Haversack Ruse, employed by British Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen during World War I. In 1917, the British were having a difficult time defeating Turkey and taking Gaza. They’d unsuccessfully mounted two attacks without success. However, before the third attempt, Colonel Meinertzhagen doctored a bunch of fake war plans, put them in his bag, tricked a few Turkish soldiers to chase him on horseback, and during the course of the chase, Meinertzhagen dropped the bag. He’d also gotten horse blood on the bag, to make it seem as though he were injured being chased, and he left a big wad of money inside, to make it seem as though it was a bag he really didn’t want to lose.
The Turkish soldiers found the bag — or haversack — and were so convinced that the documents inside were authentic that they sent them up the chain to Turkish intelligence. Turkish military planners then game planned their war strategy accordingly. They were expecting to be attacked from one side, when in fact they were attacked from another. The ploy worked, and the British took Gaza.
What does this have to do with the “twist” at the end of tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley? Well, the Haversack Ruse involved dropping a bag with fake plans inside and letting the enemy find it. At the end of the episode, Richard dropped his folder, and the enemy found the documents.
But what if that’s what Richard wanted Jack to find the entire time?
In other words, dropping the bag and having Jack find it was all part of the ruse. In the moment, when Dinish, Jared, and Gilfoyle were expressing anger at Richard for dropping the plans, they were all playing the part. They were, metaphorically speaking, wiping blood on the bag and leaving a big wad of money inside to convince Jack that the plans inside were real. He didn’t trip on the hose by accident — he actually glanced at the hose a second before he turned, looked at nothing in particular, said “What the fuck?” and tripped over it.
Jack Barker just got Meinertzhagen’s Haversacked!
Either that, or alternatively (and hilariously), Jared completely misunderstood what Meinertzhagen’s Haversack actually means and ironically Richard dropped the plans into enemy hands just at the real Meinertzhagen had in 1917, which is to say: It was the first step in a brilliant plan within a plan within a plan, or a really, really clever joke.