Engineers and TV writers suffer from a bad case of convergent evolution. There are the phenotypical signs, the wrinkled oxford shirts and low-slung messenger bags, as well the apparently genetic ones, the aversion to authority and the concerns about selling out. To grant this premise is to acknowledge that, as Silicon Valley becomes a show about monetizing an idea — Richard Hendricks’ middle-out compression algorithm — it can’t help but also become a show about showrunner Mike Judge’s relationship with the HBO brass. No wonder the latest episode, Two in the Box,” seems borderline reflective, an unusual turn for a show that might otherwise hang its hat on the specificity of its racial humor. As Richard freaks out about Pied Piper becoming business facing, new CEO “Action” Jack Barker gives him the talk, the one about commerce. This very appropriately (bear with me) happens as a white stallion enters a waiting mare violently and repeatedly.

The explicit horse sex is a weird joke that could be easily dismissed as the product of writers’ justifiable anxiety over Silicon Valley’s ever-increasing dependency on plot. But it’s not just a gag. It’s actually a trenchant critique of writers and engineers, the white collar laborers too thin skinned for check cutting.

Earlier in the episode, Hendricks confronts Barker about his sales-first growth strategy, remarking that the engineering team may not cotton to the idea of a slight pivot towards enterprise software.

Richard Hendricks: I will talk to my guys, but they’re not going to be happy about it.

Jack Barker: No, of course not, they’re engineers.

This is not the zingiest of zings. More than anything else, it’s reminiscent of that other great executive named Jack, 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy, who’s disdain for creative types more or less fueled five seasons of stellar tv (and two seasons of totally fine tv). The perspective shared by Barker and Donaghy is best summed up by that oldest of business adages: “Fuck ‘em.” But if we unpack that sentiment a bit, we arrive at the conclusion that the suits (or in the case of Jack Barker, executive sweater types) don’t like the creatives because the creatives are too enamored with ideas to confront the reality of business. People who refuse to look directly at money and consider how to get more of it, this line of argument goes, shouldn’t run shit.

Hence the horse. What’s a more potent metaphor for production than bestial sex?

Hendricks presumably knows that horses have sex to make other horses, but he refuses to watch. Jack Barker wants to watch. The act of production does not frighten or, more critically, embarrass him. He’s paid for semen and he wants to make damn sure it winds up in the right spot. Is that insane? It’s pretty gross, but it’s actually eminently reasonable. The guy cares about his horse so he takes an interest in everything going into her and out of her in the same way he takes an interest in the money flowing into and out of Pied Piper. Richard Hendricks is more of a “pet the horse and move on” type of guy. He likes the idea of horses.

If Mike Judge is the Richard Hendricks of the Silicon Valley writers room, it’s fair to wonder what sort of “monetization” strategy he’s confronting at HBO. And there’s the hint of an answer in “Two in the Box” when Barker let’s slip that “we’re in a bubble right now” — art imitates life imitates the Financial Times. Why is this significant? Well, HBO has a very particularly love of impending crises. The best example of this is clearly the mantra-esque repetition of “winter is coming” on Game of Thrones. Tension is good for keeping viewer numbers healthy. A fictional downturn, imposed by executives or not, is a strategic narrative move somewhat out of line with the nihilistic prosperity that has always been the background to Silicon Valley machinations.

Is Mike Judge being forced to compromise art for commerce? If so, it’s unlikely he’ll take umbrage like Richard Hendricks. After all, he’s willing to put a horse dick on television.