Let’s Talk ‘Free Solo’ And The Editorial Spin Put on Alex Honnold and Sanni McCandless’ Relationship

“Why do you want to do this? It’s a Totally. Crazy. Goal.” — Sanni McCandless

Today I saw Free Solo for the umpteenth time. I use the word “umpteenth,” because the actual number is somewhat embarrassing. I have seen this film many, many, times, so many times it may be the hallmark of a mild addiction.

I’m not sure what it is that grabs me so much about this movie, except it seems to be something a bit different every time. It’s the extraordinary landscapes (yes, it’s not quite as affecting on a small screen, say on a laptop, than it is in the movie theatre), the incredible score, the story, Honnold’s personality, and the way it moves slowly, but unwaveringly, from a fun little romp about a rock climber living in a van to a treatise about death, and how our passions affect those around us.

It’s that latter point that is, perhaps, the filmmaker’s justification for making Alex Honnold’s girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, such a key part of the narrative. And in so doing, ends up painting a somewhat slanted portrait of a woman who, we can assume, in real life, was just trying her best to have a relationship with this guy obsessed with a death-defying feat with no clear payoff.

There’s no way any girlfriend of Alex Honnold, in this context, in this highly edited film of events that took place over a year or more, could come off looking good. If she was fully supportive of his dedication to climbing, she would come across as dim-witted and lacking backbone. If she was supportive but still expressed concerns, as she does in the movie, she would come across as a hinderance to his ability to “achieve his highest potential,” or, as Honnold says in the film — describing the time he wanted to break up with her — as “bad for his climbing.”

Today, when I left the theatre (after having seen Free Solo for the umpteenth time), I heard two men talking behind me. “I just wanted him to break up with her! Just break up with her!” Other things I’ve heard coming out of the theatre: “He reminds me of… with that morose outlook on life… I’m glad he found a nice girlfriend.” Or, “I don’t think his girlfriend gets it.” Once, a man said, “that guy is crazy!”

(Crazy, well, crazy is a matter of context and perception. There’s one thing for sure — he looks beautiful climbing El Capitan. El Cap looks beautiful supporting that climber in the red shirt. It’s stunning, visceral, and inspiring.)

My own response, the first time, was that Sanni was trying to make Alex into something that he wasn’t. That he had been very blunt with her, and he’d never lied to her. But if she wanted to stick around, well, that was her choice. My feeling was that she would just keep banging her head against a wall, because — as the film chose to spin it — she was trying to get him to communicate with her in a way that he wasn’t prepared to do, and was trying to get him to make life choices that he was not prepared to make.

It was the second or third screening before I found a lot more compassion for Sanni, the character, and by then I was really more interested in the climbing part of Free Solo than the relationship.

Let’s Remember, Even Documentaries Are Edited to Form a Narrative

But it also took a couple of viewings to become fully cognizant of the editing at play, especially when it came to Alex and Sanni’s relationship. There’s one key example that makes Sanni look particularly bad, (or Alex particularly bad, depending on your perspective) but brilliantly moves ahead the story of Free Solo. In other words, it may not be chronologically truthful, but it reveals something meaningful about Alex’s personality in this context, and it makes the struggle in their relationship glaringly obvious.

When Alex decides to make the first free solo attempt of El Capitan, he declines to tell Sanni. He’s cagey about who he’s climbing with the next day, until she finally asks, as they are seated in the front of his van, “Are you thinking of soloing it tomorrow? Is that why you’re not telling me who you’re climbing with?”

“I’m not not telling you, but yeah.”

“Whoa, Alex.”

“Whoa.”

Then, the scene cuts away, and comes back. The two are seated in the same positions in the van, except now Sanni is saying she would like him to “take her into the equation” when he decides to go soloing. Eventually he says he feels “no obligation” to maximize his lifespan for her.

At first, you’re left with the impression that she sprung this conversation on him the night before he was about to attempt an extremely dangerous feat which required extreme mental preparation.

But if you are paying attention, you notice they are wearing different clothes. It’s not the same day. The conversation may have taken place days, weeks, even months before. But in that quick moment, a casual moviegoer could be left with the impression that she chose to indulge her own insecurities about the relationship at risk of getting in his head and damaging his ability to fully prepare for the climb. It seems selfish.

It’s a great scene, for a movie. For real people engaged in a relationship off screen, it’s unfair. For both of them. Because of course, during the press tour for Free Solo Honnold has had to defend his seemingly unkind response to McCandless in that moment. As if it’s any of our business, which it is not.

In this interview from September 2018, Honnold says that he was in that conversation weighing his life dream of soloing El Capitan against a “new” relationship, and maybe now the balance would be a bit different.

(In another interview, I believe he said the “new” relationship was “just” a year old, which, to me, does not qualify as “new,” but that goes to the point that it’s not for me, or any moviegoer, or anyone else, to say.)

No One Else’s Relationship is For Us to Judge

It’s easy to forget, when you’re watching a movie, that no one of us really have any right to say anything about anyone else’s relationship. That goes for us, in real life, as well. Because… well, it’s none of our business. With few exceptions, like if either partner is unsafe in the relationship, you just really have to stay out of it. It’s none of our damn business.

Because no one — I repeat, no one — lands into a perfect relationship and stays there. It just doesn’t happen. The whole point in life is to learn through situations and circumstances that are imperfect. That includes two good people being romantically involved, when they don’t quite communicate the same way or have the same interests or goals in life. Finding common ground — or finding your own limits and dealbreakers — is the very point of human engagement. And as it’s being worked out, it is no one else’s business, at all.

But when you are watching a movie, it’s easy to make judgments. The movie seems to invite it. The movie asks us to assume that Sanni is no fan of the ambitious part of Honnold that wants a continuously bigger, better climb. If that’s even true about Alex. Who knows. But it’s why the movie ends on a big laugh: we’re supposed to smile at that look on Sanni’s face, when really, we have no idea what she was actually thinking in that last scene.

The Movie Is About Alex Honnold, Not Sanni McCandless, So She Doesn’t Get to Tell Her Own Story

It is easy to leave Free Solo thinking that Sanni and Alex are wrong for each other. But it is easy to forget that the film centres around Honnold, and how everyone else fits into his life. There’s no attention paid to McCandless, which makes sense, but also means she’s at a serious disadvantage when it comes to analyzing their relationship objectively. We know about Honnold and his family background, but nothing about her and why she feels so compelled to fight for this relationship in the first place.

It’s easy to dismiss Sanni McCandless as a woman who saw Alex Honnold at a bookstore event, thought he was cute, and became his starry-eyed companion. Because that’s all Free Solo tells us about her. But it turns out she used to work at a startup dedicated to energy efficiency and runs a personal coaching business for outdoor-minded people. So, it’s not like Sanni and Alex don’t have anything in common, and the fact that their relationship has lasted this long might not be a fluke.

So, let’s leave her alone, shall we? Free Solo is an extraordinary, beautiful film, which makes me feel inspired and happy. But every aspect of it is angled. Even the 3 hours and 56 minutes of his El Capitan free solo ascent is edited down to approximately 15 minutes. So it probably wasn’t all beautiful, his movements probably weren’t all so elegant, and he may have made some unpleasant grunting sounds that were picked up by that mic that was hidden in his chalk bag. As for Alex and Sanni, since they are still together, I wish them nothing but happiness.

Advertisements

What is ‘Unconscionable’ in a ‘Shark Tank’ Deal?

makeup junkie bags facebook

Tonight on Shark Tank, the first entrepreneur, Meredith Jurica of Makeup Junkie Bags, didn’t need a deal. But she was a bit of an unusual case. She didn’t seem to be on the show just for the promotion. She sincerely wanted a shark partner, even after more than half the panel was out — refusing to dilute her ownership in the company for which she had a knack and a passion.

(It feels demeaning to use the word “knack,” but I can’t think of a more appropriate term. Jurica’s business felt right. It fit her. She seemed to have an intuitive sense of what she was doing. Nothing felt forced, and the numbers seemed to be working in her favor.)

As the pitch unfolded, it brought up a series of questions. Most prominently, should a shark make a deal with an entrepreneur, when that entrepreneur is probably better served by not taking on a shark partner (and the shark knows it)? Jurica was likely on the cusp of a slow build, and could have figured out how to up her manufacturing without a shark’s help. Do the sharks have a responsibility to tell her that, especially when they have something to gain (at her expense) by agreeing to invest on terms that take advantage of her different vision of the future?

Of course, Jurica may have wanted a shark for other, unstated, reasons. She had a small, in-house manufacturing operation that allowed her to perform quality control. The company was debt-free, and profitable. But a business on solid ground does not mean that an entrepreneur does not want to take the business in a new direction, one that they envision may lead to greater profit, less personal sacrifice, or just a different day-to-day routine than they currently have.

That’s to say Shark Tank viewers don’t know why Jurica applied to be on the show (or agreed to be recruited). It was a bit surprising that she seemed set on making a deal that included an equity stake. That’s a detail Sara Blakely honed in on, reminding everyone that she still owns 100 percent of Spanx. But Jurica said she wanted someone who was invested in the company’s success. She didn’t appear to want a shark to be her banker, but rather, to provide her with some insight and advice that maybe she couldn’t get from Google. (Entertainingly, during her pitch, she described turning to the search engine to look up what a potential buyer was asking her about before agreeing to supply product).

In many ways it’s a balance: you can come on to Shark Tank and demonstrate that your company is doing so well it doesn’t need an investment; but then you’re faced with explaining why you want to sacrifice equity in your company in exchange for mere money.

That’s the situation Jurica was in. And it lead to an interesting series of on-camera negotiations, ultimately between Kevin O’Leary, Sara Blakely, and Lori Greiner — who ended up getting the deal.

Things got interesting when Barbara Corcoran weighed in. Corcoran spoke in response to Jurica saying she wanted to increase brand awareness, but PR people wanted to charge her $5,000 a month, which she could not afford. Corcoran said not having money was not a liability — that when she had started her own company, lack of cash made her watch every penny.

Then she went out, using what I know as a legal term, although she may not have meant it in a legal sense: “I would be unconscionable going in with you because I don’t think you need anybody.”

This made my ears perk up even more at what was already a compelling pitch. Frequently on Shark Tank you wonder if the entrepreneur is taken advantage of, their vulnerability exploited. Presumably that’s one reason why due diligence follows any on-air dealmaking.

(In real-life venture capital, due diligence happens before the negotiations and companies only pitch to one investor at a time).

An enforceable contract has to meet many legal elements. That’s because the law is supposed to be fair (although, sometimes, I would argue, that fairness is situation-specific and not about social justice). Here’s one definition of what it means for a contract to be “unconscionable”:

“An unconscionable contract is one that is so one-sided that it is unfair to one party and therefore unenforceable under law. It is a type of contract that leaves one party with no real, meaningful choice, usually due to major differences in bargaining power between the parties.”

It’s easy to read definitions of legal terms and think that a particular situation meets it — but perceptions vary, and legislation and legal precedent decide how decision-makers apply these doctrines. That’s why lawyers and judges have jobs.

But it leads to a question: even with due diligence, can a Shark Tank deal be unconscionable? I have a law degree, but I’ve never practiced — so I will posit what I’ll call a layperson’s assumption that it’s a very high bar to meet to void a contract, in whole or in part. So in all likelihood, armchair analysts of the program might say some deals — especially in the early years — were exploitative, unfair, or unwise on the part of the entrepreneur. That doesn’t mean a deal wouldn’t be enforced. But perhaps the parties wouldn’t make the same deal a second time.

Here’s my impression of Meredith Jurica. First: awesome. I don’t even wear makeup, and I want to buy her bags. Second: smart. Third: gutsy. Fourth: empowered. Overall, I liked her a lot. And her stated rationale for taking the deal with Lori, instead of Sara — she wanted more hands-on attention from a shark, and thought Lori was more likely to provide it because she had an equity stake, which Sara would not — was reasoned and logical. But it’s interesting to note that Sara only came back in on the deal to give Meredith an “out,” by which she could get a deal without having to give up equity.

While a Shark Tank deal may not reach the level of unconscionability, the on-air negotiation with Makeup Junkie Bags perhaps demonstrated something else: the entrepreneur is typically at a severe disadvantage, because the sharks have decades of experience, and have negotiated hundreds of these deals. The entrepreneur is likely new to business, and it’s probably their first negotiation with a potential investor. On a television set. In front of cameras. Where there’s an added pressure to — knowing the pitch will be broadcast — promote the product as much as impress the sharks.

Which says only that, perhaps at the end of the day, it’s a show — with real-life consequences for the parties to the deals that are eventually signed. And I secretly hope Jurica backed out of that deal with Lori.

‘Free Solo’ Shows Alex Honnold’s Extreme Difference

Yosemite

There’s a scene in Free Solo, the documentary about Alex Honnold’s phenomenal feat of scaling El Capitan without the aid of climbing ropes, where the audience gets a telling glimpse of his difference.

It is a scene that seems to have nothing to do with climbing. Honnold and his girlfriend have just bought a new home in Las Vegas. It’s a new kind of permanence for Honnold, who’s been living out of his van for a decade, spending much — if not all — of his time climbing.

In the new home, Honnold calmly tries to figure out how to make coffee. The shot is intercut with a sequence where he uses a screwdriver to patiently unscrew the freezer door from the top half of the fridge. Apparently having heated something on the stove, he proceeds to consume it directly from the pot, without a hint of hesitation or self-consciousness. 

It leaves the impression not that he didn’t bother transfering the dish to a plate or bowl, but that the extra step hadn’t even occured to him. 

There are many ways to read this; if it were a fictional character study, it might signal someone who’s largely dropped out of society, unburdened by the accepted norms of how to handle day-to-day tasks. In the context of Honnold, it says something striking about his physicality, and perhaps his perception of the world. There’s extraordinary attention to dexterity, functionality, and the way matter moves in space.

(Of course, this is Honnold in the context of a documentary, which is a step removed from how he may actually perceive the world as a real-life human being). 

It’s the kind of precise analysis you would have to have if you were a climber whose very life depended on a correct judgment call of where to place your body on a sheer face of rock that offered little to no footholds upon which to climb. El Capitan, when it was created out of the earth, did not make it convenient for creatures of any species to traverse its edges. 

Perhaps I see it as a message about physicality because I’ve never been someone with a talent for dexterity, or for moving with ease and grace through space. I have mild scoliosis, and a childhood knee injury means I sometimes walk with a limp. Watching Free Solo led me to recall, almost reflexively, the number of times I’ve done a slight stumble just walking down the street — with exactly zero gradient. Scaling a rock face is simply out of my range of experience. 

Honnold said in at least one interview he was never a gifted climber. There were those much stronger than he when he was younger, but he just kept doing it and got better. But it’s obvious in the film he has some structural benefits; the bones on his feet, the lanky skeleton. Of course, there’s the vegetarian diet, the constant movement that add to the athleticism. But climbing seems to fit him, and fit his body. 

In one scene, he gets MRI results from researchers studying the amygdala part of the brain. He was analyzed, it appears, by his responses to a series of images. His amygdala showed far less — if any — activity compared to the average person. So what others would normally find stimulating, to him, had no or little effect.

This is what McGill University has to say about the amygdala:

“[T]he amygdala seems to modulate all of our reactions to events that are very important for our survival. Events that warn us of imminent danger are therefore very important stimuli for the amygdala, but so are events that signal the presence of food, sexual partners, rivals, children in distress, and so on.”

It is easy to assume researchers only know so much about the brain, and only so much about how it may work in the case of a professional free solo climber. Alex Honnold has said repeatedly he was afraid of the daunting task of El Capitan. He did not attempt the feat without significant preparation. Much of Free Solo is taken up with his diligent recording of each part of the rock face, and the choreographed movements across challenging sections.

In a TED talk in the Spring of 2018, he discussed the need for his movements to be mechanical. It was crucial that he be very well-rehearsed before doing the climb without ropes. He had already scaled El Capitan more than 50 times, by his own account, before doing so without equipment.

To say he had little activity in the amygdala that one day in the MRI room is not to say he is reckless; he may in fact be just the opposite.

That is if you can put aside the significant risk of the task itself, which spells certain death in the event of an unpredicted move or condition. It’s an unglamorous sport, free solo climbing. You have to perceive the world differently in order to try it. But for some, maybe they are encouraged on their path by the ability to successfully move through space.  

That Odd Acne Ad In Kevin O’Leary’s Podcast Is Reason Enough to Listen

Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary and Barbara Corcoran

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a Kevin O’Leary fan. At one time or another, I’ll call him my favourite shark (although that title tends to rotate equally between five of the core six). I’ll put up with his blowhardedness, because I think much of it is a rouse, and his attention-seeking, because as long as he seeks attention, I’ve got content I enjoy consuming — whether that’s a new episode of Shark Tank or, very recently, the Mr. Wonderful podcast

But that doesn’t excuse the quite strange, and giggle-inducing, product placement in Episode 2, “I love to go to bed richer than when I woke up (with Barbara Corcoran).” There’s the obvious and properly identified ad at the beginning for the podcast’s sponsor, a clothing company, and then there’s this odd segment where, seemingly out of nowhere, Kevin and Barbara are talking about acne. 

(Part of O’Leary’s apparent podcast schtick is talking about a variety of issues. In Episode 1, he and his former CBC co-host Amanda Lang were debating whether kids should have nannies, and whether a liberal arts degree had any worth. Note to Mr. Wonderful: yes, it does).

But O’Leary telling a “caller” that there was medication to fight acne that takes about a year to do the job and that he should talk to his doctor about it — and Corcoran jumping in to say that a specific acne medication would help — was just, well, weird.

It was a weird spot in an otherwise enjoyable podcast. Corcoran tells a great story about suing Donald Trump — after some prodding from O’Leary, to whom she said more than once she didn’t want to talk about her dealings with Trump, lest the conversation drift into politics — saying yes, he owed her money, but he was going through a tough period and that happens in business. She was lucky to be having a good year, and therefore could afford the lawyer’s fees to actually sue. Then she tells this nice little tidbit about sending him flowers after she received each monthly payment, flowers that Trump promptly and consistently sent back.

(Barbara Corcoran’s own podcast, by the way, has useful tips like not overusing exclamation points in emails, but that’s the only episode I’ve listened to so far.)

I only ended up listening to that episode of Mr. Wonderful’s podcast because I went to iTunes, looking for a different podcast: Ram Dass. That, of course, has 137 episodes because — as far as I can tell, starting from the beginning — it’s not a podcast in the modern sense. Its first few chapters are lectures, more than 50 years old now, but still with a deep resonance for those of us “inclined that way,” — whatever way that is — which makes it a podcast with purpose. A podcast with a message, compared to just a new way to monetize content. I had the experience more than once of streaming the old lectures through Ram Dass’ Love, Serve, Remember Foundation and falling into peaceful sleep, with pleasant Ram Dass-infused dreams, and wanted to download the library. Call me crazy, but I hope I don’t have O’Leary and Corcoran-infused dreams, where the two are talking about acne medication. 

Of course, the Ram Dass podcast has a sponsor too, a place in California called 1440. But Ram Dass doesn’t stop mid-lecture in 1967 to say, “India: when psychedelics fail to give you enlightenment, head east to find a guru.” Or, “Let’s take a coffee break. You know who makes the best coffee to help you achieve enlightenment? Sanka.”

View this post on Instagram

Once you have drunk from the water of unconditional love, no other well can satisfy your thirst. The pangs of separation may become so intense that seeking the affection of the Beloved becomes an obsession. When we were with Maharaji, we were intoxicated with his form, the colors of his blanket, the buttery softness of his skin, his tapering, almost simian fingers, the long eyelashes that so often hid his eyes, the red toenail on his big toe. As with any lover we, too, became fascinated and enamored of every detail, although these cues triggered spiritual bliss instead of physical desire. 🌊 In their way intoxication and addiction are analogies for devotion. Once you experience unconditional love, you really get hooked. The attraction is to that intimacy between the lover and the Beloved. 🌊 You are so drawn into the songs, stories, images and constant remembrance of the Beloved that you may hold on to the form and not want to go on to the next stage. You are always thinking about it and tuning your being to stay in that intimate loving relationship with this person you love. 🌊 But the Beloved is not a person in the usual sense, and the form is just a costume for the play, the lila. Ultimately, this form is the one that takes you beyond form. What the Beloved, your guru, reveals to you is your own soul. Even so you may choose like Hanuman, to remain in a kind of duality to serve and remain immersed in the ocean of devotion. 🌊 The devotional path isn’t necessarily a straight line to enlightenment. There’s a lot of back and forth, negotiations if you will, between the ego and the soul. You look around at all the aspects of suffering, and you watch your heart close in judgment. Then you practice opening it again and loving this too, as a manifestation of the Beloved, another way the Beloved is taking form. Again your love grows vast. In Bhakti, as you contemplate, emulate, and take on the qualities of the Beloved, your heart keeps expanding until you see the whole universe as the Beloved, even the suffering. 🌊 continued in comments 🌊 📸:: Love Serve Remember vinyl boxset insert circa 1970

A post shared by Ram Dass (@babaramdass) on

Yes, I know. Product placement started way, way, back in the early days of television where the stars would smoke as part of the plot to plug the cigarettes. My favourite current sitcom, Superstorehad an entire episode that revolved around Target. But those made sense, unlike a property developer and venture capitalist giving out advice on acne medication.

But you know, if you want something weird in your business podcast, check it out. It is fun. More ideas, and ads, to fill our conscious space. 

Oat Meals on ‘Shark Tank’: Two Investors Trying to Replicate Past Success

I personally love when Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner are on Shark Tank together, because the women are so different. As if it didn’t need to be said, but sometimes it helps if it’s shown, that simply putting a female face on a panel isn’t enough to ensure diversity.

Episode 7 of Season 10 put this on display (spoiler alert!) brilliantly when the woman behind Oat Meals, Sam Stephens, pitched her business to the sharks. But what was she pitching, exactly? She ran a small brick-and-mortar eatery in New York City that sold various sweet and savoury dishes, all with oats as a base ingredient. She was profitable, but not wildly so.

At one point, she said she wanted to expand into more locations. When asked, she said she was also interested in selling a line of branded oat products in grocery stores — as she said, bringing oats to the rice and pasta section instead of letting it languish in the breakfast section. 

Those of us who watch Shark Tank regularly already have the roll call of past entrepreneurs who have made highly-touted deals with each of the investors, and can therefore predict who’s most likely to jump on a pitch. With Oat Meals, I kept thinking of “Bagel Stuffins,” aka Bantam Bagels, who also had a small NYC shop, and whose deal with Lori Greiner also allowed them to segue into the prepackaged food market. 

(Fans of Beyond the Tank might recall the proprietors’ reluctance to give up the name “Bantam Bagels,” and how hard Greiner seemed to push to get them to adopt a brand that she felt better expressed what the product was, hence “Bagel Stuffins.”)

As if on queue, Lori said she would get a new line of Oat Meals goods into Starbucks, as she had with Bantam Bagels. Barbara, however, made the incredibly strong pitch back to the entrepreneur that Stephens needed to focus on having food carts — getting out of that 380 sq. ft. of space. 

Again, the roll call: Corcoran mentioned her beloved Cousins Maine Lobster, but could also have discussed Tom+Chee (although some research indicates maybe that one doesn’t have a happy ending, so maybe the choice to leave it out of the discussion was deliberate). 

Corcoran asked for 50 percent, Greiner 33 1/3 percent. A couple of the “out” sharks indicated Barbara’s deal was more sound (in their opinion), but Stephens went for Greiner, leading to a bit of a heated discussion after the entrepreneur had walked off the set. 

(Those moments, by the way, are always the best. In this one, Cuban’s already checking his phone, indicating they assumed the segment was over). 

Corcoran cleverly said oatmeal doesn’t freeze well. Kevin O’Leary said Lori made a dumb deal. Daymond John noted that Barbara wanted half the company, while Lori wanted less.

But apart from the disparate views of how to grow the company, the pitch was notable because of the revelation, so starkly demonstrated, of what the sharks often do: offer to do again what they have already done for someone else. In one sense, it’s like showing off your resume in order to convince the entrepreneur to choose you. In another sense, it’s nothing more than saying, “I have this template. At first glance, it looks like you might fit that template. So let me invest and we’ll give it a shot.”

Really, if you are a wealthy investor faced with a novice entrepreneur — like many of the pitches on Shark Tank — it’s irresponsible for the investor to offer to do anything else other than what they know how to do. Cuban has said he doesn’t like to be “dumb money,” and all the sharks seem to have some version of that philosophy. It’s up to the entrepreneur as to whether they want to use that particular template, or not. 

‘Shark Tank’ Season 10: Stray Observations

Season 10 of Shark Tank

So it’s (almost) December already, and somehow, we’re only up to Episode 7 (as of Sunday) of Shark Tank. But in that time I’ve come up with some observations about Season 10, and why it’s different from the rest.

(I was trying to figure out how to write about this, and have decided to just spit out a list of observations.)

It’s a good season.

My first one is personal — I like this season, a lot. So far. I could do without the “Decade of Dreams” tagline, but I feel like the pitches have been more substantial than in previous years. By that I mean it’s less about emotion, more about numbers. Not that emotion doesn’t have a place, but it feels like the entrepreneurial backstory is no longer the core of the pitch. 

(On that note, I’m not sure exactly when — it must have been years ago — that they got rid of the video preambles that introduced the entrepreneurs. I’m glad they no longer waste time on that segment.)

Scheduling must have been a bitch.

Is it me, or are there a lot of guest sharks? And they seem to keep coming. Just this week ABC announced that Alli Webb, founder of Drybar, would join the panel. She’s in addition to the seven — count ’em, seven — guest sharks already announced. So there’s got to be a reason behind that. Say, one of the core six doesn’t plan to come back for Season 11 and these are “unofficial” auditions. Or, “life happened” with the filming schedule this year and some last-minute replacements were needed. Or something. 

Who seems a little too absent so far this season? There have always been sharks we see more of — Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban are in every episode, the rest rotate (from my casual observation). Do any of the other four seem to be slipping off the radar? It’s hard to say. And trying to predict which one of the regulars might be quitting seems like a mean game, so I won’t engage in that line of discussion.

All I know is — tonight there was a promo for an upcoming Shark Tank episode that has TWO guest sharks on the panel. That feels a bit like sacrilege, as if the rowdy teenagers are trashing the parents’ home when they are away on vacation. Rohan Oza and Bethenny Frankel on the same episode seems wrong, but who knows — maybe it will be an excellent pairing. 

But for the people who set up the filming days, I’ll echo the subtitle: scheduling must have been a bitch. 

Sharks have executive producer credit. 

I feel this is significant, but I don’t know exactly what it means. Maybe they own part of the show now, or have creative control over the editing. It only applies to the regular sharks, and seems to be only on the episodes in which they appear. So, who knows. But if I was a shark, and knew that I’d invested in a company whose pitch was about to air, I’d like to have at least a heads up — if not the final say — about how that pitch was edited. 

So, here’s to Season 10 — and let’s hope it follows previous seasons and ends up with a good 25 or 26 episodes. That would mean we’ve got plenty more new Shark Tank to come.