Wayward Pines: Time Will Tell (S 2 E 7)

Great Episodes is a series of blogs on my all-time favorite episodes of, well, everything. 

Wayward Pines hasn’t been on television in two years. I know this because it was cancelled back in February, after being off the air for nearly 18 months. The fact that there was still need to officially pull the plug after the show was largely forgotten showed there was a group of people still holding out hope for a Season 3.

I was a member of that group. During one of my extra gigs in 2016, I fangirled over a background performer who told me she’d been on the show. One of the best sets she’d ever been on, she’d said, as I discreetly pushed to ask how she’d gotten the role (she wasn’t interested in divulging).

I stumbled upon Wayward Pines, dismissing it at first as probably too dark and eerie for my taste, but curious after reading the show’s big secret online. Even though I had advance knowledge of the key spoiler, the reveal was nonetheless jaw-dropping, flawlessly executed by Hope Davis (Megan) in Season 1, Episode 5, “The Truth,” to a small group of schoolchildren.

I won’t reveal the spoiler, but it’s central to one of my favorite episodes of the series, “Time Will Tell,” (Season 2, Episode 7).

There was great anticipation of Season 2 after the first installment wrapped, and you could say it went off the rails, but we’ll never really know because the story isn’t finished. M. Night Shyamalan said it was a three-season story, and Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger that might never be resolved. We can’t even go to the books to find out, as Blake Crouch’s trilogy was used up by the end of Season 1.

That said, there were some moments in Season 2 that were extraordinary, offering key insight into fully formed, fully developed and compelling characters that drove a clear but still surprising story. (Westworld, take note). One such moment was the experience of C.J. in Episode 7.

When I first had the idea to blog about my favourite television episodes, I started with this one. And left it at this one. So it’s been revived from my long-stagnant other blog, so we can spread a little bit of the Wayward Pines love.

Originally posted July 25, 2016

Anyone who stuck around for Season 2 of Wayward Pines knew C.J. was important, mysterious, powerful and good. But it was not until this flashback-heavy episode that we learned a little bit about what he’d experienced and why he seemed at once worried about the town’s direction and so embedded in its leadership circle. He was someone who was trusted, even if he seemed, at times, unwilling to trust.

It was C.J. who, over the span of 2,000 years, awoke for 24 hours every two decades to dust, gather media, play chess, talk to apparitions, collect soil samples, converse with the rapidly-declining humans and wrestle with the implications of what this massive project was designed to accomplish. He was the one link of semi-continuous memory that connected humanity’s demise to its rebirth.

At this point, it’s hard to tell if C.J. was ever a true believer. Anyone who stuck around for the rest of the season discovered he was close to David Pilcher and probably, even if he was initially a hired hand, excited about the man’s then-idealistic, soon-to-be-crazy and ill-conceived, vision.

When C.J. has a revealing and tearful conversation with a woman from his past — an imagined conversation, one would assume, unless spirits were visiting C.J. in the concrete bunker where untold numbers of humans were sleeping through humanity’s destruction — she reminds him he’s doing his job. But viewers of Wayward Pines know people ended up in those chambers one of two ways: they were recruited or kidnapped.

It’s hard to believe C.J. was simply hired, and viewers know for certain it took him far less than 100 days of awakenings over the span of 2,000 years to have his doubts.

The world of Wayward Pines requires a great deal of suspended disbelief on the part of viewers. It’s a lot to accept, especially in a world with our rules. This is not a sci-fi fantasy; it’s a drama that asks viewers to believe that, in 2014, the technology existed to suspend human life for two millennia, and that someone had the money, organization, time and skill to pull it off and keep it secret.

Wayward Pines, even in its frustrating moments, ultimately works because of the 42 minutes or so given to each of its characters. When we discover Rebecca was not only Theo’s wife, but the town’s architect, she becomes richer and more compelling, a woman with incredible power she uniquely knows how to yield.

C.J., in “Time Will Tell,” teaches us the depression, loneliness, wisdom and fear that comes from extended contemplation. Few actors could sell it as well as the brilliant Djimon Hounsou, who in a moment made me crave the smell of “to-MAT-oes in the summer.” C.J. was awake for 100 days, a full 24 hours each time. One hundred waking days in a row, entirely alone, to think inside the bunker, to momentarily escape beyond its walls, and to reflect, wonder and have second thoughts about a plan that might not end up being as foolproof as it had once seemed, 2,000 years — and 100 days — before.

Ford Showed Up On ‘Westworld.’ Does Anyone Care Anymore?

Westworld, I’ve been patient. I’ve (largely) held my tongue while you churned out episode after episode of robot violence and stunning landscapes. But tonight was Episode 6, Westworld. You are halfway through the season, and nothing has happened. Nothing.

Early on in tonight’s episode, I had high hopes. We got a momentary switcheroo with Delores seemingly programming Bernard, and not the other way around. William chatted with his daughter and we found out an earth-shattering piece of information: they don’t get along. She wants him out of the park and won’t let him die there. Charlotte Hale is doing something in a bullet proof vest. Maeve finds her daughter, only to realize she’s in a new loop of an old scenario, her daughter doesn’t remember her and has a different robot to call Mom.

I am probably missing a storyline or two, because there are so many, and I don’t know when they are, how they fit together, or even why I should pay attention to any of them. I have a vague memory of the Season 1 Westworld finale providing a sort of recap that tied up all the loose ends. In essence, you really didn’t have to binge-watch all ten episodes to figure out what happened. But in Season 1, it was far more enjoyable to do so.

Didn’t we expect more of Shogun World? I’m at a loss as to how this drives Westworld forward, other than to give Maeve another outlet to explore her grief at her missing child. Many of us, I would guess, assumed Shogun World would reveal more about the park, its guests, and the reason behind the whole enterprise. It’s turned out to be just another ride at Disneyland, with more violence in different costumes.

Side note: Jimmi Simpson, who plays young William, debunked Westworld fan theories on a video last week for Elle. Watch, if even for the comedic value, and faux-offended reaction of Simpson near the end at a fan’s assertion that the show is “convoluted.”

Really, can you think of a better word for Westworld than convoluted?

So, we don’t know exactly when Bernard ended up in the park’s hive mind, because he’s with Elsie but not with Elsie — we don’t know how much is memory, how much is happening in real time and when real time actually is. I have not bothered to try to figure it out. But apparently getting a robot labotomy lets the hosts communicate directly with Ford, or a projection of Ford, or whatever it was that Bernard saw on his little dreamscape.

When will I care, Westworld? When will this show have a story? When will I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of my HBO subscription? Tell me, please. I’m losing patience, and it’s unlikely I’ll be buying in for Season 3.

That ‘Colony’ Propaganda Flyer And The Political Underpinnings Of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’

On tonight’s episode of Colony, “Hospitium,” Amy comes across a large cube of propaganda flyers, that have been dropped, relief-supply style, in the middle of the woods. When she shows one to Broussard, he assumes it came from the occupation and slips it absently into the fire.

They’re on their way to Seattle, the Bowman clan, and one can assume, Broussard and Amy. The propaganda flyers boast of “The Emerald City,” as a kind of promised land. Not all that surprising, given the Raps’ Season 1/2 fascination with The Greatest Day, when humans under siege were largely brainwashed into accepting their new alien overlords as bringers of a new benevolent religion.

“The Emerald City,” is a nickname for Seattle, of course, because of its greenery and, according to at least one Visit Seattle video, the amount of moss growing on residents.

But it’s also something else. The Emerald City was Dorothy et al.’s destination in The Wizard of Oz, and 100 years after L. Frank Baum originally wrote the book, the phrase still has undeniable political implications. It’s no accident, I would argue, that the propaganda flyer in Colony was produced in a distinct Art Deco style that recalls the design of The Emerald City in the 1939 movie.

What are those political implications? Well, it’s hard to tell, not the least because Baum is long dead and his books have been analyzed from every possible angle. Notably, according to Wikipedia (which saves me reading the book), entrants to The Emerald City were instructed to wear green-tinted eyeglasses to protect them from the city’s apparent glory. In reality, the city was no more glorious than any other. Adding to the point is the interpretation that The Emerald City is about “greenback,” unsecured money, which only has value because of shared illusion.

If humans are pawns in an alien war, as seems to be the case, the Raps (or Clicks, I’m not convinced they are the same species and not two different alien groups) are probably going to great lengths to get humans on their side. Maybe the leader of the resistance camp has already made his deal, and he’ll be bringing his followers to whatever awaits them in The Emerald City, either a promised land or yet more shared illusion.

I’m skipping ahead, but Episode 7 of Colony Season 3 is called “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” also the title of a short story by Ernest Hemingway that I must have read once, twice, a thousand times when I was a child — even by modern standards, that one is a quick and easy read.



Lessons From ‘Dragons’ Den’: Why It’s the Judges, Not the Entrepreneurs, That Make the Pitch

Shark Tank announced last week that Alex Rodriguez would be back on Season 10 as a guest shark. It’s not a shock; with the amount of time that ARod spent hanging out with cast members outside the Shark Tank studio it seemed he was either angling for a permanent spot on the program or trying to up his profile as an entrepreneur.

But the idea of J.Lo’s beau taking up residence on Shark Tank doesn’t sit well with many who have become accustomed to the revolving panel of six that has held court on Shark Tank over the past several seasons.

The show has shifted personnel before — Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban were both late additions to the program, and both started as guest sharks — but since Shark Tank has probably seen its peak success, the idea of swapping out investors feels like a half-hearted attempt to renew the show, and it probably won’t work.

Here’s why guest sharks are usually problematic. Those of us who are Shark Tank connoisseurs typically tune in to, first, see the panel; and second, see the entrepreneurs. What makes the show compelling, typically, is feeling like you know the sharks well enough to predict who is going to jump on what deal, and on what terms.

A guest shark may introduce some unknowns, but it also disrupts the appealing interactions the sharks have with each other. Because at the end of the day, it’s the shark discussions, fights, and one-upmanships that make the show.

And on that note, let’s revisit my all-time favourite pitch from either Dragons’ Den (Canada) or Shark Tank (USA). With the qualification that I stopped watching Dragons’ Den years ago, about the time it started to cycle through judges with reckless abandon, expanding the panel to six with Dragons who didn’t seem really interested in making investments and who may have only been there because the CBC offered them a paycheque.

The pitch, almost nine years old now (November 2009), was for Clayton Hollingsworth’s Higher Vibrations Wholistic Healing and Wellness. (If you’re not in Canada, you may not be able to play the video at that link, so bear with me on my descriptions).

Facing a panel that consisted of Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec, Brett Wilson, Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving — for my money the Dragons’ Den version of the current Shark Tank six in terms of best panel the show ever saw — a young, self-described healer from Edmonton, Alberta, walked on stage and proceeded to lay out a number of healing tools, including singing bowls and a crystal skull.

His ask? He was “opening himself up to receive” whatever the Dragons wanted to offer for his work.

“So for any amount for any percentage,” Wilson said, to which Hollingsworth replied that it was hard to place a value on what he does. Asked what he would use money for, he said, “for support,” explaining that he does not currently charge for his services.

He called himself a facilitator, helping people to work through blockages.

“Bowel blockages?” Herjavec said, to which Hollingsworth, undeterred, replied that often physical symptoms have other causes, so maybe, yes.

The Dragons began by snickering, all five, although only Herjavec seemed completely unwilling to even hear the guy out. By the time Clayton brought up Dickinson and O’Leary for a singing bowl demonstration, it was clear that two Dragons in particular were triggered by the pitch.

Herjavec was highly irritated, “out” before even having to say the words, and barely willing to give Hollingsworth the courtesy of a fair evaluation. (Think Mark Cuban any time anyone comes on Shark Tank pitching a nutritional supplement, except in Herjavec’s case it was particularly jarring because of his “nice Dragon” image).

Wilson — a political conservative who made significant money from oil — was on the opposite end of the spectrum. He closed his eyes in seeming meditative openness when Hollingsworth began to make sounds with the bowls, flanked on either side by O’Leary and Dickinson, representing male and female energy, holding crystals in their hands.

During that energetic demonstration, Dickinson and O’Leary (who always makes good television for these kinds of interactive skits during pitches — to my recollection, he’s “married” Barbara Corcoran twice on Shark Tank) were suppressing laughter. Then there was a shift. The smirk from O’Leary turned to a look of amazement. He scanned Clayton up and down as he made deliberate movements with his hands. The voiceover said that the demonstration had “pacified the Dragons.” That was not an overstatement.

For Wilson and Herjavec, it sent them even further apart. After O’Leary and Dickinson returned to their seats, Hollingsworth answered questions about how the crystal bowls work, to the sudden polite attention of everyone on the panel except for Herjavec. Robert, still irritated, said, “Oh… kay, can we…” and he began to argue with Wilson, who basically told him to keep quiet with restrained frustration.

“When did this become the hold each other’s hands and love each other show?” Herjavec asked, and it was O’Leary who seemed to want to be peacemaker, saying calmly, “ok, listen kids…”

“Hey I’m an investor, he came here to ask for money, I thought,” said Herjavec. Wilson pushed him to go out, and he did.

The pitch is so fascinating because of how deeply triggered the panel becomes, as if the subject matter itself held specific meaning for them. That triggering was more pronounced because there was no business here. The Dragons could not default to questions about sales or revenues or projections or debt. It came down to, “does this resonate with you or not.”

It’s unlikely Clayton Hollingsworth would have made it on to Shark Tank, not just because the size of the U.S. market is so much larger but because a pitch like that could do nothing but ask the sharks to offer some kind of personal assessment about whether or not the practice he presented was worthwhile.

On Dragons’ Den, Treliving politely said it was not the space he was in, so would be out. Dickinson recalled that her father used these holistic healing techniques when he was going through cancer, so she respected it, but would be out, wishing Hollingsworth good luck in his life.

O’Leary chose to talk about measuring worth through money. He said Hollingsworth chose not to do that, but, “that’s ok,” it didn’t mean either way was bad. “My point is our metrics are different,” O’Leary said, before also going out.

Wilson said he worked closely with crystals and healers when he went through cancer, calling it an important part of his healing. So he offered to give Hollingsworth $5,000.

After he left, Herjavec again spoke up, “Look if we are going to do donations, I know a lot of places…” Dickinson said it was not a donation request, he had simply left it to the Dragons to decide what to give.

At the end of the pitch, text on a title card revealed that before Clayton left that day, O’Leary had given him $500.

In terms of being compelling television, this was clearly more about the Dragons than the entrepreneur. It’s an unusual case, but demonstrates how it’s about the reactions more than what’s being pitched. Sometimes that works with guest sharks, but more often than not, it doesn’t.

Think about when Richard Branson threw water on Mark Cuban after Cuban called a female entrepreneur a “gold digger.” Branson was soundly criticized by fans. If it had been a regular shark, he would have gotten less heat. A guest shark doesn’t have the clout to walk out on an argument after a pitch — think of O’Leary, Herjavec and Cuban walking out on a post-pitch disagreement after Greiner and Daymond John got an investment in Scholly — a guest shark would be more inclined to toe the party line, so to speak, and make nice. That’s fine, but it’s less interesting television.





“Westworld’s” Most Interesting Storylines Probably Exist Outside the Park

I first heard of ‘Westworld’ back in 2015 when news broke that background performers (extras) were asked to sign a startling consent form that described potential acts they would have to perform on set. It got the attention of SAG-AFTRA, who issued a member alert telling actors about their rights to withdraw from the production. That strange story, combined with the high-profile cast, made me curious to watch.

I didn’t end up seeing Westworld until I binge-watched Season 1 as part of an HBO free preview a few weeks ago. The powers that be will be glad to know that it worked, I signed up for HBO just to see how Season 2 might play out. Now that we are four episodes in, it’s clear that Westworld is something that’s best binge-watched, lest you have so much time between episodes to come up with intricate fan theories that you are disappointed at the end when none of them turn out to be true.

(Note — please don’t tell me Westworld resembles Lost. I’ve never seen Lost, although I’m currently a fan of Josh Holloway’s much smaller show Colony, which has led us through two full seasons without showing us the aliens.)

Which leads to the revelations in “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” Sunday night’s exploration of James Delos’ experiment with becoming a host. As anyone who might recall, or felt like Googling it, The Riddle of the Sphinx goes something like this: What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night? The answer: a man, who crawls in childhood, walks upright during adulthood and depends on a cane in old age.

Of course, in Westworld, some figures don’t want to experience old age. Apparently, they don’t want to die at all, but experience a modified immortality by having their minds — or AI-enhanced versions of their minds, it isn’t clear — transplanted into the bodies of hosts built to resemble them.

In “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” we see James Delos’ son-in-law, William, visit Delos in the lab, where he’s essentially repeating the same loop of early morning exercise, Rolling Stones music, and coffee. Older William (Ed Harris) eventually comes to tell Delos that they have rebuilt him 149 times, presumably over several decades, but it just isn’t working, and maybe people just aren’t meant to live forever. He exits, but decides to end Delos’ life with a bit of misery by telling the technician not to terminate him, but to let him degrade, just to see how it goes.

Here’s what I eventually came to think about Westworld: the complex family dynamic of the Delos clan is probably far more compelling than any of the shenanigans going on inside the park itself or in its corporate boardrooms. My guess about what’s happening inside the park is probably similar to everyone else’s. The guests have been offered a kind of eternal life where they can live forever, but the technology (or legality) only lets them do it inside the park. The massive amounts of data they keep on the guests is probably consensual; rich people who don’t want to die contract with Delos to keep them going inside this fantasy world. All of these characters are probably hosts who were once human beings — Bernard is probably still Arnold, perhaps suffering the same degredation as Delos (note the shaky hands). Old William is probably remade William, decades or even centuries after his original death. When he encounters his daughter at the end of “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” she maybe wanted to say hello one last time. Maybe she hasn’t seen him in decades, either. Maybe she’s been rebuilt. Ford’s game is probably to give these permanent guests the chance at final escape, because perhaps in the original contract, there was no provision for everything to end. William — the guest who can have everything he wants — isn’t allowed to die unless he can solve Ford’s game.

But to me, none of that is as interesting as whatever is going on with the Delos family. Why was Logan an addict? Why did Julia end her life? Why do William and James have this strained relationship? What is the relationship between William and his own children? What exactly is William’s public image? In Season 1, another guest thanked him for his charitable work, only to be rebuffed. Who is he outside the park?

My guess is that Westworld will never answer those family questions, because it’s just not that kind of drama. Westworld purports to be about the intersection of technology and humanity, and that’s probably where it will stay, giving us unsatisfying answers to increasingly predictable questions. But I’ll still watch, if only to justify the cost of my HBO subscription.


Why Nootrobox (aka HVMN) Has the Weirdest ‘Shark Tank’ Story Ever

“Do you mind if you tell us more about what’s in it before we eat them? I don’t wanna get roofied.” – Chris Sacca

Back in 2016, Geoff Woo and Michael Brandt went on Shark Tank to pitch Nootrobox, a company that catered to “biohackers,” or people who see the human body as an organic computer program that you can “hack” with just the right mixture of ingredients.

Their flagship product, at the time, was Go Cubes, or coffee — nootropically enhanced — in chewable form. Their ask was outrageous, even for Shark Tank: $2 million for 5 percent, or a $40 million valuation. After they were roundly crucified by the sharks, Woo told Inc. the problem wasn’t with the product, but the panel.

“I think our community, the biohacking community, and the products just totally went over the heads of the other Sharks on the show. And I think they’re just of a different generation, a different segment of humanity.”

As dismissive as Woo’s comment may sound, he had a point: on a show where basement entrepreneurs and family-run businesses typically hold court, Nootrobox was largely out of its element. The product’s core selling point — “biohacking” — was lost on investors who knew the mass market would just as soon grab an energy drink or cup of coffee.

Nootrobox was an ill fit for the Shark Tank canon, as it had none of the elements of a successful pitch. Woo and Brandt were flush with cash, had a strange product and came across as pretty arrogant. They didn’t even have an inspirational story of overcoming tragedy to sway the sharks, or the audience.

And after Shark Tank aired, the story of Nootrobox seemed to make even less sense. Woo told Inc. the purpose of the appearance was to gain exposure. If that’s true, it’s perhaps an odd place to do it – ABC on a Friday night.

Woo claims they did see a six-fold increase in sales after the broadcast. But by May, 2018, Nootrobox had changed its name to HVMN. The apparent rebranding followed a leaked research study — commissioned by the company itself — that showed, according to CNBC, that SPRINT, another performance-enhancing product under the Nootrobox brand, was actually less effective than caffeine.

The company responded with a blog post on its website where it seemed to critique the methodology of the study itself. It also pushed back against claims in the CNBC piece that Nootrobox had tried to change the name of the product in the study to CAF+ from SPRINT, the latter the product on the market. Those claims implied that the company was trying to hide the less-than-flattering results. Nootrobox said the decision to use CAF+ was to be accurate about the product actually tested, since the formulation of the product SPRINT would evolve over time.

The abstract of the published study is available here.

Nootrobox, after its rebranding, shifted its attention to HVMN Ketone, which Inc. says is the first drink with Ketone Esters. While in development, it apparently cost $25,000 per bottle to produce. The product is supposed to mimic the effects of intermittent fasting, or a ketogenic diet.


The HVMN website boasts the drink was the result of a partnership with TΔS Ltd, University of Oxford and the Department of Defense, utilizing $60 million in research funding. Now that it’s available for sale, it’s substantially cheaper than $25,000, but according to Inc. still costs $33 a serving and “tastes like nail polish remover.”

Olga Khazan, writing in The Atlantic last fall, had a similarly vivid description:

“It tasted like cough syrup that had been poured into a garbage bag and left in the sun.”

Khazan’s piece also explained how that “collaboration” happened to create the product. A University of Oxford professor, Kieran Clarke, researched ketones starting in 2003. Her research was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, whose aim was to improve performance of members of the military.

Clarke founded TΔS Ltd to market the results of that research. She licensed her intellectual property to HVMN, so the company could package, brand and sell HVMN Ketone. So that $60 million may not have actually come from HVMN’s high profile investors — Andreessen Horowitz and Marissa Mayer among them — but the U.S. taxpayer.

As Woo and Brandt revealed on Shark Tank, they are computer scientists, although they claimed at that time to have M.D.s and Ph.D.s — presumably in biological sciences — on their team.

Which begs the question: if Nootrobox/HVMN is a marketing play, since neither of the co-founders have the scientific background to create the products themselves, why were they invited to be on Shark Tank? While plenty of Shark Tank products are all about marketing, typically the person pitching the business can sell it to the intended audience. As Lori Greiner said during the Nootrobox pitch, Woo and Brandt were all about the science and needed to learn how to sell, or partner with someone who already knew how to sell.

Despite the founders’ commitment to the idea of biohacking — TechCrunch called it a major trend in some subcultures over the past few years and HVMN encourages intermittent fasts among its own employees — it still seems to have aways to go to reach broad appeal. It’s hard to imagine Greiner would have ever been able to sell Nootrobox — or Go Cubes — on QVC.

Snarky Tea Founder Jenni-Lyn Williams Never Thought She’d Be Allowed On ‘Shark Tank’

When Jenni-Lyn Williams pitched Shark Tank, she was eight months pregnant with her second child. She also was only weeks from having sent the show producers an email, expressing interest in appearing on the program. Unlike legions of Shark Tank entrepreneurs who apply year after year, attend casting calls and otherwise reach out in vain hope of getting on the program, Williams was cast quickly — despite being certain, as she told Philadelphia magazine, that she’d never be allowed in front of the cameras.

“I never really thought about [applying to Shark Tank] given the nature of the labeling of my product. It’s an ABC show, and Disney owns ABC. So because I didn’t think I’d ever pass through and make it on TV, I wasn’t even going to apply.”

That labelling has a bit of an edge. It’s what makes Snarky Tea stand out, and Williams does not hide the fact that her company is largely a marketing play. She told ESU Insider that, after being told by her doctor to switch to tea from coffee, she was uninspired by the existing tea names on the market, which tended towards the flower variety — “Wake the f**k up,” to her, was a more meaningful moniker.

Williams, an MBA grad from Villanova, was wise to take a shot on Shark Tank. She got a deal with Kevin O’Leary and guest shark Bethenny Frankel, who each took 25 percent of her company. Although that leaves Williams with just 50 percent equity stake in the business she started only a year before Shark Tank, she told Philadelphia magazine she doesn’t have any regrets.

“The highest percentage to give away is 50 percent, and that’s what I gave away. I did so because I wanted to be realistic with my valuation.

“I knew I wanted to go for the deal when the two of them got on board to work together, so it’s really 25 percent and 25 percent for them each. When you have partners like that, the value isn’t just the investments. But it’s also the experience and personal side. I couldn’t be happier with the partners I got.”

She was particularly motivated to be on the show, once it became clear the Shark Tank team was interested in arranging a pitch. Producers feared she may not be able to fly due to her advanced stage of pregnancy, but Williams was prepared to walk to the taping if need be. As she told Philadelphia, she had a different set of concerns.

“I talked to them beforehand because my biggest concern was potentially having to pee while in there.”

Williams has continued to grow her still young tea company, in part by connecting with current students of her business school, Villanova. Speaking in March 2018, she said the company is about empowering other women.

As for sales, Snarky Tea had sold about $270,000 worth of tea as of November, 2017, the time of her Shark Tank appearance. She’d begun the company just over a year before, in October, 2016, while still an MBA student. The investment from Frankel and O’Leary was $150,000 combined, meaning they gave Snarky Tea at $300,000 valuation at the time of her Shark Tank taping.

Snarky Tea’s Shark Tank episode is set to re-air on ABC Friday, May 25, 2018.



Why Kevin O’Leary Says ‘Shark Tank’ Doesn’t Glamorize Entrepreneurship

Anyone who’s watched even a few episodes of Shark Tank notices there’s a pattern: some entrepreneurs get deals, set to uplifting music, while others don’t, and those who miss out on getting a shark partner sometimes express disappointment or regret.

Those who don’t get a deal are rarely profiled on Shark Tank updates, and even those who do get a deal don’t always get a coveted where-are-they-now spot. In a New York Times interview in January, Kevin O’Leary was asked if the show’s reluctance to show the businesses that fail in effect glamorizes entrepreneurship.

“No. Even in the updates you see how brutal people’s lives are. Entrepreneurship is a personal sacrifice for a long period of time. I never saw my kids grow up — they just went from zero to teenagers when I was traveling the world selling software, and yet today they enjoy certain freedoms that I could never have afforded had I not been successful.”

Of course, the point that O’Leary misses with his response is that not all entrepreneurs find success. They can put in the hours, sacrifice not only time with family but a substantial amount in assets to be left with nothing except a roller coaster of negative and positive life experiences.

The Shark Tank effect is often used to describe the boost in sales companies usually experience after their pitch airs, regardless of whether or not they get a deal. But Shark Tank may also have another, less appealling, effect: creating a mythology around entrepreneurship that largely masks a difficult reality.

Back in 2015, Kauffman Currents reflected on what was then seen as a troubling trend in media portrayals of business: the “celebritization of entrepreneurs.” Although faulting Shark Tank less than other shows, the article noted an odd disconnect between the popularization of the entrepreneurship myth and the numbers of actual young people starting companies. Millennials are far less likely to run companies now than were people of previous generations.

“We still don’t know what the relationship actually is between exposure and real entrepreneurship rates, but perhaps we see this gap between intention and actualization because of how unrealistic the popular narratives are.”

Kauffman noted that the media portrayals, apart from Shark Tank, tend to focus on young, hoodie-wearing startup founders working in tech. The reality is that entrepreneurship is not glamorous, success is not a foregone conclusion and startup founders are usually older and working in diverse sectors.

That last point — that startup founders are older — is backed up by even more recent research. In April 2018 TechCrunch reported on a study that found most startup founders are not only older, but more successful, than the current stereotype. In fact, the younger founders, although more likely to get venture capital backing, have less chance at growing a successful company.

“Overall, we see that younger founders appear strongly disadvantaged in their tendency to produce the highest-growth companies.”

So how does this link back to Shark Tank, and its refusal to feature the companies still struggling to gain footing after their prime-time appearance? Although Shank Tank‘s most touted successes are typically not young, hoodie-wearing tech entrepreneurs — family-run, single-product businesses like Scrub Daddy, Tipsy Elves, Grace & Lace, Bubba-Q’s Boneless Ribs, Red Dress Boutique and O’Leary’s own Wicked Good Cupcakes are more common — the show could still be accused of sanitizing the reality of the entrepreneurship experience.

For a short period of time, it seemed that problem was addressed with the addition of Beyond the Tank to the schedule. In more in-depth features, viewers were exposed to more complex issues faced by entrepreneurs after they got the backing of a shark. In some cases, such as that of Plated — whose deal with Mark Cuban fell apart after the show but who later got an investment from O’Leary — the companies were shown to be draining cash and recovering from serious operational issues.

In the case of Plated, it all eventually turned out fine — more than fine, actually, since the company was sold to Albertsons last fall for $300 million.

But not every Shark Tank entrepreneur will get a huge exit; many will falter and close up shop. Some sharks are not shy about revealing their own statistics when it comes to the current state of their Shark Tank companies. Back in 2015, Mark Cuban told a conference that some of his own investments were not doing well, and even those struggling entrepreneurs were unaware of the challenging state of their affairs.

“Of the 71 startups that I’ve invested in through Shark Tank, two have gone out of business, three are so stupid they don’t know they’re out of business, and then probably 50, give or take, are in growth.”

Cuban went on to say about 30 percent of his Shark Tank deals had returned his investment, but he was more concerned about the 80/20 rule — that he would be all right if 20 percent of his investments really took off.

While those comments reveal honesty on the part of Cuban, they also reveal that if an entrerpeneur gets a deal on Shark Tank, it doesn’t necessarily mean the investor foresees a path of smooth sailing. Getting the backing of a shark — which can cost more in equity than deals entrepreneurs would make in the non-televised world — does not mean the lack of hardship ahead.

Failing to show those stories as part of the Shark Tank vernacular might do a disservice to entrepreneurship in the real world, even if it makes for better television. Entrepreneurship on Shark Tank might not be as glamorous as in some other media, but it still only tells half the story, which real-life business owners might be left to discover on their own.



Barbara Corcoran’s Serious Approach to ‘Shark Tank’ Investments

There is little doubt that the prospect of spending real money on a startup enterprise would give any investor pause. That’s no less true for the seasoned panelists on Shark Tank. As Barbara Corcoran told The Cut last month, she values the money she’s earned and won’t give it away on a tenuous or frivolous endeavor.

“When you say to an entrepreneur, ‘I’ll give you $200,000,’ it’s not just a line. Two-hundred thousand dollars would put a kid through Ivy League school for four years.

“Would I rather put a kid through an Ivy League school, which is a kind of charity I do for myself, or would I rather give it to this entrepreneur?

“Are they worthy? So, I think long and hard about that.”

Knowing that Corcoran values money should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows her personal story. She grew up one of 10 children who lived with their parents in a 2-bedroom apartment in Edgewater, New Jersey.

But any indication of disadvantage wasn’t felt by Corcoran at the time. She speaks highly of her parents, who “loved us to death,” as she told Forbes.

Corcoran looks for something special when she evaluates pitches on Shark Tank, a show she’d been part of since Season 1.

Discovering that Corcoran thinks you “worthy” of investment may be a badge of pride for many Shark Tank entrepreneurs who walked away with the real estate mogul as a partner. Back in 2016, Inc. offered a round up of some of the best advice she’d given in private to her entrepreneurs.

They ranged from advising the hands-on owner of Grace & Lace to hire people smarter than herself to offering a reassuring pep talk to a Pipcorn co-founder before she was about to make a speech.

One of the lesser-known facts about Corcoran is her personal motivation to sell her multi-million dollar enterprise, The Corcoran Group, in 2001. She had built the business from the ground up, famously on the basis of a modest loan she received from a love interest.

She told The Cut that becoming a mother at age 46 made her realize she could not give equal attention to both her business and her growing family. In retrospect, she said her business would not have growth in the manner it had if she had chosen to have children at a younger age.

“I put 500 percent into my salespeople; they were the queens and kings of the universe.

“I adored them, and they adored me back, and that’s why we did so well in the end. But once my son entered the equation, I knew I couldn’t do both.”

Now, Corcoran has two children, aged 24 and 11. She has traded her role as real estate mogul for television investor, balancing both a media persona as well as business activities conducted off-screen. She revealed to The Cut that she never feels like she’s doing enough for her young daughter.

Part of Corcoran’s morning routine is to get her young daughter off to school, before spending a few moments with a cup of coffee on a rope swing she has in her kitchen.

When Shark Tank films, she gets picked up at 5:30 a.m., an hour earlier than the male members of the panel. She joked she’s expressed some exasperation at the different schedules to the show bosses.

“Come on, my hair is easier than Robert Herjavec’s! Robert’s so fussy with his hair. I can get up at 6:30!”

Corcoran’s go-to music to get in the mood for the 12 to 14 Shark Tank pitches she’ll hear in a day? Nicki Minaj. Filming starts promptly at 9:00 a.m.

Shark Tank will return in the fall.