'Shark Tank' Premiere Recap: Did Ashton Kutcher Sink or Swim as a Guest Shark?

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  • Ashton Kutcher
    Ashton Kutcher
    American actor (born 1978)
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It’s officially safe to go back into the water: Shark Tank has finally returned for another season of wacky products, high-stakes deals, and withering insults from Mr. Wonderful. And not a moment too soon: We were getting tired of feeding our obsession with those CNBC reruns.

We’re Shark Tank purists, so we get a little annoyed when they mess up the chemistry by bringing in a “guest Shark” — especially because tonight’s Season 7 premiere welcomes “prolific investor and venture capitalist” Ashton Kutcher to the fold. We’re trying to picture Ashton sitting through a corporate board meeting, and all we can see is this:

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But maybe we’re being a bit unfair to old Kelso… er, Ashton. After all, he’s invested in huge tech companies like Skype and Airbnb, and PC giant Lenovo even named him a product engineer (!) in 2013. And actually, he proves himself a surprisingly savvy investor in tonight’s premiere — and even gets to yell at Kevin a little in the process. Let’s see how Ashton and the rest of the Sharks did in the Season 7 premiere.

Pitch #1: The Beebo
Seeking: $200,000 for a 20 percent stake

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Martin Hill thinks he has a great innovation for new moms and dads: The Beebo, a shoulder sling that holds a baby bottle in place at breast level, freeing up a parent’s hand while feeding their baby. It kind of looks like an artificial boob — which Martin confirms when he reveals it was originally called “The Boobie.” But it’s a nice-looking product, and anything that promises a new parent more time/energy/sleep is a potential goldmine.

And he’s catching Ashton at the perfect time, since he and wife Mila Kunis just welcomed their first baby last year. Robert even encourages Ashton to bring his baby out, but Ashton quickly shoots that down: “I’m pretty sure my baby is a not-on-camera baby.” See, he’s smarter than he looks!

Kevin gets things started by offering Martin $200,000 for 33.3 percent. (He didn’t even demand a royalty! Is Mr. Wonderful going soft?) Robert and Mark don’t think the product solves a glaring problem, so they’re out. Ashton likes it, but he doesn’t think he can help with the manufacturing, so he’s out. Lori slips in under Kevin by offering the $200k for 30 percent — and wants Ashton to pair up with her. Ashton agrees… and Martin says yes! Ashton strikes his first Shark Tank deal, and probably takes a complimentary Beebo home to Mila.

Pitch #2: Acton Rocket Skates
Seeking: $1 million for a 3.5 percent stake

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Hey now! Peter Treadway is seeking big-time dough for his “rocket skates,” electric-powered roller skates that look like something out of Back to the Future Part II (set in 2015, you know!). Of course, extreme-sports dork Robert has to try them on. His ride is pretty wobbly, but he still describes it as “pretty cool.” Kevin describes Robert more aptly, declaring him a “bozo.”

Kevin presses Peter on how difficult it looks to ride, but Peter insists “young people” pick it up right away. (Oooh, Robert, ya burnt!) The Sharks also question Peter’s sky-high valuation ($28 million!), but he says they’ve already pulled in $2 million in revenue this year, and predicts a $10 million net profit by year’s end. He’s a bit fuzzy on the exact numbers, though — and we know how much that bugs the hell out of Mark Cuban.

The Sharks seem impressed by the product’s potential, but 3.5 percent is a very tiny meal for a Shark. Robert’s out, and Ashton doesn’t think it’s cool enough, so he’s out, too. Lori accuses Peter of coming in just for the publicity, and his fuzziness on the numbers makes Mark feel uneasy, so they’re both out. That leaves Mr. Wonderful.

He offers Peter the $1 million for 15 percent. Peter hems and haws and comes back at 6 percent. Kevin doesn’t budge. Peter goes to 7 percent, and then 8 percent. He’s desperate! Kevin smells blood in the water, and sticks at 15 percent; he insists that the massive exposure Shark Tank brings is worth the extra equity. And he’s right. But Peter doesn’t see it that way, and walks away. Or skates away, rather. We’re just hoping these skates don’t ever take off, so we don’t have to dodge people on them every time we walk outside.

Pitch #3: McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegars
Seeking: $100,000 for a 15 percent stake

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This line of artisanal vinegar cocktail mixers is so hipster, we’re surprised the mustachioed mixologist serving them didn’t ride in on a unicycle. But Jess Sanchez-McClary sells it as a natural, preservative-free replacement for sodas and other artificial mixers. Drinking vinegars were big in the 1700s, and Jess wants to bring them back and ride the current craft cocktail wave.

The main problem, though: It’s vinegar! It’s okay with booze (the “apple pie with bourbon” sounds delicious, actually), but each Shark that tries, or even smells, the vinegar straight looks disgusted. Kevin doesn’t think consumers are ready to drink vinegar-infused cocktails, but Ashton disagrees, citing kombucha as a similar acquired taste. Kevin doesn’t like kombucha, either, to which Ashton shoots back, “You’re not the only palate.” How dare you question Mr. Wonderful’s palate!

Back to the vinegar: Lori chirps, “It’s good for you!” and Mark actually agrees; his wife drinks vinegar everyday for health reasons. Jess has a culinary-school background, so she’s pretty legit. But her sales are a bit watered-down ($350k total since 2012), and Kevin doesn’t love the idea of trying to educate consumers on a brand-new category. Lori thinks Jess should go in a more health-oriented direction, but she’s not ready to invest; she’s out.

Robert and Mark are out, too, leaving palate rivals Ashton and Kevin. Mr. Wonderful says Jess is trying to be a pioneer, and pioneers “get a lot of arrows in their back.” He also says the market is tiny, and bellows, “Why are you doing this to yourself?” That sets off Ashton, who wheels around to Kevin and yells at him: “You’re belittling people, and that’s not okay!” Ashton’s not ready to vote with his wallet, though: He loves the packaging, but he doesn’t think Jess’s vision is broad enough, so he’s out. Mr. Wonderful was right! As always.

Pitch #4: SignalVault
Seeking: $200,000 for a 12.5 percent stake

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Identity theft is a multi-billion dollar problem, and Chris Gilpin thinks he has the solution: His card-sized device blocks hackers from stealing your credit card information while it’s still “safely” in your wallet. (Which, apparently, they can do now.) This seems like something every bank should be handing out to their customers, since they end up footing the bill for all those stolen funds — but they’re too big to fail, so what do they care?

The Sharks like Chris, and especially his margins: Each SignalVault device costs him 75 cents to make, and he sells them for $14.95. (Capitalism, baby!) We can sense a feeding frenzy brewing: Kevin puffs out his chest and lists his financial-services credentials, offering Chris the $200k for 20 percent. Lori thinks she can sell $1 million worth of these on QVC in a month and undercuts Kevin, offering the $200k for 18 percent.

Ashton throws a bit of cold water on the deal, saying a competitor already has a lot of market share in this space, so he’s out. Lori drops her offer to 15 percent, which makes Kevin grimace, but he’s not budging. Robert made his millions in Internet security, so a hush falls over the room when he steps in; he matches Lori’s offer of 15 percent, and they bicker over what they each can offer. Robert scoffs at Lori, “Yeah, because he can see how this relates to a lipstick box.” See, Ashton, now that’s belittling!

Mark bows out; he doesn’t think it’s so easy (or cheap) to get a foothold in this market. But three Sharks remain, and with pretty comparable offers. Chris knows he has leverage here, so he asks Robert and Lori to consider joining forces. He counters with $250k for 18 percent, but neither Shark likes that. He then panics and drops it to $200k for 25 percent. Robert and Lori can hardly believe it, and accept immediately. He already had a much better offer from both of them! Surely he could’ve gotten them to accept something like, say, $200k for 20 percent. At least try! Oh well… no one said it was easy to keep your wits about you in the Tank.

Shark Tank airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on ABC.