Urine Trouble, Shark Tank

When the most compelling product pitched on your show requires users to collect their own pet urine samples, you know you're in for an episode distinctly lacking in thrills and chills.

At a certain point, you come to grips with the fact that Shark Tank holds no mysteries for you anymore. I mean, Ashton Kutcher shows up, and you know how he's going to act -- competent, composed, capable of handling a large chunk of investment change without ever giving off the impression that he's in any danger of setting it on fire just because the mood struck him. After all, we've seen how The Kutch performs on this show before. And frankly, it's unnerving. I mean, c'mon, man -- tell us over and over again how you invested in Uber. Isn't that what guest investors are supposed to do?

And when Barbara Corcoran drops in for a "Where Are They Now?" segment where she's hanging out with her favorite businesses in Cabo San Lucas, you know it won't be long before the Pipcorn kids pop up since we can literally not go more than half a season without them appearing on my TV per some contractual obligation I don't fully understand. The last time the Pipcorn kids were on -- which is about the same time Ashton Kutcher dropped in, if I remember correctly -- I joked that Barbara had legally adopted them; now, I'm concerned she has them chained in a basement somewhere. "Keep making snack foods," she snarls. "Keep making snack foods, and you'll win your freedom." But while the snack foods keep coming, the freedom does not -- not for the Pipcorn kids, and certainly not for me.

And obviously, I've long since given up hope of seeing a product on this season of Shark Tank and thinking, "You know what? That's useful," since the shows now seems hell-bent on reminding us all that we have far too much money and leisure time on our hands. Case in point: In tonight's installment, the most compelling product on display requires you to deftly collect your pet's urine so that you can run a CSI-like analysis on the sample. This is very important for you to handle personally because apparently we've stopped training veterinarians to do this for you.

So starting from that basepoint, let's rank tonight's Shark Tank participants based on how useful their products will be to you, the consumer at home.

Tyler Golden / ABC

Tyler Golden / ABC

4. Petnostics

Stephen Chen's Petnostics is the aforementioned pet urine collection product. What you do, see, is use a plastic cup to gather up all your pet's whiz and seal it with a lid that has some sort of paper strip on it that changes color when it comes in contact with urine. You then use a smartphone app to analyze your test results, which apparently is much easier than just making an appointment with someone who went to school for four years to properly diagnose and treat animals.

So I'm not a big believer in Petnostics, is what I'm saying.

Well, I am apparently a big dummy, going by Petnostics sales, which are projected to reach $400,000 this year. And while Robert Herjavec is concerned about the business plan as Ashton Kutcher frets about the more prosaic concern of getting your pet to pee neatly into a cup, Kevin O'Leary and Lori Grenier would both like a piece of what Petnostics is selling -- Kevin to the tune of $300,000 for 15 percent of the company, and Lori for that same dollar amount in exchange for a 20 percent stake. Stephen would prefer not to give up that much equity, but when Kevin and Lori decide to join forces Voltron-style, he has no choice but to accept their joint offer. After all, $300,000 is a lot of money when you're asking people to join you in the pet-urine-collection business.

3. PopSlate

Yashar Behzadi's idea for all that unused space on the back of your smartphone is actually kind of clever -- just slap another screen on there that pairs up with your phone over Bluetooth to show the time, notifications, and pictures without you having to unlock the main display and drain your battery. The trouble is, there already are dual-screen phones that have this functionality built on. And the ones that don't are beginning to add always-on display features that do a lot of the things Yashar wants to do with his $129 add-on.

So this is pretty much doomed before the Sharks can take a whack at the idea and Yashar's $10 million valuation. But whack, they do, with Robert pointing out that wearables can accomplish the same thing as the PopSlate and Lori fretting about the ever-changing designs of smartphones requiring constant adjustments on Yashar's part. No one's willing to put up a half-million dollars of their own money to back this particular play, not when there's pet urine that needs collecting.

Golden / ABC

Golden / ABC

2. Slyde

So Steve Watts and his fiancée Angela Ferendo run a handboard business. What's a handboard, you may ask? Well, think of a surfboard and shrink it down a bit. Oh, so it's a boogie board, you wonder. No, no -- smaller still. Well, then how is it any improvement over just bodysurfing, you demand. Look, you ask a lot of questions.

At any rate, sales of Slyde handboards are not exactly sizzling -- $159,000 last year, with those numbers projected to just about double for the current year. Steve and Angela have sunk an awful lot of money into this business, including cash that was previously earmarked for their wedding. If they don't get a deal, "we won't be able to get married," Angela frets. And since "Do you promise to love, honor and land a deal on Shark Tank?" isn't part of any wedding vow I'm aware of, I can't help but wonder if this is some sort of clever nuptial dodge.

If so, it's about to unravel, because Ashton Kutcher would very much like to invest in this business to leverage the awesome power of his distribution channel. But he needs a partner, and Mark Cuban, who already has invested in a paddle board company, seems to fit the bill. They'd like 25 percent of the company in exchange for $200,000.

There's some hemming and hawing, because Angela and Steve didn't want to give up much more than 20 percent. And while it seems dippy to you and me to quibble over 5 percent, it's all the opening Kevin O'Leary and Robert need to try to undercut the Kutcher-Cuban partnership with dueling $200,000-for-15-percent offers. Eventually, Mark and Ashton bring their asking price down to 22 percent, and they've got a deal, so America is treated to the sight of Ashton Kutcher's victory dance. I take back all I said about the pet urine -- that dance is pretty nifty.

Golden / ABC

Golden / ABC

1. Frends

Sheen Moaleman and Keir Dillon have a company that sells headphones, which will fit right in with the dozens of other companies that do the same thing. Ah, but their headphones are designed for ladies and have interchangeable parts so that you can swap in different looks to match your fashion sense. If that sounds like it's worth $1 million for 7.6 percent of the company, your grasp on math is as tenuous as the people behind Frends.

Because, man, do these guys seem to pull numbers out of thin air. They did $2.5 million in sales last year, but they're on target to ratchet that up to $6 million, assuming their upcoming necklace/Bluetooth headphones are a big hit around holiday shopping season. Kevin asks Sheen and Keir to tive an optimistic estimate on next year's sales. They tell him $34 million. Why, that's the very definition of "optimistic." Optimistic does not mean realistic, though, and every Shark soon flees for the hills.

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