By now, you’ve probably binge-watched all of Tiger King… But, if you haven’t, you’ve at least heard of it… right?
It’s been #1 on Netflix since it came out, and it’s been a distraction from all of the news, surrounding COVID-19. About a week ago, Netflix announced that Tiger King was getting one more episode. Yesterday, they followed through with their promise.
In this after-show special (called “The Tiger King and I”), Joel McHale hops on Zoom to interview the Tiger King cast, regarding their thoughts on the documentary. They also talked about life after the documentary, newfound fame, and even shared dark stories about former G.W. Zoo owner, Joe Exotic.
Erik Cowie was the first to appear on screen, and he owned the title of head zookeeper at the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma. He seemed very genuine, yet blunt. Cowie didn’t sugarcoat anything, and he admitted that he’s content, that Joe Exotic is likely “going to die in jail”. Cowie also revealed that he wasn’t fond of the attention that surrounded him, and that he also didn’t appreciate the constant comparisons to Vince Neil of Motley Crue.
When McHale asked Cowie if he appreciated the comparison, Cowie responded with a blunt, “Oh, god. No. I fu*king hate Motley Crue.” The rest of the conversation was humorous, and McHale ended the interview by stating that Cowie was such an honest, good man.
Jeff and Lauren Lowe were up next. This was more of a speed-interview round. So, while I won’t go into every question, I would like to point out a few things that they said. First off, when asked whether or not they believe that Carole Baskin killed her husband, almost immediately, there was a “yes”. They admitted that they’ve believed that theory for years.
Jeff Lowe also stated that, “Joe was his biggest enemy. He should’ve gone up and testified against himself.” This was in reference to the many times he threatened to kill Baskin on camera, and the fact that he admitted to murdering five healthy tigers for cage space. Exotic did try to defend himself from jail, however, and stated that the tigers were “sick”. So far, it’s him against the Lowes and Cowie, who believe otherwise.
Next to speak, was the former G.W. Zoo manager, John Reinke. I feel like the viewers didn’t get to learn much about him, except for the fact that both of his legs were amputated, from an unfortunate accident. So, I’m glad that Joel brought him on the episode to share his side. Reinke admitted that Exotic constantly made him feel like he was unfit to run the zoo, and according to him, “he always tried to keep everybody smaller than him”. Reinke also shared something new with the viewers. Apparently, Exotic was so obsessed with the cameras and fame, that he decided to blow up Reinke’s golf cart and cabin, just because he needed quality content.
Saff Saffery was a former animal keeper, and was most notably recognized for his accident, in which a tiger tore his arm off. One main thing to note before continuing on with Saffery’s interview, is that he was constantly misgendered throughout the documentary. The viewers assumed that Saffery was a woman, but clearly, that’s not the case. However, when asked about his thoughts on that, Saffery admitted that “it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered everyone else. I didn’t really pay it any mind.”
Saffery closed out his interview by admitting that although justice was serviced for Exotic, he doesn’t want to see him die in jail, because he “did a lot of bad things, but he also did a lot of good things as well.”
Josh Dial, Joe’s ex-campaign manager, was next in line. Dial is best known for his “fu*k the feds” phrase. Dial juxtaposed Lowe’s opinion of The Tiger King documentary, and praised the execution of the series. “The way they did this documentary.. it’s fair, it’s balanced, and I just think it’s a wonderful documentary.” Lowe, however, noted that Netflix needed a villain, and that’s why they made Lowe the villain of the series.
Dial also admitted that he was aware that Exotic was “bat-shit crazy”, but he didn’t care, because it was a once in a life time experience to do what he did. Dial spoke about his experience in a mostly positive light.
Joel did touch on the subject of Travis (one of Exotic’s ex-husbands), and his suicide, however. Dial was in the same room as Travis when he took the gun that Exotic had bought for him, and raised it to his own head. According to Dial, he didn’t believe that Travis had any intention of committing suicide. “Joe just bought him a Ruger. He said, ‘hey. You know, a Ruger won’t fire without a clip.’ I said, really? He said, ‘yeah’. Right there, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger… to prove to me that it wouldn’t fire without a clip. However, it must have had one in the chamber.”
Nearing the end of the interview, Dial told Joel that he’s working on raising some money for counseling. He bluntly stated that Exotic never offered any assistance, or mode of counseling, after he witnessed something so traumatic.
Finally, we got to see John Finlay. Finlay now has a new set of teeth, and he appears to be healthier, and more well spoken than depicted in the series. He even spoke on that subject, and announced that at the time of filming, he was 4-5 years sober. According to Finlay, he made the decision to quit when his daughter was born. He is now engaged to fiancé, Stormey, and they binge-watched the series within seven hours. She was also the reason that Finlay made an appointment to get his teeth fixed, according to an interview he did was Us Weekly.
Joel couldn’t close out the episode without interviewing one last person: former producer of Joe Exotic TV, Rick Kirkham. This is where things turn dark. Although in the previous interviews, we learned just how cruel Exotic was to both his employees, as well as the animals, the story that Kirkham shared had me welling up with tears.
Kirkham admitted that he forfeited his journalistic integrity, because instead of going to the authorities with the information that he knew, he remained silenced. He then went on to tell the disturbing story of how Exotic promised a woman that, since he had an array of land, he would care for her horse (since she was unable to do so anymore). Once the woman dropped the horse off at the zoo, however, Exotic turned towards Kirkham, grabbed his gun, and killed the innocent horse. “I don’t take care of nobody’s animals. Now, they’re tiger meat.” According to Kirkham, those were Exotic’s exact words, before feeding the deceased horse to the tigers.
Kirkham also let the viewers in on the fact that the “Tiger King” is actually terrified of tigers, and when we saw him go into the tiger cage with the animals, they were either blind or tranquilized.
As a final statement, Kirkham sincerely admitted that he regretted meeting Joe Exotic, and that he wanted to put all of what happened behind him. Unfortunately for him, this is currently the biggest docu-series in the United States at the moment. So, that may not end up happening for a while.
Although this is a docu-series, the audience is seeing these people in a different light. We were able to get a different perspective on Jeff Lowe, and we were able to hear the zoo employees speak from their own voice, instead of being silenced or interrupted.
“The Tiger King and I” intended to clear up any misconceptions (such as accusations of severe drug use), and allow these individuals to freely speak their mind on the subject.
It is getting quite a bit of backlash from viewers, however.
One person tweeted out, saying: “Show was disappointing. You didn’t ask the right questions. Why is the zoo still open? Are they still breeding? Be concerned about the crap going down and less interested in the attention for yourself.”
Meanwhile, others were upset with Joel directly, and some of the comments that he made towards the cast members.
Whether or not there will be a movie, or a season 2, is unconfirmed. There are currently many different theories, circulating around.
However, all we know for certain is that Joe Exotic’s chapter is finished.