Netflix's seven-episode documentary, Tiger King, follows the life of a man who calls himself Joe Exotic. Not only does he own over 200 big cats on his private zoo in Oklahoma, but he is also accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot. The series has animal rights activists, a true-crime plot and some wild characters (pun intended). Lucky for you, we are recapping each episode.
Episode 1: Not Your Average Joe
"Monkey people are a little different... big cat people are backstabbing pieces of [expletive]."
We are introduced to Joe Screibvogel aka Joe Exotic via a phone call from The Grady County Jail. Accused of involvement in a murder-for-hire plot against a well-known animal rights activist, he is being threatened with the 79-year sentence.
No story ever starts with a man in jail. This story spans years and years of feuding, way before Netflix decided to ask, "what is going on with people keeping big cats in this country?" back in 2014.
A man with a mullet, eyebrow ring and a baby tiger in hand appears on the screen. This is Joe Exotic.
He began building Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (G.W. Zoo) in 1999 and is now home to almost 200 big cats and other exotic animals. His staff, described as a family of misfits, is introduced to us one by one.
There is Erik, John aka "Rink", and Kelci aka "Saff". Each member of this "family" seems to have two things in common: They came to G.W. Zoo in need of a place to belong and unwavering love for these cats.
Note: It is illegal to keep big cats and other exotic animals as pets in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. So, don't get any ideas.
The love Joe Exotic has for these cats is very apparent. He believes that people will protect what directly affects them. So, if you hold a baby tiger and look it in the eyes, how could you not feel the need to save the rainforest?
He hosts a live stream each night on Joe Exotic TV to talk about two things, his love for his cats and his hatred for Carole Baskin.
Baskin, a flower-crown wearing animal rights activist and owner of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida, has a mission to save animals that are bred to be kept in cages, like the ones at the G.W. Zoo.
Their feud began in 2006, we learn. Joe Exotic was traveling around to shopping malls showing off his animals. Carole would email (and encourage others) to reach out to the owners of the malls to refuse his traveling show. The malls would become overwhelmed with emails that Joe and is show would get banned. And thus, the cycle continued.
This feud, however, involved more than just the two of them. PETA was on Carol's side and a man named Doc Antle, a fellow private zoo owner was on Joe's.
Doc Antle owns and operates a private exotic zoo in Myrtle Beach, SC. His animals have been featured in movies such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Dr. Doolittle, and The Jungle Book.
Like Joe, he too just loves his cats and wants to keep his zoo out of the hands of people like Carole. And it seems, Joe will do it by any means necessary.
"This is my little town," he says of the zoo. "I'm the mayor, the prosecutor, the cop and the executioner."
Joe and Doc seem to believe that Carole is worse than them. She is profiting off of her cats while "brainwashing" others to believe that they are hurting their cats.
"People who really love animals are rarely ruthless," Doc explained that is exactly what Carole is, ruthless.
Note: I don't want to give anything away... but in future episodes, we really get a definition of the word ruthless.
Episode one ends with a flash-forward to the phone call from Grady County Jail. "Before this is over... I will shut everybody down," Joe Exotic warns. Even after one episode, it's clear that Joe Exotic is not messing around.