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 2: Cult of Personality
Hey, all you cool cats and kittens.
Buckle up because this
episode show is getting even crazier.
Episode two starts with a 911 call. Remember Saff from episode one? She stuck her arm through a hole in a fence and a tiger attacked her.
She has the choice of two years of reconstructive surgery or to amputate the arm. Five days after her amputation she returns to work at the G.W. Zoo.
Note: Joe doesn't have the best bedside manner as he tells customers that "a tiger just tore her arm off". He offers a refund for the day or a rain check. How many people do you think came back for a rain check?
You might think that after something so scary, Saff would be reluctant to return to work, but she explained, "our mission is to give these animals a fighting chance. If I stay in the hospital the media wins."
"There is something very addicting about the feeling of power of being around these big animals"
The episode shifts into telling stories of different power dynamics of each zoo. Each one, a little different than the other.
At the G.W. Zoo, Joe is said to be breeding his tigers and selling them across 38 different states.
Note: According to Joe, it costs only $2,000 to buy one of his tigers.
Note (again): It is still illegal to buy or sell a big cat.
Joe selling his tigers introduces us to a former drug kingpin turned big cat owner, Mario Tabraue. (Big shock, Carole of Big Cat Rescue hates him too!)
He owns a private collection of big cats and keeps them at Z.W.F. Zoo, which is not open to the public. But more on his 'zoo' in a bit.
Myrtle Beach Safari- Doc Antle
Let's focus on Doc Antle. No one seems to know exactly how many wives he has. The guesses from other subjects in the documentary ranged from three to "I don't give a [expletive]."
This is where the feeling of power comes in. He claims that his 'apprentices' come to work for him as teenagers and stay for years.
One of these 'apprentices', Barbara "Bala" Fisher worked for Doc for almost eight years. She joined the "cohesive family unit" hoping it would be a fun experience where she practiced yoga and trained animals.
Well... that was not the case. She would work over 12 hours a day for only $100 a week. They were given a place to stay, but it was roach-infested and small.
Note: She didn't necessarily call it a cult... but she also didn't not call it one.
When questioned about his girlfriends, Doc got fired up. "You are leading me down a road to say you have to be in a cult to be a [expletive] tiger trainer."
G.W. Zoo- Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic calls it like it is. "[Doc] has his little cult and I have mine".
Joe is married to both John and Travis, whom he met when they started working for him.
The living conditions at G.W. Zoo are bad (and that is putting it nicely). All employees live in one of the four mobile homes on the property. The nice one doesn't have air conditioning or an oven.
How do these people eat? There is a big freezer truck that brings expired meats for the cats. Employees get the first pick of whatever is on the truck and they can take it back to their homes.
So, they are eating like the animals they take care of at the zoo.
Big Cat Rescue- Carole Baskin
Ah, but don't forget about Carole at Big Cat Rescue. She has hundreds of volunteers that work full time for her, some working 12 hours a day.
And yes, they are volunteering. They are not paid for any of the work they are doing.
Joe even gave his enemy some credit. "She is not a stupid woman. She makes everyone else do her dirty work."
Carole condemns all of these other zoos, claiming that they are abusing the animals and the employees.
She claims that whistleblowers told her that Doc Antle is euthanizing his tigers when he no longer has a use for them.
She spreads this information to her millions of followers and recruits volunteers this way.
Note: She also has music videos with songs about her cats and being free. Oh, did I forget to mention that so does Joe? Ah yes, he has two albums and plenty of music videos.
Z.W.F Zoo- Mario Tabraue
I told you we would get back to Tabraue's zoo.
Note: For being a former drug dealer and serving 12 years in jail, you wouldn't guess that his zoo has the least amount of drama.
While speaking with his head zookeeper, he mentions that Carole has no room to talk about mistreating people. You know, since her husband mysteriously disappeared.
"Wait wait... how does someone's husband just go missing?" Yes Netflix, we are asking the same question.
Rumor has it, Carole killed her first husband for his money and fed him to the tigers.
She (apparently) fed her husband to her tigers! And that is where the episode ends.
So quick recap: these zoos may or may not be cults, Doc may or may not euthanize his tigers, and Carole may or may not have killed her husband and fed him to the tigers.
Okay, time for episode three.