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Netflix's new 'Tiger King' episode has new and disturbing details

Joel McHale conducts remote interviews with the cast of "Tiger King." Picture: Netflix

Joel McHale conducts remote interviews with the cast of "Tiger King." Picture: Netflix

Published Apr 14, 2020


Netflix executives have repeatedly proven they know what the people want - so Sunday, they released a new episode of "Tiger King."

Technically, it was a 40-minute reunion special titled "Tiger King and I," in which Joel McHale - star of NBC's "Community," which just started streaming on Netflix - interviewed some of the subjects from the documentary series-turned-international phenomenon. 

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Naturally, the special is currently the most-watched program on Netflix in the United States, even without appearances from stars Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. (Joe is serving a 22-year prison sentence for a murder-for-hire plot and killing five tigers. Carole is furious about her portrayal in series.)

Instead, eight of the "supporting" cast members shared how the documentary changed their lives; how they really feel about Joe; and more disturbing things they saw go on behind the scenes at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. (There are more graphic descriptions of animal abuse in the special than there were in the series.) If you can't stomach watching any more "Tiger King," here's a brief overview of what viewers learned:

Eric Cowie, head zookeeper at G.W. Zoo

How life has changed: The zoo is closed because of the pandemic, but sometimes people drive by and try to take photos of him. He doesn't understand why they care. "I'm just a [regular] guy," he said, using spicier language, and admitted he hasn't even watched the documentary.

How he feels about Joe: He said he's still upset by the fact that Joe put down tigers who weren't sick or old, and has no sympathy for him in prison: "He's gonna die in there, so good riddance."

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "People ask, 'Does it hurt?' It's like, yeah, yeah, it hurts. Until it stops, then you're good," he said after McHale advised him to keep his fingers out of the tiger cages. But apparently he's already been bitten.

Jeff and Lauren Lowe,current owners of G.W. Zoo

How life has changed: Jeff doesn't love that he was portrayed as a villain who "stole" the zoo from Joe. Jeff insists that, actually, he saved the zoo from financial ruin. "I think they tried to sensationalize the story a little bit," he said.

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How they feel about Joe: Jeff and Joe are still nemeses, especially because Jeff cooperated with federal agents before Joe's arrest. "This is the notoriety and fame that Joe always wanted, and it's pretty ironic that now he's stuck in a cage and can't even enjoy it," Jeff said. "He's where he belongs and I would probably just tell him, 'Gotcha.' "

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "He's the sweetest hitman you ever could hire," Jeff responded when McHale asked about Allen Glover, the ex-con and former zoo employee who testified that Joe gave him cash to kill Carole. (And no, they don't know why Allen was interviewed in a bathtub.)

John Reinke, former manager at G.W. Zoo

How life has changed: People approach him in public all the time now - even with the risks of covid-19, they still want to shake his hand. "I'm not a star. I'm just on a documentary. You're a star, not me," he told McHale. "Well, I was a star," McHale deadpanned. "2009 was a big year for me."

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How he feels about Joe: John is not in touch with Joe and doesn't want to be. He's still mad about the time Joe blew up his golf cart and a window in his cabin.

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "That was my only friend at the time ... I don't hang out with people because people just stab you in the back," he replied when McHale asked about that mysterious skeleton shown riding in John's passenger seat.

Saff Saffery, former animal keeper at G.W. Zoo

How life has changed: He's recognized everywhere, even during late-night trips to Walmart. And even though Saff is a transgender man, he's not angry that the producers misgendered him: "I don't think it bothered me as much as it bothered everybody else."

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How he feels about Joe: It's complicated. Saff spoke of Joe's loyalty to people, but is still upset at how Joe treated the tigers. "I think justice was served, but I still don't want to see that man die in prison."

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "We didn't even have any further conversation," Saff said when McHale asked what Joe said to him after he had his arm torn off by a tiger. Saff was back at work a few days after his amputation, and Joe was most interested in turning the footage into a video that they could show future employees to see if they could stomach the potential danger.

Joshua Dial, Joe's ex-campaign manager

How life has changed: As Joe's campaign manager during his run for governor, Joshua was one of the few participants who seemed to get a positive reputation bump from the documentary. Unsurprisingly, he was pleased by the series: "It's fair, it's balanced and I just think it's a wonderful production."

How he feels about Joe: He said he knew Joe was crazy when he started working for him, but he saw living at the zoo as a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, he's still traumatized by the time he witnessed Joe's ex-husband, Travis, shoot himself in his office. He was never able to get counseling, but hopes he can earn enough money now to go to therapy.

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "I once saw guy get his finger bit off by a bear outside my office window." (There was no follow-up.)

John Finlay, Joe's ex-husband

How life has changed: He was not thrilled with his portrayal, especially as he was featured in his interviews without his new teeth. "I was portrayed as a drugged-out hillbilly, and that was not me then. At that time, I was four to five years clean," John said.

How he feels about Joe: He was semi-complimentary of Joe's songwriting skills (some lyrics were great, some were unhinged), so they seem to be on okay terms.

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "I got tattoos. Why not show off? I mean, it was a little cold, but it was fun," he answered when McHale asked why he was shirtless in every interview.

Rick Kirkham, ex-producer of Joe Exotic TV

How life has changed: Rick has since moved to Norway with his new girlfriend, but the show is wildly popular there as well: "I can't even take a walk down at the fjord without somebody walking their dog, coming by, pointing, going 'That's him! That's him!' "

How he feels about Joe: He wrestles with a lot of guilt that he never turned in Joe to the police for animal abuse. "I sold out my own journalistic integrity by not going to the authorities," he said, adding, "I regret ever meeting Joe Exotic."

The "Did he really just say that?" quote: "The one thing that I think can come out of this documentary series that is good: People are now going, 'Free the animals.' I think that's the best thing." (Not that it's a shocking quote, but it was relatively shocking to hear on this series.)

The Washington Post

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