This Easter, Netflix has brought us a new episode of Tiger King. This is what everyone must mean when they say He is Risen. My mom told me to find a church service to watch online on Sunday morning, and so I sent her a picture of Joel McHale on my TV screen and she didn’t question it. I’m tempted to turn it off after the joke he makes about the global pandemic (tiger fever), but nevertheless, I persisted. Besides that terrible joke, there’s a lot to be sad about right off the top. Mainly, that Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Doc “Bhagavan” Antle are not featured in it. Joe obviously can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because he’s
dead in prison, and I’m sure Carole and Doc don’t want to get dragged publicly anymore, which I relate to because it’s exactly why I refrain from going to family dinners. The interviews are also all done over what appears to be a Skype call, which is giving me PTSD to when I was still employed. As someone who knows people from Oklahoma, I’m impressed by the fact that this group of winners had the technological knowledge to each set up their video chats. I’m also impressed that they don’t appear to be distracted by their own reflections, which is more than I can say every time I try to have a Zoom call with my friends. For this reunion episode, our host Joel interviews each of them one at a time, and we start with Erik.
Joel asks Erik if he washed his hair today, which seems like a stupid question. We’re in the middle of a pandemic! I’m pretty sure no one has washed their hair in a month. Most people’s reasoning is that they haven’t left their bed, but Erik’s is because he gets peed on every day. Comforting to know his job is considered essential, but mine wasn’t.
OKAY. He hasn’t even WATCHED the documentary?! When I post an Instagram story, you have to count me out of any activities for the rest of the day because all I’m doing is rewatching it. This guy is so wholesome. He talks about how the cats are like his children and he doesn’t even know how to pronounce “memes.” He reminds me of my 82-year-old great aunt. Erik lets us know that getting bit by a tiger is nothing to be afraid of! It just hurts until it stops, and then you’re good! Sounds like he’s giving a sex education lesson rather than talking about a 600-pound cat clamping its jaw down on you. He wants everyone watching to know that he’s never done meth, but he used to have a drinking problem, once again reminding me of my great aunt.
Jeff & Lauren Lowe
I would argue that Jeff Lowe owning 60-70 Affliction T-shirts is one of the more terrifying parts of this show. Obviously, Jeff is mad about his portrayal on the show, which appears to be a common sentiment from all of the terrible people featured in it. He’s saying that the producers had to have a villain and he was the one that got portrayed as such, but like, did he not watch it? We had a sex cult leader, alleged murderer, and someone who livestreamed himself blowing up a mannequin labeled Carole. Usually a TV show has to have a hero, but that’s what was missing here. There were plenty of villains to go around, so he’s not special in this regard! I’m glad to know that their nanny is settling well into their weird-ass open marriage. I was worried about her! I’m also happy to know that Allen is the “sweetest hitman you could ever hire.” I’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time a manager kicks me out of the bar for trying to organize a crowd surf.
Jeff is an expert at deflecting any blame from himself by just reminding everyone watching just how crazy Joe was. It’s an expert strategy. He tells the host that Joe was his own worst enemy by posting all of the videos he did threatening Carole, and I relate to Joe because when I have access to my cell phone after a few drinks, I too, am my own worst enemy. Jeff Lowe is definitely still a snake who is absolutely hiding something, but he’s not incriminating himself further today. Sigh.
John talks about how he was loyal to the animals over Joe because they “don’t give you any crap.” I’m getting mixed signals because Erik just said he gets peed on every day. Oh well. It’s nice to know that the reason that coronavirus is continuing to spread is because people are insisting on taking a photo with these guys in every Walmart in Oklahoma in the middle of a pandemic. Stay one tiger’s length away from him please, so I can go out for karaoke before the summer’s over!
He thinks Matthew McConaughey should play him and honestly after the side-by-side, I can kind of see it. Wait, is John hot? He tells the host he doesn’t consider himself a celebrity, just a guy in a documentary. I’m impressed with his humility, because I was an extra in Spy Kids in 2001 for less than two seconds and it’s still on my resume.
Saff is truly the nicest and most genuine guy on this show. He even talks about all of the good things Joe did, which is more than I would ever do for an ex-employer. Joel asks Saff if it was awkward with the tiger after the attack like it was a one-night stand and not a beast ripping his f*cking arm off. Saff tells us that he’s watched the footage from the tiger attack over and over again, which is honestly so brave considering I won’t even look at my messages after a night out. Overall, I stan Saff. How someone this level-headed got mixed up with all of these psychos is beyond me.
What a treat! Former Walmart gun salesman turned Joe Exotic’s gubernatorial campaign manager. Josh reminds us that he knew Joe was batsh*t crazy before taking the job, but it was his dream job so how could he say no? Um, have you ever considered how difficult it might be to get a legitimate political job after running a campaign that handed out condoms with the candidate’s face on them? Josh tells us that he loved his workspace because where else can you watch someone get their finger bit off by a bear right outside of your window? Ah, the beauty of nature! He tells us that he wasn’t Joe’s type because he wasn’t
an impressionable minor young and dumb. For the record, those two characteristics are not mutually exclusive, because every man under the age of 23 is an idiot. Josh also wants the viewers at home to know that he does not do drugs and never has, and as someone who went to public high school, they probably weren’t offering you drugs anyway. Sorry, Josh!
Oh my god it’s John Finlay?! Okay his teeth look so good! Maybe I’ll get new teeth. John tells us that everyone was hooking up with everyone at the zoo, which gives it more of a summer camp vibe than a professional place of business. Probably why so many laws were broken. I hate to be that person, but listening to him talk, I’m starting to see Josh’s point about Joe liking them dumb. He says he and his wife binge watched the show in seven hours. Okay John! You and everyone else with a Netflix subscription! He also says that he doesn’t like how he was portrayed as a drugged-up hillbilly. I thought that was just his brand, but apparently, he was five years sober at the time of filming. Yet he still thought being shirtless for every interview to show off his tattoos was a good idea.
So, our boy Rick’s in Norway because fleeing the country is exactly how you appear innocent after a true crime docuseries airs. I love how he describes his initial interaction with Joe when he decided he wanted to make a reality show based on his life:
Joe: What the f*ck do you want Rick?
Rick: I want to f*cking come work for you!
Let’s hope all job interviews are that easy when the economy recovers. Rick proceeds to tell us another story about Joe involving a horse that makes us hate him even more. I’m not so sure Joe should want to be released from prison. After Jeff’s glowing recommendation, PETA will probably hire Allen to murder him the instant he steps out of the gates. Rick still has nightmares from living at the zoo and I still have nightmares from watching this show, so I think we should all form a Tiger King victim support group. I’ll send the link for the Zoom meeting.
After watching this reunion episode, we have learned that everyone on the cast thinks Joe should be locked up. Shocker! Also, that less of them have done meth than we originally thought. Basically, nothing that we care about, considering Joe is incarcerated and Doc and Carole declined to participate. But, if you live in Oklahoma, hit up your local Walmart for a chance to spot a celebrity!
Just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, so too did the spirit of Joe Exotic return from the meth-fueled fever dream from whence it came to grace our screens once again. That’s because Netflix finally dropped the long-awaited Tiger King bonus episode, called The Tiger King And I. If the title isn’t any indication, it’s not actually new footage, and it’s basically just like, a 40-minute version of the last 2 minutes of every Catfish episode where the hosts video chat with everyone for updates. So in the new bonus-that’s-not-really-a-bonus, host Joel McHale catches up with some of our favorite secondary players from Tiger King. We get pretty much everyone at the G.W. Zoo except for obviously Joe Exotic. Unsurprisingly, Doc Antle and Carole Baskin did not participate, probably because Doc is too busy still running his
sex cult zoo despite the pandemic, and Carole has a personal vendetta against Netflix (the filmmakers better sleep with one eye open from now on).
I’m not here to recap the entire after show, because I’m an ~artiste~ and not a transcriber. I’m here to talk about the glow-ups. Specifically, to rank the glow-ups. Unsurprisingly, once everyone got out from underneath Joe’s watchful eye(brow ring), their skin cleared up, they got better teeth, their hair grew in thick and shiny, and overall, they all just look and sound way better off. So I want to pay tribute to our Tiger King glow-ups, in order of worst to best.
7. Jeff & Lauren Lowe
Unsurprisingly, Jeff and Lauren Lowe are exactly the same. Is it because Jeff has 65 of the same Affliction T-shirt and even more nearly identical styles of leather biker jacket? That’s certainly part of it. Is it also partly because they are maintaining the same smug attitude? You bet. And I’ve got to give Lauren major props for not at all looking like she recently gave birth—I guess Jeff’s thinly-veiled threats that he would leave her for their hot nanny if she failed to snap back to her pre-pregnancy weight instantly after giving birth worked.
I guess I’ll give them props for consistency, though I hope Jeff is at least using his bandanas as makeshift face masks if he leaves the house, instead of just wearing them under his hat. Either way, I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear of Jeff, especially considering he’s the one who broke the news on this disappointing reunion special. I predict he’s going to be riding this Tiger King wave for as long as he can, all while simultaneously protesting any connection he has to Joe Exotic. Dude, he like, made you…
This placement is by no means a personal attack on Saff. The truth simply is that when you start towards the top, there’s not much room for ascension. Saff looks exactly the same (please drop your skincare routine) and continues to maintain a levelheaded attitude, otherwise known as “be the realest one out of this whole cast of clowns.” The craziest part is probably that Saff is still sympathetic to Joe, and I don’t know if that’s extreme loyalty or a form of Stockholm Syndrome. He also didn’t really take issue with Netflix misgendering him throughout the 7-part series (and kind of again in the reunion with the name tag! Just call him Saff!), proving that he is nicer than me on my best day. Saff, never change.
5. Rick Kirkham
Rick kept his hat, changed his vest, and put the cigarette away during filming, all of which amount to a very solid glow-up. His wrinkles may have deepened from the time that being at G.W. Zoo undoubtedly took off his life, but damn it, he kept his statement piece. I respect it.
I’ve also got to give Rick big ups for getting as far away from Oklahoma as physically possible and just peacing out to Norway. I wish I’d thought of it myself.
4. Erik Cowie
Erik’s locks are still as luscious as ever, but he cut himself some ill-advised quarantine bangs, and for that reason, he’s not ranking higher on this list. However, Erik’s glowed-up attitude and outspokenness to how sh*tty Joe Exotic was to all the animals is worth commending, as is his opening line that he’s “livin’ life and lovin’ Jesus”, which I may steal to use ironically. He has not watched Tiger King because he’s supposedly been too busy working, and just may be the only person who actually does work at G.W. Zoo. I honestly love that for him, but hope that one day he can find a job working at a zoo that’s not run by complete lunatics.
3. John Reinke
Can’t really point to anything specific, but I just got the impression that Reinke was living better now, Gucci sweater now. Actually, I know—it’s the teeth. They are very white and very straight. (Yes, I know they were both straight and existent before, but now it’s just striking.) And my man’s got AirPods, and a new girlfriend! (While still married to his wife because of the pandemic. I love the messiness.) Overall, Reinke seems to be doing pretty well for himself (I can’t even find one person to
trap enter into in a monogamous relationship, let alone two), and if you think Matthew McConaughey should play Joe Exotic in the movie and not Reinke, you’re out of your f*cking mind.
2. Josh Dial
Josh, the haircut and scruff are working for ya, honey. Armed with a new hairstyle and a renewed hatred for the feds, Josh looks like he’s surviving and beginning to start thriving. But he still hasn’t given up his no-bullsh*t attitude, which earned him the nickname (at least among me and my podcast cohosts) as “the only voice of reason in this entire documentary”. He may be the only person in the history of documentaries to be satisfied with his portrayal and who found the documentary fair, but then again, Josh was one of the few people who didn’t have any shady sh*t to hide (lookin’ at you, Jeff and Carole). Hoping that Josh can get some help to deal with the fact that he witnessed Travis accidentally fatally shoot himself (can we get a GoFundMe for some therapy costs?), and let’s get this kid on the next campaign trail. But seriously, f*ck the feds.
1. John Finlay
Surprising no one, John Finlay has had the best glow-up of all time. Of all time! With new teeth that look amazing and a beard that looks like a prop you’d buy to be Amish for Halloween…or Mose from The Office…he is living a much, much better life than we saw during Tiger King. Probably my favorite thread throughout the after show, which emerged here with John as well as with Erik, was how everyone insisted that they were not on meth, despite their appearance. John in particular revealed he was four years sober during filming, and just went shirtless in all his interviews so he could show off his tattoos. Which is… a choice. And speaking of tattoos, John assures us that he actually did get his entire “Property Of Joe Exotic” tattoo fully covered up, and not just the bull head over the top part of it that was shown on the documentary. Praise be. The man is living.