The Best 'Tiger King' Glow-Ups, Ranked

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

Jeff and 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… 

6. Saff

Saff Tiger King

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 Kirkham Tiger King

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

Eric Cowie Tiger King

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

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 Dial Tiger King

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

John Finlay Tiger King

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.

Images: Netflix

Sara Levine
Sara Levine
Sara cares about a few things, including cheese, cheap white wine (never chardonnay), and the Real Housewives of Potomac. She co-hosts Betches' Not Another True Crime Podcast and posts her tweets to Instagram.