blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) s01e05 – Make America Exotic Again

So, luckily, businessman Jeff Lowe beating tigers at the end of last episode was just a horrifying teaser not the actual content of this episode. In fact, Lowe doesn’t hit a single animal in this episode. They don’t even use the footage again. And the ominous “Jeff Lowe takeover” of the zoo… it wasn’t as immediate as last episode implied. I’d be very curious to see how Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode would have presented this story in a three hour piece; there’s so much information they withhold for effect; master manipulation.

For example, the reason we don’t see anything of Joe’s newest husband, Travis Maldonado? Because he’s dead. He killed himself. Possibly accidentally, possibly not, in front of Joe Exotic’s campaign manager, Joshua Dial. Campaign manager for what? President.

See, back when Lowe took over the park and did things like open the “watch the cats” pizza parlor (with the pizza made from spoiled Walmart ingredients), Joe Exotic also got the idea to run for President. His wacky campaign ads made it national on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and got Joe enough attention he was able to get a campaign manager, Dial. Also from Walmart. Dial ran the ammo counter.

Around the same time husband John Finlay knocks up the desk clerk at the zoo and they run off together because, turns out, Finlay wasn’t gay all those years—no one on the show seems familiar with the concept of bisexuality; anyway, the reason Finlay stuck with Joe Exotic was because of meth. Joe kept him high all those years. Once the presidential campaign goes bust, then the subsequent governor one, Joe Exotic starts getting really nasty with everyone. He can’t stand Jeff Lowe’s point-man in the zoo, Allen Glover, for instance. There’s also a sequence where Joe shoots at the tigers (because they’re annoying him). It’s very uncool and disturbingly presented.

So after Travis dies, Joe’s even more upset, leading to him marrying another nineteen year-old two months later—Dillon Passage. Dillon doesn’t get the same kind of interviews as everyone else because we’re getting close to the present and Chaiklin and Goode are sort of done manipulating the viewer with clips from different time periods. See, this episode is where everything catches up to Joe Exotic and he’s arrested. Why? We don’t know, just the Feds are after him, which Jeff Lowe finds out because the bank tells him.

It’s a really interesting episode, but it’s also a cheaply played one. There’s actual footage of Travis killing himself—or at least of Dial witnessing it—and they cut it for exploitative effect. It’s actually surprising they don’t put music over it.

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