New continents, new species, new pets to worry about murdering children in their beds… welcome back to recaps of Zoo! In its second episode, Zoo cuts down majorly on the horror movie scares, but moves ably along into the building of suspense needed to tie those kinds of moments together. Whereas the premiere moved along like a film that cut off at its climactic moment—y’know, if the movie-going public would be cool with the climactic moment of a horror film being a bunch of household cats in a tree at a playground—the second episode kind of takes it back to point A, building a sturdier foundation of why these animal attacks are more than just coincidence; more than just the ramblings of an unhinged scientist.
With the introduction of dogs in Slovenia (and methinks we might be coming back around to those tigers) we not only get a new plot point to mysteriously tie Chloe more permanently into the investigation of these animals, but also get a new species to focus on. The underlying message? It’s not just cats you need to worry about if that morgue of an alley is any indication. It’s also dogs. And animals communicating from great distances. And you should definitely be worried about lions’ sudden understanding of the human circulatory system. It’s everything… if you live in the world of Zoo—which we totally don’t, this is totally not going to happen, everything is fine—you need to be worried about everything.
But don’t let me get too serious on you—Zoo is still keeping it silly and unpretentious in its second hour. When that cat looked straight into the camera after returning home from its stay at the Tree Convention for Sentient Cats and heading straight for the sleeping kid, I laughed for most of the commercial break. I mean, I was freaked out… but the fact that it was because Fluffy stared me in the face through my flat screen is appropriately hilarious.
And the second episode picks up right there—right where we left off with Mitch and Jamie staring up into a tree full of cats that they’re pretty sure have plans to kill some 8-year-olds in the near future. But how do you tell Animal Control that? Jamie is of the mind-set that you just nip it in the bud, call them, and shoot them straight: “I’m calling to report a… there’s been a… there’s a lot of cats in the trees.” Fair enough! But Mitch is doing a much better job of convincing himself that all of the odd L.A. feline activity is all just a coincidence, and Billy Burke’s eye-acting is doing a great job of convincing the audience that Mitch might not actually be so sure. But Mitch is correct that publicly addressing the idea that animals seem to be slowly and systematically turning on humans is going to raise a few eyebrows (see all future Jackson paragraphs). Especially if the moment you make a call to Animal Control about the cats in the trees, said cats immediately evacuate the tree, return to their homes, cue the cat breaking the fourth wall.
Jamie: “Do you think—”
Mitch: “[sarcastically] What, they heard you calling the authorities?”
Me: YES MITCH THAT IS WHAT I THINK
NEXT: Up a tree without a cell phone…[pagebreak]
Jackson is much more willing to admit that something is up in Botswana as he recently witnessed his best friend be killed by a roaming pack of male lions… well, he thought Abe was killed. Jackson is still in jail for interfering with hunting, but he convinces the guard that they have to go investigate what happened with the safari group that was killed. As Jackson is collecting his belongings, Zoe is leaving questioning and heading back to Paris, so he asks her for her contact information so he can get in touch with her while they try to figure out what’s going on with the lions, and definitely not just because he wants to be able to text her memes sometimes. But when he goes to put her number in his cell, he has a missed call—from Abe.
Jackson and two of the policemen head straight out to the safari van where Jackson last left Abe. The dead driver is still in the van, but all that they see of Abe is a trail of blood leading out into the grass. My immediate thought is just to hit up Track My iPhone, but I guess that’s why I don’t live in the Botswana bush; Jackson spots Abe in the tree where we last saw the lions drag him up, but the lions are nowhere to be seen, so Jackson takes off running, and the police follow behind him in the jeep. And wouldn’t you know it, as Jackson gets up in the tree to try and save a barely conscious Abe, those darn lions show back again. But as opposed to the aggression we’ve seen them show in all their previous interactions with humans, this time they keep their distance, even as the police are getting frantic about getting out of there. They get Abe out of there, but those serial-killing cats really seem like they’re up to something.
Also up to something: Jamie. And that something is investigation Reiden Global. We know this because Zoo went to some extra efforts to visualize the use of technology like popping text messages up onscreen, à la The Mindy Project or any MTV show about supernatural teens. So as Jamie does rapid fire research on her laptop, we see hear search terms pop up: Lawrence Fremer, Reiden Global, bizarre cat behavior, Folsom chemical spill, etc. And as we see her go to her door to get an eviction notice and talk to her landlord, there’s a pretty awesome little vignette of her in-focus laptop: Suddenly, the webcam light comes on, the many open windows on her desktop start minimizing, coding boxes are popping up, something that says, “cloning hard drive,” and finally, all of her windows opening back up just as they were.
So, someone is onto Jamie, but Jamie is definitely onto something too. She tracks down Mitch in his classroom to tell him that she’s found out that Reiden Global uses a pesticide called 2-4D—a pesticide that affects the neurotransmitters in animals’ brains. So the Reiden Global beef that the homicidal zoo lions were being fed came from cows who’d consumed those pesticides; oh yeah, and a recent mosquito outbreak had also recently been contained using 2-4D in—you guessed it—Brentwood, where the murder cats live.
Mitch is skeptical because Mitch is always skeptical, but after Jamie tells him that she’s so intent on taking Reiden Global down because they “murdered [her] hometown,” that soft spot he has for her and her theories gets even softer, so he takes her to the zoo where they want to test the brains of the lions who were put down. But the zoo worker who has a soft spot for Mitch—leave your emotions at the door, people!—tells them the lions’ remains have been destroyed, but they could do some neuro-testing on a live lion. Luckily, they choose an adorable cub.
I say luckily because about the time they start attaching transmitters to the cub’s head to find that he has spiking Hyper-Gamma frequencies—a frequency that a lion’s brain shouldn’t have at all—the little nugget wakes up… as do all the other lions in the zoo. Apparently, about the time the cub’s Hyper-Gammas were spiking, all the other big cats started going wild and the trainers haven’t been able to get them to stop. And now Mitch is the one with a theory: “I think these lions are communicating with each other long-distance.”
NEXT: Father knows best…[pagebreak]
Jackson might have something to say about that back in Africa. Abe is being treated at the clinic by a doctor that just so happens to be Jackson’s mother. She tells him that despite being abducted by lions and dragged up a tree, he’s going to be fine—he doesn’t have a single internal injury or bite mark. Strange, thinks Jackson, that the lions would go out of their way not to mortally wound him. To the tapes!
Jackson gets little buddy Daniel to bring over his dad’s videos that he was watching in the premiere and they do a little learnin’ about “fight or flight” and fear responses according to Oz Sr.: “It won’t be long before the animals realize that they no longer need to flee. That they have the capacity to rule the planet… they no longer need to fear mankind All they need to do is fight, and they can take down the human race.” Uh huh, uh huh, I follow, but here’s a quick question: Any suggestions on how to deal with this mounting animal insurrection?
Well… maybe. Jackson goes to talk to Abe in the hospital about what happened during his little stay with the lions. He said that he must have bumped his head when the lion pounced on him in the safari van because, the next thing he knew, he was being dragged up into the tree. He thought they were bringing him as food for the pride, but they didn’t eat him right away. As he faded in and out of consciousness, they waited in the reach, watching him; and he waited to be selected for breakfast, lunch, or dinner libations. But Jackson tells Abe and his mother that he doesn’t think the lions would have ever eaten him: “I think that they wanted us to find you. I think that they wanted someone to spread their message… they’re no longer afraid of us.”
It’s a good thing Jackson doesn’t mention what I was thinking (“those lions totally figured out how to use Abe’s phone to call Jackson! No, wait that’s crazy… or is it???”) because his mom is already nice and freaked out to hear her son saying the same kinds of things her delusional late husband was saying right before he killed himself. He tells her that he knows there were 12 flash drives containing the entirety of his father’s manifesto, but he only has five and she gets very upset, reminding him that his father’s position was revoked at Harvard and he was basically driven to madness by this ideas. Why is Jackson trying to bring all of this up? “I’m not. I think it’s already here.”
But as we know from last week’s drippy pupil, Jackson isn’t crazy; and his dad may have been a little, uh, passionate, but he probably wasn’t crazy either. And now it seems that the Oz matriarch might be coming on board, as well. As she checks out the 22 bodies that have been returned from the bush for the remains to be given to the families, she tells Jackson that she discovered something unusual: She says she knows lions to kill for two reasons, because they’re threatened or for food. But these people weren’t a threat; and they weren’t eaten; and most unusual, each body had its femoral artery slashed… “These people died slow painful deaths.”
Jackson’s mom gives him an address in Tokyo, where the executor of his father’s will said some of his research still remained at the time of his death. If there are more flash drives, that’s where they’ll be—and that’s where Jackson and Abe will be as they head off in a jeep to take their little investigation international.
NEXT: Slovenian dogs and French intelligence…[pagebreak]
But Tokyo isn’t the only place that holds more answers. This episode spends a good bit of time in Slovenia, and I’m only getting to it now because these scenes were, well, not good. They were inefficient and obvious, and it kind of seemed like the writers had never heard a British human speak before. There is a British couple adopting a young boy from Slovenia and while the mother at first just seems to be a brat—“Lord, help us with this adoption… I just don’t know how we shall ever hope to succeed at this” (see what I mean)—it soon becomes clear when they take the little boy to a carnival to see the tigers that she’s been pressured into something she’s not ready for by her husband: “You do know this is unnatural? Forcing a creature to do something that doesn’t come instinctively.”
Whether this parental plotline will become important in the future, I’m not sure. What matters is that the little boy gets a stuffed tiger, a little dog that’s been roaming around the hotel takes the stuffed tiger, the dad goes tracking the dog through what I have to assume is the entirety of Slovenia, and when he finally tracks him down, the dog has dropped the tiger. So the man slowly approaches him and picks it up, no problem… until he starts noticing the dead bodies in the alley. Lots of dead bodies. And suddenly, there are lots of wild dogs surrounding him, baring their teeth and growling.
And the next thing we know, the little dog is returning to the hotel and making his way to the mother and child in their hotel room, looking perfectly innocent with the stuffed tiger.
What’s going on in Slovenia? Well, definitely nothing good, but it looks like dear, tragic Chloe might have the answers. As it turns out, Chloe works for the French equivalent of the FBI. She’s there putting out national fires when her sister stops by for a quick chat.
Chloe: “I don’t know which is worse—being attacked by lions or discovering that my sister slept with my fiancé.”
Yo, Chloe’s life is the woooooorst. So, after a quick cry in the bathroom, she was probably hoping that she could return home for the evening and drink six glasses of wine in peace, but no such luck. A man shows up at her apartment to tell her that they work for the same people, and he needs to talk to her about two important matters—what happened in Africa and a pack of dogs in Slovenia—that he thinks she’s uniquely suited to consult on. And when Chloe is a little like, “Hm, not entirely feeling like going off with a stranger and this terribly traumatic time in my life,” he hits her with the big guns: “I’m afraid—and this is not an overstatement—that the fate of the world may hinge on it.”
Good thing he didn’t overstate it! Are you picking up what Zoo is putting down on the weight of this pesky animal issue? Did you enjoy the second episode as much as the premiere, or do you need a little less Hyper-Gamma frequencies and a lot more action? Sound off in the comments with your best leaky pupil theories (but no book spoilers, please)!