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'Zoo' recap: 'Pack Mentality'

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Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/CBS

Zoo

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
seasons:
2
performer:
James Wolk, Nonso Anozie, Billy Burke, Nora Arnezeder
broadcaster:
CBS
genre:
Drama, Thriller

“What are bats doing in Antarctica?”

Excellent question, doomed scientist. They’re definitely not contributing to the marital healing properties apparently attributed to the coldest continent; they’re not attacking tiny Japanese planes anymore; and according to your wife, at this very moment, they’re covering up all of the solar panels, a.k.a., your life source. So, to answer your question: These particular bats seem to have come to Antarctica specifically to murder you.

And with that, welcome back to Zoo! Last week, the mysterious Delavane gathered together all five of our lead characters to create a super team that will hopefully be able to save the world from an imminent animal takeover. And this week, his choices seem to be working out quite well! They’ve even earned themselves a Breakfast Club-style introduction in the series’ pre-apocalyptic opening sequence: “So we were hired — a team of people from different backgrounds with different specialties: an expert in animal behavior, a journalist, safari guide, foreign intelligence agent, and a veterinary pathologist.” Their mission, should they choose to accept the possibility of death by intestine-covered escaped convicts on a daily basis: “To find out what is happening with the animals, why it’s happening, and how to stop it.” No pressure.

To do that, Chloe tells the team that they’re headed from Tokyo to Biloxi, Mississippi where the prison break-in and subsequent fire that we saw last week left no survivors… the prison break-in planned and orchestrated entirely by a pack of wolves. Chloe has quickly embraced her role as Animal Avengers team leader, booking rental cars like a pro and splitting the crew up into new, and interesting pairs: Mitch and Abe are to go trap a wolf for research purposes while Jackson and Jamie head to the prison with Chloe. Their slightly thin cover story for gaining access to the prison is that they’ve come from the French embassy to identify a French national who was incarcerated in the prison. That no one seems to buy this but still lets them wander all over the grounds doesn’t really matter though, because the skepticism mostly seems to be a means to introduce FBI Agent Ben Shaffer, played by the ever so charming Geoff Stults.

While walking through the prison yard Jackson notices that the wolves didn’t leave any scat behind (scat is wolf poop, for those of us whose minds were drifting more in a jazz hands direction). In packs, an alpha wolf usually leaves behind scat for the other wolves to follow, so according to Jackson, “not only do we have an unmotivated wolf attack, but we have a leaderless wolf attack.” But later, when Jackson is peering over FBI agents’ shoulders, really not trying at all to pretend like he’s a French diplomat, he catches some security footage of a wolf approaching Evan Lee Hartley, the mysterious death row inmate from last week. I found the way ELH watched and interacted with the wolves a little unreadable at the end of the last episode, but Jackson recognized the interaction for what it was right away: The wolves were behaving submissively toward ELH… because ELH is their alpha. (Even more thankful for that lack of alpha scat now.)

But on Zoo, for every animal question answered, there’s another animal question raised. The story zooms over to a brand new location in Antarctica where two scientists have apparently been living for almost two years in an attempted experiment to save their marriage. Even though these isolated plots are sometimes a little clunkier than the rest of the episode that surrounds them, I appreciate Zoo’s efforts to give us a more personal look each week at the people’s lives who are truly being affected by this mounting animal pandemic. It’s not all dropping cats and hunting scat around here.

NEXT: Welcome to Antarctica, home of failing marriages and bats…[pagebreak]

For example, the Antarctica couple who are already having enough relationship problems without adding defiant bats to the mix. Alas, they look out of their window in the middle of frozen nowhere to find that hordes of bats have appeared and are completely covering all of their solar panels, cutting off their heat and electricity. One of the women, Wendy, goes out to get rid of the bats, and returns telling her wife, Margaret, that she almost feels bad for creating a mini flame thrower to get rid of them. But she shouldn’t feel too bad because one of the little guys clung to Wendy’s coat and absolutely wreaks havoc once it’s inside, managing to knock over their space heater and destroy their backup generator. But it’s fine because now their solar panels are back in action — oh wait, no… here come the second infantry of bats. Damn.

In Biloxi, the core team are working toward some answers; Jamie uses the sleuthing skills she usually reserves for Reiden Global to research Evan Lee Hartley and finds that he worked at a bio lab until 2008 when he suddenly stabbed a hunting party to death in the woods, seemingly for no reason. His family said he had never been anti-hunter, but it was like he suddenly became a different person. The kind of person who might…

Lead a pack of wolves in killing an entire prison’s worth of people the day before he was sentenced to death and then escape into the woods? When Jackson and Jamie go back to the prison yard to do a little more unexplained investigating in the name of a falsified French embassy, they look at the wolf tracks in the prison yard and wonder how a pack of wolves just disappears into thin air. That is, until Jackson discovers a freshly covered hole under the fence and realizes that the wolves didn’t disappear, they were just covering their tracks… tracks that include wolf paws and one set of human feet leading into the woods.

Chloe sends Jamie to find the Evan Lee Hartley’s widow, the last person known to have left the prison alive before the wolf attack, while she and Jackson head into the woods to warn Mitch and Abe that in addition to trying to catch a live wolf, they should also be on the lookout for a deranged alpha wolf-man. And ELH is pretty easy to spot, covered in feces and animal intestines, knocking Abe to the ground and reciting one of his signature beasty bible verses: “And the beast shall stand in judgment of the wicked and the boastful.” But about the time that Mitch and Abe find themselves surrounded by ELH and his pack of wolves, they’re saved by the sound of hunters’ gun shots, which cause ELH and the wolves to take off running.

But the question is, are they running away from the hunters, or toward their next group of victims? When Jamie goes to visit Lucy, the widow we met last week, she tells Jamie that Evan Lee Hartley said he was sick and looking for a cure; he told her that all of the answers could be found in the Bible he was holding, but it felt a little more loaded than simple evangelism to her: “All what answers?” But that Jamie — she’s the answers girl. She heads back to the prison, further invokes the name of their French Embassy Built on Lies to gain access to ELH’s prison cell, and finds his bible tucked away in an air duct.

NEXT: This is your brain on (coffee) pot…[pagebreak]

While Jamie is trying to crack the human side of the Biloxi attack, her other four cohorts have managed to bring a wolf that had been freshly shot back from the woods to their hotel room (further proof to never, ever use a hotel duvet) to see what information they can gather about what might have caused these wolves to attack. We see Chloe coming back into the room with a car battery; we see Jackson give a bellhop $100 to bring them two coconuts; and then we see Mitch finally fulfilling the MacGyver-meets-The-Professor role he was always meant to play. From the smell of the wolf’s blood (not good) it’s clear that it was infected with some kind of bacteria before it was ever shot; Mitch devises an experiment that simulates the wolf’s brain by putting coconut water—chemically similar to the cerebrospinal fluid that flows around the brain — into a coffee pot, adding the wolf’s blood to it and using the current from the car batter to stimulate growth in any already existing bacteria. If the bacteria causes a reaction in the “coffee pot brain,” there’s a good chance it’s responsible for the wolf’s abnormal behavior.

Consider me intrigued and rewinding for clarity.

Mitch assumes it might take an hour or two to see the coconut water “bubble up a little bit”… so, naturally, the coffee pot explodes in 10 seconds flat. So, that seems like a pretty firm “yes” on the mystery bacteria being at least somewhat responsible for the wolves’ abnormal behavior; a definite yes to keeping Mitch on board and giving him a groceries-and-batteries budget; and a big ol’ question mark to what that speedy reaction means to the bigger picture.

Because it’s certainly not looking good for the bottom line over in Antarctica. As the two women begin to shiver with no electricity, and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis plays, they get understandably sentimental, making good of the moments together that they’re both assuming might be their last. They have a few birds that we’ve seen they keep in cages inside their home and Wendy suddenly has the thought that if they let their caged birds free, the bats might leave. Her wife is teasingly skeptical — “Dr. Wendy Rhodes, are you suggesting that all winged creatures look out for each other?” — but says maybe they should, “just in case.” It’s not until the next scene that we see the empty cages indicating that the birds were released and the bats flying away from the solar panels. But the scientists are also frozen to death inside their home, the electricity not returned in time to save them.

And the team back in Biloxi are on the run. Shaffer told Chloe that the police were going to be looking for her because they know one of her people took evidence from Evan Lee Hartley’s (whose prison blues just turned up on a dead hunter in the woods) cell. And that something? Hartley’s bible that Jamie is now showing to the rest of the group. In it, he’s underlined every single reference to animals and tucked away one photo—a photo of himself and Dr. Robert Oz… Jackson’s father.

I am very much willing to admit that, as with the most entertaining thrillers, the more answers we get, the more questions I have, so here are a few lingering scat trails to peruse:

  • The bats waited to until the women died to leave those solar panels, right? If there had been immediate mercy following the winged creatures’ release, surely the couple wouldn’t have frozen on their couch.
  • And is it just a coincidence that they were scientists? They mentioned so many of their professors by name that I kept expecting them to mention Jackson’s father. Are there more mysterious pics of Oz, Sr. in our future?
  • Speaking of fathers, Mitch had a rather pointed phone conversation with his ex-wife and mother of his daughter that seems like it should be tucked into the back of our brains: “If there’s something to be done, we should do it.”
  • Also for your bulletin boards: Mitch’s recognition of “big cat taxonomy” and the scientific name for leopards in Jackson’s father’s notes.
  • And finally, thank goodness for Abe — if he wasn’t around cracking jokes and passing around mini bottles, this pending animal apocalypse would be a lot less fun.

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