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And with that, the Animal Avengers have lost their leader. In last week’s black-tie-optional episode of Zoo, intel operative Chloe Tousignant was trapped in a chamber filled with a poisonous gas created by the Noah Objective to wipe out all of the world’s mutated animals. And while the first few minutes of this week’s hour seemed to indicate that Chloe would be just fine — the successful mouth-to-mouth, the supportive love interest, the gasped-out words — directing the rest of the team toward her pal Jamie in Caraquet would be the last thing she did.

That’s right, this summer show about electricity-conducting ants and airplane-chasing elephants just killed off one of its main characters. The main character, according to Zoo executive producer Josh Appelbaum, whom EW spoke to about the choice to kill everybody’s favorite French operative: “In many ways, on a sort of procedural level for our team, she was the glue,” said Appelbaum. “Chloe was at the center of so many stories, so to do it this way allows us to shift the entire dynamic of the show, and to go a level deeper with all of these characters.”

As for those other characters, Appelbaum told us that between the Noah Objective and Jackson’s quickly mutating genes, the Animal Avengers are looking at some pretty tight time constraints in the back half the season. So, we hope your mysteriously-funded superjet come with seatbelts, because below, Appelbaum discusses with EW how Zoo’s animal apocalypse is about to become a bumpy — well, bumpier — ride.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In season 2 especially, Chloe had become the consummate leader for this team; what brought about the decision to have her exit in such a painful way?

JOSH APPELBAUM: To lose Chloe felt like it would be this incredibly profound loss — that it would put such a huge hole in our team just as they’re starting to understand the next phase of the mutation, with them sort of scrambling to figure out how to keep their mission going and how to stay on track. And with Jackson, it’s like, here is this guy, there’s something wrong with him, and Chloe was his real confidant in this. So being able to explore what it was like for him losing that person in this moment felt like it was really kind of compelling stuff. [Chloe’s death] sort of doubles down on the commitment of our team to go solve the problem, because now they need to finish the work that Chloe, in many ways, started.

What are the Animal Avengers facing now with the loss of their leader, and who should we expect to step up to the plate moving forward?

I think the feeling is that our team has lost its center of gravity. I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s definitely a discussion in episode 6 of, now that she’s gone, who is the North Star of the team, who is the leader? It’s a job that no one is necessarily dying to have, and what I’ll say is, it will end up in the hands of the person who wants it the least. [Laughs.]

It was a bittersweet episode. We lost Chloe, but her dying words helped the team find Jamie. Is it safe to say the gang is back together again?

The gang is definitely back together, and for a good long while, they’re here to stay. It was very much a conscious decision to balance out the loss of Chloe; we’re starting in darkness; let’s end in the light that Jamie is reunited with the team. Somehow there’s a feeling of hope moving forward, and not just loss. And now when Jamie gets reunited with the team where they thought, Oh Jamie, our reporter from Los Angeles, and it’s like, no, no, no — she’s evolved way beyond that now, she’s seen things way darker than any of them have ever seen.

Perhaps she’s even bringing a new addition to the team in the form of Logan?

Logan is definitely part of the family now. Without giving anything away, I would say that Logan is somebody with a huge heart who will massively complicate things for our team. And I’ll let you read into that any way you like. [Laughs.]

And now that Mitch has well and truly come up with a plan to find the cure — track the final three remaining animals that represent genomic fossils on the triple helix DNA — what does the future look like for the team and keeping Jackson from turning into a, y’know, mutant?

The one thing I feel very good about saying is, from this point on, the season is just a bullet train. We mapped it out, and [the majority of] the season only takes place over the course of a few weeks. So you’re going to see Jackson go down the wormhole pretty quickly, and we’re definitely putting that stuff front and center this season. We’re not doing some slow burn where, oh, maybe if we get to a third season, we’ll see what happens with Jackson. It is on. He’s in trouble, and he needs to be healed and fixed quickly. It’s a pretty rollicking ride from this point on.

That’s enough about the humans — what are these animals up to?

To me, one of the fun things we’ve been doing this season is, as part of this Phase 2, the animals aren’t just attacking the humans, they’re sort of making this world uninhabitable for the humans. But we’ve been somewhat upfront about the notion that they’re not doing this out of malice. If anything, it’s the biological imperative to survive. Because we’re the ones getting in the way of the planet. [Laughs.] They are evolving, and part of their evolution is realizing, “You guys are the problem and we’d probably be doing a lot better on this planet without you.”

Zoo airs at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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