Saving the world proves to be serious business as Jackson, Abe, Mitch, and Jamie fight murderous leopards at every turn while Chloe searches for an ally, any ally.

By Jodi Walker
September 10, 2015 at 02:42 AM EDT
Cook Allender /CBS
S1 E11
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Thank goodness for that second hour of Zoo tonight, because things were looking pretty dire halfway through the two-part installment. Which isn’t to say things are looking great at the end of the second hour either—if an episode of Zoo ends without eliciting a gasp, has it really ended at all? The Animal Avengers did manage to capture a Zambian leopard, create a cure with the Mother Cell, and get the U.S. government on their side… but there’s also the small detail that four out of five of them might be totally dead. And the remaining member is Chloe, who’s kind of been having a tough go of it lately.

At the end of last week’s episode, it seemed bad enough that Chloe had been separated from the rest of the crew, but tonight we have officially reached new heights on unwanted interference with the mission to save the world from a hostile animal takeover. Combined, these two episodes felt much more like the first few installments of this series, and not just because of all the unidentified ominous growling. No, it was the animals—oh, the animals! Zoo can lose steam when the plot goes too far into the realm of the humans trying to save the world, rather than the animals trying to take those humans down. But all it takes to regain its momentum is arriving at a hospital that’s surrounded by thrashing crocodiles on the ground level, patrolled by majestic roaming lions on the roof, and has a Hematology department fully staffed with homicidal leopards, leaky pupils on every single one of them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a lot to be done before Jackson, Abe, Mitch, and Jamie get to the hospital where they ultimately create the cure that the entire season has been barreling toward. Everyone but Chloe arrives in Zambia with Ray (a.k.a., “this guy’s trouble”) ready to find the mutated leopards that have yet to be exposed to Reiden Global products. They discover that the leopards have been attacking a completely random manner, as though they’re trying to instill fear in the local human population — so even though they only have one tranquilizer gun and no way of knowing how, when, or where the leopards will attack next, Jackson insists that they head out into the bush to track down what they came for: killer leopards.

Much of these two episodes is spent dwelling on Jackson’s often rash and erratic behavior, and though I’m not quite sure what purpose that focus will ultimately serve (really hoping it’s not a “getting Abe killed” purpose), I do appreciate that Jackson has taken on less of the protagonist role than originally seemed planned, which leaves room for other characters to shine. But one character whose light dimmed quickly? Ray, who heads out into the darkness with the tranquilizer gun when they hear some rustling in the bush. We’re told he’s a great shot, but he returns without having to test the—BOOM! A leopard plows Ray down straight out of left field. Everyone grabs a torch and manages to fend off the rest of the prowl of leopards, but poor Ray has caused his last bit of trouble.

They pile back in the jeep, tracking the leopards into the night at Jackson’s insistence, and when they resume in the daylight, they’re able to locate the leopards’ den where one female has been left alone, likely to protect a cub. When she heads out of the den, Abe and Jackson sneak in and, indeed, find a precious little leopard cub: a much more manageable solution to getting the stem cells they need than a full grown leopard, which would be much harder to carry around in a canvas tote for the rest of the episode, as they do with the leopard cub. And that’s because, when they arrive at the bridge they need to take back to wherever they intended to concoct their stem cell smoothie, the ropes have all been chewed straight through…

Which means the team will have to go the long way around, taking them straight through the territory of a notoriously dangerous local army. Indeed, as they’re making their way back toward civilization, two trucks full of gun-toting militia pull them over. As Abe and Jackson unsuccessfully try to convince them that they don’t have anyone who would pay a ransom for them, Mitch, ever the problem-solver, jumps into action. And by action, I mean he pricks the leopard cub with a needle, which doesn’t seem particularly productive, until about five minutes later when the three men have been forced back in the car and Jamie has been forced out of it, and the roving gang of leopards shows back up and takes care of the army themselves. Apparently the thing from the second episode where lions were able to communicate across long distances has made its way to Zambian leopards, and the prowl heard it’s cub’s little howl of pain. But while they’re busy taking down the men with guns, the Animal Avengers get away with the cub once more. In the midst of their giddiness at a narrow escape, they realize two things: Jackson was shot in the stomach during all of the commotion, and they’re not the only ones in trouble.

NEXT: Worst Skype session ever…

Chloe, who they’d been assuming would at least be safe in FBI custody, has become subject to one of the most threatening situations one can be a part of on Zoo: She got in the passenger seat of a car. First Leo Butler, and now Agent Ronnie “Dogstick” Brannigan, in the midst of a very dramatic speech about how she got his only friend in the world killed, is gunned down by a passing car. It’s quite startling, but that’s only the beginning for Chloe, who’s taken to an abandoned building with a bag over her head; it turns out that her abductor is the man who brought her into this mess in the first place, Alves, working, of course, for Reiden Global.

She tells him that all her team is doing is trying to clean up Reiden’s mess, but he informs her that it’s that very team that Reiden considers its mess to clean up. And he’s not going to torture her to find out where they’ve gotten off to with the Mother Cell—no, he’s going to torture her sister in France while she’s forced to watch on a laptop until she decides to give up the information. Chloe holds off for a long time, but about the time that we start hearing something that sounds like a buzz saw, she tells Alves that her team is in India searching for leopards. When he realizes that’s a lie, he orders his goons to cut off the sister’s left hand, telling Chloe that the right is next if she doesn’t tell the truth when he returns in 10 minutes.

Luckily for Chloe’s sister’s penmanship, Alves isn’t the only ambiguous bad guy sill lurking out there in the Zoo world—that’s right, Delevenne shows up and he’s decided to turn over a new, non-world-ending leaf. He shoots Chloe’s guard and tells her that it was never supposed to go this far and that he just needs to know where her team is and what’s going on so that he can help. Chloe is rightly suspicious that this is just another tactic from Reiden, and she doesn’t truly believe Delevenne is on her side (and nor do I) until he shoots Alves. I’m glad to have Delevenne back; it never really felt like he wanted to be on the wrong side of the animal apocalypse—that would be the “causing it” side rather than the “ending it” side.

So are we going to be able to end this pandemic, and is it really going to happen in the first season? That’s the question the second hour of tonight’s two-part installment attempts to answer. With Chloe safely out of the grips of Reiden Global—or at least safely not watching her sister, who Delevenne also saved, lose any more limbs—there’s still Jackson left to worry about. He’s in a bad state, and while Abe applies pressure to the wound in the backseat, Mitch speeds them toward the closest hospital. But on their way, they can’t help but notice that the entire town seems to be heading in the opposite direction with their cars packed for a lengthy trip.

And that’s when they arrive at CBS’ newest workplace drama, Animal Hospital: The humans still inside the hospital, which is to say, those that haven’t been attacked by the crocodiles right outside its doors, the lions on the roof, or the leopards roaming around inside, are all running around screaming. Abe gets a doctor to let them inside and though he says the hospital is being entirely evacuated, he agrees to perform the surgery Jackson needs, but then they’re on their own. Well, them and the gun that he gives them. For the next 45 minutes I will be infuriated on multiple accounts when various duos continue to charge out into hallways without that gun as though they’ve momentarily forgotten that they are in a building being patrolled by militaristic leopards. But as it happens so often, this is the last time I shall point it out.

While Jackson goes into surgery, the other three head to the Hematology department where Mitch assumes they’ll find everything he needs to create the cure. Well, all but one thing: they’ll need an animal to test the cure on, one that they’ll be able to tell the difference between its before-and-after behaviors… they need a domesticated animal that’s mutated. So, Abe heads out into the local neighborhoods and finds the one pet dog whose owner has yet to shoot it, though he arrives just in the nick of time; he assures the owner that if he lets him take his crazed dog, he’ll return him as the pet he once knew.

NEXT: Leopards, and leopards, and leopards, oh my…

So, Abe returns to the hospital where all of his friends are currently being attacked by leopards with very defiant pupils. Mitch manages to extract plenty of viable stem cells from the leopard cub’s tooth and combine them with the Mother Cell, and even fits in a sweet conversation with Jamie where he tells her that by dragging him into this insanity and giving him the courage to try and save his daughter, she basically saved him—and then she nearly dooms him by charging out the door to go tell Jackson they’ve created a cure, where one angry leopard is patiently waiting for them. Just kidding, it’s a furious leopard ready to maul them, because there are mutated leopards everywhere, why can’t anyone remember that?!

When the leopard charges them, Mitch does the only thing he can think of and pulls the fire alarm, which sets off the sprinklers and distracts the leopard, but it also douses the Mother Cell, apparently ruining it as they leave it behind. Abe and the dog join back up with them, and with only a small amount of the “cure” to work with, we arrive at a make-or-break moment. Mitch sticks the barking dog with the syringe and—nothing. Mitch gets extra surly, saying that his theory was just a theory and it was stupid to think that it might work. But Abe is having none of this negativity; he keeps asking him why it didn’t work, and Mitch finally realizes there’s no reason the actual cure shouldn’t have worked, so it must have been the injection. They decide to try one more time, administering the cure orally, and the dog goes from raving to barking to happily sitting and staring at all his new friends.

Speaking of friends, while Mitch, Jamie, and Abe are successfully creating the stem cell cocktail to save the world, they kind of seem to have forgotten about their other pal who was recently shot and then wheeled into a quickie surgery. Well, don’t worry, he’s fine, but he wakes up from his successful operation only to find that the nurse who was still attending to the last patients in the hospital is being mauled by leopards while three children look on in terror. Using his I.V. stand as a walking stick and the rolling beds at battering rams, Jackson manages to get himself and the children behind a locked door until Abe is able to get there and get them out. They have another sweet conversation about being brothers that is once again interrupted by murderous leopards. These things are laser-focused. As Jamie and Mitch head out of the building with the cub, they find themselves surrounded by leopards, but in the next split second, they’re surrounded by some kind of Special Forces who are taking the leopards down with tranquilizers.

You see, Chloe, and her ally-once-more, Delevenne, have been up to some good. Delevenne tells Chloe that their only option to get out in front of Reiden is to get the government on their side, so he’s taking her to Washington, D.C., where there’s currently a sort of meeting of the minds being held between scientists and government officials concerning the erratic animal behavior that’s been observed all over the world. And even though Chloe is sure she can’t give any sort of scientifically convincing argument to explain what her team has found, Delevenne gives her, like, six pep talks, and when she gets up there to speak… she totally bombs.

Well, not really—she does her best to explain what they’ve found: Animals are attacking technology, they’re developing interspecies communication, they no longer see humans as apex predators, and if it’s not stopped, humanity will be facing a mass extinction. Well, the scientists in the room simply can’t accept that this isn’t just some sort of virus, and everyone clears out after Chloe’s “mass extinction” talk. But, as it turns out, her words were not falling on entirely ignorant ears. For a brief moment as a bunch of men in suits show up to cart Chloe and Delevenne off, it seems like they’ve been found by Reiden Global once more. But this time, Chloe is being given yet another ally, in the form of mysterious government official Amelia Sage, played by always welcome TV actress, Jayne Atkinson.

Sage tells Chloe that nearly everything she said lined up with the findings her people have been researching for the past two weeks (they call the defiant pupil the “delta determinant”), that she and her team are about to become heroes, and that they’re no longer alone. It almost seems too good to be true…

And while it’s yet to be seen if Amelia Sage is as much of a savior as she seems, the episode ends with a very clear statement that just because the Animal Avengers have a cure, and just because they have a few more allies than they used to, doesn’t mean that saving the world is going to be easy. As Jackson, Abe, Jamie, and Mitch fly back from Africa to the U.S. to meet back up with Chloe, Jamie and Mitch retire to the back of the plane for some vodka relationship advancing in the form of making out. And just about the time you’re trying to figure out if you buy these two as a romantic couple, something hits the plane, the captain comes on the speaker to announce some “unusual migratory behavior,” and before Mitch’s ears can even perk up to the familiarity of that phrasing, he and Jamie fly to the ceiling of the plane as the cabin loses pressure and the world maybe loses its cure for the animal apocalypse.

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