Even the song of 1,000 cicadas is no match for the emotional trauma heading Jackson's way
My favorite part of each Zoo episode is when one of the less-central characters — more a Dariela or Jamie than a Jackson or Mitch — asks for clarification on the task at hand by summarizing whatever ludicrous explanation for the animal apocalypse the show is exploring during that particular hour. In this week’s installment, Jamie gets to it early on: “So you’re saying that some traveling carnie grifter from the 1890s inadvertently invented the triple helix?”
You bet your grumpy ass he did, Jamester! And let’s get right down to unpacking that statement, because frankly, I’m on the fence about the legitimacy of an old-timey X-ray machine causing the animal apocalypse. A magical newspaper, sure — but this?!
As you’ll recall, when last we left the Animal Avengers, they had stolen an immortal jellyfish everyone keeps calling an “eyewitness” to both animal uprisings. Thank goodness for Abe, who points out jellyfish don’t actually have eyes, so why doesn’t everyone cool it with the cutesy phrases. Mitch says the little guy may not have eyes, but he does have immortal cells, and those immortal cells were exposed to a whole buncha radiation in 1895 that caused the triple-helix-forming genetic mutation he’s calling the ghost gene. All caught up? Okay, here’s where the mic drops: Mitch says the radiation was caused by a fella named Leonard Price, who up and stole the first X-ray technology and took it around the world, X-raying people and — you guessed it — animals, exposing them to major radiation.
Apparently, all of the triple-helix species are descended from the animals/humans Pierce X-rayed with his very special machine. And to undo the triple helix, the Animal Avengers have to find descendants of every single one of the animals Pierce zapped. Short of an ancestry.com for vultures, the easiest way to accomplish such a feat is to find Pierce’s logs in his abandoned house in Holbeach, England. Good thing our favorite world-saving pals have a jet at their disposal, amiright?
What they don’t have is a full deck of positive attitudes. What is with Jamie? I don’t quite understand how surviving the Canadian woods and having her friends come for her (like she swore they would all along) has given her such a dour attitude, but I definitely preferred the go-getter Jamie from the “Caraquet or bust” days. Quite a bit of time this episode was spent making sure we know Jamie has lost hope. (P.S. I miss Chloe.)
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Also missing Chloe is Jackson, who bolts off the plane in a mutated fury as soon as the team land in England. Luckily, Dariela spots him and the rest of the team follows to where he’s ferociously digging a grave for his lost love…except they sent Chloe’s body to her family in France. But Jackson’s not exactly in his double-helix mind right now, as evidenced by his repeating the phrase “all good children are growing teeth” over and over, which is incredibly creepy. Thankfully, Mitch, the man with every answer — literally every single one, right when they need them the most — knows exactly what he’s saying.
NEXT: Every good boy deserves fudge
As it turns out, “all good children are growing teeth” is a mnemonic for the first six nucleotides of the ghost gene. Hmm. Mitch thinks that when Jackson was attempting to dig Chloe’s grave, he went through some sort of dissociative fugue that triggered memories he didn’t know he had…memories that could have come from his father’s work that could lead them to the rest of the ghost gene’s genetic sequence. And, Mitch has a way to trigger the other memories that might get them there: jack up that slightly insane animal expert with a hypnotic and see what happens.
Jackson insists his father would have kept his research on genetics in his office, where Jackson wasn’t allowed. But over the course of a few memories, Jackson unsuppressed a doozy: He was once in his father’s office when he set it on fire because he thought his father was headed down a dark path toward human testing. Of course, this also means Jackson may have sorta-kinda stopped his dad from preventing the animal apocalypse. But yeah, human testing’s not so great, so who’s really going to fault the decision of a 12-year-old?
Plus, they’ve got a pretty good lead on curing the whole thing without him anyway. Jackson does remember the genetic sequence he saw on his father’s wall before he burned that place to the ground — AGCAGTACG — and the rest of the team is working on finding Pierce’s list ‘o animals in Holbeach. However, they do encounter a few obstacles: 1) Somehow, Davies was on the same mission (remember last week’s reveal that he has Jackson’s dad?) and got to Pierce’s house first; 2) The town is full of ear-splitting cicadas; and 3) If the cicadas don’t annoy you enough, the roaming panthers sure will.
As it turns out, the cicadas sort of act as a feeding bell for the rest of the much more terrifying animals meandering around Holbeach. The townspeople are holed up in the church (and acting like real weirdos) when Dariela, Abe, Jamie, and Logan find them. They’re so tired from the cicadas not letting them sleep that one woman gets confused and opens the door for a scratching CGI panther. After this panther attack, Dariela and Logan offer to help the wounded, while the town’s priest catches up Abe and Jamie on Davies’ visit. Apparently, the men who came left with a lead box that probably contained the X-ray copies Pierce took during his world tour of destruction. But Abe has an idea: It was said Pierce returned with many of the animals he had X-rayed, so where did the bones of those animals end up?
Well, after digging around in old documents while simultaneously teaching Jamie how to hope again — thanks, Father! — they find out Pierce buried the bones in a grave plot he’d purchased for a nonexistent brother. While all of this is going on, Dariela is doing some soul-searching of her own: When she sees how the townspeople need her help escaping this cicada hell as much as Jackson does back at headquarters, she decides she doesn’t just want to be a soldier. Abe later tells her she’s part of the team and much more than a soldier, but she says getting back on the plane means she’s choosing to potentially kill Jackson if the need arises — and she’d rather help these people. I assume this emotional revelation will have some further meaning in upcoming episodes, but right now it’s a chance for Alyssa Diaz to do some nice work, if not a confusing way to put a member of the team off by themselves yet again.
NEXT: Father dearest
Before Abe, Jamie, and Logan head back to the plane, the priest mentions that Davies’ exhibition was led by a Professor Oz. They figure it must be Jackson’s dad, even if they don’t know how it could be possible. Abe tells Jamie they can’t mention it to Jackson — if the theory ends up being untrue, it could set off his mutant rage. Anyway, after recovering the genetic sequence for Mitch, Jackson hops in the shower to rinse off the feeling that he may have doomed the world to a mutated animal hell. While staring at himself in the steam, he recovers one more memory…
On the day his mother was taking him to Africa to begin his life as a noted “animal expert” (and get him away from his crazy father), said father asked if he could just say goodbye to his son. Professor Oz embraces little Jack and then whispers, “I know it was you, Jackson. I know you burned down my lab,” right before injecting his neck with a syringe of something. To which I say, AHHHHHHH! It’s bad enough a father did that to his son — for unknown reasons right now, sure — but it’s tough to hear Mitch confirm that Jackson probably didn’t inherit the ghost gene as previously assumed, but was more likely injected with a synthetic version by his own dad.
The recovered memory is almost as tough as the final reveal that Logan is a stone cold TRAITOR! All episode I’d been thinking, “What if we just traded Jamie out, but held onto Logan?” He seems sweet, he’s got a good face, and he looked like he was trying not to laugh when Jamie delivered her grifter line at the top of the episode. But even if I’m not as much of a downer as Jamie, I guess I’m just as naive, because I really thought we could trust Logan at this point. When he gets back to the plane at the end of the Holbeach mission, he makes a quick call on his cell phone…to General Davies. He tells him he managed to get rid of “the ranger” without even getting his hands dirty, and offers to “take care of [Jackson].” Davies says to sit tight and I say, “Oh. Hell. NO.”
A few loose ends:
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts about the newest obstacles in the Animal Avengers’ path to the cure! (Feel free to offer Jamie some advice on how to not be quite so insufferable, too.)