Surprising Things Revealed During The New Episode Of Tiger King

Netflix dropped a brand new Tiger King episode on April 12, 2020, because viewers simply cannot get enough of the hit docuseries.

The extra episode, "The Tiger King and I," features a series of post-show interviews hosted by comedian Joel McHale. McHale interviewed several key players from Tiger King, including new zoo owner Jeff Lowe, campaign manager Joshua Dial, producer Rick Kirkham, Joe "Exotic" Maldonado-Passage's ex-husband John Finlay, and former employees Kelci "Saff" Saffery, John Reinke, and Erik Cowie. The show was filmed in true social distancing style because of the COVID-19 pandemic — every interview was filmed remotely, with McHale reporting from his couch at home. 

Many viewers were disappointed in the new episode because it didn't feature appearances by fan-favorite Carole Baskin nor Exotic (who's still in prison), per ForbesBut "The Tiger King and I" did contain a few important new revelations about the controversial zookeeper, his employees, and his ex-husbands. The format may have been different, but the content was no less shocking. Let's dig in!

Joe Exotic allegedly killed healthy animals

Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for multiple charges, including killing five tigers in 2017. Joe claimed the tigers were put down because they were "in pain" (via The Daily Beast), but multiple interviewees in the new Tiger King episode say that he regularly killed healthy cats at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.

Per Jeff Lowe's chat with Joel McHale, Exotic "shot 'em in the head because he needed the cage space." Rick Kirkham, who filmed a reality series at the zoo, said he saw one shooting happen simply because Joe "was pissed off at a tiger" who almost bit him. Kelci "Saff" Saffery also referenced these killings, claiming Joe often gave excuses about them to the staff.

Head zookeeper Erik Cowie said he was frequently responsible for helping out with these euthanizations. "A lot of times when we put cats down, they'd use me because of my appearance and my voice," Cowie told host Joel McHale. "Those cats trusted me up until the end and somehow, sometimes, I swear they were like, 'Dude, you let me down.' I can see it in their face and in their eyes." 

Joe allegedly killed other animals, too. Kirkham recalled one alleged incident where Joe shot a horse someone had asked him to care for, saying, "I don't take care of anybody's animals. And now, they're tiger meat."

Joe Exotic was supposedly afraid of big cats

Rick Kirkham also revealed another shocking fact about Joe Exotic: He was supposedly "scared to death" of big cats. That's definitely the last thing we expected to learn about the so-called "Tiger King," who often posed in videos and photos alongside tigers and lions. But Kirkham explained that these photo ops were allegedly staged. "In the shots that you see in there, where he's in with the two tigers, the white one and the other one — the white one is blind and the other one is on tranquilizers," Kirkham explained. These particular big cats posed much less of a threat to him.

"It's idiotic to think he's become famous as 'The Tiger King' when he's so terrified of big cats," Kirkham quipped.

Kirkham also shared that he still has nightmares about his time at Joe's zoo and that he now lives in Norway with his wife, because "it was the farthest distance I could get away from Oklahoma and that zoo."

Saff wasn't offered any money after losing his arm

Kelci "Saff" Saffery, who lost his arm after being mauled by a tiger at the zoo, revealed that the zoo actually used the footage of the incident for a safety video for new employees. He told host Joel McHale that he's watched the video over and over.

McHale asked whether Saff was compensated for the footage being used in this way, or for losing his arm in general. But he said no. "We didn't even have any further conversation than, 'This should be the one thing people see before they decide if this is a career move they want to make,'" he claimed.

Not too surprisingly, Saff said that he trusts the animal who attacked him more than he trusts Joe Exotic. Nonetheless, he expressed that he has no desire to see Joe die in jail, though he believes that "justice was served" with the conviction.

Joshua Dial struggled after leaving the G.W. Zoo

Similarly, Joshua Dial said he was never given any money for counseling or financial help after he witnessed Joe Exotic's husband Travis Maldonado's death by accidental shooting. Even worse, Dial had to re-live this nightmare incident for months on end as he continued to work for Joe. "I had to go in that office every day and sit in that same chair, and look at that bullet hole in the wall every day for a year-and-a-half," Dial said.

To this day, Dial has never received counseling to help him deal with this traumatic incident. Dial is currently raising money for mental health care on GoFundMe, and added that he wants to jump back into political campaigning after he's stable and prescribe medication.

Dial also wasn't shy about expressing his belief that Joe could've benefited from professional help, too. Instead, he saw a shaman after his husband's death, which Dial says only made things worse. "I'm all for holistic approaches," he said. "But sometimes you need real legitimate counseling and medication. He wasn't getting it."

Why John Finlay never wore a shirt

Many Tiger King characters showed off their eccentric signature styles on the series — Jeff Lowe had his leather jackets, Joe Exotic had his mullet, and Carole Baskin had her flower crowns. As for Joe's ex-husband John Finlay? He famously went shirtless in every single interview.

Previously, Finlay told Us Weekly that he actually filmed "quite a few" interviews with his shirt on, but the producers didn't use them. In "The Tiger King and I," Finlay reveals that he's not happy about how he was portrayed in the series, venting, "I was portrayed as a drugged-out hillbilly, and that was not me then. At that time I was four to five years clean... When my daughter was born, I decided to never touch another drug ever again."

Nonetheless, one detail he doesn't mind is the shirtlessness. Showrunner Rebecca Chaiklin explained to the Los Angeles Times that Finlay was shirtless because he wanted to show off his tattoos, and Finlay confirmed this reason on "The Tiger King and I." He quipped, "I got tattoos, why not show off? I mean, it was a little cold but it was fun."

"The Tiger King and I" is now available on Netflix, and it's definitely worth watching if you enjoy juicy gossip.