The biggest questions left unanswered by Netflix's Tiger King

Marni Dixit
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Anyone who's watched Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, knows it's a story you couldn't make up even if you tried.

The show follows Joseph Maldonado-Passage AKA Joe Exotic, a self-described “gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet” who owned G.W Zoo which is home to tigers, lions, as well as other big cats and exotic animals.

Netflix series Tiger King has left viewers with more questions than answers. Photo: Netflix

The series sees the escalation of Joe's rivalry against fellow big cat lover Carole Baskin, which eventually lands him in jail for 22 years after he's found guilty of hiring a hitman to kill her (as well as numerous other charges relating to the animals he kept).

Did Carole Baskin kill her husband?

The documentary takes many twists and turns with one of the biggest mysteries to pop up being the disappearance of Carole's husband Don Lewis. There are claims she killed her husband, put him in a meat grinder and fed him to tigers.

Another theory is that she put him in a septic tank underneath one of the buildings at her zoo, Big Cat Rescue. Other theories suggest Don fled the country, but was involved in a plane crash.

Whatever the case may be, Tiger King has left us with a lot more questions than it was able to answer.

What does Carole think of Tiger King?

How has Carole reacted to the backlash? Not well. Carole claims in a blog post that when she was originally approached to be in the docuseries she was told they were making a big cat version of Blackfish, a documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld.

Tiger King's Carole Baskin has slammed Netflix for her portrayal in the docuseries in particular the episode about her former husband's mysterious disappearance. Photo: Netflix

“There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the docuseries not only does not do any of that but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers," she writes.

Is Doc Antle’s zoo still operating?

In the series, we're also introduced to Doc Antle, who owns a South Carolina zoo, Myrtle Beach Safari, with many viewers wondering if it's still open to the public as it was revealed to have been raided by authorities at the end of the series.

According to Entertainment Tonight, Doc took to Instagram in a since-deleted post to reveal the zoo is very much open, he wrote, “We are very disappointed that our facility was mentioned in the new Netflix series."

Tiger King's Doc Antle called the docuseries "sensationalized entertainment with paid participants". Photo: Netflix

"It is important to understand that this series is not a documentary; it’s sensationalized entertainment with paid participants. Tiger King is the bizarre story of Joe and Carole and their feud. These characters are not representative of experts in the wildlife sector or world class facilities like ours here in Myrtle Beach.”

In the post, he also assured his followers that his animals are all treated with care and that he works with various state and federal wildlife agencies to ensure the animals are well taken care of.

Former employee tells all

Now, one Reddit user who goes by the username u/p0liticalfr33dom has taken to the website, revealing he worked for Joe for five years and while he wasn't in the documentary, he offered to answer questions about unique zookeeper.

The user revealed he was fired because Joe found out he was communicating with PeTA, he shared a video of Joe getting a statement from him on the matter. In the video, the man says his name is Sam.

Does Joe Exotic actually sing those country songs?

One of the first questions asked was one that has been popping up online everywhere: was Joe was actually singing those country songs that he released? To which Sam responded, "It most certainly was not."

The people behind the song were actually musician Vince Johnson and vocalist Danny Clinton. According to Vanity Fair, Joe convinced them to write the music for free in exchange for exposure on his reality TV show that never went ahead.

Vince revealed to the publication, “I had no idea he was going to Milli Vanilli the songs.”

“It was a couple of months and two or three songs [into the collaboration] when I was on YouTube one night and just happened to look up Joe Exotic. And there he was, lip-syncing and acting like the ghost of Elvis [in these music videos]. I called him up, I was hot … And he bamboozled me about his reality show — that it was coming soon and he would make everything right as rain. I just wanted the proper credit.”

How did Joe convince people to work for so little?

One Reddit user asked Sam how Joe managed to convince people to work practically for free and Sam explained that most people who worked at G.W Zoo were felons who had trouble finding other work.

"His park staff was mostly made up of felons who had a very difficult time finding work, and even places to stay since most places wont rent to felons. He offered people a second chance by allowing them to work at the zoo making a "stipend" as well as offering them room and board, he said.

Sam added, "To begin with he offered people with no jobs and no homes a place to stay and 150 bucks a week, and for those who could not find anything else that was often a life saver. Over time if you proved your usefulness he would give you raises.

"For instance his park and road managers were making well over 1,000 per week and not having to worry about room or board as well. When I left I was making 600 per week and had absolutely no bills. I also did not have a drug issue like a large portion of the staff and knew how to save money so I was somewhat OK when I left."

Was Travis Maldonado really straight?

Sam also confirmed that Travis Maldonado, one of Joe's husbands who died in an accidental suicide, was not gay, "Everyone knew that Travis was straight, even Joe, but everyone was managing to get something they wanted out of the deal."

Many viewers wondered why Tiger King's John Finlay was shirtless in his interview scenes. Photo: Netflix

How is John Finlay these days and why was he always shirtless?

He also added that John Finlay, another of Joe's husbands who left him for a woman, "Looks and sounds so much better than he did when he was in the middle of their relationship."

Speaking of John, another burning question people on the Internet have had about him was why he was always shirtless during his interviews in the docuseries. Directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode revealed to the Los Angeles Times and revealed the reason he was shirtless was because of his tattoos.

Rebecca said, “I think he was very proud of his tattoos. That’s a big thing in that particular culture.”

John has recently taken to Facebook to reveal he's actually fixed his teeth, but the producers of Tiger King chose not to include them in the series.

John Finlay reveals his new teeth in a Facebook post. Photo: Facebook/John Finlay

Who burned down Joe’s TV studio?

Another mystery that pops up during the series is who set fire to Joe's TV studio as well as an alligator enclosure (interestingly, some of those alligators once belonged to Michael Jackson). It's thought that the person who set it alight was covering up the theft of hard drives that contained 60,000 hours of a reality show being filmed at the zoo.

One Reddit user asked if Sam believed that Joe was really a bad person and whether he knows who set fire to the studio.

"At first he was a pretty outstanding guy. A lot of the initial animals really did come from rescues and a lot of the staff were given second chances by Joe that society refused to give them.

"Just over the years he got desensitized by the drama involved in the industry.

"No one really knows who blew up the studio though. It could have been Joe since afterwards he did have one laptop that often was stored. It could have been his producer since not all of his footage was destroyed. It could have been Carole through the producer trying to shut up Joe, or it could have even been someone from PeTA."

A former employee of Joe Exotic's has revealed what it was really like working at the zoo. Photo: Netflix

Does Joe deserve to be in prison?

When asked whether he thinks Joe should be in prison and what he really thinks of Carole, Sam responded, "Joe definitely had a lot to be guilty of over the years and things just finally caught up to him. But he's not the only guilty person in this story. Carole in my opinion is worse than Joe, but has learned to play the game just a little bit better."

Will there be another season?

As for whether there'll be another season, directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode have teased that there's potentially more to come.

Rebecca told Entertainment Tonight, “We have a crazy amount of footage and it’s a story that's still unfolding,” she says. “We’re not sure yet, but there could be a follow-up on this story because there’s a lot that’s still unfolding in it, and it’ll be just as dramatic and just as colourful as what has unfolded these past few years.”

Let's be honest, we'll happily devour another season of Tiger King.

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