Here are the most scandalous ‘Tiger King’ episodes, ranked
Even if it were for a few hours a day, Netflix’s docuseries, Tiger King, captivated us with its wacky characters & insane plot. No one believed a story like Joe Exotic’s could ever be real, but drew over 34 million viewers in its first ten days.
Between the big cats, explosions, and country music, for a little while, Tiger King became one of the most scandalous television shows during the pandemic. We set out to rank all seven episodes of Tiger King from least to most scandalous.
7. “Not Your Average Joe” – episode 1
The episode introduces the world to big cat animal parks, and here Joe Exotic is surprisingly bland compared to the rest of the show. It contains mostly exposition as it introduces the show’s cast of characters & premise.
The first episode probably turned off many, but the episode only scratches the surface because what lies past “Not Your Average Joe” is an insane story you have to experience to believe.
6. “Dethroned” – episode 7
The other bookend to Tiger King is episode 7 – the second-least scandalous episode of the series. It mostly just reflects on all the events of the show and sums up where everyone is now. The two scandalous things the episode does is try to make James Garretson look cool by putting him on a jet ski and allowing Allen Glover to do one of his confessionals while taking a bath.
This episode might be lower on the list, but it’s just a testament to how crazy Tiger King gets.
5. “Playing with Fire” – episode 4
The show’s fourth episode features all the biggest threats & accusations and dives deep into Baskin & Exotic’s feud. Exotic & Baskin went back & forth with each other like a game of cat & mouse.
“Playing with Fire” includes accusations that Baskin murdered her husband, Exotic stealing the logo for Big Cat Rescue, and Exotic trying to find answers to who burned down his recording studio. Baskin, PETA, Exotic, and his former producer Rick Kirkham all accused one another of burning down the studio.
The episode also revealed the illegal transfer of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park to Exotic’s mother’s name. The cost of the failing park and Baskin’s various lawsuits bankrupted Exotic’s mother. Baskin truly went after everyone involved in the park.
4. “Make America Exotic Again” – episode 5
“Make America Exotic Again” might not seem like a scandalous episode, but it’s right at the tipping point. The episode focuses on Exotic’s short-lived political career, in which he runs a clean campaign.
The most scandalous part came from Exotic’s failing marriage and Travis Maldonado’s suicide. “Make America Exotic Again” revealed the nature of Exotic & Maldonado’s relationship as loving but at times manipulative & controlling.
Maldanado complained of being a prisoner at the park. He was never allowed to leave the park or get a job and he didn’t have enough pot. Exotics campaign manager Joshua Dial confirmed these accusations in the episode and depicted his reaction to witnessing the suicide.
The episode isn’t here because of Maldonado’s suicide but because of their toxic relationship. Maldanado only stuck around because Exotic kept him supplied with drugs. An early episode shows the couple was a polyamorous marriage with John Finlay, another staff member. While Finlay left the relationship – it cost Maldanado his life.
3. “The Nobel Thing to Do” – episode 6
Episode six starts with Jeff Lowe, an investor and now owner of the park, kicking Exotic out. Exotic erased the files with evidence proving he embezzled money from the park. Embezzlement is a serious crime, but it’s somehow not the most scandalous accusation in the episode.
The episode revealed that Lowe and two of the men he hired, James Garretson & Allen Glover, were convicted felons. Then it takes a deep dive into Exotic’s plan to hire someone to murder Baskin and his arrest. The most integral part of the FBI’s investigation of Exotic was Garretson, who became an informer for them and brought in Lowe to inform on Exotic.
You would think multiple serious crimes in one episode should earn it the top spot, but not when the last two are bonkers.
2. “Cult of Personality” – episode 2
The show’s second episode focuses on the cult-like following of these park owners by their staff. The opening of the episode starts with the day when a tiger tore Saff Saffery’s arm off. Most would probably never return to the park, but he did. He decided to amputate his arm because it would otherwise take two years of reconstructive surgery and amputation would be his quickest option to return.
The episode then introduces Barbara Fisher, an ex-employee of Doc Antle’s big cat park. She reveals the cult-like work environment at Myrtle Beach Safari Park. Fisher talks about how the living conditions were unsanitary and that Antle’s process of moving the women up in the organization was through sex.
Antle also practices polyamorous relationships with his female staff members. Exotic had more of a relationship with his staff members. Antle on the other hand used it for professional advancement at his park. Fisher came to her senses & left, but Antle controlled everything about their lives, from what they ate to their uniform.
Antle is not the only one with wild employee practices. Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue uses volunteers to run the park for no pay. Volunteers stay in the hopes of moving up the hierarchy. Baskin admitted she doesn’t know her volunteers until they’ve been there for at least three to four years.
1. “The Secret” – episode 3
This episode reopened the case to find Don Lewis, Baskin’s second husband. The first episode of the show introduces Exotic’s charges for murder for hire, but no one could have predicted the revelations of “The Secret”.
The third episode documents Baskin’s life from her childhood through today and includes her second husband’s disappearance. When viewers binged their way to the episode though, everyone had opinions on if & how Carole Baskin murdered her husband. Lewis’s disappearance is a heavy focus of the episode and the plot brings in Lewis’ ex-wife, children, and friends.