Brandon Michael Lowden
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Zoocap 2.8: Zoo d’État

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Join us each week as we attempt to unpack the latest cuckoobananas episode of The CBS Program Zoo, setting ablaze our hottest takes as a burnt offering to the animal gods. Previous episodes: 2.1/2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7. This week: Season 2, Episode 8, “Zero Sum.”

LO, HAST THOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS?

Season 3, baby! I feel like I deserve some of the credit for this. But celebrate quickly, because this nutso bonkers Zoopisode has raised the bar for next season, and we must discuss.

What the Hell Did I Just Watch

Miami

Party in the city where the heat is on, except in this case it’s extreme cold, because The Gang has just rounded up a Snow Miser Lizard after some conspicuously offscreen action. “First time we captured a triple-helix animal before it was able to create an environmental catastrophe,” notes Jackson, which is like what you say in a childhood game of pretend when your little brother suggests a new idea you don’t want to explore further.

If you’re keeping score, The Gang now has six of the Seven Special Animals it needs to synthesize the cure: vulture, ant, sloth, snake, jellyfish, and now lizard. But the seventh remains a mystery.

“So what’s the last triple-whatever animal we need to track down?”

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“Triple-helix. Try to keep up, genius.”

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Yeah, Logan, I’m gonna side with Mitch here. The last two episodes in a row have opened with lengthy re-explanations of this. You were there.

There’s a brief contest between Voiceover Pilot and Skyped-In Allison Shaw to see who can be less present in the episode. She reveals to Jackson that his mother’s caravan out of Botswana went missing. He orders her to send a team, but she has no resources ― and that’s when the power goes out. Guess who?

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Soldiers sent by General Davies board the plane and prove themselves to be kind of terrible at soldiering. Mitch, being the same old Mitch, can’t help but encourage them to beat his ass by mouthing off.

Soldier: “Down on your knees, now.”

Mitch: “Does that line ever really work for you?”

[WHACK!]

Soldier: “Where is Oz?”

Guess whether Mitch makes a (half-decent) Wizard of Oz joke. Just guess.

There’s a lot of searching and hiding and fighting on the darkened plane, because The CBS Program Zoo loves to keep strictly to the black / blue visual spectrum. Meanwhile, Voiceover Pilot takes off, both to prevent anyone else from boarding and to make this a high-stakes air battle.

But Davies is already on board.

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We’re doing a bottle episode!

Aboard Zoo Force One

Jackson, Abe, and Mitch have been taken. Jackson offers to go quietly on condition that Davies send a team to find his mother in Botswana, but it’s no use. “Botswana has all but fallen,” Davies scoffs.

That’s when Traitor Logan strolls in with Jamie in tow. In his defense, he did offer her the chance to cut and run. In her defense ― and I can’t believe I’m about to say something nice about Jamie ― she never would’ve taken that offer, because she’s not a dirty scumbag traitor.

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General Davies makes a big show of transferring a payment to Logan’s account, because that is something that happens on TV. “Yeah, that seems about right,” Mitch observes accurately. Then, being his usual stupid self, he takes a run at Logan.

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Actually, it’s pretty great. I’m 100% #TeamMitch in this moment.

But here’s the kicker ― it was all a cover for an even more rash and ill-advised Mitch idea! In the confusion, he unlocked the soundproof cage of the Earthquake Sloth, which could cause enough turbulence to distract and confuse the bad guys but hopefully not enough to destroy the plane and kill everybody!

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While the gears of this insane plan grind into motion, the soldiers round up The Gang and instantly become sexually aggressive toward Jamie, which is the kind of lowlife behavior you’d expect from street toughs but not highly trained professional soldiers. Is The CBS Program Zoo offering a shrewd commentary on rape culture?

Also, one of the soldiers calls Jackson “Beastie Boy.”

That’s when the sloth, activated by Mitch’s laser pointer, sends its powerful slothwaves reverberating through the plane, causing even more night-filtered action sequences. In lieu of describing them, I ask you to please enjoy this song selection:

With the plane pitching wildly and stuff flying everywhere, The Gang manage to gain the upper hand, capturing Davies and neutralizing his men. Jamie goes after an escaping Logan (oh don’t worry, we’ll cover this later). The Snow Miser Lizard escapes. At no point does anyone say, “Wait, we’ve been on a plane all this time and none of this poorly secured, expensive equipment has broken or fallen or even shifted before?”

When the sloth is tranqued and the dust settles, Jackson calls up Allison and demands she send a team to find his mother, using his new hostage Davies as collateral. She calls him a terrorist, which is honestly a little extreme.

“Just find my mother and bring her back.”

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Mitch accuses him of ignoring the best interests of the team; Jackson points out that Mitch once tried to sell the #MotherCell to Raydon Global (spelled “Reiden”), which is a real Throwback Thursday. Mitch’s shit defense is “Thinking about betraying the team is not the same as doing it.” Okay, buddy.

Elsewhere, Abe is with the general, having a little conversation in the mold of Jack Bauer. Now, I am not an expert on nor an advocate of torture, but I can tell you that Abe is very, very bad at it. You’re just gonna keep punching him in the ribs? Come on, dude.

Abe and Jamie want information on Professor Robert Oz, A.K.A. Jackson’s Dead Dad. Jackson doesn’t know his father is secretly alive, and Jamie and Abe have agreed not to tell him as it might upset his fragile state. Given that he’s currently blackmailing agents of the U.S. government, this seems like a reasonable precaution.

Davies: “Even if Robert Oz was still alive, what use would I have for a lunatic who can’t even get a job teaching high school biology?”

Jamie: “We have it on good authority that that lunatic is working for you.”

Davies: “Once a reporter, always a reporter, huh? Well, there’s no story here.”

Oh, right, she totally was a reporter! I forgot that because she’s so bad at everything. (Except MURDER ― but we’ll get to that.)

Then Abe says, “Everyone talks, given time,” because that’s something he heard on TV. “Remember the venom dealer in Portugal?” he asks Jamie. Yeah, Abe, that was two episodes ago. We remember.

Abe’s new bad torture plan is I guess to threaten Davies with venom injection ― nope, wait, he just actually injected him. Okay, so he’s hoping to get the info real fast, then?

“Abe, we gotta give him the antivenin.”

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“No.”

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Damn, Abe.

“The TX gas will be my legacy!”

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LOL. And then Abe lets him die, presumably so he can practice his CPR skills yet again.

Elsewhere on the plane, Mitch and Jackson discover the escaped Snow Miser Lizard badly injured under a fallen cabinet, which raises the question, how is the glass-encased jellyfish still fine? They need the lizard alive for some reason, so Mitch has to do emergency lizard surgery. This is a change of pace for Mitch, as unlike his other areas of expertise, it is exactly what he would’ve learned in vet school.

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Mitch reminds us once again that due to arbitrary plot reasons, the lizard is only useful to them alive. Problem is, what if he wakes up during surgery and freezes them all to death? In the middle of this clear emergency, Jackson takes a phone call.

It’s Allison, with the news that she found Jackson’s mother, and she wants to speak to General Davies (who, remember, Abe just murdered). Luckily, Jamie is in the process of bringing him back from the dead (oh, we will discuss this, don’t you worry). I think Mitch puts it best:

“I don’t know what happened here, and I don’t want to, but we’ve got a lizard to save.”

While Jamie and Jackson assist Mitch in the ultimately successful frozen lizard surgery, Davies and Abe have one more showdown. The weakened soldier has a final trick up his sleeve ― threatening to tell Abe’s secret.

“What secret?”

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“That you knew Robert Oz long before you met his son.”

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WHOA.

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This is a huge revelation, and it’s instantly ruined when Davies pulls this terrible screenwriting convention that I hate:

Abe: “Robert told you this?”

Davies: “Actually, you just did.”

UGH.

Mozambique

The Gang lands in Africa, having escaped the attack by Davies but having learned nothing more about Jackson’s dad. They let the general walk, with Allison cleaning up the bureaucratic loose ends you couldn’t possibly care about.

Jackson learns his mother’s caravan was attacked by something, and hurries to where the wreckage has been found. It’s a bloodbath. Abe, just back from a trip to the Foreshadowing Store, notes that the injuries look like the ones the human mutant caused back in Argentina.

They wander into the medical tent. There’s only one survivor.

“Have you seen my mother?”

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Can you guess?

“What did this?”

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DO YOU KNOW?

“Your mother. She killed all of them.”

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ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Random Stranger of the Week

“AAAAAAAAAA…”

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“AAAAAAAAAA…”

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[...]

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Bogglements of the Mind

Davies’s heart has stopped. Jamie goes to get the defibrillator, but it fell in a puddle. What can she do?

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Wait, is that our stash of electric ants?

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No way. No way. Oh holy shit, no way.

Abe: “Where’s the defibrillator?”

Jamie: “It’s out of commission, so I grabbed the next-best thing.”

Abe: “ANTS?!”

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Yeah, I’m with you, Abe.

“We are gonna lose this lizard unless we ― what the…”

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Jamie is holding two flasks full of ants to Davies’s bare chest like a Madonna brassiere, hoping that they electrocute him into living again. Welcome to The CBS Program Zoo.

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And then it works.

“You used the antivenin. You coward.”

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Somehow, the most unbelievable element of this sequence is still Jamie being useful in any way.

Shipping Manifest

Davies and Allison???

“You look beautiful as always.”

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“You look like the dog’s dinner.”

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Jamitch

“Is it so wrong for me to want to look out for you?”

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“You don’t need to look out for me. If you want to protect someone, go be with your daughter.”

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Do y’ns remember Mitch’s daughter? She had a multi-ep arc last season, but this year she only showed up once in a prerecorded scene like the How I Met Your Mother kids.

Mitch: “Wow. You’re gonna make this about Clementine?”

Jamie: “No. It’s about you. And me. This…”

Mitch: “If I don’t have a fraction of a clue about something, it’s what this even is.”

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“Well, yeah, that makes two of us.”

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LogJam

It’s hard to tell where Mitch and Jamie stand after this episode, but Logan and Jamie’s relationship is, shall we say, clear as the crisp air of the upper atmosphere.

Early on…

Logan: “We could go check out a little beach bar. Buy you a drink?”

Jamie: “Are you serious? Dude, we’re kind of in the middle of something.”

Logan: “Forget I said anything.”

Jamie: “Rain check.”

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And then later…

Logan: “We need to go. You and I.”

Jamie: “I’m not leaving my friends. You should know that.”

Logan: “Don’t say I didn’t try.”

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But finally…

Zoolight of the Episode

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“You were working for Davies the whole time?”

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“C’mon, Jamie. I saw the moment that you changed in Caraquet. You made the same choice that I made: that you’re gonna survive in this new world, whatever it takes.”

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“Was any of it real?”

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“I’m sorry. I really did wanna have a drink with you.”

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“Logan, wait. You’re right.”

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“Whatever it takes.”

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And then she shoots him with a tranq dart.

“Good luck opening your chute.”

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HOLY SHIT.

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JAMIE.

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Do you think the writers watched Empire Strikes Back this week?

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Jamie’s Kill List:

  • Douchebag FBI agent
  • Scraggly villain who we thought had already been eaten by wolves
  • Budget Kirstie Alley from Caraquet
  • Honestly a whole bunch of people in Caraquet, if only indirectly
  • Logan
  • …?

Zoonifying Theme

What is the greatest danger to humanity? Is it the animal threat? Or is it something else?

We are accustomed to seeing evil in certain characters. Davies and his savage soldiers. Robert Oz, the mad scientist. But are they the only “bad guys” here?

Gentle Abe was willing to torture and kill Davies for information, but just as willing to forsake that information to keep his dark past a secret. For a quick buck, sweet Logan betrayed people who showed him only kindness. Our beloved Jamie murdered him in cold blood.

There is a grim potential in all of us. But it’s not a mutation. It’s been there from the beginning.

The greatest danger to humanity is the darkness in our own hearts.

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