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Sex, lies, jellyfish, and evil sloths: Zoo is TV's most ridiculous show, and I love it so much

Here is James Wolk’s face staring at a jellyfish, you are all welcome.

Every Sunday, we pick a new episode of the week. It could be good. It could be bad. It will always be interesting. You can read the archives here. The episode of the week for July 24 through July 30 is — this is true — "Sex, Lies, and Jellyfish," the sixth episode of the second season of CBS’s Zoo.

Have you met my friend Zoo? The CBS summer series about animals rising up en masse to take out the human population thanks to [nonsensical science term], and very possibly [vague mystical reference]?

She’s terrible — unfocused, chronic rambler, paces herself like a restless bachelor party — but god, I think I love her.

In its first season, the show tried to tell the story of James Patterson’s original novel of the same name with some level of solemnity, trying to wring drama out of scenes featuring bats dive-bombing solar panels or a bear snarfing wine. But no more! Six episodes into its second season, I’m thrilled to report that Zoo may have finally figured out what kind of show it is.

The series has journeyed beyond the boundaries of Patterson’s vision, and it is bravely forging its own increasingly bizarre path in the name of mass animal deprogramming, or whatever it is the characters are trying to do.

I’ve seen every minute of this show, most of which feature characters recapping the story so far and telling each other what the audience already knows. But even if you haven’t seen a second of the show before, your guess as to the Grand Scheme of Things would probably be just as good as mine.

Sometimes I wondered why I was watching Zoo. Other times, the characters would take down an evil sloth who caused devastating earthquakes with the frequency of his hum.

I wish I could take credit for this as a joke, but alas, I cannot. It actually happened on Zoo, along with so many other glorious and nonsensical things.

Here are some other treasures you missed on Zoo, while you were out enjoying the summer and/or logic.

1) All the characters on this show are clichés wearing barely human suits

Jackson, Dariela, Abe, and Chloe do their best to pose like people.

In season two, Renegade Zoologist Jackson Oz (James Wolk) and his ragtag group of misfits — who are all convinced they’re the leads of their own movies — have seemingly unlimited resources at their disposal, despite never once pulling off a real plan in season one. They’re now living together on a plane so giant that the most accurate comparison isn’t Air Force One, but Doctor Who’s labyrinthine TARDIS.

Though the "previously, on Zoo" segment preceding every episode spells out everyone’s roles — Jackson is an "animal expert," Billy Burke’s mirthless Mitch is an "veterinary pathologist," etcetera — the characters constantly reveal unexpected new areas of expertise every week, depending on whatever the story needs them to do. For instance, one week, two characters randomly became super efficient hackers, teasing us with the Zoo/CSI: Cyber crossover event episode that will never be.

The same seemingly random mixing and matching also holds true for everyone’s romantic life, which, in the scripts’ defense, is at least partly thanks to the confusing chemistry among the cast. If you’ve never seen a frame of Zoo, you’d still be more likely to guess the romantic pairs after seeing a cast photo than I would after watching the entire show, since making out on Zoo pretty much only happens when two characters run out of things to say.

To add insult to injury, series regular and Jackson love interest Chloe (Nora Arnezeder) got unceremoniously killed off in last week’s episode, thanks to a poisonous gas situation, only to have Zoo immediately replace her with a surly army ranger named Dariela (Alyssa Diaz).

To be fair, Dariela’s much more willing to kill people than Chloe ever was, and more prone to getting in sporadic brawls, like this week’s jaw-droppingly weird drunk fight with erstwhile reporter Jamie (Kristen Connolly), who’s randomly spent most of this season in the woods in her own separate Revenant meets Wild story).

Dariela is also sleeping with backup animal expert Abe (Nonso Anozie) — which surprised the hell out of me, given that both of them look like they’d rather be buried alive than talk to each other.

This is all concerning, but it at least tracks with the fact that most Zoo characters less resemble people than confused Sims who can’t round a corner if a nightstand’s in the way.

But hey: We’re not watching Zoo for the humans.

2) Again: this episode is called "Sex, Lies, and Jellyfish"

A spider-eye view of Abe. Not horrifying at all!

While "Sex, Lies, and Jellyfish" has one of the better Zoo episode titles — and I’d wager one of the best episode titles of the year, period — it actually contains some of Zoo’s tamer animal moments to date.

Lest you be disappointed, here are those "tamer" moments:

  • Mitch leads the gang to Portugal to haggle with an exotic animal collector dressed as James Franco in Pineapple Express for a seemingly immortal jellyfish.
  • The gang then goes to a spider den to collect venom, where a wave of homicidal tarantulas promptly bites the hell out of everyone. Our fearless leaders then run out of the room jamming hypodermic needles of "the antidote" into their necks.

These incidents certainly don’t rank amongst the best animal encounters Zoo’s had to offer, like last season’s bulletproof bears and this season’s moles that conspired to bring down a skyscraper. (Again: not jokes, just Zoo facts.)

But when a show’s "calmer" episode includes black market jellyfish, you know that show is up to something ridiculously fun (and yes, stupid).

Also, consider how this team of so-called animal experts learned more about this immortal jellyfish:


Clearly, the world is in great hands.

3) Zoo’s race to find a cure is taking on some welcome National Treasure vibes

While the Patterson-inspired first season was heavy with government conspiracies and espionage, the second season of Zoo has taken a sharp — and overdue — turn into mythical pulp.

The group has now discovered that in order to make a cure, they need to find "the genomic fossils" of seven specific animals that cause environmental changes. So far, they’ve already encountered the sloth (who, again, can cause earthquakes by humming), ants that team up to cause deadly electric currents (which found their way into a woman’s dinner a few weeks ago), and water-poisoning snakes (one of which the team pulled out of a man’s mouth!).

The reason our heroes know which animals to look for? Nineteenth-century newspapers detailing bizarre animal phenomena suggest that — in Battlestar Galactica’s words — all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

A treasure hunt suggested by mysterious, ancient clues is so much more fun than the boring "corporate overlords are coming to kill us all" dreck of season one. I’m personally crossing my fingers for Renegade Zoologist Jackson Oz to have a Mummy Returns style flashback to his past life as a 19th-century renegade zoologist, but Zoo’s already given me so much in the field of renegade zoology that it feels greedy to make demands.

Case in point:

4) Renegade Zoologist Jackson Oz is transforming into …something

After too close of an encounter with a mutated animal, Jackson finds himself in a bit of a pickle. His DNA is changing, and the endgame looks something like this:

This is a screencap from Zoo, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

He’s not quite doomed to his manimal fate yet, though. So far, this frightening transition has only manifested itself in the blood tears cried over the corpse of his ex-girlfriend and Wolk wearing tighter leather things, the better to show that he’s now a rebel without a cause.

You won’t hear me complaining. (Until he becomes the manimal, at which point I will never stop complaining.)

5) So about that sloth…

Okay, so the evil sloth doesn’t technically make an appearance in "Sex, Lies, and Jellyfish." But since Zoo’s so obsessed with recapping itself, it only felt fitting that I should do the same here, and so without further ado, here is the sloth:

[wordless joy]


I mean:

Oooh so scary.

Fear him, or die trying.

Zoo airs Tuesdays at 9 pm Eastern on CBS.