Zoo has just three episodes to go after this week’s “Emotional Contagion,” and the title is apt; this might be the show’s most emo week yet, and it’s overloaded with heavy plotting. It’s also way too low on insane animal action. However, some excellent Mitch Morgan zingers almost save the day.
We begin with the Zoo gang donning theatrical animal masks (masques, even) and stealing at least one zebra and two camels from what appears to be, uh, a zoo. Someone spray-paints the word “FARM” on a sign(?). Then, just as they group’s getting busted by security guards, someone among their animal-masked ranks named “Ray” (who?) whips out a piece and fires. A gun battle ensues. Whaaaat??
Oh, Zoo, and your cold opens and your “20 hours earlier” time-shifts that always lead into a much more boring scene, now that we know something krayzee is coming on down the pike. Still determined to get to Zambia—both to find that one scientifically special leopard that might help find a cure for the global attacks, and to escape all that messy business with Reiden Global and the FBI—the team heads first to Boston to figure out how, exactly, they’re gonna flee the country with arrest warrants hanging over them. And their “list of impossible stuff do to,” as Mitch puts it, has just acquired one more task: they’ll need to find a certain device called an electroporator to “introduce new coding DNA” while whipping up the cure.
While the gang listens to a radio report that the CDC has finally picked up on the rise in aberrant animal behavior, incorrectly suspecting a virus, Jackson comes up with a way to get to Africa. It involves driving to Florida and finding this mysterious Ray character from the opening scene, whom Abraham terms “a nightmare.” The first time we get a good look at Ray, he’s attempting to fist-fight a group of pissed-off shrimp fisherman who’ve caught him sabotaging their nets. He introduces himself to Chloe as a man with “no past, no future”; ignores Abraham’s repeated insistence that they’re not friends; and admits to Jackson that yes, he’s still making those off-the-books “Africa runs.” This cocky jackhole, an ex-Marine animal-rights activist, agrees to help them. But they’ll either have to pay through the nose... or do him the simple favor of helping him break animals out of the Clearwater, Florida zoo.
Okay. So now we know what that opening scene was about. Jackson, Chloe, and a still-very-skeptical Abe let everyone else in on the plan; we learn that “FARM” is Ray’s group, the “Free Animal Rights Militia.” Mitch isn’t too stoked to work with zealots, while Jamie is hesitant to put herself in a position that might invite another encounter with the cops. But Jackson thinks this is their only best and chance at escaping the country. Ray’s not crazy, he’s just “not un-crazy,” Jackson insists. Uh-huh. The deciding factor is when a TV news bulletin runs everyone’s photo and name, and the FBI muckety-muck they fought last week, Agent Brannigan, declares every single one of them dangerous fugitives.
So they begrudgingly throw their lot in with animal-rights radicals. Upon hearing FARM’s balls-out plan to break into the zoo, Mitch, who can always be counted on to be a wiseass, lets this one rip: “The etymology of the term ‘gung ho’ comes from the Chinese meaning ‘work together.’ But I find it can also mean ‘excitable morons groping for a cause.’” Jackson jumps in and proposes they try a more stealthy version of the original plan, which involves Jamie lying her way through a phone call to get access to the zoo’s security feed, so she can keep an eye on the cameras and let all the law-breakers know if any guards are heading their way.
Then it’s go time. Abe disables the alarm system and hot wires the gate. The Wicker Man animal masks go on, and Mitch and Chloe head to the zoo’s pathology lab to heist the resident electroporator while Jackson and the rest of the FARM crew start prowling the animals.
But it doesn’t take long before Jamie, back at Mission Control, realizes she’s mixed up two of the feeds. Ooopsie! Girl, you had ONE JOB! No matter now, though... the guards are coming, and there’s no time to flee. The Zoo crew might’ve suspected the guards would be armed, but the sight of the FARM team whipping out their guns is a bit of a shock. Shots fired!
One of the FARM-ers dies, and Ray is critically wounded. Mitch, natch, is enlisted to do some grueling back-room surgery on the guy. Meanwhile, Abraham inquires as to the location of the plane Ray was going to use to fly them to Africa; he’s pretty sure he can fly it if Ray doesn’t pull through. He’s also got some harsh words for Jackson, whom he’s seen make foolish judgment calls in the past ... but this most recent stunt, agreeing to help out Ray the Loose Cannon, is a new level of foolishness. It’s the kind of foolishness on the level of what Jackson’s father, who was batshit insane, used to pull.
Just how not-uncrazy is Ray? While the other surviving FARM member, a tough ex-Marine named Anissa, drives Abe to the plane, he tells her his “why I can’t stand Ray” stories. All of them involve reckless behavior that blew back on Abe, and especially Jackson. Hard. But there are some non-Ray things to worry about; one is the FBI, which has quickly deduced exactly who broke into a zoo to steal an electroporator, and the other is the truck full of zoo critters that were boosted/liberated by FARM. They’re rather unhappy, as demonstrated by a scene that contains the finest camel thespians CBS money could buy:
The animals appear to be communicating via what Mitch dubs “some kind of emotional contagion”—whatever it is, it means they’ve realized they can communicate with each other across species, and they’re no longer interested in fighting anything except humans. And the word is rapidly spreading! Translating African wild cat hiss to English, it goes something like this: “Humans are not to be feared. They are to be destroyed.” Jackson realizes this might be the “spark” of new, shared animal behavior that his father (who was nuts, but don’t forget, was also a genius) spoke about at length.
Even as Abe reaches that plane that’ll swoop everyone to freedom, there are more complications. Agent Brannigan turns up at the Clearwater Hospital, where it turns out the fallen FARM member whom everyone thought was dead... hasn’t actually died. And Cody proves to be a pretty crappy radical. After Brannigan plunges a finger into Cody’s bullet wound, he spills the beans on where the Zoo crew is hiding. Mitch, Jackson, Jamie, and Chloe are just about to head to the plane to meet Abe, leaving a passed-out Ray behind, when he suddenly wakes up from his post-surgery snooze. He’s surprisingly spry for someone who until recently was bullet-riddled, and he means business when he insists the group continue the FARM scheme as planned. He’s also waving a gun around, which means everyone soon agrees.
So the truck filled with an angry animal-posse thunders toward the airstrip. Riding in the back, Jackson takes this moment to tell Chloe that though the last few weeks have been truly wild and scary, meeting her was the best part of the chaos.
But that moment of happiness doesn’t last. In quick succession, the truck wrecks, the animals break loose (hey, Florida, beware the camels!), and the team runs to jump into the back of the plane as Abe begins to taxi down the runway for takeoff. The FBI is hot on their heels, with a gun-toting Brannigan leading the charge, but after everything, Chloe can’t let Anissa take aim at the officers from her vantage point in the plane. They scuffle, and the two women fall out of the hatch just as the plane is taking off. As Jackson (and everyone, but especially Jackson, having just made his true feelings known) looks back in horror, the police handcuff Anissa and take her away.
But Chloe? She’s property of the FBI and Brannigan now. This ain’t gonna be good. But in a small moment of triumph, just as Chloe’s imagining the world of shit that awaits, the plane takes off... its passengers heading without a flight plan or any kind of passport situation to a country nearly 8,000 miles away, hoping all the answers await them there.