With most people stuck at home all day, every day currently, using the phrase "the show everyone's watching" to describe Netflix's new smash-hit docu-series Tiger King has never been truer.

The seven-episode true-crime programme follows the wild and twisted life of Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, 57, and his associates and enemies in the big cat world. Since its release last month, viewers have become absolutely obsessed with Tiger King.

If you've only just started watching the show – stop reading now. We're about to take a deep dive into the absolutely insane events that happen in episode four, so there are plenty of spoilers ahead.

You've been warned.


As the episode reveals – and many of his associates say – Joe was desperate to be famous, and so had almost every moment of his life captured by a film crew over all the years since 1999. All up, it reportedly equated to about 60,000 hours of footage.

He kept the footage and all of the filming equipment in his zoo studio, located in the reptile enclosure, where he'd do daily broadcasts of his show, Joe Exotic TV.

But in the early hours of March 26, 2015, his dreams of reality TV stardom – literally – went up in flames.

A mysterious fire broke out in the enclosure while Joe was reportedly out of town, destroying countless hours of work and the only copies of all the footage of his life. Local authorities quickly declared the blaze the work of an arsonist, claiming the person responsible would have had to know the park's facilities to commit the crime, but have never been able to pin down the culprit.

However, there are a few people the series focuses on.


Carole Baskin, the CEO of the animal sanctuary Big Cat Rescue, was locked in a feud with Joe for years, which is covered extensively in Tiger King.

Joe has faced plenty of accusations of animal abuse over the course of his career, and as Carole is considered a high-profile voice within the animal rights community, anyone who watches the show would know he considered her his arch nemesis. It led to an ongoing campaign of harassment from Joe, who bombarded Carole with social media messages and disturbing videos.

Carole and Joe's feud is well-documented in the series. Photo / Getty Images.
Carole and Joe's feud is well-documented in the series. Photo / Getty Images.

Right before the fire, Carole successfully sued Joe for trademark infringement in a million-dollar case that brought his company to its knees.

Joe himself has made it clear he believes the fire was the work of animal activists, who he claimed wanted to "make a statement".


The producer behind Joe Exotic TV, Rick Kirkham, was basically living at Joe's zoo for years while he created an extensive archive of footage in the hopes of later pitching to networks for a reality show.

A week before the mysterious fire, Rick and Joe became locked in a heated argument over who owned the rights to the thousands of hours' worth of tapes and Joe Exotic TV.

After Rick pointed out it was contractually his property, Joe made it clear he wanted to cut their business ties.

Adding another layer of suspicion is a statement by John Reinke, a zoo employee, who claims a man who looked like Rick was seen on security footage wandering around the park the morning of the fire.

Rick has firmly denied any involvement in the fire, telling producers of the Netflix series that the footage destroyed in the blaze was his "retirement".


A very popular theory among Tiger King viewers points to Joe himself as the arsonist.

Joe Exotic. Photo / Supplied.
Joe Exotic. Photo / Supplied.

On the show, his employees claim he was out of town at a funeral at the time the fire was lit, returning only once the damage was done. Once he was home, Joe publicly offered a US$10,000 reward for information into the attack, and blamed animal activists – namely, Carole.

However, there are some who believe it was all a big stunt to take revenge on Rick, or to destroy incriminating footage of animal abuse and other illegal activities which had been filmed over the years.

Either way, with the curiosity of the world officially piqued, a biopic in the works, and rumours of a second season already on the way – it's possible the truth will finally be uncovered.