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The Ending Of Joe Vs. Carole Explained

The last two years have proven it nearly impossible for anyone to escape the antics of former zoo owner Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) and his arch-nemesis, animal activist Carole Baskin. In March 2020, the Netflix documentary series "Tiger King" exploded into popularity around the same time that the COVID-19 pandemic began. Though it could certainly be argued that the series was found particularly captivating because most people simply had nothing better to do, this hasn't stopped any number of subsequent projects about the story from cropping up at other streaming networks.

In the months following the initial popularity of "Tiger King," a number of creators set up plans to adapt the story to the small screen once more. A proposal for a Nicolas Cage-led series at Amazon was canceled in July 2021 (via The Hollywood Reporter), but Peacock ultimately decided to go all the way with its own adaptation. Now, nearly two years after the premiere of "Tiger King" and several months since anyone of any prominence actually mentioned the name "Joe Exotic," Peacock has released its fictionalized version of the exact same set of events, something "Tiger King" enthusiasts will inevitably either rush to watch or immediately wish away from their minds.

Though most people are probably already familiar with the ending of this story, we're going to explain exactly what happened in the conclusion of "Joe vs Carole."

Joe Exotic becomes Inmate 26154-017

Throughout "Joe vs Carole," Joe Exotic (John Cameron Mitchell) displays an apparent eagerness to disregard any laws that become inconvenient for him. Polygamy isn't technically legal in the state of Oklahoma (via Justia)? That's not a problem for Joe Exotic. A judge rules against him and now Carole Baskin (Kate McKinnon) is going to seize all of his assets? Well, Joe will just fraudulently transfer the zoo to someone else in the most obvious manner possible (via BBC). Carole sees right through his harebrained scheme and thinks his business should be illegal? Well, that means Joe pretty much figures Carole has to go away by any means necessary. Of course, this all catches up to Joe in a rather disastrous fashion.

By the end of "Joe vs Carole," Joe is convicted on two counts of attempted murder-for-hire and 17 federal charges tied to his cruel abuse of animals. Though "Tiger King" certainly goes into more detail about the real-life plot to murder Baskin, the gist of the plan involves Joe hiring a man named Alan Glover (Kenneth Radley) to travel from Oklahoma to Florida in order to kill her. Various methods of murder are discussed and Joe eventually hands over $3000 for the operation (via Oklahoman). However, after taking Joe's money, Glover ultimately decides not to go through with the plan. Unfortunately for Joe, the legal damage has already been done.

At Joe's trial, a slew of former friends, including his ex-husband, John Finlay (Sam Keeley), testify against him. For his attempted murder plot against Carole and his animal abuse, Joe is sentenced to 22 years in federal prison (via NY Times). In 2021, following a prolonged effort to earn a lighter sentence, a judge resentenced him to 21 years in federal prison (via Associated Press). Just as the closing title card of the series explains, Joe will not be eligible for release until 2036, at which point he will be 73 years old (via Federal Bureau of Prisons).

Howard and Carole's marriage is stronger than ever before

One of the more explosive allegations of the original "Tiger King" documentary series is about the disappearance of Carole's second husband, Don Lewis. Lewis is briefly portrayed via flashbacks in this series by David Wenham (who many will likely recognize from his role as Faramir in "Lord of the Rings") (via IMDb), but "Joe vs Carole" also stops well short of giving us a definitive answer of what happened to him. Despite the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that Carole played any role in her late husband's disappearance, plenty of conspiracy theorists have helped propagate the theory after hearing Joe's uninformed spin on it.

Although "Joe vs Carole" gives us brief glimpses at Carole's previous marriages, her real focus in this story is her relationship with her third husband, Howard Baskin (Kyle MacLachlan). Throughout the entire series, the two struggle with the new attention brought on by Carole's crusade and their relationship occasionally hits bumps in the road. By the end, however, Carole and Howard are closer than ever before. With Carole grappling with her newfound infamy as a result of the lurid parts of Netflix's "Tiger King," she insists that she is ok, but Howard can tell that she needs a break.

After Carole seizes control of Joe's former zoo, Howard congratulates her on a massive win and encourages her to ignore the "stupid internet people." Shortly thereafter, Carole admits that she needs to take a vacation. Sitting on the beach, Carole says that she wanted to take a moment to celebrate her win. However, instead of remarking on her legal battle against Joe, she says she won the "Howie sweepstakes," referring to her husband's pet name. She admits that she will never "stop trying to save big cats" or "chill out," but also adds "the world can't be all bad with [Howard] in it."

In real life, Howard and Carole celebrated 17 years of marriage in 2021 (via OprahDaily).

The Big Cat Safety Act is still being considered by Congress

Although much of the drama in "Joe vs Carole" focuses on the testy relationship between its title characters, it also spends quite a bit of time with Carole's overarching mission: the legal protection of big cats throughout the United States. In Episode 6 ("A Fairy Tale"), Carole heads to Washington D.C. for a meeting with legislators on the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a proposed law that would restrict the public's opportunities to own, exhibit, or breed any form of so-called "big cat". According to Congress.gov, this would include "lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of such species."

Although Carole initially appears confident, she faces significant, unexpected pushback (and an awkward invitation) from Doc Antle (Damien Garvey) (via IMDb), a charismatic big cat breeder who says that he views Joe Exotic as a "protégé." At the end of the day, the bill stalls in Congress after the hearing, but Carole remains steadfast in her goas. In Episode 8 ("Survival of the Fittest"), Carole refers to Joe as "just one" and insists "there are so many more." With Joe out of the picture, Carole and Howard are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on themselves and the legislative side of their mission.

Unfortunately, however, this side of the story remains to be told. One version of the Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House of Representatives at the end of 2020 with 230 cosponsors (via Congress.gov), but little progress has been made in the years since. Although the bill was reintroduced in a bipartisan manner to the Senate in 2021, the upper chamber of Congress has yet to hold a vote on the matter (via Quigly.house.gov).

All eight episodes of "Joe vs Carole" are available for streaming on Peacock.