Synopsis for 1×01: Lions have started attacking people, both in the US and across the world. Only a few people seem to be noticing the trend and are determined to figure out what’s behind it.
James Patterson’s Zoo came to life on CBS in its pilot episode. The show began in Botswana, where a dog was shown barking at nothing. Someone came to retrieve him, but little did he know that there was something lurking out there. For the beginning few minutes there was a narrator discussing the topic of humans and animals. Human had kept animals captive for so long, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they were to decide to turn against people. It was an ominous beginning.
Switching to a Safari crew, a young man was introduced to the audience when he stopped a tourist hunter from killing a nearby rhino. What nearly became an incident was quickly diffused by the man’s companion, Abraham, who put a stop to the tourist’s fit quite effectively with his powerful demeanor.
The perspective switched to Los Angeles and established a pattern that would be repeated throughout the entire episode. First Botswana, then Los Angeles, before back to Botswana, and back and forth as the audience is given a backdrop for the series. In Los Angeles, a couple of gentleman decided to relieve themselves in an alley and ended up killed by a pair of lions who had somehow escaped from the Los Angeles zoo. The very next morning the news buzzed about it, and a young journalist is shown on the phone talking with someone about an international biotech company that may have been behind the strange animal behaviors.
Back in Botswana, Jackson (the young man from earlier) and his companion Abraham are flying out to a camp to meet up with some people. However, when they arrived they found the camp deserted and some disturbing footage on a camera. It appeared there had been some sort of animal attack. A single lion, from what Abraham could guess, but it didn’t make any sense because there was no reason a single lion would scare off an entire group of people. The mystery thickened.
The reporter from Los Angeles, Jamie, got herself into some trouble over her blog. Her editor traced it back to her and effectively fired her for writing controversial things that could undermine the newspaper. Ticked off, but still insistent that the biotech company had something to do with the change in animal behavior, she kept investigating. It led her to a zoo officials house where she was met coldly and informed that the food had nothing to do with it.
She was also told the cats in the neighborhood had mysteriously gone missing.
Once again in Botswana, Jackson and Abraham began to investigate what had happened. They drove and found a vehicle in the middle of a field and it didn’t look promising. While Abraham got out to investigate, Jackson stood watch, and they were suddenly surrounded by lions. Out of the grass also came a frightened woman who latched onto Jackson and tried to warn him about what was happening. The lions converged on the vehicle and Abraham was presumed dead after the lions turned on Jackson and the woman.
With barely any time to spare the two made it back into the vehicle and Jackson introduced himself to Chloe as they drove off to try and reach safety.
At the Los Angeles Zoo, Jamie continued to investigate the lion escape and attack. It was there she met Mitch Morgan, a “veterinary pathologist,” who was investigating the attack on the zoo’s behalf. She followed him into the room where they’d kept the lion’s bodies and brought up her theory about Radon Global and their piece in it. Mitch immediately dismissed her, insistent that a change of food may have caused illness, but it wouldn’t have caused this sort of shift in behavior.
For Jackson and Chloe, the situation became dire when their vehicle’s radiator went out and they were stuck with two choices: get out and walk six miles back to camp, or stay in the vehicle. After some convincing, Chloe agreed to walk and they began their trek back to what they hoped was safety. Unfortunately for them, the lions had been tracking them and surrounded them. Forced to the edge of a cliff, Jackson stared down one of the lions and noticed something was wrong with the left pupil. He mentioned something about “defiance,” right before the lion lashed out and they went tumbling down a ridge down toward the river.
Jamie, back in Los Angeles, was told as she packed up her stuff that she’d been reinstated as a journalist. However, if she agreed to stay on she’d have to give up her blog. Disgusted by everyone’s lack of concern about her theories and the lion attacks, she refused the offer and left. But not before she received a text from Mitch who had, apparently, found the cats that had gone missing in the neighborhood earlier in the episode.
In Botswana, Jackson and Chloe made it back to camp without further incident. It was revealed that Jackson’s dad was the one from the narration at the beginning of the episode, and that while his father had crazy theories, with the current events perhaps he hadn’t been completely off base. He tried to explain the strangeness of the lion’s pupil to Chloe. Finally, they used the radio to call for help, but when help finally arrived he was arrested by the police. Who was behind it? Why, the tourist whose hunt he’d ruined earlier in the episode! Wonderful.
The narration began again, panning back to a young man at the original camp where Jackson had begun. On the screen was, presumably, Jackson’s father discussing the very animal behavior they were beginning to witness. He posed a very important question for the series: what will animals do as humans continue to push them to the brink? Attack, naturally.
In Los Angeles, Jamie went out to meet Mitch who had followed a cat to a tree on school grounds. There were dozens of cats up in the tree, sitting, waiting. She didn’t understand why and he explained that he didn’t think it was a coincidence they’d chosen that tree. It was a tree on school grounds and a day camp was going to begin the next day. He seemed to be insinuating that the cats were grouping together and waiting to potentially attack.
The final scene revealed that Abraham, earlier presumed dead, was actually kept alive. The lions dragged him up into a tree, almost as if it was some sort of disturbed message. No doubt a scene that will be explained in the next episode.