When anthropologists of the distant future look back on the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, their research will likely place a heavy emphasis on Tiger King, the Netflix docu-entertainment series that became a source of fascination, even borderline obsession, for housebound humans the world over.
The frankly bonkers life of private zoo owner, big cat enthusiast and convicted attempted murderer Joe Exotic (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage) featured a colourful supporting cast, including a former drug kingpin, Exotic’s two husbands and a person who remains in his employ despite having an arm amputated after being attacked by one of the zoo’s tigers.
But the true co-star is Carole Baskin – an animal rights activist and big cat rescue owner who is Joe Exotic’s sworn enemy (it was a plot to have her killed by an assassin -for-hire, you’ll recall, that landed him in prison).
Baskin had her own wild story, perhaps the wildest aspect of which is that her second husband, Don Lewis, was missing, presumed dead, and that Exotic was convinced she had killed him. And fed him to her tigers.
But now, Baskin claims Lewis is alive and well and living in Costa Rica.
* Tiger King’s Carole Baskin reacts to TikTok song referencing disappearance of her ex-husband
* Tiger King’s Carole Baskin responds to claim that husband Don Lewis may be alive
* Tiger King’s Carole Baskin shares what she thinks happened to missing husband Don Lewis
And if you needed an even bigger plot twist – she told us all over a year ago, and somehow we didn’t notice.
Lewis went missing in 1997, six years after he and Baskin married. Their relationship had been troubled – Baskin had filed a restraining order against him earlier that year – but Baskin always swore she didn’t know what had happened to him. He was declared legally dead in 2002, five years after he disappeared.
Then, in November 2021, ahead of Tiger King’s second season launch, Baskin went on UK talk show This Morning and said the US Department of Homeland Security had been in touch with Lewis.
“They said my husband, Don Lewis, is alive and well in Costa Rica,” she told the hosts. “And yet all of this drama has been made about me having something to do with his disappearance, when Homeland Security has known where he is.”
She added: “He took about a million dollars down to Costa Rica, I had agreed to let him do that so he could prove to himself that he could make a living.”
Let’s backtrack though.
Yes, Baskin went on This Morning, and made these claims, over a year ago. So long ago that Will Smith had not yet publicly slapped anyone, Running Up that Hill was still only a song your mum listened to and Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were a couple of the early 2000s.
In a massive pop culture fail, no one – not This Morning, not its viewers, not Baskin herself – made a big deal of her revelation at the time.
Only now has Twitter resurfaced the episode and brought this shocking turn of events to the attention of the world.
“Hold on, I’m seeing people saying that Carole Baskin’s husband was found ALIVE???” tweeted one social media user.
Yes. Yes you are.
“Was I the only one that didn’t know they found Carole Baskin’s husband living his best life in Costa Rica?!” reads another tweet.
Not anymore, it seems, although Lewis’ official status still appears to be “deceased”, according to US reports.