Serial: the podcast
October 4, 2014 11:00 AM   Subscribe

The folks at This American Life are behind a new podcast called Serial. The premise behind Serial is that one story will told over 10-20 episodes, which together will constitute a "season." The first two episodes of season 1 have just been released: over the course of the next few months, creator Sarah Koenig will attempt to unravel the mystery of the 1999 murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (94 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just listened to the first two episodes. I'm always wishing that TAL episodes could go into more detail. This could be great.
posted by ericthegardener at 11:31 AM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just happened on this in the car and had to drive around the block to hear the end before I parked. Hugely engrossing....
posted by Cocodrillo at 11:49 AM on October 4, 2014


My favourite TAL episodes have always been the ones that follow a single story over a whole hour: The House On Loon Lake; Switched At Birth; The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar. I'm really looking forward to listening to Serial because I'm imagining it as one of those episodes but even better.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:15 PM on October 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I just listened to the first episode, and it really blew me away. It's fascinating, suspenseful, and it really emotionally impacted me. Thank you for sharing this with us!
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2014


My impressions after the first two episodes are similar to those already expressed: I'm really impressed by the production, and intrigued by the story. Either Koenig and team are going to help exonerate an innocent man (like what Errol Morris did in A Thin Blue Line), or she has discovered an almost unbelievably monstrous young man, who contains within him not only an ability to kill without remorse, but the remarkable ability to lie so well and so convincingly.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love this and have been looking forward to it since it was announced. Sarah Koenig always does a bang up job. My only regret is having to wait a week between every episode - I'd be interested to see what cramming a half dozen of these into my brain all in one sitting would feel like. Probably devastating.
posted by item at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2014


I like podcasts a lot, and this seems to shake up the format in an interesting and welcome way. I look forward to it.
posted by painquale at 4:48 PM on October 4, 2014


Wow, I finished listening to the first episode and I am impressed. I'm glad I have another one to listen to...just like you, item, I'll find it hard to wait for a week to pass between episodes.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:09 PM on October 4, 2014


These are really really well put together. Usually I don't like the single-act TAL episodes because they can't hold my attention, but these are superb.

I really want to hear more about Jay, because it's either him lying or Adnan, and we haven't got to know him much at all yet.
posted by Quilford at 6:02 AM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I was planning to wait until I had more than two episodes, but gave in -- I'm most of the way through episode 1 now, and this is great. (But then, I usually very much like the single-act TAL in depth reporting episodes.)

It's interesting that she doesn't know the end yet, because I think knowing that in the end Jay did it or Adnan did or someone else would have had a major effect on the editing of the first few podcasts, though not consciously.
posted by jeather at 7:19 AM on October 5, 2014


Just listened to the first episode, and I'm hooked. I was dubious about a "Dateline"-type story that keeps being stretched out, but this one lays it all out on the table, especially the host/reporter's feelings about what she's doing and what she's uncovering. Just terrific.
posted by xingcat at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2014


Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde is another episode which hits a similar note (Sarah Koenig digs into a bizarre murder mystery). There's been enough horribly botched investigations in the states for her to keep at this for quite a long time!
posted by chaiminda at 10:39 AM on October 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, that's right, chaiminda! That was the other single-story ep I was trying to remember, and perhaps it's no coincidence it was by Sarah Koenig as well. That was so riveting and heartbreaking.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:51 PM on October 5, 2014


Sarah Koenig spoke about "Serial" with the NPR affiliate in Baltimore this week. You can hear the interview here. Full disclosure: I work for said NPR affiliate.
posted by Dalton at 5:55 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm really enjoying these podcasts, just like I've enjoyed the single hourlong investigative episodes of TAL.

But...

I mean, is there not a major ethical quandary in serving this up in weekly doses, making the process of investigative journalism a public spectacle? I mean, yes the case was 15 years ago, but that is within living memory. It's one thing to investigate this case and then broadcast it, with or without an open ended conclusion, and it's another to build suspense and a 'will they, won't they' (or 'did they, didn't they') dynamic week after week like a journalistic soap opera.

I mean, I'm a massive hypocrite because I'm now hooked and I will keep listening, but something about this serial doesn't sit right with me.
posted by dumdidumdum at 3:15 AM on October 6, 2014 [3 favorites]


Dumdidumdum, I guess I feel like the people involved would rather Sarah be doing this than not. There might not be any funding for this investigation if it weren't being published. Which sucks, obviously, but that's not TAL's fault.
posted by chaiminda at 6:33 AM on October 6, 2014


I think maybe it's not a bad thing to show the process of investigative journalism and what it entails. I don't think all investigative journalism should show how it's done, but it's both compelling and informative to see it this way. (Note: I'm assuming the principals in this, particularly Adnan, know that the story is going to be published as-they-research.)
posted by jeather at 7:44 AM on October 6, 2014


I really want to hear more about Jay, because it's either him lying or Adnan, and we haven't got to know him much at all yet.

I'm in the same boat. The entire case seems to rest on his statement, and on some level it seems too straightforward to be true. But teenage boys can be dumb, so maybe Adnan did run around saying "I'm going to murder her" and "I did it, I murdered her." and then providing Jay with all of the evidence he could ever need.
d DNA on it, if he was helping with the coverup.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:23 AM on October 6, 2014


It looks like I'm one of the few here who isn't in love with Serial. I will keep trying, but I guess I just don't find teenagers all that psychologically interesting. I'm not a huge fan of the true life crime genre in general, but with adults, I can sort of get into thinking about what it might take for someone to murder or falsely accuse someone else of murder, but with teenagers....I don't know. There doesn't seem like there is much depth to plumb there.
posted by girl flaneur at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2014


I just read a couple of articles from the Baltimore Sun on the case, dated 1999 when Adnan was convicted. None if them mention anybody named Jay.

Who is this Jay character? If he said he helped bury the body, why isn't he in prison or mentioned more from the get go in the Balt Sun articles?
posted by discopolo at 1:08 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder: how much of the story has been resolved by this point? If the truth was discovered, then wouldn't it be in the news? And if not — if there's a possibility that the investigation will lead nowhere — then how will the podcast even end?
posted by archagon at 1:46 PM on October 6, 2014


Well, I just read the transcript off TAL, and then googled "Leakin Park," and, man, that does not sound like a safe place for a picnic. I had to close the tab after I read "popular dumping ground for bodies."

If Adnan didn't do it, I'll bet what happened to Hae Min it was likely similar to what happened to Lily Burke.

But there are like zero details in the articles from the Balt Sun, the way there so many tiny details in articles these days.

I mean, did they check to see if there were shovels? Was there dirt in Jay's car from the shovels that matched the dirt at the shallow grave? Was fiber or hair from Hae Min found in the trunk of her car? Jeez, did they even ever find her car?
posted by discopolo at 1:52 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Serial episodes would be allowed on Fanfare. Although I do feel icky about speculating on a non-cold case, it seems like I'm going to continue doing it over the next few weeks whether I feel icky or not.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:05 PM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


from the linked Slate article: The producers say they’re not sure how its story is going to end because they’re still researching it at the same time that they’re producing episodes.

This is what I've been so curious about, so it's nice to see this issue addressed. I'm halfway through the second episode, and I keep wondering about the ethics of broadcasting this over the course of a year. I mean, I saw big headlines last week when the latest TAL story about bank regulators led almost immediately to congressional inquiries. So if they figure out that this guy is innocent, wouldn't that have to be addressed by the courts, and therefore it would make it into the news and spoil the serial nature of the story? So if we don't see anything in the news, he must actually be a psychopath murderer? I guess I'm glad to know that they still don't know the answer, at least not yet. Keeps the intrigue alive.
posted by vytae at 7:24 PM on October 6, 2014




The producers have been reticent about using Jay's full name to this point, and for good reason. It's not *that* hard to figure out who he is, and he even has a Facebook account. He seems like he's started a new chapter in his life and has a family, etc. So if we imagine that Jay was telling the truth, and that he has put that part of his life behind him, then the ambiguity of "is this mysterious Jay person telling the truth -- did he do it?" could potentially be damaging to this person's mental health, professional and personal life. I hope the producers of Serial have contacted him and he is aware of what is potentially coming his way.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:44 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think Jay's last name will probably come out eventually. We know what high school they attended, that he graduated a year earlier than Adnan would have. There's plenty of Classmates.com type stuff out there.

They really shouldn't have used the name "Jay" at all, and changed it to another name entirely.
posted by discopolo at 1:18 AM on October 9, 2014


Interesting thing! Rabia Chaudry, the lawyer who first contacted Sarah Koenig about the case, has a blog over at Patheos. Here's a post on Serial & the case: Life Plus 30: Murder, Lies, and the Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction
posted by Going To Maine at 9:45 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I finally mainlined the first three episodes, and I'm hooked.

Not discussing Jay in any detail whatsoever is frustrating. If this were a single TAL episode, I could understand saving the facts about him until the end. That'd be dramatically satisfying. But they should not have structured a serial show in the same way. To ignore the audience's main questions for an hour is one thing; to ignore them for weeks on end is exasperating.

I expect that they'll address the journalistic ethics in a later episode. Koenig is relatively transparent about her thoughts and biases and motivations, and I'm sure that the ethical issues have not passed her by. She is a part of the story herself at this point, and she will have to report on the effects of her own reportage. The possibility of the show turning in on itself and becoming something like Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer really excites me.
posted by painquale at 5:48 PM on October 10, 2014


Three episodes in, I'm a little frustrated with how the facts are being presented. The podcast feels more about telling a story than solving the case. The question that was driving me nuts during episode 3 ("Why would Mr. S report the body's location if he was the killer?") didn't come up until the end, and seemed like a throwaway. Plus I don't think they addressed his alibi, or lack thereof. Instead we got a lot of innuendo about some poor guy who found a body and did the right thing by calling the police.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:25 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Three episodes in, I'm a little frustrated with how the facts are being presented. The podcast feels more about telling a story than solving the case.

Four episodes in and I'm also starting to feel a bit frustrated (though still very intrigued). The fact that Jay has not been interviewed by Sarah (or at least, we haven't heard any interviews between Jay and Sarah) makes me wonder more and more about the motivations at play here. Is it possible that the producers have no interest in "solving" the case? After four episodes, it seems almost as if they are dropping just enough clues to get other journalists involved. Because the producers "don't know how this will end," they can then change direction and make a more interesting story about the nature of journalism and true crime.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2014


The fact that Jay has not been interviewed by Sarah (or at least, we haven't heard any interviews between Jay and Sarah) makes me wonder more and more about the motivations at play here. Is it possible that the producers have no interest in "solving" the case? After four episodes, it seems almost as if they are dropping just enough clues to get other journalists involved.

If you look at Rabia's first and second blog posts, you can get a bit spoiled: there are going to be twelve episodes ("Adnan’s story and the story of this case have been turned into a 12-part podcast"), and the producers don't end up in her camp of being ultimately sure that Adnan is innocent. ("I’m pretty sure [Sarah Koenig & I] don’t agree on many aspects of the case. I badly want her and [her] team to say “hell yes Adnan is innocent”, but they’re not there and I don’t know if they’ll ever be.") It seems clear that the story is going to presented in a way that strings it out a bit to keep everyone interested for the season. It would be nice if the producers were a bit more upfront about that.

Given that the story is being framed around the research that Sarah Koenig did over the past year, it seems quite possible that the entire season has been largely mapped out and is basically going through final production drafts. That's completely legit, but it would be kind of nice to see that get mentioned during one of the episodes at some point. But maybe that's a bad policy for ongoing stuff?
posted by Going To Maine at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


They finally get around to Jay and his testimony in today's episode.

One thing that I didn't pick up when I listened to it was where the car ended up being. Also, the fact that Jay knows where it is is pretty significant for both sides of the case. It makes it unlikely that, say, a complete stranger committed the crime. If Jay knew, he was clearly involved one way or the other, right?
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2014


If Jay knew, he was clearly involved one way or the other, right?

Has that ever been in doubt? I mean, how would that work otherwise -- if Jay had nothing to do with it, why would he tell the story he tells?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:17 AM on October 16, 2014


if Jay had nothing to do with it, why would he tell the story he tells?

One idea they suggest is that he has a grudge against Adnan.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:10 PM on October 16, 2014


One idea they suggest is that he has a grudge against Adnan.

I still don't follow, I guess. Jay admits to helping dig the grave, his friend tells police that the shovels used were Jay's, and Jay knows where Hae's car was abandoned... because Jay had nothing to do with the crime and simply wants to frame a friend?

I mean, I think Adnan probably did it (at least, that's where I'm at now), but I don't think there's any possibility that Jay was not somehow involved. I just don't see how that could be possible.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:52 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


One idea they suggest is that he has a grudge against Adnan.

Yeah, because he was best friends with Jay's girlfriend and was liked more by the gf's family than Jay.

I have a hard time believing Adnan did it at this point, based on the recordings of Jay's everchanging stories. And the way Jay wanted to paint himself as a badass for selling weed. It seemed like he spent a lot of time trying to describe himself as someone living a dangerous life. I don't know. Something just made it sound like Jay was looking for excitement. It honestly makes me think Jay killed Hae Min to make himself seem more exciting.

He kept saying Hae Min's body had been in the trunk of Adnan's car. Did they do whatever forensic tests they do to figure that out?
posted by discopolo at 11:12 PM on October 17, 2014


Jay sounds pretty guilty compared to Adnan, but it also doesn't seem like he did it. Maybe a third party made him testify?
posted by archagon at 11:01 AM on October 18, 2014


I don't think it's something we're going to conclusively find out. But I'm hooked despite doubting that we'll get any answers.
posted by rikschell at 11:14 AM on October 18, 2014


Funny, I listened to that episode and though Jay sounded like the most believable teenager around -- lying to cops to get out of trouble, not thinking things through, making stupid short-term decisions, etc. I'm not convinced he's innocent, but I wouldn't be shocked if it turned out that his story was essentially true.
posted by jeather at 1:37 PM on October 18, 2014


I mean, I think Adnan probably did it (at least, that's where I'm at now), but I don't think there's any possibility that Jay was not somehow involved. I just don't see how that could be possible.

Yeah, haven't listened to today's episode, but here's the crux so far, for me: (1) Jay and Adnan spent the afternoon together, which Adnan admits (Jay had his cell phone and his car); (2) Jay definitely had something to do with the murder because he knew, and told the police, where Hae's car was. Hae was murdered during the afternoon. How does Jay participate in the murder without Adnan knowing, when Adnan admits they spent the afternoon together?

I suppose the only other explanation is that Jay, uh, got some third party to murder Hae in order to pin it on Adnan? But that's about 300x more insane than just the idea that someone who seems awful nice can murder his ex-girlfriend.
posted by palliser at 11:39 AM on October 23, 2014


So, what's your thinking on the Asia McLean (sp?) thing? Because I left the first episode thinking that she seemed pretty much like a real alibi who then turned tail for unclear reasons.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:49 AM on October 23, 2014


So, what's your thinking on the Asia McLean (sp?) thing?

After this episode, that's definitely the part that I'm most curious about now. It seems like Jay and Adnan certainly were up to something that day. Did she just want to help clear Adnan for unknown reasons? I remember them mentioning in her episode that maybe she wanted attention at the time, but that didn't seem to be in keeping with her character as they portrayed it.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:08 PM on October 23, 2014


That's true, Asia McLean seemed very normal/well-meaning in her interview. Maybe she was pressured by Adnan's family, as she claimed in her later statement to prosecutors.

But here's a possible explanation: The only reason for the 2:36 closing window on the State's timeline is that they consider that 2:36 call to Adnan's cell (which was with Jay) to have been from the Best Buy parking lot, from Adnan to Jay, telling Jay to come help Adnan out. But what if Jay was with Adnan? What if Jay was far more involved than he now admits, but Adnan can't implicate Jay because to do so would be to admit his own guilt? In that case, 2:36 doesn't need to be the end window on when Hae was killed. Maybe the murder happened at more like 3:30, and Jay was an accomplice throughout, not just after.

It just seems to me impossible that Jay is involved but not Adnan. I mean, how is that possible?
posted by palliser at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


She cannot possibly still not have an opinion by now. I guess she is still laying out the facts (though I question whether you can fairly claim that school bus procedures and traffic patterns haven't changed in 15 years).

Is it not possible that Asia McLean just got the date wrong?
posted by jeather at 6:02 PM on October 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The problem with Jay is that the timelines don't make any sense. Perhaps he's trying to cover something else up as well? Correspondingly, Adnan may also have been involved but similarly be trying to cover up some other thing. It definitely seems like something is missing. (I believe that the entire conversation about strangling Hae is made up. That seems like the line the show is pushing, but I think I agree with it. It's such a perfect, dumb little button, especially in its original form, in the park.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:16 PM on October 23, 2014


After yesterday's episode, I'm convinced that Jay and Adnan were a team here. They spent most of the day together, with Adnan going to school only to try to get into Hae's car. They then both took her to the Best Buy lot and one or both of them strangled her. Then they hung out in the car for some time, picking the best opportunity to get the body into the trunk, which is why that long string of calls all pinged the nearby cell tower. Then they drove back to school so that Adnan could be seen at track practice, and then at 6 they both drove to Leakin Park to bury the body. We know Adnan had his cell phone back with him by 6:30 because the police called him on it and talked to him. We know the cell phone was in Leakin Park because of the cell tower pings.

Yes, there are all kinds of changes and inconsistencies in Jay's story. His story was initially formed to minimize his own involvement as much as possible while sticking to a story that would be corroborated by the evidence he knew would be coming forward (witnesses seeing Adnan, Hae, and himself different places), and then as he became aware of the cell-phone-tower evidence, he shaved and adjusted the times and events in order to hew to that evidence as well. But he had decided that they wouldn't be able to get away with it, so he needed to talk to the police and get his half-truth out before they figured out what his actual involvement was.

I think Adnan is the cold, calculating one here, and Jay is the unmoored troublemaker who'll sort of go along with whatever. Even in the first episode, when Adnan said, "Why would I remember that day? it was just a normal day," it struck me as so bizarrely cold, when he'd gotten a call from the police that evening asking if he knew where his good friend/ex-girlfriend was, who later turned up murdered. How many days do you get called by the police asking about your missing friends' whereabouts? It's never happened to me, and I sure as hell wouldn't call that a "normal day." The other thing that bothered me was the reporter's assurance that in the diary, Hae saw nothing creepy about Adnan's constant checking up on her, in person and by phone. Yeah, that's how controlling works: it feels cute and loving at first -- how else would anyone be drawn in by it?
posted by palliser at 6:17 AM on October 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


There's an interesting article on Slate about what Sarah Koenig believes.

I can't recall all the details in the podcast: who has admitted what about Best Buy, were there cell towers linking to that location? Because it's still an unusual place to choose to kill someone.

I am also curious about what they'll do next. Does Koenig want to be a journalism version of The Innocence Project? Or will she do other projects, more similar to the longform TAL episodes about the judge, or the school manager, or the stuff they do with Pro Publica? I think a lot of people are finding this compelling, cliffhangery sort of work -- it's a book where we can't see how many pages are left, or a tv series that refuses to announce how many total episodes there are.
posted by jeather at 7:00 AM on October 24, 2014


Also from an interesting piece in the New Yorker:
Koenig wants to find the truth, whatever it is, more for human reasons than for legal ones. The team started producing “Serial” without knowing how it would end; in fact, they still don’t know. Earlier, when I had asked Snyder about this, she said, “We don’t know exactly how much we have figured out.” They’ve figured out plenty, but what is the whole truth? And how do you know when you’ve found it? Can it even be found? “We certainly know a lot more than Adnan’s defense attorney knew,” she said. They think that they know at least as much as the prosecutors and the detectives knew. “I would say that it’s possible that we think there are only like two things left to find out. But if we do find those out, then it may turn out that, like, Oh my God, we only knew thirty per cent of this. That’s where we don’t exactly know.”
I haven't heard a single good thing about his defense attorney.
posted by jeather at 7:03 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm really not sure where I stand on Adnan's guilt or innocence, but Serial has convinced me that his defense was really bad, and that with a competent or good attorney, he might have gotten off.

If I were on a jury, I would really struggle with the fact that there's no evidence, aside from Jay's statement, that puts Adnan with Jay during that afternoon between 2:15 and the start of track practice. I imagine I'll change my mind once Koenig explains about the phone call to "Nisha."
posted by gladly at 7:33 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here are a few articles that Sarah Koenig wrote about Adnan's defense attorney over a decade ago: 1, 2. (It was these articles or similar ones that led Rabia Chaudry to first contact Koenig about Adnan's case.)
posted by painquale at 9:57 AM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's worth noting that the serialpodcast subreddit has a bunch of information in the sidebar that I wanted to consult, including a glossary of persons, a timeline of alleged events, and a map of the area.
posted by painquale at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, that's fascinating and a time sink. The Jay + Adnan theory seems to be the most popular there.

This visual timeline is also useful.
posted by jeather at 11:58 AM on October 24, 2014


Adnan is also really trying to downplay his friendship with Jay. In a previous episode he said he and Jay weren't that close. But in this episode, Adnan's track teammate says it was so routine for Jay to drop Adnan off at track practice that it would have been notable. Interestingly, Jay also downplays their connection.
posted by dry white toast at 3:24 PM on October 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's surprising. A better question might be how close Adnan was with Jen.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:59 PM on October 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's surprising; they both have a motive to downplay their friendship. Jay, because he wants to pretend he was way less involved than he really was (oh, he was just a casual acquaintance who asked me to help bury his murder victim because I dealt marijuana); and Adnan, because he wants it to seem incredible that he would contact Jay even to help bury the body (I hardly knew that guy, why would I call him and admit I just murdered my ex-girlfriend?).
posted by palliser at 5:44 PM on October 24, 2014


I'm so fascinated with this. Every once in a while, though, I get the little shock of realizing that what I'm fascinated with is the real murder of a real teenage girl, that Adnan is a real person sitting in jail -- that, as others have mentioned, this isn't just entertainment but real life with all its implications for flesh and blood people. I am entertained, and I think there is worth to this sort of thing... But it's also weird.

I'm really not sure where I stand on Adnan's guilt or innocence, but Serial has convinced me that his defense was really bad, and that with a competent or good attorney, he might have gotten off.

Yeah, I agree with this. I have no idea with Adnan is guilty or not (he sounds so innocent! But all the weirdness with Jay really is weird!), but it seems pretty clear he should not have been convicted. There are too many problems with the prosecutor's story, too many weird issues and inconsistencies.

The most recent episode left me a little confused. So much emphasis is put on Adnan's cell phone and who he called... But then he left a dead body in his car unattended to call Jay on a pay phone? That doesn't make sense to me. Why the heck would he use a pay phone for that phone call, when he clearly was willing to use his cell phone the rest of the day? (Or am I confused about when Adnan actually had his cell phone on him?)
posted by meese at 8:50 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it feels weird to be treating this murder investigation as Game of Thrones or something.
posted by archagon at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is fantastic podcast, and it makes me look forward to Fridays even more than usual. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on October 25, 2014


Or am I confused about when Adnan actually had his cell phone on him?)

He had given his phone and car to Jay at that point. (It is confusing - I listen to this on my after-work walks or while I'm doing stuff around the house and feel like I should have a whiteboard to keep track.)
posted by rtha at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Rabia has posted about episode 5. She essentially says that the cell phone records are completely untrustworthy. & this does seem to be the case - that afternoon is a real-deal muddle.

When we talk about Adnan (or any of these other folks, really) sounding cold or calculating, it reminds me a lot of a passage by Errol Morris in his most recent book. Morris reminisces about making The Thin Blue Line, and talks about how he and other folks thought that Randall Adams was guilty because he didn't act like someone a righteous innocent victimized by the court system. He was surly and angry (because why wouldn't you be, after such a long time?) and that made people think he was the killer. So I can't help but think that that it's worthwhile to be cautious drawing conclusions from anyone's tone during the radio series. Which is, I admit, a weird problem.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:49 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not basing it on his tone. I'm basing it on his repeatedly referring to the day as "a totally normal day" and so why would he remember anything about it, when he was called that day by the police asking about his missing friend, who later turned up dead. It's weird that he doesn't even know that should have brought up an emotional response in him.
posted by palliser at 6:29 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I assume he meant "a totally normal day up to that point".
posted by archagon at 7:48 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not basing it on his tone.

Yeah, I realize that (though arguably resorting to the language "a totally normal day" could itself be the result of the fatigue of having tried to think about what happened on it for so long). Your argument is pretty logical - I'm kind of surprised that the day hadn't fixed itself better in his mind either. I'd be a liar if I didn't say that your comment didn't bring that point to my head, even recognizing that you're going more on specific words than the sound of 'em. The note was meant to be general, though, & I'm sorry if it didn't come off as such. I'm sure that it will apply to all of us listeners at some point during the series, if it doesn't already.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:22 PM on October 25, 2014


The crazy part is that they didn't charge Jay as either a co-conspirator or an accessory. The obvious reason being that they needed his testimony to convict Adnan. This whole thing smacks of prosecutors taking the path of least resistance to close a file.
posted by dry white toast at 10:06 PM on October 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


I assume he meant "a totally normal day up to that point".

He claims to remember nothing after 6:30, when he was called by the police, either: according to him, that evening he "would have" driven around with Jay, gone to the mosque, etc., but has no specific recollections. As Koenig notes in her opening monologue, memory is set and solidified by momentous events, but apparently, this did not much register with him, not even enough to remember where he was when he took the call.

I mean, obviously I'm making an implication here, which is that he knows quite well where he was all day/evening and doesn't want to come up with an alibi that can be falsified. He has no good options but sticking with the Total No Recall defense is the best of the bad bunch.
posted by palliser at 7:01 PM on October 26, 2014


The crazy part is that they didn't charge Jay as either a co-conspirator or an accessory.

This timeline they posted yesterday lists "Jay signs an agreement pleading guilty to accessory after the fact of the first degree murder of Hae Min Lee," but if that was ever mentioned in an episode (maybe in the first one?) I missed it, too.

I do feel like they're not being straight with us about the Jay stuff, and haven't been from the beginning. Again, maybe I missed it, but has there never even been a "We've requested interviews with Jay but so far he's turned down our requests"? I guess the charitable reading would be that they're hoping the airing of these episodes will help them get Jay to agree to an interview?
posted by nobody at 6:25 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Where's the drama if you hear Jay at this point in the story? They have to hide the ball, as it were. Which allows for others -- like those in the subreddit -- to divulge information faster than the podcast. What I don't know is whether they didn't see such a scenario arising, or whether getting the internet detectives involved has always been a big part of what they're trying to do.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:39 AM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Where's the drama if you hear Jay at this point in the story?

Koenig presumably dug into the facts about Jay right away, but she was still absorbed by the mystery. Why wouldn't we also find it compelling?

If it was done for narrative reasons, waiting to reveal stuff about Jay was a mistake. We should not have to feel for weeks on end like Koenig is hiding material from us. This is a new format for podcasts, but if the format is to take off, the audience cannot be frustrated and feel like the drama is contrived. This story does not require contrived drama.
posted by painquale at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


We should not have to feel for weeks on end like Koenig is hiding material from us.

But is there really an alternative? The whole idea behind Serial is that the story is stretched over many different episodes. No matter what she started with, there'd have to be something that was held back for later episodes. It's no different from a book, where more relevant info is provided in each chapter. It's the sort of thing I've come across regularly in articles or books about criminal cases--you start out with the "official" story developed by the police, the prosecution. Then, slowly, more details are brought up, poking holes or expanding on that official story. Sometimes, there's even a really obvious divide in the piece, like the author ending a chapter with something like, "Clearly, Bobby McGee was guilty" and then starting the next with, "Or, maybe not." The reader doesn't get all the information, and might even be purposefully led to form mistaken beliefs about the facts of the case, until the end.

I guess my point is, I'm not sure why it feels contrived to you. I agree it's a little frustrating, because I want to know all the info nownownow!!!!... But, the fact that it's taking time for all the pieces to come together doesn't feel any more contrived than it would in a book about the case.
posted by meese at 11:22 AM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is a new format for podcasts, but if the format is to take off, the audience cannot be frustrated and feel like the drama is contrived.

Assuming that the Jay reveal was done for narrative reasons, it could be to manufacture extra drama but could also be because of how she decided to structure things. I don't think the format's success or failure will depend on Serial not making any mistakes in its reporting. I am looking forward to hearing other podcasts that do similar work, to hear other ways this can be done.
posted by jeather at 11:24 AM on October 28, 2014


I think what the format demands is an intra-narrative reason for withholding information about Jay. Or at least a "we'll get to that later" acknowledgement if they've had him on tape since the beginning. Because the concept isn't just a story told over a number of weeks, each from another angle on the case, but rather the serialization of the journalistic endeavor itself. (Also, I think the wider field of self-aware radio reporting has trained us to expect at least gestures toward openness when something might otherwise feel like manipulation. And, yes, of course every editing decision is, in a way, manipulation for the sake of narrative drama, but this one -- if it turns out to be one -- is feeling a little ham-handed, worthy of at least one of those Ira Glass-style self-aware disclaimers to paper it over? So I guess I'm putting this out there as an aesthetic mistake more than some potentially ethical one.)
posted by nobody at 12:32 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


But, the fact that it's taking time for all the pieces to come together doesn't feel any more contrived than it would in a book about the case.

Right, but this isn't a book. If it were, we could keep reading. It's a serial, so the pacing is by definition artificial.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2014


I think most people listening to this podcast aren't nerds talking about it on the internet. They're normal people who tune in, go "oh, that's interesting", and forget about it until next week.
posted by archagon at 1:35 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling pretty frustrated listening to the latest episode. To me, if all of this information had been presented up front, there would have been no doubt about Adnan's guilt. It feels manipulative that they waited so long to talk about the other witnesses.
posted by chaiminda at 6:52 AM on October 30, 2014


I got about 12 minutes in this morning, so I don't know what everything is -- we're at the neighbour boy/man story, which sounds like so much gossip and miscommunication. But if we'd started out with all of the evidence against him and waited a few weeks for the exculpatory stuff, it would have felt manipulative in the other direction. I don't see a way they could have done the "well this, but that" stuff and had it be even slightly interesting or usable in this format.
posted by jeather at 7:08 AM on October 30, 2014


For me it's the bit about how Adnan never tried to call or page Hae after the day she disappeared. They were in very regular contact before that and he claimed to care deeply for her. If he really just thought she'd run off somewhere, why wouldn't he check in with her?
posted by chaiminda at 7:19 AM on October 30, 2014


because he killed her
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:20 AM on October 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah.
posted by chaiminda at 7:22 AM on October 30, 2014


The neighbor boy/man thing feels like a red herring. It's a weird whatever.

For me it's the bit about how Adnan never tried to call or page Hae after the day she disappeared. They were in very regular contact before that and he claimed to care deeply for her. If he really just thought she'd run off somewhere, why wouldn't he check in with her?

Maybe? Like, it's possible. But as someone who is terrible about contacting people whom I care about after they leave my immediate presence, I consider that to be totally normal. To me it seems like maybe evidence of something, but maybe it's just a thing.

That Nisha Call is really, really mysterious, especially since Nisha herself contextualized Jay as working at the video store.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:16 AM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are two things I think working in Adnan's favor, about how he never tried calling Hai.

First, the police contacted him after he had gotten high. I can't imagine someone, while high, may not be in an overactive state of worry.

Second, didn't they cover a few episodes ago, how they always had to time their phone calls carefully because Hai wasn't supposed to talk to boys on the phone? I got the impression that, while they talked on the phone a lot, there was a lot of coordination and care they had to take to do so.

Of course, that's my reasoning. That doesn't sound like the reasoning Adnan himself used to explain it.

Something I just can't get over: just how frikken active that day was.I mean, so many phone calls! Adnan had more phone calls that day that I do in six months.
posted by meese at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2014


Anybody else note similarities between Adnan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Sons of immigrants, potheads but very amiable, nobody had any reason to suspect a violent side, acted completely normal the day of/days after the event. The motivations are different, but I do think it's an interesting (and potentially meaningless) parallel.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2014


Second, didn't they cover a few episodes ago, how they always had to time their phone calls carefully because Hai wasn't supposed to talk to boys on the phone? I got the impression that, while they talked on the phone a lot, there was a lot of coordination and care they had to take to do so.

Part of how they coordinated was by Adnan calling Hae's pager, which he could do whenever he wanted without her parents knowing. There were no calls to her pager that night.
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 12:21 PM on October 30, 2014


The statement that most gave me the chills in this episode was this one:

It'd be different if there was a videotape of me doing it, or if there was like, you know Hae fought back and there was all this stuff of me, like DNA, like scratches and stuff like that ...

It was part of the conversation where Adnan is wondering what it was about him that made people believe he was capable of murder. I get what he is attempting to say, the evidence against him is somewhat indirect, so he would hope to be given the benefit of the doubt. But what a weird way to try get that point across. It sounds like the perspective of someone who spent time thinking about avoiding being caught on videotape and not leaving behind any biological material, not the phrasing of someone who was just uninvolved. In particular the part about IF Hae had fought back. Why would someone who didn't kill Hae phrase it that way?
posted by insoluble uncertainty at 1:15 PM on October 30, 2014


Why would someone who didn't kill Hae phrase it that way?

This was the sort of thing that I was trying to get to with my earlier Errol Morris comment. Who knows why he said it that way? He's been in jail for 15 years -it's not like he hasn't thought about this. Maybe it means something, maybe it's meaningless, but you naturally want to hook it up with meaning.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:19 PM on October 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


But if we'd started out with all of the evidence against him and waited a few weeks for the exculpatory stuff, it would have felt manipulative in the other direction. I don't see a way they could have done the "well this, but that" stuff and had it be even slightly interesting or usable in this format.

They could have presented all of the most important for-and-against evidence in the first few episodes. Let each side present opening statements consisting of their strongest arguments and evidence. The audience will then start to crave specifics, and only then is it appropriate to delve into specifics.

The Leakin Park and Route Talk episodes both felt trivial to me at the time. They should have come later, when the listeners were more invested in the nitty-gritty because they'd heard the main evidence and were willing to look into all corners to break the epistemic impasse.
posted by painquale at 9:39 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am so fascinated by this podcast.
Just the exercise in people trying to remember things from so long ago is troubling. All that has happened in the meantime colors their memories, but for each person it's different. I wish it wasn't real about real people's lives because it's so much an object of entertainment and conjecture. But I am hooked.

I am also following the Reddit thread and Rabia Chaudry's blog. As a former seventeen year old and parent of a seventeen year old, seeing notes and offhand remarks of high school kids being presented in court is troubling. Adnan may well be guilty, but pulling notes passed in class weeks before the murder is kind of useless to me as ascertaining a motive.
posted by readery at 7:30 AM on October 31, 2014 [3 favorites]


See, I thought the Leakin Park episode was really interesting and set up right. I think the "how to best order the sharing of information" debate is in part a matter of personal preference.

I also don't think the evidence against him from this podcast was THAT strong. I don't feel like I know enough, even now.
posted by jeather at 7:39 AM on October 31, 2014


I listened to this episode and really felt like Adnan was lying the whole time. Every time Sarah Koenig asked him a question and he gave a justification, I felt like all I could hear was the lack of truth in what he said. I know this is partly the way the show was framed--I think it was different than previous episodes--but I'm also wondering if I'm influenced by the disturbing story that unfolded this week about a well-known media figure in my country (MeFi link--trigger warning for abuse/sexual assault).

(In a nutshell: for many years Jian Ghomeshi has hosted a pretty well-regarded popular culture show on CBC Radio. This past week, the CBC abruptly fired him without giving many details; he immediately came out with a Facebook post that said he was being accused of violent sexual assault but it had all been consensual kink. He claimed he was being framed and painted himself as the victim of a conspiracy to smear his reputation. In the following days, however, one woman after another has come forward to report being assaulted by him in decidedly non-consensual ways.)

This has all made me keenly aware of the fact that people can seem very charming and earnest, but have a cruel and violent side that only comes out in private. I was particularly reminded of this when Sarah Koenig read out the letter from Hae saying Adnan claimed to respect her decision to break up with him but his actions didn't match his words. It seemed like a giant red flag.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:56 AM on October 31, 2014


Every time Sarah Koenig asked him a question and he gave a justification, I felt like all I could hear was the lack of truth in what he said.

I think it's relevant that we got to hear a lot of dead silence. Usually, we get only snippets of interviews, just the quotes needed to frame the case. Usually, a long pause between a question and an answer would be cut out--nothing sinister or anything, just a way of conserving air time. But not this episode. Instead, the very long pauses between Koenig asking a question and Adnan offering a response was preserved. It alters the entire feel of the interview.
posted by meese at 11:34 AM on October 31, 2014 [5 favorites]


The exchange at the end where Adnan expresses frustration at people thinking he couldn't have done it "because I'm a nice guy" was fascinating. He said he'd almost rather people exonerate him based on the evidence and think he's an asshole.

And yeah, I love Koenig's voice in this whole narrative but she comes off as incredibly naive in this week's episode. My best friend, best man at my wedding, married my cousin and turned into an abusive prick and ended up getting charged with hurting both her and their toddler son. And that's just one example of times where I've learned that seemingly great people have a hidden dark side. People are really really good at only showing what they want you to see.

But what blows my mind here is that Koenig is a former crime reporter, and has reported on, what, dozens of stories for TAL. How does she not understand this at this point in her career? Maybe she's lost her ability to be objective here. I won't criticize her for that. She's as much a character in this arc as Adnan. It's just surprising.
posted by dry white toast at 2:43 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


The exchange at the end where Adnan expresses frustration at people thinking he couldn't have done it "because I'm a nice guy" was fascinating. He said he'd almost rather people exonerate him based on the evidence and think he's an asshole.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:55 PM on October 31, 2014


For me it's the bit about how Adnan never tried to call or page Hae after the day she disappeared. They were in very regular contact before that and he claimed to care deeply for her. If he really just thought she'd run off somewhere, why wouldn't he check in with her?

He seems like a teen pothead dude who was stoned almost all the time. And he probably wasn't much of a worrier. Plus all the girls were calling endlessly and doing all the emotional work of worrying.

It just doesn't seem farfetched to me that a teenaged boy who is high a lot would get anxious or know how to handle someone disappearing.
posted by discopolo at 11:47 PM on October 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


I listened to the first two episodes when the second one came out, and the last four episodes on a car trip this weekend. I think I'm going to keep doing that for the remaining 6 episodes - maybe three at a time. It's more satisfying for me to get a bigger chunk of the story at once than having them meted out over months.

I felt like the phone/pager thing was a red herring, too. I bought Adnan's story that he didn't think anything of it when the cop called him the night Hei disappeared. He didn't know at that point that she had Disappeared, he just knew that she didn't show up at home on time and her parents freaked out. By the time he got back to school and found out that something was wrong, I could see him relying on reports from her friends that she wasn't answering pages. If she's not answering pages from her best friend, what are the chances that she'd answer pages from her ex-boyfriend?
posted by donajo at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


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