1. Why Is Everyone Talking About This? Cereal? Is everyone talking about cereal? Like, Captain Crunch? No, Serial. Short for serialized. But yes, your friends, your family, all your coworkers, that guy from Tinder, they’re listening to Serial. It’s unavoidable.
Serial is a podcast by the people behind This American Life, where host Sarah Koenig takes the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and unfolds the case week by week to (hopefully) figure out if Hae’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the crime and is currently in prison, actually did it.
2. You Give It a Listen. Because all those people we talked about in no. 1? Your friends? Your family? All your coworkers? They won’t stop talking about it. And if you can’t beat them, join them.
3. You Think, “It Can’t Be That Good.” You begrudgingly — but intriguingly — subscribe and click play on episode one (“The Alibi”). But you’re thinking that everyone had to have overhyped it. That there is no way you’ll be as into this as everyone else. Maybe you won’t even listen to episode two. Maybe you will unsubscribe halfway through the first episode.
4. “Why Can’t This Girl Say Mail Chimp?” There are as many theories about #MailKimp as there are about Adnan. Maybe it’s a small girl. Maybe English isn’t her first language. Maybe it will be the focus of Serial season two.
5. “OH S**T! THIS IS THAT GOOD!” It doesn’t even take a whole episode to hook you. You listen to the second (“The Breakup”) immediately. You NEED to. Time permitting, you blow through the third, fourth, fifth until you’re caught up.
6. You Wonder If It’s All Fake. Are we sure it’s real? Are we sure it’s not scripted and all of these people aren’t actors? You Google “Adnan Syed” and all the top results are about Serial. But it is. Here is a real-life news story in a real-life newspaper about the case. Everyone is real.
7. It’s All You Can Talk About. You have now become one of those people who turns every conversation into an opportunity to talk about Serial. “Do you think Adnan is guilty? What’s the deal with the streaker? Do you believe Jenn? WHERE IS JAY??!??”
8. It’s All You Can Think About. At home. At work. While you’re in the car, while you’re at the gym, when you’re out to dinner. You go over the clues in your head. You replay the calls with witnesses. You think up questions and questions for those questions. Was there really a pay phone? Why was the phone in Leakin Park? WHERE IS JAY??!??
9. You Decide Adnan Is Guilty. You Decide Adnan Is Innocent. He HAS to be the one who killed Hae! The evidence is there! The Nisha call is a smoking gun! He’s guilty! But then...he COULDN’T have been the one who killed Hae! The case is too flimsy! The Asia McClain letters are his alibi! He’s innocent! (And then you flip-flop over and over again.)
10. You Start Your Own Investigation. You are the unofficial Watson to Sarah Koenig’s Sherlock. You map out the clues and dig into the Internet for more info. You somehow end up watching all 30 minutes of videos like this:
You start email chains with other listeners. You’re going to solve this. You.
11. You Remember That It’s Real — and Maybe Weird That You're So Enraptured. This is not a TV show. You are not a detective. These are real people, presumably just living their lives. So is it weird that you have an entire theory you’ve created about how Jay and Jenn actually committed the murder and framed Adnan?
12. You Know You’re Going to End Up Disappointed. Probably, right? They’re not going to put a nice bow on all of this, are they? Even though you hold out hope that Sarah Koenig will discover — without a doubt — that Adnan is innocent, that the finale will end with him walking out of jail, free at last, and whoever did kill Hae will be held responsible, in the back of your head you don’t honestly think any of that will happen. It’s probably going to end ambiguously, isn’t it? Will we still love it as much if it does?
13. But You Don’t Care. IS IT NEXT WEEK YET?!?! WHERE IS JAY??!??
For more real-life crime, listen to Teresa and Juicy Joe's sneaky prison strategy: