Serial: S02 Episode 05: Meanwhile, in Tampa
January 21, 2016 9:12 AM - Subscribe

CIA, FBI, YouTube, the Portland PD? There was no handbook for getting Bergdahl back.

This week delves into some of the people trying to get Bergdahl back, often from a remove of thousands of miles. A family friend tries to get Interpol involved, only for the Department of Defense to say "No, thanks, we're good." A pair of Personnel Recovery specialists at U.S. Central Command work from Florida (and occasionally in Afghanistan) to coordinate efforts. A Special Forces officer discusses the lack of real effort and emphasis in most people's minds.
posted by Etrigan (10 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Very interesting episode! I am not sure what was different. Maybe having extra time for them to work on it was the key? Maybe it was just that it actually had a structure and narrative and moved through time, rather than just being exposition. Definitely kept me engaged.
posted by radioamy at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2016

I think it was mostly that it was a break from the focus on Bowe. I mean, it wasn't something that particularly bothered me personally, but I did notice that around the last two episodes focused pretty tightly on Bowe's experience in captivity, and I can imagine some listeners would feel it was maybe a little repetitious, or at least be really ready to move on.

The stuff with his friend who somehow got in contact with the Taliban/Haqqanis was certainly interesting. And the guy who back-channel contacted Bergdahl's parents and started coaching them who to call and what questions to ask. I feel like either of those would be a great screenplay idea on their own, although the latter has more payoff since it actually worked.
posted by dnash at 2:36 PM on January 21, 2016

Episode recap.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:26 PM on January 21, 2016

Jason Amerine's use of the word 'fuck' really really impressed me. As in, I know he's an impressive soldier, but the way he used fuck brought an emphasis to what he was saying that was way way more effective than 'fuck' usually is.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:42 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yep, that was a well deployed 'fuck.'

It was a really good episode, weaving together a lot of small parts to provide a picture of the recovery efforts.
posted by peeedro at 10:03 AM on January 25, 2016

I think Serial is finally taking shape, which is good, but also bad for the franchise, if it takes this long for Sarah Koenig to get interesting. That woman can compel me to listen to just about everything, but the first four episodes of this, despite being filled with harrowing tales of capture, escape, and war, seemed like a Dateline special more than anything else.

The thing that gets me about this episode is how many military folks really just don't give two craps about obeying the "circumstances of capture" rule. I guess if someone doesn't fit what you think they "should" be doing, they should be abandoned, or just ignored long enough for someone else to take the reins?

I did love the two CENTCOM women and all their tactics of keeping the captured at top of mind, and that anonymous guy who did a bunch of things he really didn't want to talk about (like getting Bergdahl's parents to make videos and such). That type of innovative thinking shouldn't be necessary in such a "well oiled machine" as the military, but it does show that a few individuals, if they try hard enough, can make somewhat of a difference.
posted by xingcat at 10:42 AM on January 26, 2016

The thing that gets me about this episode is how many military folks really just don't give two craps about obeying the "circumstances of capture" rule.

Military folks are human folks. One of the reasons why we have rules like ignoring "circumstances of capture" is so that we can dedicate our efforts to the rule, not necessarily the context. Sure, some people are going to half-ass it, but they have to be out there on patrol, regardless.

I think of cops who have to protect the KKK when those idiots march. I think of Coast Guarders who risk their lives to rescue the ill-prepared day-trippers. Heck, even life guards who jump in after a kid who they told THREE TIMES not to roughhouse in the deep end. All these people have a right to sigh, roll their eyes, and complain about the jobs and the idiots they encounter.

In the end, that bitching is part of what helps people do those jobs, despite the idiots.
posted by aureliobuendia at 10:00 AM on January 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

It took me weeks to listen to episode two after being put off by episode one. On some level, it was a lot harder to care about someone who does something so mindbogglingly stupid. But once I finally dove into episode two, I ended up listening to all the rest in a single week. I now find myself caring for Bergdahl, and it's also given me a empathy for others who risk life and limb in ways that seem really poorly thought out.

The rest of the subject matter I found really interesting—Pashtun society, the US military community and Bergdahl's friends and family—but it took me a while to get over my first "oh for fuck's sake" reaction to his plan. Now that I've caught up, I'm really looking forward to listening to today's episode.
posted by Kattullus at 5:38 AM on February 4, 2016

Great episode, really shows off the value of long form reporting on a story. I had no idea how trying to recover missing / captured personnel in a war zone would work. Or work dysfunctionally, in this case. I particularly liked Amerine's story of going off-book to try to get some attention to Bergdahl's case, conducting a little campaign internally in America. Kinda crazy really, but a well told story.
posted by Nelson at 6:38 AM on February 4, 2016

I really, really enjoyed this episode. I found myself fascinated by "Nathan". That man took an incredible risk, and I can't believe he was willing to talk about it, even under a fake name. If ANYONE in the intelligence or military community finds out that it was him passing information to the Berghdals, no one will ever want to work with him again! It sounds like he's some sort of contractor now, so this is super important. Yikes.

This episode was also really hard for me to listen to. A friend of a friend recently went missing overseas, the US Embassy had to get involved, and it was discovered that she had been murdered. As Sarah discussed the Tampa agency, I realized that this must have been the group of people who got involved to find my friend, which was . . . weird to think about. And every time Sarah talked to the two women from the Tampa agency - especially about reading the comments sections on articles about Bowe, which were awful and mirrored the sorts of comments people made on articles about my friend's murder - I felt really sad and hopeless. Finding people is not the same as finding them alive, and Bowe was extremely lucky.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:25 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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