Reply All: #66 On the Inside, Part III
May 27, 2016 9:10 PM - Subscribe

Blogger Paul Modrowski is in prison for a murder he claims that he didn't commit. This week, producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni looks at his trial, and speaks to the one person who admits to witnessing the murder take place.
posted by radioamy (21 comments total)
AAAGGGGHHH another cliffhanger. TWO WEEKS! I can hardly stand the suspense.
posted by radioamy at 9:10 PM on May 27, 2016

I've been listening to these as soon as they go up. Sruthi Pinnamaneni has been amazing. Those hours and hours on the phone, and then this week in and out of that car with Bob Faraci. I love the pacing of the story and the way we started with Paul Modrowski introduced at length through his own words long before the "evil personified" came up. Looking forward to the final installment in two weeks.
posted by Cuke at 5:20 AM on May 28, 2016

It was nice to have some back and forth with PJ and Sruthi. I feel like that conversational style is important to making it sound like Reply All, not Serial.
posted by rikschell at 5:41 AM on May 28, 2016

The problem of this kind of report/story is exactly what "Thin Blue Line" did exactly right - if it doesn't end with a clean resolution, the listener/viewer/reader feels cheated. And resentful.
That resolution could, even be that Paul's lawyers did a crap job and he was robbed. Or that Bob Faraci really did do it but whatever it is it has to sum up what has gone before and provide a way for the audience to digest it.
And I don't know that they will pull it off. I mean that after listening to this third installment I'm still not sure what (or if) the greater arc of the story will be or should be. Nonetheless I will listen to the fourth installment then come here and whine about how it didn't X my y like I wanted it to. Actually I hope the pull it off, they've clearly done a lot of very hard work.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:14 AM on May 28, 2016

I'm really not ok with this taking away my new fave for so long. They've worked hard, I appreciate experiments in form, and there's a little meat on the story, but I've come to crave my idiosyncratic internet stories and this is not that.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:28 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I agree yellowbinder. I really like Shruthi, maybe they should give her her own show, but this story has only been meh for me, and not what I listen to reply all for: one or two segments about something on the internet that I probably don't know about.
posted by skewed at 10:20 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm starting to fear that Gimlet is going to come apart. Mystery Show seems completely dead. Science Vs. got a big announcement months ago but still no start date. Surprisingly Awesome just never clicked for me. Startup hasn't been bad, but I miss them giving the inside scoop on Gimlet. Sampler is great, and Reply All, but they're pulling the weight of the whole company these days.
posted by rikschell at 3:44 PM on May 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not worried about Gimlet...they're just experimenting and figuring out their voice. I sorta wonder if maybe Mystery Show is just going to be a mini-series and that's it, although I miss it terribly. I couldn't get into Surprisingly Awesome, and am curious what the numbers are for it and if other people like it.

I read an interview with PJ where he said that making it "a show about the internet" was meant to be a joke, and they never intended every show to be about strictly internet-related stuff, but people took it really literally. I actually like how On the Inside feels like it really started as something about the internet, but then Sruthi fell into a black hole about the guy's story, and we're along for the ride.

Poor Sruthi, she ends up going and meeting with some really sketchy characters! I felt kinda nervous when she got in the car with Bob. That episode where she went to meet the Ripoff Report guy was so bonkers, and I wondered how nervous she was going out to his place in the middle of nowhere. Brave woman!
posted by radioamy at 4:20 PM on May 28, 2016

I'm a fan of Sruthi Pinnamaneni's reporting. . . but I'm still mostly bored when listening to this story. Sure, even racist, violent thugs with no capacity for self reflection deserve a fair trial, and I'm happy to see investigative reporters dig into the details of cases like this. But not every detail needs to go into the public broadcast. (Despite the counter-evidence of Serial's success and ad revenue.)

Drawing it out into an extended fake-mystery is hokey, especially the marked map thing. There's not physical evidence. No, wait, there's a map with an X drawn on it. No, wait, actually it's just part of the map and there is no X at all. I wonder what they'll reveal next week: that Paul Modrowski actually worked as an intern at the map company and inserted the X three years before the murder?

There's easily 20 minutes of compelling radio in this story.
posted by eotvos at 10:48 AM on May 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am apparently alone in liking this story. I rather like the slow unraveling of what constituted evidence in the trial. The trial itself sounds bonkers and yet another reminder that the courts are nothing likd what we see on TV.
posted by selenized at 5:17 PM on May 29, 2016

selenized - you're not along, I like this too! The trial is totally bonkers. I still can't wrap my head around how they have two separate trials at once.
posted by radioamy at 9:39 PM on May 29, 2016

The juries walking in and out because they are not allowed to hear the same testimony?! What even is that?

If I saw that on a court room drama I would scoff and think the writers were idiots.
posted by selenized at 3:41 PM on May 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

No, I'm a fan as well! One of the things I love about Reply All is that I never know what's coming up. It could be something very tech-y, but it also might be the hosts breaking into a building, or people microdosing on acid. Even the "tech-y" stuff brings us reporting on breastmilk shortages.

I feel like this story is moving along at a terrific clip and each episode has been interesting. Compare that to, for example, Someone Knows Something. I tried listening to that series but eventually gave up on because it was too slow and ponderous for my tastes. I saw someone quip that it should be called "No one Knows Anything".
posted by Cuke at 4:39 PM on May 30, 2016

Poor Sruthi, she ends up going and meeting with some really sketchy characters! I felt kinda nervous when she got in the car with Bob.

And she's reporting in an area she really doesn't have much background in. I cringed at her approach to this interview, based on the tape and the conversation when they got out of the car. Bob was manipulating her and it was easy for him. The conversation with Bob was concerning from a reporting POV. She seems to be stuck in 'gee this is an interesting unraveling thread' and doesn't have the context, background, or perspective for what is some pretty serious crime reporting. It's one of the toxic effects of Serial that more and more people with little experience in the area of reporting on very shady people and complex, difficult-to-settle events are trying it.
posted by Miko at 7:25 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Poor Sruthi, she ends up going and meeting with some really sketchy characters! I felt kinda nervous when she got in the car with Bob.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: Gimlet needs to by Sruthi a switch-blade.

But seriously, what is their system to ensure her safety when she goes off to do interviews like this? In this case she's going out to interview and possibly challenge the testimony of a guy who was himself directly implicated in a murder and there is a definite non-zero chance that he was more involved than he says. On the one hand juicy interview, on the other if he lets slip something he didn't intend to.. we never hear or see Sruthi again...

This was more than just interviewing some weird dude from the internet.
posted by selenized at 5:06 PM on May 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Arghhhhh. Man, frustrating though not surprising to have it not wrapped up. I'm happy, I guess, that her naïveté seems to be dissipating a bit in this episode. Her interviewing style is odd to me-she seems to have the need to interject a lot and I found myself wanting her to just be silent for a minute with Bob and see what he filled in.
posted by purenitrous at 9:53 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, someone who does a lot of crime reporting would give him all the space in the world to talk, which stands a much better chance of raising inconsistencies. Cringed when she said "I need to know what happened that night" - of course, everyone needed to know including the jury and the victim's family, it's unlikely you're going to make a breakthrough with that opener - Also cringed w/ vicarious embarrassment when she pulled up her Reply All SoundCloud page to show that she wasn't a PI....
posted by Miko at 6:57 AM on June 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised that they didn't go into a little more depth about how Bob Faraci is pretty clearly a con man who has a lot of experience manipulating people.
posted by schmod at 8:32 AM on June 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Like eotvos, I'm angry about the marked map thing. It's disrespectful to us, the listener. In episode 2 I was mad because most of the podcast was casting doubt on Paul's conviction, then at the end they were like "but wait, there's physical evidence: this map!". And then we learn in episode 3 the map is a red herring, it wasn't evidence at all. Fuck that, don't waste my time. Or do talk about the map, but frame it in the context of how evidence is not clear during an investigation and tell a story about how big a deal it was. Which they sort of did, but it didn't work.

I respect the journalism and effort that's gone into this story, but I also fear it's a poorly executed Serial-alike. And I miss my fun goofy Internet nerds. Here's hoping the final episode pays off the investment.
posted by Nelson at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2016

Yeah, but the map thing did persist for a while during Modrowski's prosecution.

The prosecutors built up a lot of evidence against Modrowski (the map; implied associations with the Brown's Chicken massacre), and most of it was ultimately thrown out.

The prosecutor, judge, and jury might have acted differently if this evidence was never presented even though it was later discounted. It created the impression that there was a pile of evidence against Modrowski.

We (the listeners) were taken along for the same ride, albeit over a much shorter period of time. I think that this was a reasonable way to present the story -- one of Sruthi's core points was that Modrowski's trial was profoundly weird, and confusing, and that he never really had a chance to defend himself. Throwing a red herring into the story helped to drive that point home.
posted by schmod at 8:29 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Throwing a red herring into the story helped to drive that point home.

Sure, but...what point? Assuming she successfully painted the trial as potentially unfair, how do you reconcile this idea that she's questioning his trial with her choices in the final episode to cast enormous doubt on his innocence?
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on June 22, 2016

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