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'Serial' Episode 9 and the Moment I Began to Suspect Adnan Was Lying

By Dustin Rowles | Serial | November 21, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Serial | November 21, 2014 |

There were a few new revelations in this week’s episode of Serial, but there was nothing revelatory. One friend of Hae and Adnan’s from Woodlawn, Laura, strongly insisted that there was no pay phone in Best Buy. Another friend, Summer, insisted that Hae was with her arguing over the scoring of a wrestling match during the time that she had supposedly been killed. The evidence didn’t rule out the possibility that Adnan strangled Hae, but it strongly suggested that Hae was neither murdered at Best Buy nor at 2:36. Koenig, like the rest of us four episodes ago, finally gave up any pretense that the prosecution’s timeline had any bearing on reality.

The bulk of the episode, however, involved Adnan explaining his frame of mind during his interrogation, during the trial, during sentencing, and even while he was in prison. Listening to Adnan, it was difficult to comprehend that he could’ve killed his ex-girlfriend. Every time he spoke, he became more convincing, more endearing, and knowing what we know about him post-sentencing, from his behavior in prison to his continued involvement with his friends and family from prison, it’s hard to do anything other than shake our heads at the injustice of his conviction.

On the other hand, everything that Adnan said almost sounded too perfect, as though he’d anticipated exactly what we wanted to hear and told us exactly that. It may be by virtue of the editing, too, but he rarely seemed to trip over his words, or stammer. He’s quickly prepared with the right answer — or close to it — to every question Koenig throws at him.

It occurred to me while I was thinking about this that Adnan has certainly had plenty of time to fashion his story. He’s had 15 years in prison to design his own narrative, and he probably spends most days anticipating and thinking about the questions that Koenig might ask. This is probably true whether Adnan is guilty or not, but it’s also what a skilled liar would do.

The most important part about telling a good lie is convincing yourself that it’s the truth. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can spin the narrative around your own truth. “If I didn’t do it, exactly what would I say?” That’s how a good liar thinks. “If I were innocent, how would I behave in prison? How would I talk to my parents? To my friends?” Adnan’s actions are consistent with exactly how we would want an innocent person to comport himself.

But if Adnan is lying, I feel like he tripped himself late in the episode when he attempted to take some responsibility for what happened to him by suggesting that loaning out his car and his wallet somehow made him culpable. To me, that’s not what an innocent person says. That’s what a guilty person says who is trying to gain sympathy from his listeners because people respect a man who takes responsibility. I don’t know that an innocent person would excuse a wrongful conviction based on the mistake of lending out a car. An innocent person might regret having done those things, and he might spend decades of his life rewriting history in his own head to reflect what might have happened had he not done those things, but a truly innocent person doesn’t say to himself, “Maybe I kind of deserve life in prison because I was dumb enough to let a stoner use my cell phone.”

It didn’t make sense to me, and in light of all the other too perfect answers, in addition to the blank spots in his memory where an alibi might otherwise exist, the idea that Adnan might be a sociopath — or at least, an incredibly skilled liar — began to take root in my mind.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.