What Is The "Golden Chicken" In The 'Serial' Season 2 Episode 2 Title? It Could Be Nod To A Famous Fable
As with Season 1, the episodes of Serial Season 2 are named after a word or phrase said during the podcast. Thus, it might give people some pause to tune in to Serial Season 2 Episode 2 "Golden Chicken." Golden Chicken? What is a golden chicken? Especially coming after a premiere episode named "DUSTWUN," which taught us the official term for the military radio status that Bergdahl alleged he was trying to prompt when he was captured by the Taliban, "golden chicken" can seem completely random and downright baffling. It's along the same lines as Serial Season 1 Episode 3 "Leakin Park" in terms of general WTFery, so what is the golden chicken in Serial Season 2 Episode 2? What is that phrase even supposed to mean?
The phrase is taken from a quote said by a man Sarah Koenig spoke to named Mujahid Rahman — "not his real name" — early in the podcast, in which he describes Berghdal as follows: "A dead soldier is worth nothing, but he was captured alive, and he was like a golden chicken." So, the golden chicken is more like a who: Bowe Bergdahl. And, from context clues, it's easy to figure out what that implies. There seems to be no symbolic or cultural relevance to the phrase "golden chicken," either in the Islam religion or in the countries of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Thus, it's those context clues that will give us the best guess about what the phrase is supposed to mean.
A golden chicken seems like it could be comparable to the fable of the goose that laid that golden eggs. Naturally, the goose is most valuable alive, because it lays eggs that are incredibly valuable to their owner. I imagine, from this quote, that this was the same idea that Rahman had about Bergdahl — that he was more valuable alive, because of what they could get out of him. This is later reinforced by Koenig, who points out that Rahman claimed the Taliban were interested in the deals they could make using Bergdahl as a bargaining chip.
The phrase doesn't come up again for the rest of the podcast, but it does seem to be the overarching theme of this episode. Koenig details exactly how valuable Bergdahl was to the Taliban as a hostage, and exactly how far the U.S. military was going to recover their captured soldier. By the time you get to the end of the podcast, you get the impression that Bergdahl wasn't just a "golden chicken" to one person; any captured soldier in a war is a "golden chicken" to the military as well, because they were driven to "rescue one of their own," as Koenig puts it. And they felt this way even after they started to believe that he had wandered off the base on his own.
At the end of the day, whether it's "Leakin Park" or "Golden Chicken," no matter how bewildered you might be by Serial episode title, it always comes together under that theme in the end. Koenig is a master at that.