As Serial Season 2 continues to take us deeper and deeper into the well of previously unknown information about Bowe Bergdahl's capture by the Taliban, and his subsequent status as a prisoner of war until his release was negotiated, there are a lot of questions that listeners might have. This could be the first time you've ever properly heard this story, or the first time you've ever properly heard the details of this story, but trying to follow all the twists and turns and surprising places that Koenig mined for information can lead to some of the little details getting lost or forgotten. One such little detail is pretty integral to understanding Serial Season 2 Episode 4, because the entire episode, tellingly called "The Captors," focuses on fleshing out exactly what was happening to Bergdahl during his captivity. But how long was Bergdahl captured for? How long was he dealing with everything described in "The Captors" and "Escaping?"
Five years. Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in June 2009, and was released by them in May 2014. That's just one month shy of five years in which, according to "The Captors," Bergdahl was chained to a bed, forced to make hostage videos to stay alive, and was isolated only in the company of people whose language he did not speak and who did not speak his language. "The Captors" also states that Bergdahl made at least two escape attempts during that five year span, both of them unsuccessful, and that he was moved around a lot and kept under lock and key because of the high-priority hostage he was and because his captors could tell that he was intelligent and well-trained enough to put an escape plan together if they gave him even the smallest drop of information.
Considering the reported circumstances under which he was kept, receiving at some points very little food or water and having to make due, on one escape attempt, on urine and grass alone, the fact that Bergdahl was able to survive for five years was nothing short of amazing. Getting to hear his side of the story via Koenig's excellent reporting has been a truly eye-opening experience, especially considering the controversy that surrounds his case and that, straight to the present day, Bergdahl is considered a traitor for leaving his army base — the move that led to his five-year capture by the Taliban in the first place.
Five years gives Serial a lot to cover and adapt over the course of the second season, especially since they have the account in Bergdahl's own words to work with, and I'm already excited to hear more. After all, being isolated and terrified for your life for five years is something that I can hardly wrap my mind around, but Serial Season 2 appears poised to make us all try to understand and empathize with that horrific experience. It's sobering and terrifying and eye-opening — and, honestly, I would expect nothing less from such a well-researched and well-handled podcast.