New Serial Theories Surrounding the 2:36 Call Could Change the Game

This week’s episode of Serial opens with Sarah Koenig assigning amendments to three standing issues that have played important roles in the case against Adnan Syed. Actually, Serial episode 9 opens with Koenig asking for money — promising fans a second season of the podcast, one that tackles a different case altogether, in exchange for donations (if, as she stipulates, such is what we actually want). But straight away after her introductory plea, and Nick Thorburn’s probing theme music, Koenig jumps upon a trio of details that have been used to foster the ostensible guilt of Adnan.

This isn’t to say she cracks each one wide open beyond shadow of a doubt. All of the information that Koenig presents at the head of the latest episode of her podcast is drawn from the memories of third-party characters, individuals striving to recall events that took place 16 years prior (granted, such is a large piece of the nature of the show, but it is important to remember how flimsy even the most confident testimonies might be).

First, Koenig addresses the phone call that key player Jay asserts was made to him by Adnan from the payphone in Best Buy parking lot, where Jay was said to have met Adnan shortly thereafter. She reconnects with Laura, a major contributor to last week’s episode, who insists with certainty that the Best Buy property never featured any payphones, nor were there public phones available in the store. Koenig seems to latch onto Laura’s declaration, retroactively nullifying a major piece of Jay’s recollection of the day of Hae Lee’s murder.

Then, Koenig moves on to the whereabouts of Hae herself around this time. According to a new participant named Summer, who alleges to have known Hae and to have spoken to her not only on the day of her murder, but at a time that would conflict with reports of when she was said to have been killed by Adnan. According to Summer, she was conversing with Hae outside of the high school at the very time that the state had decreed her dead: 2:36 p.m. Summer cites specifics from the conversation that would pinpoint the pair to this specific time and place (the context thereof had to do with imminent wrestling practice, which Hae and Summer managed together), repeatedly calling the very notion of Hae having been killed at or before 2:36 “impossible.”

One thing that seems necessary to keep in mind: Koenig portrays Summer as a listener of Serial who approached her with this information. While we don’t need to assume that Summer is outright fabricating her story in order to participate in the highly noteworthy series, the very introduction of Koenig’s version of the events in question could very well effect Summer’s 16-year-old memories. That is not to say that what she’s saying isn’t true; its validity is just as plausible as its lack thereof. Koenig does pad Summer’s addition to the story with past mentions from other parties of Hae’s presence at school around the supposed time of the murder.

Finally, Koenig arrives at the suspicious phone conversation that Adnan was said to have conducted while at the apartment of "Cathy," the young woman who had testified at trial to, and has pointed out on previous episodes of the podcast, Adnan’s bizarre behavior on the night of the crime. Apparently, Koenig has received contact from yet another party involved temperately in the story: Christa (or Krista), who recalls speaking to Aisha — whom we should remember from previous episodes as a friend of Hae’s — about a phone call she had with Adnan on the night in question.

According to Koenig’s summary of Christa's email, Aisha had spoken with Adnan about the possibility of talking to the police regarding Hae’s disappearance (they had been alerted to that fact by her brother). Koenig fits the stoned Adnan’s nervous phone call into these parameters, assuming that a chat with Aisha about the police, while he was in a drug-induced state, might have accounted for some anxious behavior.

While each piece of information is interesting, they must all — as with everything both in favor of and in detriment to Adnan’s innocence — be taken with a grain of salt. We still know very little about what happened on the day of Hae's murder, and this is the most important thing to keep in mind before curtailing validity to any suspected parties' innocence.