Season Two

Listening Guide

If you're new to Season Two of Serial, or if you're listening again, here's a guide to the maps, videos, graphics, and documents that accompany each episode.

First, a welcome from Sarah. Second, this map gives some geographic context to where the story takes place, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Now, here we go. Please listen to the episodes in order.

Episode 01


In the middle of the night, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl grabs a notebook, snacks, water, some cash. Then he quietly slips off a remote U.S. Army outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into the dark, open desert. About 20 minutes later, it occurs to him: he’s in over his head.


 Bergdahl’s Release By the Taliban

The Taliban made this video. It shows the handover to a U.S. Special Operations team on May 31, 2014.

 Fly Over Op Mest and FOB Sharana

Bergdahl said he planned to cause a DUSTWUN by leaving his outpost, OP Mest, and going to his base, FOB Sharana. This flyover map gives a sense of the terrain he would have had to cross.


The Plan

A closer look at what it would take to run from OP Mest to FOB Sharana.

Delete. Delete.

As details of Bergdahl’s release and capture surfaced, politicians seemed unsure how they were supposed to feel about the whole thing. You can see evidence of the public confusion on Twitter.

Episode 02

The Golden Chicken

On the move with Bergdahl, the Taliban slip past the U.S. Army’s massive effort to find him. During those days and weeks, each side is asking, what is Bergdahl worth to us?


The Army’s Search for Bergdahl

In 2010, WikiLeaks published an archive of classified U.S. military documents. It includes military communications from June 30, the day Bergdahl walked off his outpost, as well as the search for him over the next several days. Here are some highlights.


 Army Leaflet

After Bergdahl disappeared, the U.S. Army gave out leaflets, like this one, in Paktika.

 Captured: The Taliban’s Version of Events

This map shows the general route that the Taliban said they took to evade the U.S. Army.

Episode 03


Bergdahl’s first year in captivity starts with an escape and ends with an escape. In between, he learns necessary, twisted lessons of survival.


 Proof-of-Life Videos

Bergdahl said the Taliban made more than a dozen videos, but released only a few publicly. Here, we’re showing them in the order that Bergdahl said they were made.

 A Photo, After the Escape

Bergdahl said this photo was taken at the end of his first year, just after he had escaped for close to nine days and was recaptured.

Episode 04

The Captors

What’s happening on the other side of the door?


 Fly Over the Tribal Areas of Pakistan

This map shows the areas in North and South Waziristan where the Haqqanis likely kept Bergdahl.


David Rohde’s Captivity

The journalist talks about his own time as a captive of the Haqqanis in this episode. We added some more details in this post.

Episode 05

Meanwhile, in Tampa

CIA, FBI, YouTube, the Portland PD? There was no handbook for getting Bergdahl back.


 Dear Pakistan

Bergdahl’s father, Bob, uploaded this video to YouTube a few days after the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.


 A Desperate Plan

In this audio extra, Bergdahl’s friend Kim Harrison talks about the Haqqanis and her attempts to rescue Bergdahl herself.

Episode 06

5 O’Clock Shadow

Why did Bowe Bergdahl walk off?


The Guardian Photos

When Sean Smith of the Guardian published these photos of Bergdahl’s platoon at OP Mest, they got in big trouble for being out of uniform. Some of the soldiers thought the punishment was—at worst—unfair. But for Bergdahl, it was the last straw.


 Bergdahl and the War in Afghanistan

This timeline shows where Bergdahl’s story falls within the context of the Afghan war.

 Army Org Chart

From the soldier to the brigade, this graphic shows how the army’s command structure typically works.

Orient yourself with these two maps: Fly Over Op Mest and FOB Sharana and Afghanistan: A Sense of Place.

Episode 07

Hindsight, Part 1

It makes sense if you’re Bowe Bergdahl.

Episode 08

Hindsight, Part 2

Woulda, coulda, shoulda...

This is a two-parter, so listen to them together—“Hindsight, Part 1,” then “Hindsight, Part 2


 Entry-Level Discharges From the Coast Guard

Bergdahl was discharged from the coast guard in 2006, a few weeks after he joined. This graphic shows the number of recruits since 2001 who were discharged within six months.

 Number of Waivers Given to U.S. Army Recruits

When Bergdahl enlisted in the army in 2008, he had to get a waiver to join. This graphic shows the numbers of waivers given each year.

Episode 09

Trade Secrets

You don’t make peace with your friends.


Move forward in the timeline, from 2010 on.

Watch Bergdahl’s rescue video again, and then...


 The Other Side of Some Abyss

Bergdahl talks about what it felt like to be rescued.

 How the Taliban See Themselves

Barney Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan and Pakistan, talks about why the five Guantanamo detainees swapped for Bergdahl were so important to the Taliban.

Episode 10

Thorny Politics

Are you hearing what I’m hearing?


 Obama’s Rose Garden Announcement

Video of the president's infamous May 31, 2014, speech, when he announced that Bergdahl had been released.

 “Honor and Distinction”

A day after Obama’s announcement, National Security Advisor Susan Rice appeared on ABC’s This Week, where she made a comment that angered many soldiers who had served with Bergdahl.

 Soldiers React to Bergdahl’s Release

Some of the soldiers who served with Bergdahl went on TV news shows to tell their side of the story.

 Emails About the Bergdahl Deal

These emails between Obama administration officials give us a look behind the scenes in the months, weeks and days leading up to Bergdahl’s release.

You can also catch up on all of the events on the timeline.


 Unfortunately, They Don’t Have X-Ray Vision

What is good intel? And how do military analysts help a recovered hostage remember it? Andrea and Michelle (not their real names) talk about how an intel debriefing works.

Episode 11

Present for Duty

The Season Two finale: What is Bowe’s fault, and what isn’t?


 Deconstructing Bergdahl’s Uniform

You can learn a lot about a soldier by looking at his service uniform. This interactive shows what the different insignia and awards mean.

 Bergdahl’s Interview With Dahl

In August 2014, then-Major General Kenneth Dahl interviewed Bergdahl as part of an army investigation. This is the transcript of their conversation.


 Taco Bell and Peanut Butter

In this audio extra, Bergdahl’s childhood friend Kayla Harrison talks about their first conversation after he was released.

The Season Two animations were done by Carl Burton. They tell a story in themselves. Also, here's more on how the art came together.

And check out this season’s music, by Nick Thorburn. We’ll add Fritz Myers’s music soon.

You can also find links to transcripts on the individual episode pages.

Thanks, everyone, for listening!

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