S-Town, a new podcast by the creators of Serial and This American Life, debuted today with all seven chapters released simultaneously.
Chapter 1 introduces us to the host, Brian Reed, and the man who was the basis for the podcast, John McLemore. John called Brian in 2013 to share a story about a potential murder in his small Alabama town (or “Shit Town”) and convinced Brian to dive into it.
Brian ends up visiting John in Chapter 1, learning about his quirks (and there are a ton) and discovering his “hatred” for his hometown. John is a quotable man, referring to his high school as “Auschwitz”, a building that “looks like Nosferatu”, and much more. He lives with his elderly mother and speaks like the free-spirit-stuck-in-a-small-town that he is.
We learn that John believes a murder was committed by a member of a prominent local family and ultimately covered up. He hopes that Brian, with his investigative reporting skills, can unearth the true story.
However in this episode, Brian begins to question if there’s really a story to dig up. John – between all of his unique traits and talents (like building an elaborate garden maze), is surprisingly noncommittal when they get down to scrubbing for details.
We meet Skylar, the wife of a man with potential information about the murder. Brian asks if she has any information.
“He straight up told us that he killed him – cold blooded murdered him!” Skylar said. The accused murderer claimed self-defense and chargers were dropped, according to her.
“This town has a way of forgetting information and hiding information. If somebody don’t want people to know about it, then it won’t be there,” says Skylar, when Brian asks why none of the events made it into the newspapers.
Brian finally feels that he has a lead. The episode ends, ultimately serving as the background for the entire series, our launching point into the rest of the investigation.
Friday night’s games are headlined by UCLA/UK, obviously. But Badgers vs. Gators should be a close second, featuring a Florida team that’s gaining strength as it advances and Bucky always finding a way to hang around until the end.
Lines as of 3/23 11:30pm
South Carolina/Baylor (-3.5)
Liking UNC to cover, UCLA at +1, and Wisconsin to win SU against Florida. Why?
Bo Ryan > Billy Donovan. Wait, that’s not it.
This Badgers team has the March Madness Magic. Experience helps at this stage, and Wisconsin’s got a lot of it. And this shit’s getting published now – as Xavier upsets Zona – giving us a last reminder that you can’t predict any of it.
“PLEASE!” PARLAY: Have been throwing together a parlay of each day’s games
Arizona and Lauri Markkanen look to take down Xavier to advance to the Elite Eight
Oregon just held on to beat the almost-Cinderella Michigan Wolverines, and West Virginia/Gonzaga is back and forth a minute left to play. Purdue/Kansas is tight in the first half, and Xavier/Arizona is less than half hour out. It’s the greatest time of the year.
Xavier/Arizona Quick Thoughts
The line sits at Arizona -8 with over/under at 145. Arizona likely has no trouble ending Xavier’s run with a Musketeers defense that does not match up with 19-year-old Finn Lauri Markkanen.
In Chapter 2, Brian shares a surprising twist after talking with John’s alleged suspect: There was no murder.
It was surprising because in just the second episode, the assumed plot line of the series comes to an end. When Brian shares the news with John, he sounds depressed.
“A clusterfuck of sorrow,” John says, while laughing in a sad tone.
After the revelation, the scope of the series changes. We realize that the podcast is now going to be about John himself. An outsider in Shit Town, Alabama.
“You know… I’m not the most cheerful person…” John says, while musing on the problems of climate change. Brian shares the tangents John goes off on – typhoons in the Philippines, floods in Pakistan, fallout from the Ebola outbreak, and Fukushima. We get a sense of the way John’s brain works – intelligent but scattered, and very likely troubled.
Brian shares his thoughts on John’s obsessions. “The connection is deeper than [everything being shitty]. He’s distressed by the lack of outrage compared to the amount of shittiness in the world. To him, the ratio is completely out of whack.”
John is bothered by the fact the people of S-Town assumed the murder was true but did nothing about it. His mindset is completely different than the people who live around him with a sense of disinterest. John wants to live a different way – helping others, donating money, and changing the life of Tyler Goodson.
We met Tyler in Chapter 1, tooling around on John’s property. He has a very difficult life, and John thinks he can fix it. John also slips in a comment that Tyler will receive 20 ounces of gold when John dies – that is, if the cops don’t steal it first.
The comment is the first hint as to how Chapter 2 ends: John kills himself.