S-town Podcast Discussion



  • NikkiP said:

    @CretanBull, Good theories and points. If Tyler, for example, had found it, he would not be able to help but spend it in ways visible to everybody in town. I do wonder if it's possible that "in the freezer" meant some secret compartment in there, like he hid it in the part where the fan or something. I'm dedicating more words to the gold than time I've actually spent thinking about it, but I just don't see why he would lie to the town clerk as he was committing suicide. Why even call her except to make sure the instructions he gave about expenses like the dogs were followed?

    In the scheme of everything else though, the gold is a minor point. The real gold in all this was sweet Olan and his proper way of speaking, the opera-loving grandma, John's old professor, cousin Jimmy's affirmations, learning about antiquarian horology, and seeing pictures of the maze.

    Re: Gold - If it was there, I'd think that it was just wrapped in a towel and placed in the freezer.  40 oz of gold would take up a fair bit of space, I doubt that there would be room for a secret compartment that could hold it (and still be accessible, and not noticeable).  As for why he'd mention it if it wasn't there...I've thought about that quite a bit.  Maybe the mercury poisoning lends itself to that level of delusions?  Or maybe saying it and knowing/hoping the chaos it would create was a final F-you to the town that he resented so much?  He didn't like the police, if he told the clerk that there was gold in his freezer she would know that it was supposed to be there, he'd also know that the police would be the first to arrive after his passing.  It might have been an attempt to frame them for stealing gold that was never there...or it was there and they took it?

    Re: The real gold - you're absolutely right.  I think we're meant to question the whole notion of "Shit Town".  We side with John B because everything is introduced to us through him, he's our narrator of sorts.  What we ultimately learn is that the collection of odd-ball characters that were drawn to John probably both affirm and dispel our beliefs of Southern, rural small town America.

    Not to steer off into another area, but...the story is really analogous to the current political climate in America.  John B represents a very modern, liberal view and he looks down on the conservative local 'hicks'.  As someone who is VERY far to the left, I found myself having very conflicted feelings about some of the people in the podcast...people who at first glance, I'd dismiss because of their views, I had to admit that they had a charm about them - there was more to them as people that just the one or two objectionable views that I'd struggle to see past.  Whether it was intended or not, there's a message here to liberals to not be all high and mighty and look our noses down at certain people.

  • ivarvassivarvass Norway
    edited April 2017
    Going quite sceptical into this show cause of the rapid decline of Serial midway season 1 and the trainwreck season 2, I was completely taken by the brilliant storytelling of the narrator dude from this american life and his raving mad genius subject John B. Part hilbilly, part clock fixer, part genius, part village idiot, part depression ridden angst troll . 

    Such a striking story. 

    I never got the answers I thought I would starting out this podcast, but I'm fine with that as I got something else which worked out just as fine. Im left with loads of questions, but thats also fine. For me the progress of the story with the many twists and turns was the main thing, not the final answers which i for spoiler reasons wont touch. 

    Up until recently i was working with feature journalism (amongst other subjects)  in print media for years, and Ive seen my fair share of storytelling fails. This stuff was impressive. By chance Brian hit a goldmine, and did a hell of a job portraiting John B., his fascinating world,  the town he lived in and the failed system he was a part of, as well as his own faults (of which there were many).

    Some would say it touches upon social pornography letting us into john's story, but I say it's a ballsy and correct move. this was real stuff, and real stuff needs to be shown, not hidden.

    sorry if my english is a bit broken. anyway - great show! 
  • @TxSandMan, it was also after 4 when I finished binging it, and I had no idea it had gotten that late.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Des Moines
    BB2K said:

    Does it have a pricipitious drop in quality halfway through, like Serial? And does it end without any answers, just a shrug of the shoulders from the narrator, like Serial?

    not at all. without spoiling it, the answers to any mystery pretty much come in episode 2/3, and the rest is just sort of a character study. it's excellent, greatly superior to serial in my opinion
    Correct. The initial mystery is answered. And then it becomes something much more, much larger than that initial mystery. And it's hard to put a finger on what that is -- it's going to vary from person to person. The series is constructed very, very well. Unlike Serial, which presented as a work in progress, you can tell that everything was planned out in advance and meticulously put together. It's very satisfying.
  • Garthgou81Garthgou81 Placerville, CA
    In a lot of ways this was kind of like the exact opposite of Serial. I loved it. 
  • LucasLucas Milwaukee

    I really like this story.  It's so good that by the end of it, I completely forgot that their were 4 mysteries or so I wanted to know the conclusion to.  I was just mostly sad at how John died.  But I have to remember, he knew he was poisoning himself, a large part of the break down of his personality was his fault.  Not that I can really blame him for following his passions.  But a very insightful and interesting person, and podcast.
  • davemcbdavemcb Melbourne
    I enjoyed the series but felt let down in the end, Is this a season 1 unanswered question that will be revisited at some stage? I don't see why they would do that unless they are up to the current timeline and the information might be updated in the future. 

    Personally John B frustrated me not because he was the real life Eugene as mentioned before but because of the impact some of his decisions or indecision caused on others which is primarily his mother. I won't berate anyone for deciding to end their own life but its not a decision I could make especially by doing it over the phone and leaving someone with that for the rest of their life. I have a friend that worked in a customer service position and had a random stranger call in saying they were about to commit suicide, their companies policy was you weren't allowed to hang up on a person making that statement. In the end she heard the guy shoot himself and it was something she still has issues with 15 years later.

    I also think not having his affairs in order leaving the whole cousins/Tyler situation as well as the situation with the call list. If you get that on paper with a lawyer he would have stopped a whole lot of trouble. 

    It didn't surprise me that in the end he committed suicide but it annoyed me that someone as methodical enough to plan a maze with 64 different scenarios and who could machine clock pieces from memory by hand couldn't put his affairs in order. But then a lot of brilliant people are severely flawed in real life. 

    I still don't know if I am on Team Tyler or Team Cousins but the whole situation around the call list not being called gives me cause from concern that there is something fishy going on. 

    John B was brilliant and flawed, a self hater and contradicted himself consistently I don't believe he was a bad person, I think he made some bad decisions late in life but I also believe the Mercury poisoning theory is extremely strong and I wish it could be proven or disproven

  • @davemcb ; "It didn't surprise me that in the end he committed suicide but it annoyed me that someone as methodical enough to plan a maze with 64 different scenarios and who could machine clock pieces from memory by hand couldn't put his affairs in order. But then a lot of brilliant people are severely flawed in real life....

    John B was brilliant and flawed, a self hater and contradicted himself consistently I don't believe he was a bad person, I think he made some bad decisions late in life but I also believe the Mercury poisoning theory is extremely strong and I wish it could be proven or disproven"

    Mercury poisoning or not, I think we should recognized that John was most likely mentally ill enough to impair his day to day functioning.  The fact that people thought he needed psychiatric or psychological help as far back as college actually goes against the mercury poisoning thesis.  I imagine John's diagnosis is probably bipolar, and I find that people who do manage to function in their manic or hypomanic states (ie they're not so disorganized that they come to medical or law enforcement attention) often don't like the way medication makes them feel (dulls the edge, dulls their cleverness, their genius etc....)  So I think the "he's a cool guy, but he has his flaws" idea should be changed to "he seems like a pretty cool guy who was pretty ill."

  • davemcbdavemcb Melbourne
    @Doctor_Nick ;

    I understand that John B was most likely mentally ill, but the people from his college life also talked about him fire gilding at or before college and that he never used proper safety equipment so mercury poisoning could have been causing issues since then as well as underlying undiagnosed mental health issues. I am not trying to play down mental illness by mentioning John B as brilliant but flawed as there is history of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and schizophrenia in my family. In fact I have heard the same claim about the impact of meds first hand around slowing them down and "clouding" their mind, where in fact we believed them to be clearer but they still didn't like it.  

  • The story was a waste, really shocking that American life would give a platform to a mentally ill person just spewing hate towards any and all groups of people.
        From accusing fellow town citizens of murder and slandering them to just outright hate speech towards other people and religions.

      Was also appalled that the reporter didn't try and help John, especially with him saying he cares as much as he did, when someone with mental illness starts talking about suicide, you should take action.

  • DeeDee Adelaide
    I guess one way of dealing with it might have been to not package up a mentally ill man as entertainment...

    I'm with @Hunter - this podcast made me feel uncomfortably voyeuristic and left a bad taste in my mouth. But I felt the same way about Serial, so maybe it's just me.
  • TheRiggTheRigg Brisbane - Australia
    I have listened to both serial and S town and loved both. I can understand from a narrative perspective how they both can feel like they do not provide a satisfying conclusion. But it's the questions they make you ask, about corruption, mental illness, loneliness, prejudice or legal systems (whether it's the presumption of innocence in serial or your estate after you pass, like in S_town). But what kept me hooked is I just found myself in both always trying to think big picture, trying to put myself in the shoes of the reporter and no let anything slip past me, with the fear that some one we trusted as an audience, was going to be the one that had one over on us eg: Tyler was only after the $$ ( I don't believe so) or Adnan is a sociopath ( I want to say no.. but..)
  • Doctor_NickDoctor_Nick Terminus
    edited April 2017
    "trying to put myself in the shoes of the reporter and no let anything slip past me,"

    @TheRigg  See, that's where I started off with Season 1 of Serial.  Then, the more analysis of the season you do, the more you realize that quite a bit of stuff "slipped past" the reporter, and a lot of it coincidentally resulted in a better story to tell without having to muddy any narrative waters unnecesarrily....
  • TheRiggTheRigg Brisbane - Australia
    @Doctor_Nick you will have to excuse my lack of research, but could you give me an example of "quite a bit of stuff" also any sites you are aware of that explain the information the podcast missed if you know any would be great. Would you say S-town had a less bias outlook then serial?
  • Doctor_NickDoctor_Nick Terminus
    edited April 2017

    Lot of reddit stuff.
    It's been a while... Let's see if I can still do some of  this:

    1. Serial starts of with this trope about remembering something from 6 weeks ago, how hard it is, and how fixing your alibi is difficult.  Then Koenig starts talking about Adnan.  Kinda leads you to believe it's Adnan she's talking about with this recall problem.  Actually, Jay is the person who wasn't spoken to for weeks after Hae Min Lee went missing.  Adnan was spoken to by the police the day Hae Min Lee went missing.

    2.  Related to 1 above.  There was quite a bit of noise that Adnan was fixated on by police for various reasons, as the ex, as a Muslim etc...  We know Hae Min Lee's new boyfriend, Don, was questioned extensively about his day.  In fact, his alibi included time cards at his job became an issue because they were supposedly authenticated by his mother or something.  There's a whole blame Don theory that has popped up.  So, if Adnan was fixated on, does that mean that the police questioned him about his day in relation to Hae Min Lee's disappearance?  One excellent reason for the police to fixate on Adnan is that they realize he lied to them about his day during the initial investigation.

    3. Related to 1 and 2.  The police only found Jenn and then Jay by going through Adnan's cell phone.  This is actually problematic, and something Koenig never asks Adnan about.  Either we are to believe that the police never asked Adnan to account for his movements on the day in question, or Adnan somehow forgot that he was with Jay when the police initially called him on the day of Hae Min Lee's disappearance, shortly after the last time Adnan would end up ever seeing her,or Adnan simply lied.  Keep in mind that in the podcast, Adnan does not dispute he was with Jenn and Jay the evening of Hae Min Lee's disappearance.  Did all this slip his mind during the actual investigation?

    4. Koenig spent an inordinate amount of time, in multiple episodes, on the payphone at Best Buy and whether it was actually there, as some sort of proof as to whether Cristina Gutierrez was doing a decent job for Adnan.  Koenig barely mentions, if she does in fact mention (I'm not sure at this point) that, in the trial transcript, Gutierrez asked the judge to take the jury down to the Best Buy so she could show them Jay's story didn't make any sense based on the layout of the place. Pretty weird choice of focus.

    5.  Serial kinda hand waves the cell phone evidence, it's foisted off on another producer, and everyone involved claims it more or less works the way the prosecution said it worked.  Meanwhile they didn't make anything of the fax facesheet that may end up getting Adnan his new trial.

    6.  The lividity findings on the body don't really fit Jay's story of what happened.  If you read the trial transcripts, Cristina Gutierrez was on that topic when she was cross examining the medical examiner.

    7.  They barely mention in the very last episode of the program that Adnan's story about buying a gift for Stephanie or what not with Jay on the day of has little bearing on his cell phone movements.  In fact some of the Patapsco park and other locations that Jay claims in various versions of interrogations with police are places that Jay and Adnan went during the morning of Hae Min Lee's disappearance.  They never ask Adnan about this.

    8.  In the podcast, Adnan states he would meet his father at the mosque, and that he would bring things to his father during the last 10 days when he was staying overnight.  During the trial, his father states he would always drive with Adnan in the same car to Ramadan at the mosque.  His father also stated that he would not stay at the mosque overnight because of his work.  Never explored. 

    9. There's more too, like the whole subject of Jenn being the person to give the initial story to police that puts Adnan and his cell phone around the park at the correct time is pretty fascinating. 

    S- Town has many fewer moving parts that are independently obtainable.  Seems like it would be very hard to tell how biased S-Town is unless subjects of the podcast start coming out with all this other information or contradicting the narrative.  
  • edited April 2017
    Hi everyone, I too made an astrolabe, as mentioned in the show John did, and I put it up on Kickstarter to get a little bit of funding to produce it. I'm hoping some of you can help me reach my goal in the last 2 days of the campaign, or at least share it on social media to get me some more exposure. Either way I'd be most grateful.
  • So, I'm a little late to the whole S-Town podcast but after enough people mentioned to my wife and I to listen to it, we finally found some time to do (thanks to a long round trip car ride).  After listening to all of the episodes this past weekend, overall, while I enjoyed the show, I was ultimately disappointed with it.  Mainly because the first 5 episodes lead to the mystery of "where is all of John's money?" and "does anyone have it now?".  Then, the narrator just drops that storyline for the final 2 episodes.  Sure, he comes back to it with a quick segment about telling Tyler that if Tyler finds the gold, "don't tell me about it or I'll have to make this public knowledge, ha ha ha".  To me, that just seemed like a copout.  Had I started the show off just knowing that the series was going to be more about the life of John B McLemore, then perhaps I wouldn't have been as disappointed.  But the first 5 episodes were more about what happened to the money/gold and then it just gets dropped and the focus is on John's romantic relationships and friends.

    I was also a little disappointed in the narrator that he didn't push the town clerk woman about why she didn't make the phone calls to the top 7 people on John's list.  She claimed she did.  Surely, phone records would exist, so why not go track those down and prove to her whether she made the calls or not.  Now, granted, the town clerk woman could have been traumatized by the fact that John killed himself while on the phone with her.  I can't even imagine how that must feel and how you would feel afterwards.  Although, if John did have a secret pile of money, it does make me look a little more in her direction (combined with the police) since it sounded like John told her where some of it was.  Ultimately I think that if John had the money that the narrator suspects, I'm guessing it's buried somewhere in the woods.

    I did find it very interesting to hear how talented John was and how it sounded like he was one of a very few people in the world that could restore really old clocks.  Also how one guy said that John could have made $150k for just working 2 to 3 days a week doing this.  I also laughed at the very ending when the narrator mentions John's heritage and how it sounded like John's great-grandfather was a notorious gangster/murderer and that's how John's family got all of the land that they had.

    As for John's mental health problems, I'm on the bandwagon of the mercury poison/mad hatter's disease.  It seemed like John fit the description word for word.  Then, when you add in the gilding technique and the mention that John had probably been doing this for years on end and doing it indoors in a confined space wearing no face mask/protection, well, common sense just tells me that he ingested/inhaled all of this mercury and had to be impacted by it. 

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