Pitches for Season 3 of Serial

Just like every other young white woman who lives in the center of the true crime aficionado/NPR listener venn diagram, I loved season one of Serial. Good true crime narratives give me a solvable mystery that makes me feel like I could grow up to become Marge Gundersen, but great true crime narratives make me question everything I know and dwell on the details of the case for months. Season one of Serial is firmly in the latter camp.

But, aside from a compelling final episode, season two did not live up to my expectations for another wild mind-fuck ride through an unsolved mystery. I found myself spending more time teasing out the relationship between the podcast and Annapurna Pictures than the actual facts of the case. Admittedly, I’m writing my dissertation on our culture’s mental health failures, but did anyone need eleven episodes to reach the conclusion that mental health care in the U.S. is horribly broken?

Fortunately, my lifelong mystery obsession has led me to some ideas for a return to podcasting form, free for Sarah Koenig’s taking. Listed and explained here in order of most to least timely, here are my dreams for some recent events that could be unpacked during season three of Serial.

The Minnesota Vikings Stuffed Animal Murder: Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has spent the last week dogged by rumors that he decorated his locker room with a menagerie of stuffed cats who had their throats slashed and covered in red paint. Per Zimmer’s account, he did place the stuffed animals in the locker room as a warning against his then-undefeated players becoming complacent “fat cats,” but he did not slit their throats or scatter the red paint.

But can we trust the account of Zimmer, a noted Gemini? (This is a shameless plug for It’s Handled, where my partner-in-crime Brigid and I talk about sports astrology.) If Zimmer was not the one to massacre these stuffed cats, who was? Who else has access, motive, and an adequate amount of weirdness? Also, on a more fundamental mysteries-of-existence level: I know the NFL is full of eccentric personalities, but what kind of a person thinks stuffed animal murder is motivating?

Clearly, the act was counterintuitive. The Vikings lost to the Philadelphia Eagles after this slaughter, perhaps because they were so shaken up by their locker room murder scene. Maybe an interloper deliberately sabotaged the team, but how would an outsider know that the stuffed animals were there in the first place? The call has to be coming from inside the house.

The 2005 Access Hollywood Tape Leak: I will not explain the fundamentals of this case, because you are a human on the internet, so I assume you already know. The party line on the topic implies that a member or members of NBC’s production staff, in the spirit of public service and election transparency, sent the tape to various media outlets. This person(s) allegedly unearthed the footage after hearing Billy Bush brag about its existence during the Rio Olympics.

However, this explanation assumes that the 2016 election is the sole relevant motive for leaking the tape, and I firmly believe that this act was intended to take both Donald Trump and Billy Bush down. Therefore, Billy Bush’s enemies should be considered the prime suspects in this case.

To be clear, this does little to narrow the list, but my instincts are pointing me toward three people in particular: Natalie Morales, who was present for the 2005 taping and strikes me as the Today cast member most constitutionally capable of killing two birds with one stone; Willie Geist, a charm monster whose weekday spot was given to Bush after he was shunted to weekends; and, last but certainly not least, Al “Caipirinha .Gif” Roker.

Any/all of these parties have both an ability and a motivation to pull off such a masterly takedown. For all I know, it may have been a collaborative effort between all of them — like, some kind of Ocean’s Eleven style plot with multiple thrilling moving parts that could have been thwarted at any point in time. So I guess my curiosity is not so much about who did it, but how they did it. What was the timeline of their plan? When did they decide to put it in motion? How did they acquire the tape? How did they decide where to distribute it? What address should we use when we send them thank-you notes?

Bill Belichick’s Black Eye: For about a decade, my most pressing question about Bill Belichick was “who lets him leave the house dressed like this?” That all changed in January of 2016, when he decided to casually walk around his workplace with a black eye. You know. A typical thing that human mammals do. Belichick refused to publicly comment on the injury, as he is wont to do, but he also showed up to a locker room press conference with boxing gloves in tow — a shocking public display of personality.

Almost ten months later, there are still no clues in the case. This mystery is particularly compelling because I don’t even know where to start with it. This man is so unusual and so secretive that the explanation could literally be anything. All we know is that it has to be a somewhat private incident; if it happened in public, surely a witness would have come forward or visual evidence would have surfaced on social media by now, right?

Even with this limitation on potential theories, the possibilities include but are not limited to: an embarrassing accidental injury, a locker room brawl, a particularly contentious meeting of Roger Goodell’s secret fight club, and a satanic ritual in which he sacrifices his sweatshirt sleeves in return for unchecked power. We might have to go all the way back to Belichick’s “birth” (note: I am a Belichick birther and assume he either hatched from an egg fully formed or was built from scratch in some kind of Stranger Things lab) before we can find a way to truly get to the bottom of this one.

The Bobby Flay Cheater Banner: Rumors of Bobby Flay’s philandering were nothing new to avid blind item readers, but I don’t think anyone anticipated that someone would be gutsy enough to fly a “CHEATER” airplane banner over his 2015 Walk of Fame ceremony. The event took place at the height of his contentious divorce from Stephanie March, which was allegedly sparked by Flay’s relationship with his assistant (a very unique midlife crisis strategy, if those rumors are true).

March claims that she’s not responsible for the banner, and I, for one, believe her. Her attention was focused elsewhere, and it’s doubtful that the banner would do anything to improve her lot during their divorce proceedings. However, I do think the banner was done for her. My working theory is that the perpetrator was someone who wanted to brighten her divorce-proceedings mood — probably a close friend.

This is where the mystery gets good, because 1) this theory puts the cast of history’s greatest Saturday afternoon cable marathon program Law and Order: SVU into play, and 2) March and Flay’s social circle included such delightful suspects as human ray of sunshine Jack McBrayer. To be clear, like the Access Hollywood leak, it could have been a collaborative conspiracy, but there is no permutation of potential suspect(s) that is not deeply entertaining to imagine. Just think about, say, Ice-T and/or Kenneth the Page placing a phone order for a “cheater” airplane banner the next time you feel sad. Incredible.

Actually, maybe I don’t want my questions about this one answered. Maybe it’s best that we all continue to live in a world of endless Bobby Flay cheater banner possibilities.

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