Turns out that the reason Bowe left was... because his officer was mean?

Serial Season 2 Episode 6 Recap: Bowe. Come on. Really?

February 04, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

Welcome to National Ave’s weekly Serial recaps. This recap covers Episode 6 of Season 2, “5 O’Clock Shadow.”

This fucking guy.

THAT is the explanation we’ve been waiting so long for?! His commanding officer was mean?!

I don’t see it. No, “You couldn’t shave?” is not necessarily the most tactful line to drop on a bunch of guys who just came back from the battlefield. And yes, it’s just good management skills to make your workers feel valued.

But there’s a huge leap between, “You know, I wish my commanding officer would be nicer to me” and, “I think my superior is going to deliberately get me killed.”

Bowe’s logic doesn’t even make any actual sense. Isn’t a bunch of your guys being dead far more embarrassing than a photo of them not wearing their armor? Even if Bowe’s assertion was true, that Lt. Col. Baker’s was driven primarily by vanity, losing a ton of men on a “suicide” mission is a pretty bad look. Even if we take everything Bowe says about his CO at face value (which, by the way, we have no reason to. Bowe’s interpretation of events and words could be way off), that basically just attests to Baker’s douchiness. It doesn’t betray some internal psychosis that could drive him to murder.

For me, this significantly alters the way I view Bowe’s story. I was beyond prepared for this to be the tale of a rogue whistleblower who made a bold, if entirely misguided, attempt to defy an inept, incompetent institution that was failing to adequately represent our national interests whilst putting American lives unnecessarily at risk in a dangerous war zone. And you know what? That all may still be true. The American military may well be an inept, incompetent institution. But Bowe Bergdahl has failed to make that case.

It was all ego, man. Bowe triggered the DUSTWUN because, ultimately, the Army made him feel bad about himself, and he didn’t like that. He didn’t like that he wasn’t getting to play Super Army Man, killing bad guys and spreading freedom. Bowe didn’t feel like he was valued, like he was important, like he was being treated with the respect that he deserved. So he walked off.

There’s an arrogance that irks me here. I know I keep returning to that word, but in the past few weeks I’ve meant it in more of a bureaucratic, naïve sense. Bowe was afflicted with a difference sort of arrogance, a self-regard that prioritized his own importance over any grander perspective of what was happening in the region. It was more personal, more, to be frank, petty.

Do I think this means Bowe deserves to go to jail? No, of course not. This doesn’t change how much he suffered. He has already paid the price for his mistakes in full and then some. At worst, he should be dishonorably discharged and then sent home. In other words, I don’t think he should get to home because he was a whistleblower, he should get to home because I believe any further punishment would be cruel and unusual.

Does it change my notion of Bowe as a figure? Absolutely. Because even if the thought process is further explained to us in the coming weeks, even if after next week I’m sitting here going “Aight, I at least get how he got to this place,” that doesn’t make his conclusion any more logical or righteous. Then he’d just be a dude who I understand a bit better, but still was super wrong.

Nuance. It’s freaking hard and sometimes sucks. Bowe Bergdahl went beyond the pale of selfishness and self-regard. He’s a deserter and a moron, but you know what? He deserves to go home. Even if it puts a bad taste in your mouth. Even if you want to smack him upside the head a few thousand times. More than one thing can be true at once.

But ugh. Goddammit Bowe.

Stray Observations:

-The Koenig’s Bill Murray/Stripes joke was…shall we say, not her best. You could even hear her give up on the bit in the middle of it. Like, yes, we were all thinking it. But still, SK.

-Yes, I am listening to the Season 1 updates. Man, our justice system is slow as shit.

-A bit of shameless self-promotion here: The inimitable Stephen Rees and I are going to be starting a podcast. We’re recording the first episode tonight, and I’m stoked. We’re not sure what we’re going to call it yet, but it’s gonna be great. You should check it out (when we post it).