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The key question in 'Serial' that was never answered — and it has nothing to do with the man in jail

Image source: serialpodcast.org

There have been some good wrap-up pieces about "Serial," the addictive "This American Life" spinoff podcast that spent a few months retelling a murder, investigation and conviction involving teens in Baltimore, that captivated audiences like never before in this audio media platform.

Image source: serialpodcast.org Image source: serialpodcast.org

The series concluded its first season on Thursday, with a lot of questions still unanswered. If you're reading this now, make sure you've listened to all 12 episodes of the podcast.

Much of what the show's host, Sarah Koenig, seemed to be pushing toward this season was whether Adnan Syed, in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, was guilty of the crime. That is obviously an important point, but the key question that was barely addressed was why Jay, who said he was Adnan's accomplice in transporting and burying the body, would weave a fairy tale if it weren't based in fact.

Jay is the most fascinating part of this story. In many cases, someone is accused of a crime; says they are innocent; the facts against them are presented; and the jury determines if they are guilty or not. In this instance, Jay came forward and admitted his involvement and implicated Adnan...while Adnan maintained he has no idea why Jay would make this story up. Someone is clearly lying (or both are), and determining the lies is the most important part of determining innocence or guilt, now 15 years after the murder.

Here's what is indisputable: Jay knew where Hae's car was, and he led police to it. Adnan considered Jay a friend, and let Jay use his cellphone and car on the day Hae disappeared. At some point later that night, Adnan and Jay met back up and went to "Cathy's" house.

So here are two questions: What was the relationship between Adnan and Jay from the time Hae went missing to when her body was found several weeks later? Adnan and Jay were clearly close enough for Adnan to let Jay borrow his car and phone for hours. Did they interact at all during the stretch of time Hae was missing? "Serial" never answered this.

Question two: What was the relationship between Adnan and Stephanie during the time Hae was missing? Stephanie was Jay's girlfriend, but Adnan was her close friend. On the day Hae went missing, which happened to be Stephanie's birthday, Adnan gave her a stuffed animal. Meanwhile, flash-forward to the trial, and Stephanie was firmly on Team Jay, sticking by her then-boyfriend throughout his testimony. She would know the circumstances of that day better than anyone, besides the two in question. What was she doing during that time? "Serial" never talked to her.

Details in Jay's story that he told the police on several occasions changed many times, but his overall narrative — and Adnan's involvement — stayed consistent. As it turns out, Adnan didn't have an airtight alibi, like Hae's boyfriend Don did. But what if he did? Why would Jay implicate Adnan, especially taking the change that he had a clear alibi? As I see it, there are really only four possibilities.

1. Jay killed Hae, then tried to put the blame on Adnan.

2. Jay and someone else killed Hae, then tried to put the blame on Adnan.

3. Jay found out that someone killed Hae and other details, like where Hae's car was, then tried to put the blame on Adnan.

4. Jay and Adnan were the only two people responsible for Hae's death and burial — the scenario Jay told the police, that they believed, and that the jury clearly believed as well.

I find it very hard to believe that options one, two or three could be true. On the other hand, The Innocence Project, which took up Adnan's case, dismisses the Jay quandary with innuendo and accusation.

There are other details that were introduced in "Serial" that were ultimately glossed over, like the fact that Adnan had written the word "kill" on a note from Hae, but the key point that was never answered is what motivation Jay would have to lie and implicate Adnan...unless Adnan was involved.

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