If you know anything about the podcast realm, you’ve heard of Serial.
I crave a story with layers like an Ogre and mysteries galore. I binge podcasts all day at work via Spotify to drown the phone conversations around me and have been on the hunt to find a story I could get behind and completely immerse myself into.
My most recent podcast binge, called Up and Vanished, claims to fill that void.
Tara Grinstead was a 30-year-old high school history teacher in Ocilla, GA when she went missing in October of 2005. Though rumors run rampant through this small town, the case to this day is cold and has had very few true leads. Either no one truly knows what happened, or someone is hiding in plain sight.
She seems/ed like the perfect All-American girl, with pageant wins under her belt and a happy disposition. She was last seen at a neighbor’s BBQ that evening and was reported missing when she didn’t show up to class the next morning.
That’s where Payne Lindsey comes in. He’s a Georgia-based filmmaker who admits he was looking for a case like Serial when he happened upon Tara’s name. Through this series of episodes named Up and Vanished, Payne looks into Tara’s disappearance through fresh eyes.
Because this case is technically still open, the case files are closed to the public. According to Georgia state law (fun fact), you can request any files you want but it is up to the police whether or not to release them if the case is still open.
three types of podcast episodes:
- The typical episode you’d expect, telling a story from Payne’s experiences, investigations, and interviews.
- Case Evidence – these episodes go through new pieces of evidence from text messages to press releases and a creepy internet stalker and more. Check this link here if you’re interested in a sampling of what is talked about.
- Q&A’s – there is a voicemailbox you can leave a message with for Payne and his team to answer. If you’re anything like me and you’re a bit nervous about this style of episode – don’t be! They’re pretty good about choosing questions that aren’t cringe-worthy or awkward.
I really enjoy having all of these different types of episodes because they help break the case down, and honestly break up the case a bit. With Serial, I always had different thoughts of what roads the hosts should take to investigate, and I liked how with U&V people could express these opinions. I found myself seeing things from a new perspective because of how other people saw it. I’d find myself saying, “that’s what I was thinking!” and I appreciated being able to have my questions answered (even though I never called in).
major players in the podcast:
- Payne Lindsey – the host
- Dr. Maurice Godwin – consultant, who has been on the case since 2006
- Philip Holloway – lawyer and consultant
- Tara Grinstead – the missing woman the case surrounds
- I don’t want to give away spoilers *wink*
While I can’t say that I wouldn’t like more women on the show for representation or a police officer for expertise, the “experts” have added helpful perspective for me. Because the case files are still closed, we have to focus a bit more on the legal side of the case. For example, we can make inferences that person X’s DNA doesn’t match the glove because person X is a convicted felon and their DNA is in the USA’s DNA database and nothing matched. Or, that the gag order only applies to the specific people in the case (not their crazy girlfriends calling in to yell at Payne). Do those count as spoilers?
what do I like about the podcast?
I like that the hosts are honest with what they do and don’t know. They voice their opinions but do their best to keep to the facts. They want justice, whatever that means.
The podcast has more than one voice as “host,” as mentioned above. I’m a complete binger when it comes to podcasts, and it’s much appreciated when more than one host appears.
You can feel how organic the show is. When Payne says that he just happened upon the case, you can tell he means it. He jumped right in to help people look into this cold case even without knowing all of the specifics.
what don’t I like about this podcast?
Honestly, my biggest pet peeve is the sloppy transitions between advertisements. Read: there are no transitions at all.
I will say that I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the people that host the podcast, but I did my best to put personal preference aside because I truly wanted to get to the bottom of Tara’s disappearance. Did Payne often come across as self-congratulatory? A bit. Did things sometimes seem a bit too good to be true? Yes.
would I recommend this podcast to you?
Absolutely. Tara’s case is one that is interesting and tragic and is portrayed in a fairly factual way. It isn’t gruesome and celebrates Tara’s beautiful life.
My coworker Nicole started the show, got three episodes in, and gave up. I’d recommend that you don’t throw in the towel – things get more and more interesting through twists and turns!
Is it Serial? No. But honestly, there are a few things I absolutely loved about this podcast (even more so than the beloved) and some much, much less.
If you’re interested in my thoughts on the end of the season – highlight the words below the warning. I’m making the text white so that you don’t have to see the spoilers if you want to keep the suspense!
From my Google searching and Reddit scouring, it seems like people either hate or love the podcast. I’m somewhere in the middle. I want a podcast to keep me engaged and entertain me. I don’t see this podcast as the end-all-be-all of Tara’s case, and neither should you. It kept my attention the majority of the time, and I can’t fault it for that.
Also, bonus! They’re going on tour! Assuming I’m free on that December night that they’re near me, you’ll likely find me there.
*WARNING – SPOILER RANT START HERE* I find it a bit unsettling that it seems like Ryan & Bo have virtually no motive. I’m personally (currently) under the camp that believes Bo is way too suspicious to have only just “helped dispose of the body.” That’s a bit too convenient, considering the fact that Ryan is taking the fall and is apparently really sick and the statute of limitations exists for one crime and not the other.
Also, I just found it SO DUMB that he got on the discussion boards to talk about the case AND basically direct messaged everything to that random lady (who promptly turned it all over, lol).
Also, I’m still a bit freaked out about that George Harrison thing…
I hope you enjoyed that Podcast Round-up – if you have any recommendations for me, please drop them down below in the comments!
We loved Serial, S-Town, and enjoyed Up and Vanished for a long time. As things began to really ramp up in the latter half of the season, however, I noticed two things:
1) Payne became extremely biased against certain figures he featured on the podcast. (Trying not to spoil anything.) But as someone claiming to be working almost as a journalist and looking for the truth, his apparent bias (and not in a “I’m going to ask the hard questions” way, but the “I’m going to not listen to anything you say because I’m already convinced you’re a bad person” way) really turned me off. Especially since he had good points, but they were completely lost behind his unacceptable decorum.
2) He became very self-congratulatory, almost entire episodes toward the end made up of minutes-long phone recordings from people essentially praising him for the podcast. It didn’t add anything to the substance of what he was investigating and got old really quickly.
We still have four episodes left but have had no desire to finish the first season for these reasons. Which is a shame, because I was completely hooked for the first two-thirds of it.
yes, I completely agree!
I think the focus moved away from what started the whole thing – Tara and solving the case. He seems to be holding back information from us (for legitimate reasons, I hope) and we hear more about that soon! I hope that through the trial it gets a bit better.
thanks for reading!