Review: Dropping out of fame, ‘The Dropout’ tells story of Theranos scam


Photo credit: ABC News Promotional Poster

One side of Elizabeth Holmes’ infamous profile, dressed in a black turtleneck and messy hair, is shown on the promotional poster for ABC News podcast “The Dropout,” reported by Rebecca Jarvis and produced by Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson. The two-season podcast follows former entrepreneur of the biotech industry Elizabeth Holmes’ path to being convicted of criminal charges.

By Thea Leimone, Features Editor

The Dropout” is a 21-episode podcast series that tells the two-decade-long story of deception, invention, innovation and fame. Narrated by Rebecca Jarvis and produced by ABC News, “The Dropout” follows the story of infamous Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes from her childhood home to her live trial. Detailed and delivered with incredible suspense, the podcast gives a perfect play-by-play of Forbes‘ former youngest self-made female billionaire’s path to criminal charges. The podcast was recently adapted into a Hulu Limited Series starring Amanda Seyfried.

Elizabeth Holmes entered Stanford University with ambition and a desire to invent the next big thing. She made her way into advanced research classes where she developed the idea for a device that could run hundreds of blood tests from a single drop. Despite advice that the invention would not be scientifically possible, Holmes dropped out of school to pursue her dream.

Through hurdle after hurdle, Holmes eventually persuaded investors into giving millions to Theranos with the promise of revolutionizing the future of healthcare. Success came like a storm as Holmes was called the “next Steve Jobs,” until her lies came to light. She was found guilty on four of 12 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and now awaits sentencing.

The podcast is amazingly thorough, with perspectives from key figures about every step of her journey. The first season progresses chronologically, starting with high school Holmes and ending with a prediction for her trial. The second season places the listener in the court with notes, descriptions and the latest updates on the over 50 hours of deliberation.

Jarvis perfectly intertwines anecdotes of Holmes, imagery of meetings, court questionings and interviews with major investors and past employees as she pieces together the scheme of success that fooled the world. Some sources include the former Stanford professor, Phyllis Gardner, whom Holmes approached for scientific approval of her design, as well as the whistleblower of the company, Tyler Shultz. Interviews from these figures provide a realistic look at Holmes and the lies she told within her company.

Holmes’ story has been too often regarded as impressive or a powerful feat for a female, but Jarvis makes sure to keep a strong balance; she highlights the rapid and unusual success Holmes achieved as a woman in tech, while recognizing the destruction she caused for innocent people and oblivious investors. The listener certainly won’t emerge thinking Holmes is a #girlboss.

If you are new to podcasts or are looking to start one, look no further than “The Dropout.” The story progresses with enough speed that it won’t lull you to sleep, and the intense details of Holmes’ fraud gives a comprehensive story that leaves you on the edge of your seat. However, if podcasts are an absolute no, make sure to check out the eight-episode Hulu series that plays out the story on screen.

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ABC News podcast “The Dropout” tells the detailed story of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos biotechnology corporation. Through a supposed groundbreaking discovery, Holmes was shot into a path of fame, money and lies as she tried to invent an impossible invention. The podcast is suspenseful and complex and perfectly narrated by reporter Rebecca Jarvis.