The latest episode of The Jinx, “Family Values,” begins with the pop culture fallout from Robert Durst’s acquittal by his Texan jury. Everyone from The Daily Show‘s John Stewart to Dan Abrams to Saturday Night Live has an opinion – largely the same one – on the incredulity of seeing Durst walk free. The New York Post, in true fashion, titled their report on the verdict “Run for your lives.”
If it weren’t such a clear travesty of justice (in my opinion, of course), then it would be hilarious. As it is, director Andrew Jarecki calls this verdict a result of Durst throwing a great deal of money at the case to save his life. According to an investigator interviewed by Jarecki, someone needs to convict Durst as, in his opinion, the world would be safer with him behind bars.
Jarecki then cuts to a sequence of Durst walking through Times Square and ordering coffee at a deli. Durst says over voice over that people still recognize him on the street and whisper behind his back. His infamy, however, has had no impact on the Durst organization on the whole. The organization in the visage of Douglas Durst continues to be involved with New York City’s Freedom Tower today. The episode continues in the exploration of the Durst family money being used to investigate the disappearance of Kathie Durst. A private investigator hired by the Durst family created a report itemizing many inconsistencies in Durst’s story with respect to Kathie’s disappearance – most damning was the revelation that the doorman in Durst’s building reportedly did not see Kathie Durst that night as was originally reported.
None of this information obtained by the Durst’s was shared with police, of course. Instead, the family slowly backed away and left Durst to his own devices (subsequent interview attempts by Jarecki are rebutted, leaving Jarecki to speculate that Robert Durst no longer exists where the Durst family is considered). If you’re of a certain mind on Durst’s involvement with subsequent crimes, then you see how that decision potentially lead to the death of two additional people. Jarecki does dig into the emotional impact of Kathie’s disappearance left on her family. Given Durst’s celebrity and the lack of closure, the disappearance is clearly still raw in their minds.
We’re starting to whittle down the series into the “what happens next” phase of the story where much of the story becomes highly speculative. There are several scenes exploring the relationship between Robert and Douglas Durst, including one where Robert allegedly planned to kill his own brother. In the present day, Robert Durst appears unsatisfied unless he’s antagonizing his brother in some capacity. There are also explorations into Durst’s current wife, Debrah, and how much she knows about “Bob’s secrets.” It does come across as very suspicious that, once he learned the Kathie Durst case would be reopened, Robert Durst proposed marriage to Debrah.
Most intriguing is Jarecki’s timeline around the death of Susan Berman where Durst is placed in northern California a few days prior to her death near Christmas Eve. He checks a car out on December 19, and his cell phone was turned off for a period of about 24 hours. Much like Kathie’s family, Berman’s family and friends feel a similar lack of closure and demand for justice, theirs perhaps fresher than Kathie’s simply because of the more recent crime.
And then comes the real shocker… The thing we’ve been waiting for all episode (perhaps all series). Susan Berman’s effects remained with her boyfriend, and, after digging through them, he uncovered a letter from Robert Durst addressed to Susan. The letter is written in the same block scrawl as the original letter sent to LAPD notifying them of a cadaver at her address. This new letter also contains the same misspelling of Beverly Hills included on the LAPD letter. It’s as close as anything has come to a smoking gun.
What will become of this evidence is clearly one of the items to be featured during next week’s finale. I’d wondered how the series was going to wrap up given that we’ve already dug deeply into the three murders and into Robert Durst’s tortured past. While watching the episode, I felt it was a little disjointed, moreso than previously tight and thrilling outings. But what I didn’t realize was that Jarecki, a top-notch documentary filmmaker, was deliberately structuring the episode to lead to the big reveal in its end.
The identification of this new letter is as big a cliffhanger as any scripted drama could develop. Brilliant filmmaking. Fascinating story.