Last week, the premiere episode of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst ended on something of a cliffhanger note. After carefully detailing a gruesome crime and the irrational activities of chief suspect Robert Durst, the episode ended with director Andrew Jarecki setting up an exclusive one-on-one interview with the man himself. By that point, anyone watching had to wonder what Durst would say in the light of such damning evidence.
After all, Durst was the one who proposed the interview in the first place.
The second episode, “Poor Little Rich Boy,” kicks in with Durst explaining his rationale for offering the interview: after being released from prison, he wanted the opportunity to tell his side of the story as a counterpart to what had been relayed in the media. It’s a classic deflection technique, really. Let’s not make it about the multiple people who allegedly died at his hands because it’s really the media who are at fault here.
Cut to Durst’s attorney setting up the theme of the episode: Robert Durst should be pitied because he grew up rich with too much money to spend. On our podcast this week, Craig mentioned Jarecki’s seeming indictment of the famed 1% wealthiest people in America, and it certainly seems the series is headed in this direction. Much like the film Foxcatcher, it’s the money that drove aimless, soulless men to murder.
We learn additional facts about Durst’s early life, the most interesting of which is the fact that his mother died “a violent death” when he was 7 years old. According to Durst, his father pulled him out of bed in the middle of the night to “say ‘Hi’ to mommy” who was standing on the roof in a nightgown. The young Durst waved to her but has no memory of whether or not she saw him. She later fell to her death, and at her funeral, he pleaded for people to free his mother from the box, barely grasping the concept of death and burial. The incident clearly scarred Durst for life as he says “it never left me.”
Establishing the trauma surrounding his mother, Jarecki then transitions to the story of the missing Kathie Durst. Friends and family of Kathie are interviewed, nearly all of who beg to know the answer to the question of what happened to her. This subject is blended with Durst’s decision to join is father’s real estate business, establishing an impression of unhappiness in Durst’s life at that time. Durst, himself, describes scenarios where he fits poorly into this life, especially with Kathie’s family.
The eeriest moment of the episode comes in this sequence when Durst says, “I am complicit in Kathie’s not being here.”
According to testimonials provided by her friends at the time, Kathie Durst was afraid of her husband. Kathie Durst feared for her life. She asked one friend to, should something happen to her, look into the incident. Even today, that friend admits she truly didn’t understand what Kathie was saying. Kathie later disappeared.
Durst’s initial version of the story indicated that he put Kathie on a train home from their home outside the city the night she disappeared, had a drink with a friend, and called Kathie to ensure she made it home safely. Part of this is validated by the building’s doorman who opened the door for her that night, and Kathie called in sick to medical school the following morning. No one heard from her after that.
Kathie’s friends kept their promise to investigate her disappearance to heart. They eventually took Durst’s garbage and found a mysterious note that included the words “shovel” and “dig” among others. In the right light, it could read as a laundry list of how to dispose of a body. Durst’s interview continues, revealing intimate details of their marital life including the abortion he forced her to have given his proclivity against having children. Here, Durst conveys his concern that he might be “a jinx” and continue the trend of raising children poorly in the Durst family.
The rest of the episode breaks down the last night Kathie Durst was seen alive, and it’s riddled with inconsistences. Durst apparently never had that drink with a friend, and he now claims he never talked to her on the pay phone. It’s all a huge mystery at this point, and Durst’s information does nothing to clarify it.
What we’re left with, then, is the beginning of something of a pattern in Durst’s life. Equating the sudden and traumatic death of his mother to the disappearance of his first wife, Jarecki begins establishing a pattern of mental distress that potentially resulted in his allegedly murderous appetites later in life. The Durst/Jarecki interview will clearly be parsed out over several episodes as there would be a lot of ground to cover here.
What’s most interesting to me is the sense of remorse Durst expressed during the final section of the episode. He regrets involving Kathie in his life, saying that if they hadn’t gotten married then she would be living a safer, more ordinary life today. It’s not clear if he’s referring to the “jinx” he claims he lives under or if he intends something much more sinister. It’s an incredibly fascinating question to ponder.