With recent events (don’t click the link or read this piece if you want to avoid spoilers) taking center stage on the Robert Durst case, The Jinx: The LIfe and Deaths of Robert Durst wraps up its brilliant season with a stunner of a finale. Director Andrew Jarecki’s obsession with Durst has taken years of his life, but the dedication may yet pay off to not only yield the best work of his career but also have significant impact on the Durst investigation.
The episode opens with last week’s big stunner – a letter written by Robert Durst to Susan Berman matches an anonymous letter mailed to the Los Angeles Police Department alerting them to a “cadaver” at Berman’s address. The block script and misspelling of “Beverley” (as in Beverly Hills) are identical. Even seeing it again this week sends chills up my spine. Jarecki is either a brilliant filmmaker or this compelling case just literally fell into his lap in an stroke of unbelievably good luck.
Following the revelation of the letter, Jarecki plans the scheduled second interview with Durst. Preparing for any outcome, Jarecki begins lining up handwriting experts to analyze the similarities between the two letters. There is a little bit of “inside baseball” handwriting analysis set up here, but that’s exactly what this kind of material needs. You cannot jump to conclusions based on visual observations alone – you have to prove the case beyond a shadow of a doubt. And make no mistake, Andrew Jarecki is not an attorney, and Robert Durst is not on trial (yet). To me, the whole proceedings not only have a feeling of dread from the details of the crime and the creepy, Zodiac-like letter but also over the amount of interference Jarecki’s investigation has had on the potential outcome of the case.
Trying to set up the second interview, Jarecki keeps calling Durst who claims to be in Spain, specifically Madrid. Through other methods, Jarecki busts Durst and finds out Durst was in Los Angeles rather than Barcelona. Yeah, Durst couldn’t get his lies straight. They finally have something of a minor verbal confrontation, and Durst takes the second interview off the table. Cut to Robert Durst’s arrest in New York City as he violates the restraining order placed by his brother, Doug. Durst is then released on $5,000 bail (a joke to Durst but most likely in-line with the crime).
After Jarecki’s team agrees to share their raw footage of Durst in Times Square and other locations around New York City (including near Doug’s home), Durst agrees to another interview with Jarecki, something of a final showdown the way Jarecki stages it. The prep work. The exploration of dozens of outcomes. The possibilities they may be confronted with when talking to Durst. Additional speculation from journalists, attorneys, police detectives, even a juror (still convinced of Durst’s complete innocence). Even Jarecki’s admitted anxiety over the interview as he potentially turns Durst completely against him. It all quickly ramps up the intensity and anxiety over the pending interview. What will happen when Andrew Jarecki confronts Robert Durst with the smoking letter?
Finally, the day of the interview happens, and Durst shows up. Jarecki starts innocently enough with a few old photos of Kathie and Susan. Durst even requests a copy of one of the photos with Berman. Then, the business of the letter begins. Durst and Jarecki dance around the details, Jarecki never fully accusing him of writing the “cadaver” letter and Durst (obviously) never admitting to writing it. Finally, when shown a blown up version of the “Beverly Hills” misspelling, Durst himself cannot distinguish between the two samples. He has no idea which he wrote and which he didn’t.
But that’s not all of it.
After the interview concludes, Durst excuses himself to go to the restroom with his microphone still on. There, he begins a bizarre series of ramblings that read like a spoken inner monologue. The final lines of the series are spoken by Robert Durst, himself, and they stopped me dead. I had to back up the recording just to make sure I’d heard it correctly (even though the text is conveniently written across the screen). It’s as chilling as anything I’ve heard on television.
It’s a confession.
Now, most good (re: expensive) attorneys could probably easily handle this in court. They could easily say Durst was fantasizing about the events. That Durst was simply role playing. Yet, given the overall mood established by Jarecki throughout the 6-episode series, given the details, given the evidence… well, it’s hard to imagine that statement as anything but a confession. A secret confession of a man who is so clearly disconnected from reality that he can’t keep his lies straight. That he can’t reliably come up with viable alibis.
Robert Durst, in my opinion, is a man so weary of the decades he’s been a suspected and often hunted man that he can’t even remember when he left is microphone on his body. Nor that that microphone is left on.
You can’t buy an ending that good.