The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, “Chapter 6: ‘What the Hell Did I Do?’” - TV Review


Jinx Finale

March 15, 2015, 8pm (EST), HBO

“Son of a bitch!” spits out a former prosecutor who investigated the disappearance of Robert Durst’s wife, while poring over a new piece of evidence that suggests Durst may have been directly involved in a separate murder. It’s hard to avoid making the same exclamation while watching The Jinx, as Durst’s story unfolds and the documentary series heavily suggests that he successfully got away with at least three murders. But in “Chapter 6,” viewers are treated to a new potential takeaway– gleeful retribution – while watching Durst squirm when presented with this new evidence.

The final episode of the documentary miniseries was a significant departure from the previous five. Other episodes were filled with a deep dive into the history of Robert Durst and the three deaths for which he had been a suspect – with dramatic re-enactments, historical pictures and video, and interviews about the events with family, friends and investigators. But this final outing focused on planning for a final interview with Durst that would confront him with new evidence unearthed by director Andrew Jarecki.

The development of this documentary series is a fascinating story in itself – as Durst’s potential downfall may have been kickstarted by the man himself. Indeed, he contacted Jarecki after viewing his movie All Good Things, which was inspired by the case of Durst and his missing wife, and suggested that Jarecki interview him. Against the advice with his lawyers, Durst sat down with Jarecki and his crew to recount his past – covering a myriad of topics ranging from his relationship to his family to his perspective on the deaths and disappearances in which he is suspected of being involved.

As the documentary goes on to illustrate over the course of these interviews, Durst is a man who believes he can get away with almost anything. In one of the earlier episodes, he admits to lying to police about his whereabouts the night his former wife Kathleen disappeared because he believed the lie wouldn’t be investigated. “That’s just what I told the police,” he rationalizes of his lie. “I was hoping that would just make everything go away.” His idea for these interviews with Jarecki further underlines his belief that he is untouchable. He tells Jarecki that the interviews provide an opportunity for there to be “something out there from me … I will be able to tell it in my way.” Well, that is definitely accomplished in the finale, but certainly in a way Durst never envisioned.

“Chapter 6″ follows the aftermath of Jarecki’s discovery of new evidence that was revealed at the end of the last episode. It links handwriting by Durst in a letter sent to Susan Berman, a friend of Durst who was killed in 2000, to a note that had been sent to police informing them of a “cadaver” at Berman’s address before the body was discovered.

As a result, much of the episode provided a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the documentary and some of the considerations that went into planning the interviews with Durst, as the documentary crew prepared to discuss the handwriting evidence with him. After consulting a handwriting expert, who concluded that the writing on Durst’s letter and the “cadaver note” very likely came from the same source, Jarecki struggles to set up this planned final interview with Durst.

At first, Durst is reluctant to sit down with Jarecki again – lying to him about his whereabouts and suggesting that Jarecki move on to another subject. Durst is then arrested for violating an “order of protection” that his brother had taken out against him – for visiting his home after filming scenes in New York City for the documentary. Durst is estranged and hostile towards his brother Doug and, at one point, Doug hired a bodyguard due to concerns about his brother’s actions. After Durst stood outside his brother’s home with the documentary crew, he later returned on his own and was caught on a surveillance camera.

It was this event that pushed Durst to sit down once again with Jarecki, since his lawyers needed tapes from the filming in New York as part of their defense. Jarecki starts the final interview, as planned, with some softball questions to ease his subject. Eventually, he comes to the letter Durst sent to Berman and asks Durst to explain the similarities between the handwriting in that letter and the note that was subsequently sent to police. While Durst denies that he wrote the latter note, he is unable to point out which handwriting belongs to him when shown the two options side by side.

Despite the tense exchange, the interview ends amicably with the two men shaking hands. Just as we think we’ll never hear more from Durst on the subject, he asks to go to the bathroom. And with the mic still attached, he starts talking to himself, opening with: “There it is. You’re caught.” After a disconnected series of statements to himself, apparently prepping himself to provide future responses and berating himself for his performance, Durst seemingly reveals his culpability. This isn’t the first time he made this mistake either. In a previous episode, Durst rehearses lines during a break in the interview until his lawyer informs him that the mic was still on and recording every word of it.

The finale could have been clearer about the timing of interviews and recent events depicted in the series. It also could also have spent time reflecting on Durst’s apparent admission or discussing next steps on sharing information with police. Instead, it fades to black with those off-screen words. While it may have been more satisfying for the audience to see the aftermath of that interview for which most of the episode was spent preparing, it’s hard to imagine an ending that could beat the punch to the gut provided by those words.

The Jinx has been an incredible, and sometimes jaw-dropping, six-part series not only for its first-hand exploration of Durst – who is an intriguing character with moments of being blunt and straightforward followed by strange tics and off-putting blinking at the camera – but also for its inclusion of the filmmakers into the story. As Jarecki prepares for the final interview with Durst, he expresses his nervousness about “potentially becoming the enemy” and reflects on the relationship he developed with Durst in the process of making the documentary. It’s fascinating to see that even though Jarecki strongly suspects that Durst is a murderer and knows he’s a liar, he still generally believes Durst in certain instances. When Jarecki suggests that Durst would likely be truthful about vacation plans, one of his crew replies with: “Are you guys fucking kidding me?” It is later revealed that Durst was indeed lying.

It is also remarkable because of the impact the series has had on cases that had been all but forgotten. Indeed, the day before the finale aired, Durst was arrested in New Orleans for Berman’s death – likely related to some of this new evidence found by Jarecki.

In the end, Durst may have turned out to be his own undoing. After successfully avoiding jail time in the past, even after admitting to dismembering the body of a neighbor, he may finally have put himself in a situation out of which even he will be unable to squirm. And there’s nothing more riveting to watch unfold than that – especially when it happens in real life and practically in real time.

The Roundup

  • There’s only one quote that really matters: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Maybe Durst will later claim he was being facetious or sarcastic, but the impact of viewing those words onscreen after Durst was presented with the handwriting evidence will be difficult to replicate in any other TV series.

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Sara has been an avid TV fan for several years and is now applying that vast expertise as a couch potato to reviews at Next Projection. She can be found on Twitter at @SaraWatchingTV.