By Steve Pipps
“Killed them all, of course.” Haunting.
The conclusion to The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling’s true-crime investigation into Robert Durst, was chilling, to say the least. It was also nothing like I expected it to be. Maybe that was just my naive mind, believing that filmmakers wouldn’t or couldn’t uncover a conclusion for which so many people had been searching for decades.
Why would these men be able to do what police, family, friends and lawyers had been unable to do for so long? What I didn’t account for was Robert Durst himself. I noted in my earlier recap, which detailed the information provided through episode four, that the conclusion, “is sure to be as thrilling of a conclusion as the one Serial provided us. Which means, for those of you who haven’t listened to the podcast, the conclusion will answer nothing and everything will be left to us to decide for ourselves from the facts presented.”
Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. So good.
The conclusion to Serial was not indisputable because it was missing one solid piece that The Jinx was privy too, a free man. Serial’s limitation was that there could be no hot mic during an Adnan Syed interview. There could be no Adnan alone with himself, reflecting while still mic’d up. There could be no meditative “confession” like we get in The Jinx.
Anna Kendrick explains this all in 140 characters or less:
At the end of episode five Sareb Kaufman, the stepson of Susan Berman, presents the filmmakers with a very telling piece of evidence, a letter written to Susan from Durst. The address on the envelope is in the same block letters as the infamous cadaver letter written to the Beverly Hills police and Beverly is misspelled in the exact same way, Beverley.
The second interview, which is the main goal of the finale, starts with Jarecki showing a number of photographs designed to lead Durst to this final piece of evidence. Jarecki slowly begins to show his hand. First, Durst’s original letter to Susan from the 1990s. Second, the envelope in which this letter was mailed. Jarecki guides Durst to pointing out the misspelling of Beverley. Finally, Jarecki asks about the cadaver letter and the similarities between it and Durst’s letter to Susan. Durst puts on his classic sidestepping of the issue saying, “Well the writing looks similar and the spelling is the same so I can see the conclusion the cops would draw.” He then begins burping in a strange manner and continues, “Well what I see is the similarities, the misspelling Beverley, other than that the block letters are block letters. How else would you write a block letter than that? It’s almost like a typed thing. Two typewriters, it’s gonna look the same.”
The main, most incriminating, picture is just a close-up comparison of the misspelled, block-lettered name “Beverley Hills.” When presented with both addresses one on top of the other and asked, “Can you show me which one you didn’t write?” Durst is only able to come up with a meager, “No.” It says it all and then Durst says it all. His words after he excuses himself to the bathroom are chilling. The camera stays trained on the empty room where interview took place as you hear Durst’s gravely, uneven voice tell us what we’ve all been waiting to hear, “Killed them all, of course.”
Cut to black, drop the fucking mic. Jarecki/Smerling you beautiful bastards you just caught Robert Durst…
But not really. Sure the evidence that Jarecki and Smerling were able to uncover helped lead to the Durst’s recent arrest. In an interview with the New York Times, Jarecki notes that there was a growing concern that Durst was going to go on the run. Smerling then says “But because law enforcement had the information that we had, they knew when Episode 6 came out, there was going to be a real chance that Bob would go on the run.”
That doesn’t mean what he uttered was truly a confession. He never said, “Damn it Durst. You gave yourself up. You killed those people and he knows it.” What Durst said could have just been a small part of a longer internal dialogue Durst was having.
So ride with me for a second while I play devil’s advocate. Durst walks into the bathroom and says, “There it is, you’re caught.” Damning as he was just confronted with evidence linking him to one of three murders he is possibly connected to. What else could he be referring to?
He continues, “You’re right of course.” Which could very well be referring to what his lawyer cautioned him before doing the interview. Things might come out that you wont like. I’m paraphrasing.
“But you can’t imagine.” The next words Durst utters could mean that we can’t imagine the things we don’t know about him. Or just that we can’t imagine how it all really played out, that it isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.
The next few segments of audio sound as follows, “Arrest him.” “I don’t know what’s in the house.” And, “Oh, I want this.” Durst could simply be assuming what Jarecki is thinking right now… Arrest him because he obviously did it. The bit about the house could possibly be practice for further questioning about Susan Berman’s house. Or again it could be from a train of thought we aren’t privy to.
As for the, “Oh, I want this” comment, it lends itself right into the idea that Durst likes being in the hot seat. In the NY times interview, Jarecki says, “He seems to like to put himself at risk. It may make him feel more vital.” Maybe he finally is getting what he want’s in being caught. Or he is again expressing thoughts that Jarecki might be feeling at that moment.
“What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping,” are the next three thoughts that spill out of Durst’s mouth in the bathroom. They seem to be straightforward. It is, in fact, a disaster for Durst. Again, he is probably commenting on the fact that his lawyer was right and Durst was wrong for doing this interview. As for the burping, it seems he knows that it was involuntary and obvious to all those in the room, a nervous tick of sorts.
“I’m having difficulty with the question,” is Durst’s last sentiment before the bombshell. Possibly just a thought of what he should have said instead of no. However, I don’t think it would have been any better.
Finally we have the most damning sentence, “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Right off the bat it seems to be an honest confession, but maybe it’s not. “What the hell did I do,” could be referring to the interview in general and not his confession that he couldn’t tell the “cadaver letter” writing apart from his own. After a brief pause and without the qualifier of I, he says, “Killed them all, of course.” Is it a true admission? Or is it a continuation of the thought process that Jarecki and his crew is having at that moment. Honestly, we don’t know.
Durst never said that he did it. He never utters those exact words. Could we be taking this seeming confession out of context? We don’t know what he was thinking at that moment. And the process is far from over. Court dates, a grand jury, is this admissible? There is still a long road to go in the story of Robert Durst.
*I do believe that this was an admission of guilt. I think that Durst killed Susan Berman and his wife Kathie (he admitted to killing Morris Black already, just in self-defense.) But we still live in America, where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty and despite my opinions, only the courts can decide.
Read Steve’s mid-season recap, including a rundown of the evidence and the cases, and a comparison of this TV mini-series to the earlier Jarecki feature film, All Good Things, here.
More info on this program: HBO website