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The Jinx’s stunning finale raises more questions

The Jinx’s stunning finale raises more questions
The Jinx director Andrew Jarecki and its subject, Robert Durst. (Photo by HBO)

At the start of The Jinx’s haunting final episode, a handwriting expert analyzed documents and confirmed that the note to police about Susan Berman’s “cadaver” and Robert Durst’s known handwriting were “unique to one person and only one person.”

Director Andrew Jarecki, producer Marc Smerling, and their team planned their strategy for confronting Durst with this evidence. Durst dodged their requests for interviews, apparently telling them he was in Spain when he wasn’t. Eventually, though, he agreed to an interview, which mostly consisted of Jarecki showing him various photos and asking Durst for his thoughts.

Durst admitted writing the letter to Susan Berman, but denied writing the “cadaver” note and dismissed the similarities between their envelopes, insisting people’s block-letter handwriting is all similar. Jarecki’s best question came when he showed Durst close-ups of both misspelled words on the envelopes (“BEVERLEY”) and asked, “Can you tell me which one you didn’t write?”

Wow! Yet that was not the stunning part, not the truly damning evidence that erases the ambiguity surrounding Durst.

That came after that second interview concluded. One camera kept rolling as the crew started packing up. After they offered Bob Durst a sandwich, he went into the bathroom.

For the second time in the series, a live microphone captured something damning that Durst said to himself. His nearly whispered words were subtitled on screen and there were long gaps of silence and some moaning (bathroom related? conscience related?) between each sentence:

“There it is. You’re caught. You’re right, of course. But, you can’t imagine. Arrest him. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Fade to black, the end.

Except with Robert Durst being extradited to Los Angeles today, it’s really only the beginning. Robert Durst’s brother, Douglas Durst, who was a secondary character in the series, released a statement Sunday that said, “We are relieved and also grateful to everyone who assisted in the arrest of Robert Durst. We hope he will finally be held accountable for all he has done.”

The Jinx’s new mysteries

Robert Durst’s guilt or innocence aside, The Jinx itself has come under scrutiny today.

First, there’s the suspicious timing of Robert Durst’s arrest Saturday. When, on Good Morning America,  George Stephanopoulos asked directly about whether there was some kind of deal related to the timing, Jarecki said, “No, of course not. A, we don’t have that kind of power.” He also said that he didn’t know when Durst would be arrested, and said he told his law enforcement contact: “I’m uncomfortable; and I have security. I’ve never had security in my life. My family’s uncomfortable, and I feel this arrest should be made.” Although his contact wouldn’t say when Durst would be arrested, Jarecki noted that “we’ve been in contact with law enforcement for the past two years.”

There are also increasing questions about the series’ timeline.

The New York Times reported last night that “more than two years passed after the interview before the filmmakers found the audio.” Except Durst was arrested for being on Douglas Durst’s stoop in August of 2013, and The Jinx‘s timeline says the second interview occurred after that. There’s even footage of Jarecki suggesting Bob’s arrest works as leverage for them to land their second interview, which Bob was avoiding.

Jarecki told the New York Times today that the audio was discovered June 12, 2014. That’s more than two years after the second interview according to the Times, which says that interview took place in April 2012. Asked explicitly about whether the interview was before or after the Aug. 2013 arrest, Jarecki said, “Yeah, I think I’ve got to get back to you with a proper response on that.”

Earlier, on CBS This Morning, he said it was “many months later” after that an editor discovered the audio, which contradicts the New York Times’ reporting that the bathroom audio was found two years later. (Regarding when they turned over that audio to authorities, Jarecki said, “They’ve had that audio for many months.”)

After giving those interviews this morning, Jarekci and Smerling are suddenly not talking, canceling interviews and other appearances. I’d been scheduled to talk with them, and that interview was cancelled 14 minutes before it was to start. And now there’s this:

Whether the series played with the timeline or did other manipulative things with its editing, it still stands as a remarkable work. And knowing what we know at this point, reordering events for narrative purposes seems pointless. Why do that? Clearly, we need Serial’s second season to investigate The Jinx.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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