What Happened in the Bathroom:
The Jinx Finale and Why Robert Durst’s Secret Dialogue Was More Than Just a Confession
Robert Durst pulled it off.
Innocent or guilty, he did the thing every lawyer tells you not to do, especially when suspected of a crime (much less three murders and a horde of odd strands): He talked. He talked and he talked and he talked … 25 hours of interviews with Andrew Jarecki. A sprawling body of image building. And yeah, there were moments that would raise eyebrows and there was a rogues’ gallery of must-be-telling facial ticks.
But somehow. Somehow. Good ole Bobbie Durst was going to walk away from it all without incriminating himself. Watching from the curb, we might not trust the guy to tell us the color of the sky, but we could see things to not hate about him. That’s what he was after in the whole exercise … to have his story told.
He pulled it off.
In the opening act of The Jinx’s episode 6, the final showdown is built up to feel like a point of extreme gravity — a black hole of incrimination. The problem though? It seemed pretty clear Bob could escape it, “smart fucker” or not. The approach to the interview, the sequencing of the questions, the choice of pronouns: It’s all discussed and mulled. Jarecki even puts it plainly: “The more I sit here, the more I realize, like, A. how hard this is going to be, and B. how cold it’s going to feel … to him.” Cue strings.
Wait, what? This undercurrent flows through the lead-up to the second interview, too. And it’s real. There’s a certain empathy for a guy who almost certainly killed three people — dismembered and decapitated one of them — and got away with it. Even at this point, where Jarecki feels like he has the gotcha of the entire project, Durst gets benefit out of whatever speck of doubt his story is able to cast.
So, yes, a day later, after a few softball questions, Jarecki put two handwriting samples in front of Durst: “BEVERLEY HILLS. BEVERLEY HILLS.” Sure enough, in the face of how damning it looked, Durst insisted he wrote one and not the other. Block letters … it’s like a pair of typewriters. Suddenly, the smoking gun looked like every other smoking gun in Durst’s crazy, mixed-up life: the vaguest of alibis, a laundry list for cleaning up a cadaver, a dismembered body with a missing head. Beyond this one being the discovery of the filmmakers, how was it any different?
The filmmakers knew it could happen. It’s exactly what they didn’t want to happen.
This is how documentaries end. It’s basically how anything outside the realm of fiction seems to end: Ambiguous stagnation, determined denial that keeps the truth just hidden enough. What you think is what you think, but that’s all it can really be. The evidence can be overwhelming. Hell, there might even be a smoking gun; but as long as the shooter refuses to admit it’s his … well, what are you going to do? It’s how Durst got this far, after all.
Maybe it’s even dramatic irony. The audience knows what’s what, but the world of the characters seems to have no clue. Sucks more when that world’s the real world.
The landing wasn’t great. Durst had difficulty with the question. And there was the burping.
The interview ended and — who knows what would have happened next if it all ended like that, but — the image building was over. It was official. Robert Durst got through 25 hours and the story he wanted to tell was still the story he was telling. He was even going to walk away with a sandwich — something he’d failed to do the last time he got caught.
And then he stepped into the bathroom.
Jesus, it’s still hard to fully grasp what Durst did here. Because this is the point where a rough day in the conference room transitioned into doomsday. The devil just couldn’t stay cooped up inside any longer.
It’s a conversation, shattered when audible. Sometimes we hear Bob; sometimes we hear the other side, indistinguishable and with gaps impossible to parse. What “house”? Who is “he”? Who is “you”? Is “I” always the Bob we know? What “this” does he want? Is it even in linear order? This is Gollum and Smeagol — twisting, abstract, contentious.
There it is. You’re caught.
You were right, of course.
But you can’t imagine.
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.
There are ways to read those lines of dialogue that make it less than absolutely incriminating, depending on which internal character you assign to the external utterances. However you puzzle through, even if you assign the aggressive stuff to God or Jarecki or Jeannine Pirro, there’s going to be an untidy piece left: Durst genuinely feels he’s done. He knows his story is absurd, and if nothing else he’s admitting that. Even in this slightest form, it’s huge: unexpected, shocking, condemning. He didn’t know he was making that admission to his audience, and yet there it was. Transcribed, rewindable and on demand.
A hard-headed stalemate became a jaw-dropping confession, and one of the most intense moments of television I’ve ever seen. The ruse was over.
The irony is that until he stepped into the bathroom, he’d pulled it off.