Bad Timeline

What Are The Jinx’s Filmmakers Trying to Hide?

Director Andrew Jarecki canceled long-scheduled interviews with The Daily Beast and The Tonight Show today. Is it because he can’t answer for discrepancies in the show’s timeline?

Courtesy of HBO

Monday should have been a triumphant day for The Jinx’s Andrew Jarecki. The night before, in the riveting, extraordinary final episode of his HBO documentary series The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, the filmmaker had finally accomplished something no law enforcement has been able to do in the past 30 years: he got Robert Durst to confess, while (perhaps forgetting he was) wearing a microphone, to the three murders he had been suspected of committing over the past three decades.

In the show’s final moments, Jarecki confronted Durst with seemingly incontrovertible evidence: His handwriting matches a letter that notified Beverly Hills police of a “cadaver” in 2000 — the body of his longtime confidante Susan Berman, who was murdered execution-style — and includes the same, unique misspelling of Beverly Hills. Berman’s body was found just as New York authorities were trying to speak with her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst’s first wife Kathie. While maintaining that he did not write the “cadaver” letter but admitting he couldn’t tell the two handwriting samples apart, Durst retreated to a bathroom after the interview had ended, still wired for sound.

Then, he uttered the following: “There it is. You’re caught. … What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

To add to the intrigue, Durst was arrested in New Orleans on an extradition warrant out of Los Angeles one day before the finale aired. He faces murder charges in Berman’s death, prompted by the new evidence brought to light from Jarecki and fellow producer Marc Smerling’s dogged Jinx reporting. On Monday, Durst waived his right to an extradition hearing and will be sent to Los Angeles.

But instead of their expected victory lap today, Jarecki and his producing partner Marc Smerling find themselves under similar scrutiny to what they’ve subjected Robert Durst during the past five years—trying to answer for odd discrepancies that popped up overnight in The Jinx’s timeline of events.

Specifically, it comes down to their refusal to pinpoint when, exactly, last night’s “second interview” took place—and how long it took them to unearth the audio from Durst’s fateful bathroom visit.

As questions continued to mount, the duo canceled several interviews on Monday, including a Tonight Show appearance and a long-scheduled interview with The Daily Beast.

Instead, they released this statement: “Given that we are likely to be called as witnesses in any case law enforcement may decide to bring against Robert Durst, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on these pending matters.”

That excuse holds about as much water as many of Durst’s overt dodges within the show. Jarecki has been giving interviews about The Jinx and Durst for several months now, and had already completed a few interviews early Monday—including one with CBS This Morning in which Jarecki said he had shared their findings with authorities long ago and expected Durst would be “arrested as soon as possible” and that “we were sort of amazed ourselves that he hadn't been arrested for so long. But the authorities were never communicating with us other than in their normal cordial way. They were going through their investigation."

So if they’d expected Durst to be arrested—which would likely lead to them being called as witnesses—why choose this morning to cease talking? Instead, the sudden media silence seems to be at least in part to deflect further questioning about the timeline, which increasingly seems to have been fudged by the series.

Questions about when the filmmakers first began sharing their evidence with Los Angeles investigators and discovered the previously-overlooked audio from Durst’s bathroom visit go hand in hand with discrepancies over when the second interview took place. Smerling earlier told the Times they had begun speaking to investigators in early 2013, explaining, “We had a moral obligation and an obligation to the families of the dead to see that justice was done.”

But that same Times story indicated that more than two years had passed after the interview before the filmmakers found the bathroom audio. (Jarecki later explained that it was somehow never marked and loaded).

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That would contradict the timeline presented in The Jinx’s sixth episode, in which Jarecki, unable to land Durst for the second interview, finds himself with “leverage” after Durst is arrested for violating a restraining order to stay away from his brother’s midtown home. Durst asks Jarecki to share earlier footage shot in the vicinity to help clear his name, and soon after, according to The Jinx, Durst submits to an interview.

But his arrest occurred in August 2013, less than two years ago.

“Leverage” could not exist if the interview took place before the arrest occurred. The timeline does not add up.

During morning talk show appearances on Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, Jarecki said he sat with Durst for three days in 2010, and had the follow-up interview a couple of years later. He said they found the bathroom audio “months” after the interview was conducted, not two years, as the Times had stated.

But if anyone should understand the importance of a clear timeline, it’s Jarecki and Smerling. After all, they spent much of Jinx’s six episodes poking holes in the various timelines Durst had offered around the murders. They proved he had ample time to get from Northern California in December 2000 to Los Angeles and back again, just in time to catch a flight out of San Francisco. And they also unearthed several inconsistencies about his whereabouts the night that his wife disappeared in 1982. In the finale, Jarecki’s crew caught Durst lying about his location to evade that finale interview. (Durst had said he was in Madrid or Barcelona, but he later told an associate he was in Los Angeles the whole time.)

But now that the tables have turned, The Jinx’s creators have proven to be just as elusive as their interview subject.

In a separate Times interview on Monday morning, Jarecki says Durst’s bathroom audio wasn’t discovered until June 12, 2014. But when pressed about specifics as to when the second interview happened in relation to Durst’s 2013 arrest for violating a restraining order, Jarecki deflects.

“I’m hearing a lot of noise. And if we’re going to talk about the timeline, we should actually sit in front of the timeline. So that’s my suggestion, if that’s the subject you want to talk about.”

When asked to clarify whether Durst was arrested for being on his brother Douglas’ property after the second interview — and not before, as Sunday’s episode indicated — Jarecki responded, “Yeah, I think I’ve got to get back to you with a proper response on that.”

Soon after, their remaining Monday interviews were canceled.

To be clear, Jarecki and Smerling’s work on The Jinx is sensational, and that final scene is unlike anything that has ever appeared on television before. We’ve seen thousands of similar confessions in TV series over the decades — but never anything as shocking, and chilling, as those closing lines uttered by Durst.

Before that scene, one of the things that had made last night’s The Jinx so memorable was Jarecki’s masterful ability to ratchet up the suspense over whether Durst would agree to another sitdown with him. We sat at the edge of our seats for 30 minutes, wondering whether the “second interview” would even happen. But was all of that apparent timeline tweaking worth this bitter aftertaste, which sullies some of their brilliant investigative work?

Durst’s bathroom monologue would have been just as compelling and jaw-dropping no matter what the timeline had been — even if his ultimate reasons for cooperating turned out to be, as usual, just Durst being Durst.

When speaking about The Jinx at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour back in January, Jarecki vowed, “I will tell you that by the time you get the end of the series, you are not going to be scratching your head. You are going to have a clear view of what you think happened and what this history is all about.” For a couple heart-stopping hours last night, his words came true. But thanks to today’s revelations, and Jarecki and Smerling’s refusal to provide clarity, The Jinx’s view seems muddier than ever.

After all, in one of the show’s most telling moments, Durst — after he is caught taking on yet another open microphone (will this guy ever learn?) — says of his Galveston trial, “I did not tell the whole truth. Nobody tells the whole truth.” Including, apparently, the people who made The Jinx.