Overview: Durst’s interview with Jarecki begins with his childhood, when he witnessed his mother’s suicide. His father, Seymour – distant and cold, obsessed with building the Durst Organization into a real-estate behemoth and leaving his mark on the Manhattan skyline – pressures young Robert to join the family business. Durst describes his disinterest in following in his father’s footsteps, and recalls meeting Kathie McCormack, a beautiful girl from a modest background. The couple fall in love and move to Vermont, where they lead a simple life and run a health-food store called All Good Things. But not long after, Seymour prevails and Robert returns to New York to take his place at the powerful Durst Organization.
1982: Robert and Kathie (pictured) have been married for nearly ten years, during which they have moved from their idyllic life in Vermont back to New York City. They divide their time between a penthouse apartment on Riverside Drive, and an upstate house on picturesque Lake Truesdale, 50 miles north of Manhattan. After a weekend at the lake house, Durst walks into the 20th Precinct and tells desk sergeant Michael Struk that he hasn’t seen his wife in five days. He says that when he last saw her, he was putting her on a train in Katonah to return to NYC for medical school classes. The details of their last weekend together are a subject of much controversy by those who know the couple. Believing Robert knows more about Kathie’s fate than he is letting on, her family and friends embark on a hunt for the truth. But, first a Chapter 01 recap.
Expectations: Evidently, we get a bit of background of Robert Durst’s young life in this one. Understanding his youth might help us draw conclusions to what kind of individual he has become. By the description above it was a troublesome upbringing. After that we move forward to the marriage to Kathie and of her disappearance off the face of the earth. I think by now we will really get to see how Mr. Durst ticks as he sits down with his interview with the director as was set up at the end of Chapter 01. Oh, yeah, he is crazy enough to participate. I can’t wait when Jarecki gets him talking. Here is the Chapter 02 trailer.
Gut Reaction: Whoa, hold up here. I realize Jarecki has shot, edited and packaged this series up in a certain provocative and alluring fashion, and in a creepy way at that, but don’t confuse me with the non-linear style. I want to catch all this. I mean we were left hanging in Episode 01 and we didn’t get back to it, at least yet. Yes, we left with Durst’s phone call to Jarecki with the notion of doing an interview to get Durst’s side of the story after the years went by. Episode 02 picks up with that interview, but more about that later. How about the dismemberment murder of Morris Black? Durst gets taken back to Texas goes to trial and we know he is acquitted, but how? That was a hanging question I had and it is yet to be resolved and on we go to another part of the puzzle with his wife’s disappearance before we fully solved the other part of the puzzle. All just another tricky cinematic device to keep us hooked I guess. I just don’t want to run the risk of being confused about the whole case is all.
First off is the interview. Arrangements are made and Robert Durst sits down with Andrew Jarecki and I admit I leaned in for every word and its inflection, every facial tic, glance, and pause. It was if I was watching a TRUE DETECTIVE episode yet it was all real. Each answer given seemed almost scripted because they were each one so carefully worded and at times cryptic. I even wondered if Jarecki went over with Durst what questions would be asked before they filmed it. And then, a minor issue, was those eyes. You could tell he has brown eyes but they look demonic black after a certain distance. “I’m sorry dude, I shouldn’t pick out facial tics and eye color, but those features just drove the creepiness factor up a notch and easily distorted my perceptions of you.”
Okay, moving on to plot specifics. He had a troubled upbringing; you almost could have guessed. But, having your father make you watch your mother’s suicide? Wow. Daddy Seymour seemed to be the root of the troubles there and Robert was expected to grow up and work under a Daddy like that? Poor little rich kid indeed. Then into his life came Kathleen. One interesting element of telling this portion of the story was the interviews with Kathy’s family and friends; friends who sleuthed around a bit themselves to try to solve the mystery.
The biggest shock of the episode and of this portion of Durst’s interview was the revelation of the lies Durst made about the night of her disappearance. The Q & A goes back and forth as a reenactment plays out about the night Kathy dropped off the face of the Earth without a trace. I almost hate to spoil the bombshell because I want you to watch it for yourselves. Simply put, when the director asked Durst about specifics he said he told the police at the time one story, but then confessed to Jarecki on film that some of the things he described as happening that night never occurred. He fabricated portions of the events as to keep himself off of the list of suspects because he just didn’t want to be bothered with getting caught up with all that Unbelievable that is what it is; the whole thing is unbelievable and that is what keeps me coming back.
Bonus: There is an opportunity to discover more about THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST. Go to thejinxhbo.com, a special site about this limited series, and tool around a graphic display to learn who’s who and what’s what about the HBO show.
In Conclusion: Does all that whet your appetite? Are you watching THE JINX? I admit I am a sucker for it and am enjoying every bit of this ride. I don’t know what happens next or how it ends, but I am there. Chapter 2: “Poor Little Rich Boy” debuted on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15 at 8:00pm. Other HBO playdates are on 02.19 at 9:00pm & 2:00am; 02.20 at midnight and 02.26 at 8:15pm. Find it on HBO2 on 02.18 at 10:00pm; 02.21 at 1:30pm and 02.22 at 5:45pm. It is also on HBOGo.
Next Week: Here is the preview and synopsis of Episode 03 “The Gangster’s Daughter” which debuts SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22 at 8:00pm.
2000: Susan Berman was the daughter of a famous Las Vegas mobster, Davey “The Jew” Berman, who was a partner with “Bugsy” Siegel in The Flamingo Hotel. Robert Durst’s closest friend since they attended UCLA together, she had a mobster’s mentality and matching code of ethics; people said she would do anything for a friend. Since Kathie Durst’s disappearance two decades earlier, Robert Durst had been the subject of media and public scrutiny, and she had become his spokesperson to the media. Some say that Robert and Susan kept each other’s secrets, and that if anyone knew what happened to Kathie, it would be Susan. When a random tip leads ambitious Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of Kathie Durst, her investigators focus on Susan Berman, a witness the police had overlooked back in 1982. But before the police are able to speak with her, Susan is found murdered – shot in the back of the head, execution-style. With no sign of struggle at the crime scene, police surmise her killer is likely someone who knew her well. Reviewing potential suspects, the police are unable to make a clear connection that links Robert to Susan’s death. Meanwhile, Robert reaches out and befriends his dead friend’s family, including her adopted son, Sareb.
Late 2000: With stories of the Los Angeles murder of Susan Berman receding, Robert Durst is suddenly back in the news when he is arrested in Galveston, Texas for the death of his neighbor Morris Black, whose dismembered body was found in the bay.