As a TV viewing experience, HBO's "The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst" ended Sunday as it began -- compulsively watchable, utterly engrossing, deeply convincing, relentlessly strange. But as potential evidence in a potential Westchester courtroom trial that could lead to Durst's eventual conviction in the 1982 murder of his wife, Kathie Durst?
That's a whole other question, a whole other world and -- in some respects -- a whole other disappointment, too. It didn't take long even for TV analysts to pick apart the "killed them all, of course" quote that ended this six-parter before the fade to ominous black.
As broadcast legal analyst Lisa Bloom noted on "The Today Show" -- as have others -- that line probably wouldn't be admissible because he had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in that moment, even though he was speaking into a hot mic when he made the so-called confession.
As she also noted, maybe he even knew he was hot mic’d -- Durst, after all, seems to have made a long career of playing games. Could this have been another one? "He's a smart [expletive deleted]," as Andrew Jarecki, ”The Jinx” co-producer and Durst’s extremely skillful interlocutor, noted.
HBO promised that viewers would know at the end of this ride exactly whether he was guilty or not, and I think the promise was largely kept. We do probably know.
But even after six episodes, we still can't completely excise that "probably," especially with respect to Kathie Durst. It's fair that viewers -- who have followed her story on and off for decades -- and fair that friends and her family had every expectation that the word "probably" would be expunged once and for all.
Fair, but likely not practicable. Instead, Jarecki and co-producer and partner Marc Smerling attempted something remarkable over these six episodes -- a full accounting of what happened. They had the cooperation of their subject and they had a piece of incriminating evidence that they presented to him at the very end. They picked up the comment while he was in a bathroom.
But what they didn't have in the end is more important -- a full, absolute and unequivocal confession, and proof of where Durst placed his wife's remains. What they don't have is motive as it relates to his cooperation in their endeavor: Why would he agree to do this in the first place? We and they can speculate, but we (and apparently they) can't know for certain.
So for some, doubt remains, and "doubt" has been Durst's sturdiest ally from the very beginning.
Nevertheless, Jarecki and Smerling still managed to get as close as anyone else has, possibly ever will.
Or, hopefully not. This program led to Durst's arrest Saturday on charges of murdering his old friend, Susan Berman, in Los Angeles. He's pleaded not guilty. But when this goes to trial -- if this goes to trial -- who knows what evidence will turn up?
Whatever happens from here, "The Jinx" still makes TV history -- a remarkable work of nonfiction that reopened the coldest of cases that had been in the deep freeze for years. Jarecki and Smerling got what appears to be a confession, and they got profoundly incriminating evidence.
And so, HBO's statement Sunday seems about right: "We simply cannot say enough about the brilliant job that Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling did in producing 'The Jinx.' Years in the making, their thorough research and dogged reporting reignited interest in Robert Durst's story with the public and law enforcement."