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Everything You Need to Know About ‘The Jinx’ Before Watching ‘The Jinx — Part Two’

Whether you missed the 2015 original or just need to brush up, here’s your backgrounder for one of the wildest true crime docs of all time

spinner image Robert Durst sitting in a chair
Robert Durst
Courtesy HBO

In 2015, HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst left audiences’ jaws on the floor. Directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki, 61, the Emmy-winning docuseries chronicled the bizarre, twist-filled tale of New York real estate scion and accused murderer Robert Durst, who died in January 2022. It was called The Jinx because Durst said he refused to have children, since his childhood was a disaster and he would just be a jinx to his kids — and three people close to him were jinxed enough to be murdered. Jarecki hired security, fearing Durst might murder him or his family.

​What made the story so unforgettable was the shocking way it ended — with Durst seeming to confess his crimes off-camera while forgetting he was wearing a microphone. It was the kind of gotcha moment you’d expect from Perry Mason, not real life. With that, The Jinx went viral.

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On April 21, Max will debut The Jinx — Part Two, an equally enthralling and buzzy six-episode sequel that picks up with Durst behind bars. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, it does. It turns out there are still plenty of strange layers in the Durst saga to be revealed. As Jarecki’s follow-up is about to drop, we revisited the original for a quick refresher on what you need to know before watching The Jinx — Part Two.

Who is Robert Durst?

Durst was the eldest son of Seymour Durst, wealthy patriarch of a well-known New York real estate empire. Durst’s father wanted Robert to go into the family business, but Robert was a rebellious and eccentric ne’er-do-well who chose to open a health food store in Vermont in the early ’70s instead. Durst’s father passed Robert over, handing the family business to Robert’s younger brother, Douglas (who also hired security, fearing Robert would murder him). Durst became the chief suspect in three murders committed between 1982 and 2001, but he wasn’t convicted until years after The Jinx. Durst was found guilty in 2021 for the 2000 murder of his longtime friend Susan Berman and sentenced to life in prison. He died from cardiac arrest on Jan. 10, 2022, at age 78.

Who were the three people who were murdered?

Durst’s first alleged victim was his wife, Kathleen McCormack. After nine rocky years of marriage, the medical student vanished on Jan. 31, 1982. Since no body was found, Durst wasn’t charged. In 2000, the state of New York reopened the investigation. In The Jinx, Durst admitted that he misled police at the time of her disappearance (and had physically abused her and forced her to get an abortion), but he maintained his innocence.

The second victim was Durst’s longtime friend and confidant Susan Berman, who was murdered execution-style in her Los Angeles home on Dec. 24, 2000. The daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, Berman had supported Durst’s alibi in the disappearance of McCormack. Durst was suspected of murdering Berman because the LAPD was about to reopen the McCormack case and question her. After Berman’s death at age 55, Durst went into hiding in Galveston, Texas, where he disguised himself as a mute woman.

The third alleged victim was Morris Black, Durst’s 71-year-old neighbor while he was hiding out in Texas. After parts of Black’s body were found in garbage bags floating in Galveston Bay in 2000, Durst was arrested. He posted $250,000 bail, then went on the lam. A month later, he was caught inside a Wegmans supermarket in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, after attempting to shoplift Band-Aids, a newspaper and a chicken salad sandwich — despite having $500 in cash in his pocket. Though he admitted that he killed Black and dismembered his body, he was acquitted when the jury bought his claim of self-defense.

Wait, wasn’t this a movie?

It sure was. In 2010, Jarecki directed All Good Things, a lightly fictionalized version of the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen McCormack. The movie starred Ryan Gosling as the story’s Durst stand-in, David Marks, and Kirsten Dunst as his wife, Katie. You can stream it on Prime Video.

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Why was everyone talking about the ending of The Jinx?

Airing on HBO on March 15, 2015, just a day after Durst was arrested for the murder of Berman, The Jinx’s sixth and final episode (titled “What the Hell Did I Do?”) built to an explosive sit-down between Durst and Jarecki. During the interview, the director shows Durst a highly incriminating piece of evidence — an anonymous letter addressed to the “Beverley Hills Police Department” after Berman’s murder alerting authorities to a “cadaver” at her address. “Beverly” was misspelled. Jarecki presents Durst with letters he’d written to Berman over the years that had the same blocky handwriting and similarly misspelled “Beverly.” Durst looks at the evidence and miraculously manages to look nonplussed. He admits nothing. When the interview is over, the cameras continue to roll as Durst heads to a bathroom unaware that he is still wearing his microphone.

Then what happens?

A lot of nervous burping. But the mic also records Durst mumbling to himself: “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.”

Did the filmmakers immediately turn the audio over to police? It wasn’t until months after Durst’s incriminating hot-mic audio was recorded that Jarecki and his team realized what they had. But yes, when they heard what sounded an awful lot like a confession, they handed it over to the authorities as evidence, which helped build the case against Durst.

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spinner image Jim McCormack, Sharon McCormack and Liz McCormack holding their hands together
(Left to right) Jim McCormack, Sharon McCormack and Liz McCormack — the family of Durst's first wife, Kathleen McCormack.
Courtesy HBO

Where does The Jinx — Part Two pick up?

With Durst’s arrest by the FBI in New Orleans on March 14, 2015 — the day before the finale of The Jinx aired. At the time, Durst was staying at the Canal Street Marriott under the name “Everette Ward.” In addition to a .38-caliber revolver with four live rounds and one spent shell casing, authorities found 5 ounces of marijuana, Durst’s passport, a map of Cuba, a flesh-colored latex mask and more than $42,000 in cash. We also get to see Kathleen McCormack’s family watching the Season 1 finale and reacting to Durst’s shocking “killed them all, of course” admission.

What happened to Durst after that?

Durst was sentenced to 85 months in federal prison for the gun found in his hotel room. In 2021, he was finally convicted for Berman’s murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. A month later, New York State Police charged Durst with the murder of his wife Kathleen. Before he could be tried, Durst died from cardiac arrest on Jan. 10, 2022. At the time of his death, he was in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

spinner image Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin sitting at a table for interview
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin
Courtesy HBO

What are the big reveals in The Jinx — Part Two?

Sorry, no spoilers here. But at the beginning of the second season (which we can tell you includes video of Durst’s police interrogation and audio of his prison phone calls), we hear Durst saying that his upcoming trial will be “a zoo.” He’s not wrong. You’ll learn more about the fascinating Berman and their mutual close friend Nick Chavin, who once hid behind a staircase to avoid cameras but now tells about their friendship and his career as a “country porn” singer. Chavin has performed with singer Kinky Friedman and appears as a character in Friedman’s detective novels; Friedman and Durst were both best men at Chavin’s 1988 wedding. In court, Chavin described Durst as “a best friend who admitted to killing my other best friend [Berman].”

Beyond that, you’ll have to tune in to find out for yourself. Fasten your seat belt.

The Jinx — Part Two debuts on Max on April 21, then new episodes air weekly. You can also stream 2015’s The Jinx.

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