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In Knives Out (2019), Linda speaks to Detective Benoit, who came to investigate Linda's father's death:

Linda: Yes, I mean, Walt, he's done well with what Dad gave him. Not that it matters. But really, Dad hands him a book twice a year and Walt publishes it. It's just not the same.

Benoit: But surely Walt runs the merchandising, adaptations, film and television rights, I mean...

Linda: Are you baiting me, Detective?

What is so baiting about Benoit's words and what is he baiting Linda with/for?

3 Answers 3

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If I remember correctly, this is the scene where Blanc interviews every member of the family, which serves both as a general introduction for the viewer and the start of the investigation.

During each interview, Blanc was trying to get the suspects to reveal hints and suspicions, and I think that's what he's doing here: by trying to depict Walt in a more positive light than Linda, he may want to trigger her into badmouthing Walt, potentially revealing a motive for the murder.

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    Note that immediately after this, the movie cuts to a scene where Det. Blanc has successfully baited Richard into badmouthing Walt & revealing Walt's possible motives. So the strategy worked, just not on Linda. Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 21:17
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Linda elaborates in the rest of her line

LINDA: Are you baiting me, Detective? You know he doesn't, and you think I'm dumb enough to be baited into talking family business, into shit talking my brother in front of a police detective and a state trooper -

As mentioned by @MichaelSeifert, Richard does get baited and explains that Harlan doesn't want any of the things Benoit mentioned:

RICHARD: Walt doesn't run shit! There are no film or TV rights, Harlan's never allowed any adaptations of his books. Hates the idea.

BLANC: No!

RICHARD: Oh yeah! Drives Walt nuts, cause that's where the real money's at. When he gets a little Irish courage in him he'll get into it with Harlan.

BLANC: Did he get "into it" at the party?

RICHARD: Oh my god. He wouldn't leave him alone, poor guy. Harlan had to give him the hook.

The "hook" Richard mentions is Harlan hooking his arm into Walt's and pulling him into a room to discuss something.

Presumably, Benoit has done some research and is aware that Harlan is against the idea of merchandising, adaptations, film and television rights. The fact that he specifically mentions those things is what's baiting about his question.


Benoit is also aware of a screaming match Harlan had with someone in the morning.

BLANC: You see, I spoke with the caterer this morning. She didn't see you helping her staff, but she did hear Harlan in a screaming match with someone that afternoon. In his study.

RICHARD: I don't, a screaming match? No. Joni was here too, she was early, maybe it was her, ask her.

BLANC: These were two male voices.

Linda was the first to be interviewed, so Benoit wouldn't have been aware of Richard's comments at the time. It makes sense that he was probing for who might have been involved in that shouting match, or any other potential motives that Linda might reveal in an emotional outburst.

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Deconstructing the conversation to highlight what Benoit Blanc noticed

Linda: Yes, I mean, Walt, he's done well with what Dad gave him. But really, Dad hands him a book twice a year and Walt publishes it. It's just not the same.

Linda very clearly thinks less of Walt's achievements, and argues Walt is being helped.

Linda: Not that it matters.

Linda is attempting to pretend that she's merely stating facts and not revealing her feeling about Walt. However, given her multiple statements that deflate Walt's achievements, this attempt is a really thin veil.

Benoit: But surely Walt runs the merchandising, adaptations, film and television rights,

Benoit intentionally inflates Walt's status after he notices Linda deflating it. He knows Linda disagreed and he's intentionally trying to spark a debate.

Benoit: I mean...

I'm singling this line out because of its efficacy. Benoit uses this to hint that he's going to rail into a longer conclusion about Walt's great achievements.

Linda is too attached to her own self-worth to even entertain the conversation in which Walt is an equal to her. Benoit knows it and is doing his very best to make points that Linda disagrees with vehemently enough that she'll speak.

Linda: Are you baiting me, Detective?

However; Linda is also not an idiot, and self-aware enough to know that (a) she doesn't think highly of Walt and (b) Benoit is blatantly countering what she just said. It's the eloquent equivalent of "yes he is!".

In essence, Linda draws from the conversation exactly what I wrote in this answer, and therefore figures out that Benoit must intentionally be baiting her into a conversation.

This is then comically subverted by cutting to Richard who spills the precise beans that Benoit could not get Linda to spill.

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