Not The One
Andrew Cunanan's manipulations -- and druggy delusions -- start to trip him up as his 'Descent' begins in American Crime Story S02.E06.
1996, La Jolla CA. The opening licks of Laura Branigan's "Self Control" accompany Andrew Cunanan's sun-kissed drive into a luxurious compound, where he parks an Infiniti, drops a couple Saks bags in a bedroom, and gets naked to enjoy first the ocean view and then a solitary swim. Later, he carefully wraps a shoebox; then, as Branigan announces that she lives among the creatures of the night, Cunanan goes into a mouth-watering walk-in with myriad neatly ROYGBIV'd button-downs, selects a pair of shoes, rubs some cocaine on his gums, and eyes himself contentedly in the full-length mirror.
In a suit with the sleeves pushed Sonny Crockettishly up to his elbows, Cunanan swans down a hallway to find Michael Nouri hanging a "Happy Birthday Andrew" sign above the doorway to the great room. This is Norman Blachford, Cunanan's sugar daddy for about a year, and it seems like Cunanan gives the ladder Norman's up on a speculative jiggle, then croons, "Careful!" Norman is apparently inclined to let that go, but a friend of Norman's with a regrettable old-man-red dye job has just arrived, and he's not inclined to let any of Cunanan's shit go, especially not when Cunanan notes through a fake smile that "it must be at least ten minutes" since Red had a drink. "What a relief," Red burbles, "I was worried we were gonna have to get along." Red 2020, y'all. Norman hopes Cunanan doesn't mind that he invited a few of his own friends, and Cunanan says he knows Cunanan loves his friends. "Yes, it's been noticed," Red brays. Cunanan observes that he might have preferred two parties, one for his set and one for Norman's, and Red is lying in the high weeds for that one, saying the Queen of England has two parties, but Cunanan's "not that sort of queen." Cunanan smirks that Red's "a jukebox of bitchy hits," but before he can get owned again, Lizzie Coté swoops in to greet him.
On the terrace, Cunanan confides that the "whole party" has one object: to land David Madson, "the man of [his] dreams." Lizzie's like, so you're "officially gay now?" Cunanan sniffs sophomorically that he doesn't like labels. Lizzie's like, whatever, me neith, but they're useful -- and also, what does Cunanan plan to tell David about "this place"? David doesn't "know about Norman"; Cunanan has to keep them separated, he says, and he needs Lizzie to help him explain to David what he's "doing here, with Norman." What is he doing there, with Norman, Lizzie wants to know. Cunanan tries to make it out like he's just Norman's decorating advisor and "there's nothing sexual" between them, but when Lizzie suggests just telling David the truth, the fact that Cunanan is non-sexually living with his "wealthy older client" sounds off when she lays it out that way. Cunanan can't lose David; he's a house, a home, a family, "picking kids up…from school." He's a future, and before this, Cunanan's "only dated the past." Lizzie notes that Cunanan has it bad for David, and asks gently, "Who are you trying to be?" Someone David can love.
Jeff Trail is at the front door, gift in hand. Cunanan answers, takes in Jeff's attire, holds up a "girl, no" hand and shakes his head, and hustles Jeff into the bedroom. Rude. He hastily unwraps the gift, an outdoorsy guide of some sort that Cunanan barely registers as Jeff says he thought they could take some hikes, give the bars a rest for once. Cunanan's completely focused on putting Jeff in an expensive pair of shoes, and asking him to give Cunanan the present we saw Cunanan wrapping earlier.
Jeff's like, weirdo says what? Cunanan explains while compulsively patting the box that David's coming, and he needs David to see that he has really good friends. Jeff's like, we are friends, and Cunanan makes a series of fluttery you-don't-get-it hand gestures and says, right, sure, but "I need you to look the part." "What does a good friend look like?" Jeff asks, about to laugh in Cunanan's face, and Cunanan gets salty and says he just needs Jeff's help, the way he's helped Jeff "with countless guys." Jeff still doesn't see how different shoes constitute "help," but Cunanan's done explaining: "I just need him to see that I'm loved." Not the last evidence we'll see of Cunanan's fundamental misapprehension of how love works, or how non-monstrous humans understand it, this episode, and it seems like Jeff is beginning to see the outlines of this hole where non-transactional displays of genuine feeling would go as he reassures Cunanan again that he does love him. Cunanan doesn't have time for Jeff's non-pathological earth logic: "I need him to know that." Jeff finally shrugs and goes along: "It's your birthday."
But that's not all: Cunanan also told David that Jeff's an active-duty lieutenant on the USS Independence. This is a bridge too far, as it were, and Jeff snaps that he's not impersonating an officer. Cunanan wheedles that it sounds so impressive, though! Jeff peers at him and says he knows it does, the subtext being that only one of them can successfully distinguish between sounding impressive and actually being impressive, and Cunanan chirps, "So be in the Navy! Wear those shoes…" Jeff will wear the shoes, but not "the uniform."
Walking through the party, "his" gift held awkwardly in front of him, Jeff asks, "Who are all these people?" "Friends of free food and free champagne," Cunanan mutters, own-goaling his own striving ass. Lizzie hisses that David has arrived, and we go to slo-mo so Cunanan can gaze at David in a manner he probably thinks is loving, but looks a lot like a spider contemplating a juicy fly. He rushes to overhug David and coos that nobody else has ever traveled so far to see him. David looks uncomfortable and says he wanted to see where Cunanan lives; he'd been "so mysterious" about it. He hands Cunanan a small gold gift box, and Cunanan smooches him on the lips, a territorial kiss David isn't expecting. Lizzie comes up to say that the two of them are adorable, and Cunanan introduces her as his bestie from San Francisco. Right, David says, from when you were designing costumes "with Versace." Annaleigh Ashford pulls a delightfully delicate "oh, is that the story I'll be expected to keep straight this time" face, but backs Cunanan's play, adding that he's the "kindest" and "sweetest" person she knows and she's never heard him talk about anyone the way he talks about David. David's like, gulp, and follows Cunanan into the party, asking if this is where he lives. Cunanan is cagey about that, despite passing within earshot of Norman, saying it should be, given all the work he's done on the place. David enthuses about the view, and Cunanan assures him they'll have a house like this one someday: "Maybe this very one!"
Jeff hits his mark then, wishing Cunanan a happy birthday. Cunanan takes the wrapped box and blares his thanks while checking to see who's looking at them, and once again I wonder about the acting and directorial choices that make this version of Cunanan such an obvious arriviste. I have no quibble with the performance, which is compelling (if off-putting), and I acknowledge that a "realistic" portrayal of a sociopath is not necessarily good television, because most sociopaths most of the time seem charming and/or normal. It's how they get by. Unfortunately, the ACS iteration of Cunanan is frequently enough bratty and tone-deaf as well as a flagrant bullshitter that it can take me out of the story a little bit, as it's about to here. Cunanan near-shouts, "And on a military salary!" but Jeff tries to be a good wingman, muttering dutifully that they're by "that designer you always talk about…Versace." "FERRAGAMO," Cunanan blares, like, if you care that much that he get it right, maybe tell him what's under the wrapping paper before you run this con. Cunanan's more concerned with getting a burn in on Versace, though, snarking that Versace doesn't make shoes: "That would require at least some degree of craftsmanship." He follows this up with a peacocking "amirite" gesture that nobody at the party responds to. Well, unless you count Jeff looking up at David at the top of the staircase and frowning all, "H…i, I don't know." Finally Jeff throws himself a lifeline and introduces himself. As Jeff and David make friendly chitchat, Cunanan looks for a spot to turn their attention back to him, growing increasingly concerned at their immediate easy vibe with each other.
Lizzie invites the gents out onto the terrace, but Cunanan tells the others to go ahead; he has to fortify himself with a line first. Red is lurking nearby, so Cunanan gets defensive about the "birthday pick-me-up," and then about Red's implication that he would do a "gutter drug" like crystal. Red basically ignores this to say he's got a birthday present for Cunanan himself, and it's a piece of advice. Cunanan bitchily wonders if he has to open it right then, but Red's like, so here's what: Norman's not the lucky one here. You are. Norman is "a conservative old queer" who likes that Cunanan can talk to grown-ups and read a wine list, so he graciously doesn't "make it clear" that Cunanan is an employee. Cunanan bluffs that he's Norman's equal, actually, but Red's like, yeahhhhh no: Norman built a company from scratch. Cunanan likes few things less than reminders that he's allergic to working his way up, and excuses himself, but Red grabs his arm to hiss that Cunanan took advantage of Norman at a time when Norman's lover had just died after suffering "terribly." Cunanan's all, I volunteer at an AIDS charity, I don't need a lecture, but Red's all, what you "need" is to know that I won't let Norman get hurt again. Cunanan recovers himself, saying Red must be unpopular at parties if all his gifts "are this dreary," but Red eyes Cunanan down and says he doesn't mind being disliked. Excellent bespoke burn, friendo. Cunanan's had it, but Red isn't done, calling Cunanan's retreating back "a volatile mix," "too lazy to work and too proud to be kept." Cunanan whines that he has to get back to the party: "That room is full of people that love me!" He doesn't convince either of them, as Red calls after him, "Then that room is full of people that don't know you!" Can't spell "read" without "Red"; won't try.
Cunanan stalks to the top of the staircase, sees Jeff and David laughing together by the pool, and fairly runs down to join/get between them, almost shouting about whether Jeff's BOYFRIEND is joining them. No, he isn't. "He's so funny!" Cunanan fake-chuckles. "Is he still working at that mall?" Jeff sees you, Blanche: "He works for a living, yes." David tries to smooth things over with, of all things, a question about where Cunanan sleeps; he saw the master bedroom with two mattresses. Cunanan non-answers this with a lie about Norman spending time in Phoenix and his own stays at his "New York apartment." "Your New York apartment," Jeff repeats, dry as a bone, and Cunanan begins a series of Starman head movements, which don't abate when David hesitantly says he thought he'd be staying there that night, but… "Oh, you must!" Cunanan says. Jeff offers his couch, but Cunanan immediately says it's "hard and filthy." David and Jeff both crack up. Cunanan looks between them with the pasted-on and unsure smile of a child who doesn't understand why what he just said is funny to drunk adults. David's like, let's talk about it later, and Cunanan's about to try to forget that sneaking sense that he's on the outside of something again, some more by pouring more champagne when Lee Miglin approaches to wish him a happy birthday.
And here's the difference between real class and Cunanan's store-window version: Cunanan pretends not to remember him. Lee is too excited to see him to mind much, even when Cunanan herds the younger men away, then snips at Lee, "I asked you not to approach me." Lee babbles about how "exceptionally handsome" Cunanan looks and how he couldn't wait any longer to come say hello: "Does that make me pathetic?" What's pathetic is the societal bigotry that would convince an accomplished citizen like Lee Miglin that his by-necessity hidden desire for a younger man puts him at this steep a power disadvantage in their relationship, especially when said younger man is acting like a haphazardly stacked garbage heap in this social interaction, but once again, Cunanan gets by with it, brushing Lee and his birthday gift off with a "we can arrange a time." Looking panicky, he jumps on David -- who's chatting with Jeff and Norman -- like a sugared-up eight-year-old and drags him and his other paramours into an awkward photo op. "All the people I love!", he says, striking a pose, while everyone else in the frame makes mental air quotes around that last word.
As everyone's arranging their faces into facsimiles of happy, the camera rushes in on Cunanan's face, just in time for it to fall.
Cunanan makes a list with a fountain pen. Next to the list on the desk is the photo from the party, with everyone's faces but Cunanan's and David's scratched out.
Little on the nose. The list, which Cunanan is now presenting to Norman, is of "requirements" for Cunanan and Norman to stay together, and includes a Mercedes convertible, first-class berths on international AND domestic flights, and getting jumped into Norman's will -- as his sole heir. As Norman dryly reads the list aloud, Cunanan -- attired in what he thinks is the height of unironic beachfront posh: a sweater draped around his shoulders, crisp Bermudas, and driving mocs -- snots that he's been with Norman for over a year, devoting his life to making Norman happy and making "enormous sacrifices." Hard to say if Norman deliberately sets a trap for Cunanan here or just can't bother pretending he buys his shit anymore, but he asks mildly what sacrifices, exactly. "Love," the overstepper says with a defiant lift of his chin. Whose love? "My parents." Right, Norman mutters, "the New York billionaires." They disinherited me, Cunanan crazy-eyeses, when they found out he "was living with an older gay man." Norman, who seems more resigned to having to bust this asswipe than anything else, asks if Cunanan knows how Norman got so successful. It's hard work -- and "due diligence." Cunanan unwisely sticks with the snitty tone and asks what Norman's saying. He's saying Cunanan's name isn't DeSilva, as he's evidently been claiming; it's Cunanan. Push in on Cunanan looking very young and legit frightened; he denies it, and that as of a year and a half ago, he was working in a Thrifty drugstore for six bucks an hour and living with his mom. "Mary Ann?" Norman prompts, and finally Cunanan is silenced. He gets a million-mile stare, then flounces from the room.
Norman watches him with a "bye bitch" expression, then follows him out to the balcony, where Cunanan is staring miffily out to sea. He rounds on Norman with an accusing "You investigated me?" Norman evenly notes that Cunanan investigated him; no way they met "by chance." Cunanan knew what books he liked, what kind of music...he'd researched Norman, to target him (Norman uses the word "pursued," but: yeah). Norman then points out Cunanan isn't a prisoner there. In fact, he's not even Norman's partner, really, since they haven't had sex in months. Cunanan quickly brats that "if you give me everything on that list, sex can become more regular." Norman snorts, clumsily exposits that Cunanan never saves any money because he's always splashing out on other people, and says he'll up Cunanan's allowance, but the first-class flights: no. He'd also pay for Cunanan to finish his college degree. Cunanan sulks that he already has a PhD, but Norman is getting irritated, and says no, he really doesn't; he has two semesters of a history degree at UCSD. Cunanan is decompensating back in time, verbally stomping his foot at the idea of going back to school, or anything else that's work: "It's ordinary!" Norman's like, being smart is pointless unless it's "in the service of" something, by which he presumably doesn't mean grifting, but Cunanan announces that he "want[s] that list" or he's leaving. Norman sighs that Cunanan's made a beautiful home there, and he wants Cunanan to be happy, truly; he doesn't even mind the constant lies, except for one, and that's that Norman is a fool. Cunanan whines that he probably lost "the love of his life" because he lives with Norman. Confirming that Cunanan means David, Norman groans, "Oh, boy," and basically asks if, once he's made Norman's heir, Cunanan is already dreaming of the day Norman's out of the way. Cunanan is literally pouting with his arms folded
as Norman informs him with a half-smile that, if he wants "this life," he could have it by working hard…but if he won't work, he'll have to share it with Norman. Those are the choices. Cunanan probably thinks he can treat every older man the way he treats Lee, and responds by gritting that if he can't have love, he wants the list. Yes or no? Norman calls that bluff with a gentle no. "Fine," Cunanan whispers, and is headed inside to pack, but on his way, he scampers over to a deck chair and smashes a glass table with it. Going inside for real now, he turns dramatically in the doorway and acts as though he's the aggrieved party, and on camera: "I'm leaving. I expect you to call." Call…the cops? A locksmith?
Cunanan unloads the Infiniti in front of a mealy cinderblock foyer with newspapers blowing around outside. In a grimy efficiency apartment, he drops his bags and looks around. A phone rings, and we pan cut to…
…Jeff, watching TV. It's his dad on the other end, calling to report on the outing postcard Cunanan sent, now received by Trail Sr. There's a brisk knock on the door, and we pan cut again to…
Cunanan, sitting up performatively straight on a bare mattress, stagily turning his head towards the sound. He gets up, looking apprehensive, and zhuzhes his shirt; the only decoration, a magazine clipping of Gianni Versace, flutters on the wall as he moves past. It's Jeff, of course, and Cunanan croons, "Hi," and lets him in. Jeff, all business, says he heard about Norman. He'll come around, Cunanan smiles, but Jeff isn't buying: "You had a good thing there." Cunanan's a little irritated: "He. Had a good thing." Jeff gets down to it, asking if Cunanan sent Trail Sr. a postcard. Cunanan dissembles, but Jeff is getting agitated; his dad wants to know who Cunanan is, why he signed the card "love," and why Jeff's "buying [him] expensive shoes." "How funny," Cunanan smugs, enjoying Jeff's discomfort. "What'd you tell him?" Jeff asks if he did it deliberately, advancing on him; it felt like a threat. It was, but Cunanan eye-rolls that it was a mistake. "You're lying!", Jeff snaps, asking if Cunanan is trying to tell Jeff's parents Jeff is gay. Cunanan wonders sarcastically why he'd want to do that: "They probably just assumed that you gave up your great naval career to be a f*****!" Jeff grabs Cunanan by the arms and swings him into the wall, bellowing at him to stay away from his family. As with any scene in which that crazy shitbox Cunanan is ignored, intimidated, or otherwise busted down to size, it's deeply satisfying when he grunts, "You're hurting me!"…
…but it's disheartening at the same time, given how attempts to set boundaries for Cunanan tended to end. Jeff releases him and apologizes, but instead of leaving, he stays to hear Cunanan soap-opera that he never thought Jeff was capable of violence, especially not towards Cunanan. Jeff is not exactly eager to do the emotional violence he's about to do, but grimly confesses that he's leaving San Diego to work at a propane gas company -- in Minneapolis. The camera semi-swoops towards Cunanan as he puts it together, or so he thinks, and Jeff is quick to say that it's not because of David. Cunanan snarks that it's just chance, then, that Jeff pulled an M Scrabble tile and picked an M city, that M city, and Jeff tries to say that David only told him about the job, no more, but Cunanan is sliding into a tantrum about Jeff screwing him over -- after all the guys he found for Jeff -- by "stealing" the only guy "that really likes" Cunanan. Jeff doesn't touch that, but his actual reason for leaving, that he's unhappy in San Diego and needs a change of scene, that it breaks his heart to pass the harbor and see the ships he can't be on, aren't about Cunanan, so Cunanan doesn't hear them. Jeff seems to see this, and ends with a weary, "I'm leaving. I thought you should know." As he's heading for the door, Cunanan growls, "You stay away from him. I'm warning you." Jeff cuts him a "sha right" side-eye and closes the door as Cunanan yells again for Jeff to stay away from David.
David himself picks up the phone to find Cunanan on the other end, talking quickly so that David can't interrupt: he misses David so much! He's going to Los Angeles and he wants David to come! He'll FedEx David's first-class ticket over! David's like, well but I wish you'd have, you know, asked first? Or at all? But Cunanan literally says he won't take no for an answer, he'll drag David "kicking and screaming" if he has to, which he says through one of his patented desperate fake "laughs." Then he says, very quietly, "Please."
Cunanan arrives at a hotel by cab, and is shown to a duplex suite whose balcony is the sort of domain-surveyor perch Cunanan loves. He orders flowers for the suite, and a Mercedes convertible. David is announced, and Cunanan tells the desk to send David to the balcony, where Cunanan artfully arranges himself. David, somewhat abashed, appears in a long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans; he's never flown first class before. "Then this must be something special," Cunanan prompts him. David doesn't give him quite the awestruck response he's looking for, asking how work went. Cunanan chirps that he's all done, and he can just relax; asked what it is he does, exactly, again, Cunanan is typically grand but vague about the "behind the scenes" "money" stuff he's "doing," and condescends that it's boring and "technical" -- so how about they go shopping! The whole situation is already failing David's smell test, but he heaves a sigh and follows Cunanan.
The next scene finds them at a tailor, drinking champagne while David is fitted for a suit, compliments of Cunanan, who wants him to "dress like the man you're going to be." Who's that, David wonders. "An American dream," Cunanan says. "The country's most successful architect!" David chuckles that he likes this, "go on," so Cunanan keeps spinning a future of a thriving practice, a glossy spread in an architectural mag with a picture of David's "handsome face" -- then lifts his champagne flute: "With me by your side." Cody Fern's tiny awkward eye-flick here is perfectly done. Darren Criss's corresponding tiny jaw clench of realization that they don't share the same vision, and childish fury at his perceived rejection, is just as perfectly done.
A bit later, as Cunanan is mulling his next move, David emerges from the dressing room, sharply attired in the new suit. He's rigid with discomfort as he mutters that Cunanan doesn't have to buy it for him; Cunanan croons that David can throw it away if he doesn't like it, but Cunanan is buying it. As Cunanan pays, David stares out onto the street, appearing to contemplate the position he's in and very much wants to extricate himself from.
Later, a room-service waiter lifts the last cloche on a spread of expensive cuts of beef, lobster-tail sculptures, and whatever other try-hard culinary gaucheries you'd expect a Cunanan to order. As David looks on with a nauseated mien, Cunanan overtips the waiter and officiously pours champagne. At last David gets it out that he owes Cunanan an apology: "I shouldn't have come." All of this, "it's too much," and he'll pay for half. Cunanan tells him to put his wallet away, but David needs him to see the real issue: "Andrew, I'm not the one." Cunanan's face is a bland mask of loathing, much like Jason Priestley's when he's trying to make Brandon Walsh look nobly forebearing on Beverly Hills, 90210.
He drops his head, then raises it, trying to sell David: "You are the one. Yes, you are." He's both legitimately pleading and probably to some extent copying shit he's seen in movies as he says he knows he "overexaggerate[s]" sometimes, but not about this; David is the only one he's ever "really, truly" loved. David fidgets, saying they had a great time in San Francisco -- "one great night, and maybe there was a chance, but…" "But it was one night, and you scotched that chance by overinvesting it with meaning to this stalker-ish degree," he does not add, sitting heavily. Cunanan also sits, alert, looking for something he can seize on to return this conversation to his control. David says he gets the feeling Cunanan doesn't have "many great nights with people -- am I right?" Cunanan makes a clueless "…and?" face; David goes on that, when Cunanan does have those nights, it feels "huge…life-changing." David's gentle compassion for what he thinks is a first-love/losing-one's-virginity spasm of intense weirdness falls on deaf-ish ears, since Cunanan is only capable of the intense and weird bits, not actual love; Cunanan asserts that David did change his life. David tries again: the hotel, all the food, the whole weekend is Cunanan "trying to recreate" when they met. "It's like we're stuck on a first date." Cunanan does hear the word "stuck," and asks sulkily why David came, then. David hasn't traveled much; Cunanan called, he "was excited." So David didn't come for Cunanan. David lies (I think) that he did; he wanted to see if they could take "the next step." Cunanan asks if he doesn't think they can. David isn't sure. Cunanan sees an opening, a la Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber hearing that his chances with Mary are a million to one and celebrating because he only hears the "one."
Great, Cunanan says, get to know him! What does David want to do, he'll do anything! David says, "We get rid of all this," and starts clearing a spot on the table; he takes off his suit coat. Cunanan mimics him exactly, from plates to taking off his jacket. They sit back down, and David exhales, "The truth." "The truth," Cunanan echoes cheerily, so David asks about Cunanan's parents: "Who are they." A flicker of terror crosses Cunanan's face, but he flips through his mental card catalog of bullshitty stories and settles on the one about his dad being a stockbroker who made a huge fortune, listed in California's top 500 broker…listing (which is probably not a thing), and went back to the Philippines to run "vast" pineapple plantations. Some of this is true, sort of; none of this is how most people respond to a question about their childhoods, which is really about who your parents are to you, what they're like, not what they do and/or how well. David perceives not far into this horseshlitany that Cunanan simply isn't and will not be capable of felt responses,
but sees it through: "And your mom?" Cunanan claims she ran a literary publishing house in New York, and is now estranged from his father. "Did you get along with them?" David asks, not expecting anything in the way of a real answer anymore, and he doesn't get one, as Cunanan says that they love him "more than anything in the worrrrld." Not what you were asked. He muses that they gave him anything he wanted growing up, and doesn't have any idea that it's weird to say your parents gave up the master bedroom for you, even if that actually occurred. But Cunanan is dimly aware that it's time to change the subject, and asks about David's parents. David says they run a small hardware store just outside Minneapolis, but is not even done speaking when Cunanan "remembers" to say that sometimes, when the food at school "wasn't quite up to scratch," he'd call his mom and she'd bring him a lobster dinner "just like this one." He's sure to add that he shared it with all his friends. David stares at him sadly; he's decided that calling Cunanan on any of this is a waste, and Fern's micro-adjustments in this entire sequence are so impressive and dimensioned. Emmys, give the kid a little something for his mantel, will you? "Your parents must have loved you very much," David says, exhausted. "Next question," Cunanan beams, leaning his chin on his hand flirtily. David's done, saying he's tired and he's going to crash. "David," Cunanan says, stopping him. "I'm a good person. Who wants to be good to you." David non-answers that one day Cunanan will make "someone" very happy, he knows it. He leaves Cunanan alone with a tableful of food, and during the commercial, I hope that David locks the door of his bedroom in the suite, and that Cunanan comforts himself with that entire Caprese salad, because it looked delicious. ...Look, you take the tiny bright spots with this show.
Back in San Diego, Cunanan returns to his grubby apartment to find no new messages on his answering machine. He contemplates the giant, fruitless bill from Chateau Parvenu, which is in excess of $2700. (Charges include a $40 Croque Monsieur, and champagne bottle service both in-room and "poolside.")
Later, at Flicks, Cunanan lies to the bartender that David "said yes!" Spotting a dealer at the back of the room, he drops a show-offy tip on his drink order and heads to the dealer's table while George Michael sings, "All we have to do now / Is take these lies, and make them true somehow." He tells the dealer he needs something stronger, and after a tiresome visual explanation of pure crystal involving a bunch of matches, Andrew is back in his hole, injecting himself with the meth and then falling into a red-gels hole of a different sort, in which he's getting a fitting from Gianni Versace. It's a hallucination, but the reality of Cunanan's corrosive self-pity persists even in an aggrandized fantasy that sees Gianni on his knees, tweaking the break in Cunanan's pantlegs while Cunanan announces that he believes he's the most generous person in the world. "What could be more generous than spending everything on other people and being left with nothing?" "I couldn't say," the politely servile Gianni of the meth-tasia murmurs, since a figment of Cunanan's unconscious isn't going to know emotions are not transacted but felt, much less point it out to the customer. Cunanan continues to bray about setting people up and ending up alone himself, about how people have taken and taken from him and now he's "spent." "A man with nothing to give is a nothing man."
Gianni measures the suit coat and says that's "very poetic, sir." Cunanan goes on that the world is wasted on, and wasting, him; he adds bitterly that the world has turned Gianni into a star. "Was it the world, sir?" Gianni asks affectlessly, which sends Halluci-nanan into a rant about Gianni thinking he's "better than" Cunanan. "We're the same! The only difference is, you got lucky." "Not the only difference, sir," Gianni shrugs, moving his measuring tape from Cunanan's shoulder to around Cunanan's neck. "Oh yeah?" Cunanan brats. "What else you got?" "I'm loved."
Cunanan comes to in the dark. The already sad apartment has devolved into more of a messy pit, but he's added more pictures of Gianni and Antonio to the wall. He writhes on the bed…
…then returns to Flicks, clearly strung out, to brag to the bartender that he's just back from Paris with David. The bartender is like, k cool, and asks what they saw; Cunanan immediately gets himself caught in a lie when he mentions the Vatican and the bartender's like, that's in France now? Cunanan snots that of course he was in Rome: "We're saving Paris for our honeymoon." "Understood," the bartender shrugs. Hee. The tip is modest and crumply this time as Cunanan makes a beeline for the dealer again. He says he needs more time. All he's got is time, the dealer grunts. What Cunanan needs is money.
And he's thrashing through the underbrush outside Norman's house later that night in pursuit of it, coated in sweat, his pink polo ringed with grime. Norman is opening a bottle of red as, outside, Andrew tries various glass outer doors, hoping to find one left open. He's sort of half-knocking on them; not sure if he's hoping to get caught or just trying to "hear" if the bolts are thrown, though given the meltdown he had earlier I'm a little surprised he doesn't try a smash-and-grab. Eventually he comes upon the great room where Norman is at the bar cart, and stares wide-eyed at him, working his jaw in a nice bit of methy business from Criss. Norman senses him and half-turns. Cunanan flails away into the darkness, but only temporarily, as he's rushed around to another set of doors and is trying to unlock the locks at the bottom. Norman comes upon him. He paws at the glass, pasting on an "oh hey so nbd buuuut" rictus and babbling that his keys don't work, baby, can he let him in? Norman says nothing, so Cunanan switches to angry bellows of "LET ME IN!" and "I MADE THIS HOUSE!"
Norman is unmoved by this raging and pointedly lifts the cordless to his ear, not breaking eye contact with Cunanan.
We next see Cunanan at the door of his mother's rundown apartment, where he gets a sobbing hero's welcome despite the fact that you can almost smell him through the screen. He barely moves to hug his mother back as she repeats "my Andrew, my Andrew" over and over. Finally she breaks the clinch: "I thought you were in Milan!" Lady, look at him. Unless "Milan" is what y'all call Skid Row where you live: no. Cunanan's face falls as she tows him inside…
…and gives him a creepy bath as he cries. She sings an Italian lullaby, telling him her mother used to sing it to her when she cried and one day he'll sing it to his own children. Cunanan mumbles that he's not going to have any children, and Mary Ann quavers that that's nonsense, "life means nothing without children." I would say that "fortunately" she's distracted from this "a life without kids is no life at all" lecture, but I can't, because what she's distracted by is that his smell has changed: "You don't smell like you." She plunges her face into the back of his neck, crying that she knows his smell and this isn't it. She starts scrubbing under his pits, sniffling that she's going to make him smell like himself again. Cunanan limply allows it as she goes back to panting out the lullaby. Eeeeeesh.
Later, Mary Ann bustles around doing breakfast-y things and talking about a wealthy schoolmate of Cunanan's, Charles Walker, whose mother always looked down on Mary Ann because they had a bigger house, or so Mary Ann remembers it, and here we arrive at the crux of Cunanan's pathology, the idea that the rich or powerful or otherwise rarefied are sitting around thinking ill of their social or financial lessers. The truth, dimly apprehended by Cunanan on some level, I think, and ergo the cause of his chaotic rage, is that the one percent don't think about the rest of us at all, good or bad. They don't care. We don't register. Anyway, Mary Ann is pleased to report that Charles Walker couldn't get a job after college despite all his connections, and she couldn't wait to tell Mrs. Walker about Cunanan's schmancy gig as a costume designer for Italian operas.
Cunanan tries to interrupt her, saying he's unhappy, but the rotten apple didn't roll far from the tree, as Mary Ann completely ignores this to keep bragging about, um, bragging about him and his many international travels…"all the places that I have never been. And her face." She was "so jealous." Her son has done so little; Mary Ann's son has done so much.
Now Cunanan is staring dully at the family pictures on the piano. She hugs him tightly and says she "gave him everything. But it was worth it. For moments like this." Like…inappropriately bathing your adult son, who might as well be a Resusci-Andy doll for all the attention you pay to his actual self, when he's teetering on the lip of Catatonia Canyon? Cool. Kids are everything. Got it. She wishes he could stay with her, but she has to share him "with the world." Please don't. We're alllll set.
He heads out to his car, the too-large and unflattering sweat-polo she's kitted him out in sagging around him. She tags behind him, suspiciously eyeing the Infiniti where it's parked amid knocked-over bulk trash waiting for pickup. After another too-tight hug, she asks where he's headed next. Minneapolis. There's an opera house there? There is, and was in 1996, but Cunanan just shakes his head and says he doesn't think there is, likely knowing he could say any fucking thing and she'll just believe what she likes. Sure enough, she beams and smooches him a dozen times. He gets in the car and starts it, and peers over his shoulder at her, saying with an air of significance, "Bye, Mom."