American Crime Story

One For The Road

American Crime Story heads to Minneapolis for the ends of Jeff Trail's and David Madson's journeys in Sarah D. Bunting's old-school recap of S02.E04.

Fade up on a cheery tourist video for Minneapolis, lit with contemporaneously cheese-ish overbrightness, then cut to a title card telling us it's April 27, 1997 -- one week before Lee Miglin's murder. Then we're at the gorgeous, massive loft of David Madson. He's on the cordless, pitching himself for a project, and he promises he won't let the caller down as Andrew Cunanan looms into the frame, and this probably isn't the first time he's done this, but he has his t-shirt tucked into his jeans and no belt, like, why is this a thing on TV?

Cunanan awkwards up to David's workspace, his arms stiffly at his sides, as David hangs up and celebrates: "They said yes!" "I'm so happy for you," Cunanan oozes, sounding about as sincere as Siri. David looks doubtful, but out loud he accepts Cunanan's well wishes, then softens and notes that, "this weekend," they both said things they regret. Can they put it behind them -- "just be friends"? "I don't regret anything I said," Cunanan says. David manages not to roll his eyes and asks if they can move on, then. "Sure," Cunanan says flatly. David heads off to shower. Cunanan continues to stand, immobile, by David's desk, the smile leaking off his face.

David relaxes under the water, and while this isn't the Psycho shot set-up -- and while I know David is not killed in this scene -- it's still tense. Way in the back of the shot, you can see Cunanan start to come into the bathroom, then, when David turns the water off, hastily withdraw. David comes out to find the apartment empty, he thinks, but then at the end of the bedroom hallway, there's Cunanan, David's dog Prints on a leash. (The real-life dog was a Dalmatian, which the dog playing him is not, so at first I assumed thanks to the location of the episode's events that the dog's name was Prince, as in "Rogers Nelson.") Here again, I know the actual Prints came to no harm, at least from Cunanan, and I don't think the production would depart from the generally accepted timeline to make us watch a pet suffer, but Cunanan is already acting so lights-on-nobody-home two minutes into the episode that I don't want him anywhere near the hound, fictionalized narrative or no. Anyway, Cunanan doesn't say anything, so David has to prompt him as one does a child: "Taking Prints for a walk?" "Yeah," Cunanan tries to chirp, and heads for the door. David's like, "…k," and goes to get dressed.

When he comes out, though, he finds Prints tied to a leg of his desk…and Cunanan once again Nosferatus into the frame, his face a bland mask. So he's…not taking Prints for a walk, David asks, untying the dog. The buzzer goes off, and David asks who it is. "It's Jeff," Cunanan duhs. David asks if they're going out, and Cunanan duhs again that Jeff's coming up. David has clearly been trying up to this point not to betray his impatience with Cunanan's toddleresquely obtuse behavior -- no doubt because one of the things he said "this weekend," which he is going to regret more than he could ever have imagined, is that he isn't into Cunanan that way anymore -- but finally snaps that he has work to do. "It won't take long," Cunanan says, continuing to stand like a mannequin as the buzzer sounds several more times.

Then he snots, "Could you get the door?" Fern loses control of the accent somewhat as David eye-rolls that he doesn't have time for this, but gets up to answer. Cunanan's Manson lamps flip on as he hurries to say that it'll give them a chance to talk about him. David's given pause: "What did you just say?" Cunanan repeats that, when he brings Jeff up, it'll give them a chance. To talk about him. (The buzzer doesn't admit people from the loft; David has to go down in the elevator and physically open the building's front door. I lived in an apartment with that "set-up" for a while, so I didn't think much about this on first viewing, except to clock Cunanan's rudeness, but it's made more of later.) David shoots Cunanan a silent "you wish" look and storms out. Prints goes the front door when he's left and whines a little.

Downstairs, David lets Jeff in with a familiar "hey." It's nice to see Finn Wittrock as Jeff Trail at last, but like everyone else, he's coming in at the miserable end to his own story, so I'm bracing for that as Jeff asks grimly, "How's he?" Equally grimly, David says Cunanan proposed. "Are you serious?"

"Said I was the man of his dreams…his last chance at happiness." Jeff pulls another ffs face as the elevator arrives and asks how David got out of it. "Told him it was illegal for us to get married," David sighs. In the elevator, David adds that Cunanan thinks Jeff's why David says no: "Thinks I'm in love with you." Jeff snorts, "D'you tell him he's the reason you said no?" "He has no one," David says sadly, almost to himself, and Jeff snarks that he should ask himself why, but David warns Jeff, "He knows about us." What this means is debatable; per Maureen Orth's Vanity Fair piece, Jeff "was known to have warned" David that Cunanan "was a liar," but I can't find any indication in contemporary news accounts or elsewhere that David and Jeff were romantically involved, except in Cunanan's resentful fantasies. Jeff's say-WHAAAAAT head turn suggests that that's the implication here, though, as he adds in disbelief that "no one knows!" "He has this feline intuition," David says.

Coming down the hall, Jeff urges David not to feel sorry for Cunanan. Why not? Jeff does. "Not anymore," Jeff says. In fact, he never wants to see Cunanan again, and he's only there because Cunanan stole Jeff's gun.

Inside, Cunanan is lying in wait behind a bookcase, holding a hammer and wearing no expression. David finds Prints once again tied up to some furniture and angrily calls for Cunanan, but Cunanan is busy lunging at Jeff as he's closing the front door. Cut to David watching in horror and Prints barking as we hear the squelchy sounds of Cunanan beating Jeff to death. Jeff hollers. Prints barks. David backs away along the sectional as stripes of overkill blood spatter hit him and the walls of the entryway. Finally Cunanan subsides and stands up, in an odd hunchy posture reminiscent of Karl from Sling Blade. He whips some blood off the hammer and walks towards David, who crab-walks away from him along the couch. Hard to see how even Cunanan would think stroking David's face with his bloody hands, one of which is still holding the hammer, is comforting, but that's what he does while whispering that it's okay.

He touches his forehead to David's, then cradles him, covered in Jeff's gore. David somehow does not vomit all over this delusional creeper, instead allowing Cunanan to escort him as though he's an aging invalid to the bathroom; seat him; start getting undressed, removing his blood-caked glasses but still taking care not to touch the lenses; partially undress David; and move them both into the shower to wash off the blood. David is in shock throughout this oogy process but occasionally flinches away from Cunanan's affectionate ministrations. He finally manages to ask if Cunanan's going to kill him. Cunanan sounds surprised: "No!" But you killed Jeff, David says, twice. "Why?" "I lost control," Cunanan murmurs, not sounding like that's the case at all. But he loves David. David, shivering with revulsion, pushes Cunanan's hand away: "No. No! Call the police!" Cunanan tries to calm him but David scrabbles away, repeating, "Call them! Do it now!"

Cunanan puts Prints in his crate, like, could someone actually walk that poor pup? David, dry and dressed, pads fearfully out of the bedroom and into the loft's main area, where Cunanan is sitting in the dark. "Andrew?" David quavers. Cunanan melodramatically switches on the lamp on David's desk. The cordless is in front of him. "Did you call?" "I'll call them if you want me too," Cunanan says, fidgeting. "You haven't called," David says, despairingly. Cunanan says he's been worrying -- about David, who asks for the phone, but Cunanan has prepared his manipulation carefully, and goes into a disingenuous presentation about how it's David's apartment, David let Jeff in…what will the police think? David, in tears, demands the phone again, and gets an utterly chilling stare in response.

Cunanan sighs actorishly, gets up, and makes a big show of "giving in" to David's wishes by handing him the phone. David calls 911, but Cunanan is musing that he'll get 30 years, but David will get 10, and he just can't allow that to happen. He draws the gun out of his waistband. The 911 operator has answered by now, but David is ensorcelled by Cunanan massaging his own temple with the butt of the gun and whining that he can't let "this" destroy David's life. Slowly David hits the off button and hands the phone back. Cunanan beams. I distract myself from the urge to reach through the monitor and flick Cunanan in the eyeball by trying to figure out who Cody Fern looks like -- it's partly Dax Shepard, but it's someone else too, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

…Andrew McCarthy! Man, that was bugging me. Not as much as Cunanan's bugging me, as he comes into the bedroom where David is sitting, becalmed by horror, on the bed and starts digging through David's drawers for Damning Gay Stuff: porn with titles like Bear Love, some S&M gear. He comes to the bed with it; David withdraws, terrified, but Cunanan is focused on arraying all of it neatly on the duvet and informing David that the cops won't see victims in him and David -- they'll see suspects. David's like, but you'll tell them I didn't do anything, I'm not a killer. Cunanan blares that "they hate us, David," they've always hated us: "You're a [F word]." David moves to the edge of the bed and babbles that he needs to talk to his father, ask him what to do. Cunanan condescends that in that case his dad would have to turn him in, or he'd be committing a crime. Does David want to put him in that position? David has had it, and announces he's leaving; Cunanan gets between him and the door, but says David can, once he's "thought this through." David looks at the space between Cunanan and the door and repeats that he wants to leave. "Once you've thought it through," Cunanan repeats, blocking the door and fixing David with another chilling stare.

With no real choice, David exhales, and Cunanan closes the door on the camera, leaving me to think about what I would do in that situation, how I might escape, how effectively Cunanan leveraged his own self-loathing into a loathsome trap to keep Madson under control.

Later. Cunanan has seated himself near the door, on the floor, and appears to be asleep. David eases himself up off the bed and is about to try to slink out when Cunanan's eyes open and he asks with a Starman head-cock, "Were you going to leave me?" David says no, but Cunanan's on his feet in an instant, protesting that he was going to leave. David thinks fast and says Prints needs a walk -- he'll shit everywhere, start barking, draw attention. Cunanan, who seems to have forgotten there's a dead body moldering directly beside the front door, chooses to believe this more-flattering-to-him excuse, and lets David out of the bedroom…

…but once David has retrieved Prints, there's still the matter of Jeff's remains, the lake of blood in which they're resting, and their location, which makes egress basically impossible without one creature stepping on or in the crime scene. Cunanan comes up beside David and pulls an inappropriately snotty what-a-hassle face, then drags David's entryway rug over to the body and tells David to turn away. David does, but soon can't resist watching Cunanan awkwardly rolling Jeff up in the rug and just as awkwardly trying to heave him out of sight, a task he's eventually obliged to ask for David's help with. David manages not to openly gag as they drag the body around behind part of the sectional; he also manages not to snark at Cunanan that a mere four paper towels and no cleanser is not going to do anything except smear the gallons of blood on the floor around, but when Cunanan semi-realizes this and leaves off bothering to go wipe his hands, David grabs the dog and makes for the door. Cunanan cheerily offers to come along. David says he doesn't have to, and Cunanan immediately sours: "You don't want me to come?" David stammers that if he's tired…"Do you want to walk him without me?" David has to say no, he doesn't, like, obviously he does, and you obviously know why, so maybe have one moment of emotional generosity and skip the fucking playacting, but no, Cunanan strides over and repeats that he thinks David wants to go without him. David thought he might be tired. "Do I seem tired?" Cunanan grits, and David's like, jfc, fine, let's walk the dog.

On the elevator, of course a neighbor has to get on with the two men and Prints, and Karen cheerily greets both David, who very obviously looks like he just ate a handful of bugs, and Andrew, who doesn't respond or even blink.

I can't say I "applaud," exactly, the show's and Darren Criss's choices, which make Cunanan not just scary and weird but also an asocial and annoying asshole -- but they're certainly effective. I want to punch the kid in the dick. As Cunanan blouses his sweatshirt over the gun once again stashed in his waistband, Karen croons at a whingy Prints that "someone's not having fun on the elevator today." "No. Guess not," David grunts. On the ground floor, David wishes her a pointed nice day, then pauses before disembarking: "Are you gonna hurt anyone else?" "N…o?" Cunanan says. David needs him to promise, which of course Cunanan has no problem doing because: compulsive liar. "Nobody else will get hurt! As long as you're by my side."

On the sidewalk, David makes nervous eye contact with a fellow dog-walker while rambling about a story he just thought of, that he wasn't home last night and he can pretend to be discovering the body for the first time -- and by then, Cunanan will be "long gone." Cunanan, already not having it, pulls up: "On my own?" David sees a mother and child approaching on the sidewalk and gulps. "Let's go back." They turn back to the building, Cunanan possessively patting David's neck.

As Cunanan is packing them up, there's a knock at the door. Inside, David looks stricken; outside, David's co-worker Melinda is telling the building manager David would never miss work. Prints is barking and whining as David starts for the door but Cunanan grabs his arm, asking if he really wants to be there when they open the door and see what's inside. The manager bustles off to get the keys, but when she opens the door, it's clear the two sides of the door aren't in the same timeline, because Prints bolts the loft, and the women find it empty. Well, except for all the blood, some of it drag marks leading to the rolled-up rug. Melinda gasps. David and Cunanan, meanwhile, buckle up for the worst road trip ever.

MPD homicide detectives Tichich and Jackson arrive at the loft building, and Tichich is struck right away by the fact that the patrol officer has to come down to let them in. Outside the loft, the women brief the detectives: the manager, Jennifer, used her key because the dog sounded "distressed," and Melinda chimes in that David never misses work. She's trying to say she found David's body when Tichich interrupts to ask if it's David's apartment and what she can tell them about David. He's nice, he's 33, he's a talented architect…does he have a wife, Jackson asks. He's gay, Melinda shrugs, and Tichich frowns and passes a pair of rubber gloves to Jackson, which I guess could be something they were going to do anyway but, in the context of the season's continuing commentary on how far we've come (or…haven't) in our cultural assumptions about the queer community, is probably something we're meant to notice.

Tichich squats down and sort of peers into the end of the rolled-up rug, but doesn't unroll it. He opens the wallet on the counter with a pen; it's David's. "Wasn't a robbery," Tichich remarks. A patrolman notes there was no sign of forced entry. Tichich clocks the heaps of dirty clothes in the bathroom, the blood spatter on the floor, the hammer in the sink where Cunanan dumped it. I'll note here that, while reporting on Trail's murder describes the weapon as a "claw hammer," this is what you or I would merely call a…hammer, with a blunt head for nailing and a bifurcated "claw" for prying. Based on what we later see of Trail's scalp and skull -- or what Cunanan left him of it -- it's clear Cunanan used the claw end of the hammer; I'm not pointing this out as an inaccuracy. I do think it's noteworthy that, in accounts of murder/true-crime writing, bad acts committed with what would be described only as a "hammer" in literally any other situation will always have involved a "claw hammer," because it sounds so much more brutal. And…is much more brutal, obviously, but I think the idea takes root subliminally, as it had with me until I took a second to confirm it on Google, that there is a specific, discrete tool that looks more like a scythe and seems only to exist for homicidal purposes, versus the garden-variety rubber-grip hammer we all have in the junk drawer.

…This has been Tool Time with Sarah D. Bunting. Insert your own urg urg Tim Allen noises here and let's move on to the detectives finding Cunanan's carefully arranged tableau o' porn 'n' lube. Jackson seems not to know what he's looking at; Tichich does, but evinces little judgment, except in the typically narrow-minded scenario he spins, in which "a guy turns up" whom David "probably" didn't know, "they do what they do…this extreme stuff," shit goes south, and David "ends up in a rug" while the other guy runs. So, note here that they assume at this time it's David in the rug -- and that Jackson has just found the ammunition Cunanan is using. Tichich wonders where the gun is, but the short version is, they're already behind.

The coroner arrives. Tichich continues obsessing about the buzzer situation until Melinda asks for a word: David had a friend staying with him that weekend, an Andrew "Cone-onan or something." She describes him to Tichich, adding that Cunanan did a lot of bragging that "didn't sound right." Tichich confirms that Cunanan had dark hair -- and that David has blond hair. Inside, the coroner is saying he doesn't want to unroll the rug there, lest valuable evidence fall out, and on a side table, Tichich spots a Polaroid of David and (we'll see later) his dad, and carries it over to the rug, asking the others what color they think the victim's hair is. Cut to a truly gruesome shot of the ruins of Trail's head as they confirm that guy's hair is black. So now they understand it's not David in the rug…but they think it's "a man named Andrew Coo-nay-noon," and Tichich is now preoccupied with the fact that, if David is alive, that means they entered the premises illegally, so they have to go back and get a search warrant so they don't screw the pooch in court later. So now they're even further behind, and given Tichich's sticklering about the warrant, it's dumb and shitty of him to inform Melinda and Jennifer that David isn't the victim, "he's the killer," but okay.

Shot of a child's hand running through reeds as young David and his dad, who's toting a rifle and a thermos, hike alongside a lake. David dashes into a cabin, followed by Dad. Dad shares out coffee into two tin mugs, and they happily sip it. Later, David claps his hands over his ears as Dad takes a shot, then pulls David to the water's edge and wades in to retrieve the duck he's just killed. David sadly squats beside the bird and cradles its dead head in his hands. David runs off. Dad chases him, and kneels next to him, reminding him that they talked about this: "I explained. Okay?" At the end of the day, a brooding David asks if Dad is mad at him. Going against every expectation watching TV and movies has ingrained in us for this scene, Dad says of course he isn't: hunting isn't for everyone, and that's okay. "We can still go on hikes," he offers, adding that he enjoyed his coffee with David very much. Aw. It's not entirely clear to me given what happens later whether this actually happened, but it's still sweet. Dad takes David's chin and says he doesn't ever want David to be sad.

In the present day, David puts his hand out the window of Jeff's Jeep and strokes the air the way he did the reeds as a kid. In the driver's seat, Cunanan bugs out to Technotronic, car-dancing along to "Pump Up The Jam" and seeming legit wounded that David isn't reacting positively to yet another tone-deaf response. Later on, Cunanan is boasting through a huge mouthful of sandwich that he's "close" with Lee Miglin -- "Maybe you've heard of him?" -- and that the border won't be a problem; they'll get more than enough money from Lee to live in style in Mexico, plus he's been "moving product across" "for years" and he knows people. Who knows whether his whole drug-dealer persona had any acquaintance with reality, but it was definitely something that was out there amongst his circle. David can't with this fucker or with his sandwich, staring into the middle distance and not saying anything, at least until Cunanan glibs that David should start thinking about his "new life." Cunanan lies that he respects that David probably wants to "part ways" once they get to Mexico, "but we make such a great team? And the truth is we have no one else." Satisfied that he has now made this true of David as it is for himself, he takes another enormous bite.

Tichich returns with a warrant and the crime-scene team. Jeff's body is taken out, then unwrapped at the morgue. His clothes are cut off as the camera pans up to his…well, it's more tears and holes than face, now. Hideously on-point work by the production designer. Jeff's jeans are folded away to reveal his tattoo (actually Marvin The Martian; here, the generic alien they could get the rights to). The coroner finds Jeff's wallet, and ID, as the fellow dog-walker from earlier is telling the detectives that normally David would have Prints off the leash, so it was odd that he didn't when she last saw him. She didn't notice anything else about their demeanors, which is when Tichich gets a call on his Cornish-hen-sized flip phone that the victim is neither David nor Cunanan.

Those two are exiting a rest-stop men's room, Cunanan slinging his arm with awkwardly chummy possessiveness around David's shoulders.

David freezes up when a woman in a Benz gives them an icy look, paranoid that she recognizes him. Cunanan snorts that that's impossible, but David is insistent; she looked at him like she hated him! Cunanan flips to psycho mode and suggests going after her, running her off the road, and asking her why she looked at "my friend," "the nicest, kindest person" in the world like that. David yells at him to stop, that he promised nobody else gets hurt. "Whatever you say, David," Cunanan says primly, peeling out, and although I'm physically becoming exhausted by it and him, I have to give it to this episode: it really gives you a sense of how firmly Cunanan must have had David pinned, mentally, and how slowly and awfully the last days of his life must have gone by, how he must have wanted to scream not only for help but also in Cunanan's face that he's a striving dickwad.

As the detectives arrive on Dad Madson's doorstep, Cunanan burbles that he's "so glad" David "decided" to come with him. David doesn't dignify this version, saying through tears as he stares out the window that he keeps playing over what the cops will "find out about" him -- and he realizes he's done this his whole life, "playing over and over the moment people find out about me." Presumably this is why we saw the hunting trip.

Dad insists David didn't kill Jeff Trail. Tichich remarks that people saw him and Cunanan "calmly" walking the dog while Jeff's body was rotting at the loft, riddled with holes from a claw hammer that belongs to David.

David is upset at the prospect of his parents having to endure gossip about him in their small town. Who's "gonna buy from" Dad's shop?

Dad is continuing to deny that David is capable of this. Tichich informs him that Cunanan's friends in San Diego describe him as "reliable; intelligent. 'Generous' is a word they use." We know him, Dad says. He didn't do this. Tichich sighs that "there's a great deal you don't know about your son."

David wonders aloud if he got in the car because he was afraid Cunanan would kill him, or if he was afraid "of the disgrace." Cunanan murmurs that David knows he would never hurt David, which David rightly ignores. They stop at a roadside bar and Cunanan stashes the gun in his backpack as they head inside, where a woman and her guitar launch into an acoustic version of the Cars' "Drive." Cunanan urges David to eat something; he'll feel better. David ignores this also and gets up to pee, which Cunanan allows. "Who's gonna tell you when / it's too late?" begins the singer, and on my first pass through the episode, I was like, dang, that sounds like Aimee Mann. The camera then pans around to a medium shot, and I was not looking 100 percent at the screen but said aloud to the cat, "Wow, they got someone who even looks like Aimee Mann. What are the odds?" Well, it is Aimee Mann, it turns out, so: pretty good odds, apparently. Anyway, David's in the bathroom stall, contemplating his odds vis-à-vis breaking the window and shimmying out of it, and to my surprise, he does break out the window, then clear off the glass when nobody comes rushing in to stop him. "Who's gonna pick you up / when you fall," Aimee sings as David stares, terrified, out into the parking lot, probably thinking Cunanan's "feline intuition" will have him waiting directly under the window to apprehend David.

It doesn't. Cunanan's other defining trait, self-pity, has him marinating in the parallels between the lyrics of "Drive" and his own situation. As I've said, I respect the line that Criss has to walk here with this character, who is both a psychopath and a brat, and if the decision was taken to give the viewer some so-called aid and comfort by tipping Cunanan towards "pitiably hateful" versus "opaquely charming," I get it.

I also get…Crying Dawson.

Nobody's going to drive Cunanan anywhere except crazier, and I don't think we're intended to feel sorry for him. And I do not. David reappears, alas, and Cunanan grabs his hands across the table. David shoots him a confused look.

Another flashback, this one to David showing his father a departmental award his thesis has won. Dad's response is once again very explicitly, almost fantastically approving and warm: David put in the work, he deserves this. David then blurts that he's gay, and after a long pause, Dad asks for a moment: "I don't want to say the wrong thing." I think this is what David means when he plays the moments over and over; what I still can't quite nail down given the stylization of the dialogue in the two scenes is whether he's playing back what really happened, or revising it to make it go right. What gives me pause in this second flash…something is that it doesn't go all that well; Dad can't lie and say it doesn't matter, because "you know what I believe." Maybe David wanted to hear that Dad doesn't have a problem with it, but Dad "can't say that." What Dad can say is that he loves David more than he loves his own life. David's eyes spill over. There's no need for crying, Dad tells him, then asks why he waited to win the award to come out. David half-smiles. "Good news…bad news."

Then he wakes up in the back of the Jeep, which…to my point. And it doesn't really matter, but we'll get into that later. For now, Cunanan is nowhere around. David emerges from the car in bare feet, and you still hope, even knowing that it won't happen, that he'll just climb a tree or melt into the woods silently, get away somehow, put those hikes he took with Dad to use and beat the story. But Cunanan appears, holding the gun, and greets him happily. "You're not wearing any shoes!" He grabs David's hand and leads him back to the Jeep, breathing in the country air, like it's their third date.

At a diner, David asks if Cunanan remembers where they met -- on Market Street in San Francisco, a year and a half ago. The fancy clothes Cunanan wore! His "high-society friends"! He sent David a drink; David thought, who does that, "in real life"! Cunanan had everyone laughing! You can see where this is going to go, that David's reminiscence of admiring and envying Cunanan's wealth and sophistication has a sneering top note to it, but Cunanan is oblivious, preening at the memory of their $1000-a-night hotel suite and how he swanned to David about changing rooms three times to get the view he wanted. "Except it was all a lie," David finishes. "You've never worked for anything! It was all an act." This serves two purposes, I would say -- in the scene, there's the sense of a suicide-by-cop maneuver on David's part, a let's-just-play-our-cards attitude, and outside it for the viewer, a tiny tiny measure of justice in David at least clocking Cunanan for all his grand bullshit -- but you can imagine how Cunanan feels about it.

Cunanan, seeming really not to know: "What's wrong with you?" David asks if that's why he killed Jeff when he obviously loved Jeff -- that "he figured you out in the end."

"Took him a few years but he finally saw the real you," David adds. "And you killed him for it." Cunanan swallows his dread and makes a flirty moue, saying that if David thinks that night in San Fran was great, just wait 'til they get to Mexico. He blathers on about staying for a month in a fancy hotel, a room with a patio, telling the cute waiters they're movie stars from Los Angeles. David is disgusted: "You can't do it, can you." Cunanan's face falls: "I can't what?" "Stop."

In the car, Cunanan stares out onto the road. David is sitting with his back to the door, and asks why Cunanan sent him down to get Jeff. Cunanan doesn't want to talk about it. David snaps that he did it on purpose; he wanted David to see it, wanted to make David a part of it. He didn't lose control at all; he planned the whole thing. Cunanan whines repeatedly in a tone usually reserved for, like, getting turned down for prom or something that he doesn't want to talk about it. David keeps pushing: does he think they're outlaws together or something? "I'm nothing like you." Cunanan still won't discuss it so David grabs the wheel, grunting at him to stop the car. Cunanan whips out the gun, points it at David's chest, and wails that David needs to stop talking about the past, that they had a plan, they had a future.

He whips the car down a dirt side road, parks, and pulls David out, still ranting about the plan. David quavers that they still have a plan as Cunanan slings him onto his knees and, at gunpoint, bellows, "Convince me!" David begs for his life -- to the detriment, I'm afraid, of Cody Fern's American accent -- and describes the adventure they'll have together after they get money from Lee. Cunanan says David doesn't believe that, but David word-paints the place they'll live, and wisely throws in some details about Cunanan learning Spanish fast because he's "so smart," and how he'll help David, because he's always helped David. Cunanan is lulled by this for a moment, then raises the gun again: "It could have been true." David seems to see that he has nothing to lose, and gets up, telling Cunanan to listen to him: it's over. They have to contact the police. This has to stop. Cunanan's face is a smear of self-loathing: "Why couldn't you run away with me?" He'd have run away with Jeff, but not with Cunanan. He'd rather go to prison. "It's not real," David says, out of ways to explain. "It could have been," Cunanan mumbles. "No," David says, not willing to pretend now that it's over. "It couldn't." Cunanan slumps and starts to turn away. David, almost in disbelief, turns and runs towards the decrepit trailer that's near the Jeep. Cunanan turns back, sights the gun, and fires three times, but misses…

…and David lurches into the trailer, and locks the door of what is now the inside of the hunting cabin we saw earlier. He hears clinking, and turns to see Dad, unscrewing the thermoses and pouring coffee. David draws carefully near, and takes a cup from Dad, who smiles affably at him. David, delighted, smiles back and takes a seat. He takes a long sip of coffee and closes his eyes, and grins. What a lovely Jacob's Ladder to give this young man to climb into a sense of peaceful homecoming and acceptance, amidst the utter and pointless terror of his last moments.

Because of course David doesn't make the trailer. Cunanan shoots him in the back like the gutless shit he is. David manages to turn himself over and hold up his hands. His childhood hand strokes the reeds. Cunanan shoots him, through his hands, in the eye, and then as the sun goes down, snuggles with the body, finally able to possess him in death. Nestled on David's dead chest, his head right under David's unseeing shot-out eye, Cunanan looks at a cricket sitting on David's shirt, then gets to his feet and uncricks his neck. The camera pans up to watch him drive away, then up farther, over the grass, over David's body, over the darkening lake.

Also Available As Part Of The Epic Old-School Recaps Podcasts

Almost all readers liked this episode
What did you think?


Explore the American Crime Story forum or add a comment below.