American Crime Story
As we learn more about Andrew Cunanan in this episode, I have a very serious question: Is it considered skinny dipping if he’s still wearing goggles? I find it very curious that Andrew swans around this big, expensive home in La Jolla, a wealthy suburb of San Diego, and dives into the pool overlooking the ocean in his birthday suit, but takes time out to put on some reflective goggles that make him look like a figure in a David Hockney painting as he emerges from the water.
All joking aside, we all knew this wasn’t Andrew’s house. Instead, it belongs to a wealthy older gay gentleman named Norman. Not only is Norman rich and willing to keep Andrew in the manner in which he’s become accustomed, he’s also rather handsome. And he also hasn’t made Andrew put out in three months, either. This is the easiest salary a rent boy like Andrew has ever drawn.
It’s the day of Andrew’s big birthday party and we learn a number of things very quickly. First of all, he is deeply disliked by Norman’s friends, a set of old queens with the vicious tongues right out of Boys in the Band (now back on Broadway!) because they think that Andrew is only interested in Norman for his money. Gil even reminds Andrew that he is nothing more than Norman’s employee, something that his fragile ego can hardly bear to grapple with.
The other thing we learn is that he’s willing to enlist his closest friends in his lies. He tells his friend Lizzie that she has to help him convince David, who is coming from Minneapolis just for the party, that he can afford this grand house all on his own. When Jeff shows up for the party, seemingly one of Andrew’s only actual friends, Andrew forces him to wear fancier shoes, lie about his job, and even gives him a fake present to pretend he brought. He wants David to think that he has really great friends, even if he has to say, “Versace doesn’t make shoes,” under his breath when Jeff hands him the box. (Wrapped in Tiffany blue, of course.)
Yes, this whole party is just to impress David. Andrew even blows off Lee Miglin, who could have been another giant source of income if he were really sick of Norman, but instead he’s trying to chase his love for David. “He’s a home,” Andrew tells Lizzie about him. “He’s a yard and a family and picking kids up from school. He’s a future and up until now I’ve only dated the past.” The problem is that, as soon as David shows up at the party, he’s giving off major “I’m just not that into you” vibes. He’s flirting with Jeff right in front of Andrew, wondering where he’s going to sleep in the house (because he obviously won’t be sleeping with Andrew), and just generally treating him the way he would any friend.
The funny thing about Andrew is that he doesn’t see how flimsy his lies really are. They’re like a pointillistic painting: From far away it all makes sense, but when you give it even the slightest bit of scrutiny, you realize how it doesn’t all quite fit together. Everyone knows it, including Jeff, Lizzie, David, and certainly Norman. I don’t think Norman really needed to hire an investigator to find out that Andrew isn’t who he says he is, but he did anyway. He finds out that Andrew is poor and lived in a shitty condo, that he dropped out of state school after only one year, and he used to work in a drug store.
What’s amazing is that these people are always trying to save Andrew. Just as David did in Minneapolis, Norman also offers to help him. Andrew approaches Norman and tells him that since he cost him the love of David, he wants more money, a fancy car, and to be written into the will as Norman’s sole heir. Norman says that he will do that, but only if Andrew treats their relationship like a real partnership, not like he’s doing Norman some huge favor. He also offers to keep paying Andrew, set him up at a university, and pay for his degree. It’s a generous offer, but Andrew would rather continue living in his privileged fantasy than actually have to work hard.
Norman asks specifically about that aversion to hard work and earning the luxurious life that he craves. “It’s just so ordinary,” Andrew whines, before smashing the table, walking out on Norman, and going to live in a seedy condo that looks like it’s somewhere very close to the airport. (Why are all the worst places to live always near the airport?)
While he’s there, we learn that Andrew sent a postcard to Jeff’s father trying to out him as some kind of threat. I never entirely understood what this gambit was all about. Is he trying to extort Jeff by saying he’ll out him to his parents? Jeff doesn’t have any money. During this exchange, we also learn that Jeff is moving to Minneapolis, possibly to be closer to David.
Andrew freaks out and invites David on a last-minute vacation to Los Angeles, where he says he’s hard at work on a movie. But David sees right through all of Andrew’s lies because Andrew doesn’t behave like an actual rich person. Real rich people never talk about “five-star hotels,” they just go and stay in them. A real rich person would never throw his keys at the valet. That’s just something that people do in movies, like running into the street and shouting, “Taxi!” Andrew is always projecting what he really is, an insecure kid playing rich.
When David shows up, he’s uncomfortable with all of Andrew’s very staged displays of wealth and says he’s not interested in that world. Not only are Andrew’s attempts transparently fake, they’re also not the right way to impress someone like David. He gets one final chance to be authentic when David takes off his jacket and clears the table and asks Andrew to tell him about his real life. Instead, Andrew just manufactures more lies about his parents and his mother bringing him lobster dinners at boarding school. You can see David resign himself to the fact that Andrew will never change. “We had a great time in San Francisco,” David tells Andrew, blowing him off. “One great night. Maybe there was a chance, but … I have a feeling you don’t have many great nights with people. So when you do, it feels life-changing.” Even when trying to let him down gently, David is still trying to help. Andrew really does prey on the nicest guys.
After that failure, Andrew gets into injecting crystal and we see how life-altering it is. He imagines himself with Versace, but even then Versace doesn’t behave like a real person, he’s just a receptacle for Andrew’s bitching. He says that he’s the most generous person in the world and he’s given everything to the people he loves, but he doesn’t do it out of generosity. He does it so that he’ll have love and acceptance. Andrew never realizes it’s something he can’t buy.
Quickly, we find out where all of his pathology comes from. When Andrew hits rock bottom and runs out of money thanks to his crystal habit, he goes to see his mother in her shabby apartment and she gives him a sponge bath, which is really, really weird. It’s like Bates Motel weird. As his mother launches into a story about running into a woman in the supermarket, we realize that Andrew is just like his mother. She says that family is everything, that she gave it all up for him, that she just wants him to be something great so that she can share in his glory.
In a rare vulnerable moment, Andrew says that he’s unhappy. He wants to be honest with the one person who truly understands him and where he comes from. But his mother doesn’t want to hear it. She wants to believe in the lie that she created. She wants her son to be extraordinary, even if it’s fake. With that, she seals her son’s fate. He gets in his car and heads off to Minneapolis, starting a spree that will eventually lead to the murder we’ve been working backward from all season.