Versace Recap: We Go Back To The Start Of Cunanan’s Murder Spree In “House By The Lake”

Credit: FX

Emmy is out this week so you are stuck with me as your recapper. Luckily for you all, she’ll be back next week.

Last week we delved further into the state of mind our killer Andrew Cunanan was in in the lead up to his final murder, that of Gianni Versace in July 1997. We met his third and fourth victims, Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin and New Jersey cemetery caretaker William Reese and saw just a few of the mistakes the FBI and local law enforcement made that could have stopped Cunanan before he hit Miami and murdered Versace, and possibly even spared William Reese. This week we move back to the start of his killing spree, heading to Minnesota and the “House by the Lake”.

The First Murder: Following a tourist bureau ad for Minneapolis, we discover that it’s April 27, 1997 and a week before the murder of Lee Miglin. Andrew is visiting for the weekend with his friend David Madson (Cody Fern). Things are a bit tense between the pair as Andrew has asked David to marry him, telling him that he is the love of his life. David refused using the fact that same-sex marriage was not legal in the US to get out of truly answering him. However, it is implied that David has actually started up a relationship with Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock) and that is the real reason for his refusal, well among other things.

Andrew has somehow cotton-on to the fact that there’s something between David and Jeff and has invited Jeff over. Jeff arrives and Andrew tells David to go and bring him up to the loft spitting out that it will “Give you a chance to talk about me”. Which they do, light-heartedly laughing about how strange Andrew is, but that they know he’s a liar. They enter the loft and see David’s dog whining, tied up to a table. David rushes over to the dog. Meanwhile Andrew has come up behind them, slams the door shut and then proceeds to bludgeon Jeff to death with a hammer, striking him 27 times in the head (and yes I screamed at the TV in shock and horror again, thank you very much Darren Criss).

Needless to say it’s a bit of a bloodbath in the loft, so Andrew takes David into the bathroom to clean them both up. After the shower, he gets out David’s collection of porno mags and sex toys, leaving them scattered over David’s bed. He also cleans up the murder scene a bit – rolling Jeff’s body up in a rug and hiding it behind a table.

Using his charm and a gun tucked into his waistband, Andrew manages to convince David not to call the cops, telling him “When the police open the door, they’ll see two suspects, not two victims,” that they’ll lock him up too, he’ll be hated for being gay, and that he can’t tell his Dad because then he’ll have to turn David in and you don’t want your Dad to have to do that. Cunanan does promise though that “No one else will get hurt as long as you’re by my side.”

The cops arrive: When David fails to show up at work the next day, they become concerned, as he never misses a day of work. A co-worker and David’s building manager knocks on his door but only hear his dog barking. Andrew and David, hearing the couple leave to go get keys to get into the loft, make a run for it. The couple come back and find the loft empty and the dead body. The cops arrive, find out David was gay, see the sex paraphernalia and make the assumption it was sex play gone wrong. It’s only on discovering that David was blonde and the murder victim was black-haired that they believe Andrew had been murdered and that David had fled. Realising they are now in the home of a suspect not a victim and without search warrants or permission to be there, the cops make a hasty retreat wanting to ensure the investigation is “by the book”, waiting for the proper paperwork and clearance to come back.

Men on the run: Having oh so calmly escaped, Andrew informs David of his plan for them to be together. He has a good friend in Chicago, Lee Miglin, who’s rich and owes Andrew some favours so would be willing to help out. They can then escape to Mexico and live the life he’s always dreamed of for them together. David meanwhile is in an obvious state of shock and fear for his life and merely acting on autopilot.

They’ve got the wrong man: The cops are back at David’s apartment and searching for clues. Jeff’s body has been taken away and they are beginning the autopsy on him when they discover that the body does not belong to Andrew Cunanan, but to Jeffrey Trail. They still believe that David is the killer and pay his parent’s a particularly hard visit, questioning them on how well do they truly know their son.

A chance for escape: Andrew continues on, apparently completely unaffected by the whole thing, planning this wonderful life with just him and David and no one else to bother them. David is starting to lose it though, fearing people are looking at him suspecting him of murder, when really its just their homophobia surfacing as the murder has not hit the news yet. They pull into bar (with a lovely cameo by Aimee Mann) and David excuses himself to the bathroom. Seeing an opportunity to escape, he smashes the bathroom window.

Back at the table Andrew is listening intently to the cover of “Drive” when he finally drops his façade and breaks down. It is such an intense moment of vulnerability from Andrew (and Criss) where you start to feel the beginning of sympathy for him. He really is just a little lost boy, wanting to be loved and thought of as someone special and extraordinary. In one of the many big mistakes David makes, instead of jumping out the window to freedom, he returns to Andrew and the table. The next morning marks another possibility of escape when David wakes alone in the car in the middle of wooded area. He jumps out and starts walking trying to make his escape, only to come across Andrew wielding his gun – if only he went in the opposite direction from the car.

The truth comes out: Later that day, Andrew and David are in a diner reminiscing about the night they met. David talks about how he so wanted to be just like Andrew: rich, suave, popular, charming, the whole world at his feet. However, he also reveals that he knows that that whole of his is all a lie. That Andrew is a master manipulator and that he just can’t stop lying. He accuses Andrew of killing Jeff because he was in love with Jeff but that not only did Jeff not return his feelings, but he had discovered just who Andrew was: a fraud.

The second murder: Following a tense car ride in which Andrew doesn’t want to talk about anything, David tries to veer them off the road and make an escape that way. He fails. He ends up off road, next to a lake pleading with Andrew for his life and a life for them together. He doesn’t succeed. Reminiscent of an earlier flashback scene where he remembers sitting in a house by the lake with his father drinking coffee after a failed hunting expedition, David dreams of opening the house door and finding his father offering him coffee once again. Instead, he’s outside the house bleeding out after Andrew shot him.

On the run again: Having spent some time cuddled up with David’s dead body, Andrew gets up, gets back in the car and heads off – presumably to Chicago and Lee Miglin.

Instant Reactions:

Where the hell is the Darren Criss I know and love??!!! He is unbelievable in embodying Cunanan. He’s charming, he’s creepy, he’s sinister, and yet he’s also oh so tragic and this episode more than any before it showed a real vulnerability and a sense that even he can see things are starting to spiral out of control. Week after week Criss blows me away with his performance and this week’s ep just had everything.

OMG David, why didn’t you escape?? There were so many opportunities – at least how it was portrayed here and given both David and Andrew are dead, we’ll never know exactly what took place over the period of time leading up to Jeff’s death to David’s death – and yet he kept going back to Andrew. Cody Fern was amazing and another great Ryan Murphy find. His ability to shut down and still be completely present in his scenes was so painful, yet great to watch.

I need more Finn Wittrock. We can’t just have that short opening scene! Luckily the preview for next week’s ep guarantees us more Jeff.

Wow another ep without the Versace’s and their storyline – I have to admit, I didn’t even realise they were missing until well after watching the ep, I was that caught up in the drama of Andrew’s story. They do return next week though.

Check out the promo for next week’s episode “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” below!

Clare Sidoti
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