(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you’re not caught up on “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”)
“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” continues to follow the story of Andrew Cunanan in reverse, dialing back to before his murder spree to show the man’s life unraveling under the weight of his lies. Episode 6, “Descent,” show Andrew’s struggles to make people like Jeff Trail and David Madson love him. We know they won’t — and that eventually, he’ll kill them.
Trail (Finn Witrock) and Madson (Cody Fern) both show up again in this episode, in which we see how Cunanan (Darren Criss) estranged himself from the pair. Cunanan winds up ruining his friendship with Trail by sending a postcard to Trail’s father, which very nearly outs him as gay to his family. Later, Cunanan throws himself at Madson, and it’s heavily implied that Madson refused the future Cunanan wanted for the two of them because Cunanan was constantly lying about himself and his past.
Cunanan would go on to murder both of them, as seen in earlier episodes.
This episode also shows aftermath of what happened to Trail after his experiences in the Navy, which were part of Episode 5, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” That episode detailed how Trail left the Navy for fear of being outed as a gay man and dishonorably discharged. In the episode, Cunanan finds a video tape in Trail’s apartment of a Navy officer, with face hidden in shadow, giving an interview to the CBS news program “48 Hours” to discuss how the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy affects gay men in the military. As he watches, Cunanan realizes the shadowed officer is Trail.
Not everything shown in “American Crime Story” definitely happened — a lot of the show is dramatized based on information reporter Maureen Orth’s book “Vulgar Favors,” on which the show is based. But Trail’s interview with journalist Richard Schlesinger about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on “48 Hours” did really happen.
Trail’s “48 Hours” interview took place in 1993, about a year before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell became official military policy. He resigned from the Navy in 1996.
In 2017, Schlesinger wrote about the experience of meeting Trail and doing the interview.
“He chose to speak to us because he thought it was the right thing to do,” Schlesinger wrote. “He did the interview in silhouette but he was still taking a tremendous risk with his career … My colleagues and I left San Diego very impressed with Ensign Trail.”
You can Trail’s “48 Hours” interview above.