Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
By Nerdy Spice
Here we are, you guys! Right here in Capeside, Massachusetts. The pilot opens in Dawson’s sexless bed watching the greatest sexless couple of all time watch ET for the bajillionth time. Also featured in this scene is Dawson’s big-haired cheatin’ momma on the evening news.
Anyway, this episode’s big theme is that People Evolve. Joey and Dawson, Soulmates Emeritus, have been having same-bed sleepovers every Friday night for years, but Joey suddenly develops qualms because, you know, puberty, and it’s weird. Can they maintain their creepy and codependent friendship even now that they’re growing up?
Dawson’s in total denial, but when Jen Lindley arrives in her sexy little oh-so-nineties floral-print dress, there’s no denying he’s in the throes of puberty. Joey’s jealousy knows no bounds, but our soul-mated pair finally decide they will be able to maintain their stifling friendship forever when Dawson gives way too many details about his relationship with, er, Little Dawson.
Meanwhile, speaking of things that never went out of style, this episode introduces Pacey Witter to the world as a lovable goofball who almost ruins Dawson’s film shoot by squabbling with Joey (Hello, chemistry!) and then makes out with his homeroom teacher, Tamara Jacobs. (At this point I become paranoid that I am as old as Miss Jacobs and look it up and find out to my relief that I’m still closer to Joshua Jackson’s age in this pilot than to Miss Jacobs’. But if you wanna feel old, you could consider that Joshua Jackson is now 39, which makes him very close to Miss Jacobs’ age.)
But really, I actually loved rewatching this episode. It hasn’t been that long since I put on Dawson’s Creek in the background of some other activity – maybe a couple years – but watching it this closely is something I haven’t had the attention span to do for awhile. And while this show seems sillier with every passing year, there is still something just a teensy bit magical about it, too. It’s about truly regular kids: kids who wear J. Crew, who don’t drive limos or hunt murderers or make out with vampires, who live in slightly shabby houses and work their way through college and borrow their sister’s lipsticks and fall in love with each other against the backdrop of a gorgeous waterside town where they aren’t visiting on a glamorous vacation but living as unglamorous “townies.” It’s the kind of teen show no one seems to want to make anymore. Sometimes, it’s even beautiful. And then it goes right back to being silly.
Other things that actually happen in the pilot:
- Joey’s immortal declaration that Dawson has “genitalia” now, and his undeniable retort that he’s always had genitalia. Apparently Joey’s been checking out Dawson’s hand size in her spare time. (One shot.)
- It’s so funny to think that this show was considered to be sooo controversial when it first came out. The first episode is clearly trying to be daring and risqué with all of its talk of “genitalia” and euphemisms for masturbation, but compared to later shows like Gossip Girl, the characters are by and large so incredibly square. It takes literally five minutes for Dawson to hold Jen’s hand. – Janes
- I forgot exactly how terrible the Tamara plotline is. Between the ridiculous noir/seduction music that plays when Tamara comes in and the gross dialogue about The Graduate, her entire first scene is straight out of a bad porno. – Janes
- I love that Dawson considers himself a “film buff” and his favorite director is Spielberg. So very basic. – Janes
- When Dawson shows Jen his Spielberg shrine, she asks him if he’s familiar with “obsessive reality disorder.” Like, are YOU? Because that is not an actual thing. The fourth Google search result for it is literally titled “I hate Jen.”
- Joey and Bessie both describe Bodie’s food as “orgasmic,” like why would you be saying that word to your sister’s boyfriend? (Two shots for inappropriate mentions of sex.)
- HEAVY use of “Tub-Thumping.” Really. They play it like five times. (I’m using my ex-roommate’s dad’s illegally downloaded copies instead of my DVDs that made a hash of the original soundtracks, so I’m getting the genuine 1998 experience here.)
- Joey’s dad apparently trafficked more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana and that’s how he ended up in jail. Now, this CAN be done, but you guys, these people live on Cape Cod. Do they really have such a booming marijuana business that one hapless dude could get his hands on five fucking tons of marijuana?
- Joey makes this immortal face when Dawson tells Jen he’s having “climax issues.” You know. In his script.
- Dawson is wearing a polo shirt so oversized that his sleeves literally reach his elbows. Why did boys do that? Meanwhile, all of Joey’s unflattering outfits are totally back in fashion. Freaky.
- Jen tells her grandmother she will go to church if Grams says “penis.” Ears. Bleeding. Must. Stop. Listening. One shot for Jen being a way-too-aggressive atheist and one for the inappropriate mentions of penis.
- When Dawson is hitting on Jen in his bedroom, he tells her that he sees her as “a complex, vibrant heroine who ends up saving the day.” Seriously, why did she ever talk to him again after this?
- “If sex is so important, then why has Spielberg not had a sex scene in any of his movies?” Can’t argue with that logic. – Janes
- This episode started the grand tradition of showering Dawson with undeserved compliments for doing absolutely nothing: “You’re sweet, smart, you’ve got a great sense of humor, you’re cool without being really obnoxious about it. You’re very, very talented.” Pro tip, writers: it’s a bad sign for your protagonist if you need to constantly tell the audience they should like him. (Aaaaaand take a shot!) – Janes
- I never thought the idea of making out with Pacey could be so horrifying, but him describing himself as “on the verge of manhood” right before Tamara started making out with him has achieved the impossible.
- There is no evidence whatsoever in this pilot that Michelle Williams is going to turn out to be the most celebrated actor of the four. She’s not terrible, but she’s stuck with a thankless role that will only get more thankless, and … well, the potential’s hard to spot.
- Dawson announces loudly that he resents everyone else focusing so much on sex. Someone’s cranky because of his climax issues, I guess. Two shots for bringing up sex while supposedly asking everyone else not to.
Jen’s hair. Har, har.
Obviously a big highlight is Joey and Pacey adorably bickering on set. But I have to say that the scene where Dawson and Jen sit out on a pier at sunset and shyly make friends is unexpectedly lovely.
Most Cringe-worthy moment:
“Usually in the morning, with Katie Couric” – Dawson’s ultra-Freudian masturbation habits. No, I’m sorry, his “walking the dog” habits. No contest there – combine the gross image with the fact that his mom is also a blonde news anchor, and this is probably the most cringe-worthy moment of the entire show.
[Fun fact, in case that weren’t skin-crawling enough: Katie Holmes performed this scene for her audition tape. With her MOTHER reading for Dawson. – Janes]
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
In addition to the “obsessive reality disorder” nonsense, Dawson says he and Joey should be able to stay friends despite any “mounting sexual theoretics.” First of all: “mounting”? Dirty. And second of all: WTF DOES THAT EVEN MEAN??
Drunkenness level: Ten: the nine shots noted above, plus the various discussions of evoooolving in the first scene.
Season 1, Episode 2 “Dance”
“Dance” establishes several things: 1) Dawson is the worst kind of Nice Guy; 2) Feisty Joey is the saving grace of the pre-P/J seasons; and 3) Scott Foley is a national treasure.
In this episode, Jen agrees to go the homecoming dance with Cliff, played by none other than Scott Foley, the fresh-faced, high-cheekboned loser of about a thousand nineties TV love triangles (who is currently playing second-fiddle in Scandal’s love triangle, so I guess that’s just his life now). Dawson, who has not even bothered to ask Jen on a date yet, naturally has a meltdown, pouts that he’s being friend-zoned, and then drags Joey to the dance only to passive-aggressively guilt Jen for (gasp!) going to a dance with another guy while she’s totally single. Finally, since the term “friend-zoned” hasn’t been invented yet, Dawson melodramatically whines to Jen that he doesn’t want to be the guy she tells her “boy adventures” to, he wants to “be [her] boy adventure. EW. ALL THE EW.
And yet, this episode will somehow go down as one of the most self-aware, mature episodes in Dawson’s Creek history, mostly because Joey is there to mercilessly make fun of Dawson’s teenage white boy narcissism. When he blusters that it was “thoughtless” of Jen to casually tell him that she was going to the dance with Cliff, Joey–who actually hates Jen–rolls her eyes and snarks, “Completely thoughtless.” And when Dawson goes on a ridiculous fantasy tirade about Jen admiring Cliff’s superior biceps and kissing him goodnight, Katie Holmes’ delivery of the line, “You’re so dramatic,” is absolutely priceless. The writers don’t ever seem to understand exactly how insufferable Dawson is, but at least they come to understand that Joey is the real star of the show.
- Even when Joey is gagging at the thought of kissing Pacey, they still have more chemistry than Joey and Dawson. Or Dawson and Jen. Or anyone else in this show, or any other show, really.
- Re: Joey’s “leather straps and Crisco” comment–far be it from me to agree with Dawson, but it took me YEARS to get the Crisco. Even now I’m just like “… do people really use Crisco as lube? Is that even safe?”
- Joey declares Pacey “un-kissworthy,” and Dawson declares himself a “strapping young man,” and I really don’t know which one is a less fitting description. – Nerdy Spice
- Dawson says at one point, “I can only hope that your [Joey’s] lips find Pacey’s.” Just you wait, Dawson, just you wait.
- Dawson wants to kill off Joey’s character in the first act of his movie, like Drew Barrymore in Scream, and Joey snarks, “A rip-off of a rip-off.” I see what you did there, Kevin Williamson. Everyone take a shot!
- In the age-old nineties tradition of lesson plans coincidentally relating to the characters’ lives (take a shot!), Tamara over-identifies with Catherine while teaching Wuthering Heights. And in the age-old tradition of Dawson’s Creek name-checking books the writers clearly haven’t read, Tamara says Heathcliff and Catherine should never have been together (sure, fine), because Heathcliff was “basically a decent guy who had a lot to learn about life.” NOPE. ALL THE SHOTS.
- Jen and Joey have a cute moment (“nice breasts” comment notwithstanding) where it becomes clear that they were supposed to have a bona fide female friendship on this show. What happened??
- Dawson’s dad teaches Dawson to make out–by having him practice on a Joey mannequin head. Katie Holmes manages to be charming when she looks on wistfully from the top of the stairs, but the scene as a whole is pretty much as horrifying as it sounds.
- Dawson practices kissing on the Joey face, and his dad pronounces him a good kisser. How would he know that? – Nerdy Spice
- A rare intentionally hilarious moment: Cliff says his insipid football movie, “Helmets of Glory” is autobiographical, so for anyone with any questions, “I was there, I lived it. Come talk to me.” LOL.
- “I’m the one who should be kissing her, not some J. Crew ad,” declares Dawson, who literally starred in a J. Crew ad that very same year. – Nerdy Spice
- This town has a salt water taffy food cart?! I WANT TO GO TO THERE. – Nerdy Spice
- Joey says that “in some cultures, what [Jen and Cliff] are doing is known as foreplay” and they’re literally ten thousand feet from each other. It looks like a religious instructional video about leaving room for Jesus.
- Joey actually says, “This is embarrassing. Let’s blow.” I miss 90’s slang.
- “You’re the sea creature from your own movie.” It’s a METAPHOR, see? They’re soooooo deep.
Most cringe-worthy moment:
The mannequin kissing scene was pretty fucking weird. But the “boy adventure” thing?–I can’t.
Most nineties soundtrack moment:
Dawson and Jen dance to “You Don’t Know Me” by Jann Arden, while Joey watches sadly from afar. This might be the most quintessential Dawson’s Creek love triangle shot of all time (until the real love triangle comes along, that is).
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
“While you sit here pontificating, the USS Jenny is sailing further out to sea.” For once in his God-given life, Dawson wasn’t even talking, let alone pontificating.
This was a rough one. We’re at 16 shots: one for Joey using her dead mom to guilt Gale for cheating, five shots for the stunningly incorrect Wuthering Heights reference, and a whopping 10 for the masturbatory Scream reference.
Season 1, Episode 3 “Kiss”
By Nerdy Spice
In this episode, Dawson creates a giant buttload of drama about his first kiss with Jen, which he’s convinced has to be as magical as From Here To Eternity. He ends up bringing Jen out to admittedly beautiful secluded ruins where he’s been filming his movie, and tries to leave the cameras rolling while they kiss so he can enjoy his perfectly choreographed moment later. She catches him and gives him hell for it, although not as much hell as he deserved for that complete creeper move.
Meanwhile, Joey 100% beats Dawson to the first kiss when she meets a rich out-of-town visitor who doesn’t realize Joey’s a “townie.” His name is Anderson, which is such a perfect rich-kid name [Not just Anderson–Anderson CRAWFORD – Janes]; she claims her name is Deborah Carson and has to involve Jen, an unwilling Dawson, and even Bodie in her lie to keep the kid from realizing that she’s a townie. He eventually figures it out when she namedrops a fancy French restaurant completely incorrectly, but he kisses her in the moonlight anyway.
Tamara offers to tutor Pacey late at night at the school because she is the stupidest woman in the world and he’s about to fail out of English. Then they steal up to the same secluded pond to do some kissin’ of their own. Uh-oh.
- Dawson, the Boredom Fairy, lectures everyone in his film class on dramatic tension while completely killing the dramatic tension in the episode. At which point, Cliff proves once again that Jen should have picked him by being mature enough to take a good suggestion from his obnoxious romantic rival.
- “Do you know how difficult it is to fail? This has taken a considerable amount of work and energy,” a roguish Pacey brags when Tamara tells him he’s failing his classes, proving that he is already the wittiest character.
- Joey gets really offended by Anderson’s little joke about wanting “no applause” when she catches him playing his violin. Why is she so offended? Is she just permanently offended?
- In case you didn’t already know Dawson was the worst, he makes a homophobic joke about football players’ communal showers right in the middle of the shoot.
- Tamara offers Pacey “positive reinforcement” if he gets his quiz right. EWWWWWW.
- I totally crack up when Joey decides to give Anderson a fake name, “Deborah Carr…son.” Like, if she says her name is Josephine he’s going to magically know she’s not rich, so her only other option is to use the slightly-modified name of a famous actress?
- Joey shows up to hang out on Anderson’s boat and it turns out she has, in the space of two episodes, apparently learned to put on lipstick on her own, without Bessie’s help. Aww, they grow up so fast! (Oh, I’m sorry, I meant “evolve,” Joey’s favorite word.)
- Jen calls Dawson a “real director.” Vom.
- It’s really cute how Jen picks up on Joey’s Big Lie and smoothly helps her out. Meanwhile Dawson the idiot asks MULTIPLE TIMES “What’s going on” and “Who’s Deb?” Way to be cool, Dawson.
- You know who else is cool about the lie? Bodie 2.0. It’s a very cute moment that makes me wish we’d seen more of Obi Ndefo, but you can only expect so much from a show that re-cast a black man after the pilot and just hoped no one would notice. – Janes
- Tamara gets all mad when Pacey talks about the fact that they’re having a gross teacher-student affair in the middle of school. Someone needs to like, inform Tamara that if you’re going to get romantically involved with a child, they’re going to do things like have a startling lack of sense of when it’s appropriate to discuss said squicky romantic involvement, and you can’t get mad, because they are A CHILD. [Not to mention that she literally starts stripping down in the middle of a classroom. Even after school hours, that’s probably a little bit riskier. – Janes]
- There’s some fabulous scenery in this episode—the weed-strewn, remote beach where Anderson and “Deborah” almost have their From Here to Eternity moment, and the remote fountain, surrounded by statues and ducks and trees, where Dawson and Jen have their moonlit film shoot.
- Dawson gives Tamara some decent competition for Creep of the Week when he tries to kiss Jen while secretly filming it. Gross. She tells him he tries too hard, which, like, yes, that’s true, but the real problem is that he FILMS PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
- Today in terrible Dawson pick-up lines: “It would be a shame to waste all of this great production design.” Sexy. – Janes
- Adding to the list of People Who Have More Chill Than Dawson, Anderson clearly figures out Joey’s lying about being rich and kindly blows right by it, sweetly asking her to call him anyway and not insisting on getting her (non-212) number.
- A lot of the soundtrack game has been wonderfully on point, but playing a song called “Electricity” while Dawson kisses anyone is a laughable choice.
Pacey and Joey are super flirtatious as they tease each other about their crushes. Pacey orders a dozen oysters to seduce his nameless date and Joey snarks, “Who’s the lucky farm animal?” They are too cute.
Most Cringe-Worthy Moment
Tamara calls Pacey’s bluff about wanting to make out in school by pretending she wants to take him right there on her desk. She goes as far as unbuttoning his blouse while poor Pacey, embarrassed and terrified, actually looks away. Like, are you proud of yourself, forty-year-old lady, for using your sexuality to intimidate a fifteen-year-old boy who’s flirting with you? She is justly punished for her horrible joke when she realizes he really is a virgin and figures out momentarily how gross she’s actually being (although not enough to actually stop).
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Joey makes a joke about movies selling you the idea that “Brad Pitt or Sandra Bullock will come and sweep you off your feet,” and when Dawson makes fun of her for liking Brad Pitt, she says, “I don’t, it’s an analogy.” No, no it’s not.
Most nineties soundtrack moment:
Anderson Crawford (hee) and Joey kiss to the song “I’ll Remember You” by Sophie Zelmani, a 90s TV staple which also played in the episode when Buffy and Angel kiss for the first time.
Four, including one shot for all the meta-references to From Here to Eternity, one for Pacey inappropriately bringing up whips with his teacher that he’s sleeping with, one for Dawson randomly accusing Jen of getting a part in Cliff’s play via “couch,” and one for Dawson inappropriately filming his own first kiss.
Next installment here.