The Great Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project: Season 1, Episodes 10-13

We’re rewatching all of Dawson’s Creek in honor of its twentieth anniversary. Will require some mind-numbing. Drinking game rules can be found here.

Season One, Episode 10 “Double Date”

By Janes

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We open with Dawson complaining about how much he’s pining after Jen. Did I accidentally replay the previous episode? No, the writers are just pretending that Dawson never made out with Carol and started to get over Jen, because they need him to be a weird stalker ex for this episode to work.

This episode exposes the central flaw in the Dawson/Jen relationship (aside from the gross slut-shaming and almost-grosser “animal instinct” talk): no one understands how Jen actually feels about Dawson, including the audience. And I’m not saying she’s conflicted, because that would be fine. It’s that the mythology of their relationship changes drastically in every episode. Jen broke up with him two episodes ago because she was constantly letting her chain be yanked by boys, and she needed to be by herself for a while, even though she’ll supposedly be pining after him. Then, last episode, she acts like she still has feelings for him, but also thinks breaking up was for the best since he’s in love with Joey. And now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to think she was just tired of him? And that’s before “Beauty Contest” when (spoiler alert!), she begs him to get back together again out of jealousy–and then for the rest of the show she acts like Dawson was some kind of “one that got away”? Does not compute.

Dawson is, as usual, such a creep when he *demands* to know why Jen is on a date with Cliff (like, take a hint dude). But then again, we’re not made to sympathize with Jen at all. Was she lying? Did she think she was telling the truth and then realized that she only said “I choose me” because both of her prospects were entitled assholes? That would be relatable, but since the character has no inner life to speak of, we’re basically forced to throw up our hands and say, “Bitches be cray.”

(And fun fact: in six seasons of all the characters talking their feelings to death, this point of dispute never gets resolved. I suppose they tried to settle it in season five when Dawson accuses her of never being attracted to him and (spoiler!) Jen responds by taking Dawson’s virginity, but to be fair, most of his greasy hair issues had cleared up by then.)

But, on the other hand, this episode officially introduces the best part of the series: the Pacey/Joey relationship. In just a handful of scenes, Joey has more easy banter and genuine fun than she’s had for the entire season with Dawson. Their chemistry is immediately more comfortable and adult; Joey can touch him without being explicitly flirtatious, Pacey can watch her change in the rearview mirror without being (too) creepy. Their rapport is easy and relaxed, even when they’re arguing. At times they’re almost like adults on a getting-to-know-you date.

This episode is basically a microcosm for the whole show. The plot is engineered to make us root for Dawson and Joey, but Katie and Josh’s chemistry steals the show. Dawson spends the entire episode acting like a giant douche nozzle, only for other characters to sing praises about what a “nice guy” he is. Dawson rejects Joey constantly, and then gets mad when anyone else wants to pay attention to her. James van der Beek is supposedly the star of the show, but is physically incapable of making any sort of expression with his face. Who wouldn’t want to watch this for six seasons??

  • I love that they put Joey’s refusal to kiss Pacey in Dawson’s movie in the “Previously”s. Were they just trying to telegraph as blatantly as possible that Joey would refuse to kiss him again in this episode?
  • Dawson: “Do you know it’s been two weeks since we broke up and not once has Jen made an effort to get together?” Joey: “You do know she broke up with you, right?” Amazing.
  • It’s such a classic coping mechanism to pretend you’re just upset about how the person is handling the breakup when actually you’re just mad you got dumped. I’ve done it myself. And it’s amazing how much the writers manage to make Dawson so realistically obnoxious and immature, while still convincing themselves that he’s some big hero. –Nerdy Spice
  • Jen condescendingly characterizes her request to be friends with Dawson as “What someone always says… and what someone else never wants to hear.” Yikes. Does Jen beat Dawson for this episode’s biggest douchebag?
  • Nope. In the next scene, Dawson decides to use some poor girl to make Jen jealous. [Pacey sagely calls this a high-risk, high-reward maneuver… while drinking a juice box. So adorable. –Nerdy Spice] He chooses an innocuous classmate named Mary-Beth who, incidentally, looks exactly like Hayley Atwell/Agent Carter.

    Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 8.59.57 PM.png

    I totally thought she was Agent Carter for like, a year. That’s even an Agent Carter-type face!

  • Dawson’s dad grossly asks Dawson to report on his mother’s extracurricular activities. [What a jerk. Go eat some ice cream and die, Mitch. —Nerdy Spice] It’s super inappropriate, but luckily, Dawson’s “emotionally conflicted” face looks approximately the same as his “just sat on a whoopee cushion” face, or his “reciting the state capitals in alphabetical order” face.Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 8.38.19 PM
  • Joey calls Dawson out for blatantly using Mary Beth, and then immediately takes the opportunity to make a speech about how amazing he is and how he’s “one of the good ones.” BASED ON WHAT??? So many shots.
  • “Maybe on your planet, taking an ex-girlfriend on a double date is a good idea,” Mary Beth says, “but where I come from it’s not.” I love Mary Beth! It also occurs to me that you could fill in almost ANY of Dawson’s actions into this sentence. Like, hey Dawson, maybe on your planet it’s a great idea to grow a really long fluffy head of hair and then part it straight down the middle, but where I come from it’s not. –Nerdy Spice
  • Also, what on Earth is she wearing???? Is that a–dark maroon suit with a light purple collared shirt? I get that she’s supposed to be nerdy, but this is not what nerds were wearing in the 90s. This is not what any humans were wearing ever.

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    Meet the sad, teenaged version of Willy Wonka.

  • We’re supposed to think at this point that Pacey’s feelings for Joey were completely unrequited, but that’s so obviously not true. Just look at this face Joey makes at him while they’re both wearing only blankets:Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 9.10.30 PM
  • Dawson admits to Mary-Beth that he’s using her, and Mary-Beth responds by telling him what a “nice guy” he is. Sounds about right.
  • Katie Holmes’ acting is mostly pretty great, but what the heck is she doing in this scene with Pacey in the kitchen? She looks like she’s having a seizure.giphy (7).gif
  • The best pick-up line of the night goes to Mary-Beth: ”You know what I find strange? That the words flammable and inflammable mean exactly the same thing. Isn’t that bizarre?” Chin up, Mary-Beth, you may not be able to flirt, but you clearly have a very bright future in bad stand-up. [Hey, and she knows how to use multiple polysyllabic words correctly, so she’s ahead of the gang! –Nerdy Spice]
  • “Cliff is not exactly with the women’s auxiliary” is the most extra, unnecessary way to say “Cliff is not a woman.” Who wrote this??
  • “My two best friends kissing… what could be better than that??” HA. It’s Dawson’s Creek lore that they didn’t decide Pacey/Joey were going to be a thing until later on, but if that was meant to be any kind of foreshadowing, it’s genius.
  • When Pacey leaves to kiss Joey, Dawson attempts an “intensely struggling with jealousy” look, but only manages “thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow.”Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 4.01.29 PM
  • It’s funny that Joey’s first kisses with Pacey and Dawson, respectively, were both huge, monumental shifts in all of their lives, but neither of them were actually their first kisses.
  • Pacey is completely respectful and mature when Joey doesn’t reciprocate his feelings, which is why we love him. But to be fair, he also straight-up kisses Joey without her permission, which doesn’t age super well.
  • Although to be fair, Dev totally does it on Master of None and none of the modern, very liberal audience said a thing about it. (They probably will now, though.)

Highlight: It’s hard to pick from all of the amazing Pacey/Joey banter, but this exchange stands out: Pacey: “Many people would consider you a very lucky woman.” Joey: “Many people would consider you a very deluded man.” So cute, and also the first instance of Pacey calling Joey a “woman,” as he does throughout the series, even while she’s definitely still a girl. Adorable.

Most cringeworthy moment: Pacey: “So can I kiss Joey?” Dawson: “Yeah, of course, I’m totally cool with it.” Pacey: “Okay, I’m going to go kiss her now.” Dawson: “No, wait, I’m not cool with this!” Pacey: “You’re not?” Dawson: “No, psych, I totally am.” Usually, I would say that Pacey is being unnecessarily dense by not seeing that Dawson is clearly not okay with this, but maybe he’s just sick of Dawson’s passive-aggressive bullshit, as are we all.

Most 90s soundtrack moment: “She” by Louie Says, which was also used in the Buffy episode “Reptile Boy.” Wow, the WB really didn’t let those licensing fees go to waste, did they?

Runner up: “She’s the One” by Robbie Williams plays when Dawson is all fretful about Pacey kissing Joey. Shut up, Dawson.

Most wrongly used five-dollar word: Joey calls Pacey a “remedial underachiever.” Like, I vaguely get that she’s disparaging him for being in remedial ed, but that makes no damn sense.

Drunkenness level: Just three this time: two for the various discussions of Dawson being a “nice guy” when he’s being such a heel, one for the ridiculously gratuitous and corny “snail threesome” joke.

Season One, Episode 11 “The Scare”

By Nerdy Spice

A woman's hand holds a note that says "You Are Going To DIE TONIGHT!!"

In this episode, Friday the Thirteenth approaches, and we learn that one of Dawson’s hobbies is scaring people who don’t like to be scared. Of course it is. Because everything about Dawson is on the list of Characteristics of People You Can’t Bring Anywhere. He scares Joey with various silly pranks, but meanwhile, Jen is receiving terrifying threatening calls. She thinks it’s Dawson, but finally it turns out it’s poor, stupid, sweet, jock Cliff, her new post-Dawson squeeze, who is so insecure that he’s trying to literally be Dawson in order to win Jen over.

Before this comes, though, the gang all get together for a seance–not only Dawson, Joey, and Pacey, but also Jen and Cliff, as well as a fully-grown woman (Dawson loves his thirty-something redheads!) named Ursula who they find in a convenience store with her abusive boyfriend, and who steals a bottle of wine for them. Various silly jump scares and pranks ensue–but when Joey and the rest get Dawson back with a particularly realistic stunt involving a fake dead Joey corpse, it’s at least somewhat satisfying. Finally Ursula’s crazy boyfriend shows up and nearly kills them all before reuniting with Ursula and peacing out. There’s also a serial killer on the loose in Capeside, who turns out to be the dweeby-looking man who asks Joey for directions in the beginning. Shocker.

This episode is pretty dumb–so dumb that Janes refused to even add any notes to my write-up! But I do like how at the end of the episode, the climax is Ursula’s mean boyfriend shows up trying to kill her. It turns out, very realistically, that the true threat isn’t seances and dead bodies but violent misogynist abusers.

  • At the beginning Dawson and Joey are watching I Know What You Did Last Summer, a Kevin Williamson joint. Ten shots for the show writer referencing his own stuff!
  • Dawson scares Joey by jumping out with a mask, and she rewards him with Flirtatious Tickling. Clearly he’s been getting positive reinforcement for his annoying behavior for way too long to be curable.
  • Dawson plants a snake in Jen’s backpack, and Jen declares fondly in front of Cliff that Dawson has humor. (Uh… a wiggling snake in someone’s backpack is funny now?) To which poor Cliff yells, “I have humor!” Which, kind of like “I’m a genius” or “I didn’t do it,” is one of those sentences where saying them makes them automatically seem less true. (Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote that a sense of humor is just another word for a “sense for the fitness of things,” and I think Cliff’s decision to scare Jen in this clearly ill-advised, creepy way shows that he has no humor in any sense of the word.)
  • “It’s sad. I mean, the guy is really just looking for love,” says Jen of the psycho killer–proving that she is Dawson’s true soulmate, since she is willing to forgive almost anything if it’s motivated by a desire for love, and Dawson will try to get away with almost anything by claiming it’s motivated by a desire for love.
  • Jen, quaintly, remarks that her creepy caller has called her “on a cellular.” During one call, she gets scared enough that she picks up a knife that’s still covered in vegetable bits, which does kind of make me laugh, and almost kills Grams when the latter lets herself into the house. Oh, and take ten MORE shots for a Kevin Williamson flick reference, this time, obviously, to Scream.
  • A woman is being legitimately attacked by her boyfriend in the convenience store, and Pacey asks, “Should we do something?” “Domestic squabble, back off,” says Dawson, like fuck you dude, she’s not a dish towel! Literally Dawson thinks women don’t deserve protection from their abusers. I actually think this is the worst thing he’s said so far. And he’s said some pretty gross things.
  • Dawson does intervene when Joey’s being accosted by the creepy guy who’s obviously going to turn out to be the serial killer. So if it’s a girl he thinks he owns, he’ll at least step up to protect her, but if it’s some rando, then he’s all, oh, that dude owns her, domestic squabble, no bigs.
  • Cliff is under a lot of self-induced pressure to match whatever “creative” date Dawson would’ve given Jen, and he has decided that the best way to do this is to actually take Jen to Dawson’s seance. Where they’re splitting one stolen bottle of wine amongst, now, six people. He tells Dawson it’s original because no other guy would bring their date to an ex-boyfriend’s seance. Is Cliff, like, trying to mess this up?
  • Ursula spends most of the seance screaming bloody murder and then hysterically laughing at every dumb trick Dawson pulls. Hmm, it’s almost like it’s a bad idea to hang out with someone who would steal a bottle of wine for underaged boys!
  • Joey: “Face it, Pacey. You have the worst taste in women.” Hee! Famous last words!
  • Joey saves Pacey from being attacked by said scary boyfriend (with a frying pan, no less!), returning the favor he did for her when she was almost date-raped at the beach. Aww! They’re each other’s heroes!

    Dark blurry image with Joey holding a frying pan

    It’s hard to get a good screenshot, but this is Joey wielding her weapon of choice, a frying pan, to save Pacey from the abusive boyfriend.

Highlight: I would say that the conversation between Joey and Dawson at the end, after Joey’s big prank, is actually a highlight for me. She looks so sadly, sweetly surprised when Dawson says he’d be inconsolable if she died.  It seems ridiculous and overdramatic, but being sixteen and being genuinely unsure if anyone gave a crap that you were alive is probably a memory many of us have.

Most Cringeworthy Moment: Obviously, Dawson’s apologia for domestic violence takes the prize. For the season.

Most wrongly used five-dollar word: Jen refers to the rubber snakes Dawson’s been using to scare people as “rubber appliances,” which… gives you a somewhat different image, doesn’t it? Sometimes it really is OK to use the single-syllable word for something.

Drunkenness level: Twenty, just for Kevin Williamson referencing himself.

Season One, Episode 12 “Beauty Contest”

By Janes

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Okay. Before anything else, we need to talk about Joey’s singing.

Fun fact: between Nerdy Spice and me, we’ve had at least three people independently hear that we watched/loved Dawson’s, and then immediately exclaim, “Remember when Joey sang and she was so terrible???”

Watching the performance is such a journey: at the beginning, when the song is in its lower register, you’re like, “Oh, Katie Holmes can sort of sing. That’s nice.” Then, when it gets higher at “that IIII’M talking to myself, and not to him,” you’re like, “Okay, that was shaky, but she’s not a professional.” Then at “I know that he is BLIIIND,” it’s like–oof, that was rough. And then when you get to the really high notes at the end (“The world is full of happiness that I have never KNOOOOWN”): it’s plain embarrassing. You can just hear her tell the producers, “Nope, not happening. Sorry.”

I mean, we all love us some Les Mis (the three of us once watched it on Broadway twice in one week), but why they chose to give her such a difficult song I’ll never know. Even Broadway stars get all nasal and yelly on that last high note!

Katie Holmes’ singing voice notwithstanding, this is actually a great episode. When I was twelve and watching this show for the first time, I thought the scene where Joey rejects Dawson’s proclamation of love was just the typical Dawson’s contrived melodrama–manufactured conflict so we’re a little more surprised when (spoiler!) they get together in the next episode. But re-watching it as an adult, I realized that it’s actually one of the show’s more emotionally complex and ambiguous moments.

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Because really… why does Dawson only notice Joey when she’s wearing a pretty dress and makeup? While declaring his love, Dawson does his level best to mansplain Joey’s own personality to her (Joey: “Dressing up, playing the princess? This isn’t me.” Dawson: “No, it is you.” Shut UP, Dawson), but Joey is a low-maintenance tomboy. We’ve only known her for twelve episodes at this point, but we already know it’s one of her defining characteristics. Dawson has known her for her whole life, and somehow hasn’t paid enough attention to know that she’s not the type of girl to “dress up and play the princess.” (Nor should she have to.)

In this scene, Joey is rejecting a relationship with Dawson–whom she loves–because she can tell it would involve fulfilling his romantic fantasies at the expense of her own. Far be it from me to call this show feminist, but that’s kind of rad.

This episode serves as a paradigm shift in the series, where Joey gets the power in her relationship with Dawson and she never really gives it back. Dawson finally realizes that she’s the unattainable one, not the other way around. As he should.

And most impressive of all, the writers kept this dynamic extremely consistent throughout the show and made it a key component of the Joey/Dawson/Pacey love triangle. Where Dawson tries to fit Joey into the mold of a love interest he’s created in his mind, Pacey encourages Joey to be the best and bravest version of herself. Just wait until their junior prom, when Dawson dresses Joey up in diamond earrings while Pacey admires her late mother’s “simple, elegant” bracelet (I’m welling up just thinking about it). Or until they’re in college and Pacey reminds Joey of this pageant, not as the moment that she “blossomed” physically, but as a moment that she was brave. This is good writing, guys!!

  • We open on Dawson and Joey watching a VERY APPLICABLE movie for biology class about insect sex habits. They VERY NATURALLY transition into talking about how bugs choose their mates by “instinct” while people choose based on societal standards. It’s a VERY MEANINGFUL metaphor for Dawson liking Jen over Joey (who doesn’t conform to societal standards at all). Not technically a literary reference, but 5 shots for on-the-nose metaphorical schoolwork.
  • Dawson says “pure animal instinct” and Joey gives him a lascivious look. Love the sex positivity and everything, but GROSS. (1 shot)
  • The beauty pageant is “the most archaic display of ageism, racism, and sexism known to man.” I miss sassy Joey.
  • OF COURSE Dawson is trying to neg Jen to get her back. “Let me guess, you twirled the baton.” “You’re beautiful, nobody can dispute that.” UGH. Why is Jen still hanging out with him?? [At least Pacey points out that all his comments are backhanded compliments. Go, Pacey! –Nerdy Spice.]
  • He then defends himself, saying he’s totally over her, it’s just that trying to manipulate Jen into dating him again has “evolved into a sort of bizarre hobby.” Okay, that makes it better then. (Also, bonus shot for the word “evolved.”)
  • Jen tries to be friends with Joey yet again. Joey is such an asshole, yet again. WHY WERE THEY NEVER FRIENDS. It makes my heart hurt so much. They could have been like the Rory and Paris! (Or at least the… Samantha and Charlotte? Let’s not set our sights too high.)
  • Okay, so it’s really sad that Pacey’s dad tells him “as soon as [he] wants to become an emancipated minor, [he] should just show him where to sign.” (1 shot for the black sheep talk!) But also, that verbal abuse is crazy specific.
  • It’s of course ridiculous that Joey is completely unaware of her beauty. But this line is funny: “When guys look at you, they think, ‘Wow, what a babe.’ When they look at me they think, ‘Gee, she’s really tall.’”
  • Joey says, “I wouldn’t degrade myself.” Jen responds, “One night of your life, $5000, Joey.” Not to make it sound even more degrading or anything.
  • Joey is such a good feminist this episode, and then this happens: “What, do you think a D student with a Julius Caesar haircut has a better shot than me?” Um… is that really the issue, Jo? And who are these badly coiffed girls entering beauty pageants left and right?
  • The name “Hannah von Wenning” reminds us that all of the protagonists in 2000s teen soaps were the villains of 90s teen soaps.
  • Like basically every female character on the show other than Joey and Jen, Hannah von Wenning is beautiful, popular, and rude. Why does this show think there are so many hot girls going out of their way to be mean to geeks like Pacey and Dawson? Where I grew up, the popular girls would never have bothered with this nonsense? Why would they need to be rude to me? They had already won. –Nerdy Spice
  • Pacey says they should vote Hannah Von Wenning “Miss Congeniality,” when that movie hadn’t even come out yet. We’re SO OLD guys.
  • Jen wants girlfriends! Because she’s never had any and “as far as I can tell, neither have you.” YES. BE FRIENDS SO YOU CAN TELL EACH OTHER TO STAY AWAY FROM GUYS LIKE DAWSON.
  • Dawson is somehow under the impression that Pacey entering a local beauty pageant in Capeside would be covered by “Associated Press” and “CNN,” and could maybe even be “international news.” No, no it wouldn’t. Nowadays, it could possibly be a viral video, but back then–just no.
  • Dawson, for no reason, is doing the pre-interviews for the judges. Okay then.
  • But it’s fine, because it gives Joey the opportunity to deliver her biggest “changing and evolving” speech yet, now with more venomous side-eye.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.12.47 PMSO.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.12.57 PMMUCH.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.13.59 PMANGST.Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.14.14 PM
  • We’re about to get so drunk, guys.
    • “Life goes on, Dawson. Things change.” 5 shots.
    • “Everything changes eventually.” 5 shots.
    • “People die, and they move away, and–they grow up.” 5 more shots!!
    • And the grand finale (again): “Everything changes eventually, Dawson.” 5 more shots, aaaaaaaaand we’re dead.
  • “I think you’ve got testicles of steel for doing this.” How awkward. Slash what a great HoYay! moment. (1 shot)
  • Joey comes out wearing a brown crushed velvet dress (so 90s!) and an up-do, and Dawson gets this dumbbell look on his face like he’s never seen a girl before Joey wasn’t obviously beautiful to begin with. How very She’s All That.Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 7.48.37 PM
  • Pacey gives Jen ridiculously insightful romantic advice, completely unsolicited. I love that they make Pacey WAY more emotionally intelligent (and nosier) than any 16-year-old boy would ever be, just so they can exposit every single emotion the characters are feeling for the viewer.
  • “I’ve never had to sing in front of people before, what if I suck?” Oh, Joey. Oh poor sweet Joey.
  • I totally didn’t get that Pacey’s monologue was a Braveheart reference for many years. Luckily, it didn’t matter that this joke went completely over my head, because Joshua Jackson’s charisma can carry us through anything.
  • The ditzy girl gets super excited about the winner announcement and Joey gives her the SHADIEST look:Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 8.32.42 PM
  • I really like that they twist the narrative by having the girl who’s less poised and pretty than Joey but extremely talented and smart win, so it turns out to have been almost entirely fair (at least to the girls). –Nerdy Spice
  • Dawson tells Joey that “for the first time in his life, he’s speechless.” He then proceeds to talk for LITERALLY THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES. 
  • I am NOT here for humanizing Hannah von Wenning. So boring.
  • Do you think HVW was supposed to come back? They’re investing a lot in her for a one-off character. If so, they made a good call. Abby Morgan she is not.
  • And now Jen suddenly wants Dawson back, for… reasons? Because Dawson looked at Joey for two seconds? We don’t empathize with her reasons for breaking up with him, so we don’t know why she suddenly wants him back, and it seems like she really is petty enough to just want to ruin things for Dawson and Joey.
  • And then they play Joey’s terrible singing AGAIN as a voiceover!! Make it stahpppp.

Highlight: I mean, we like to make fun, but obviously Joey singing “On My Own.” #LesMisForever.

Most cringeworthy moment: When Dawson finds out Joey entered the beauty pageant, spends a full FIVE MINUTES mocking and laughing at her, and then when she calls him out, says with righteous hurt, “I would never laugh at you.” The WORST.

Most wrongly used five-dollar word: Joey says hanging out with her won’t send Jen up the “social Richter scale.” I can just imagine the writers thinking to themselves, “What’s a much more pretentious term for ‘ladder’ that doesn’t actually mean ‘ladder’ at all?”

Runner-up: Dawson says Pacey is “blowing the gender gap wide open” by entering the beauty pageant. The gender “gap”? I can’t believe they even knew enough about feminism to be incorrectly phrasing “gender binary” or “gender essentialism,” so what in the hell are they even saying??

Most 90s soundtrack moment: There’s yet another song by Dawson’s favorite Chantal Kreviazuk (“Surrounded,” the pretty ballad that plays while Dawson proclaims his love for Joey), but the winner has to be “Small Town Trap” by Eve6: a mostly-forgotten 90s band that was named after an episode of The X-Files.

Drunkenness level: Dead! Dead! Very very dead!

Season One, Episode 13 “Decisions”

By Nerdy Spice

Joey and Dawson stare at each other in Dawson's room, right in front of the window.

In this episode, Joey and Dawson visit Joey’s dad in prison, and then Pacey takes Joey back to the prison for an emotional final confrontation with her dad; Joey tries to figure out whether she’s going to accept a scholarship to study in Paris for a semester; and Dawson tries to get over himself and ask Joey out like a human even when she’s not wearing her shiny dress. Meanwhile, Jen’s grandfather wakes from his coma and then dies ignominiously.

Yet another rumination on the show’s strange, strange use of “nice guy” to refer to Dawson: Dawson’s brilliant contribution in most of this episode is to try to discourage Joey from going to Paris for his own selfish reasons. Pacey, on the other hand, listens to Joey’s problems and inspires her to solve them herself. And, he borrows his dad’s car to drive her to the prison in the middle of the night, and then bribes the guard to let them in with money he probably can’t really spare! What a night-and-day difference.

It’s really hard to believe sometimes that the writers thought Dawson and Joey were going to end up together. Just a testament to how, if you have a damaged view of love, sometimes you accidentally write love that is an immensely realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional relationship and you accidentally write realistic friendship that looks like love.

  • Joey says of Felicity, which she and Dawson are watching, “I mean, the metaphor alone is making me nauseous.” Because, she says, everything stays the same, and cliffhangers are made up for ratings. (Clearly, this show was filmed before the age of auteur TV.)  Gee, do you think this episode’s gonna end with a cliffhanger that was designed for ratings? (OK, I actually don’t think it’s really even a cliffhanger, but they definitely milked it for maximal ratings by ending with the big long-awaited kiss.) It’s also a fitting reference, since Felicity might have been the only show whose love triangle was possibly more epic than the Dawson’s one. One shot!
  • When a camera spends more than two seconds lingering on a character who’s been in a coma for many episodes, you know they’re gonna either die or wake up. Gramps decides to double down this trope by first waking up and then dying.
  • I feel like Doug uses his sirens more often to harass people he knows than to, like, actually arrest people. He keeps lecturing Pacey about being a joke (shot!), but like, dude, do your job, maybe, and then you can start telling other people they’re jokes?
  • Apparently, as we learn, Joey’s dad was cheating on her mom with a cocktail waitress which is Very Very Bad. Why did everyone in the nineties–like well maybe not everyone but at least Joey Potter and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail–hate on cocktail waitresses so much? How many cocktail waitresses are there actually in the world? And like who cares that they’re cocktail waitresses? What’s wrong with being a cocktail waitress? Is it worse than being a regular waitress, or like is it widely known to be trashier, because that’s the vibe I get from the immensely disdainful way that “cocktail waitress” is always pronounced? At least being a cocktail waitress you probably get free booze. Joey is a regular waitress so she probably just gets free fish sticks or something. How is that better?
  • Take a shot: Joey plays the dead-mom card against her own bereaved dad, a highly advanced move.
  • Joey tries to get Dawson to have a real conversation with her, asking what he would do if she left. He actually manages to make convincing the patent lie that he would be happy for her if she left him, which he never ever would because he is way too selfish. At the motel he finally tells her he’d really miss her, and then tries to feelingsdump on her, but fails, because all he can manage to say is, “I want to figure out what we are.” Joey asks him point-blank how they do that, and he just flops on the bed all confused.
  • Rewatching this always makes me laugh when I notice how many of these things never would’ve happened if they’d had the internet: Joey and Dawson miss visiting hours when they visit the prison. When I watched this scene my first thought was, “…Why didn’t she look up the visiting hours before she came?” I think I honestly forgot that these people didn’t have Yelp. It was so much harder to find information back then! You had to look up the number of the jail, in some other town whose phone book you didn’t have… and then call the jail, and hope someone picked up, and all of that. I am millennial enough that I shudder to think of having to call people every time I wanted information.
  • Joey and Dawson somehow manage to pay for a seedy motel for the night despite not having credit cards or, you know, driver’s licenses, and Dawson asks if they’re sleeping “left to right.” Like… how does that term even make sense? Who’s first? Knowing Dawson, I guess it must be him?
  • While Dawson and Joey lie sexlessly on the bed, Joey asks him what he’s so scared of. He doesn’t know. Maybe he’s scared because even lying on his back on the pillow, his crazy helmet of hair hasn’t changed shape at all. I know I’m scared. (Let’s take a shot for Dawson’s improbable hair, y’all.)Joey and Dawson lie in a queen-sized bed, Joey facing away from Dawson on her side, Dawson with his hands clasped behind his head and his hair looking very ... tall.
  • I know we’re taking a shot every time Jen gets on her high horse about being an atheist, but she has a point when she argues that it’s a little illogical for Grams to think her prayers saved Gramps. Grams is a nurse; she presumably sees suffering every day, despite the prayers of many, many good people. Why does she think her prayers were special? And then later, Grams blissfully announces that God has a plan for everyone and prayer is only supposed to change her, not God. Which, while a perfectly valid belief, is exactly opposite to what she said before about how her prayers were responsible for waking Gramps up. But Jen points out that prayer can’t change God, which is obnoxious, so I’m still gonna say, this deserves a shot.
  • Take another shot: Joey points out to her dad that “people grow up.”
  • Katie Holmes kills it in every scene with Joey’s dad. When her dad calls her “beautiful” and she answers, “No, I’m not,” she manages to sound like a genuinely hurt and angry child, rather than just a sulky and contrarian teenager. – Janes
  • Joey’s dad keeps Dawson behind to ask about Joey, and Dawson, miraculously, manages to talk about her for at least fifteen seconds before ending with praise centered on him: she believes in him and is his best friend. It’s beautiful, while it lasts. Then, in the next scene, he again manages to have a conversation not about himself when he urges Joey to confront her real anger at her father. For Dawson, that’s major growth.
  • Pacey shows up late at night at the Ice House looking for a meal. “That was weird. For a second I was overcome with this wave of sympathy for you. It’ll pass,” Joey says drily. Hee! They have a nice little bonding moment: he asks her when he became such a loser (shot!), she reassures him, and they commiserate about fathers being weird. Aww!Joey and Pacey chat in the Ice House, with Joey giving a little smile.
  • Jen tries to get Dawson to join her pity party by claiming that she’s totally lost without her Gramps, but like… OK, not to be insensitive, but she only moved here when he was already in a coma and doesn’t seem to have come to Capeside much before that, so, really? Her tackiness quotient doubles when she complains, to the person she dumped, “I feel like I’m losing everybody.”
  • Joey, finally confronting her father at the prison, makes a bad-ass speech. She tells him he messed up by not being there, and then says, “I’m gonna be OK. No help from you.”
  • Excellent use of “Angel” on the soundtrack. Well, there’s no non-excellent use of “Angel.” One excellent way to use it is as the background of a genuinely affecting scene; another excellent way is to make a very lame scene seem moving and deep. Here it’s used in both ways: first to make Jen’s grief seem like something we should care about, and then to underscore the raw pain of Joey’s confrontation with her dad.
  • Jen lies around petting Dawson while he’s asleep, which, someone tell Jen that it’s not polite to stroke people’s faces when they’re unconscious, especially if they’ve recently rejected your romantic advances? (Although, not to victim-blame or anything, but Dawson would definitely do that too.)
  • Usually it’s to the show’s detriment that James van der Beek has a blank, vaguely confused look on his face all the time, but Jen is being so weird and creepy in this scene that it kind of works. – JanesScreen Shot 2018-01-19 at 9.31.35 AM
  • More KILLER work from the soundtrack people when “I’ll Be” plays as Joey runs to Dawson to tell him she loves him and then Dawson runs after her when she sees him kissing Jen and turns tail.
  • And just when you thought the show had reached the apex of soundtrack amazingness, here’s a lovely cover of “Bless the Broken Road” which will be recognizable to any fan, even twenty years later, as Dawson goes all around town trying to find Joey. Holy crap this episode is amazing.
  • Oh and Jen’s grandfather dies or something during this montage. It’s really not worth discussing. No one cares about Gramps.
  • In the final scene, when Dawson finally finds Joey–in his own closet–we get all the big Dawson’s tropes in quick succession. Joey says it’s time to grow up. SHOT! Then she says they’re not kids anymore. ANOTHER SHOT! Various meta-comments about how this is a cliffhanger. TWO MORE SHOTS! (There is also a sick burn: Dawson asks Joey not to leave and she says, “Why should I stay? Is there some new release at the video store I don’t know about?”)
  • Finally, it’s time for the big finish, but not without some majorly painful dialogue first: Dawson and Joey both declare that they want to be honest. Then Joey says, “Do you think we’re ready for this honesty?” Dawson says yes. Joey says, “Are you sure?” HOLY SHIT get a move on, you guys. Finally Joey asks for confirmation just enough times for the gutless Dawson to wimp out again. Just as she’s about to leave in (completely self-induced) disappointment, he pulls her back and kisses her, ending nobody’s suspense at all. Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 9.44.18 AM
  • I’m long over my Dawson/Joey shipping, but still, that through-the-window shot (see above) is beautiful and iconic. As we hear for many, many years after this, that kiss CHANGED EVERYTHING FOREVER. – Janes
  • Oh, and Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye” is playing, so, another win for the soundtrack people.

Drunkenness quotient: Eleven shots. Blackout level!

Highlight: Joey’s second conversation with her dad, when she cries and asks if he loves her. Still makes me cry! [Oh god, me too. Especially with “Angel” playing in the background. Buckets every time. – Janes]Joey and her father touch hands through the prison fence on a dark night.

Most cringeworthy moment: Jen chasing after Dawson, manipulating him into letting her spend the night, and then trying to stop him from going after Joey. Read the writing on the wall, lady. And stop pawing the poor kid (and by “kid,” I mean twenty-four-year-old man dressed like a child) while he’s asleep.

Most wrongly used five-dollar word: When Dawson asks if Joey has decided on Paris yet, Joey says she’s “still weighing it for fantasy elements,” totally casual, as if that has ever been a thing that people say.

Most 90s soundtrack moment: Too many amazing choices. We cannot pick.

Next installment here.

Previous installment here.



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