Season 2, Episode 4 “Tamara’s Return”
So… I was definitely dreading recapping this episode. The worst thing to happen to the show (which the creator gamely stands by to this day) is back. I know the term “witch” is being reclaimed by feminists right now and I love it, but by the end of this episode I’m just like “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!”
I love that the writers have so little awareness of what their viewers watch the show for. I’d bet money that there wasn’t one viewer who was wondering, “What’s Tamara up to? Is she still teaching children after committing a felony? Will she and Pacey ever have one last statutory rape session? (Or, as they both grossly call it this episode, ‘teaching’ session?)”
I want to say that this never would have happened now, in the age of social media, when thousands of viewers could inundate the writers and producers with messages like, “wut the fuk are you doing i will kill you”. But, if that were true, we wouldn’t still have B613 in our lives, would we?
Luckily, this episode isn’t completely intolerable, mostly as a result of early-Jack’s dorky charm, Joey’s burgeoning interest in art, and the insightful elucidation of the incompatibilities between Dawson and Joey. The extremely sudsy season finale makes a big stink about Dawson seeing things in black-and-white while Joey sees things in grey, but this episode, in which Dawson can’t understand Joey’s passion for “unresolved” visual art, does a much better job of demonstrating Dawson’s unsustainably narrow worldview. There’s nothing more frustrating than when your partner simply doesn’t “get” something you’re passionate about (I once had an ex who wouldn’t watch Gilmore Girls!!), and this episode clearly shows why Joey eventually outgrows him. We like to joke about how basic Dawson’s Spielberg obsession is, but in all seriousness, if he can’t empathize with art that is any more ambiguous than E.T., then he could never fit with a cynical and nuanced thinker like Joey.
- Joey calls Dawson’s cheesy lines “unbearably sexy.” — GROSS! (Take a shot!)
- Pacey summarizes all of Dawson and Joey’s spats: Dawson is being “self-absorbed” and Joey’s being “sarcastic and oversensitive.” Hee!
- (But also–when has Joey ever been “oversensitive” about anything other than rubber snakes? Dislike.)
- Um… so… I definitely thought Jarvis was a real artist for many years, and actually kind of liked that abstract expressionist painting, “Winter Mist.” Turns out, he is decidedly not real, and “Winter Mist” is just a piece of prop art. Here’s an interesting article from The Awl about how Dawson’s turned a piece of prop art into fictional canon.
- Dawson: “I like my art with a verdict.” So incredibly basic. If there’s ever a reunion, I’ll bet you ten dollars that Spielberg has gotten too artsy for him and his new favorite director is James Cameron.
- And now Andie crashed her car again and Pacey calls her the “world’s worst driver”?? Why are they giving Pacey all the sexist lines all of a sudden?
- When Pacey and Tamara finally bump into each other, he stammers that he was “her teacher,” and then corrects himself. That’s called SUBTEXT, people. Remember that word, because it will become important later.
- This statutory-rape-via-well-read-fisherman plot line needs to go. Even the beautiful Joe Flanigan of Stargate: Atlantis fame can’t save it.
- Speaking of which, Jen scolds Abby that this guy is “old enough to be [her] father.” They keep talking about Joe Flanigan like he’s a distinguished old man, but he’s only 31 here! Only ten years older than the Beek!
- Why is Jen walking around the dock for hours without having figured out why they’re doing it? (Or at least asking Abby?) How dumb is she? – Nerdy Spice
- It’s RIDICULOUS that Andie randomly confides in Dawson about having a crush on Pacey, even for this show. He’s Pacey’s best friend–AKA the last person she would ever tell.
- I actually don’t think calling Joey’s art a “hobby” is the worst thing Dawson has ever said, especially since Joey hasn’t told him how passionate she is about it. That being said, his condescending tone throughout this conversation makes me want to smack him in the face.
- LOL at Tamara and Pacey calling their conversation a classic “Pinter moment” in which “everything is said in silence”–and then proceed to talk about them having a Pinter moment for the next two minutes. I’m not sure they’re getting this concept. (5 shots!!)
- Why is Tamara openly telling Mitch she fucked her student? (His son’s best friend, no less!) Has she no shame at all?? (1 shot!)
- I always skip any scenes with Tamara in them, so I totally forgot that there was this weird flirtation thing between Tamara and Mitch. I feel like the writers were actually going to make this a thing, and then realized it was too crass, even for them.
- Also–how does a random schoolteacher who moved to Capeside from New York have a whole warehouse that she owns in Capeside, when she only lived there for one year? – Nerdy Spice
- I know Kevin Williamson only brought Jack in as Joey’s love interest so he could sneak in the groundbreaking and amazing coming-out storyline later, but… I kind of love them together at this point. He’s supportive of her art!!
- Joey is clearly not having any of Dawson right now, so Dawson asks Joey, “What’s changed?” Joey answers: “That’s the point, Dawson! Nothing’s changed. You, me, we’re exactly the way we’ve always been and I am so tired of it!” Um, YES. Also–take a shot for growing up talk!
- Oh, God, here we go. Pacey says Pinter is the “king of subtext,” and “we’re big fans of that in Capeside.” UM… are you though? Because I don’t think there has been one moment in the entire series in which a character didn’t tell everyone around them how they felt about everything at any given time. (5 shots!)
- Joshua Jackson can have chemistry with anyone, so Pacey and Tamara’s kiss is like… kind of sexy? But still–ew, stahp!
- Pacey tries his hand at subtext, and conveys that he misses Tamara by telling her that he “misses… her teaching.” Swing and a miss. (5 more shots.)
- Thank goodness she didn’t see Pacey with his frosted tips because then this whole “I’m grown up now” speech would NOT have been very convincing. – Nerdy Spice
- Conspiracy theory: I hate the Tamara and Pacey storyline with every fiber of my being, but maybe this callback was a deliberate and savvy move on the writers’ part. How else would they get us to momentarily root for the utterly chemistry-less pairing of Andie and Pacey?
Highlight: I love the interchange between Joey and Laura, the successful businesswoman who turns her on to
Jarvis art, in which Joey tells her in her usual faux-tough way that her mother was an artist before she died. The scene manages to be sweet and vulnerable without being cloying, and there’s great acting all around. Plus, bonus points for passing the Bechdel test!
Most cringeworthy moment: Oof, too many to count when Tamara is around. But aside from the kiss and the random eye-fuck with Mitch, it would have to be Pacey greeting the news that Andie likes him with: “But Andie’s a girl. Tamara…is a woman.” Yuck, cringe. Right up there with “boy on the verge of manhood.” *shudder*
Most wrongly used five-dollar word: I mean… obviously “subtext,” considering that Tamara and Pacey kept saying that they were going to leave everything subtextual, while explicitly saying over and over exactly what they were being subtextual about. I’m sure the writers thought that was “meta,” but it’s just kind of hilarious.
Also, Pacey keeps calling it “subtexts,” in the plural. So cute. – Nerdy Spice
Most 90s soundtrack moment: “Harvest Moon” by Donna Lewis, of Anastasia fame.
Drunkenness level: Pinter really did us in this time–17 shots.
Season 2, Episode 5 “Full Moon Rising”
By Nerdy Spice
In this season, there can’t be a Halloween episode because we’re in the spring semester. But there can still be a full moon episode!
We ended the last episode on an uncertain note for our inextricably intertwined couple, but in this episode, things are all too certain. Joey is convinced that full moons make people do crazy things, and whaddaya know, she ends up being kissed by Jack under the full moon. Dawson doesn’t know yet, but he will. Oh, he will.
Jen and Abby are still on the outs because Vincent The Hunky Fisherman dared to find Jen attractive, so Jen feels perfectly free to go out with Vincent. Unfortunately, he decides to get all up in her grill and try to date rape her after their nice evening. It gets a little scary, until she yells that she’s sixteen and he gets off of her (which is so weird but so true to life, that he thought he could get away with date raping an adult woman because it would be his word against hers, and only stopped because age is a fact even male privilege can’t get around). Luckily Grams, in a predictable yet satisfying moment, arrives just in time to threaten his life if he doesn’t get off her granddaughter. Go, Grams! Only any goodwill she earns with this is immediately erased when she finds a crying Jen on the porch and blames her for the whole thing. She parts with, “Have you no respect for yourself?” Which is ironic, because Jen showed a great deal of respect for herself by drawing boundaries with a man who didn’t respect her.
Pacey and Andie decide to have their first date, but here’s the one problem with dating a space case like Pacey: Sometimes he forgets where you’re supposed to meet on your date, and he shows up to your house instead and gets an earful from your delusional mom. So Pacey learns that Andie has a dead brother, and her mother thinks the brother is still alive. After Andie confesses everything, she and Pacey bond or something. (Honestly I don’t care. Y’all know we’re just waiting for Pacey and Joey to have scenes together.)
Meanwhile, Gail and Mitch provide the week’s rations of irrational and embarrassing behavior. The two of them create so much drama about their open relationship that even the terminally obtuse Dawson eventually figures it out. Then they spend an evening going completely bananas: Gail decides to have a “work dinner” where she wears a dress that belongs in a Halloween costume store with the label “Sexy Widow” and plies her male colleague with wine in her own living room on this teeeny tiny loveseat (with her legs crossed towards him, which, we all know what that means), and Mitch decides to get hot and heavy with the blueprints of the property that Tamara the out-of-work high school teacher supposedly owns and is selling, and which he wants to turn into a restaurant. [Ugh, I forgot that “Tamara’s Return” wasn’t actually her last episode. DIE!! – Janes]
When they run into each other in the kitchen, Gail gets nasty about Mitch’s restaurant dreams and then accuses him of having a Thursday-night affair with Tamara. Tamara and the reporter can totally hear the whole thing, too. AWKWARD. To complete the awkwardness, Dawson storms in, nostrils aflare, to slutshame them both for experimenting (badly) with non-monogamy, and it’s pretty much a huge shitshow. Why Gail does what she does is probably the biggest mystery of season 2, even more mysterious than Jen’s haircut and the fact that two women are interested in Dawson Leery.
- After spouting some pseudoscience about full moons at Dawson, Joey claims she’s not superstitious. I would claim she’s at least a little stitious.
- Meanwhile, Andie sails right into the video store, where Pacey, like the consummate professional he is, is watching softcore on the store’s VCR. He admits to Andie that it’s “Jacuzzi Floozies.” Heh. Andie says they should all have the same title: “Women Pacey will never do.”
- OK, Jacuzzi Floozies aside though, Pacey asks Andie out on a date that night by just saying outright that they should go on a date. That’s so mature, you guys! Most boys that age are all like, heyyyyy, wanna hang out? (At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who actually had dates at sixteen, which I did not.)
- Pacey is wearing a giant t-shirt that would fit a 239-pound man, underneath what apepars to be a costume magician vest, with exactly two slightly asymmetrical pieces of flair pinned on it. Why? But also, WHY?
- Abby shows up to make nice with Jen and shoplifts a whole bunch of crap from the store. (Yeah Urban Decay! I am wearing their eyeliner right now!) When she finds out about Vincent she loses her shit again so Jen slaps her. Violence is wrong and all, but… you go girl!
- When Gail describes her awkward work dinner, Mitch gets all pissy and says that sounds like a “Thursday night excursion.” Poor Dawson is like, what is Thursday night? These people are HORRIBLE at hiding their weird sex problems from their kid.
- Abby’s all mad about Jen’s slapping her. Jen: “Need I remind you that in the past two days you have called me a bitch, a slut, and a loser?” Abby: “Yeah, but I would never hit you!” Hee.
- So I’ve already described how COMPLETELY UNREASONABLE Gail is with this so-called work dinner. But also, when the doorbell rings in the middle of it, she TOUCHES THIS GUY’S LEG when she gets up to answer the door. I just want to say that I am the only woman on a team with eleven dudes and I have never even once touched any of their legs. It’s REALLY not that hard to avoid.
- Joey and Jack are stuck at the Ice House because they have one customer who won’t leave. Joey, who was freaking out last week that Dawson was the only person who inspired her, has decided to start drawing said customer. That’s mildly creepy. Her super-90s half-back hair is so fetch, though.
- Jack asks Joey why she’s so angry. She blames it on the full moon again (WUT), but Jack says no, he means all the time. Heh!
- Classism alert! Jen is tactlessly shocked that Vincent wants to be a lawyer.
- I feel like Joey loves to have sea creature disasters with her nascent love interests; she discovers that the lobster tank pump is broken and she and Jack have to work together to put the lobsters on ice, while bantering a little bit. (In season one we had Joey and Pacey losing the snails from their extra-credit science project.)
- Andie is wearing a dress that has inexplicably has black contrast piping right across the lower right third of the boobs. Should we just chalk this up to the full moon too?
- After their date Jen and Vincent go back to Jen’s house and start telling each other saucy stories–except by “saucy,” I mean “typical nineties transphobic story about a straight dude who accidentally hooks up with a trans woman.” Why did TV writers ALWAYS think this was some kind of hilariously extreme situation that would make a great joke? God.
- I like how Abby shows up to Dawson’s bedroom to spy on Jen making out with Vincent, and Dawson is completely unable to muster enough force of personality to kick her out. But it gets even worse: Abby tries to seduce him. Apparently the desire for revenge is stronger in her than her repulsion for Dawson. [I mean, respect. That’s commitment. – Janes]
- Over at the Ice House, the power has gone out, but Jack and Joey’s last customer helpfully suggests unplugging it and then plugging it back in. He could have a great second career as a customer support person for Dell.
- Left alone with his dad, Dawson has to watch his father burst into actual sobbing tears. It’s almost enough to make you forget what an ass Mitch has been.
- Grams finds a teary Jen outside on the porch and yells at her. More God stuff (shot!) She insists she had it under control, but Grams won’t listen to her and accuses her of being disrespectful and degrading herself. Ew. Grams really improved in later years, but this is gross.
- Dawson misses out on the chance to hear about how Jack kissed Joey in a way that might not have broken them up because when she starts to tell him about it, he just says he doesn’t want to talk, he just wants to stare at her face. Girlfriends, like Victorian children, should be seen and not heard.
- Then he mansplains to Joey that you can see a man in the moon, and Joey makes a nineties-style stab at feminism by claiming it’s a woman in the moon.
- Pensive ending montage! I love those. As Joey cradles Dawson, Pacey cradles Andie, Jen cries on her porch, and Jack stares at a napkin note from a Magical Old Man Customer, Jewel croons in the background. This show is… a perfect specimen of itself.
They got real about date rape in there. The scene with Vincent and Jen is terrifying because of his transformation from a sweet and seemingly respectful guy to a guy bent on forcing himself on her–something that happens all the time in real life yet is full of cognitive dissonance. And after this horrible experience, no one even cares about her trauma because they think of her as some slutty girl who can’t be harassed or assaulted because anyone who says yes once will say yes every time. So she’s left crying alone on the porch. She often bears the brunt of the show’s sexist attitudes, but in this case, the show portrays her as bearing the brunt of everyone else’s sexist attitudes.
Most cringeworthy moment
I really want to talk about how Gail has no sense of professional boundaries. In episode 4, we see her getting a ride home from a coworker in a bandanna masquerading as a skirt, and planting a kiss full on his lips. Now, she’s having a male colleague over for a work dinner where they sit on a love seat and drink wine in her living room. I mean leave alone the awkward jealousy this poor dude has to sit through. The real question is, why is this dinner happening? Why is Gail’s behavior so atrociously unprofessional? WHY? If I’m a reporter going on a business trip, I’m gonna want to use my expense card to go out for a meal, not like, eat some rando’s home cooking while she crosses her legs towards me and uses me to stick it to her husband. NO HUMAN would have a “work dinner” like this, except maybe Harvey Weinstein.
Most 90s soundtrack moment: The aforementioned “Hands” by Jewel, which will also make you ugly cry in the series finale.
ZERO. Weird! Even when Jen is getting ready for her date and Grams begs her to go to Bible study instead, Jen manages to avoid getting on her high horse about being an atheist.
Season 2, Episode 6 “The Dance”
I love that Dawson’s has episodes called “Dance” and “The Dance” within the first two seasons (even while the characters continually insist they never go to dances). Do you think important things happen at dances, guys?
They certainly do in this episode. Jack and Joey are forced to dance together and openly fight in front of Dawson, Dawson finds out about the kiss approximately two seconds later, Joey avoids talking to Dawson by running into the girls’ bathroom (no, really), Jack declares his love for Joey, Dawson punches Jack in the face, and Dawson and Joey get into a screaming match about their oh-so-“complicated” relationship in front of their classmates. Then, Joey tells Dawson that she needs to “make herself happy first” (dirty) and breaks up with him. They exchange “I love you”s for the first time, but she still leaves him, literally jumping out the window and leaving him devastated in her wake. It’s all so typical and teenage and beautiful.
When I was a kid, I thought this entire breakup arc was completely contrived and unrealistic. What 16-year-old girl breaks up with the person she loves because she needs to “find herself”? Who is she, Kelly Taylor?
But now that I’m older and wiser, I see that this is one of the best breakups this show ever did. In “Tamara’s Return,” Joey tells Dawson that she’s been pushing him away because she’s afraid that she isn’t passionate about anything else. In this episode, she tells Dawson that he has filmmaking, and she needs to “find her something.” Okay, fine, twelve-year-old me thought, but then why not explore her art passion while they’re together?
In short: because she can’t. Even while she makes these excuses that sound like they have nothing to do with Dawson, they’re very much all about Dawson. In episode four, she says, “I’ve been your sidekick, your confidant, your other half for so long, and that’s the way our relationship works.” In “The Dance,” she yells at Dawson: “It’s about me. For once, it’s about me, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Even if Dawson is superficially supportive of her goals, the dynamic of their relationship is all about him. Even if she manages to develop some dreams of her own, his dreams will always be more important, and will take precedence over hers.
Dawson’s Creek gets a lot of flack for excessive navel-gazing, but honestly, it’s the wrong criticism. If the overanalysis led to these types of conclusions all the time, it would be a genuinely great show and not just an occasionally great one.
- In true Dawson’s fashion, the episode opens with the most on-the-nose school dance reference ever: Footloose. Take a shot!
- Words actually spoken by Jen: “That’s pathetic, Abby. You’re actually going to go [out] just to hit on someone else’s boyfriend?” Is your memory really that short, Jen?
- In light of that whole incident, it is pretty big of Joey to go out of her way to look out for Jen and invite her to the dance. Could this be the beginning of a beautiful female friendship (again)?
- Nope, just another excuse for Joey to play the dead mom card: “All I know is that it’s really hard to lose a family member, Dawson.” Really? We hadn’t heard. (Take a shot!)
- Joey reminds Dawson that dancing supposedly always ends in “tawdry smut action.” Um, ew–and who talks like that?? She sounds like a 90-year-old Southern belle describing an HBO show. (1 shot!)
- But Dawson’s response is the kicker: “Could that possibly be the first mention of sex since we’ve been together?” Um… NO. NO IT COULD NOT POSSIBLY. Even if they didn’t generally talk about sex all the fucking time, Joey literally joked about driving to a motel and “going at it like pornstars” (ew) on their first date. (2 shots!)
- I know Mitch and Gail are generally pretty gross, but it’s super sad when Gail asks if they can still talk to each other after Mitch moves out. Mary-Margaret Humes has her moments.
- Everyone’s dance outfits are terrible. Joey’s pushes her boobs like an inch down, Andie’s shoes make running dramatically away from Pacey very inelegant indeed, and the boys as usual are wearing pants that look like balloons. – Nerdy Spice
- The ever-nasty Abby to Jen: “That’s a nice dress. I think I have the same one–in a smaller size.” That’s a Blair Waldorf burn if I’ve ever heard one.
- Dawson and Joey are actually pretty cute and happy at the dance, right up until she freaks out about the Jack and Jen set-up and calls Jen a “barracuda” (hee).
- And yet, Katie also does a great job looking guilty every time Dawson can’t see her face. She’s so good!!
- Dawson says of his estranged parents, “I’d give anything for them to just go back to their coffee table sex antics.” Um, we wouldn’t. Please no.
- Jen and Jack have a cute rapport later, but at the moment they have almost no chemistry, even as friends. Just goes to show that the writers really only put them together because they didn’t know what to do with them.
- I know he ends up being right that Joey likes him, but it’s super annoying when Jack is like, “You mean… you’re upset with me for kissing you against your will while you’re in a relationship? No, no, that just doesn’t add up.” Shut up, Jack 1.0.
- Dawson finds out that Jack kissed Joey, and James van der Beek actually manages to look kind of angry! Yay, James!
- I love, love, love when Joey runs into the girls’ bathroom. Most TV characters would just dramatically walk away, but Joey isn’t messing around: she goes to the only place Dawson literally cannot enter.
- Jack blames the kiss on the full moon again. Yeah, okay, full moons are weird, WE GET IT.
- So I don’t really blame Dawson for being upset–but that being said, his reaction seems a little more melodramatic when you consider that Jen kissed him like four episodes ago and he never told Joey about it.
- It’s kind of cute when Gail and Mitch commiserate over their loneliness during their separation, until Gail says she “doesn’t know if she can do this,” and Mitch says meanly, “You can do this, because you have to.” Simmer down, Mr. Rational. You called her, remember?
- Dawson actually gets a couple of good zingers in during his fight with Joey. When she says she wants to “talk about this,” he says, “You run away and now you want to talk?” Again, love the bathroom move, but word. Then she says, “For you to blow this into an earth-shattering event of cinematic proportions…” and he retorts, “You can’t use who I am against me to divert from the fact that you screwed up.” I mean… yeah. He’s right. It’s a weird feeling.
- Jen throws yet another pity party: “You did a really good job while you were with me of pretending you didn’t want to be with someone else.” Ugh. No one cares.
- Speaking of things we don’t care about, Pacey and Andie’s first kiss is clearly manufactured to be adorable, but their banter is so boring and their mini-drama about Pacey dancing with Christy Livingstone so un-cute, it’s impossible to feel invested in them as a couple.
- It also doesn’t help that these nonsensical lyrics courtesy of Jessica Simpson are playing in the background: “Did you ever love somebody… so much that the Earth moved?” Um, the Earth is definitely always moving, just FYI.
- Once again, Katie Holmes acts the hell out of Dawson and Joey’s break-up, and James van der Beek, having used up his one allotted facial expression per episode, just sort of opens his mouth and blinks emphatically:
- Dawson throwing things in his room is supposed to show the depths of his heartbreak (because his acting obviously doesn’t), but instead it just shows the usual things about him: toxic masculinity and artificially movie-like reactions. – Nerdy Spice
- Dawson kicks the historic D/J ladder down from his roof. It’s SYMBOLIC.
- Also, it occurs to me that there are so many shots of Joey running away from Dawson in these early seasons. Think she’s trying to tell him something?
Highlight: Joey asks Bessie to respond to her Jack-kissing news with nothing but “sisterly concern.” Bessie agrees, and then cackles crazily when she hears it. Such a cute, authentic sister moment.
Most cringeworthy moment: When Andie is trying to convince the gang to go to the dance, and then goes on a five-minute rant about how dancing is great “foreplay.” Ew. Andie is definitely the poster child for our gratuitous sex references rule. (Take 1 shot, btdubbs)
Most wrongly used five-dollar word: When they see Brett and Christy fighting in the hallway, Dawson tells Joey they can never be one of “those couples” (famous last words) who publicly airs their “relational crises.” What is the point of saying it in this horrible, nonsensical way? “Relationship” isn’t even a shorter word!
Most 90s soundtrack moment: “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer! This episode could only be more 90s if it involved a makeover and a bizarre and prolonged performance art sequence.
Drunkenness level: Six, including one for a gratuitous on-the-nose reference to Dirty Dancing.
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