2×19 “Abby Morgan, Rest In Peace”
By Nerdy Spice
In this episode, everyone deals with the most awkward kind of death: the death of a person you really didn’t like.
Dawson and Joey are fresh off their wedding make-out sesh when they find out about Abby’s death. Joey, of course, immediately begins to think of her mom. Joey has repressed her feelings about her mom’s death for three years, which a) explains why she’s constantly mentioning it at inappropriate times since she hasn’t worked through it and b) explains why she represses all her other strong feelings, ya know, like her love for Pacey next season.
Meanwhile, Jen is pissed off and angry at everyone. She disrupts a guidance session at school and storms out. Andie seeks her out to try to comfort her and stays calm and kind while Jen takes her grief out on Andie, accusing her of hypocrisy. It just goes to remind you that extremely nice people, while annoying on TV, are kind of good to have around when the shit hits the fan. But eventually Jen gets so worked up she starts blaming Andie for Abby’s death (since Andie kicked Abby and Jen out of the wedding), and even Andie doesn’t put up with that.
Secretly, though, Andie actually does feel guilty, despite Pacey’s pleas for her not to blame herself. Things only get more awkward when Abby’s mom asks Andie to do a eulogy for Abby. Andie agrees (because she’s a people-pleaser) then panics. Now, you might think the right answer for this is to either a) bow out or b) start interviewing people like Jen to get nice stories about Abby. NOPE. Andie’s answer is to break into Abby’s room. DURING THE WAKE. She reads Abby’s diary, which is full of the kind of vicious commentary that you would expect from a sixteen-year-old with the personality of a piranha. Andie tries to spin this into a eulogy that almost makes sense, saying that Abby kept things real for everyone else, or something. (This is after Pacey spends an annoying amount of energy trying to convince Andie to let him do the eulogy so he can save her from the emotional pain, or something. Hooray for white-knight complexes.)
Meanwhile, Grams is using Abby’s funeral to try to push religion on Jen, because of course. Jen declares that Abby is down in hell with “Beelzebub” doing shots and then yells at Gram that there’s no God and that “the only truth that I know is pain.” I would make fun of this, but it’s so deliciously emo and so true to how a sixteen-year-old would talk. (Though I have to say, Michelle Williams at this age had not quite mastered the fine art of toeing the line between emoting and scenery-chewing. There is, if not chewing, some definite nibbling of the scenery going on here.) But things get worse–Jen interrupts the funeral with her own incredibly inappropriate eulogy, including the line “That girl taught me how to do a tequila shooter with one hand behind my back.” Uh… where I come from, tequila shooters pretty much always require only one hand?
After the funeral, Jen apologizes graciously to Andie, unprompted, for blaming her for Abby’s death. They both try to comfort each other, and it’s very sweet. Jen is racked with guilt for all her admittedly pretty shitty behavior. “Sometimes I just don’t think it’s appropriate to speak your truth,” Jen says, and I must say I agree. Despite Andie trying, as of course she would, to put the best possible spin on Jen’s behavior. But despite this moment of redemption, when Jen gets home, Grams is packing up all of Jen’s stuff! Grams declares that she’d do anything for Jen and would die for her—and then kicks Jen out of the house. She does make one good point though: “All the time you waste rebelling against me is getting you nowhere.”
Finally, Andie sneaks back into the house to take Abby’s journal so her mom never finds it, and hallucinates Abby in the mirror. Honestly, with the lying to the dead girl’s mom and the snooping and the stealing and the using the funeral as cover for her sneaky behavior, I’m not sure if Andie didn’t give Jen a run for her money in the category of most inappropriate behavior this episode.
Oh, and there’s a not-particularly-interesting subplot about Dawson’s parents. Remember when The OC came along and proved to us that the parents in teen shows didn’t have to be boring timesucks of terrible plotlines? But this was before that era. Anyway, Gail won an award for a piece she did, and Dawson is genuinely happy for her. The show does resist the cheap, easy “oh, career woman has no time for her kids” kind of smug attitude that was so common at the time, but soon enough it turns out Dawson wasn’t actually happy for his mom. He was just waiting till he could convince his dad to pull the same manipulative thing he pulled to keep Joey from going to France: hear that the woman you never bothered to express your appreciation for has been offered an amazing opportunity, and ruin it by declaring your love for her at the last minute. Luckily, doesn’t look like Mitch is going to fall for it.
- “Let’s not analyze this,” Dawson pleads with Joey as they make out after the wedding. Uh-huh, I’m so sure. We should add a new shot for people (OK, mostly Dawson and Joey) claiming they aren’t going to over-analyze anything.
- I like that Jen’s version of mourning clothes involves a black headband that makes even more of a mess out of her already pretty messy hair.
- Meanwhile, Andie appears to be wearing a sweater vest over another sweater. Now that’s commitment.
- Of course Andie pretends to think that Abby was “so full of life” and had such a great “spirit.” Shut up Andie.
- Also unsurprisingly, Joey plays the dead-mom card to get out of Abby’s funeral. Shot! (We like to make fun of Joey and her dead mom card, but it makes total sense for this to stir up emotions about the other significant death in her life.)
- [Agreed. Sometimes Joey/the writers bring up her mom’s death in a gratuitous way, but in this episode, it was actually kind of refreshing for all of the characters to acknowledge that three years is not a long time to get over your mother’s death. It’s super sad, and true to life, when she says she’s still kind of waiting for “God to admit this was all a big cosmic error.” – Janes]
- Gail won some award for “excellence in news broadcasting” for her piece on teenage girls. You mean, the ridiculous, insipid segment where Joey, Jen, and Andie talked about how girls are “consumers” and are all jealous of each other? Please. – Janes
- Jen is perfectly right to be annoyed at Grams pushing religion on her at a time like this—so opportunistic!—but reverts to the height of tackiness by getting drunk at the scene of her drunken friend’s fatal fall. Wow.
- I love Grams’ exasperated tone when she says, “I always got the feeling your friend Abby was mocking me… She was, wasn’t she??” Grams is such a gem, even this annoying, ultra-evangelical version. – Janes
- Speaking of tacky—and shot-worthy!—Pacey, who accompanies Andie on her ill-advised mission to snoop in Abby’s room, jokes that people are going to think he came to get lucky.
- Andie justifies reading Abby’s diary by saying that she wants to do justice to her character in her eulogy, and “the true thoughts of any 16-year-old girl lie in the confines of her diary.” Didn’t we already go over this fallacy in Crossroads?? – Janes
- In her diary, Abby calls Jen a “bleached blonde hose bag”? Is that like network speak for hobag? Shot! Andie is so terminally perky that she excuses this as a “bad day.” She also finds an entry about herself where Abby calls her a psycho who can’t take a hint. Heh.
- Jack asks Joey what’s up with her and Dawson, calling it the “sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.” I like how Jack can’t even be bothered to hyperbolically rate his interest in this tepid affair as a million-dollar question.
- Pacey laments that he has no control over things like drunk kids dying in tragic accidents, and how it’s really putting a crimp in his effort to white-knight Andie right out of her mental health issues.
- Dawson watches footage from his movie of Abby, who breaks character by busting out laughing and declaring that Devin has food in her teeth. It’s very true to life and kind of endearing.
- When Pacey offers to do the eulogy, Andie says, “You’d do that for me?” Pacey responds, “Andie, I’d do anything… to stop you from having a nervous breakdown.” Well that’s not the most romantic ending that sentence could’ve had. Luckily Andie calls him out on trying to be the hero all the time and he calms down and accepts that she’s going to give the speech…Until the beginning of the next scene when he suggests that they sneak out of the funeral, leaving Mrs. Morgan eulogyless.
- Grams’s face when Jen gets back to her pew is a masterpiece of anger and disapproval. I also theorize that she’s trying to stay as far away from Jen as possible just in case Jen gets struck with lightning. I mean, that’s what I’d be doing!
- Slow motion funeral montage! It’s not a particularly sad song—Google identifies it as “I Can’t Complain” by PlankEye, and major bonus points by the way for the Bible reference in the group name—so it’s, well, fitting. Though I think frankly most audience members would miss Abby a lot more than they would miss, say, Andie.
- Dawson decides to live life to the fullest by hitting on Joey at Abby’s funeral. Fair enough. I’m sure Abby would’ve done the same to him.
- Dawson walks Joey to her mom’s grave, and a sadder, sweeter song, with NO GOOGLE HITS by the way, plays as Joey cries in front of her mother’s grave.
- As Grams packs up Jen’s stuff, she says, “This is not about my beliefs, or free speech, or any other philosophical nonsense, this is about the truth.” Yeah, I hate when people try to talk about philosophy instead of the truth…?
I liked Jen and Andie comforting each other after the funeral! Total polar opposites, and I’m sure they get on each other’s nerves most of the time, but they came through for each other in that moment. Yay female friendship.
Most cringeworthy moment:
So hard to pick. Jen’s inappropriate eulogy? Andie’s snooping? At least we were pretty low on gross sex jokes.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
“Magic” by Ben Folds Five. What a throwback!
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Drunkenness rating: Only four, although we only counted Joey’s dead mom card once. Includes a shot for Jen being the most aggressive atheist in the world throughout this episode, even if Grams is also being a total dick about her religion.
This episode demonstrates why the writers, who still naively thought D/J was endgame at this point, still felt the need to break them up every six episodes or so. Because somehow, the only thing more insufferable than Dawson and Joey’s melodrama is Dawson and Joey’s happiness. One is annoying but soapily entertaining, while the other is just sinfully boring.
The writers clearly have no idea how to make the show interesting when Dawson and Joey are together any more than we would, so the writing devolves into embarrassing, sitcom-y farce, complete with random, almost contextless pillow fights, ridiculously convenient coincidences, and easily resolvable communication breakdowns. First, Dawson and Joey celebrate their one-month anniversary at a fancy restaurant, where not only has his father made reservations for the same night with his witchy, dream-killing girlfriend, but the restaurant has lost Dawson’s reservations because they thought there was only one Leery party, forcing father and son to sit together. (Um… at that point you definitely just go home, I don’t care how fancy that restaurant is.)
Then–surprise, surprise!–Gail gets dinner at the same restaurant, at the same time, with Jen, randomly. (Poor Michelle Williams. You know you’re getting a rough deal when you’re tagging along on the adults’ subplot of a teen soap.) Sitcom-y hijinks ensue, including a parent trap scheme straight out of, well, The Parent Trap. Joey and Jen scheme to get Mitch and Gail back together using old-hat tricks like favorite bottles of wine and special memory songs. It’s literally the exact same plot, minus the whole twin thing.
Meanwhile, Andie’s nervous breakdown finally comes to a head, and is treated with a little more gravitas (but only barely). Andie starts to see her dead brother everywhere, and the writers do this really cheap thing where they try to pretend the dead brother is a potential love interest, and even worse, they do it really badly. I distinctly remember watching this for the first time when I was 12 years old, and thinking it was very obvious that he was a ghost, almost from the start. When Pacey reveals that the man is a vision of her brother by looking at a family photograph, I was just sort of like “Yeah… didn’t we all know that already?”
While Andie’s psychotic break is not at all portrayed accurately, and often devolves into very, very melodramatic antics, including a scene in which she breaks a mirror and screams that she “won’t choose” between her brother and Pacey/the real world, the show’s portrayal of mental illness was, in some ways, progressive for its time. Pacey, and by extension the writers, immediately characterize Andie’s break as a “medical situation,” rather than some sort of character flaw or weakness. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the writers were informed about the complexities of mental illness and its place in society, but they are, at the very least, sympathetic, which is probably all we can ask of the 90s.
Let’s get on with the recap:
- I hate to agree with Dawson but it is super cute that all six Creekers are hanging out on Dawson’s bed (“dare I say it,” Pacey interjects, “a clique”) and having a pillow fight. I can’t help smiling. Yes, because I’m a softie, but also, yay friendship! – Nerdy Spice
- I love that everyone is listing the person who loves them and invited them to hang out, and then Jen just says, “And I live here now.” Poor Jen. No one likes you.
- I also love how Andie’s I Have an Attitude, Bad-Ass new hairstyle is… pin-straight chestnut brown hair. That is one wiiiiiild rebel move there, Andie. – Nerdy Spice
- While Andie is clearly hanging by a thread, mental stability-wise, Jack reassures a worried Pacey that “it’s the hair.” Um, what?? Her hair is making her mentally unstable? Is this like a Cabin in the Woods-type situation, where the brown hair dye is engineered to turn Andie into the “crazy girl” archetype?
- When Dawson says he’s capable of being spontaneous, Joey returns, “The only thing our chemistry doesn’t produce is spontaneity.” I can think of many other things, actually, but even if that were the case–um, ouch.
- Joey says it’s the one-month anniversary of what they “are… or were… or are.” I get that she’s being coy, but this makes no sense. How could it possibly be the anniversary of their new relationship and their previous relationship?
- Madchen Amick gives Mitch literally the most chaste, chemistry-free kiss you’ve ever seen, and he starts making almost as big a deal of it as his teenage son would. Miss Kennedy is truly terrible, but even she might be able to do better than Mitch.
- Jen dramatically says she can’t move back in with Grams because there will be an “inevitable ideology clash.” Please get over yourself, Jen, this is hardly Reds versus McCarthyists here. (Shot!)
- Everyone’s pronouncing “Entre Nous,” the name of the fancy French restaurant in town, like it rhymes with rendez-vous. Um… no. – Nerdy Spice
- The therapist tells Andie that she has “complicated grief,” which unlike most diagnoses offered on this show is a real thing. – Nerdy Spice
- “You can’t connive or entice love.” No kidding you can’t because the phrase connive love makes no sense. – Nerdy Spice
- First Gail cooks for Jen while they sit by the fire and play music, then when it gets burned she brings Jen to the fanciest French restaurant in town? Is she trying to surprise-date her son’s ex-girlfriend? – Nerdy Spice
- Miss Kennedy is being super disingenuous when she blathers on and on about getting Dawson a job in Hollywood. Dawson is a real drama queen about this whole movie thing, but I might react the same way (or at least want to) if someone tore my dreams apart and then made a show of supporting me to get in good with my separated father.
- And THEN Miss Kennedy tells Dawson there are other jobs in Hollywood, “not just creatively speaking.” Like what, a PA’s assistant for life? What a jerk.
- I agree with Joey that Dawson shouldn’t let a “petty battle” ruin their anniversary, but at the same time, wasn’t the romance kind of already ruined by having to sit with his father and Evil Girlfriend?
- There are so many unlikely coincidences in this episode, but Gail going to the bathroom at the same time as her husband’s evil girlfriend is the only one that rings totally true.
- Even though I was already primed for Andie’s new guy to be a ghost, did anyone else have trouble telling that the generic brunette white guy in the family photo was the same generic brunette white guy who was talking to her?
- Miss Kennedy on her screenplay: “I wanted it to have a When Harry Met Sally commerciality, with more of a dry or ironic tone, like Nichols and May.” Jesus, screenwriters really are the worst.
- “There’s a word for individuals who focus on life’s ‘meaner bites’: it’s called bitter.” Aw, they actually defined that word pretty correctly!
- Andie’s ice cream cone-decorated pajamas are a nice touch. I mean, the contrast is amusing on its face, in a shallow way: You don’t have to be all emo and interesting to have psychotic episodes. It happens to all kinds of people, including super basic girls who look like they don’t have a nodding acquaintance with spiritual darkness. But also, I think Andie’s intense preppy-slash-childish aura is one she cultivates in order to convince herself and everyone around her that everything is fine. – Nerdy Spice
- Jack’s so-called “clinical explanation” that his mother/Andie have repressed their grief, so their subconscious needs to “invent someone to experience it with” smells like complete and utter bullshit to me. (If only because a delusion that the person who died is still alive… probably won’t help you “experience” your grief?) But that being said, Jack’s response that he felt “small and helpless” in the face of his mother’s inability to grieve with him was very sad.
- Wait… Mitch has been on like two dates with Miss Kennedy, he found out that she was a heinous asshole to his son, and then had a random romantic dance with his ex-wife IN FRONT OF HER, and he’s still going to date her?? Why????
- Just as Joey asks Dawson if he thought they were going to “close the deal,” Janes caught me staring at my computer with this HUGE GRIMACE on my face. I was so horrified by this scene I’m actually a little surprised my face didn’t freeze like that. EWWWWW and then he calls her a “vulgar little thing.” What’s a more emphatic word for “vomit”? Because I don’t think the regular word is enough. THEN SHE CALLS HIM “TURBO”???? I don’t even know if I can handle the rest of this scene. – Nerdy Spice
- Oh God. I think I made the same face when he called her a “vulgar little thing.” So many shots.
I really have no idea. This episode wasn’t as painful as the Eve era or as boring as some of the season 5-6 duds, but there wasn’t anything particularly great about it, either. If I had to pick, it would be Joey’s takedown of Miss Kennedy, partially because I miss sassy season one Joey (I haven’t seen Joey pull a ‘tude like this since she third-wheeled on Dawson and Jen’s first date! – Nerdy Spice), and partially because Miss Kennedy so deserves it. (Her first name is “Nicole”?? She really is just an adult Mean Girl, isn’t she?)
Most cringeworthy moment:
This is also hard to pick, but for very different reasons. A lot of dumb things happened this episode, but the cringiest has to be the gross “turbo” conversation at the end between Dawson and Joey. Not only because they keep making painfully old-fashioned and cheesy innuendos (although that would be enough), but also because Joey looks so believably uncomfortable. Especially watching it now, I actually felt really sad for her when Dawson keeps pushing her to say she’s considered having sex with him, even through her visible discomfort. She’s obviously reluctant to even admit that she’s had sexual thoughts about him, for fear that he might take that as implicit consent to actual sexual activity. That makes me very sad.
Incidentally, there’s definitely an alternate reading of season two in which Joey runs away from Dawson every time they start seriously considering having sex (read: every time Dawson starts low-key pressuring Joey to have sex). In “Dance,” Dawson was heavily hinting that they might have sex after the dance, and then Joey broke up with him after said dance. In this episode, he starts pushing even harder, and they break up two episodes later. I don’t really think the writers did this on purpose, but it’s an intriguing thought.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
To be perfectly honest, this was definitely the episode I was thinking of when I came up with this category. In “Reunited,” various characters use the word “persnickety” wrongly, in different contexts, not once, not twice, but SEVEN times. First, Dawson and Joey use this word, which literally means picky or fussy, as a stand-in for “grouchy” or maybe “waspish.” Then, later, Joey uses it on Miss Kennedy to mean “hypocritical,” which is even more wrong. Of all big words to use as a vague catch-all, “persnickety” is such a profoundly weird and specific choice.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Definitely “I Don’t Know” by Blair Packham, which plays not once but twice in this episode. I don’t actually know who Blair Packham is, but I have the distinct impression that this song played in every late 90s/early aughts teen drama.
Five: one for the inappropriate “turbo” conversation, one for the semi-meta references to 90210, one for Jen’s atheist martyr complex, and two for Joey’s abject terror at the thought of having sex with Dawson (seriously, word).
Previous installment here.