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.
We’ve updated our rules for season 3 to include a couple new ones:
- One shot every time Dawson gets called a “hero.”
- One shot every time men blame women for their problems.
- One shot every time Pacey refers to Joey as a woman (when she’s definitely still a girl) or “Joay.”
Season 3, Episode 1 “Like a Virgin”
By Nerdy Spice
I am SO EXCITED to be in season 3. This is it: the best part. As I press “Play” I can hardly wait to see my favorite season. I’m ready for hours upon hours of Pacey/Joey cuteness.
The episode starts, and we’re on a bus to Cape Cod with Dawson and a “saucy,” “sexy” blonde named Eve, and all of my excitement momentarily deflates.
Where to start with Eve? Well, she’s the kind of person who opens a conversation with a stranger by rudely informing him he’s drooling, continues to be rude by telling him he’s a heavy breather, and then rudely responds to his understandably concise responses by sarcastically calling him a “scintillating conversationalist,” all while wearing five pounds of lip gloss and six inches of tube top on a long-distance bus. In fact she manages to be SO rude in the space of about fifteen seconds that you almost start to think, “Wait, Dawson is not that bad.” But then, when he actually reveals his true obnoxiousness by rhapsodizing inaccurately over Risky Business [he characterizes it as “Joseph Campbell meets Sigmund Freud meets Holden Caufield.” Literally every part of that is wrong. 10 shots, plus two bonus shots for Freud! –Janes] and then justifying its manic pixie dream girl romance by acting like it’s a good thing that the main female character is a fantasy created in Tom Cruise’s head (uhhhh, take a shot for that awkwardly prescient accidental meta-commentary on Katie Holmes’s life), Eve decides he’s adorable.
Essentially, she is the classic “bad girl” as written by secret misogynists: capricious without an underlying character reason for being so, inappropriately sexual, un-cutely rude, and with bad taste in men and clothing. So we are going to be hating on her. A lot. (Also, her name is a crude reference to the notion that women are at the root of all evil in the world. Shot for the meta-reference, and see what we mean about the misogyny? In fact, we’ve added a new shot for this season: men blaming women for their problems. So, make it two shots.)
Anyway, Eve turns out to be a dancer at the local strip joint and then randomly shows up in Dawson’s living room wearing short shorts and a bikini, as male fantasies often do. So she and Dawson decide to go on a little cruise on Mitch’s boat and promptly crash it into the dock while rounding third base, in full view of Joey. (“Crashes are so intense!” Eve giggles. Joey hates her on sight, as do we all.) When Dawson finds out it’s going to take three grand to fix the damage, he and Pacey emulate Risky Business by throwing a party with free stripper labor from Eve’s friends (despite the fact that they refused the donations Eve collected from said friends for this exact same purpose; real men don’t accept money from women, but it’s totally cool accepting their free emotional and sexual labor, amirite?). Dawson and Eve almost ditch the party to go for another blowie on the open water, but Mitch comes home and catches Dawson.
Meanwhile, Jen’s plotline is that she auditions for the cheerleading team because she’s mad, or something? Jen and Jack, who have apparently spent the summer in blissful domesticity with Grams, have a truly lovely exchange with a popular girl named Belinda, wherein Belinda asks Jen about her gang-bangs (shot for slut-shaming Jen!) and Jen responds with a liposuction joke about (the very svelte) Belinda. Jen laughs hysterically at her amazing fat joke as Belinda leaves. Uh, yeah, you’re all very clever. Jen and Jack then see fit to spend their lunch break judging the cheerleaders for being mean to a chubby girl who wants to try out [after she body-shamed Belinda! Can she just die already, please? —Janes], but then for some reason Jen signs up to try out. Her audition is a weird rap about how much she hates the current head cheerleader, but the other cheerleaders totes dig it and make her head cheerleader. It makes no sense, but we aren’t going to waste too much time on it.
Meanwhile, Joey’s single life is a lot less exciting than Dawson’s: she’s working at the marina for a seriously creepy boss who calls her “little girl” in his first line. Thrown for a loop by Eve’s appearance, Joey gets all judgy… and then insecure. She shows up during the stripper party, apologizes for lashing out over her dad, and whips off her shirt in a doomed attempt to compete with Eve’s brasher wiles. It’s completely painful and awkward, as she stands before him, still wearing a bra yet obviously already terrified, and whispers that she can be sexual, and poor Dawson has to struggle for the words to reject her without hurting her. Which, of course, totally fails because like most teenaged girls she thinks that boys are always up for it and therefore his rejection means she’s repulsive.
Buuut, lucky for Joey, just when she’s crying alone at the dock, Pacey shows up because Dawson, in a move he will later deeply regret, asked Pacey to look out for Joey. Joey tries to push Pacey away, but he says that he knows how it feels to lose someone you love. “You know, it’s a new year. Who knows? You and I might even become friends,” he says. “I’m upset enough as it is,” Joey groans. He just laughs and puts his arm around her. She cries on his shoulder, and I, in turn, cry like an idiot in front of my laptop.
What a beautiful start for … what are the kids calling it these days? … True Love.
- When Dawson meets Eve, his hair is so greasy that it actually looks worse than it ever has. No joke. (Although to be fair, no one’s hair looks good on the bus.) Also, Eve says the word “intercourse” for no reason, and they’re discussing Risky Business shortly before reenacting it. Three shots already (for van der Hair sins [somehow our first time using that one! –Janes], meta-references, and unprovoked sex talk) and we’re not at the two-minute mark!
- Every single line of dialogue Eve says sounds like a porno from the backroom of a 90s video store. –Janes
- Word to the wise, Dawson’s writers: making a meta-reference to the femme fatale as “a female character who’s essentially a fantasy of his own creation” does not make Eve any less egregious. (1 shot.) – Janes
- Take another shot: when Pacey hears the story of the Disappearing Hot Girl (we learn later that Dawson literally put her to sleep by talking about Joey), he makes a joke about changing the sheets after dreams like that. Gross, Pacey! At least try to act like the immortal romantic hero you’re about to become.
- Dawson doesn’t appear to have showered since the bus, either (one more shot!)
- Pacey and Dawson discuss the fact that Dawson is So Over Joey. Dawson declaring that he needs to stop thinking so much should probably be a new rule for this game. But the really cute part of this conversation is that Pacey mentions Joey doing “that cute little hair flip thing that she does” and her “truly, truly remarkable brown eyes.” [So… I guess they knew from the beginning that Joey and Pacey were going to get together this season, huh? –Janes] Dawson stoutly declares that it’s over and he could resist Joey, which, he’ll be singing a different tune once he realizes how much Pacey appreciates those eyes. Although, to be fair, they’re not brown. Janes and I did some careful internet research and decided that they are totally hazel. I wonder if Katie Holmes heard that line and was like, “Puh huh?”
- Mitch is off to his first day of work as a substitute football coach, which obviously no one cares about, because no one cared about parents on teen soaps until Kirsten and Sandy Cohen came along. But there’s a cute exchange where Pacey prods him for “fatherly warnings” and Mitch agreeably gives him one: “Keep Pacey out of the house.” Aww! He even winks at Pacey.
- There’s a new principal, Dr. Green, who calls Pacey out for talking. When he asks his name, Pacey says, “I don’t suppose you’d accept Che Guevara, would ya?” (although he pronounces it Shay Guh-vair-ah), leading to this cute little eyeroll from Joey:
- Pacey, obliging friend that he is, agrees to distract Dawson from Joey by bringing him to a strip club. Friend to Dawson, not so much to women, I guess. The best part of this is that Pacey proves himself capable of reading comprehension by diving deep into each stripper’s bio, demonstrating that he truly is only motivated by boobs. He also, amusingly, orders a beer for himself and a “tall glass of milk” for Dawson.
- Bessie is an amazing sister: she can still work up a remarkable amount of enthusiasm to demand a blow-by-blow account of Joey seeing Dawson for the first time without evincing even a hint of weariness.
- Pacey questions Dawson’s commitment to “la vida loca.” Guys, Ricky Martin was like, a super timely reference back then. We’re so old. — Janes
- Shot for a meta reference: the first cheerleader auditions with an adapted version of “I Don’t Wanna Wait,” possibly the least grammatical and most iconic TV theme song of all time. Jen’s audition, on the other hand, is a weird rap about how much she hates Belinda, the “cookie-cutter size four… mindless, soulless, spineless wench.” Size four? She’s pretty clearly a double zero, but OK.
- Joey probably handles sexual harassment with more composure than I would: giving her boss a huge glare and calling him out on the fact that he’s clearly walked in on purpose while she was changing.
- Eve is wearing THE J. Crew bikini of my youth. Remember that white piping? Those things were pretty cute. AND, you could mix-and-match!
- Eve demands that Dawson take off his shirt and he just gives a little high-pitched giggle. Meanwhile, Eve shares her philosophy on life: “Without fear there’d be no accomplishments.” I mean, I think that there probably would be? But OK. She then declares herself a “fantasy” and pushes her boobs against his back. God, she’s the worst.
- Right before ruining his life with her sexual wiles, Eve reveals her name in dramatic fashion. Then, in case literally anyone in the world didn’t get the reference, he says, “That’s a biblical name.” Does it even count as a reference when it’s this mind-numbingly explicit? –Janes
- “Things could be worse,” says Eve. “Said the King Lear before he lost his mind,” says Dawson. “The” King Lear? Five shots for a nonsensical and completely irrelevant literary reference!
- Dawson blames Eve for what happened, and Eve achieves one moment of being admirable by pointing out that she didn’t exactly make him do anything. (Woman-blaming shot #2!)
- So happy that it’s Pacey who has the idea for Risky Business, because it means he’s the one in the shades:
- “At the rate we’re going we’ll have some left over for Jerri’s kids!” Eve gloats at the party, presumably meaning one of her coworkers. Dawson responds, “There’s something so wrong about this,” but somehow I don’t think he means the part where all the money is being donated not to a single mother but to a spoiled white boy who crashed his daddy’s boat.
- Dawson’s reasons for rejecting Joey are completely understandable and even wise, especially when he says, “You’re saying it’ll be different, but it won’t be.” But then again, when she takes off her shirt and he says, “This isn’t you,” I want to punch him in his condescending face. –-Janes
- Dawson seeks out advice from Pacey after having already rejected Joey, and Pacey says, “It always comes down to this. The Madonna or the Jezebel.” I believe that’s a pretty succinct summation of Dawson’s main psychological ailment.
Duh! Joey and Pacey sitting on the dock and beginning their beautiful friendship is pretty much the highlight of my life, not just this episode.
Most cringeworthy moment:
No contest: it’s watching Eve’s head descend below the frame as she rounds third base with Dawson on the boat. WAY too much information.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Definitely “Push It” by Garbage. We love Shirley Manson so much, we’ll forgive her for allowing her song to be played during an Eve scene.
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
Does “Shay Gevairah” count?
I counted twenty-seven shots for an assortment of meta references, misogyny, and hair sins, but I may have been busy gagging during some of Eve’s unjustified sexual references, so it probably could be more.
Season 3, Episode 2 “Homecoming”
In case you hadn’t guessed by now, we re-watch season three–a lot. However, I generally fast-forward through all of the Eve scenes, so during this rewatch, I get to rediscover how truly insufferable and offensive this character is.
First, Eve mysteriously shows up at Dawson’s school, as femme fatales are wont to do. Dawson tries to be all cute and meta about the fact that Eve was a random passenger on his bus, then a random stripper at a strip club he went to, then–surprise!–a classmate in his school. But seriously–what the fuck is she doing there? I mean, she’s clearly stalking him, because that’s the only logical explanation. But then again, it’s Dawson, so that’s also somehow the least logical explanation.
Then, she desperately tries to seduce Dawson (again, WHY??), and in the process delivers dialogue that is somehow even grosser and more cringeworthy than in the previous episode. First, she tells Dawson in a sultry voice that she “likes” when he’s dishonest with her. Then, when Dawson asks rhetorically, “What else turns you on? Greed and corruption?” she says, without a hint of irony, “Sex. Sex turns me on, Dawson.” Excuse me… what?? Sex turns her on? Feminist gagging aside, that’s like if Dawson asked her what kinds of shows she likes to watch and she answered, “Television. Television is what I like to watch, Dawson.”
I would love to say that Eve doesn’t age well, and that they would never get away with this type of character today. But the truth is, this archetype is still all too common, even in well-respected shows. Case in point: the nubile 20-year-old in the Mad Men episode, “The Jet Set.” Like Eve, she’s a beautiful, oversexed young woman with an almost equally on-the-nose name (“Joy”) who is inexplicably desperate to bed the main character (although at least Don looks like Jon Hamm). And even more depressingly, Joy has an exchange with Don that is remarkably similar to that “sex turns me on” nonsense: when Don asks her if the Faulkner book she’s reading is good, she answers, apropos of nothing, “Sex is good. This book is just okay.” Worst of all, this episode was totally critically acclaimed, so… I guess Eve ages just fine.
That being said, if there’s one good thing to come out of the Eve debacle, it’s Dawson and Joey’s sweet, surprisingly well-adjusted conversation on his dock. After Dawson makes a fool out of himself and makes out with Eve in front of the whole school, Joey visits Dawson and has a nice, drama-free chat. Instead of getting jealous, she acknowledges that they both need to move on from each other and build separate lives. He responds sadly that it’s weird after a break-up, when “you still love the person, but you stop needing them like you used to.” Then, in an iconic little exchange, Joey says, “So we’re friends, then we’re a couple, then we’re friends, then we’re a couple. So what are we now?” And Dawson answers, “We’re Dawson and Joey.” It’s maybe the first time we’ve seen these two have a genuinely mature conversation about their relationship, and serves as a little preview of the perfectly fitting ending they have in the series finale.
Meanwhile, Pacey and Andie’s relationship implodes in dramatic fashion, and considering how little anyone cares about this relationship, it actually packs a pretty strong emotional punch. First, Pacey surprises Andie by picking her up at the hospital a day early, only to find her getting cozy with another guy. To his credit, Pacey doesn’t make a scene–at least not until Andie spends the entire episode avoiding him, refusing to talk about the other guy, and generally making it patently obvious that she cheated. Then, they have a tearful confrontation that’s almost ruined by Andie’s overacting and ridiculous pigtail hairdo, but is saved by Joshua Jackson and some well-written dialogue about how lost and hopeless Andie felt while she was in the hospital.
If they had just stopped there, this would have been a very great and sad premise for a break-up. Even if Pacey came to understand Andie’s actions, it would still be understandable if he couldn’t get past her infidelity on an emotional level. But of course, the writers can never quit while they’re ahead, and they add this whole other layer where Pacey is really upset because his love for Andie couldn’t cure her mental illness. Well, that took a random and ableist turn. When he confirms that he’s dumping her, he says, “I can never go back to loving you the way I did, knowing my love wasn’t strong enough the first time around”–and you would think he’s just talking about her feelings for this other guy, but he’s actually saying that his love should have been “strong” enough to change her brain chemistry. Not a thing.
In other news, the network apparently decided that this show didn’t look enough like a teen drama in the trailers, so the writers forget all of the character development from the first two seasons and contrive to make Jack a football player and Jen a cheerleader. Whatever.
- Pacey’s shirt is more “dapper cowboy” than “reformed class clown,” don’t you think? –Nerdy Spice
- “Speaking of wood” is how Pacey segues to asking about Eve? VOM. –Nerdy Spice
- Dawson saying that Eve “Jonathan Krakauered into thin air” may not be the most wrong literary reference yet, but it’s definitely the weirdest. (Two shots!)
- Pacey sagely tells Dawson that Eve is “the ultimate transitional woman,” and because Dawson is a “young, virile, increasingly buff teenage male” (ew, no) with “certain wants and desires,” he should take advantage of Eve, the “curvaceous vixen who was meant for you to be explored in only a sexual manner. A femme fatale whose entire genetic coding screams, ‘Objectify me.’” Yikes. That little speech does not age well. If I didn’t love Pacey so much I would hate him.
- Eve randomly shows up in a janitor’s closet, where all of the Jezebels hang out, and tells Dawson that “Duh, [she’s] like, a student.” Duh??? This woman is so obviously not high school-aged, she actually looks somewhat age-appropriate for James van der Beek.
- Was any movie line of the nineties parodied more than Notting Hill’s “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her?” (Shot!) –Nerdy Spice
- Jack’s dad, while in the middle of telling Jack that he can’t move back in with him because of Jack’s gay “lifestyle,” whines, “Must you assume that every decision I make is based on my lack of character?” Um… maybe just the ones that involve abandoning your kids left and right?
- Although we’re all waiting for them to get together, Pacey and Joey’s friendship is worth watching on its own merits. Case in point: they have an adorable moment outside of the hospital that says volumes about their intimacy and trust without speaking any dialogue.
- The gag when Joey exclaims “I have psychiatric concerns!” and the receptionist says, “Well, obviously!” is ableist and completely unrealistic for a mental hospital, but it’s a little funny.
- Joey plays the dead-mom card (shot!), but in an awesome way where she makes the poor psychiatric institution receptionist listen to her entire life story. –Nerdy Spice
- Haha, Dawson’s Leni Riefenstahl reference is unusually erudite for him, and pretty funny. Just one shot! –Nerdy Spice
- Andie does an impressively terrible job hiding that she cheated on Pacey with Mark. I usually don’t condone jealousy without real evidence, but Andie’s flirty goodbye to Mark is so over-the-top, it’s actually kind of weird that Pacey doesn’t make more of a scene:
- Even Joey knows what’s up:
- Is it wrong that I find the Minutegirls’ cynical-hipster cheers kind of charming? –Nerdy Spice [No, they kind of are! Although that “you’re gonna work for us one day” is just a less clever version of a Bring It On cheer, even if Dawson’s did technically come first. –Janes]
- Jack catches a ball–that’s it, he catches a ball–and Mitch gets this hilarious “I have seen the promised land” look on his face:
- It’s hilarious that Dawson thinks the condoms are behind the counter, like they’re prescription-only or something. Also, what kind of fifty-year-old puts his arm around teenagers in the condom aisle and talks about Magnums? I’ll tell you: the kind who should probably be in jail. –Nerdy Spice
- This whole scene is extremely broad humor, but Dawson actually makes a pretty good “WTF” look at the end there. I have a sneaking suspicion that the writers wrote this scene specifically to accommodate JVDB’s trademark blank stare:
- When Pacey faux-casually asks Andie about Mark, she immediately becomes moody and closed-off, saying that Mark stuff is “private” and “Let’s not talk about Mark right now.” Seriously, Andie, BE COOL.
- Joey says, “Pacey, stop with the male jealousy thing,” and Pacey responds, “It’s a long walk home, Potter.” Hee!
- Also hilarious: when Pacey and Andie kiss and Joey uncomfortably says, “Finally, the reunion kiss we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s go.” Yup, that sarcasm is pretty much all of us.
- So cute when Joey and Pacey fight over the radio station (she wants “alternative” and he wants “classic rock,” because of course they do). They’re already like a bickering old married couple!
- Jack’s football faces are HILARIOUS. I just watched this scene and laughed hysterically: –Nerdy Spice
- Once again, TV shows have no idea how siblings relate to each other. Jack sees his sister for the first time since she was committed to a mental institution, says, “How’s the first day of class going there, gorgeous?” and then gives her a very tight, intimate hug. No sibling has ever done this.
- Jack tells Mitch he can’t join the football team because he’s gay, and Mitch replies, “Come on, Jack. One has nothing to do with the other.” We can now add “straightsplaining” to Mitch’s very short list of accomplishments.
- I love that Dawson spends the first few episodes of this season insisting that he’s changed (shot!) just because he acts like a jerk, when really, he always acted like a jerk. The only thing that’s changed is that now he occasionally knows he’s being a jerk, so… progress, I guess?
- Dawson jokingly asks Jen if she has any “hot tips” about having sex for the first time, and Jen immediately says “I thought you’d never ask.” Did the writers just forget that these two used to date, and that Jen claimed to be in love with him like, four months ago?
- I hate the gross ice cream sex metaphor, but love that Jen immediately judges Dawson to be a “too fast” type of virgin, rather than a “too slow” type of virgin. Was there ever any doubt?
- Um, this is graphic: “If you don’t get the whipped cream all over your face, you’re not doing it right.” I mean, I’m all for talking more openly about female pleasure, but ewwwwwww.
- And then she gives him this super lascivious look (see below), and says, “You see what I’m saying?” Um… yes, Jen. I’m pretty sure we all see what you’re saying.
- Andie’s “I got sane and everyone else went crazy?” line is not nearly as cute as the writers think it is.
- When Eve wants to do Dawson backstage in the school auditorium, they have this little exchange: Dawson: “They say girls like you don’t exist.” Eve: “They lie.” SHUT UP, BOTH OF YOU.
- OK I know it’s mostly just that Andie is trying to avoid Pacey but seriously, if you’re dating someone who actually wants to be at a pep rally… just break up. He’s better off. –Nerdy Spice
- She’s also wearing two pigtails on the top of her head. In her junior year of high school. –Nerdy Spice
- Does Eve like not own shirts that cover her bellybutton? And then after she and Dawson get caught, she just keeps walking around in only her bra without at least retying her inadequate-length shirt over it?! –Nerdy Spice
- Jen cracks up when Dawson and Eve get caught, which feels fitting enough given that ridiculous sex advice conversation. But Jack, our resident shy artist, is not only clapping but giving a standing ovation and (according to my ever-helpful closed captions) screaming “Woo-hoo!” Has literally one day on the football team caused his IQ to drop 20 points?
- And ew, Mitch is laughing too! That’s your teenage son, dude! What is wrong with these people??
- Thank God we have Joey. Katie Holmes makes exactly the right withering expression here, one that says, “This is super insensitive of you, and I’m sort of jealous, but mostly I’m just sort of judging you.”
- Eve calls Dawson an “old soul” and I actually laugh out loud. Dawson gets a lot of undeserved compliments on this show, but this particular compliment, coming from Eve, the girl who hasn’t seen anything of Dawson other than angry entitlement and basic teenage boy horniness, is particularly laughable. (Take a shot!)
- Joey tries to convince Pacey to give Andie a chance to explain herself, and then says this inexplicable line: “Do you think just because you two were together, what she did to you hurts more?” More than what? More than it hurts Andie? More than what Dawson did to Joey, when he rejected her? More than what Joey did to Dawson, by dumping him in the season finale? I’ve heard this line so many times and it still doesn’t compute.
- “We’re really young, and we’re going to screw up a lot. We’re going to keep changing our minds, and sometimes even our hearts.” Joey’s talking about changing again, take a shot!
- “And through all of that, the only real thing we can offer each other is forgiveness.” Aw. That’s actually pretty cute.
- I’ll probably say this many more times, but considering how many boneheaded decisions the writers make around this time, they do a genius job of laying the foundation between Joey and Pacey. In these early episodes of the season, it feels like Joey and Pacey are building a real, organic friendship, one where they’re there for each other and support each other in a way that Dawson and Joey never really were, in spite of all their big talk of being best friends. And although it’s fairly obvious from the start that they’re going to get together, they have so much chemistry and their scenes work so well that you never really feel the writers’ hand in it. It just feels very real.
- Jack’s dad inviting him to move back home after seeing him in a football jersey is like the homophobic version of the Ugly Duckling. So glad that Jack tells him to go to hell, like I always wished the Ugly Duckling would.
- Joey says seeing Dawson on stage with Eve “helped [her] in some weird way” and made her feel for the first time “how wrong it would be” to get back together. That’s not weird at all–that’s what happens to all of us when we realize our exes are enormous tools and we’re better off without them.
It says volumes that most of Dawson and Joey’s best moments are during their breakups (or in this case, post-mortems). Their moment on the dock is moving precisely because it’s not romantic; Joey’s line, “Do you think every Joey has a Dawson and every Dawson has a Joey?” and Dawson’s response, “I hope so, for their sake” is a perfect encapsulation of the type of “soulmates” they actually are.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Ewwwww. I wish I could say that I had forgotten Jen’s gross ice cream sundae explanation of foreplay to Dawson, but it is forever seared into my memory. –Nerdy Spice
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
A pretty “Time After Time” cover by Tuck & Patti plays while Dawson and Joey talk on the dock. I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying!!
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
It’s not a five-dollar word by any stretch, but when Eve needles him about not being over Joey, Dawson says he “motions” for a change in subject. Nice try, but even in legalese, “motion” is not a verb.
Eleven, for lots of inappropriate sexual references, an undeserved compliment, some growing up talk, and a few meta-references. In other words, a pretty classic episode.
Season 3, Episode 3 “None of the Above”
By Nerdy Spice
The PSAT arrives and everyone at Capeside goes into a tizzy, even though these things are not reported to colleges and so it’s really just Joey who has a chance at a National Merit Scholarship and has the right to freak out. Even the kids at my insanely competitive prep school did not give a fuck about the PSATs. I personally fell asleep during mine. But anyway, let’s pretend that these are super important. Pacey is quite “nonchalant” about them, and Dawson declares them a “culturally biased weapon against the poor and disenfranchised,” but Joey, Andie, Jen, and Jack freak out.
Of course, Eve seizes this opportunity to throw a Molotov cocktail into the middle of everything by getting ahold of a stolen copy of the test. She tells Dawson not to be selfish—she’s sure someone he know could use it, even if he’s against it. Uh, I don’t think that’s the most accurate definition of “selfish,” but OK. Dawson brings it to everyone, which causes Andie to think, quite reasonably, that they’re all going to federal prison. Joey realizes immediately that Eve must’ve been the one who gave it to him and accuses Dawson of “proving once again that the groin is mightier than the brain.” But a fire alarm goes off before the crew decides what to do, and when they get back in, the envelope is gone. Eve points out to Dawson that one of his crew must’ve taken it, so he asks everyone who did it and tells them to put it back in his locker. They all accuse each other of having reasons to steal the test—Pacey has been distracted by his breakup, Joey wants a national merit scholarship, Dawson’s been “busy getting busy,” Andie really wants to go to Harvard, Jen and Jack have been busy with cheerleading and football practice. But later Eve, wearing yet another incredibly tiny shirt, convinces Dawson that Pacey took it—not a hard job, since Dawson secretly thinks Pacey is beneath him anyway.
Dawson comes to find a drunk Pacey at the marina, and the two of them get into a fistfight when Pacey gets offended that Dawson automatically assumed he’d be the one to take the test. Joey takes Pacey’s side immediately, not realizing that Pacey threw the first punch, and sends Dawson packing. While the injured warrior holds a cold Pepsi to his lip, they wonder what happened to the test, and Joey Potter, Queen of De Nile, says unsurprisingly that she doesn’t want to know. “There are certain things in life you’re just better off not knowing.”
But Dawson and Pacey make up at the end, as Dawson stages an unexplained one-man protest by handing in his empty test booklet at the start of the PSATs. Pacey does the same thing—and shares a majorly cute knowing smile with Joey on his way out. Meanwhile, Andie, who obnoxiously shows up with like eighteen jillion sharpened pencils when everyone else has one or two, secretly has the answers written down for herself. Twist!
There are a bunch of side plots showing why everyone is struggling. Joey is dealing with her job and her creepy boss at the marina. She asks him for Friday off to get ready for the PSATs, and he agrees…then suggests a date on Saturday night. Joey claims she’s a lesbian, then finally says, “Would it be all right if I just said no?” Creepy Boss says yes, and even seems to kind of mean it, but then takes it back the next time he catches her making a tiny mistake. “This is about your bruised little ego,” says Joey, proving that the things we’re all saying about male entitlement and sexual harassment have been known for decades.
Meanwhile, Jack is struggling in football practice. It’s all pretty boring, except that this is how we meet Henry Palmer, the starry-eyed freshman who is madly in love with Jen. He spends way too much time informing Jack of his dreams of Jen’s breasts and the notion that if she let him kiss her, it would prove that the universe isn’t evil. Also, Jack comes up with a Football Catchphrase for himself, and the catchphrase is … “fug.” Yeah, I don’t know. But it is actually kind of fun to see Jen’s band of newly disaffected cheerleaders stand around chanting the least excited cheers anyone has ever heard.
Finally, Andie and Pacey are dealing with major post-breakup awkwardness. Pacey’s mostly dealing with it by making bitter comments about cheating. Then Andie gives back all the pictures, jewelry, and gifts Pacey ever gave her like a big jerk.
Luckily, Pacey has friends to support him through this. After getting back his box, Pacey shows up drunk to the marina. (“Have you been drinking?” Joey asks. “Only liquor, I promise,” he says, lifting his hands. Ha!) Then he falls flat on his face on the dock and loses the entire box Andie gave him to the sea. Joey pats his hand and agrees to cover for him with his dad, showing genuine sympathy. Aww!! What more could you want than a partner who will cover for your drunk ass once in awhile? Speaking as an Irishwoman, I’d have to say… nothing. Plus, after the fight, Joey totally takes care of his lip and reassures him (in a snarky, Joey-like way) that he’s not a loser.
But the real happy ending is that this episode is the end of Eve*. When Dawson is upset about the stolen test and his fight with Pacey, he totally blames it on Eve (shot!), which… on the one hand, classic Dawson move to blame everything on a woman, on the other, Eve really is the worst. Eve just claims, “The fact is we’re all criminals in one way or another.” Like, yes, in the larger, existentialist sense we all commit crimes, but there are many many people who don’t cheat on their PSATs. People who lie and cheat always think everyone lies and cheats. Dawson objects to this, so Eve goes for condescension: “Someone offers you a view of human nature that’s even remotely truthful and you just walk away from it?” Also a classic move: when someone says something that is shitty and false and reveals that they are a shitty person, and then accuse the other person of not being able to handle the truth. (A common tactic of racists and misogynists.) Luckily Dawson sees through this ploy and tells Eve that he doesn’t really like her now that he knows her. Harsh, but… fair. Good-bye, Eve. We hardly liked ye.
*She totally comes back, but I had forgotten all about that and thought she was gone. Allow me my brief celebration please.
- Dawson is shocked—shocked!—that Eve likes TV. “This is just the padding they stick between beer commercials.” Shot for the meta reference! They’re watching Felicity, which, as you may recall, was also the show that made Joey declare that “the metaphor alone makes me nauseous.” Another shot for Dawson’s self-referential declaration “You’ve seen one hour of whiny, overanalytical teen angst, you’ve seen them all,” followed by a rant about how Felicity is a terrible hero because she’s neurotic, paralyzed, and too chatty. ANOTHER shot! Then Dawson makes a joke about how TV always cuts to commercial at the best part just as Eve climbs on top of him. So, for those following along at home, we’re four shots in at 2:30.
- Eve has apparently agreed to watch TV only under duress, hoping that they can have sex later. Yeah. I love how all the beautiful women in this town are just dying to get into Dawson’s pants.
- We also learn that Dawson objects to how no one is tested or makes the wrong choice on TV. FYI, people will be tested and make the wrong choice in this episode. But you could probably tell that.
- Of COURSE Andie studies for the PSAT while doing crunches and wearing a Harvard sweatshirt.
- Why is Dr. Green, the principal, teaching a PSAT prep class? Doesn’t dude have better things to do with his time?
- Joey’s convinced she’s going to have to work at a motel someday if she flubs the PSAT. Has anyone told her that National Merit Scholarships are… not exactly going to pay for tuition? They’ll maaaaybe stretch to cover a few semesters’ worth of textbooks, and even that might be pushing it.
- Joey asks Dawson to help her out with a night of distraction because they’ve agreed to “peace with honor.” Yeah, I’m sure this doesn’t have to do with trying to distract Dawson from his new blonde bombshell or anything.
- Of course Eve places an apple on the windowsill to get Dawson’s attention. Take a shot for that oh-so-subtle reference. We get it! Women are evil temptresses!
- She also refers to Joey as “the ubiquitous brunette” (kudos for that; she says it very coolly, an excellent way of expressing that she’s taken notice of Joey but isn’t threatened by her) “who hasn’t yet learned the power and sway she holds over the hearts of men.” Notice the plural “men” there. You just know Eve sees Pacey and Joey coming a mile away.
- Eve says she had a boy next door, and that they could see into each other’s bedrooms…. but he was her dad’s commanding officer. Wow, she can ruin anything.
- “Cheating seems to be an activity that you’re real comfortable with these days,” Pacey snarks to Andie when she judges him for suggesting that they all make a crib sheet out of the illegally obtained answers.
- It’s cute when Jen wraps up Jack’s chest after a particularly rough football practice and talks him into not giving up. I guess those cheerleading practices have taught her a little bit of pep, and I always love a good Jack/Jen friendship moment!
- Jen’s hair is a little straighter and longer and actually looks reasonably cute—maybe not enough to do justice to Michelle Williams’ natural beauty, but a huuuuge improvement.
- Dawson decides to go back to school late that night to search for the stolen test again. If that wasn’t stupid enough (he already searched for it earlier that day so why would it magically reappear six hours later?), he and Eve literally whisper to each other, and by “whisper” I mean “talk in regular, if quiet, voices,” just as the security guard walks by. What a dummy.
- Eve immediately realizes that someone must’ve taken the envelope, calling it “female intuition.” Ugh, shut up, Eve. I think it’s more “takes one to know one” intuition, as in “takes a thief to know a thief.”
- Ugh, Andie complains about the “group’s level of integrity” as shown by the disappearing test. Even though, spoiler alert, she’s the shameless cheater who took it! Shut up, Andie!
- Pacey laughs cutely when Joey tells Dawson that “if your rope were any more yanked, you’d be a church bell.”
- Joey also says that she bets Dawson “didn’t fire any ethical comments” Eve’s way.
- Watching Michael Pitt play the dopey lovesick Henry, I would never have predicted that he would become as famous as he has.
- Just before the first punch is thrown, Pacey says, “You, Dawson Leery, are a self-righteous son of a bitch.” Must feel good to finally say it out loud!
- After the fight, Pacey asks Joey when he should believe the general consensus that he’s a loser. Shot for a Pacey pity party! But it’s in the middle of an adorable Pacey/Joey scene, so who could complain?
It’s gotta be Joey and Pacey bonding by moonlight while Pacey nurses his wounded lip. He complains about Dawson thinking he’s a loser, and Joey ribs him gently: “I mean I’ve thought you were a loser for years, but you’ve never believed me.” She also insults his face, just for good measure. And he clearly enjoys it.
Most cringeworthy moment:
“If we’re going to beat the crap out of each other, it should at least be over a chick,” Dawson says when he and Pacey make up, like the big sexist idiot he is. (Also, talk about famous last words!)
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Dawson says that when he was consulting with his friends he never suspected anyone would be so weak or “self-motivated” as to steal the test. It’s pretty clear he means, like, “motivated by selfishness.” Close, but no, Dawson. Maybe you should’ve stolen the answers. Ba-dum-bump.
Seven shots, four in the first two and a half minutes, mostly—thank goodness—for meta references, not gross euphemisms. (Eve, being Eve, mostly just goes for the real words for things.)
Previous installment here.