Season 3, Episode 4 “Home Movies”
That’s right, everyone… it’s the beginnings of True Love! The titular “home movies” are actually videos of Dawson and Joey being tiny soulmates, and yet this episode is primarily remembered for a few iconic scenes between Joey and Pacey. Their chemistry just won’t be denied.
In other news, the writers concoct such a father-son conflict so contrived, I actually find myself on Dawson’s side. I hate when that happens.
In “Home Movies,” 16-year-old Dawson gets an opportunity to film a story about a high school football game for his mother’s big-time news station. (Um… yeah, no–but fine.) Mitch doesn’t pay attention to his son for a few days because he’s suddenly–and conveniently–very ambitious about his high school coaching career. When Mitch finds out Dawson is doing his story on Jack, the team’s openly gay secret weapon, he flips the fuck out and tells Dawson he can’t do this story, because–as he dramatically yells with his booming Flash voice–“I’ve worked too hard!”, when as far as we can tell, he only started this coaching gig like, three episodes ago.
Dawson petulantly (although rightly, and age-appropriately), protests that that’s not fair, and Mitch tells his teenage son not to be “theatrical.” Usually, I would be all for calling Dawson out on his drama queeny antics, but for once this is pretty unfair. Leave it to Mitch to be so incredibly selfish that he makes Dawson look reasonable.
There are some weak attempts to turn this into an epic, impossible ethical quandary, but it really doesn’t fly. Dawson (somehow) serves as the voice of reason when he eventually asks Mitch, “Doesn’t a nationally televised broadcast kind of overshadow a high school football rivalry?” Um, YES, in fact, it does. This isn’t Dillon, Texas we’re talking about here– literally no one on Earth cares about high school football in the Northeast except Mitch and poor, sweet “Helmets of Glory” Cliff.
To add insult to injury, Joey characterizes this dumb conflict as “the stuff of Greek drama.” No. Just no. It is not the “stuff of Greek drama” just because it happens to involve a father and son. If a mother and daughter had a fight over something this trivial (or even something not trivial), it would not be “the stuff of Greek drama,” it would just be “drama.”
And yet, this whole plotline is somehow not the most offensively dumb part of the episode, especially since we’re entering the dreaded Henry era. In “Home Movies,” dopey freshman Henry grossly lusts after Jen from afar, but strikes out when he tries to talk to her like a normal human. Like any reasonable person, he reacts to this by paying a charity $500 so she’s contractually obligated to kiss him (don’t ask). At first, Jen doesn’t know that Henry is the person trying to paying for her body, and is appropriately grossed out. But then, she finds out it’s Henry, and she finds it absolutely adorable just because he got the money by selling his disgusting secondhand mouthpiece (seriously, is there any tiny element of their relationship that isn’t weird and gross??).
I know the writers do a lot of inexplicable things around this period, but aside from Eve, Henry might be the most unmitigated disaster. Honestly, is there anyone in the world who ships them? If there is, I would be so curious to talk to them. It’s like meeting a Dean shipper in the wild, but even weirder.
Luckily, we have the burgeoning relationship between Joey and Pacey to get us through these hard times. This is arguably the first episode to lay it on super thick–first Joey skips class for some mystery activity with Pacey, which, for a girl who literally did an extra credit project to get two points back on her midterm, is pretty much the definition of twoo wuv. Then they hitchhike together, get caught by the principal, and engage in such adorable banter that even Principal Greene starts shipping them. Then, Pacey shows Joey his beloved boat (True Love!) and asks her to come aboard for the first time. As we all know, it only gets better from here.
- In this first scene, Dawson and Pacey manage to use a BUNCH of big words–“obsolescence,” “eschewing,” and “ephemeral”–correctly! (Albeit awkwardly.) Progress!
- I love Pacey rattling off a list of hilariously outdated technologies, including Commodore 64, laserdisc (do you guys remember laser discs? What a weird time!), and Betamax machines. —Nerdy Spice
- “Real-life stories are always more compelling than anything you could possibly dream up,” Pacey claims. Ahhh, so meta. —Nerdy Spice
- Yeah, yeah, we hear you, Kevin Williamson. It still doesn’t excuse Tamara. Shot!
- Somehow the Leerys have footage of Dawson and Joey first meeting each other. Wow. “Once a heartbreaker, always a heartbreaker,” Pacey quips as Joey pushes him down. Awww! He thinks she’s a heartbreaker! —Nerdy Spice
- Aw. The kid versions of Dawson and Joey are actually pretty well-cast.
- I love that Jen is in her “rebellious” stage, and the most provocative thing she can think of is wearing fishnet tights under her cheerleader outfit. Nice try, Jen, but they just sort of look cute.
- “The entire notion of cheerleading is just a sexist attempt to try to objectify the female body.” She’s completely right, but she’s in such a disingenuous “look at me, I’m a bad girl” mode that I just can’t take her seriously.
- OMG, this scene where Pacey sneaks up on Joey and then says “Like, oh my god, go team!” in a falsetto voice is so cute I want to die.
- And it’s so cute how much they’re already touching each other! She touches his arm when she realizes it’s him, he puts his hands on her shoulders, he pinches her cheeks as a joke… ah, young love. —Nerdy Spice
- Also–he actually convinces Joey to cut class?? The girl who did an entire extra credit project to get two points back on her midterm? Now, that’s love.
- Mitch refuses to give an interview with Dawson because he’s under the mistaken impression that his video is a school project, rather than a news story, and Dawson can “get an extension.” Um, I’m sorry, but that’s almost worse. It’s bad enough that a high school football team matters more than your kid’s dreams, but now it also matters more than his education? Mitch is literally the worst.
- Oh no. We’re in the Henry era. He’s only been on screen for like, five minutes and he’s already said the line, “Her very name is fire in my loins.” Ew! Take a shot for unnecessary (and super creepy) sex references!
- Lots of 90s fashions are coming back into style, but I think it’s safe to say that crimping will never make a comeback.
- I love that the Dawson’s Creek writers think they’re writing a really subversive plotline about how cheerleading is part of a sexist culture, and then portray all of the cheerleaders as conformist dimwits who say dumb things like, “Is today a low-iron day?” Ah, 90s post-feminism.
- I think the world has at least advanced enough that this plotline about Jen being auctioned off for a kiss, and Henry actually buying her as a start to their relationship, would not happen. Right? Please tell me I’m right. —Nerdy Spice
- Do the writers think the ETS is actually a lot like the CIA? I know bureaucrats are obsessed with rules, but this weirdo ETS guy literally acted like he was protecting government secrets.
- Andie uses a string of SAT words incorrectly when trying to express her “regret” at the incident that brought the ETS to the school, including “repentance” and “compunction,” neither of which make any sense in that context. Good thing she stole the answers, amirite?
- MORE TOUCHING! God they’re so cute. —Nerdy Spice
- Wow, they really just didn’t let young women wear bras in 90s TV shows, did they? I won’t screenshot poor Katie Holmes, so as not to objectify her further, but trust me, they Jennifer Anistoned her hardcore.
- Andie has one of those 90s scenes where Principal Greene says he needs to see her about a “disciplinary hearing,” and then of course it’s a misunderstanding, he just wants her to serve on the disciplinary board. I’m sorry, then why on earth would you say it that way?? Anyone would misinterpret that, not just someone as neurotic as Andie.
- It turns out Mitch had no idea Dawson was doing a story for TV. Sounds bad, but it’s hard to blame the guy for not fully listening to yet another description of Dawson’s Genius Film Projects. Now I’ve never had kids, but I imagine even the unconditional love of a parent can only go so far. —Nerdy Spice
- “You know last night, in your kitchen, that blond-haired kid who was moving his lips? That was actually me telling you this.” Heh. That’s actually pretty funny.
- “Football is a head game.” Ugh. Mitch is such an overgrown frat bro.
- I understand Joey’s hurt that she couldn’t get Dawson back at the drop of a hat, but referring to herself as a “dumped ex-girlfriend” when in fact she dumped Dawson twice is… pushing it a little, no? —Nerdy Spice
- Dawson tries to justify his father’s completely unreasonable behavior by talking about how Mitch lost his marriage, doesn’t have much of a career, and “his wife stepped out on him with the Capeside equivalent of Ted Knight” (shot!). I have no idea who that is, but take another shot for men blaming women for their own insecurities!
- Then, Joey summarizes the so-called emotional stakes: “So, if you go ahead with the story, he could not only lose the game, but his self-respect.” Um, again, if Mitch could “lose his self-respect” over a HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME, he has much bigger problems.
- Joey then says significantly: “Sometimes, we fight our fathers, and they respect us. Sometimes we fight them, and we lose them forever.” I love that Dawson’s petty daddy issues matter so fucking much that Joey thinks they somehow compare to her sending her father to prison. Now that’s the stuff of Greek drama.
- From my partner, who has never watched the show before: “Why does James van der Beek always look like he’s balding??” (Shot!)
- Joey compares Pacey to Eddie Haskell: another old-timey actor that I have to Google. Did Amy Sherman-Palladino ghost-write this episode or something?
- Joey tells Pacey, “I hope a deer tick crawled in your ear and laid eggs.” Hee! The banter just improves so much with the two of them. Remember the stupid fights Andie and Pacey would have about, like, school assignments and him calling her a princess for no reason? —Nerdy Spice
- The Southern-accented coach threatening to “infringe” on the openly gay football player is… awkward. —Nerdy Spice
- Also, the Southern-accented coach is asked about an “openly gay” football player, and his answer involves players who “come out wearing lipstick and rouge.” Sounds about right.
- “I’m just trying to break you out of your self-centered, self-righteous fantasy world long enough to look out for other people,” Mitch says to Dawson. BURN!! Then Dawson OF COURSE pulls his whole “I get to act like a kid sometimes” thing, which he does approximately every two episodes. —Nerdy Spice
- Yeah, Mitch is definitely a shit father sometimes, but Dawson’s whole “I parent you speech” is so melodramatic, my partner assumed Mitch was a Shameless-style alcoholic.
- OMG Pacey begging Joey “Don’t make me go out there!” I died.
- Andie’s mirror-rehearsed sob story about Pacey does not move my stone-cold, Pacey-Joey-loving heart. But I do admit that I spent plenty of time as a kid staring at myself in the mirror and working myself up to tears by imagining telling someone all my problems, so … I’m not as different from Andie as I’d like to think. —Nerdy Spice
- The football scenes are brief, but deadly boring. Thus far, FNL is still the only show that has ever made me give a fuck about this stupid, fitful game.
- Dawson flat-out interrupts Mitch’s pep talk to the football team. RUDE. –Nerdy Spice
- It’s gotta be illegal to cover players’ jerseys in mud so you can’t read the numbers, right? Luckily no one watches Dawson’s Creek for its verisimilitude in playing football. —Nerdy Spice
- Principal Greene is sanctioning this kiss nonsense?? I can’t.
- Right before they kiss, Henry gallantly tells Jen that she “doesn’t have to” kiss him–after literally blackmailing her by donating $500 to orphans and stipulating that the kiss “had to come from her.” What a gentleman.
- Then, in the end, Jen is horrified that the student body voted her homecoming queen, and we’re supposed to admire her so very much because she just hates being a pretty blonde girl that everyone suddenly likes for no reason. Shut up, Jen.
- The “reveal” that Pacey and Joey convinced unsuspecting freshmen to get into the mascot costume has to be the lamest end-of-act cliffhanger of our times.
- I actually cooed at my screen when Joey asked to come aboard and Pacey smiled and said, “Permission granted.” —Nerdy Spice
- Dawson’s response to Mitch confessing that he cried when Dawson was born… is to giggle. Wow. —Nerdy Spice
- It’s cute how Dawson reaches out by offering to play catch with Mitch. (Who definitely doesn’t trust Dawson to play even a few rounds of catch since he just throws it back on the field.) —Nerdy Spice
- Joey watching home movies of her and Dawson at the end is actually super cute. Katie Holmes gets across just the right amount of sadness and nostalgia. Those two really should be best friends forever.
While the titular home movies definitely tug at the heartstrings, there’s no contest. The highlight is the iconic, “Permission to come aboard?” moment between Pacey and Joey, followed by the introduction of “True Love”–both the boat and the incipient shipper name. When this was airing, the writers knew fans would be resistant to shipping a love story that wasn’t Joey and Dawson, but this scene really didn’t give us a choice.
Most cringeworthy moment:
I get that they were trying to hide their faces, but still–the football team camouflaging their only gay player by making all the players wear eyeliner and lipstick (as if Jack were wearing those things in the first place) is pretty tone-deaf, to say the least.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
A very nice folksy song about “Just another hard lesson learned” plays in the background as Pacey and Joey work on his boat. The ONLY Google result for these lyrics is someone else trying to figure out the name of this song after seeing it on Dawson’s Creek. God, life was so fucking difficult before the internet. Sure, now Facebook is collecting our data so that they can help Russians elect racist trolls to the US presidency, but at least we can always find out the names of cool songs we hear on TV! —Nerdy Spice
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Andie expresses her “recalcitrance” to the ETS guy about whatever brought him there, a word that sounds like it could mean something like “regret,” but actually means “stubborn defiance.” Which, considering what a fucking suck-up Andie is, was probably the opposite of what she was going for.
Four, for meta-references, women-blaming, vintage greasy Beek hair, and inappropriate loin references.
Season 3, Episode 5 “Indian Summer”
By Nerdy Spice
So… to sum up the episode, it’s hot out. Whoever’s in charge of pouring the fake sweat onto all the actors was hopefully being paid very well this episode, because they had to pour a lot of fake sweat. Especially with Eve, who was exposing approximately 83% of her skin at any given moment.
The theme of this episode is film noir: specifically the Femme Fatale, who shows up seeming all sexy but then gets innocent men into trouble and ruins their lives. One hot Indian summer night, to the accompaniment of jazzy film noir music, Dawson sees a flashlight moving through the house next door and calls the police. What?? Why would that be a robbery? This is Capeside! Of course it just turns out to be Eve anyway, but as soon as Doug Witter, The Only Cop In Capeside, shows up, Eve is gone.
Dawson spends some time stalking, I mean “investigating,” her (Doug’s advice is to stake out the laundromat) and eventually finds her hanging out on a boat at the dock. As soon as she leaves, he takes a picture of a random woman lying around the boat. But then Doug comes up and arrests him or something. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, the woman in the photo is Eve’s long-lost mother. Obviously, once this is revealed, the outcome is inevitable: as soon as Eve claims she’s leaving for good (again), after Dawson blames her for all his problems (again, and take a shot!), Dawson realizes that Jen’s mother is the same woman from Eve’s photo.
OK, so, in some ways, this episode is incredibly, stupidly, misogynistic with all the Femme Fatale nonsense. But the rest of it is secretly actually kind of awesome and feminist! Most of the rest of the episode is all about not one, but two young women standing up for themselves and each other against sexual harassment. No, it’s not perfect (especially since we know Jen will end up dating her creepy stalker for like a season), but it is actually pretty empowering and fun to watch.
Kick-ass girl #1 is Joey. Joey is still dealing with her creepy boss, Rob, who continually leers at her and strips off his shirt in front of her and throws it on to her like a giant gross sweaty creep. She uses a stick to throw it back to him so she doesn’t have to touch his shirt. Hee! Her final response is “ask me again in two years when I’m legal.” His response is to … spray her with water in an attempt to get a peek at some sixteen-year-old boobage. It’s totally gross, and yet Joey continues standing up for herself with strength and snark. It’s seriously awesome!
Later, Rob brags that he has a hot date, to which Joey rolls her eyes and says “Don’t tell me you actually found some high school girl so riddled with insecurities that she would actually fall for your Humpert Humpert impersonations.” You have to love this joke: as soon as Joey finishes, up comes Andie! So he DID find a high school girl so massively riddled with insecurities that she’ll believe almost anything! (Kudos on the actually accurate literary reference to Lolita, too. Shot!) Moneybags then makes a gross joke, to which Andie coos, “Was that a sexual overture?” and then he presses a tip creepily into Joey’s breast pocket. Joey throws it back at him, telling him to save it for bail money, but Andie, staying true to her typical terrible judgment, seems completely unbothered by the sight of her old-ass date pawing her friend’s boob.
Determined to warn Andie, Joey goes all the way to the movie theater’s grand reopening (How many times does this movie theater close and reopen??). Joey says Rob’s “a creep to an exponential degree,” but Andie just says that not everyone minds being looked at as a sexual object (shot for a reference to Joey’s abject fear of sex, I guess, even if she is clearly the rational one in this conversation). “Get a grip,” Joey says awesomely. Andie then tells her she’s hung up on Dawson and leaves. Now, no seventeen-year-old deserves to be molested by a creepy twenty-something, but it’s kinda hard to feel that bad for Andie, who’s being a giant stupid asshole.
Not to be defeated, Joey pulls … well, a Joey, by sitting down next to Andie and Rob and ruining their date by talking about congealed cheese food. She’s having a great time, and it’s hilarious. “This is comic gold,” she says… of the movie, then offers Rob a Goober. Heh. I love it so much!
Andie comes to the marina and tells Joey that Rob was a gentleman on their date. Then he comes in and fires her for closing early so she could horn in on their date. Joey is shocked, but I mean… you do kind of have to work your assigned hours. Andie tries to advocate for her, but Joey just yells at him to rot in hell. YEAH JOEY!
Another girl setting kick-ass boundaries in this episode is Jen, who has to contend with both a creepy stalker (Henry the Freshman) and a “best” friend who cares more about getting his guy friends laid than about Jen’s feelings. Jack kind of presses Jen to admit that Henry, the freshman with an out-of-control crush on her, is sweet, but Jen says, “It’s the sweet ones you have to watch out for.” Yeah, and that goes double for sweet guys that pay money to make you kiss them. Jack’s defense is that he’s “harmless” and “worships you.”
Jack has absolutely no interest in the fact that Jen is uncomfortable, and even ends up tricking Jen into showing up at their special stargazing spot when Henry will be there. Jen is pissed, and rightfully so. She tells Henry, “I know you’re new at this, but dating is a consensual activity that usually involves some sort of prearrangement. Next time don’t skip the part where you ask me.” GO JEN! Then she goes home to yell at Jack for taking Henry’s side and not listening to her when she said she wasn’t interested in Henry’s creepy freshman ass. She also points out that Henry isn’t just a kid—he’s a kid who stares at her like she’s a pornographic fantasy. GO JEN, AGAIN!! This might be Jen’s peak, honestly. It’s so satisfying.
The end is kind of a mixed bag, though: Jack doesn’t really apologize, he just says he set Jen up (against her will) to prove to her that love existed, or something. Then Jen says the problem is that this field is “our place.” Um, I think the problem is the whole thing where he was pimping you out against your will, but OK. Anyway, then they talk about how they’re both lonely. And then it gets sweet again: Jack mourns that he’s the only gay kid in town, but Jen looks him in the eye and promises sweetly and earnestly that he will have an amazing love life.
- Dawson and Pacey are watching movies, and Dawson says he “can’t wrap my head around this film noir stuff.” Pacey argues that it’s because it’s the cinema of cynicism, drops the word “femme fatales,” and claims to be a film noir antihero (shot!). The fact that Slacker Pacey understands this basic set of film concepts better than Dawson “I have also heard of Charlie Chaplin, now feel free to praise me for my Expertise In Film” Leery tells you a lot about Dawson’s inflated ego.
- “How can this guy not know that this woman is setting him up for a fall of epic proportions?” Dawson says of the femme fatale. Well, he may not get film noir, but the notion that women can be blamed for all your problems seems to come quite naturally.
- When Dawson finds Eve in Jen’s house, Eve claims to be having a lurid affair with Jen in her awful fake baby-voice and then finally threatens to report him for the PSAT thing if he calls the cops on her. Ugh, she is the WORST. This femme fatale can’t be blamed for everything, but she can be blamed for an immediate rise in blood pressure on the part of your inveterately cranky recappers.
- Eve makes a reference to Dawson’s “bleeding heart”! Twenty shots!
- While they’re stargazing, Jen is TOTALLY flirting with Jack, touching his shoulder and staring deep into his eyes as she says flirtily, “Sex will never come between you and me.” Yeah, that’s the behavior of a straight best friend who’s accepted your sexuality.
- Jack has already begun his metamorphosis into a gross, sexist frat boy. While he stands around with Henry trying in vain to convince the stalker, I mean the hopeless romantic, to just ask Jen out already, and Henry rhapsodizes that Jen is “this perfect thing” which pretty much sums up Henry’s attitude towards all women, Jack is just like “You should see her in a towel!” Um, maybe don’t brag about the fact that you see your straight best friend naked to random dudes who want to get in her pants! RUDE.
- Jack says he might be able to help Henry, and Henry, misunderstanding, thinks Jack is going to get Jen to ask him out. You WISH, sucker. “I am so down with that feminist stuff!” he says gleefully. Let’s review: Henry paid a girl $500 to kiss him and then referred to her not thirty seconds ago as a “thing.” So, yeah. I’d say Henry’s completely down with the feminist stuff.
- Doug is giving Dawson advice on femme fatale noir tales while giving parking tickets. Hee!
- Pacey, hoping to distract Dawson from his fruitless obsession with a girl who he clearly will not still be with in three months, advises him: “There are some women who will come onto the movie set that is your life and function solely as day players.” Unfortunately, trying to put Dawson’s problems in perspective is generally a quixotic exercise.
- Of COURSE Eve is walking around the marina buying ice cream in just a bikini top and tiny shorts. Because she’s a deranged male fantasy and not an actual human.
- Doug is such a hero. He not only answers every call, he stays on duty morning noon and night! Seriously, Dawson called 911 while it was still dark out this morning and Doug answered, then Doug was writing up traffic tickets while Dawson stalked Eve around noon, and now he’s patrolling the marina at like 8pm. Someone get this guy’s union rep on the phone, he needs eighty thousand dollars of overtime.
- Andie says of Rob: “I mean, his parents are loaded. Not that that matters but it doesn’t hurt either.” Oh my God, she is SUCH an idiot.
- Jack eats ice cream right out of the gallon carton and Grams just tells him that he’s keeping Jen happy and that’s “earning his keep.” If Jen tried to eat out of that gallon carton you KNOW Grams would have made a huge fuss.
- As she does about every four minutes, Eve shows up uninvited in Dawson’s virginal bedroom. As usual, Dawson starts blaming Eve for all of his dumb choices (shot!). Then Eve complains that he’s not grateful even though she “turned a dork into a stud.” I … think that’s overstating your achievement a bit there, Eve.
- Eve refers to her quest to find her mother as an “estrogen-charged urge to seek out the missing pieces.” Yeah, because women are the only people who have feelings? Ugh. The internalized misogyny of the Cool Girl is one of the worst kinds of misogyny.
- Dawson carries a whole window unit air conditioner all the way to Jen and Grams’ house just as a favor, which is quite impressive. “Beware of heretics bearing air-conditioners,” says Grams rather rudely.
- Well, I think if nothing else, this episode is great news for Jen. Now that Eve’s her sister, she’ll never have to be The Slutty One again.
Clearly it is Joey plopping down in the middle of Andie and Rob’s date out of sheer female solidarity, just to save someone who five minutes ago insulted her for having a lack of experience with guys. Yeah, sisterhood!
Most cringeworthy moment:
Everything about Eve in the marina.
You know what I like to do when I’m in a houseboat on a dark marina? Backlight myself and then take off my bikini top in front of a translucent curtain. Because that’s what we ladies like to do.
Worse, Dawson and Pacey just stand there and watch. It’s totally gross.
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
OK, I don’t have any, but Eve did refer to Dawson as a “stud,” which is a very wrongly used ten-cent word.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Definitely “Swim” by Madonna.
Twenty-five, for three instances of woman-blaming, one twenty-shot reference to Dawson’s heart, and various literary references.
Season 3, Episode 6 “Secrets and Lies”
Oh God, I don’t even know where to start. There are several things about Dawson’s that don’t age well over time (Eve, Tamara, basically any female character who’s not Joey or Abby Morgan), but the whole Andie-makes-up-a-rape storyline gives them a run for their money.
In “Secrets and Lies,” Andie is still going out with the aforementioned sexual harasser, Rob Logan. Pacey finds out about their relationship, and shortly after Andie calls Pacey and Joey from a party and tells them that Rob tried to force himself on her. She refuses to go to the police, and while Pacey is taking care of her, they hook up again, mostly at Andie’s insistence. Rob Logan tries to convince Joey that he’s not a rapist, and she doesn’t exactly believe him, but she starts to have some doubts. Pacey then breaks up with Andie for good, and Andie blows up at Joey, assuming that Joey told Pacey she lied about the rape attempt. Then–twist!–it turns out Andie did lie about the rape attempt, or at least it’s heavily implied that she did. She tells Joey she has “blinders” on where Pacey is concerned, that she’s capable of things that Joey couldn’t imagine, and that she “doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.”
Weirdly, there’s a version of this episode that’s completely consistent with the behavior of a young girl who has experienced sexual assault. It rings so true when Andie doesn’t want to go to the police and recount her humiliating experience, and it rings even more true when she tries to minimize it: “It’s not like he actually did anything…” It also makes perfect sense that Andie would start to have doubts about her own perception of events, and that she would say things like, “Maybe I overreacted,” because she’s in denial or because she’s been gaslit by her stint in a mental institution. Even Joey and Pacey’s reactions are believably counterproductive: Pacey feels the need to punch out Rob before taking the time to comfort Andie, while Joey insists that Andie go to the police and takes Andie at face-value when Andie starts to doubt her own version of events. All of these are realistic reactions for three well-intentioned, ill-equipped sixteen-year-olds to have. If I were to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, I would say that this was all intentional, and that they were actually painting a very feminist, forward-thinking portrait of date rape, which, as we all know now, often seems murky from the outside.
But this is Dawson’s Creek. Which yes, is surprisingly feminist for a teen soap that came out in the height of the post-feminist era, but that’s as far as we’ll go. Especially now, during the Eve era, the writers do not get the benefit of the doubt.
At the very best, the writers intended for Andie’s attempted rape to be “ambiguous.” Not “ambiguous” as in illustrating toxic societal issues surrounding consent, but “ambiguous” as in “Andie’s either a helpless victim or an Amy Dunne.” Just as they later use drag queens as a signifier for “fun subversive counterculture” (ugh), the writers are using the hot-button issue of date rape to seem like the “edgy” show they were purported to be.
There is one unexpected grace note in this episode: Pacey and Andie (I know, I’m as surprised as you are). After they hook up, they have an amazingly emotional post-mortem that hits even harder than their original breakup. First, Andie is all smiles and cheer, bringing Pacey a care package and completely ignoring that he’s trying very hard to give her the cold shoulder. It’s already painful to watch. Then, Pacey uses his boat as a metaphor for their relationship: sometimes you can restore a boat to its former glory, but sometimes it’s so damaged that it makes more sense to start anew. It’s not exactly a subtle metaphor, but it gets the job done.
Then it just keeps getting worse. Andie gushes about how happy their hook-up made her, and he says it felt wrong to him, “like I went against what I know is right.” Ouch. We all know how that feels. Pacey goes on: “There used to be a time when you and I were so in sync in everything that we did… [Now] we have the opposite reaction to the exact same event.” Yeesh. Then, Andie sobs that he’s just angry, but we can see on his face that he’s so clearly not, and it’s very, very sad.
Then, the kicker: Pacey, with the maturity of a boy much older than sixteen, says that her decision to sleep with Mark was “her heart’s way of telling you that I’m not the one. Because that’s what my heart is telling me right now.” What a great line. Simultaneously cold-blooded and completely fair. This is a much, much better break-up than that “my love should have been strong enough to fix your psychosis” nonsense.
- Wow, I had almost entirely blocked out this fatally boring storyline where Jen hangs out with a superannuated homecoming queen. —Nerdy Spice
- There are so, so many problems with this dumb “reluctant homecoming queen” plotline, but first things first: no one calls it “HQ.” NO ONE.
- I want to be happy that Jen eschews a lifetime of “cucumber sandwiches” and “Junior League” (the Dawson’s Creek version of the DAR), but then she says this: “I have reached the very pinnacle of Capeside popular culture.” Oh, boo-hoo, Jen, I feel so sorry for you.
- Then a half-century of homecoming queens just randomly shows up in the school hallway (seriously, though? Didn’t any of them move away??), and Jen’s kind of right–it does look like a DAR meeting. Lots of white blonde women and one sad brunette.
- Classic guy move: Pacey claims credit for Joey’s idea to turn the house into a B&B just because he had a suggestion for how to do it cheaply. —Nerdy Spice
- Aw, Pacey knows how Joey takes her coffee! So cute!
- Also, why does Joey immediately start moping about how worried she is that the B&B won’t work out if it was her idea in the first place?!?! —Nerdy Spice
- Pacey companionably touching Joey’s shoulder while he tells her she’s a bad liar! UGHHHH SO CUTE. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey reassures Pacey that “Andie’s way too smart to fall for that jerk’s act.” Um… not to blame the future victim, but Andie literally bore witness to Rob sexually harassing Joey and is still dating him. I wouldn’t overestimate her street smarts too much.
- Gail makes Dawson take her to the dance because she doesn’t have a husband. Like everything Gail does, it’s a Freudian nightmare. —Nerdy Spice
- I love that Gail, who’s been away for several months, is shocked and appalled that Jen was voted homecoming queen. Why?? It’s not like she ever had a countercultural bone in her body until the last three episodes.
- Joey gives Andie a well-deserved guilt trip about getting her fired, and then offhandedly says she told Pacey about the whole Rob debacle “over breakfast.” Andie hilariously sputters “Breakfast??” and Joey shrugs it off, as if she didn’t fully intend to drive Andie crazy with that comment.
- Joey leaves Andie with this zinger re: Rob: “Trust me, Andie, you’re going to get a big, fat ‘I told you so.’” Oof. Awkward.
- The uptight ex-homecoming queen storyline is boring as shit, but I do enjoy her pained sniff as she laments Jen not combing her hair or wearing “brassieres.” —Nerdy Spice
- UGHHH I hate this Andie storyline so much. Rob is a disgusting rapey creep but I feel like the show really toes the line of making Andie into the bad guy. On the other hand, if I were sexually harassed I would want friends like Pacey and Joey around to be indignant on my behalf. —Nerdy Spice
- Ugh I’d also forgotten about Henry flirting with Jen by telling her dirty Latin names for various flowers in the uptight lady’s greenhouse. —Nerdy Spice
- Ew, and two of them involve semi-cognates for “virgin” and “pubescent.” I want to say it’s refreshing that they’re fetishizing the innocence of a boy instead of a girl for once, but nope–it’s always creepy.
- In response, Jen says, “Is it hot in here, or did you just make me blush?” Um, that’s–not the saying.
- Constance tells Jen regarding the gala entertainment, “no mimes, no magicians, no Barry Manilow, no Elvis lookalikes, and no motivational speakers.” This is supposed to be a funny “oh, old people” moment, but it sounds like she actually has pretty good taste!
- Oh, but then she also specifies no “gangsta rap.” Awkward.
- “If we’re not together, then I’m not sitting beside you, staring into your eyes and kissing you,” Andie says. An airtight logical conclusion if I’ve ever heard one. –Nerdy Spice
- As long as we’re talking about consent, Pacey says that he “can’t” kiss her, and Andie makes the equally illogical argument: “I’m not asking what you ‘can’t’ do, Pacey. I’m asking what you want to do.” I mean, most reasonable humans would understand that Pacey actually meant “I don’t want to” rather than “I physically can’t,” but whatever.
- When Pacey drops Andie off after they spent all night making out on his boat, she rambles as usual, and he gives her this indulgent grin until she realizes she’s rambling. You know how the classic Mary Sue (a character who is a standin for the author and is either beloved by everyone for no apparent reason or is so annoyingly perfect that everyone loves her—basically, the Dawson) has only one flaw, and that’s clumsiness? I feel like Rambles When She’s Nervous is another “cute,” incredibly generic quirk given to female characters way too often. And the worst part is how it always motivates the male character to condescendingly ignore her, like if you’re rambling he’s released from any obligation to actually listen to you. —Nerdy Spice
- I would be upset that Pacey clearly lies to Andie when she straight-up asks him if he’s “feeling what she’s feeling,” but he’s so obviously dead in the eyes when he says it, she really only has herself to blame.
- Rob comes over to Joey’s to plead his case and does a bunch of scary stuff like yelling at her and not letting her close the door. Everything about him screams rapist. He admits he harassed her at work, grabs her arm again, and insists he’d never force himself on anyone–while forcibly holding her arm. “If you say so,” Joey says, clearly a) terrified and b) aware of the irony of his making that declaration while holding her against her will. —Nerdy Spice
- Andie tells Joey that “maybe something good came out of this” because “as of last night, Pacey and I are officially back together.” I’m sorry… what?? “Kiss” “just talking about tonight” “that’s all I’m asking,” “whatever new status may result” then in the morning tells Pacey that Again, not to blame the victim here, but she’s so manipulative!
- Heh, Joey does not look happy that Pacey and Andie are back together. ––Nerdy Spice
- Henry makes an oh-so-funny joke about having a crush on one of the drag queens. Jen responds with a pseudo-philosophical-but-actually-totally-offensive speech about how homecoming queens and drag queens are exactly alike because “They’re all just people dressing up, pretending to be something they’re not, playing a role.” I hate them both with every fiber of my being.
- Jen is wearing glitter all over her face! So 90s.
- Jen tells Henry that she just wants to be friends, and he sputters, “But… you asked me to come with you tonight!”, as if that automatically means he’s entitled to her love and lady parts. THEN, he tells her he can “care about her more than anyone has ever cared about her before. Um, BITCH YOU DON’T KNOW HER LIFE.
- His next winning argument goes something like this: Jen doesn’t have a boyfriend, therefore she’s never been in love because otherwise she would be with that person, therefore she knows nothing about love and should fall in love with Henry by default. I know he’s only supposed to be fourteen and everything, but seriously, what a Nice Guy.
- I actually choked up a little as Pacey told Andie that his heart was telling him that she’s not the one. So embarrassing. —Nerdy Spice
- We end on a nice little montage to a pretty Chantal Kreviazuk song, which is completely inexplicable, since there is no throughline between the A, B, and C plots in this episode– but let’s be real, montages are always welcome.
- The final shot in the montage is Joey comforting Andie, even though she’s one of those girls MRAs always warn you about. But um… at least this episode passes the Bechdel test?
That last breakup scene between Pacey and Andie was done so well, I thought that might be the first (and probably last) highlight that involved this coupling. But instead, I’ll pick the only properly feminist moment in the episode, the only moment that stands up after #MeToo: when Rob aggressively tries to convince Joey that he’s not a rapist, he admits to harassing her only to say, “But there’s a difference between an inappropriate workplace flirtation and—“ Joey interrupts him: “And sexual assault? You draw your own line in the sand, they are both against the law.” [WOOHOO! –Nerdy Spice]
Most cringeworthy moment:
Everything about the appearance of the drag queens is cringey, but the most painful moment is definitely when a shocked Constance says, “Who… and what… are they?” I know that Constance is supposed to be an old conservative bat and Jen is supposed to be the cool counterculture teen who accepts people of all orientations, but since the social commentary is half-hearted at best and egregiously offensive at worst, I wince every time I hear this line.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
The song that plays over the montage: “Eve” by Dawson’s favorite Chantal Kreviazuk.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Andie declares the “True Love” plate on Pacey’s boat “ironic.” Nice try, Alanis. —Nerdy Spice
Three: two for various instances of Henry creepiness, 1 for Constance’s old-fashioned Jen Lindley slut-shaming. Not nearly enough to get through this episode, but it will do.
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