We’re rewatching all of Dawson’s Creek in honor of its twentieth anniversary. Will require some mind-numbing. Drinking game rules can be found here.
Season 3, Episode 10 “First Encounters of the Close Kind”
“First Encounters of the Close Kind” is much better than I remembered. The whole time I was watching it, I was thinking, “This episode is tightly written, has a clear theme, and arguably has a more mature perspective on the characters than anything we’ve seen thus far. Why do I hardly ever rewatch it?” And then I remembered–no Pacey!
In “First Encounters,” all of the kids (minus Pacey! 😦 ) have–yes–encounters that make them question themselves and their uncertain futures. Joey goes on her first college visit and is torn down by literary snobs, Dawson enters his terrible Blair Witch wannabe in a film festival and gets savaged, Andie fails to get an interview with the dean of the college she wants to go to, and Jack makes his first foray into the gay scene.
Dawson’s has a tendency to idealize its characters–especially Dawson, but really all of them. Joey and Andie aren’t just smart, they’re the smartest girls in school. Dawson, of course, takes a shit and sunshine comes out. But in the end, they’re all just kids from a small town, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see an episode focused on all of their frailties, and all of the ways in which they’ll be medium fishes in big ponds when they go out into the real world.
Let’s start with Dawson, since his takedown is the most satisfying. We start off the episode with all of the normal undeserved compliments of his cinematic genius, and then those compliments are immediately put into perspective when he arrives at the film festival, which is packed with kids who have wanted to be filmmakers their whole lives (and presumably are fans of far artsier directors than Spielberg). His competitor Nikki, for example, finally gives us a realistic reaction to Dawson’s hilariously basic Spielberg worship:
At first, Dawson assumes Nikki is just a random black girl helping out at the festival, probably because she doesn’t fit his vision of what a “filmmaker” looks like. He wastes no time in puffing his chest and playing the precocious wunderkind, and then when his movie is torn apart, he lashes out at her, rejects her constructive criticism, and dismisses everyone who doesn’t like his dumb movie as “art house snobs.” (James Cameron, is that you?)
Then, it turns out that she’s a gifted filmmaker whose movie blows Dawson away. (Ha, karma.) In response, he immediately apologizes to her and concedes that she’s just as talented as he is. Lol, jk, he complains that her criticism of his movie was too harsh and hardcore negs her by telling her her film is “technically accomplished.” Such a white man.
His reaction to Nikki’s film is super annoying, but for once, it’s clearly supposed to be. When her film doesn’t win at the festival, he finally admits that her film was more than “technically accomplished,” it was “inspired,” and reminded him why he wanted to make movies in the first place. This episode could hardly be characterized as race-conscious (more on that later), but it is immensely satisfying to see a white guy realize that maybe–just maybe–a black girl could have just as much to say as he does (probably more).
Similarly, Joey gets a wake-up call when she goes to college for the first time, and is reminded that she won’t always be the smartest, most well-read person in the room. She’s paired off with a semi-cute college boy named A.J. (due to a mix-up with their gender-neutral names that would only ever happen on TV), and attends a literature class with his tragically hip, pretentious classmates. When she says her favorite book is Little Women, they tear her apart in a way that is both kind of correct (Little Women is, in fact, sexist and a little basic), and reductive/needlessly harsh.
Joey calls out A.J. on their “insensitivity,” and tells him that she wanted the exciting, intellectual part of college rather than just the jaded, bitter part. He, in turn, apologizes, and uses her love for Little Women (which, it turns out, originated with her late mother) to somewhat creepily hit on her. This episode has a healthy dose of reality for everyone, the protagonists and the self-important institutions they want to be a part of, which is very unusual for this show.
Then, of course, Andie ruins everything with a plotline that is so tone-deaf, it almost sounds like satire. First, she shows up months early for her college interview, and somehow thinks she’s entitled to drop in on the dean unannounced. Like, I just don’t understand what the thought process is here. She already had an interview scheduled, what does it matter if she gets an earlier one? And how could she possibly think that he would have “just five minutes” to speak with a random high school girl, when she already had to make an appointment with him months in advance? I just can’t with her.
Then, it somehow gets worse. The older black lady at the front desk is, for some unknown reason, charmed by this spoiled white girl’s sense of entitlement, and takes hours out of her day to reassure Andie about college, tell Andie about her children (one of whom “plays saxophone in a jazz band downtown”), and generally give her the kind of folksy wisdom that only comes from the Magical Black Ladies on TV shows written by white people. It’s not great.
- Less than one minute in, and we already have two wildly undeserved Dawson compliments: Joey calls him “the gifted, young, self-motivated auteur” and “Capeside’s own Spielbergian wunderkind.” Vom. Shots!
- On the bright side, Dawson actually returns the favor for once, and tells Joey, “It never once crossed my mind that you wouldn’t make it out of here.” Aw.
- “Dawson, isn’t there a limit on the number of times a person can watch their own movie?” Answer: maybe, but there’s no limit to the number of times a person can make winky references to their own movies, is there, Kevin Williamson? –Nerdy Spice
- Joey makes references to the big pond of Dawson’s “egocentric competitors,” and Dawson thanks her for that “gut-wrenching visual.” Talk about your mixed metaphors. –Nerdy Spice
- Dawson calls Joey’s college visit and his trip to some film festival their “first forays into the real world.” That might be the most high school thing anyone has ever said.
- “These students enjoy the distinction of attending America’s finest college!” Andie shrieks in the middle of Fake Harvard Yard and proceeds to recite what appears to be the script for a particularly addle-brained college tour guide. Shut up, Andie. (It’s also weird because this is Fake Harvard and Andie ends up going to Real Harvard.) –Nerdy Spice
- Also, Andie’s terrible bangs are terrible.
- It’s funny, they keep talking about Joey’s college trip as being “paired off” with one of the college students, which sounds like one of those silly plot devices that TV shows come up with to throw two characters together, but is actually exactly how my college did the pre-frosh weekend. Of course, the incredibly stylish and socially skilled nineteen-year-old I was staying with was going to actual parties while I spent my whole weekend hanging out with science fiction geeks and watching Alias on my fancy portable DVD player with one of them, but, you know. I was technically paired off with a college kid. –Nerdy Spice
- When Nikki tells Dawson he didn’t fill out a synopsis for his movie, he smugly says, “Not enough room.” As if his schlocky ghost story is the most complex narrative since Rashomon, and he’s not just too stupid to come up with an elevator pitch. Ugh.
- But then when he starts his interminable explanation, Bianca Lawson cuts him off with, “Another Blair Witch Project. Got it.” Ha!
- Also, can we talk about how Bianca Lawson is literally ageless? She’s been playing teenagers for over two decades, from Saved by the Bell to Pretty Little Liars, with classics like Dawson’s, Buffy, and Sister, Sister in between.
- AJ is so obnoxious. He makes Joey ask like twenty questions trying to figure out where her weekend host is, before revealing that he was quibbling on her pronouns (she asked where she could find “her,” as in AJ), then negs her into agreeing to stay in his room by saying that if she can’t handle being a guy’s roommate, she can’t handle college. What a dick. –Nerdy Spice
- [Seriously. A.J., the supposed expert on college life, claims Joey should sleep in his room because college involves “men and women living together, mostly in harmony.” Um, not usually in the same ROOM, wise-ass creep.]
- It is funny, though, when Joey agrees because “there’s no reason two members of the opposite sex can’t spend the night together in the same room.” Her innocent bedroom experiences with Dawson have really ruined her creep-dar.
- Andie makes a random joke about Jack seeking out “Thoreau’s buttprint on Walden Pond.” Shot!
- Poor Dawson has to overhear snarky comments from the audience as they leave his screening—and of the few people who stay for his Q&A, one of them is only staying because he’s asleep. Ouch. –Nerdy Spice
- Once again someone tells Dawson that his relationship with Joey is the most interesting part of his movie. That … does not say good things about the rest of his movie. –Nerdy Spice
- Dawson says to Joey, “The problem with having such a big dream is that you never stop to ask yourself whether you have the talent to back it up.” Um, that’s less a “problem with having a big dream,” and more a “problem with flagrant white male privilege.”
- Then, Joey goes on a long speech about how he was destined to be a filmmaker and she’s “really proud of him.” FOR WHAT?? This is why he never doubts his talent, because everyone’s proud of him even when he does literally nothing.
- Okay, I know A.J. is supposed to be some sort of genius or something, but isn’t he like, a sophomore? Why is he even a T.A., let alone filling in for the professor??
- Also, it’s kind of hilarious that all of these snobby college kids look down on Joey for her literary taste, but can’t come up with a more sophisticated discussion than, “What’s your favorite book?”
- Joey responds to this question with Little Women, which not only gave her her name, but has a main character that she super identifies with (shot!).
- The most offensive thing about AJ might not be that he’s a dickwad who picks on younger women to get them to feel stupid and vulnerable in order to make them willing to date him, but that he calls Little Women a “less successful Jane Eyre.” These books don’t resemble each other AT ALL except insofar as they were both written by women in (different halves of) the nineteenth century. It’s basically like saying Jude the Obscure is a less successful Great Expectations. Except no one would ever do that because no one subconsciously assumes all men are the same. Shut up, AJ. (On the other hand, I’m on the side of the women in the class who dislike the book as sexist and outdated.) –Nerdy Spice
- Joey heavy-handedly lists the similarities between her and Jo: plucky tomboy heroine, boy’s name, in love with the boy-next-door, dead mother, at least one sister, and… an “impractical,” absent father who “isn’t great at providing the material things in life.” Um… is that what the kids are calling it these days? Considering that Jo March’s father is a poor pastor who is only away because of the Civil War, this comparison is a pretty hilarious stretch. (Another shot!)
- This “resident feminist killjoy” character is classic 90s/early aughts. She looks just like the resident feminist killjoy from Legally Blonde!
- Joey makes a reference to A.J. being stuck in his “iBook.” Aw. I bet that was like, a super hi-tech reference at the time.
- This scene where Joey and AJ read from Little Women makes for good flirtation because books are sexy, but come on. It’s not that great a passage. —Nerdy Spice
- Wait… his favorite book is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe??? That is SO much more embarrassing than Little Women, which is at least written for adults! Shut up, A.J.
- A.J. says that Little Women (and Joey) are, like all the best things in life, “Simple, sweet, and magical”–just in case it wasn’t clear already that this guy is a sexist.
- I love how Jack takes an express bus to a gay bar. How hard could it have been to find one in Cambridge? —Nerdy Spice
- AJ asks what Joey is passionate about after apparently having talked EIGHT HOURS NONSTOP about Ulysses. This guy might actually be more obnoxious than Dawson! To be fair, when he does ask Joey what she’s passionate about, she says… Dawson. So he’s probably better off not having given her many chances to talk. —Nerdy Spice
- I love Jack’s look of sheer terror when he finds out the hunky guy on the train lives in Capeside. And then the hilarious guitar strum when the hunky guy turns out to be gay! Hee. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey’s excitement about meeting people who are “excited about books and theories and ideas” is actually very sweet and real. Let’s hope she finds someone more exciting/less creepy than A.J. to share her intellectual passions with.
- Oh, I guess Jen wasn’t in this episode, either. Whatever. She was not missed.
In a wonderfully restrained little subplot, Jack goes to the big city to explore the gay scene for the first time, and it’s very real and sad. First, he takes out the Pink Pages and hides them from Andie, then he goes to a gay bar by himself, without telling anyone. Then, an older guy openly hits on him, and Jack gets so terrified and overwhelmed that he just flees the bar when his suitor’s back is turned. And best of all, we never hear about this again, because this is exactly the kind of story that Jack wouldn’t tell anyone for many years, until he’s much more comfortable with his sexual identity. It’s very elegantly done.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Many things about this episode are racist, but there’s a particularly painful double-whammy when the kids are getting on the bus home. First, Andie spews some hippie-dippie bullshit about all the life lessons she learned, and Dawson asks, “Who was this chance encounter with, Deepak Chopra?? She smirks and says, “Something like that,” because all wise, magical POC are alike. Then–surprise surprise–it turns out that Nikki is Principal Greene’s daughter, because all black people are related. We always want overwhelmingly white shows to add POC characters, and then shit like this happens.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Joey gives Dawson all of her newfound wisdom about allowing yourself to make mistakes and go through the process of becoming yourself, etc etc, and Dawson says that “begs the question” of what she learned that weekend. Nope. No, it doesn’t.
Thirteen, all for undeserved compliments and inaccurate Little Women references.
Season Three, Episode 11 “Barefoot at Capefest”
By Nerdy Spice
So, lately, every week Andie spends an episode waiting outside the door of some poor helpless male authority figure waiting to ambush him with her intolerable pep and high-pitched entitlement. (I have to assume that this is all a Freudian commentary on how Andie seeks out the approval of male authority figures to replace the affection of her dickish dad.) This week her victim is the school play’s director: she’s trying to convince him to let her be the assistant director.
Now, is this plotline stupid and boring? Yes, obviously, because it involves Andie. On the other hand, I am ALWAYS here for an audition montage.
After the requisite series of amusingly terrible auditions, Andie falls for the audition of a hunky young man with dramatic eyebrows and shaggy hair. But the director has someone else in mind: a boy who’s “a deplorable student and he has the ethics of a billy goat,” but a natural talent for comedy. Shocker of all shockers, it turns out to be Pacey.
Andie thinks Pacey should quit because she joined the play to get over him and because the director sucks anyway, but Pacey says, “Witters aren’t quitters.” Heh. Once rehearsals start, though—and they apparently start that night, despite the fact that auditions were today and that over at Capefest it’s like the middle of the night—Pacey realizes the director is as terrible as Andie warned him. When the director fails to show up for the next rehearsal, Andie takes charge, but then the director shows up and takes credit for all Andie’s work. (This would be heartbreaking if being an assistant director wasn’t something that Andie decided on about four minutes ago, or if we actually, you know, cared about Andie.) Pacey pulls a cute but silly Jedi mind trick to get her not to quit, because Pacey is a champ. And… that’s all I have to say about this storyline.
Out in Capeside, Jack runs into Ethan, the cute guy from the train, who tells him that he’s coming to Capefest, which is—get this—a multi-day concert in Capeside with a mosh pit, which Jack has never heard of. None of these things sound possibly real. Like, for one thing, Capeside is about four feet wide so I’m pretty sure if there had been an “annual” “mosh pit” last year Jack would have heard it. Anyway, Ethan tells Jack he should come (and that the Foo Fighters are playing, but this isn’t one of those episodes where Dawson’s actually landed a famous singer. We’ll have to wait for M2M in season 5). Jen calls it a “great big emotional leap”… and THEN she says, “Play it cool. Let him come to you.” That is pretty much the stupid advice you’d expect from someone who’s as tragically unloved and secretly-buying-into-the-patriarchy-despite-her-feminist-poses as Jen.
But contrary to Jen’s outdated advice, Jack ditches Jen to walk on the beach with his cute new gay friend. Ethan marvels that Jack didn’t ask for his number on the train and says it’s “more important” that Jack learn to ask for people’s numbers than that Ethan get his number. This is just the first in what is going to be a long, LONG series of times that Ethan will declare himself the arbiter of What Is Best For Jack. Run, Jack, Run! Not even the fact that he has the eyebrows of Peter Gallagher can make up for this patronizing nonsense.
Ethan’s next pearl of wisdom is, and I quote, “Being gay isn’t about what sex you’re attracted to.” O RLY, Ethan? What is it about, then? Really really liking Celine Dion? No, seriously, I get his point—he’s saying that there’s more to being gay than being attracted to men, there’s some element of inherent difference that you feel compared to the people around you. Fine, I buy that. But what a silly way to say it! And the silliest part is that when he starts to explain what being gay is about he says it’s “about moments,” like the moment when Jack was scared to talk to him. Um, like, when Jack was scared because he was attracted to you?
Meanwhile, Jen goes in search of veggie burgers and finds her stalker, Henry, is in charge of the food. Then she asks for his help pitching her tent! What a jerk. He yells at her because she says they’re friends but he has been giving her the silent treatment for over a month and she hasn’t noticed. Oh, poor Henry. If he weren’t a creepy misogynistic stalker I would feel bad for him. But I will admit Jen quite deserves it when he tells her to put up her own tent.
Ethan’s equipment gets stolen, so Jack brings him over to his and Jen’s tent and lets him sleep over, kicking Jen out in the process. So Jen wanders off and finds Henry playing the guitar. (Like most teenagers, she’s easily seduced by a man with a guitar, even if she found him repulsive a few minutes ago. Who am I to judge?) Meanwhile, Jack and Ethan settle into the tent and Ethan just goes to sleep, leaving Jack all blue-balled. “I was thinking maybe we could… talk some more?” says poor Jack. Shot for that, even though the networks were so scared of teenaged gay love that Jack doesn’t even get the typical disgustingly graphic euphemism.
In the morning, Ethan condescendingly prompts Jack to ask for his number. As friends, he clarifies because Jack is “so not ready” for more. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a college boy not just dating a virginal high school kid without regard for their long-term mental health. On the other hand, it’s hardly better to circle around said virginal high-schooler like a buzzard, declaring what he is and isn’t ready for in order to position yourself as the arbiter of his romantic life.
Meanwhile, Jen tries to talk to Henry, and actually tells him that “I miss the goofy way you used to look at me with all that passion and intensity.” So basically she LITERALLY ADMITS that she’s using him for the ego boost. Henry takes this about as well as anyone else would, but with a hefty dose of Blaming Women for His Problems (shot!). In the morning Jen apologizes for “being callous” with Henry’s heart and “for thinking just because I’m older I knew better.” (Uh, Ethan? I hope you’re taking notes.) She says she wants to know what it’s like to be in love, and positions him as the more experienced one because he does know. VOM.
Meanwhile, Dawson undergoes a crisis of confidence brought on by the new girl, Nikki, whose film outshone his at the festival last week. He arrives at the film lab intent on using the 16mm camera, only to find out that Nikki has checked it out for longer than people can usually check out equipment. So he marches over to Nikki’s house to tell her that she’s being selfish (even though Joey tries to appeal to his higher nature by pointing out that Nikki has the right to use equipment too) and accidentally gets himself invited to dinner with Nikki and Principal Green. Somehow Dawson almost volunteers for Nikki’s crew on her new film, despite the palpable irritation between them–which Principal Green, being your classic dorky dad, is too excited to notice.
Just as he’s leaving he remarks on how Nikki’s room isn’t covered in sad film paraphernalia like his. She has a Lauryn Hill poster, among other things. She says she loves film because she can explore things that she’s passionate about, and if you only love film, you’re just going to explore other movies in your own movies. Um, ouch. Dawson manages to survive this shot to the heart long enough to actually listen to Nikki talk about her parents’ divorce and her film, which is about the American family.
Sparked by this, Dawson gets depressed over his own parents’ divorce and peaces out. Joey shows up later to find him taking down all his movie posters. He declares that he’s not the same kid who hung up the posters (shot for discussion of change!). Joey calls him a sellout for giving up movies because of Nikki after Eve “tugs you around town by a dog collar.” (Kinky!) They end up screaming at each other because Joey is all jealous. Dawson claims to not be attacking Joey over other boys in her life, which… famous last words. “Out with the old, in with the new, huh?” Joey says bitterly, even though—say it with me, kids!—SHE DUMPED HIM.
Later, though, she stops by to bring him a poster: IMAGINE by John Lennon, from a time before Dawson was only obsessed with Spielberg. You’ll notice that we still haven’t identified anything in the real world that Dawson cares about that isn’t “emulating a white male artist.” Still, this crisis of confidence and Dawson’s attempt to branch out beyond film are well-earned, after the multiple disappointments he’s suffered this year. As an aspiring writer with many failures under my belt I can’t help but sympathize!
- Nikki is perfectly friendly to Joey, who is barely controlling her jealousy with incredibly insincere smiles like this:
- It does seem kind of unfair that Nikki gets the camera for four weeks when other people want it and it’s usually only available for a week at a time. On the other hand, if Dawson had had the chance to do that he definitely would’ve.
- Jen, upon seeing Ethan walk away: “Cute!” Jack. “Gay.” Jen: “Aren’t they all.” You know you have been living together for too long when your conversations are five words long.
- Andie declares, “I’m smart, bossy, and super-efficient.” At least one of those is true.
- Dawson gets home from school to find the living room completely empty. It turns out that Gail took the furniture and asked Mitch not to tell Dawson because she wanted to explain it herself. Which, fine, but there is probably a less dramatic way than to stand waiting for your child in the empty living room. Luckily, Dawson has decided to be a drama queen about film this week, leaving him little energy to be a drama queen about the divorce. (He’ll make up for it next week, though.)
- Andie’s theory is that you have to be responsible and punctual to be an actor. That sound you hear is every real-life director laughing hysterically.
- “I didn’t know you wanted to use the camera… but you’re just going to have to get used to it,” says Nikki, kind of illogically.
- Oh, I love the nineties lingo: Ethan asks Jack, “You here by yourself, or with?”
- Andie is wearing what appears to be a wine-colored sweater skirt with a matching wine-colored cardigan worn OVER a sweater that’s white with flowers printed on it. How many sweaters can one tiny girl actually don at once?
- Oh, hello, Minkus from Boy Meets World! I love when you show up on my nineties TV screens! Here, he plays Random Dude In School Play.
- Joey says she knows what’s going on inside Dawson is huge, then tells him he’s “always walked his own path,” as they stare at a poster by a white male creator [slash abuser! –Janes] whom Dawson emulates. Shot for majorly unwarranted praise of Dawson!
It’s hard to pick either a highlight or a lowlight of this episode, which manages to be singularly boring by neither being hideously offensive (well, except for the weird internalized misogyny I’ll describe in the next paragraph…) nor including anything really awesome. But I’ll pick this: Nikki’s lecture to Dawson about being interested in things other than his own Spielberg complex is on point.
Most cringeworthy moment:
When Ethan arrives at Jen and Jack’s as-yet-unpitched tent (Henry having, as you’ll recall, refused to help when Jen tried to use his feelings for her to get some free labor out of him), he offers to help. Jen agrees with this infuriating line: “Relieve me of all of my feminist delusions about the equality of the sexes concerning spatial relations.” Um, Jen? Just because YOU’RE an idiot doesn’t mean the sexes aren’t equal, and also, weren’t you wandering around begging men to help you with your tent earlier today? So what delusions, exactly, do you have at this point?
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Jen tells Henry his performance was beautiful. “It was more than beautiful, it was awesome.” …OK, if you say so.
Most nineties soundtrack moment:
“The Frug” is playing as Jack and Jen arrive to the concert. I love it! It’s not the Foo Fighters, but it’s so timely.
One shot for Barefoot in the Park, the play Andie’s working on, which is about marital discord (and is about being in a park, just like Jack! Maybe! I haven’t actually seen it!); one shot for Henry blaming Jen for everything; and four others, bringing us to a respectable six.
Season 3, Episode 12 “A Weekend in the Country”
This is when it really starts to get good. (I know we keep saying that this season, but this time I really mean it.) In “Weekend in the Country,” Pacey mobilizes everyone to help Joey open her BnB, and the writers finally reveal explicitly that Pacey is in love with her, in the most memorable and romantic way possible. There’s heart-wrenching moments between Joey and Bessie, a rare Dawson mea culpa, and lots of tearjerking montages. It’s a near-perfect episode.
Before we get to the P/J stuff, I want to dive into the scenes between Joey and Bessie, which are really well done and much more potent than I remembered. First, Joey accompanies Bessie to the bank, where an overly coiffed woman (who turns out to be Bessie’s Regina George), tells them they don’t qualify for a desperately-needed loan, and they should take out a mortgage on the house. Bessie decides to apply for one, which leads to a conflict between the sisters that is Joey is understandably afraid of losing their house, the “only tangible connection [they] have to [their] mom.” But she’s also kind of out of line, since Bessie is the one who has to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of the family, and “that’s a responsibility [Joey] couldn’t possibly understand.” Very true, and then Bessie delivers this kicker: “Until you’ve humiliated yourself by asking some trust fund snob who looked down on you in high school for money, I don’t want to hear about it.” Ouch. Poor Bessie.
This successfully sets up the stakes for the main plot of the episode: Pacey gets someone from the freaking New York Times Travel section (um, yeah right, but fine) to visit the inn’s opening and write a review, and even gathers a bunch of their friends to pretend to be guests. In return, Joey and Dawson both rip his head off, Joey for doing this without telling her first, Dawson for asking his parents to come together (when it turns out Pacey only asked Mitch, because he’s actually a good friend). Joey’s anger is at least a little more sympathetic, but seriously, they don’t deserve him.
This leads to a fairly predictable comedy of errors–the furnace breaks, the toilet overflows, the critic is a snob who doesn’t want to share a bathroom–but it’s elevated by lots of welcome group scenes and the continued conflict between Joey and Bessie. In one scene, Joey rails about the hardships of being a teenager: “You have all of the responsibility but none of the authority. You can’t vote, you can’t drink, you can’t make any definitive decisions about your life.” (I take back what I said before: that’s the most high school thing anyone has ever said.) Bessie claps back: “You think getting older automatically means getting control over your life? Get real, Joey. Do you think I wanted to be stuck here at 26 taking care of two kids by myself?” Ouch again. Bessie’s life is so sad.
Then, for the first amazing montage, everyone snuggles by the fire and reminisces about the smells that immediately evoke old memories, which is so corny it’s actually amazing. Pacey asks if it’s possible to smell snow (um, need you even ask?), and says that’s his first memory. Joey and Bessie remember their mother cooking them bacon, and Joey reveals that the BnB is an attempt to fulfill an old dream of their mother’s, who daydreamed about opening her own inn while working nights at a dive bar. Grams says the smell of fire reminds her of reading her late husband to sleep at night, and speaks the immortal line, “You know you love someone when you can spend hours just sitting by the fire, watching them sleep.”
Then, Bessie finds their mother’s old guest book, which she and Joey both signed as children. She chastises herself for forgetting their mother’s dream of opening a BnB, and Joey says, “You’ve had a few other things to worry about, Bessie. Like the lives of two kids.” Um, I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING.
And then, of course, it all culminates with Pacey and Joey’s big moment: the first time their romance becomes more than just subtext. After spending the entire episode working his ass off to make Joey’s life a little easier, Pacey finds Joey sleeping on the couch, and sits by the fire to watch her (now that I write that, it sounds a little creepy, but it’s actually the best thing that’s ever happened). The parallel to Grams’ earlier statement is romantic and sweet in an obvious way, but it’s also fitting for them in a subtler way: where Joey and Dawson’s sweetest moments are all rooted in the innocence and idealism of childhood, Pacey and Joey’s first overtly romantic moment is rooted in compatibility and sustainability, the type of romance that allows two people to grow old together.
- We open with a (relatively successful) meta movie reference! (Granted, I have no idea what this movie is, but I think it’s relatively successful.) Some old movie is playing on TV, which plays the Temptations while characters are dancing in the kitchen, and Joey snarks, “Who dances in the kitchen?” (Um, you will!!)
- Although she’s being way too mean to Pacey, it’s pretty sad when Joey refers to herself and Bessie as “financially and spiritually bereft people who have no business being inspired.” That’s some nice (and depressing) foreshadowing of Joey’s attitude after her mural is defaced in an upcoming episode.
- Joey is always getting all mad at other people for not understanding what a big risk the B&B is. Like, calm down! I know we said we’d take a shot for every time men blame women for their problems, but Joey is like singlehandedly evening the playing field by CONSTANTLY blaming Pacey for helping her with the B&B. (Also, I legit almost typed “Airbnb” before remembering that that won’t exist for another ten years.) –Nerdy Spice
- Most nineties moment: Joey gets a call from a long-distance service telemarketer. –Nerdy Spice
- Joey’s rock-bottom moment: “She hung up on me. A telemarketer hung up on me.” Hee!
- Henry declares to Jen, “When given the opportunity to say no, you do. So I’m not giving you the opportunity.” Spoken like a true rapist. –Nerdy Spice
- Jen to Henry: “Let me remind you that dating is a consensual activity.” Yes! What an awesome message–that is immediately undercut by Jen acting like Henry is an innocent angel for the rest of the episode.
- Andie supposedly has every word in her program in a different font or upside down because she doesn’t understand the design program. That takes a lot of effort even if you DO understand the program. –Nerdy Spice
- Bessie’s nemesis has some CRAZY lipliner going on:
- Dawson is going to post a “virtual tour” of the B&B on “the web”. I love it! –Nerdy Spice
- Pacey asks Joey how she can be so ungrateful (word) after an “outpouring of love and support that would make George Bailey proud.” I’ve never actually seen It’s a Wonderful Life, but this reference sounds accurate enough. Shot!
- The critic, Frederick Fricke, arrives, and before she knows who he is, Joey asks him if he’s the “Fuller Brush Man.” I have no idea what this means in context, but it’s apparently a reference to another old movie I’ve never seen. Shot!
- Jack declares that Andie’s not going to wage a “subtle campaign” to get him to move back. Um… obviously, because Andie has never done anything with even a modicum of subtlety. –Nerdy Spice
- Joey manages to be mad at Pacey EVEN WHILE HE MOPS POOP OFF THE FLOOR OF HER BATHROOM. –Nerdy Spice
- Speaking of jerks, Frederick Fricke is unnecessarily asshole-ish to Joey, this poor teenage girl who’s trying to run a bed-and-breakfast, even for a critic. He actually criticizes her for saying “Enjoy your stay” more than once. Like, pick on someone your own size, man.
- The writers try to magically explain away Bodie’s absence (according to Dawson’s Creek Wiki, he hasn’t appeared since season one): apparently he’s off working somewhere, and Bessie “asks him to come home every chance he gets, but he knows we can’t afford it.” Um… what? This explanation gives us many more questions than answers.
- I never thought I’d say this, but thank God Mitch is around to point out that Pacey is actually being an awesome friend (and to ask why he cares so much. HMMMMMM. Also, do you think all the grownups are like sitting around at happy hour wondering when the hell Pacey and Joey are going to start dating? I can just imagine Gayle shaking her head over a glass of red wine and going, “I think Joey could do better,” and Mitch being all sage like, “Well, they say opposites attract.” God, when I’m a parent I’m going to be SUCH a gossip whore.) –Nerdy Spice
- Gail sadly tells Dawson that she and Mitch still love each other, which “makes the knowledge that we’re better off apart all the more difficult to bear.” Then, she compares her situation–a twenty-year marriage that yielded a child–to her 16-year-old son’s four-month-long relationship: “Look at you and Joey.” Um, NO. Zero percent.
- But then, Gail actually imparts some pretty insightful wisdom about breakups of long-term relationships: “The decision to break up isn’t made in one sitting… You have to re-decide over and over, each day.” Aw. That’s pretty true.
- In a subplot that literally no one cares about, Andie is all passive-aggressive about Jack still living with Jen and Grams. Then, when she discovers how loving his new family is towards him, she gets all sad, and he realizes, “It’s not Dad who wants me to come home. It’s you.” By way of admission, she says, “I miss my brother, Jack. And that’s not meant to make you feel guilty or as a sympathetic plea, it’s just the truth.” Um, it might be the truth, but it’s definitely also a guilt trip and a sympathetic plea. Andie is just the worst.
- “Love is the hardest of woods,” Grams says. DIRTY! –Nerdy Spice
- When they’re all sharing the smells that immediately evoke memories for them, Dawson’s is by far the most shallow (except for maybe Jack’s silly summer camp anecdote). He says, “Phenylenediamine. It’s a main chemical used to process film.” Um, okay, great story, dude. Wasn’t this the guy who just one episode ago said he wanted to be more than just film?
- I like how even the editors literally can’t with Andie. They cut away in the middle of a SENTENCE while she’s having some dumb reminiscence about new car smell. –Nerdy Spice
- Love how the B&B is all Pacey’s fault until Joey decides to take credit for fulfilling her mom’s dream. –Nerdy Spice
- Aw. The scene where everyone is dancing in the kitchen (which, after some research, is apparently a reference to The Big Chill) gets me every time. Even Dawson looks kind of cute dancing to The Temptations.
- Then there’s this weird long shot of Andie’s wiggling butt. I don’t think they meant it to be objectifying exactly, but it’s super weird.
- It’s Bodie! And Alexander! They live!
- I want to be all happy that Henry is open-minded about Jen’s sexual history, but I just can’t. He’s so creepy and obsessive, it comes across less as feminist and progressive and more like, “I would want to be with you even if you punched me in the face and killed my dog.”
- Dawson talks about feeling lost and aimless, and Pacey says, “I’ll second that emotion.” Only someone as charming as Joshua Jackson could pull off a pun that corny.
- I love that Dawson is an asshole to Pacey even when he’s trying to pay him a compliment. He tells Pacey he’s gone through a “metamorphosis” while he used to be “glib and predictable.” Nice thing to say to your supposed best friend. Then, he insults Pacey even further, and says that he thought Pacey only got his act together because of his relationship with Andie. Seriously, why is Pacey friends with these people?
- Dawson also smugly takes credit for Pacey taking care of Joey. I think maybe he’s subconsciously looking for confirmation that Pacey is still only doing this for him. It’s still obnoxious though. –Nerdy Spice
- On the plus side, this scene between Dawson and Pacey is beautifully shot:
- Pacey lodges a bunch of complaints about Joey that are actually compliments, like that she “has an opinion about everything. It’s uncanny!” So cute!
- Jen is one of those horrible feminists who likes to make men carry her bags when she’s perfectly capable of carrying them herself but would get offended if they complimented her dress. WORST. –Nerdy Spice
- Andie’s guilt trip convinces Jack to move back home with their homophobic father, and his goodbye scene with Jen and Grams is so heartbreaking. He tells them that he didn’t have anything or anyone, and that they provided him a home and “reminded [him] that someone cared about [him].” Ugh. Goddammit, Andie!!
- Oh, God, they are really bringing out the big guns. After a bunch of heart-rending scenes, this episode finishes off with a montage (yay, montages!) set to the lovely “Seasons of Us” by Dawson’s staple Mary Beth Maziarz. We see Bessie, Bodie, and Alexander reunited as a family, Jack packing up his things, Dawson staring at his “Imagine” poster (shut up, Dawson), and then, over the line, “These seasons of us go around and around and around,” we see Pacey sitting by the fire, watching Joey sleep.
I mean, obviously Pacey watching Joey sleep is one of the best moments in the whole show. But since I’ve already squeed about that enough, I’ll highlight a scene between an unexpected pair of characters: Dawson and Jen.
In a rare moment of grace for both characters, Jen is freaking out about whether to tell Henry about her sexual history, so she asks Dawson why he had such a pronounced reaction to it. He tells her that he was intimidated, because he had never known anyone with so much life experience before. At first, this seems like a typical rationalizing, self-justifying Dawson moment rather than an apology, but then it takes a shockingly sweet–and dare I say feminist–turn. Dawson tells her he can’t guarantee that Henry won’t react in the same way, but he says in no uncertain terms that his reaction was wrong. “Now I see that the only thing more beautiful than Jen Lindley is the reality behind her magic. And I feel sorry for any guy who’s too insecure to see that.” Oh God. Am I tearing up at a Dawson/Jen scene? Let’s never talk about this again.
[I also love how Grams finally tells the guys how to start the fire. Was this episode written by women or something? –Nerdy Spice]
Most cringeworthy moment:
Definitely when Bessie sort of makes a pass at Frederick Fricke. I know they’re supposed to be desperate and all, but–damn, that’s dark.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Henry asks Jen, “Do you really think a kid like me would deign to consider himself worthy of dating a woman of your silk?” I love that Jen points out that it’s “ilk” rather than “silk,” but completely misses that that usage of the word “deign” is exactly the opposite of its meaning.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Um, “Seasons of Us,” obvi.
This is a genuinely wonderful episode, so only four for (possibly accurate) movie references. Good job, writers!
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I can’t believe it, but I found a copy of “A Weekend in the Country” with the original music. I had forgotten that Joni Mitchell’ “Both Sides Now” was used for the final montage which made it so much more romantic and emotional when it ended with the scene of Pacey watching Joey sleep. I remember literally swooning when I watched it live all those years ago. I was so in love with their budding romance. I couldn’t wait for next episode.
Joshua Jackson sold the hell out of Pacey reluctantly falling in love with Joey. Katie Holmes played the Joey obliviously falling in love with Pacey perfectly. Dawson had no chance and no matter how the writers tried later on, they couldn’t replicate Pacey and Joey’s love story with Dawson and Joey. It didn’t help that James Van Der Beek can’t act and is mostly chem-free.
I love that Nikki says “this Joey character” is “the most interesting part of the story” and “he doesn’t even seem to understand that”. That’s kind of meta, with Joey slowly becoming the main character of a show called Dawson’s Creek 😉
Fist of all thanks for your rewatch guys! It made my week!
and the second thing I really can’t understand how writers were so good at writing Pacey’s part and been so bad at all others, especialy Dawson? It doesn’t make any freaking sence! Considering that they want D/J be the endgame. How can anyone want to be with Dawson after Pacey anyway? That’s the mistery I can’t solve for decades now…