Season 3, Episode 13 “Northern Lights”
By Nerdy Spice
Pacey is getting ready for his big theatrical debut that we’re all supposed to care about even though the whole thing only started last episode, and he assumes Joey is coming to opening night, but she has to admit that she’s going to a date with AJ on opening night. “COLLEGE GUY?” shrieks Pacey. He declares that AJ wants to get into the “Potter pantalones” (God, this kid kills me! He’s so funny!) but Joey is hellbent on her intellectual new manfriend, and Pacey is obliged to make his theatrical debut on his own.
Instead, Joey allows Bessie to crimp her hair and curl her eyelashes, resulting in her being very ready for a turn-of-the-century date. Bessie makes a feint at worrying about Joey dating an older boy, but Pacey shows up to beg Joey once again to come, saying that she doesn’t need to come to opening night but there’s also an afterparty. Joey declares that current geomagnetic conditions are favorable for “oral activity.” (OK, she said “aural activity,” but my way is much more interesting. And great foreshadowing.) Pacey gets very down on AJ, and predicts that said college boy will compliment “how incredible you look tonight” (he says with a lingering look at Joey’s… shoulder area) and find some excuse for physical contact. Joey tells Pacey to stand down and heads out on her date with AJ, making shy lashes-lowered eye contact with Pacey on her way out.
AJ and Joey arrive at the party and mill around for about four seconds. One Beowulf reference later (shot!), they’re walking around alone on some beach talking about how Joey wants to go to an Ivy League school and do something important with her life. AJ theorizes that girls who lose their mothers really young are “really driven to succeed.” Wow, AJ is the worst. He’s psychologizing Joey for being the EXACT SAME as him (he goes to a fictional Ivy and presumably already thinks he’s extremely important) because she’s a girl. But we do get the chance to find out that Joey’s conflicted about her love of art, which has been barely mentioned this season anyway, and about her drive to please others. Of course, AJ has no interest in this; he just changes the subject to share stupid trivia about the Northern Lights and move in for a kiss. This is followed by the kind of thing that internet fandom always goes completely bananas about because it’s A Sign That She’s Thinking Of Someone Else: Joey immediately pulls away from his kiss and says she has to meet someone somewhere, meaning Pacey. (Two shots for Joey’s abject fear of sex!)
Poor Pacey is a complete mess at rehearsal, and the director comes down with kidney stones. For some reason Andie freaks out about this EVEN THOUGH WE’VE ALREADY SEEN HER TAKE OVER REHEARSALS. It’s just like, ughhh, I don’t know. I would love to see Andie get a storyline that revolves around something other than her obsession with Pacey, but because this director thing has nothing to do with her usual obsessions, it just feels like they shoehorned it in to try to give the actress something to do while they turned the rest of the show into a Dawson-Pacey-Joey love triangle.
Anyway, Pacey is late to the show, and Andie giggles and freaks out. (“Andie giggles and freaks out” is probably the most synopsis we ever need of an Andie storyline anyway.) But Dawson finds Pacey at the basketball court, wearing his mid-century suit and sideburns. Dawson suggests finding what you love and doing it. Pacey points out that he gave up what he loves, and Dawson says, “I didn’t give it up, I just decided to spread it around a little bit.” …DIRTY! [OMG, I was definitely coming here to leave the exact same comment. So dirty. –Janes] He also calls Pacey “Olivier” (coming from Dawson, it’s definitely a mark of respect, but also, shot!)
Pacey shows up and tries to get Andie to put in the understudy due to his crisis of confidence. (Shot for a Pacey pity party!) But she shoves him on, and he does a great job. Unfortunately, Jen finds him at the afterparty (which Jack set up for Andie) moping that his family isn’t there (another shot for Pacey’s black sheep complex!) and, implicitly, that Joey isn’t. Jen surmises sarcastically that Pacey barely noticed, but just then Joey shows up. Yay! She starts babbling about how the date ended because the light was bad. “He kissed you, didn’t he?” exclaims Pacey when he spies that her lipstick is smeared all over her face. Which, by the way, is patently false:
[I know, right?? I just don’t understand how they thought they could get away with this. We’re looking right at her! –Janes]
Pacey, breathless with a sudden hope, asks if Joey’s going to see him again and Joey says no, she’ll never feel about him the way she felt (yup, past tense) about Dawson. Pacey tells her that the world will surprise her yet, and that when you get your heart broken you think love will never happen again, “but it does. Believe me it does, in the strangest of places,” he says, looking down with a nervous crack in his voice. UGH IT’S SO FREAKING CUTE. But when she asks why he says that, he reverts to banter—a wise choice, since just then AJ shows up looking for Joey. Pacey sends her off with a brave face, even taking her drink for her. AJ asks if he did something wrong, and Joey basically confesses to having Smart Girlfriend imposter syndrome: she worried that as soon as they stopped kissing AJ would realize that she doesn’t know half of the stuff he talks about. Oh my God, I’m sure AJ himself doesn’t know half of what he’s talking about, dear Joey Potter. You’ll figure this out someday. But instead of admitting this, AJ just says that he’s not an expert on beautiful girls. VOM. Meanwhile, Pacey broods outside, where Andie eventually finds him. She calls him a star, but he tells her that she’s the real star. Then he asks if she’s disappointed that he’s getting a C in English out of this play, and she says that she made a mistake wanting to spruce him up: there was never anything about him that needed fixing. “You too, Andie,” Pacey says (really?? I could think of a few things I’d change) and they hug and walk off chatting like old friends.
Dawson, adrift from his film obsession, decides to join study hall to “study human behavior.” Nikki is all mad because they’re partners in some film class assignment we’ve never heard the first word about, and because “You’re the most creative person in the class.” Unwarranted praise of Dawson! Shot! But later she finds him at the afterparty and tries to figure out what’s going on with him. He says that she was right that there’s more to be passionate about than film, but he doesn’t know where to find joy elsewhere. “Where were you when you had it last?” asks Nikki, and Dawson stays silent, presumably thinking of Joey. Too bad for him! She’s off with Pacey.
But when she comes back from her ramble with AJ, he’s waiting for her outside her house. He tells her he feels lost, and she says that he’s lost his true north. She means film, of course. Dawson asks her what her true north is, and she says she doesn’t have one. But just then the northern lights start (from all appearances, created by a HILARIOUSLY inadequate special effects budget) and Joey says it’s “typical” that they would show up with Dawson.
Meanwhile, Jen and Henry create more stupid drama. Henry tries to avoid Jen, but she waits outside the building for him blocking his exit to figure out why he’s avoiding her. (He gets all offended, even though he was a BIG fan of stalking when it was HIM stalking HER.) But it’s just because he thinks she’s canceling their date, which she’s not: she’s just replaced it with them going to Pacey’s play. WITH GRAMS. Even Grams is like, “Um, why am I here?”
Henry pays VERY close attention to the part when the troubled Pacey character climbs up on a roof to make his wife say she loves him. Too close—he flat-out reenacts it by climbing on the rafters during the after-party and trying to make Jen repeat after him that she’s mean to him because she secretly likes him. Jen goes along with it to stop him from jumping to his death, but balks at the secretly liking him part. “Get over it, man!” someone yells, and whoever it is it’s my new favorite character. Jen tells him to get down… and he asks for a ladder, to the laughter of the crowd. Wow, Henry is the worst. Later, he says he wants to know her and be completely honest with her, so she compares him to a child and kisses him. It is creepy, just like everything else about this couple.
- Joey says she’s not coming to opening night, and Pacey’s face is so sad! –Janes
- Pacey, trying to convince Joey to hang out with him after his play rehearsal, suggests that he and Joey “wallpaper each other.” According to Urban Dictionary, Pacey wants to cover Joey with his semen and then stick dollar bills to it, so… I have no idea what he really means.
- Joey tries to Harvard-splain the Northern Lights to Pacey. To which he responds, “I may not be Ivy League material, but if you give me a road map and a remote control, I can probably find my way to the Discovery Channel and back.” Hee!!
- I love Pacey’s horrified, alarmist, “You’re going to a FRAT PARTY??” Although, maybe he should be alarmed, because Joey then says, “He’s not that kind of college guy, Pacey.” Um, word to the wise: they’re all “that kind of college guy.” Not including, but especially the guys who talk at you about Ulysses for 8 hours. –Janes
- It’s hilarious when Pacey thinks A.J. is faking the Aurora Borealis for Joey’s benefit (“You can fake anything!!”). He’s exactly like Xander getting jealous of Angel in Buffy season one: “Guys will do anything to impress a girl! I once drank an entire gallon of Gatorade without taking a breath!” –Janes
- Nikki tells Dawson, “I don’t want another partner. I want you,” with her beautiful big doe eyes. She was clearly supposed to be Dawson’s film-obsessed love interest, what happened?? (I mean, I know what happened. Nikki is literally the only attractive person on the show who never got to be a love interest, so I can only assume the WB got cold feet about portraying an interracial couple. The execs were probably like, “You just did a coming-out storyline like, a year ago, calm the fuck down.”) –Janes
- Oh my God, AJ and Joey are drinking from steins at this silly Harvard party! That is SO REAL.
- A.J. snarks about the host’s “pretentious taste in beverages” (mead) and then calls it “what Beowulf drank before he slew Grendel.” Naturally, he fails to see the irony in that. –Janes
- We’re supposed to think that Dawson’s upset by the news of Joey’s date because he misses a basketball shot, even though we already know Dawson can’t throw worth a damn.
- It’s great to see Dawson and Pacey having a sweet friendship moment, with Dawson talking Pacey down from his ledge. Of Joey’s date, Dawson just says, “Had to happen eventually,” which… don’t take that TOO seriously, Pace! My new theory is that during this season, Dawson subconsciously knows about Pacey and Joey before even Joey knows and that he’s constantly just in a state of relief that Joey’s not dating Pacey so that’s why he’s so chill about AJ.
- I enjoy that Andie has pretty much the same hairdo as the girl playing Pacey’s wife from 1963:
- The subtitles very helpfully tell me that A.J. and Joey’s nearly-inaudible convo on the beach goes like this: Joey: “So you think there’s hope for me yet?” A.J.: “I’m just saying, I wouldn’t let my family’s finances limit my dreams.” Oh, you wouldn’t, would you, privileged white man? Take a seat. –Janes
- Jack gives Andie some nice flowers for opening night, and then says, seemingly apropos of nothing: “One word about how my people excel at decorating, and you’re dead.” Andie gives a little giggle like “Fine, if you insist.” Um, how often does Andie make homophobic jokes that he would jump straight to that? No wonder he didn’t want to move back home. –Janes
- Jen is always at her best and least annoying when she’s wisely listening to the other players in this six-year love quadrangle instead of having her own plots. Her scene with Pacey is very cute.
- I pretty much hate A.J., but I do like when he talks about the phenomenon when you don’t understand something someone says, and you have a “limited window of opportunity to ask them what they meant.” So true! –Janes
- My partner has so much trouble telling all of the white boys apart on this show. First it was Jack and Chris, whom he said looked like twins, and now it’s A.J. and Pacey. Sacrilegious, but also–yeah. –Janes
- He also inexplicably thinks Andie is like, the hottest person he’s ever seen. Meredith Monroe is very beautiful, but considering the bangs and the insufferable, perky way they do her up–weird. –Janes
- As Andie and Jack clean up after Andie’s Directorial Debut That No One Cares About, she tells him that she likes that their dad wasn’t there because she likes having people around who don’t know who she used to be and believe in what she is now. What is she now? The world’s most annoying human being? She tells him her mantra in the high school was “Structure and Purpose,” and the play gave her that. The play she has been working on for all of two episodes, by the way. Jack takes this opportunity to ask if Andie’s OK, and she says she is, although she immediately afterwards proceeds to go up to Pacey and call him “perfect,” which is not necessarily the move of an ex-girlfriend who has moved on.
- Henry claims he saw Jen smiling at his stunt, and Jen just laughs and says he’s not like other boys. Yeah, because other boys are… well-adjusted?
- “I don’t know what it is or how you managed to keep it so long, but you definitely have that thing children have.” Could it be… immaturity? –Janes
- When Dawson apologizes for disturbing Joey after her date, she asks how he knew about it and he says, “You don’t have to explain.” Yeah, no shit she doesn’t, you guys have been broken up for two-thirds of a season already! What a dink.
- Pacey tells Joey that if she doesn’t help him memorize his lines, he just might start “ad-libbing obscenities to the crowd.” Um, and that’s a bad thing?? –Janes
Clearly it’s when Pacey tries to continue his tête-à-tête with Joey even as Bessie comes to announce AJ’s arrival. He just pushes her out of the room BY THE FACE and keeps talking like nothing happened! It is SO FUNNY. After Janes pointed it out, I watched it twice in a row and laughed hysterically.
Most cringeworthy moment:
No contest here. AJ does his level best to induce cringes with his incessant mansplaining and sexist condescension towards Joey, but he cannot even come close to Henry’s semi-abusive stunt on the rafters at the afterparty.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Does it count that Nikki calls Dawson “creative”? Just kidding. I didn’t catch any major linguistic slip-ups.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Um, definitely “Affirmation”! Oh, Savage Garden, how we’ve missed you!! —Janes (Um… I don’t miss them. I LISTEN TO THEM ALL THE TIME. —Nerdy Spice)
Eight, mostly for Pacey feeling sorry for himself, but also I’m taking one for Pacey declaring Dawson and Joey’s destinies “intrinsically linked” even if that’s not the EXACT same as “inextricably intertwined.”
Season 3, Episode 14 “Valentine’s Day Massacre”
Oh God, I love this episode. Pacey declares his love for Joey out loud for the first time. The kids all go to a party and act like teenagers for a change. All of the characters are pretty much the worst versions of themselves, but with the exception of Jen, it’s actually on purpose. There’s extended meta-commentary on how insufferable Joey and Dawson are together. And best of all, Pacey teaches Joey how to drive, which becomes a classic True Love moment. If you were anything like us, this slightly gender-normative yet elegant metaphor also became a barometer for all future relationships: sure, that new boyfriend is great and all, but could he teach you to drive like Pacey??
In this episode, all of the kids (except Jen, who no one cares about) attend a debaucherous anti-Valentine’s Day party thrown by future vandalizer and all-around jerk Matt Caufield. Pacey drags Dawson because he thinks Dawson needs to have some more “teenage” experiences, namely getting drunk and hooking up with girls, while Joey attends to be the self-proclaimed “angel on his shoulder.” Apparently, guardian angels don’t do much other than give passive-aggressive stares and say, “This isn’t you” a lot.
Usually when Dawson and Joey are annoying together, it’s because Dawson is trying to prevent Joey from growing up and force her to conform to the idealized version of her that he’s built up in his head. But this time, Joey actually gives Dawson a run for his money. She’s the most judgmental version of herself here; all Dawson wants to do is attend a stupid party, and Joey has a conniption about “losing Dawson to the dark side” and constantly tells Dawson he’s not acting like “himself,” whatever that means. First of all, Dawson has done SO MANY stupid things. He got drunk on his sixteenth birthday and made fun of everyone’s deepest insecurities, he crashed his dad’s boat because all the blood was rushing to his first blowjob, and he literally hosted a strip club inside his family home, all in the name of “being a kid for once.” So for Dawson to do something dumb because he feels like he never gets to be a normal kid (even though that happens like, every three episodes) is perfectly aligned with his character.
And more importantly, as Dawson points out later, Joey is treating Dawson not like a person, but like the “sketch labeled Dawson she has in her head.” While some of Dawson’s behavior is genuinely wrong (more on that later), a lot of the behaviors Joey is objecting to are dumb, relatively harmless growing-up stuff. Just look at this hilariously melodramatic “You’ve made a deal with the devil!” look she gives Dawson when he takes a Jell-O shot to get into the party. It’s stupid, and the kind of blatant peer pressure that only happens in TV shows or frat initiations, but it’s certainly not the end of the world, or even Dawson’s first drink, for that matter.
The only time Dawson does something that’s actually worth getting upset over–he takes an obviously drunk girl into the woods with the intention of taking advantage of her–Joey doesn’t even get upset about the right things. She briefly mentions the girl being drunk, but is mostly concerned that the girl is “vulnerable” and “on the rebound,” which is patronizing and beside the point. And even worse, the subtext of the whole thing is less “sisters looking out for each other” and more “jealous ex-girlfriend finding a pretext to get angry about a new girl entering the picture.” It all leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
But like all of the best Dawson’s episodes, the things that leave a bad taste in your mouth are actually intended to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Everyone lines up to call Joey out on her bullshit: first Dawson, who tells her she “needs to let him make some mistakes” (again, if you say that you need to “make mistakes for once” every other episode, you’re probably making enough mistakes). And then Pacey, who first tells Joey that her concern for Dawson is “bordering on pathological” (word), and then goes on an epic rant about the general terribleness of the Dawson/Joey pairing–or, as he puts it, “playing for the 476th time this hour, The Ballad of Dawson and Joey.” (Hee!) In possibly the greatest meta-commentary this show has ever done (shot!), Pacey calls them out on their “perpetual dance: one week you’re soulmates, the next you’re giving each other up for the greater good, do you think it’s possible that sometime soon you could make up your mind, please? … And the reverence with which you two treat your little saga, it’s enough to make a guy want to puke.” Um, WORD.
Then, to top it all off, the episode finishes with a beautifully quiet romantic moment between Joey and Pacey. Pacey comes to her house to apologize for his rant (which, while true, was a little on the drunken and bitter side), and she tells him that she wasn’t only at the party to take care of Dawson, but also to take care of Pacey. While Dawson has everyone worrying about him all the time, Pacey “doesn’t have anyone worrying about him right now.” (That definitely implies to me that she was primarily there to take care of Pacey rather than Dawson, but I digress.) She tells him, “You need to learn to read between the banter, Pacey,” and he (correctly) reads that as a hint that there’s a lot more she’s not saying. He almost confesses his feelings to her, but in a nice bit of acting, he susses out that she’s not ready to hear it, and he leaves it in subtext. More specifically, he gives her a very meaningful driving lesson.
I’m biased about this scene, which has a personal connection for me; I, too, had a terrible ex-boyfriend who tried to teach me to drive, as Dawson tries to teach Joey at the beginning of the episode. And just like Dawson, this old boyfriend was too anxious/arrogant to refrain from backseat driving and let me learn something. So even beyond a cute shipper moment, I think it actually is meaningful that Pacey can teach Joey how to drive. It shows compatibility, and also serves as a metaphor for growing up–as learning to drive always is. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but it works, especially since it’s never clearer than it is in this episode that Joey and Dawson can never let each other grow up.
So we end on Joey successfully driving stick for the first time, and Pacey’s sweet, *significant* line, “Congratulations, Potter. We are finally getting somewhere.” So meta.
- Of COURSE Dawson teaches Joey to drive by saying aggressively condescending shit like, “Is that coming back to you?” —Nerdy Spice
- Pacey complains from the backseat, “We’re barely halfway down the driveway, what have you guys been doing up there?” (Meta-shot!)
- Joey points out that Dawson is not exactly a “patient tutor” like John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. (Another shot!)
- All the boys in this episode are wearing fingerless gloves which are totally adorable. —Nerdy Spice
- Goofus and Gallant is a VERY accurate reference for Pacey and Dawson. But so is the reference Pacey makes later, to Dawson as spurned shy-guy Luke Skywalker and Pacey as debonair (and much preferred) Han Solo. (Two shots!) —Nerdy Spice
- Pacey also references the “hero’s journey,” which I would say is just more unwarranted praise, but is actually a nod to Joseph Campbell’s theory of what kinds of narratives we care about (which basically amounts to whiny white guy narratives). So, the praise might be unwarranted, but the reference is totally accurate. (Two shots!) –Janes
- The further we get into the real love triangle of the show, the more Jen gets marooned in her own (increasingly terrible) storylines. This week, it’s another, possibly even more annoying version of the Andie-pretends-to-hate-weddings storyline from season two. Jen insists with her dying breath that she thinks Valentine’s Day is stupid and doesn’t care about it, but–surprise, surprise!–it’s actually super duper important to her, because she’s a girl and girls never say what they mean.
- This nurse lets Henry sell more plasma than he’s supposed to be allowed to sell because he appeals to her Feminine Love of Romance. So basically, women are incapable of doing their jobs because you say “love” and they forget that human beings only have a certain amount of plasma inside them keeping them alive. Ughhhh I hate it so much. —Nerdy Spice
- Andie casually tells Jack he should just come out to his ex-girlfriend Kate, like it’s the easiest thing in the world. We hate her. –Janes
- Kate Douglas (whose full name they keep saying over and over) is super annoying. Who calls their ex “Jackers”? Who announces to random guys they’ve just met that they’re fresh off a breakup? What a weirdo! You almost can’t blame Pacey for assuming she did that because she actively wants to hook up tonight. —Nerdy Spice
- I tend to be kind of a literalist when I’m watching non-subtle TV shows, but I just realized that when Joey says she’s come to the party to be the angel on Dawson’s shoulder, she’s probably subconsciously at LEAST as interested in being the angel on Pacey’s—or at least in bickering with him because that’s the only way she feels comfortable being close to him. Whatever, I’m fanwanking and I’m OK with it. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey’s hat is appropriately inappropriate for a high school party, but is also kind of adorable:
- I like Joey’s snarky remark about Oliver Stone not being a subtle filmmaker, like, oh, I guess he lacks the delicate complexity of Spielberg? —Nerdy Spice
- Joey asks why life experiences have to be all about parties and hookups. Pacey retorts, “What would you have him do, join a book-of-the-month club?” Hee. —Nerdy Spice
- Oh my gosh this is my favorite thing. Kate tells Dawson that her ex called her an “acquired taste” and asks Dawson if that means that he was calling her a “filthy eyesore.” But for years—YEARS—of my life I thought that she was asking if she was a “filthy ice whore.” [OMG YES. I was like, “What the hell is a ‘filthy ice whore’?? –Janes]I had no idea what it meant but I heard it very clearly, twice, in this scene. It took me till quite recently to finally make sense of what she was saying. But if I ever do start an angry-girl punk band, I might name it “Filthy Ice Whores.” —Nerdy Spice
- Matt Caufield calls Andie and Joey “Betty and Veronica,” which would have even been a stretch if it had been Jen and Joey, the resident “blonde and brunette” girls in the show. Two shots!
- [Spoiler alert: minor season 3 spoiler ahead] Matt Caufield also calls Joey “doll” (ew), and she very smartly pulls out the vintage Joey Potter sass and blows him off. It took me a few years to notice that this seething look on his face must have been the small infraction that drives him to (spoiler!) deface Joey’s mural. This is surprisingly subtle for this show, and actually makes perfect sense. Nothing makes a privileged white guy act out more disproportionately and violently than female rejection.
- In the spirit of the previous episode, when Dawson was clearly demonstrating that he was subconsciously aware of Pacey and Joey’s attraction to each other, Andie tells Joey that her banter-y complaints about Pacey sound “just like [Andie], right before [she] started dating him.” I love that everyone else knows about Pacey and Joey before Joey does. It’s a cliche for a reason!
- Dawson asks Kate to take a walk, presumably to hook up with her, and Kate randomly decides that Dawson is the “group’s resident nice guy. Freddie Friendly.” (Shot!) He gets frustrated that she’s assuming he’s not trying to take advantage of her (perish the thought), proving that he’s not at all the nice guy she thinks he is. Then, like a true Nice Guy, he complains that he wishes the “universe” would “conspire with his desire to have a good time” for once. Oh my god. Boo-fucking-hoo.
- “Quit whining. There are people dying in the Balkans.” Heh. That’s the only time I’ve ever liked Kate.
- Kate Douglas is going to get herself in a lot of trouble in college if she thinks that guys with good vocabularies won’t try to take advantage of her when she’s drunk. Of course she’s also going to get in a lot of trouble by telling men to kiss her without getting her consent first. But she does do one reasonable thing, which is to vomit as soon as Dawson leans in for aforementioned kiss. —Nerdy Spice
- Jen teases Grams that she need not “wax geriatric” about her date with Henry, which I guess is a somewhat nonsensical play on “waxing poetic.” What a weird and unnecessarily rude quip.
- Grams has a point when she says that dates are supposed to just be moments, not giant referenda on a relationship. But if the “moment” involves someone doing incredibly stupid stuff just to attempt to buy your affections, maybe that’s all the moments you actually need with that person. —Nerdy Spice
- Heh, Andie is not thrilled to be hearing about Jack’s prowess in bed: —Nerdy Spice
- Kate drunkenly laughing when Pacey starts tearing into Dawson and Joey is actually pretty funny:
- I can’t believe Jen ends up APOLOGIZING to Henry. Shot for Henry’s complete lack of perspective being blamed on Jen because she’s a woman who got nervous on a date! Like unless she literally dragged Henry to the clinic, I don’t think it’s her fault that he oversold his freaking blood. She didn’t even know he was getting her a present or ask him for it of anything. Ugh!!! —Nerdy Spice
- I can’t decide what annoys me most about the Henry storyline, because it’s all annoying, but one annoying part is that he seems to think that buying gifts for women is some kind of straight male obligation, like… SHE CAN BUY HER OWN JEWELRY, okay? Ugh. And Jen is stuck in this tragic situation where lots of guys want to go out with her but also to treat her like shit, and then here’s one guy who actually thinks she’s important but expresses it in all these creepy and sexist ways, and so of course she is into it even though at every step she knows he’s being crazy and weird, because at least he’s not treating her like garbage. It’s pretty realistic, but it’s soooo painful. And then of course we’re supposed to sort of forget how awful Henry is and be into them as a couple. —Nerdy Spice
- I can’t believe Dawson tries to get out of being punished by claiming that he’s “getting back to the basics of being a kid.” AGAIN. How many times does he think that’s going to work? —Nerdy Spice
- When Pacey is describing the apocalyptic things that would happen if he acted on his feelings for Joey, he says a “hellmouth” would open. Aw! (Fun fact: Katie Holmes almost played Buffy, which, incidentally, started the same year as Dawson’s on the same network. What a different world we would live in!)
- Joey says, “Satan himself could lead Dawson into the fiery pits of hell and he would still emerge with his moral code firmly intact,” when she literally JUST saw him violate his moral code! And yelled at him for it! I just don’t understand!!!! (Take a shot!)
- I think Joey is a little disappointed that Pacey only came over to tell her how to shift gears. But also very, very relieved. That smile has repression written all over it. —Nerdy Spice
Pacey teaching Joey to drive, obvi. It’s a classic. However, I would also like to highlight the cute jailhouse conversation between Pacey and Dougie, which is the first time we really see the tender side of Dougie’s character. First, Pacey does his thing again where he compliments Joey in the form of complaints: “She’s really, really annoying. This girl is amazing, there is not a single subject on the face of this earth that she doesn’t have an opinion about, it’s mind-boggling.” But then he concedes that she’s “really smart, so she’s usually right” (aw) and that when she argues, “it comes from this beautiful, pure place, so how can you really fight that? Especially if you’re a smart-ass like me” (aw!). Then he finishes it all off by calling her “very, very pretty, the kind of pretty that gives you butterflies” (AW!). Doug wisely says, “Never lose the butterflies. That’s the worst thing about getting older, somewhere along the way you lose the butterflies.” That’s like, Everwood-worthy well-written cheese right there.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Pacey’s well-deserved D/J rant is cringey for all the right reasons. But if there are unintentionally cringeworthy moments in this episode, they all involve Kate. She’s annoying for the whole episode, but she reaches a zenith when she actually repeats everything Dawson says, like she’s a particularly irritating two years old. (For perspective, this type of humor was deemed too juvenile even for Michael Scott.) If you were wondering what type of person would be such good friends with Andie, this is your answer.
Then she finishes off with a ditzy, “Isn’t that annoying?” Um, yes Kate. Yes it is.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Jen: “I think it’s great that we have a day that commercializes on our emotions.” Close, Jen. —Nerdy Spice
I counted 13, although I was being conservative with the meta-references, which were basically the entire episode.
Season 3, Episode 15 “Crime and Punishment”
by Nerdy Spice
Joey gets commissioned to be one of several students painting murals on the walls of the school that exemplify school spirit and unity. Pacey drops by to see it while she’s working on it late after school and expresses some doubt that Joey’s Chinese-character mural is going to speak to the student body, but Joey isn’t particularly insulted; she just teases Pacey about not being “deep.” The next day at school, though, we find out that he told Dawson it was great.
The unveiling ceremony approaches, and a nervous Joey tells Dawson she feels like she’s declaring herself for the first time and that everyone’s going to be looking right into her soul, which would be true if her art weren’t something you could find on sale at Pier One. Bodie even makes a rare appearance, with Bessie, who is adorably proud of Joey. Joey does a competent job at her speech, even including a nineties-style feminist joke that gets a laugh (good thing she eventually turns away from art to writing, eh?), and explaining that her art is about regaining a sense of possibilities from the students’ lost youth. Aww, being nostalgic for one’s lost youth is so sixteen-year-old kid. Unfortunately, someone has splotched all over Joey’s “art” with black paint. Say what you will about how the black paint improves matters (which, let’s be serious, it totally does), that sucks, and Joey runs out.
There follows a tug-of-war between the men in her life over who gets to boss Joey around in her moment of crisis. Dawson argues that it was just a silly prank, trying to belittle her hurt feelings, whereas Pacey says it probably was personal, which is not much more helpful.
Dawson drops by later with keys to the school (obtained from the ever-kind Principal Greene) to encourage Joey to repaint her mural—and to judge her for being defeated over a “stupid high school prank.” Joey correctly points out that Dawson also quit film when his movie got panned at the festival, so he shouldn’t really be standing on that high horse calling her defeated. She also correctly points out that Dawson’s ability to pick up and drop hobbies with full confidence that he’ll be able to “find himself” is partly due to his economic privilege. THEN he says she’s relieved she didn’t have to go through the hard part. Yeah, because it’s so easy to be the victim of vandalism.
Pacey, on the other hand, lives up to his self-conception as a Man of Action by taking bets amongst his fellow slackers, who all think Matt Caufield, host of the Valentine’s Day party gone wrong from last episode, did it. He tells Matt to turn himself in and apologize, because he messed with “somebody I care about.” I’m sure a good proportion of teenaged girls swooned over all of this; personally, of Dawson’s self-righteous lecturing and Pacey’s Neanderthal routine, I really don’t know which annoys me more. Anyway, Pacey gets all up in Matt’s grill in the parking lot, and the two get into a fistfight. Pacey is about to end up the clear winner in the fight when Principal Green arrives. His inexplicable decision is to ask the boys’ friends to explain the fight, and Dawson gives in like a big old nerd and says that the fight was about the mural. Pacey tells Dawson it’s not his fight (true) and Dawson answers, also truly, that it’s not Pacey’s either.
Matt gives himself away by mentioning that the painting had a Chinese character on it. “For one thing, it was ugly,” he says. “Why do I have to look at some trivial girl’s little message to the masses every morning? Frankly, it offends me,” says Matt. Well, he would be right at home on today’s internet message boards! Nothing offends Internet Dudes more than when women get to say stuff. When Green, who’s black, pushes back, Matt doubles down by saying, “I’m white. I’m rich. That’s all the possibility I need.” (He doesn’t add, “I’m male.”) Somehow, he makes it out of the meeting without getting punched in the face again.
Joey arrives to yell at Pacey for his “boneheaded move” and Pacey, irritated, finally lets slip the Big Secret: he claims that he doesn’t actually care about Joey and that he was only hanging out with Joey to do Dawson a favor. Oof. Pissed, Joey asks if that’s what “You and me” is really about. Pacey gives her as much puppy-dog-eyes as he can given that said eyes were blackened by Matt Caufield, and asks her what she thought it was about, but she won’t say. Awww. Joey totally knows he’s in love with her.
Green expels Matt. Both Dawson and Joey show up to peep through the door during Pacey’s disciplinary hearing. Joey’s angry about what she calls the “wife-swapping arrangement,” remarks bitterly that Pacey didn’t have any real concern for her. Dawson calls bullshit on this, since Pacey’s, you know, facing possible suspension for her (well, for her and for his white-knight complex). Joey has the grace to look a little embarrassed. And Pacey ends up not getting suspended; instead, he is voluntold to become a mentor to a troubled kid. (We will, for better or worse, hear plenty more about this later.)
In other news, Andie continues to be the worst; when Matt Caufield gets caught cheating before the vandalism, Andie sits on the student disciplinary board and lectures him that “there’s nothing funny about cheating.” Shut up, Andie. Also, there definitely IS something funny about cheating on a test by calling your mom to find out how many Justices sit on the Supreme Court, so she’s doubly wrong. She recommends a failing grade and detention, but that old softy Principal Green believes Caufield’s stupid story that he actually didn’t get any answers from his mom and got the answers right by guessing. So Matt doesn’t get punished at all. Which makes NO sense.
But when Green tells her that she’s a National Merit finalist, Andie is finally overcome by a belated crisis of conscience. As usual, she handles this by usurping the time of a male authority figure with completely outlandish behavior: she makes Principal Green listen to her resignation speech while he’s in the middle of the crisis with Pacey and Matt. Shut up, Andie! She also confesses to Jack, who’s appropriately shocked but then inappropriately advocates for Andie to keep quiet to avoid getting in trouble. Luckily, she doesn’t listen to him. In typical illogical Andie fashion she packs up her locker before confessing, only to have Green decline to expel her. He tells her that Matt wouldn’t benefit from leniency, but Andie might.
- When Pacey drops by to see Joey’s mural, there is much old-married-couple cooperation amongst them (he picks up brushes to hand to her while she works), as well as awww-worthy hand-holding:
- I came here to say that I don’t understand how Joey is smart enough to scoff at “lighthouses and football players” as pop-art cliches, and then paints Chinese characters which, cultural appropriation aside, are the cliche. But really, there’s nothing more teenager-ish than recognizing everyone’s unoriginality but your own. –Janes
- Pacey gets in a good quip—that museums are “the thinking man’s pick-up joint.” Heh. “That’s what I like about you, Pacey,” Joey says. “You just go so deep.” Dirty! Meanwhile, poor Pacey just has a face of pure delight that Joey thinks about him enough to even have a joking reason she likes him.
- This episode was co-written by Alex Gansa, the creator of Homeland! It’s not in his IMDB credits – I wonder if he erased it. Which he shouldn’t! It’s a really good episode!
- Andie’s hair has gone from bizarrely unfashionable to Bree-van-de-Kamp-levels of Stepford:
- After the vandalism, Pacey theorizes that there might be someone at school who hates Joey just for being Joey, or “for the way she chews on her lower lip.” No one asks him why he’s been paying such close attention to Joey’s lip.
- When Andie tells Jack she’s thinking of quitting the disciplinary board, we see that poor Andie is still in charge of making dinner even though she and Jack live with their dad now. Too bad there aren’t any adults whose JOB it is to provide for the kids.
- I guess J. Crew had backed off by now: Joey’s wearing an ostentatiously be-logoed American Eagle baseball tee.
- I’ve always loved the scenes where Joey calls Dawson out on his privilege, and this one might have been the best. It feels like it belongs to a very different, much more serious show. –Janes
- “It’s brown, it must be Tuesday,” Pacey quips at the cafeteria. Hee! He apparently has come up with a name for said brown food famous amongst his fellow slackers: elephant scabs.
- I could not be more amused by the silly tough-guy banter between Pacey and Matt in the parking lot and its accompanying Inception-like deep chords. “I’m fairly shaking in my boots,” Matt declares before telling Pacey to leave, and Pacey responds “Dream another dream, cowboy. That’s not how this is gonna shake out.” Finally, I’m pretty sure Matt says, “What are you, wack or something?” WHAT?!
- Due to overcrowding at the Witter’s house, Pacey has to move in with Doug, who heroically agrees to take him in despite Pacey’s constant homophobic harassment—as long as Pacey uses coasters.
- Speaking of homophobia, in light of the series finale, it’s super awkward that Doug’s love for the music of “divas,” his preoccupation with coasters, and his appreciation for the art of decoupage are all meant to be foreshadowing for his homosexuality. –Janes [Actually, I sort of wonder about that. Maybe the joke was originally just “Doug is a cop who loves clean houses and Broadway” but then at the end they wanted to give Jack a happy ending and couldn’t think of anything better? —Nerdy Spice]
- “I’ve been so hard on all these other people just as a way of punishing myself,” Andie claims. Well, I’m sure that’ll make them all feel better about those unnecessary detentions.
- OF COURSE MATT CAUFIELD IS GOING TO DARTMOUTH. –Janes
- Matt Caufield might be the first remotely believable high-school villain of this show. Instead of randomly attacking people for being unpopular or poor, he just does what he feels like and expects to get away with it because said people are unpopular and poor.
- Pacey and Dawson are so cute as Dawson teasingly reproves Pacey for giving away their little “wife-swapping” secret to Joey. It’s so sad that this friendship never truly ends up recovering in future seasons—understandable, I think, but really sad, and more practically speaking, not great for the cast cohesion overall.
- “When you were on the disciplinary committee, one of the things I tried to teach you was proportionality,” says Principal Green to Andie. Um… considering that Andie lacks all sense of proportion in all areas of life, I admire that quixotic effort.
- In the adorable last scene, Joey is wearing braids, a bandana, and overalls, and she says, “Duh!” without irony. It’s the most 90s thing that’s ever happened.
Sometime after Pacey’s disciplinary hearing, Joey arrives with paint cans, intent on repainting her mural, only to find Pacey already there, painting over the ruined piece with white paint. She calls him on his shit (“tilting at windmills while in the throes of a misguided hero complex”), thanks him “for being yourself, and not caring what anybody else thinks, and for knowing in your heart what’s right and wrong, and for being there this year when I needed you the most,” and starts painting side-by-side with him. At the very end, she asks if he’s only hanging out with her because Dawson told him to, and then tells him that he needs to get a life and grins at him. GOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Even the part where Dawson walks by them and smiles to himself. This scene just melts my soft little heart every time.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Joey’s mural is SUCH the epitome of nineties cultural appropriation. Pacey says that it looks like something you’d see tattooed on Kwai Chang Caine’s forehead (kudos to the intrepid transcript writer who managed to spell Kwai Chang Caine’s name correctly even though they also thought it was spelled “Van Go”, because I had no idea what Pacey was saying), which is fitting since it does look like a clueless white-person tattoo and Kwai Chang Caine, according to Wikipedia, was a part-Asian character being played by a white dude.
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
Just a double negative, but still amusing: “After everything that’s happened this year, can you honestly doubt for a second that he doesn’t truly care about you?” says Dawson.
One shot for the highly appropriate Kwai Chang Caine reference, and… that’s it!
Next installment here.
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