Season 3, Episode 16 “To Green With Love”
We made it!!
We’re very excited about the next three episodes, if you couldn’t tell. But before we get to that series-altering (read: life-altering) moment, we need to get through “To Green With Love,” a racially awkward episode of television aptly named after a classic, racially awkward movie.
Usually, we make fun of Dawson’s Creek for movie references that are somewhat or totally off-the-mark, but this one is almost too accurate. The movie that inspired this episode’s title, To Sir, with Love, is a 1967 British drama (written and directed by a white British dude) about a black male teacher who inspired his inner city (mostly white) students. The film technically does tackle race (tangentially and late in the game), but is also famously sentimental and politically watered-down. One contemporaneous review from the Monthly Film Bulletin read, “The sententious script sounds as if it has been written by a zealous Sunday school teacher after a particularly exhilarating boycott of South African oranges.” Ow.
I wouldn’t be quite that harsh on “To Green With Love,” which actually does get a few good digs in about racism in this country. We open on a PTA meeting filled with enraged white parents, the worst of whom is the father of Matt Caufield, the spoiled rich boy who was expelled for vandalizing Joey’s mural. He starts off with some good old-fashioned dogwhistling, referring to Principal Green’s potential “prejudices” as an “outsider” and accusing him of “extremism.” Then, he escalates to overt racism, and says that Green’s leadership style might more suited to “urban war zones” than Capeside’s “civilized community.”
The writers also do a great job of capturing the subtle and not-so-subtle racism that pervades media coverage of black men. First, there’s the picture that Gail’s shallow, unscrupulous (very white) successor selects for the coverage, which is clearly chosen to portray Green as a stereotypical “angry black man”:
Then, when the superintendent threatens to fire Green, the fight to keep him as principal is spearheaded by Joey, with no help or public comment from Green. When Dawson asks to hear his side for a competing news story, Green tells him, “The more I try to defend myself, the more I empower this insane notion that I’m an enraged man on a bigoted tirade.” This effectively illustrates the double-bind racism and respectability politics put POC in: if he doesn’t defend himself, then all of the white people will assume they’re correct to default to their biases, and if he defends himself and shows even “a flash” of anger, then he will reinforce their biases, even though he has every right to be angry in the first place. This is definitely like, Racism 101 in a certain sense, but it’s pretty effective.
The writers are also pretty astute when portraying the reactions of the relatively well-intentioned (but still privileged) white people in the cast. Dawson can’t understand why Green wouldn’t want to defend himself, even when Green eloquently explains it: “It’s not my job to prove I’m a fair and decent man. If they don’t know that by now, a sound bite on television isn’t going to help.” Green understands, in a way that someone like Dawson never could, that the racists in town have already made up their minds about him, and there’s really nothing he could do to change that.
And then there’s Bessie, who gets upset with Joey for making noise about Principal Green, because she’s afraid of antagonizing the people who hold the mortgage on their house. The writers trot out Bodie to patiently explain to Bessie that Joey isn’t just fighting for Principal Green but also for a cause: aka the parents would not be this up-in-arms if Principal Green were white. Bessie whitesplains that they would still be upset (ugh, this isn’t a good look for her). Bodie concedes that they would be upset, and might even try to take action, but there wouldn’t be “this level of anger and hostility.” Again, Racism 101. All you can think is, how has she been in a relationship with a black man for years in a blatantly racist small town and not understand this? It’s mind-blowing, and yet a depressingly realistic depiction of white privilege.
Joey does her best to fight for Principal Green, but in the end, they lose. Principal Green won’t reinstate Matt Caufield, and he’s forced to resign and leave town. It’s a sad, but terribly realistic ending. As we’ve seen lately, fear is a powerful motivator, and it’s very easy for people to justify unfounded hatreds based on irrational fears for their “families” and “communities.”
That being said, there’s a lot to unpack about this ending. First of all, it’s a little problematic that this entire conflict is primarily filtered through Joey, a white girl who finds her voice by fighting this injustice. Don’t get me wrong, as a feminist, I love seeing this character come into her own as a leader, but it’s not great that her narrative is centered in an episode that’s supposedly “about” race. The episode literally ends with Principal Green comforting Joey, who is sad about the failure of her white girl activism, while he’s in the process of packing up his things and losing his livelihood. I can’t exactly blame Joey the character for this–teenagers are generally self-centered, and she’s fairly woke for a small-town white girl. But I can certainly blame the writers for portraying Principal Green’s struggle as a minor stepping stone in a white girl’s story.
Which gets to the heart of the real problem: the all-white cast. All of the regular characters are white, as well as the vast, vast majority of the recurring characters. In fact, Principal Green was the first significant black character on the show aside from Bodie (who is absent so often it’s become an inside joke in the fandom), and the only other significant black character is Nikki, his daughter. As I said last week, Nikki was clearly being set up as a love interest for Dawson. She’s beautiful, she loves film, and she’s–a character who is under 25 on a teen soap opera. There is no such thing as a beautiful young girl on a teen soap who is not someone’s love interest. Usually, I would be glad that a girl got to be smart, interesting, and passionate without ever being someone’s love interest. But in this case, it’s difficult to believe that she was written off for any reason other than her race. They were pushing her hard as a real threat to Joey, and then they unceremoniously wrote her off in an episode about racism, in which she only had a few lines, without so much as kissing Dawson or even saying goodbye to him. Or anyone. And then we never hear from her or her father again. Their names are never even mentioned.
In that context, this whole plotline seems a lot more cynical and self-congratulatory. It’s fairly easy to write a Very Special Episode about race when none of the main characters will have to deal with the consequences, and it’s actually kind of racist to write a plotline about racism that conveniently disappears your characters of color, never to be heard from again. Like To Sir, with Love, Dawson’s treats racism as a minor plot point, rather than a force that pervades and shapes every single institution in our society.
On a lighter note, the love triangle between Joey, Pacey, and A.J. (which is obviously just the appetizer to the main course of Joey/Pacey/Dawson) leads to some great moments in this episode. Joey is in hardcore denial mode at this point, resisting her feelings for Pacey in increasingly obvious ways. Sadly for Pacey, this is possibly the most egregious instance of Joey taking advantage of Pacey’s kindness. Similar to “Weekend in the Country,” he does literally everything for her: he encourages her, gives her advice, convinces businesses to give away their services for free, and is just generally there for her at all times. Meanwhile, A.J. bails just when things are getting really difficult for Joey, yet Joey praises A.J. to the moon and can’t even be bothered to thank Pacey.
All of this ingratitude leads to a very sad, very sweet conversation between Pacey and Jen. She immediately senses that he’s upset, and he tells her that he feels like “the Duckie.” For those who don’t know, Duckie is the best-friend character in Pretty in Pink. To hear Pacey tell it, he’s the Duckie because he faithfully supports Joey at all times without expecting anything in return. And, in the end, he “definitely doesn’t get the girl,” but he’s still a nice friend to her anyway.
But here’s the thing: that isn’t really true, and not just because Joey does eventually pick Pacey. In many ways, Dawson is the Duckie while Pacey is the Blane. (Actually, he’s definitely neither, but just go with me on this.) Like Dawson, Duckie is a kind of Gary Sue who was heavily based on the personality of the creator. Like Dawson, he’s the “old friend” character whose bond with Molly Ringwald is based more in history than sexual chemistry. And like Dawson, Duckie was originally intended to be the one Molly Ringwald chose, until test audiences (or, in Dawson’s case, the creator himself) balked at the ending and had her choose the more mature, more chemistry-based relationship instead.
But most importantly, Pacey isn’t the Duckie, because Duckie is a Nice Guy. Yes, he did that adorable lip sync, but he also fought viciously with Molly Ringwald just because another guy asked her out. He yells at her, when she didn’t do anything wrong, and condescendingly tells her, “You can’t do this and respect yourself.” Pacey can’t be the Duckie, because he respects Joey’s agency and doesn’t assume she picks assholes for the sake of picking assholes. He never gets angry, even when Joey is, in fact, blatantly taking advantage of his feelings for her. As we will see after Joey chooses Pacey (when she and Dawson are broken up for over a year!), Dawson definitely has more Duckie-like qualities than Pacey does.
Then, after the Duckie conversation, Joey tells Jen that she “hasn’t seen or heard from Pacey all day,” and for a split second you’re afraid that he’s finally gotten bitter. But then he appears right away, supporting her and helping her as always. That scene between Pacey and Jen is great because, putting aside the inaccurate references they actually make (shots!), Jen is actually telling Pacey not to be the Duckie. And he never is. Instead, he gets to be our (relatively) woke bae before that was a thing.
- Sexism makes an appearance at that PTA meeting as well, when Joey tries to speak up and the superintendent chides her, “This is a PTA meeting, young lady, not a pep rally.” And then Caufield’s dad calls her “dear”! Rage. –Nerdy Spice
- I love that Matt Caufield’s dad had no idea who Joey was one minute, then immediately knew her entire family history. Either the Potter name is even more infamous than we thought, or Matt’s whispers went something like: “Mural girl. Half-black bastard nephew. Of the undesirable caste.”
- Dawson gets up and defends her. Somewhat uncharacteristic, but good on him!
- Sherri calling Gail a “veteran trailblazer” and saying sweetly, “We have a deadline. You remember those days!” are amazingly vicious negs.
- Joey nails the white middle-class parent as being apathetic about real issues in their communities, like racism, but “ranting and raving about low test scores.” Too true. Sometimes I think I want children, and then I think about the prospect of regularly dealing with other parents. Hard pass.
- Joey has a large assortment of adorable hats, but this is one of my favorites: —Nerdy Spice
- “And teenagers, come on. They’d have to be coaxed and prodded before they’d actually set down their Playstations, turn off TRL, and actually do something about something.” Lol! “Playstations”! “TRL”! A teenager referring to her peers as “teenagers”! That might be both the most 90s and the least teenager-ish thing anyone has ever said on this show.
- Pacey says that certain disadvantaged groups are routinely denied the ability to make decisions about their own lives. So far, so good. He then lists three of these groups as convicts, children, and “mental defectives.” Horrifyingly enough, this is not technically incorrect, and was once actually a term used to describe people with cognitive disabilities. However, even the Google-provided definition classifies it as “dated” comma “offensive.”
- I love, love, love that Joey briefly references Pacey over the phone, and without any other information A.J. is immediately threatened. (“‘Pacey’? What kind of name is ‘Pacey’?”) Smart man.
- When A.J. suggests that Joey rally the troops over the phone, Joey says, “That’s what Pacey said.” Then, when she decides to do it after all, she tells Pacey it was all A.J.’s idea. I know we’re supposed to think she’s fighting her feelings for Pacey and all, but still, rude!
- This is clearly supposed to be the “unduly humanized white man” picture, but honestly, Matt still kind of looks like a POS.
- I like that Joey literally sees herself say something on the screen and says, “I never said that,” and Bessie is all, “We know, sis” before Joey explains that her statements were taken out of context. What a good sister.
- Pacey calls Joey “Norma Rae” and then says that while he’s known as a crusader, she’s more the “rebel without a cause” type. First, it’s nice to hear that mostly-male archetype used for a female character, and second, that’s two shots!
- A.J. meets Pacey for the first time, and he still totally knows what’s up. He even makes fun of Pacey’s “peculiar” name right in front of him, which is just a less clever version of Joey’s “Chester” trick.
- Pacey is extremely unimpressed with AJ throwing polysyllabic shade at his “peculiar” name: —Nerdy Spice
- Gail insults the pretty blonde reporter Sherri by calling her a “spokesmodel-turned-journalist,” because of course the problem is that Sherri is pretty and blonde, and not that she’s a terrible, unethical reporter who blatantly takes quotes out of context. Shut up, Gail.
- Dawson acts like Joey has never stood up for herself before and “I always knew she could” and then says he “can’t help but feel part of that.” HOW MANY OF THESE GUYS ARE GOING TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THIS? At least Pacey and AJ contributed SOMETHING. And like, what about when Joey entered the beauty pageant even though those snobby girls laughed at her, or told Dawson to buzz off when he only liked her because of her lipstick, or when she kneed that guy in the crotch because he was sexually harassing her?? —Nerdy Spice
- A.J. condescendingly thanks Pacey for getting the protesters coffee: “Thanks for doing this. Hot coffee is great for morale.” Ha! That’s like “so fetch” levels of passive-aggression.
- Again, Joey snubs Sherri with an icy, “In your frosted blonde dreams, Barbie.” It’s kind of like a lesser version of liberals calling Tomi Lahren “white power Barbie”–as if the main problem is her blonde hair and good looks rather than like, you know, the whole white power thing.
- I actually love when Joey addresses Fielding as “the guy who shows up for football games and graduation.” Such a good point. What the fuck is a superintendent, anyway? The only contact I ever had with my high school’s superintendent was when I sent him an angry email after he made insensitive remarks at a classmate’s memorial service.
- When the superintendent asks to see Joey, AJ comments, “First signs of resistance falling.” YOU THINK, COLLEGE BOY? Also, I sincerely doubt that AJ even went to any college protests, since that would seriously cut into the time he can spend criticizing women for the books they read or writing shitty poetry (more on that in the next episode). He has probably just declared himself an expert based on his most prominent qualification: being an arrogant jerkwad. —Nerdy Spice
- AJ’s next piece of Activist Wisdom, when Pacey points out that there literally aren’t enough students in the school to produce 300 signatures for the petition, is, “Those are problems. We need solutions.” Oh, are those special technical words that you learned in all the college protests that I’m so sure you were attending? —Nerdy Spice
- Joey does do a great job of leading. Stupid AJ with his stupid condescending remarks that she’s a “born leader” is right for once! —Nerdy Spice
- Andie manages to pack a lot of annoyingness into a 15-second scene where she threatens to quit the yearbook if people don’t come to the rally. —Nerdy Spice
- Jack’s strategy for getting bodies at the rally is “think internet” (hee!), which translates to putting a call to action on “the Capeside website.” (HEE!)
- Pacey convinces a copy shop owner to do their flyers for free, and the next second Joey thanks A.J. for making everything happen and tells him, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” Okay, now it’s just getting ridiculous.
- Is it weird that I kind of like Bessie’s bonkers floppy hairdo? —Nerdy Spice
- A.J. witnesses Joey fighting with her sister, and instead of being there for her for at least, oh I don’t know, a minute or two, he chooses that moment to announce that he’s going back to school. Like, I get it, everyone has to do what they have to do, but honestly, what a jerk.
- Gail insists that they interview Fielding because they “can’t editorialize” when making this news story, and then proceeds to ask him very aggressively biased questions that are more cross-examination than interview. I agree with Dawson that he deserves it, but still. Worst. Reporter. Ever.
- I love how everyone is always whipping out obscure school handbooks to embarrass school personnel on this show. —Nerdy Spice
- Okay, I realize this is nitpicky, but as someone who has spent months planning events that turn up about 20 people, there’s absolutely no way Joey and co. would have gotten hundreds of people at this rally in just a few days, especially when their strategy amounted to Andie blackmailing hapless business owners and “think internet.”
- That awkward silence when Joey asks for people to speak about Principal Green, though. Too real.
- Montage! Minkus!
- Jen tells Pacey that Joey will thank him at some point, because “Every duck has his day.” Cute!
- Then she adds with a smirk, “Just ask Henry.” Ew. Officially not cute anymore.
- Aww, sisters! Bessy calls Joey smart, talented, and brave, and she gets up the nerve to drive home… with a stick shift! —Nerdy Spice
- It’s really sad that this campaign doesn’t work, and that the racists just… win. It was kind of a brave choice on the show’s part. (Except as Janes points out it left them with no black characters, so… maybe brave and convenient.) —Nerdy Spice
I mean, it’s obviously not going to be any of the race stuff, so we’ll pivot to yet another iconic P/J moment. After an entire episode of Joey ignoring Pacey’s efforts to help her, Pacey basically screams for her attention with a beautiful gesture: he buys her a wall (ugh, I’m tearing up just writing that sentence) because he wants her to “grow as a person and as an artist.”
Even more importantly, this is the first time it becomes really clear, to us if not to herself, that Joey is in love with Pacey. She tells him he’s “unbelievable,” and, “Just when I think I have you all figured out, you go and do something so outrageous, that completely challenges me in a way that no one else [read: Dawson] would even think of.” And in a nice bit of acting from Katie Holmes, she delivers all of this in a way that’s simultaneously surprised, delighted, and almost puzzled, as if she can’t quite believe that he’s for real:
And yes, she finally thanks him. He says, “About time, Potter,” and we’re supposed to think he means the gratitude (which, yeah), but the subtext is definitely, “About time you realized your very obvious feelings for me.”
I could go on and on about how he supports her creative aspirations, about how he uses actions to express his love rather than empty, selfish sentiments about soulmates, but mostly–squee!!!
Most cringeworthy moment:
Principal Green walks out of the school for the last time amid a sea of white kids, who clap for him. It should be a nice moment, I guess, but it’s super fucking weird:
This just comes off as condescending, especially when the only other black person around–his daughter–joins him on his Walk of White Guilt. You can almost hear the writers clapping for themselves in this moment–”Wasn’t it great that we explored racism for a whole episode? But phew, now the black people are gone and we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.”
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
We’re technically in the 2000s now! But when you play music like “Two Beds and a Coffee Machine” by Savage Garden during a sentimental speech, you will be forever remembered as a 90s show.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
This one’s a doozy: Pacey tells Joey he’s more known for his activism, “breaking down sexual stereotypes, eradicating rogue teachers…” “Sexual stereotyping” is an outdated term for stereotyping based on gender, not sexual orientation, and don’t get me started on Pacey “eradicating” Mr. Peterson.
Seven, all movie references: four Duckies, two other unobjectionable references, and the title.
Season 3, Episode 17 “Cinderella Story”
By Nerdy Spice
This is it, kids! As they like to say on the Creek, Subtext Is Finally Becoming Text, and Pacey and Joey are about to lock lips. YAY.
First, though, we’ve got to get rid of AJ. So Joey (and her cute red hat) is on her way to an event where AJ is winning a creative writing award, and of course, the faithful Pacey drives her to the bus station. Pacey tells her that her relationship is basically just a fantasy, but Joey traipses off without a noticeable loss of enthusiasm for her magical night.
When she arrives at South Station Joey sees a sign for “Potter, Joseph,” which is held up not by AJ but by a pretty girl who just happens to be AJ’s oldest friend… and to also have a gender-neutral name, “Morgan” (who also went to Paris and makes art). Huh, see any parallels? Morgan’s there to pick up Joey while AJ spends his afternoon freaking out about his stupid ceremony, and she makes Joey go blading all around town without even asking if Joey wants to. What an asshole! Luckily for Morgan, this is also an episode where a Precocious TV Child makes an appearance so she isn’t even the most annoying character in this episode.
Once the three of them are hanging out, Morgan and AJ “banter” ostentatiously and then Morgan leaves right after throwing a conversational bomb in the mix by asking if AJ ever mentioned her, to which the answer is clearly no. Kinda aggressive, but what do you expect from a girl who forces complete strangers to go on multi-mile “blading” excursions with her?
Once they’re alone, Joey tries to find out more about Morgan while AJ blathers about what poem to read at the ceremony tomorrow. Then Morgan barges in and tells him to read a poem called “The Nature of Love,” which he agrees to (although the poem he later reads is called “Silent Dream,” so it’s unclear what happened there). Meanwhile, Morgan pulls Joey into her room and manipulates them into chatting about AJ so that she can show off how well she knows him. Joey, not one to be maneuvered by a romantic rival, counters by bringing up AJ’s kissing skills to suss out whether Morgan has personal knowledge thereof. Which, of course, she does. But she insists that there’s nothing between her and AJ. Yeah, when someone tells you that they don’t have a crush on your boyfriend while staring at you with intense tear-filled eyes, you should definitely believe them:
Joey insists that Morgan come to the ceremony with them, which you would think should be AJ’s decision (and the people who presumably gave him a plus one at this event, not a plus two), but oh well. At which point AJ gets up and reads his poem, which is supposedly called “Silent Dream” but might as well be called “I am in love with Morgan.” It literally mentions a girl who meets “the boy she had already known all her life,” and Morgan’s habit of doing the Sunday crosswords. It’s also a terrible poem, by the way. “Her silent dream is my courage. Her dance is my freedom.” WHAT?! [It’s supposed to be a short story! That’s even worse!! –Janes] [After much discussion we determined that in fact, it is supposed to be a “piece.” I assumed it was a poem because it is nonsensical, and presumably Janes assumed it was a story because poems are supposed to be… poetic. –Nerdy Spice]
After the dinner, Morgan unnecessarily makes things weird by pausing for way too long before saying goodnight. Joey walks halfway back to the room with AJ and then sends him off with Morgan because she’s his “muse.” She says that their thing is romantic, but it’s not real (which has echoes of what she told Dawson after the beauty pageant), and points out to AJ that his poem was obviously about Morgan. This leads to my favorite AJ line of all time: Joey asks why he looked at Morgan while reading his “I love Morgan” poem, and this kid legit says, “I don’t know, I was reading something, and I guess it made me think of her.” It makes me laugh every time because it’s just so… obtuse. Joey gives him her best doy look and informs him, “It’s because it’s about her.” She sends him off, telling him once again that Morgan is his reality, and then heads to the train station—and calls Pacey.
Meanwhile, Dawson tries to help Gail with the restaurant, which is opening in a week… and has no chef. Which seems like sort of a necessary piece of the puzzle. It’s not like they’re about to open a bookstore and they haven’t found a cashier. More like they’re about to open a fashion line but they don’t have a designer. Plus, Jack and Andie pitch in by picking up the restaurant’s sign, only to find that the sign person basically just gave them a painting of a fish because Gail never gave him a name to put on the sign with the fish:
Dawson finally calls Mitch to save Gail because he can sense an impending disaster. Gail’s pissed, and Dawson is indignant that she doesn’t appreciate his “help.” He actually says, out loud, “Excuse me for not wanting to see you fail, Mom.” What a dick! Then, when Jen tries to talk him down, he blames the whole thing on his mom being too emotional: “I think the pressure of the restaurant has finally gotten to her.” Sure, if by “the pressure of the restaurant” you mean “the constant irritation caused by the men in my life trying to run it.” Gallingly, Dawson comes back in the morning to find the entire restaurant has somehow been magically fixed up literally overnight by the magical power of Mitch’s male competence. Plus, Bodie is going to be the chef and oversee the kitchen, which makes a third man who has saved Gail.
While waiting for Joey to get back, Pacey enters a mentoring relationship with a classic Precocious Kid Who Makes Insightful Remarks, named Buzz. He is played by Jonathan Lipnicki, he lisps and has glasses, and he’s pretty annoying. At first on purpose, as he calls Pacey “Pissy” and informs him that he has a five o’clock shadow (well do I remember being told I was growing a mustache by a similarly impertinent young tot when I was Pacey’s age… sigh), then just by virtue of being what he is. He’s really not worth spending a lot of pixels on, so I’ll try to devote most of my time to faithfully reproducing anything remotely amusing that Pacey does. Like this little lift!
Pacey takes Buzz to an arcade and attempts to bribe the kid with a Pokemon card. That doesn’t work out because Buzz can’t play nicely with others, so he takes the kid to his boat and puts him to work. He also confesses his “unattainable” crush. Buzz, who’s learned why Pacey was sentenced to be his mentor, declares, “You have no problem taking a swing at a guy but you can’t tell a girl how you feel about her. Man, you’re pathetic.” Wow, I’m almost won over to Buzz by this astute summary of toxic masculinity!
Pacey tries to get out of mentoring Buzz, but when he figures out that Buzz lied about his dad being dead and was actually abandoned by him, he returns to the fray. “There’s not a kid on earth that Pacey Witter can’t handle,” he declares. Awww. Late that night, he shows up to make Buzz some meatloaf, and tell Buzz that Joey “is so beautiful that every time you look at her, your knees tremble and your heart just melts and you know right then and there without any reservations that there is order and meaning to the universe.” Oh, Pacey. You live in a very simple world if you think female beauty can bring order to it.
Finally, he gets the call from Joey at the train station and comes to pick her up. She won’t tell him what happened at first (“He finally ripped off his rubber mask and revealed his true alien features?” Pacey guesses – hee!). Once they’re on the car home, as the sun comes up, Joey finally snaps that Pacey had been right, and that there was another girl who was the real thing. Pacey tells her again that she’ll find it, and Joey says she won’t, because only two people have ever really known her: Dawson and Pacey.
Pacey finally can’t take it anymore. He pulls over to the side and gets out, and tries to get Joey to tell him what she meant by saying that he knows her better than anyone else. Joey gets angrier and angrier as she tries to answer Pacey’s questions while wilfully refusing to actually understand what he’s saying. She just keeps saying that he knows her and she counts on him. “But what does that mean, Jo,” Pacey says with this nervous, hopeful look on his face that absolutely SLAYS the gooey fangirl living in my heart:
Joey still refuses to admit what she really meant and instead just says that it means she can talk to him. FINALLY, Pacey, giving up, announces that he’s tired of talking and… kisses her.
To sum up my feelings on this episode, YAYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!
- Joey’s all excited about the “elegant dinner” she’s attending which is given by AJ’s graduate department. This made me laugh at first, but I guess maybe at Fake Harvard where AJ goes, the dinners are more elegant than they were at my underfunded graduate English department, where the dinners could most kindly be described as “edible”?
- Pacey’s right about calligraphy. Anything Ted Mosby likes is automatically pretentious. –Janes
- Pacey basically calls Joey Cinderella, and tells her that reality will come back in: “The clock inevitably strikes midnight, and it’s pumpkin city.” How evocative. Shot for the meta-reference!
- I know the “adorable precocious child” bit is objectively annoying, but I can’t help thinking Jonathan Lipnicki is actually kind of adorable. –Janes
- Ugh, I even think his twee lisp when he calls Pacey “Pissy” is cute! What’s wrong with me?? –Janes
- Pacey tells Buzz that people think he’s a smartass too, and Buzz scornfully repeats a cliche about how “When people really get to know you, they discover that under the gruff exterior there’s a vulnerable beating heart. GET REAL! I’m not like one of those kids on Seventh Heaven!” But of course, he is exactly like one of those kids on TV. And the meta-reference with which he declares himself not to be like sentimental TV cliches is itself a TV cliche. Anyway, we’ll take a shot for the reference. (I do enjoy when someone throws shade on Seventh Heaven though. What a God-awful show. Buzz’s dialogue, tiresome as he is, is still far wittier than anything that that terminally serious show could’ve come up with.)
- When Dawson laments that Gail didn’t pick a final name for the restaurant in time to have a non-useless sign, Andie chirps, “Women have a right to change their minds.” Like, thanks for that, Andie. Very helpful. [We hate her. –Janes] [True story. –Nerdy Spice]
- How did it take me this long to realize that annoying-best-friend Morgan is virtually indistinguishable from the “frosted blonde Barbie” reporter from last episode! Jeez, these writers really hate blondes, don’t they? –Janes
- This might be the silliest literary reference this show has made yet: Morgan tells Joey that AJ isn’t picking her up because he needs to pick a poem to read tomorrow, which is an eminently stupid and self-involved reason not to pick up your girlfriend at the train after she’s made a long trip, but is quite AJ-like and thus perfectly believable. Joey’s response? “Why do I suddenly feel like I fell asleep on the train and woke up the protagonist in a Kafka story?” Five shots for an incredibly inaccurate reference!
- Morgan forces Joey to travel from the airport on roller blades. And she calls it “blading.” Ha! And Pacey thought calligraphy was pretentious. –Janes
- Pacey leaves his trouble-making young charge alone in the arcade and naturally comes back to find the kid whacking other kids on the head with the whack-a-mole mallet. I hate to speak ill of the romantic hero here, but… he’s not the BEST babysitter.
- It’s so funny that there’s ANOTHER storyline where someone writes a poem (or rather, a Piece) that’s so obvious even Pacey the Remedial Reader could figure out what it means on the first read—first Jack’s gay love poem, and then AJ’s incredibly trite love Piece about his best friend—and somehow “doesn’t realize” what it’s about until someone else points it out. You could argue that it’s an accurate portrayal of how people are able to deceive themselves for much longer than they should, but… COME ON, AJ. How dumb ARE you?
- Precious Precocious Child tells Pacey “Your generation is so out of it!” and calls Pacey a “putz” like he’s 95 years old. All right, the spell has worn off. Definitely not cute. –Janes
- When Buzz finds out that Pacey’s dad is a cop, he says happily, “That explains your authority issues.” I admit it! I laughed.
- Ugh, and now Morgan and What’s-His-Name are speaking French! In casual conversation! No wonder neither of them have found any new friends since high school. –Janes
- Morgan sucks, but she does make sidewalk chalk drawings which is pretty awesome. Of course AJ can’t be bothered to mention the one thing that’s actually cool about Morgan in his Piece.
- I love when Joey gently chides A.J., “I know what hemoglobin is” and then uses it in context later in the conversation. That moment pretty much encapsulates the experience of dating older, pretentious guys who are convinced they’re smarter than you. –Janes
- Morgan tells A.J. that for his big-time reading, he should “go back to his roots” and read an old piece. That’s literally terrible advice. Everyone knows you should read your strongest piece, which is probably not the piece that contains the laughable sentence, “Her smile is a painting on my soul.” –Janes
- James van der Beek’s “guilty” face: –Janes
- Joey actually breaks her heel at the dance and has to walk around with one shoe, which I’m not sure I ever realized before was a Cinderella reference (one more shot!). Don’t you hate when you spend months snobbishly pulling apart a show’s lack of subtlety only to realize that obvious metaphors have been lost on you all fifty-seven times you’ve watched your favorite episode? Ugh, it’s almost enough to make you want to stop making fun of things. Almost.
- It’s funny, because everything Joey says about Morgan is supposed to be about Joey when she was in love with Dawson, but it sounds a whole lot more like Pacey circa now: “She encourages you to write and she demands that you be yourself and she does this in such a selfless way that you can’t begin to comprehend.”
- Joey: “Can you hear it too?” A.J.: “What?” Joey: “The loudest sound of all. Love unspoken.” CRINGE. –Janes
- AJ declares that he has a broken heart, and Joey says, “There are worse things than a broken heart, like the love that you don’t explore.” Major eyerolls to BOTH of these nonsensical declarations.
- While Jen and Dawson sit outside the restaurant, Jen laughs and reminisces about Dawson asking to be her “boy adventure.” They have a good laugh at how dorky Slightly Younger Dawson was (for reference, since season 1 and 2 made up a single academic year, it’s been maybe eighteen months in Creek Time). It’s pretty cute.
- I love that Pacey still ribs Joey, even though she’s clearly crying about A.J., but with this sweet, concerned look on his face: –Janes
- I’m sure this goes without saying, but I love everything about Pacey and Joey’s first kiss. The tender looks Pacey gives Joey, the fact that they’re arguing but not really fighting, their immediate physical chemistry. But the best part is that the first time you see it, it feels both completely surprising and a long time coming, which is also how it’s supposed to feel for the characters. It’s perfect! –Janes
Should I put up yet another screenshot of The Kiss? Just kidding, I’ll refrain. But yeah… that would be the highlight.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Obviously it would have to be “Gail fails at literally everything until the men in her life band together to save her” storyline. It’s hard to pick what to be most mad about: Obviously I hate Dawson for always jumping straight to “Bring a man in to save the day!” but it’s hard not to be mad at Gail for thinking she could run a restaurant when she obviously has no idea what the hell she’s doing. So, I guess I’ll settle on being pissed at the show for trotting out this incredibly cliched “Woman tries to Do It All on her own but can’t, so Big Man comes in to save her” storyline. I mean, Gail literally utters the words, “I do need a partner, and I was too proud to admit it.” Ughhhhhh.
“I need help from a man and I’m too proud to admit it” is also the plotline of about seventeen different romantic comedies from the nineties, too. It’s perhaps my least favorite trope (and I hate a lot of tropes).
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
I’m not sure if this is wrong exactly or just silly: AJ actually mansplains to Joey why he’s cleaning out her scraped knee after the infamous blading excursion with Morgan (which is already offensive because Joey isn’t an actual baby who’s never heard of basic first aid), by saying that he doesn’t want to let “foreign elements get introduced to your hemoglobin, because that’s the part of the blood that transports your…” and Joey finally interrupts that she knows what damn hemoglobin is. Shut up, AJ! She’s not an idiot! But also, I am pretty sure that the main concern with foreign elements in your bloodstream isn’t “don’t let them touch your hemoglobin.” I mean, I’m not a doctor or anything, but seriously? No.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
Tara Maclean, a Kevin Williamson fave who also sung on the Teaching Mrs. Tingle soundtrack, sings sweet, folksy songs in the background while Joey is in the train station calling Pacey, and then again when Pacey and Joey kiss for the first time.
Pacey calls Joey “Jo” once that I could catch, plus nine shots for literary references accurate and inaccurate.
Season 3, Episode 18 “Neverland”
I adore this episode. In some ways, I like it even better than “A Cinderella Story” (although of course nothing beats that kiss). “Neverland” gets to the heart of the themes of the show–growing up/nostalgia and… love triangles, mostly–and essentially lays out a template for what the rest of the show will look like.
First, the initial scene between Joey and Pacey, which takes place right after their first kiss, is the perfect encapsulation of their relationship. They finish up their adorable kiss, Joey freaks out and hits him (although even when she’s physically assaulting him, they still have ridiculous chemistry), and they both blow Dawson’s potential upset way out of proportion. Joey’s line, “Do you have any idea of the monumental implications of that meaningless little impulse? The ripple effect that it could create in our small but fragile universe?” might be the most Dawson’s line of all time. It actually sounds a lot like the hilariously exaggerated dialogue from Dawson’s meta-movie back in season two.
And that hyperbole continues, from Pacey exasperatedly exclaiming that the “universe unravels” because he “dared kiss Joey Potter” to Jen telling Joey that a “world balance has definitely been shifting.” All over one kiss. (Although, as Joey would say, “A kiss is not just a kiss,” not between Joey and Pacey, at least.) This is why I love season four, maybe more than most Dawson’s fans, maybe even a little more than season three: everything has ludicrously high stakes, to the point that you almost feel like you’re in high school again.
While the burgeoning Joey/Pacey relationship is quietly ending the world as we know it, the characters are all busy reminiscing about their fading childhoods. While Pacey is trying to tell Dawson about the kiss, he and Dawson go camping in the woods near their old fort, which is about to get bulldozed. Dawson sadly realizes that everything, starting with the fort, is not nearly as larger-than-life as it seemed when he was a child.
Meanwhile, Joey sits with Andie and Jen at lunch, literally because she has no other options. (I feel you, girl.) When both Joey and Jen are in bad moods, Andie says–and it might be the first time I’ve ever agreed with her)–“You know what, girls? Other girls don’t have these problems like we do. Do you know why? Because they actually hang out together!” I wonder if this is supposed to be meta-commentary about how Dawson’s almost never passes the Bechdel test. (Who am I kidding, I would be happy if the writers had ever heard of the Bechdel test.)
But then, of course, because Andie is terrible, she interprets “female bonding” in the most sexist way possible, calls it an “estrogen energy boost” (UGH, the worst), makes the obligatory Thelma and Louise reference (shot!), and forces Joey and Jen to get facials. Then, because Jen is the worst, she makes them all wear full makeup, feather boas (no, seriously), and what looks like–vintage bathrobes? Joey’s scoffing reaction to Andie’s suggestion of a “girls’ night” is annoying and sexist, but honestly, if these are her choices, who can blame her?
There are a few moments of genuine female bonding, however. First, Jen offers Joey some advice about the Pacey situation, which is a sweet moment (even if it still doesn’t pass the Bechdel test), and then the three girls have a frank conversation about why they all wish they were still ten years old, for reasons that are true to their respective characters: Andie misses when things were under control, Joey misses when she could play with the boys without complication, and Jen whines about how she never got to be a little girl because her rich mother wouldn’t let her play in the dirt (shot!). Even with Jen and Andie’s annoying qualities, these scenes are super refreshing, and make you wonder once again why the writers never bothered to develop a genuine female friendship on this show. They did realize that most of their viewers were young girls, right?
Meanwhile, Ethan (aka Parker from Buffy, aka Wise Gay Sage) returns, and is even more annoying than usual. Jack invites Parker over to his house, and then stands up to his homophobic father when he freaks out about it, which is totally his right. Then Parker, who isn’t even Jack’s boyfriend, feels the need to butt into Jack’s family business, invite Jack’s dad to dinner, and generally try to force Jack and his dad to kiss and make up. You’d think that if the Wise Gay Sage really were so wise about all things gay, he would understand that Jack needs to deal with his homophobic father in his own time.
When Jack loudly confronts Parker about forcing him to spend time with his father, Mr. McPhee gets all butthurt and tells Jack, “I canceled my business trip to spend time with you. I guess I’m just not the father you want. Or need.” Oh my god. Is he serious? He literally abandoned Jack twice, first when he stayed in Providence, and then when he effectively kicked Jack out of the house. I think the show wants us to agree with Parker when he says that actually, Jack and his father are “both victims here,” but I am not having it. I’m not having it at all. [Sure. They’re both victims, in that they’re both suffering because of Jack’s dad’s raging homophobia. —Nerdy Spice]
Then, Jack rightly tells Parker, “He cancels one trip so he can throw it passive-aggressively in my face? It doesn’t work that way!” (YES. Go Jack!), and Parker actually has the nerve to lecture him about how “someday, you’ll want to reach out to him and it will be too late.” UGH. Shut up, Parker, no one likes you.
Meanwhile, at the campsite, Dawson and Pacey unearth a time capsule with trinkets from their childhood together, and Dawson gets uber-nostalgic. “I’m always gonna be sure of you. And Joey,” he says. Then, as if Pacey didn’t feel badly enough, he says Pacey is “pure loyalty,” while Joey is his “conscience,” “inspiration,” and “soulmate” (shot!), because of course he defines everyone around him based on his own needs and aspirations. Still, this makes Pacey feel monstrously guilty, and he chickens out about telling Dawson about the kiss because, as we will hear many, many times over the next season or two, that kiss RUINED EVERYTHING and NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.
- Okay, hearing Joey say the words, “How could you take a simple declaration of friendship and take that as an invitation to just maul me, Pacey!” and Pacey’s answer: “You let me do it!” gives me some feminist guilt about loving their first kiss so much. But… look how cute they are!!
- It’s such a good move to have Bessie ask excitedly about Joey’s weekend with A.J., otherwise the viewer would see that kiss and immediately forget that A.J. ever existed.
- Also, let it be noted that this is literally the last time anyone mentions A.J. ever. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
- In a scene that eerily mirrors the morning after Joey and Dawson’s first kiss, we cut between Pacey telling Doug, and Joey telling Bessie. After the D/J kiss, Dawson tells Pacey, but now Pacey tells Doug because he can’t talk to Dawson and he has no other friends. Joey tells Bessie about both kisses, because she never had any female friends.
- Omg I never noticed this before. Pacey tells Doug, his brother, that he can’t lose Dawson because “he’s like the brother I never had.” Doug doesn’t even blink. —Nerdy Spice
- Pacey tells Doug, “And then she told me I’m the one she thinks about. Me! And then she gives me this look. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for her to give me that look?” OMG it’s so cute I could die.
- Joey asks Bessie if she thinks Pacey kissing her was “more than just an impulse,” and Bessie says she doesn’t know. Um… what?? Bessie saw the entire “Weekend in the Country” saga unfold, and she still has no idea whether this kid is in love with her sister? I don’t buy it for a second. Everyone loves gossiping about their younger siblings’ puppy love–what else is there to do when you’re a boring adult??
- Doug gives Pacey some wise brotherly advice–“Joey is a bus that can’t go below 50. Dawson is the bus driver. You’re the brave, heroic policeman who wants to get the bus to safety.” Pacey is impressed by Doug’s hilariously inept metaphor, apparently not realizing it’s just a summary of an (admittedly sublime) Keanu Reeves movie. That’s two shots!
- Awww, from his description of the plot of Speed it’s easy to tell that the not-yet-openly-gay Doug has a crush on Keanu Reeves. —Nerdy Spice
- Bessie tells Joey to talk to someone about this, and Joey’s like, “Who? Dawson? Pacey? Andie?” It’s like, homegirl, maybe get some NEW friends. —Nerdy Spice
- Then Doug gives some actual good advice: Pacey should take Dawson to a place that reminds him of their “shared history,” tell him calmly and rationally, and trust that while he might be upset, he’ll realize that their friendship is more important and will be grateful that Pacey came to him before anything else happened. That’s great, sensitive advice–even if it assumes way, WAY too much maturity on Dawson’s part.
- In an insufferable subplot that’s barely worth describing, Jen is upset because Henry didn’t invite her to his kiddie birthday party out of embarrassment (that’s it, that’s the entire subplot).
- The Henry-Jen plotline obviously annoys me because, well, they always do. In a way it’s almost refreshing that Jen has an almost valid reason to be upset with Henry, because not inviting your girlfriend to your party is a dick move. But how is his reaction in any way the reaction a real person would have? IF you were embarrassed that your party was kiddish, you would probably go to great lengths to CHANGE what the party is. You wouldn’t try to hide from her that it existed because that clearly won’t work. Also, how come this kid is on the football team but he’s not embarrassed to have his football buddies come to his silly party? —Nerdy Spice
- Buzz returns, and is just as unlikely and precocious as ever. But I have to admit, it’s super cute when Pacey manhandles him.
- I always enjoy Jen trying to get Joey to talk about her “situation” and Joey getting all upset again about the “meaningless, impulsive scenario.” Jen is being totally chill and adult about this whole thing, and Joey is basically a toddler with her fingers in her ears yelling, LEAVE ME ALONE! I’VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF PACEY, OKAY?! —Nerdy Spice
- OK, if you’re hanging out in your friend’s room and she says that she has an activity planned and pulls out a bunch of Victoria’s Secret shopping bags from under her bed, you should be very, very alarmed. Luckily it turns out later that Jen just bought a bunch of feather boas and other accessories, but still. What a weird moment! And who knew Victoria’s Secret sold feather boas? —Nerdy Spice
- Oh man, I canNOT handle this kid in the middle and his incredibly adorable scared face as Dawson tells his ghost story: —Nerdy Spice
- Dawson finds a picture of Kid Joey and marvels that he didn’t realize how beautiful she was. “We must have been deaf, dumb and blind not to notice,” Pacey says sadly, fingering the photo. Aww. —Nerdy Spice
- I can’t believe that in this giant house, the homophobic dad is letting Ethan sleep in Jack’s room. —Nerdy Spice
- After Parker forces Jack to spend time with his dad and basically pushes them into a direct conflict, Jack is understandably withdrawn. Ethan says, “I know you’re mad at me, but don’t be. I was only trying to help.” Worst apology ever, dude.
- In a classic teen soap opera maneuver, Joey insists that the kiss meant nothing, and Jen says, “If the kiss really meant nothing, why are you so upset and so confused?” Boom. Mic drop.
- I like how Jen tries to tell Joey that she’s upset about the kiss because it means something, but Joey, Queen of De Nile, takes this basically as a challenge: if she can make herself not be upset, then she can make it not be true that she likes Pacey back. —Nerdy Spice
- Jack’s homophobic dad wants to make up with him, and I am not here for it. First, he says that he was inspired to cancel his business trip because his friend has a drug-addicted, college drop-out car thief for a son, and at least being gay isn’t as bad as all that. Really, I’m only exaggerating a little, that’s basically what he says. Then, when Jack is getting all teary-eyed because his dad is reaching out to him, his dad is all, “I don’t know what the big deal is, someone had to make the first move.” Um… yeah, someone did, but it probably should have been you, since you’re the PARENT and all. Asshole.
- And THEN he dramatically moves a chess piece as a barely-metaphor for–you guessed it–”making the first move.” I can’t.
- I really hate to find Buzz funny, but his lascivious “Heyyyy” to Joey when Pacey runs into her in the grocery store is worth a giggle. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey’s makeup is on point, really all of the third season, but especially in this last scene between her and Pacey. Her eyes are even more beautiful and humongous than usual (and, contrary to popular opinion, are definitely not brown).
Surprise! It’s another P/J scene. They’re separate for the entire episode, and both characters are seemingly in the process of deciding they’re better off without the other. But when they run into each other at a convenience store, the chemistry between the actors is palpable and undeniable, even when they’re trying to be awkward.
Pacey haltingly tells her that he’s sorry he kissed her, and that it was just a passing impulse. Joey gives a performatively casual shrug and says that it’s “only a big deal if we make it one, so why get so upset?”, which is obviously a response to everyone (Bessie, Jen) needling her about her overreaction to the kiss. Then she says, unconvincingly, that is “clearly meant nothing,” and he unconvincingly agrees. Look, it’s a bona fide, successful example of subtext!!
If this episode laid out the new template for the rest of the show, it all culminates with this scene. Joey tries to run away from her feelings for Pacey, Pacey promises not to kiss her again and acknowledges that their relationship would have a “ripple effect in our universe,” but it still ends with them, with their easy, chemistry-laden dynamic (and with Joey staring wistfully after him, because who wouldn’t?).
Most cringeworthy moment:
When Jen and Henry are making up, Jen tells him, “Your innocence is one of the best things about you.” Ew. So rapey.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
When Bessie asks about Joey’s would-be romantic weekend with A.J., she says, “Leave no sordid detail unturned.” Um, okay, if you say so, Bess.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
While Joey watches Pacey and Buzz leave the store, “Go Be Young” by Edwin McCain is playing! What a thematically appropriate throwback!
Only six! The count has been low this post–that’s how you know it’s getting good. 🙂
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