- Joey or Pacey inappropriately mentions Dawson.
- Completely inaccurate interpretations of “feminism” and “girl power” or completely unreasonable instances of women getting mad at men in some vaguely “men are dogs” way.
- Every time they mention “last spring” in hushed, reverent tones.
- Every time Jack stands up for the misogynistic straight guys who treat his female friends like crap.
- Every time Jen tries to make out with someone extremely inappropriate.
Spoiler note – this recap contains minor spoilers for the rest of season 4!
Season 4, Episode 1 “Coming Home”
By Nerdy Spice
It’s time for season 4! I could tell you what we’re looking forward to in this season, but why don’t I let Pacey do it? His oh-so-arch meta-commentary two minutes into the episode does it all:
“Just what would we be missing from the land of poorly-scripted melodrama? Recycled plotlines, tiresome self-realizations, you throw in the occasional downward spiral of a dear friend and maybe a baby here and a death there, and all you’ve really got is a recipe for some soul-sucking, mind-numbing ennui. And I for one could skip it.”
This season will in fact have tiresome self-realizations (mostly from Dawson, of course), a downward spiral (Andie, more entertainingly than her last one), a baby (sigh), and a death (remember that Curmudgeonly Movie Dude who Warms Up To Dawson After A Rocky Start?). [That actually describes this season better than any of the other ones. –Janes] But you know what, Pacey? I don’t want to skip it! I think this season is actually going to be fun.
Anyway. We last saw Pacey and Joey sailing off into the sunset together (yay!). After three months of sailing around, they have returned to Capeside, not without some unspoken dread while Joey shoots constant melancholy looks in the general direction of a certain solipsistic aspiring filmmaker’s house. On their last night, they dock just in sight of home to put their arrival off for one more night. Pacey’s caught some fish for dinner, and after some banter, Joey mentions pushing him off the boat. So they grab hands and jump together off the boat, into the water. Classic moment!
Meanwhile, the other four have been spending the summer on the beach. [It occurs to me that this is the first time we’ve actually seen these characters hanging out at the beach–when they live in Cape Cod. What the hell have they been doing all this time?? –Janes] Jack and Dawson have a part-time job painting houses, and Dawson has taken up a new hobby that still involves turning the gaze of the camera on all his friends: photography. While picking up paint, Dawson runs into Pacey’s older sister Gretchen, his first crush, who’s taken some time off from college (and has kicked Pacey out of Doug’s house). He reminisces to Jack, “It wasn’t till years later that I realized that my crush had been a running family joke.” Aww! This is actually great because it kicks off possibly the only really likable romance Dawson ever has.
Most of the rest of the episode revolves around people trying to figure out if Pacey and Joey Did It on the boat. If you think that sounds boring, well, it is. Joey thinks they won’t ask because “it’s too crass,” which… I guess she thinks everyone is as repulsed by sex as her? And it’s also a sign once again that this young lady needs some female friends, because while it is crass to ask someone you barely know about their sex life, it seems just DEPRESSING to think that you could return from a romantic three-month boat trip and literally not have friends who are close enough to talk to about this. How can she go through life with no one to confide in about how dang hard it was to resist Pacey’s wiles for three whole months in very close quarters?! I mean this girl is like superhuman for doing that! As she catches up with everyone the question keeps coming up. When Jen asks, Joey’s sarcastic answer is, “You got me. We did it. All day, all night, twenty-four-seven.” She’s being sarcastic, but lady, come on! That’s what you should’ve been doing, in my opinion. Jack asks, only to be fobbed off, as does Bessie.
But the real problem, of course, is Dawson. Joey keeps visibly obsessing over him. When she first visits his house he’s not around, so she just spends some time wandering his empty house while melancholy guitar music plays to show us that she is Thinking About Him.
The four homebodies are planning to go to a “dive-in” tonight, which is like a drive-in but on the water. Jen invites Joey so she and Dawson can have the “inevitable Geneva conference” (quite a dramatic term for two friends making up!). She feels guilty about her involvement in how things “went down” last year (another shot for the reverent mention of last spring), but Dawson sweetly tells her, “The only thing you’re responsible for is helping me have arguably the best summer of my life.” Aww! Dawson and Jen are actually pretty sweet together. But as soon as Joey and Pacey show up at the dive-in, Dawson hides on some other part of the boat, and Joey, who hates confrontation more than she hates sex, nearly bolts. But Jack and Jen quickly arrange to tackle one each, trying to charm them into reconciling. Finally Dawson makes the first move and they have an incredibly awkward conversation.
Dawson finds her alone later, and realizes she needs a ride, meaning he realizes that Pacey ditched her (more on that later). He is surprisingly un-smug about this, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually grown up or anything, so don’t worry. As soon as Joey mentions his new interest in photography he remarks with that faux-casual air he always uses to say passive-aggressive emotionally coercive things to Joey: “You don’t choose what you love, it chooses you.” (I mean, I think she chose Pacey a little bit.) Joey then goes him one better by offering the most obnoxious apology possibly ever: “I’m sorry for everything that happened and for doing what I had to do.” Started out strong, quickly veered into terrible. Then she gives him his souvenir, which is a brick from Hemingway’s home in the Keys. She wants it to be a symbol of their reconciliation, but he sort of coldly says he’s not sure if he wants their old friendship back.
During this conversation Joey also brings up The Big Question while pretending she’s glad Dawson hasn’t asked it. That might be the most classic instances of one of our drinking game rules: bringing up sex while pretending to hope the other person won’t bring up sex. QUIT WHILE YOU’RE AHEAD, JO. “I’m the only person the answer could potentially kill,” says Dawson. Way to be dramatic. [Ew! Even if she is the one who weirdly brought it up, what a gross, invasive, entitled thing to say about the choices she makes about her own body. –Janes] AND THEN SHE TELLS HIM THE ANSWER WOULDN’T KILL HIM. Wow. The lack of boundaries between these two is making my brain explode.
Meanwhile, Pacey and Joey’s relationship remains the same: extremely cute except when it’s interrupted by infuriating Dawson-related problems. Shortly after parting and promising to spend a night apart, they find themselves together again in a gorgeously pastoral, beautifully lit scene when Pacey surprises Joey husking corn into the creek:
Despite their agreement to take the night off from each other, they both clearly just want to hang out and make out more. He realizes she was going to go to the dive-in without him and isn’t entirely pleased about it [after they explicitly decided (and then repeated several times) that they were “taking the night off” from each other. I don’t understand, what did he think that meant? –Janes]. But when she suggests he come along he says, “I don’t really care where we go or what we do as long as we’re together.” As soon as they show up everyone totally panics, of course. And when Joey and Dawson finally talk, it’s full of just enough smiling and significant looks to alarm Pacey from afar. He tries to drag Joey home, which Joey naturally resents since he didn’t even ask her first. But then he says that she’s been growing more and more preoccupied over Dawson and it’d “better stop.” That was un-Pacey-like levels of cavemanness, but really, Joey should stop obsessing over Dawson. He is NOT HER BOYFRIEND! Ugh.
Luckily, all turns out right in the end: Joey finds him at his boat and tells him that she stalled on the way over several times and thought about him because that’s what she always does when she’s upset: “I think of you and I immediately feel good inside.” Then she apologizes for not telling him what she’s been thinking, and that she wanted to see Dawson not because he was her boyfriend but because he’s a friend she’s hurt. “My heart never left this boat. It’s never left you.” Pacey immediately melts, of course. And they go down to the boat to do what they were actually doing every night this summer, which is to read bedtime stories to each other from separate hammocks. It’s super cute.
Oh, and Andie does some stuff in this episode too. Ugh, I’d forgotten about this stupid plotline. Basically, she meets two boys, one of whom supposedly only speaks French, and hangs out for the day with them. Come to find out (SHOCKER) the French one actually speaks perfect English, and after Andie gets all mad, they decide they like each other and kiss. Kind of a dick move on this dude’s part, but don’t worry, he’ll never be seen again.
- Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson (who are about 21-22 here) look so grown-up all of a sudden! I kind of like it though, it goes a long way to make Pacey and Joey’s relationship feel more adult. –Janes
- Joey puns on Pacey’s nickname: “Seafood! Great change of pace, Pace.” Clever!
- The two lovebirds have a hard time parting from each other and returning to the real world. “You were startin’ to get on my nerves, Jo,” says Pacey adorably. They pretend to saunter off without even kissing goodbye, only to run back into each other’s arms like big old drama queens.
- Dawson makes a terrible joke about not having seen Jaws before (really, that’s the whole joke), and Jack, Andie, and Jen laugh raucously. They’re such good friends! —Janes
- Jen says that Andie’s sex life this summer “has been an episode of Abstinence And the City.” Shot!
- As soon as Gretchen sees Dawson she asks how he is and mentions “last spring” in portentous tones. I find it somewhat hard to believe that a college-aged woman would be all that likely to see “last spring” as a total tragedy. Jesus, in college that kind of drama is happening every semester. (What… was that just me?)
- Andie and Jen step about two and a half feet away from the boys so Andie can explain who they are. Then she GRUNTS LOUDLY and says “Tell me they are not adorable.” Uh, Andie, they might not speak French, but I think everyone knows what it means when you make that obscene noise while looking directly at a member of your preferred sex.
- Then Andie goes, “OK, Frenchies, let’s go tour Capeside, and any other terrain you’re interested in covering.” Um… is that a euphemism? Gross! And, shot!
- Dawson says to Gretchen pretentiously, “At the risk of sounding trite, it’s good to see you again.” Um, “it’s good to see you again” is not a cliche, it’s definitely just something that humans say. –Janes
- The first scene with Gretchen is so fucking weird. First, she’s a total asshole to him because she thinks he works at the store they’re in (which is totally inconsistent with her character), then she immediately brings up “last spring” (shot!), as if he’d want to talk about this painful non-break-up with his romantic rival’s sister whom he hasn’t seen in five years. What is wrong with her?? –Janes
- Now that Gretchen’s shown up, I just noticed how many older-girl/woman-younger-boy relationships there actually are in this show. Of course, three older-man-younger-woman relationships in four seasons would be nothing on most shows, so maybe it’s sexist of me for even noticing, but. Yeah. Also I kind of appreciate that there aren’t too many older-guy storylines for the female characters (Joey’s fling with AJ being the main exception, I guess). [And the professor plotline we all try to forget! —Janes]
- Dawson tries to be cute about his retconned “first crush” on Gretchen, and fails miserably. He talks about creepily staring at Gretchen in a bikini when he was a kid, “as if he’d never seen a girl in a bathing suit before,” and then delivers this cringeworthy line: “And then it hit me. All at once, it just hit me.” Um, in the immortal words of Chandler, was it like a sneeze but better? —Janes
- It’s so weird that Bessie is giggling and doing the sister-girltalk thing about Joey having sex with Pacey, and then just a few episodes later acts like Joey losing her virginity is an international crisis. I know people are contradictory about young women’s sexuality, but this seems a little extreme. –Janes
- The whole first day back Joey is wearing not so much a shirt as it is a flat piece of fabric tied in front of her boobs with some strings. Was this actually a thing back then?
- I mentioned that Jen’s dramatic reconciliation with Henry when she followed his school bus to a rest stop was especially silly because he’ll never be seen again. And indeed, Jen tells Joey that Henry moved away to boarding school (good riddance).
- Now that Mitch and Gail are remarried, Dawson surprises them in compromising positions. Great, so glad this HILARIOUS running gag is back. Dawson’s comment that it’s “déjaà screw all over again” is… almost funny.
- Apparently Dawson has his very own darkroom in the Leery house. Spoiled much?
- Before Andie figures out that the French boys both speak English, she says, “I only like the one who speaks English. The other one just stands there looking like a dolt.” Uh, RUDE. Andie’s such a tool.
- Gretchen says that Doug wakes her up every morning Dustbusting the kitchen (she says “Dustbustering,” but I’d argue that since the object is called a “Dustbuster,” what you do with it should be “Dustbusting.”) and compares it to living with Felix Unger “on crack.” I don’t get it, why would he need to be on crack? Five shots for the nonsensical reference!
- Gretchen and Pacey’s brother-sister relationship is very cute: lots of teasing and affection. Gretchen remarks on Pacey getting the girl, which leads to Pacey beaming adorably. Gretchen, claiming to be all-knowing in the way older siblings always do in hindsight, says she’s not surprised: “It didn’t take Nostradamus to call it…. You’re both classic scrappy underdogs.”
- Gretchen corrects Pacey that she doesn’t listen to rock music, she listens to “soul” music. Ugh. Does early Gretchen beat Andie in the Worst Person on Earth sweepstakes? –Janes
- I hate Dawson’s oh-so-fake Zen attitude this season, but his description of talking to your ex for the first time after a rough break-up–”We’ll make semi-casual conversation until the awkwardness overwhelms us both, then we’ll part, each of us surprised at how surprisingly painless the whole thing surprisingly was”–is pretty spot-on. –Janes
- When she’s first talking to Dawson, Joey keeps shrugging like she’s got a marionette string attached to her right shoulder. Soooo awkward.
- Dawson does such a good job being the breezy, casual, pleasantly tanned ex-boyfriend, and then within like five minutes tips his hand and makes a passive-aggressive comment about their non-break-up drama. Be cool, dude! –Janes
- Shot for women getting mad at men unreasonably: Andie finds out the guy she likes has a girlfriend and starts ranting to the other guy (the fake French one) about how men are all the same. Uh… so he was friendly to you, listened to your dumb tour of Capeside, and was perfectly honest about having a girlfriend, so what did he do wrong exactly?
- Fake French Dude’s real name is “John-John” or JJ for short. That’s…. the worst name ever?
- I have so many questions about the brick that Joey gives to Dawson. Like, why would Dawson care about Hemingway? He’s a filmmaker slash photographer, so… is it just that Hemingway symbolizes all Narcissistic Male Creativity Fetishists? And also, can you just take bricks out of famous writers’ homes? Did it cost a million dollars, or did Joey just like vandalize Hemingway’s house? Or did she buy it at the souvenir shop thinking it was real for five bucks? I just don’t get it.
- Dawson is SUCH a dick about the brick. First, he reminds her that Hemingway shot himself, then when she sweetly says that she wants it to represent the foundation of a new friendship, he snidely says that he “feels like he’s at the opening of a new strip mall.” Um, it’s a fucking GIFT, Dawson. You could just say “thank you” like a normal human being. —Janes
- Um, Pacey gets angry at Joey for literally just talking to Dawson, tries to order her to leave the dive-in like a Neanderthal, yells at her for no reason, and then she’s the one who ends up apologizing? So much rage. —Janes
Definitely Pacey and Joey’s Big Jump off the boat. It is one of the most memorably romantic moments of the show, in my opinion.
Most cringeworthy moment:
Dawson and Joey’s horribly inappropriate conversation about Joey’s intact virginity just barely makes the cut over literally everything about the Andie-and-the-fake-French-boy situation.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
“This Year’s Love” by David Gray, which plays while Joey and Pacey are reading to each other at the end, and also graced the soundtracks of classic MPDG rom-coms like Crazy/Beautiful and Wimbledon.
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
Joey says to Pacey, “As truant as your natural instincts are…” Um, I don’t think instincts can be “truant,” but whatever you say. –Janes [I actually kind of think that’s an OK use of the word! But I didn’t catch any other glaring errors.–Nerdy Spice
Season 4, Episode 2 “Failing Down”
We start off with the new normal: P/J being stable and adorable, only for Dawson to ruin everything with his existence. Pacey and Joey walk to school, engage in some witty banter, and cutely set ground rules for PDA in school (“only if it’s of the spontaneous variety”), and have a super-hot makeout in the middle of the hallway, as one does. That is, until they’re caught mid-makeout by Dawson, who makes his presence known so he can get into his classroom. Awk!
Mitch, a SUBSTITUTE TEACHER, is “filling in” temporarily as the freaking guidance counselor (yeah, I know, let’s move past it). He tells Pacey–in hilariously dramatic and insensitive fashion–that Pacey failed three classes last year, and may not be able to graduate with his friends. This causes an immediate flare-up of Pacey’s latent insecurity about Joey being destined for greater things than him, especially since they’re in senior year and thinking about college. He and Gretchen have a nice sibling moment, wherein she tells him to talk to Joey about it, and reassures him that Joey’s feelings for him are “not contingent on his GPA,” but Pacey isn’t really convinced.
Then Mitch, aka Worst Fake Guidance Counselor Ever, blabs to his teenage son about poor Pacey’s academic problems. It’s nice in theory that Mitch wants Dawson to be the bigger person and put his problems with Pacey into perspective, but still–inappropriate. Plus, he should have known that that whole “bigger person” thing would be a losing battle. Dawson responds with a pout and yet another recitation of Pacey’s mortal sins: “My quote-unquote best friend pursued a relationship with a girl who I’ve loved in one way or another as long as I can remember” (Um, CALM DOWN, Dawson, you don’t own her!), “and that hurts so much sometimes that I can’t sit still.” Drama queen, party of one. (Shot for Pacey and Joey ruining everything forever!)
THEN, he says two hilariously deluded things in one breath: “Now, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of moving on” (HA! No.), and “But that doesn’t mean that Pacey gets to keep on reaping the benefits of my friendship.” Um, what benefits would that be exactly? You forgetting his birthday, gaslighting him about his emotionally abusive family, or calling him a screw-up who makes you feel better about your own life? I think he’ll live.
Meanwhile, Pacey is disappointingly (but realistically) taking out his insecurities on Joey, who still doesn’t know anything about his meeting with Mitch. While they’re having dinner together, he has a cloud over his head that he declines to discuss, and instead sulks and very obviously picks a fight. She’s patient at first, but he keeps pushing, using classic passive-aggressive tactics like inappropriately bringing up Dawson for no reason (shot!) and having a rudely muted reaction to Joey’s new job at the fancy yacht club. This is actually a pretty accurate depiction of male insecurity–I can’t even count the number of times my high-achieving female friends have reported this type of passive-aggressive reaction to an intellectual or professional achievement–but it’s depressing to see this side of the usually-feminist Pacey.
Luckily, Joey isn’t taking this bullshit lying down. When Pacey berates her for saying she “doesn’t want to end up a townie,” even though he knows that she’s always wanted to get out of Capeside, she dresses him down in a very classy, mature way. She tells him that he’s clearly upset, and if he doesn’t want to talk about it that’s his right, but “don’t pick some random fight with me just to make yourself feel better.” YES! It’s so rare to see a healthy response to a relationship conflict on this show (or any teen show, for that matter). [Yeah, but Joey obviously was caught out in an accidental expression of some inner snobbery. And Pacey doesn’t let her off the hook either: he says, “I wasn’t asking what type of person I was, I said what if I became a townie.” Joey accuses him of trying to pick a fight with her, but like… it’s true. She does think it makes you less-than to be a townie and Pacey obviously might become one. Of course he’s upset! He’s trying to pick a fight with her because he knows that she might really not think he’s good enough. —Nerdy Spice] [I would agree with you, except there’s really no evidence that Joey, outside of this one ineloquent moment when Pacey is withholding information from her, actually thinks he’s not good enough. In the end, she never seems to judge him for not going to college, but their entire relationship becomes consumed by his insecurities all the same. He ends up breaking her heart, all while insisting that she doesn’t think he’s good enough. While her response to the townie question was insensitive, I think we’re supposed to think this is ultimately about him, not her. –Janes]
When Pacey deals with all of this by skipping school, Dawson finally caves and tells Joey that Pacey is in danger of flunking out (with a healthy dose of awkward hints that he’s still in love with her). Joey, in turn, confronts Pacey. She’s furious that Pacey didn’t confide in her, while Pacey projects all of his own insecurities on Dawson, saying that Dawson must have “loved being the bearer of that news.” (Shot!) He’s probably right about Dawson, but Joey is also right when she says, “Dawson has zero to do with this, Pacey.” (Well, jeez, at least someone finally said it.) She tells him that they were supposed to be a team, that he deals with everything by “giving up,” and that he “takes the easy way out every time.” Ouch. It’s a rough moment, but I like it. Once again, it frames a lot of his romantic gestures in more realistic terms: their sailing trip wasn’t just a romantic vacation, but also a symptom of Pacey’s tendency to hide from life.
After a pep talk from Gretchen, Pacey apologizes to Joey, and tells her that ever since she picked him, he’s had all this anxiety, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And, as per usual, that shoe’s name is Dawson. (Shot!) Joey asks, “What does Dawson have to do with you doing badly in school?” SUCH a good question, Joey. He says that he’s afraid she’ll go back to Dawson, who never would have screwed up at school like he did. She points out that neither would Dawson have inspired her to run away for the summer, or bought her a wall, or done any of the other amazing things Pacey does. Aw. [I cannot BELIEVE the show let Joey speak these words. I can hear the collective howling of Dawson fangirls from twenty years in the future. —Nerdy Spice]
Then, she utters one of the corniest lines ever spoken: “We spent three months on the sea, but we haven’t even come close to weathering the storm.” HEE!!! I love this show so much.
They make up very cutely, with Joey saying that their relationship won’t be defined by a romantic cruise, but the little ways they build a life together, Pacey finally admitting, with tears in his eyes, that he’s really scared and needs her help, and Joey telling him she’ll do whatever it takes to help him because “I’m not going anywhere without you.” It’s very sweet, and shows that, for two seventeen-year-olds at least, they have a pretty solid understanding of what makes for a healthy, sustainable adult relationship. (Even if they ultimately break up as a result of these issues, but more on that later.)
In other news, Jack begins his slow-motion descent into gross, neanderthal frat bro. Henry tells him that he wants to break up with Jen, and instead of doing what any normal human would do–tell Henry to do the right thing and tell Jen himself–he humiliates Jen by breaking up with her on Henry’s behalf. Yuck.
Afterwards, Dawson tries to make Jen feel better, and they actually have a nice little moment. He encourages her to allow herself to feel sad, rather than just numbing the pain with anger, and then gives her a bunch of sweet, supportive compliments and genuinely thanks her for helping get through “the hardest time of his life” (whatever, he’s being so nice that we’ll blow past that). But then he has to ruin it by assuring Jen that Jack had “the best of intentions” (um, no). And then Jack shows up, and Jen ends up apologizing to HIM!! What the F, Dawson’s writers, what is up with all these girls apologizing to boys who have fucked them over??
Now it’s time for Drue!! Who is by far the most interesting, charismatic troublemaker they ever introduced on this show, as much as I love Abby Morgan (and love to hate Chad Michael Murray). First of all, his name is Drue Valentine, which is the best name for a villain/antihero/would-be-love-interest ever. Second of all, Mark Matkevich has the most killer blue eyes you’ve ever seen. And best of all, every scene he’s in completely comes alive, and every character is more interesting when they interact with him.
Exhibit A: Joey, who meets him when he pretends to be a rich kid at the yacht club that Joey now works at, and she’s forced to wait on him. Their interactions immediately sparkle with wit, and–as much as I love Pacey–they have SO much chemistry right off the bat. He makes an extended crack about her being a trashy teen mom, she alludes to spitting in his food (“or worse even”), and it’s all just so–fun. Not only is their sexual tension off the charts, but Drue’s brand of obnoxiousness brings back Sassy Joey, who hardly ever gets to make an appearance now that Joey is so busy being the It Girl all the freaking time. Joey’s “Cue the violins. Nothing tugs at the heartstrings like the anguished cry of a poor little rich boy” is one of the best burns in the whole show.
While watching their scenes together, I genuinely wonder if the writers originally intended Drue to be a love interest for Joey. Maybe it’s just a Nina Dobrev-on-Vampire Diaries thing, where Katie Holmes is just so beautiful and charismatic that she awkwardly has chemistry with everyone (in Dobrev’s case, including the kid that plays her brother), and the audience can’t tell what to make of it. But on the other hand, they’re clearly doing the witty banter thing, which is always a telltale sign on teen dramas. If she didn’t have way too many love interests already (and if I didn’t love Pacey so much), I would totally ship them. [Joey always loves a Bad Boy. She can’t help it! —Nerdy Spice]
Anyway, Drue tricks Joey into thinking that he’s the guy she name-dropped to get a job at the yacht club, because “I took one look at you and knew you lied to get the gig. Which I totally dig about you, by the way.” Ha! Dick move, to be sure, but then he sort of makes up for it by saving her job, causing Joey to make this amazing “What kind of freak are you?” face.
Eventually (spoiler alert!), we see that the chemistry between Drue and Joey is just a red herring, because he’s actually an old acquaintance of Jen’s from her Dark Past who knows all of her Deep Dark Secrets. Michelle Williams is phoning in her performance way too much to have real chemistry with anyone, but Jen is so in need of a good love interest (even one that she never actually gets to make out with), I’m totally on board.
- Of COURSE Dawson is the only person who can’t figure out how to get around Pacey and Joey making out to get into the classroom. On the other hand, as a New Yorker, I must say that standing in a doorway kissing is RUDE. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey and Andie’s convo about Joey applying to work at the yacht club is completely nonsensical. First, Joey says they would never take her because the rich people would view her family name as “synonymous with scandal.” Then Andie says to “make like she’s one of them,” as in one of the rich people. Dropping a name can work for anyone, but how could Joey “make like she’s one of them” when she just said her family is infamous?
- And then Andie describes a high school boy as “eligible.” Why is Andie the worst? —Nerdy Spice
- Capeside is big enough to have a community college? –Nerdy Spice
- Jack assures Jen that she’s a very “generous and giving cyberpartner.” Yikes. —Nerdy Spice
- Gretchen makes a dumb, offensive crack about Doug finding a “partner,” and it doesn’t endear me to her at all. How could I forget how annoying Gretchen was at the beginning?
- Then she brings up the drama with Pacey and Joey AGAIN! Seriously, what is wrong with this girl?? Why does she even care about her little brother’s high school drama??
- Aww, it’s cute when Gretchen negs Dawson about his music collection. Classic flirting tactic: then you can make them a mixtape, or do that cute thing where you share headphones. —Nerdy Spice
- Okay, again, how can Joey even try to pretend that she’s part of a hoity-toity rich family when supposedly everyone knows she’s the daughter of a drug dealer? Wouldn’t Mrs. Valentine just say, “Yeah, I know who you are, and we’re not hiring”?
- Although I have to admit, I definitely laughed when Joey said her rich daddy was in “pharmaceuticals.” [Hilarious! –Nerdy Spice]
- Drue Valentine might be the first rich kid on this show who actually reminds me of rich kids I’ve known, from the startlingly articulate assholery to the varieties of preppy pink in his wardrobe. —Nerdy Spice
- It’s so mean of the old guidance counselor to refer to Pacey as “aggressively mediocre”! And so mean of Mitch to repeat it! Oh, well. I guess Scott Walker would be thrilled.
- I like that there are real consequences to Joey and Pacey impulsively riding off into the sunset together, as there probably would be in real life. Little choices like this, which emphasize that their romantic relationships are not actually the center of the universe, make this season feel much more emotionally mature.
- Mitch tells Dawson that Dawson can’t possibly appreciate The Grateful Dead, because “The Dead” need to be “experienced live”: “the nomadic fans, the endless jams… That’s never gonna come through those headphones.” So Mitch has always been the worst kind of human being, good to know.
- Shot for Dawson’s hair, which has reached untold levels of grease:
- Andie expresses shock that after all that, Henry wants to break up with Jen: “After behavior that clearly, licensed professionals would call ‘stalking’…” I never thought I’d say this re: Andie but, PREACH. [It’s almost like treating a woman like an object you’re entitled to doesn’t guarantee that you will appreciate her once you have her! Or even be an adult enough to break up with her directly instead of asking her best friend to do it? —Nerdy Spice]
- Jack gives a lot of lame/sexist “boys will be boys” excuses for Henry’s chickenshit behavior: he’s at a new school, girls like him, he’s confused, etc, and then tops it all off with, “He’s a great guy, but, you know, he’s sixteen.” A great guy?? Jack has literally no loyalty towards the women he claims to love. (Shot!)
- Andie very reasonably says that Jack should stay out of it because “whatever is between Jen and Henry is firmly between Jen and Henry.” You know you’re in trouble when freaking Andie is the voice of reason.
- I hate to quibble with Jen when she has every right to be furious, but when she suspects that Henry has told Jack he wants to break up, she says to Jack, “He’s lying to you, and you’re lying to me.” I don’t understand, what would he be lying to Jack about? I have a feeling this is a flubbed line that they just kept in.
- It’s cute when Gretchen tells Pacey that he can’t blow it with Joey because she’s a “keeper,” and that if he keeps letting his fear get in the way, he’ll kill the relationship before it has a chance to become something. Thank god this nice, mature version of Gretchen is the one they end up sticking with, rather than the Overly Nosy Deadhead Gretchen who rears her ugly head in these first few episodes.
- “Joey is smart, but Pacey is an idiot, and I’m trying not to make her any more aware of that than she already is,” Pacey says to Gretchen. His face every time people talk about his academic issues in this episode absolutely kills me. He’s so sad! —Nerdy Spice
- Pacey exposits that his dad and brother have been calling him a moron his entire life (shot!), and Gretchen tells him that his problem isn’t his family, it’s Dawson. Um, I think that the verbal abuse for his entire life might actually be the more pressing underlying issue, but okay.
- Then she changes tack, and nonsensically says that the Dawson in his head who says he’s not good enough is “just a ghost,” and that “she picked you, and now you have to deal with it.” So… Dawson is NOT the problem. Glad we cleared that up.
- Jack accuses Jen of “wallowing in an economy-sized vat of self-pity” (hey, that’s our line!!), but considering how much fucking nerve he has criticizing her, I’m not going to award a shot for that one.
- “Before I submit to another second of your thinly veiled bitchery, do you need a waitress or not?” Joey says. A little flash of Old Joey – love it! —Nerdy Spice
- Mitch asks what happened to Pacey this summer and the kid absolutely glows as he responds, “Nothing, I went sailing.” Ugh, I love how just thinking about his summer with Joey makes him so ridiculously happy! —Nerdy Spice
- Why does Mitch say, “I’m not your guidance counselor, I’m just your friend”? Isn’t the point that he IS the guidance counselor? —Nerdy Spice
- Gretchen rents a beachside house with Pacey that is FUCKING GINORMOUS with a sunny living room approximately the size of my entire apartment. And Pacey has the nerve to complain about it! You guys should try living in New York. Jeez. —Nerdy Spice
- Joey and Pacey’s date eating takeout pizza on his boat is really sweet and romantic. —Nerdy Spice
- I love how Joey’s hair is all sexy beachy waves. She’s so naturally gorgeous, it’s absurd. —Nerdy Spice
- Oh my God I love how Dawson manages to come up with a way to cause drama between Pacey and Joey while making himself look like the selfless hero for “caring.” We see through you, Dawson. —Nerdy Spice
- Jen calls Henry “the only real boyfriend I’ve ever had.” TO DAWSON. Um, ouch? —Nerdy Spice
- On the other hand, Dawson genuinely thanks her for teaching him something about life. Seems like maybe he has grown. —Nerdy Spice
- Ooh, Pacey’s speech about how Joey has wrecked him. God it’s so good. (Despite being peppered with inappropriate Dawson references.) —Nerdy Spice
- Yikes. For those keeping score at home, “You’re just a little emotionally retarded” was not cool even back then. —Nerdy Spice
As much as I love P/J relationship drama, I can’t resist the blue-eyed charms of Drue Valentine, or the return of Sassy Joey!
Most cringeworthy moment:
Tough to choose between Jack stammering through Henry’s breakup with Jen and Joey’s R-word misstep. I’ll give Joey the edge, because at least the scene with Jack was sort of supposed to be heinously awkward.
Most wrongly used five-dollar word:
Dawson uses the word “hyperdramatic” to mean “melodramatic,” which, no. Not even really a word at all, let alone used correctly.
Most 90s soundtrack moment:
No contest. “Superman” by freaking Five for Fighting, the type of band that you completely forget existed until one of their songs brings back an entire era of your life.
Seven, mostly for our new category of inappropriate Dawson references. I have a feeling that one’s going to be a gold mine.
Season 4, Episode 3 “Two Gentlemen of Capeside”
By Nerdy Spice
This entire episode is basically a literary reference to a Shakespeare play, Two Gentlemen of Verona, which Drue, Joey, and Dawson read in their English class, and which apparently revolves around two male friends who are torn apart by rivalry over one woman. Joey, of course, thinks the woman in the play is treated unfairly, while Dawson distinguishes himself by snorting with laughter every time Joey defends Pacey, I mean Proteus. Huh, wonder why she picked the other guy, DAWSON.
Drue, bless his devilish little heart, continues to be the Secret MVP of Season 4. After distracting Joey during class, he suddenly decides, “You don’t strike me as very popular, so you can turn around now. You’re of no use to me.” Then when he realizes that Joey and Dawson are personally invested in their debate, he suggests that “Gene and Roger” be assigned to do an official debate. He’s like the resurrected spirit of Abby Morgan! No one points out that maybe English class should be about, like, themes and theories and not about whether two students like the play.
Pacey makes his first A and celebrates by… sailing instead of studying, not without a little pouting that Joey can’t go with him since she’s studying with Dawson. Jen agrees to go instead, with a warning about the “distinct possibility that I might puke.” Jen has been mourning Henry, for reasons unclear: she misses being stalked? Being emotionally guilted into forgiving him by the older women in her life who don’t support her boundaries? Being paid for physical affection? Anyway, she and Pacey enjoy their sail, although they’re both feeling a little melancholy. Pacey blithely declares that they’re not in danger from the storm system, but the little announcement strip on the bottom of the TV is telling another system: there’s a weather alert over New England.
So Joey makes Dawson come to the yacht club so they can prepare their homework while she’s working. Everyone else in the show gathers there as well: Drue to work on the debate with the other two; Andie to do an alumni college interview with Drue’s witchy mom, Mrs. Valentine; Mr. Brooks, who is going to be the Crotchety Yet Wise Older Man in various boring Dawson storylines this season; and finally Jack, there to pick up Andie from her interview.
Dawson and Joey make it through a few minutes of pretending to talk about Shakespeare before Dawson finally suggests they just get down to business and announces he’ll never be friends with Pacey again. Joey—who yes, should mind her own business, but since she’s human, is wracked with guilt over all of this—is incredulous. Dawson is dickishly calm about it. Then the storm starts getting worse, and the news says that the winds may exceed hurricane force. Mr. Brooks becomes crotchetier and crotchetier, while Joey freaks out more and more. Dawson loses patience and almost leaves, until Joey tells him the True Love is out there.
Out on the water, Pacey refuses to be worried, while Jen also freaks out, especially when the radio blows. They start getting tossed on their asses by the strong waves, while Pacey insists that the boat’s not going to capsize, and makes plans to go to a cove he knows instead of going back to the docks. Jen, for obvious reasons, doesn’t think this is a great plan. “We have no radio and we’re headed for a cove that you don’t know the name of. Who the hell is gonna find us there?” she yells. Come to find out Dawson knows the cove, too. Oh, that warms my heart soooo much. I’m such a sucker for best friends who still know everything about each other even when their friendship is seemingly dead. Is there anything more (forgive the oxymoron) platonically romantic?
With Pacey and Jen in peril, all the kids band together to save them. Yay! Joey tries to get Mr. Valentine, who for some reason is in charge of boat rescues during hurricanes (unclear), to send a boat for Pacey and Jen. But since Pacey’s boat isn’t registered, he won’t do it. So Dawson realizes he’s probably gone to the cove, Drue procures keys to a spare boat so that Dawson can go after Pacey, and Joey insists on going with Dawson. Back at the yacht club, Andie takes charge and delegates tasks to everyone. She gets Jack to blockade the windows and even gets Drue to sweep.
As the storm gets more dire, Jen basically suggests they reenact scenes from movies where people who are about to die confess all their secrets and regrets. Pacey (meta-fictional reference shot!) reminds Jen that those characters usually don’t make it out alive and asserts that he has no regrets (umm… OK). Jen isn’t super bothered by that, because she was clearly just suggesting it so that she could share her own regret: “I’ve never been in love.” I mean, I agree that it would be better if she’d never been in love with Henry, but… she clearly thought she was until like two minutes ago. So Pacey confesses that he regrets how things are between himself and Dawson, and holds Jen sweetly by the shoulders.
Meanwhile, Dawson and Joey race towards them and then flat-out collide with them. Pacey helps Jen jump over onto the bigger boat, but resists jumping himself because he doesn’t want to leave his boat. Finally Dawson JUMPS ONTO THE BOAT WITH HIM and says “I’m not leaving you. People care more about you than they do about this damn boat.” Oh my gosh. I just got chills. Of course it’s when Joey yells “PACEY!” that Pacey actually agrees to jump, but day-um. Dawson jumped onto that teeny tiny boat with Pacey in the middle of the hurricane. That is love.
Back home, Dawson is greeted by relieved parents and an angry Mr. Brooks who doesn’t appreciate his “feckless regrets.” Jen is greeted by a forgiving Grams who hugs her tightly (awww), and she sweetly thanks Grams for lending her faith to Jen for the day. And Pacey is greeted by a very upset Joey, who tells him that she’s never been so scared for anyone in her whole life.
The next morning, Pacey comes over to thank Dawson, and Dawson, trying to still be TCFS, just says dickishly that it’s “exactly what you would’ve done.” Pacey says that he knows he can’t solve everything with a conversation, but he says, on the verge of tears, “I’ve been wanting to tell you that I’m sorry, Dawson. I’m really sorry for the way everything went down this spring.” (Shot!) “And I’m really sorry that I ruined our friendship, because I miss it.” It’s so sweet. He says he can’t wait till they have a chance at being friends again, and Dawson nods and says, “Until then.” Aaaand I’m crying.
This was a pretty great episode, actually. I was prepared to be annoyed by it because all I really remembered was the silly Shakespeare stuff, but once the hurricane starts everything becomes high-stakes and emotional and legitimately scary.
Also, Andie is actually pretty awesome in this episode, and if you’ve been reading these regularly you know we very rarely say that. To start with, her interview is another of those storylines where I thought it was SO unrealistic when I first saw it, because no one is that villainous, but once I read more about people’s experiences it actually seems less over-the-top than it once did. I mean, it’s not subtle, but ableism is not always subtle, apparently. Her interview goes pretty badly at first, because her interviewer thinks that taking a medical leave of absence is a “red flag.” [I always laugh when Andie says if she could have dinner with anyone, it would be Eleanor Roosevelt (a perfect boring college interview answer if I’ve ever heard one), and Mrs. Valentine says unctuously, “Really? Most kids say Jesus.” LOL! —Janes] But Andie handles Mrs. Valentine’s pointed questions with wonderful aplomb, calmly explaining that she had emotional problems and that she made up all her grades later, with no defensiveness whatsoever. When it keeps going, she calmly points out that they keep coming back to that topic, that many teenagers suffer from it, and that it doesn’t define her as a person. “I had a problem, recognized that, sought treatment, and recovered,” she says. CLAP CLAP CLAP. (I also love how Mrs. Valentine tells Andie she’d be better off in a less competitive environment and Andie doesn’t lose her temper and tell Mrs. Valentine that her school is Andie’s backup. That shows quite superhuman restraint. Anyway, it all culminates with Mrs. Valentine realizing that Andie is actually very smart and capable in a crisis and Andie basically telling her to fuck off.
Thwarted ‘ship alert: Right at the end, Drue and Jen run into each other and it’s clear that they have a history. He refers to her as the “girl who set New York on fire,” and she’s horrified to realize he’s moved to Capeside. “God help us all.” Fair warning, for the entire rest of this rewatch project we are going to be talking about how Drue should’ve stayed and made Jen into a tolerable character.
- Now I’d love to snobbishly deconstruct all the many ways the comparison to Two Gentlemen of Verona doesn’t hold water, but unfortunately, it is the one play I seem to have made it through my English major not having read. Although according to the teacher, it’s not one of his best, so I guess I’m not missing much. Besides, Joey herself says the comparison isn’t accurate because it takes a one-sided view, so let’s take just one shot in the drinking game.
- Janes disagrees: It’s hilariously on-the-nose, and yet, every character manages to reference it inaccurately, starting with the teacher calling the protagonist, Silvia, the “first version of Juliet.” Since scholars only ever really compare this play to As You Like It and Twelfth Night, the writers seemed to base this comparison on the fact that Silvia and Juliet both live in Verona and are both, um, young women. Five shots!
- I love how the teacher is all, “Two guys, a girl, and no pizza place” and everyone just gives him a blank stare. In some alternate timeline of my life I’m definitely the English teacher making lame references to the pop culture of a previous decade.
- I also love how the teacher sees right through Drue’s attempt to mess with Joey and Dawson and assigns him to be part of the debate too.
- Joey neatly deconstructs toxic masculinity in a few words: “He’s so fixated on his honor that he totally loses sight of everything around him.”
- Raise your hand if you owned this sleeveless-shirt-with-pointless-notch-at-the-neck that Jen’s rocking today, in several colors. I certainly did!
- Jen tells Grams she’s pissed off, and Grams hilariously responds, “Good. Then you’ll recognize my attitude if you pull this routine one more time.” Hee!
- Andie says that Mrs. Valentine is “one of the alums of the backup schools I’m looking at.” I love how they didn’t want to insult anyone by saying what the backup school was.
- This week in Obvious Foreshadowing: Gail feeling nauseous. Surprise surprise, Gail is going to be pregnant! And everyone is going to faint in shock because no nauseous woman on TV has ever turned out to be pregnant before.
- Dawson on Joey: “Why does everyone treat me like my head’s going to spontaneously explode if her name is mentioned?” I’m trying SO HARD to resist forehead-size-related jokes here.
- On the other hand, he actually offers to get his sick parents something before he goes to meet his ex-girlfriend, which is pretty solid empathy for a teenaged kid.
- Joey gets VERY miffed when Drue takes a call from someone he refers to as “gorgeous.” “Hello, Gorgeous, is it?” she says, snatching the phone, and then tells the young lady that Drue has syphilis. Drue says he’s picking up on an “intense sexual tension” vibe between Joey and Dawson, but, puh-lease. If anyone’s got sexual tension here, it’s Joey for Drue. Not that Joey would ever admit it.
- Ha! I completely forgot that Drue outright compares Dawson to Luke (“the stuff of preteen daydreams”) and Pacey to Han Solo (the bad boy). I’d say, yep: fiery romance versus a sibling-like sexless relationship. Very accurate, and once again, I can’t believe the writers were willing to let this happen. Maybe before they realized what internet fandom was like they were a little braver about betraying their precious ‘ships. Anyway, one shot!
- Also, Joey calls Drue “Jabba the Hut,” and he totally locks her up and tries to have sex with her in a future episode! They’re killing it with the accurate Star Wars references! (1 shot!) –Janes
- Dawson says Pacey “could care less” but he means he couldn’t care less. I HATE that turn of phrase. Hate it.
- Joey gets Dawson to take her with him by yelling, “I can’t worry about the both of you,” which I guess was a nice little bone to throw the Dawson/Joey fans after that whole Luke Skywalker thing. (Hell yeah, I’m a sore winner.)
- Andie has Mrs. Valentine call Dawson’s parents and Grams to reassure them that everyone’s fine. It makes sense (sadly) not to bother with Pacey’s family, but Jesus, why not call Bessie too? I know I say this a lot, but this woman has raised her often-bratty younger sister for years while struggling to support her family, and everyone treats her like she’s chopped liver. It sucks! [OMG, yes I always think this! Joey risked her life, too!! –Janes]
- Grams gets in another great one-liner when she bullies Brooks into not touching Dawson’s college fund to repay the damage by threatening to kick his “shriveled old butt.”
- Then it gets really crazy. Joey says that Proteus is “unfairly painted as a villain” because he stole Valentine’s girl. Or… maybe because he tried to rape her. That could be it too. (Five more shots!) –Janes
- Similarly, Dawson says Valentine is noble because he “made the ultimate sacrifice: he gave up the girl he loved.” On the one hand, this is actually a pretty accurate reference, since both Dawson and Valentine think that their lovers are theirs to “give.” But on the other hand, Valentine made this little offer right after finding Proteus trying to rape Silvia. WHY DID THEY PICK THIS PLAY. –Janes
- Dawson calls Joey and Pacey’s relationship “the greatest betrayal of my life.” 1) Calm down. 2) Take a shot. 3) Um, your mom cheated on your dad and broke up your family. I like Gail and don’t want to shame her, but… really?? –Janes
- I love how fake this storm is, even for early-aughts standards. –Janes
- It’s super adorable when Dawson jumps on the boat with Pacey. Less adorable: Joey making a huge stink about coming with Dawson to save Pacey, giving me hope that she was actually going to do something, and then standing back and screaming his name like a damsel in distress. –Janes
- Also, while I don’t like that Joey had a more passive role in the rescue, she did still potentially risk her life to save Pacey. But of course everyone dithers over Dawson and calls him a hero while completely ignoring her, because that’s the way the world works. (Shot for undeserved compliments of Dawson’s heroism!) –Janes
- Dawson really doesn’t deserve Pacey’s friendship at this point, but I still tear up at this scene every time. –Janes
Dawson insists that the play is about the friendship between the two men, not about the woman. And I have no idea if he’s right about Shakespeare, but he’s right about this episode. Everything involving Pacey and Dawson’s friendship is so powerful and beautiful. I mean, Dawson jumps onto the boat with Pacey! And he’s the only one who knows where Pacey’s going! Then, at one point, Joey says to Pacey, “You knew he was going to come for you, didn’t you? Because you know him as well as he knows you. That’s the nature of best friends.” Then she says, “He’s still a part of you, Pace. How can you be whole if you continue to pretend he doesn’t exist?” TEARS.
I know, I know, I’m a softie, but I can’t help it!
Most cringeworthy moment:
After all the excitement, Dawson and Mitch watch creepily while Pacey and Joey walk away arm-in-arm. “Doesn’t seem fair, does it?” says Mitch. “You save the day, you still don’t get the girl.” [Um, maybe because JOEY IS NOT A PRIZE TO BE WON, JASMINE-STYLE. –Janes] It’s almost hard to keep hating Dawson the more I realize that Mitch has been inculcating him from birth with these incredibly offensive, entitled, sexist notions about masculinity and romance. Yeah, he follows it up with saying that it’s better to have done a great thing, but… I’m sorry, it’s still gross. Can we just ban the phrase “get the girl” from the English language?
Most wrongly-used five-dollar word:
According to Pacey, he and Jen don’t have to worry about sailing that afternoon because the storm system is going to pass “right overhead,” which… is that a good thing when you’re talking about storm systems?
Most nineties soundtrack moment:
Hands down it’s “Never Saw Blue Like That Before” by Shawn Colvin. It’s a heavy hitter on the Dawson’s-Creek-soundtrack radio station that I definitely don’t listen to all the time. Uhh… never mind.
Eighteen, including one for a Significant Mention of “last spring,” and one for Andie saying that Barefoot in the Park was completely “pre-feminist” but that it “held up” (um, no it didn’t, this would be one of those inaccurate mentions of girl power that we do not like).
Next installment here.
Previous installment here.