The Great Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project: Season 4, Episodes 7-9

We’re rewatching all of Dawson’s Creek in honor of its twentieth anniversary. Will require some mind-numbing. Drinking game rules can be found here.

Season 4, Episode 7 “You Had Me at Goodbye”

By Nerdy Spice

Black and white photo of the gang. From left; Andie, Jack, Jen, Joey, Pacey, Dawson. The latter two have their arms around each other.

Well, Andie didn’t die. I know—it’s shocking. But this is good-bye, and if you’ve read ANY of these recaps you know that Janes and I aren’t exactly sorry to reach the end of her reign of perky terror. When we next see her, Stalwart White Knight ex-boyfriend Pacey is, for whatever reason, dropping by her room on the regular to bring her her homework even though I’m pretty sure she and Pacey aren’t on the same track. Andie’s father, who can be surprisingly supportive with straight people problems, suggests Andie take off the rest of the year and go to Florence. Bye Andie! [Sob.] [JK.]

Jack doesn’t like the idea of Andie leaving, especially with the whole friend group mad, so Andie does what you would expect Andie to do: steps all over his boundaries, breaks into his email, and writes to Jen so that she’ll come over and the two will talk. Jen pleads for him not to abandon her. “You may never do what I did, but what you’re doing right now… I would never do to anybody.” Yeah, Jack is being kind of a dick. To Jen and to Andie! But when she tells Pacey about it, he tells her it’s her life, and that she gets to live it. Andie decides that if Jack and his dad could make up, maybe all the messed-up friendships in her group can be repaired.

So as Andie loves to do, she gets all up in everyone’s business, and invites each of them to an individual dinner with her that turns out to be a surprise reverse intervention: Andie to the group. She tells them they should all value their friendships with each other—that Jen is Jack’s sister, and that Joey and Dawson and Pacey were “the beginning”—and that they all taught her about friendship and love. I feel like I should be annoyed because, well, everything Andie does annoys me, but ugh, it’s so lovely. Friendships are so important! Andie’s last wish is for everyone to just get along! Tears! Pacey and Andie have a sweet good-bye where she thanks him for giving her strength and he says he’ll miss her optimism. And Jack tells Andie that he just didn’t want her to go because he’d miss her, which is kind of like apologizing for being selfish, I guess. Then, of course, Dawson whips out the camera and makes them all pose for a group photo (where Andie forces Dawson and Pacey to stand next to each other). For once this is a perfectly appropriate time for Dawson to whip the camera out—and it’s really sweet.

At the beginning of the episode, Jen and Jack are still estranged (which leads to much soulful exchanging of longing glances between them, and an amusing scene where Jack dramatically deletes an email from “JenLindley1” from his otherwise empty AOL mailbox). Andie has apparently been trying to convince people throughout her recovery that it’s not Jen’s fault. Which is true! But even Pacey’s immovable, and the only person who still likes Jen is Drue, whom she’s still pretending she hates. He points out that he doesn’t judge and her square-ass friends totally do, and yet she still rudely says she will never look to him for comfort or solace. “That which doesn’t kill me makes me more diabolical,” Drue says, and next thing you know Jen’s being hauled into the school office because Drue confessed to giving Andie the drugs and got them both sentenced to 100 hours of community service. (Somewhere out there Rory Gilmore is laughing hysterically at the notion that Jen is upset about a mere 100 hours. Also, Drue is great. What we’ve really been missing since Abby’s death was a fabulous villain, and now we have one!)

However, as they embark upon their community service punishment, Jen—still angry—tells him that “You’ll find that no amount of apologizing is good enough for these people once they’ve made up their minds about who you are.” (Shot for a Jen Lindley pity party! Even if this one is totally justified.) Drue argues that “These are not your people. I am your people.” Now obviously Drue is being a giant jerk, but like, it’s true! These aren’t Jen’s people and the way she talks about their judgy, stubborn natures kinda proves that (plus the fact that no one in the cast but Jack seems to care about her at all). Yet she still persists in being angry at Drue, so basically, Jen is all alone.

Luckily, Andie’s speech immediately melts Jack’s unreasonable anger. He finds Jen outside the restaurant crying (it’s unclear whether any of them bothered to actually eat anything at this group dinner) and says, “Is that the girl who used to tell me everything?” A gorgeous radiant smile breaks out on her face through the tears and she answers, “Is that the boy who used to listen?” He says he’s sorry and she tells him she just needs him to stand by her. And they hug. And I tear up again. I’m such a sucker.

Season 4 continues to milk the minutiae of college applications preeeetty hard in this episode, where the B-plot – revolves around Joey’s peer recommendation for her application to Williams. The key phrase here is not “peer” but “the person who knows you best.” The guidance counselor says, “You’ve got the easy part. You just have to pick someone.” Heh. If she thinks picking someone is easy for Joey, obviously she hasn’t heard about Last Spring. When Joey complains about it, instead of explaining to Joey that this should just be someone who knows you well and can speak to your personal strengths and quirks, the guidance counselor COMPLETELY blows right by Joey’s pursed-lips face and talks her through a pop-psychology exercise to come up with the answer. But like. What if the person who knows you best is your mom? Or someone with the writing skills of Stephanie Meyer? Or someone like Pacey who’s never gonna make that deadline anyway? That’s not actually what you’re supposed to do.

[It needs to be said, Dawson would definitely not write the best peer rec. First of all, as we see in a couple of episodes, Pacey is chock-full of beautifully written compliments of her It Girl specialness. Plus, there’s no way Dawson would be able to resist making it all about himself for the length of time it takes to write a letter. His entire rec would probably read, “Joey was a great producer on my movie, which happened to win a junior film festival and changed the landscape of meta horror cinema as we know it, no matter what libelous falsehoods she wrote in her diary.” –Janes]

While Pacey is out running errands, Gretchen, who immediately susses out that Joey’s stressed, gives Joey a little advice: “You have to be a little selfish here.” So Joey shows up to Dawson’s place with what he calls her “favor face” on. He’s a little taken aback and Joey says, “I’m just asking you to ponder the possibility,” just to make sure she uses the most possible syllables. He does, and comes back to tell her he’s not the right person to write it, which she takes much more graciously than if things had been the other way around.

Of course Pacey comes just in time to witness this scene and gets a little miffed. Joey gives an impassioned speech about all the things in her life Dawson was there for, which of course involves playing the Dead Mom Card (shot!). She says it’s The Question that made her do it (they all amusingly keep referring to it as The Question like they have it memorized),. But Pacey says it’s The Question that makes him sad, because, “When do I get to be that person?” Later, though, after Andie’s speech, Pacey apologizes immediately because the issue was a “left hook to the hot button.” Whatever that means. Joey then says that in ten years, he’ll be the person who knows her best. “Dawson knows my past. My future lies with you.” [And the few Dawson shippers that are left at this point have a conniption. –Janes] It’s so cute how she is already thinking ten years ahead at an age when most relationships last approximately ten minutes. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that knowing someone’s past is the only way to know them better than anyone else. (Unless, of course, you’re massively stuck in the past, like all of these kids!) Finally, melted by Andie’s speech, Dawson tells Joey that he was actually just afraid to write the rec, and he’d still like to do it.  Wow, that was one effective speech.

I think the really sad thing, though, is that Andie’s efforts really do nothing to reunite Pacey and Dawson. I wonder if the show might have fared better in later seasons if the two boys had truly mended their friendship. The fact that their friendship is one of the cores of the show and yet they spend more than half of the six seasons being angry at each other is sad, and maybe realistic, but sort of a wasted opportunity in my opinion.

Anyway, that’s good-bye to Andie. I think she might show up once at the end of season 4, but Meredith Monroe was even cut out of the finale that she returned to film. And with Andie’s departure we are losing a major source of irritation (and the target of easy jokes), though don’t worry, we will still have Dawson, Frat Boy Jack, and, eventually, Season Six Jen, who is in my opinion the worst Jen of all the Jens. So I don’t think we’re going to suddenly become super kind reviewers all of a sudden. But really, what is there to say about Andie? She was brought on as a Good Girl, but Joey was already sort of a Good Girl (if less prissy about it), and as a love interest for Pacey, which obviously Joey outstripped her in, and a sister for Jack, which was fulfilled better by Jen. So she didn’t really have a place in the series that made sense by this point, and just wandered around being really perky and annoying all the time. This departure was probably half a season overdue (if she had to be brought on at all). So… good-bye Andie! To paraphrase Ryan Howard, she’ll be missed—not by me, so much, but she’ll be missed.

  • Side plot: Dawson also continues to be bullied by Mr. Brooks, and moves from painting the place to whitewashing the fence. According to Dawson this is the reason he hasn’t started to do his college applications. I actually am kind of impressed, though, that Dawson is taking this on without a single bit of help from Pacey and Joey—and a little surprised that Pacey hasn’t even offered. Maybe Joey never told him? Joey does at least thank him in this episode on behalf of her yacht club employment, and he says “I’ll put it on your tab” with surprisingly light-hearted good grace. “As you take on years, you’ll come to realize that you don’t always lose people from your life by choice.” Gee, do you think he’s talking about Dawson?  [How much do I not care about this Grumpy Old Man Whose Heart Grows Three Sizes plotline? Let me count the ways. –Janes]
  • Speaking of which, when Dawson says something about a “job well-done,” Still-Grumpy Old Man tells Dawson “I have two problems with that statement: the use of the word ‘well’ and the use of the word ‘done.’” And then proceeds to spend the next two minutes explaining the joke. Like, yeah, hehe, we get it, he did a bad job and it’s not done, that’s funny. –Janes
  • Pacey’s harsh (and completely unfounded) judgment of Jen seems totally out-of-character. Dawson and Joey have always had the propensity to be judgmental, but literally Pacey’s whole thing is being a screw-up. I don’t care how much he supposedly cares about his irritating ex-girlfriend who cheated on him, this makes no sense. –Janes
  • Joey refers to her peer rec as “large choices that carry even larger consequences,” in a highly apt portrayal of how much kids lose their perspective during mcollege admissions season. Also, what’s wrong with the word “big” all of a sudden?
  • Joey is so embarrassingly melodramatic about choosing the “person who knows [her] best,” that poor guidance counselor probably thinks she’s talking about choosing between like, her divorced parents or something. –Janes
  • I love that Joey says almost the exact same words she used at the end of last season: “No matter who I ask, someone’s going to get hurt.” Yeah, that’s what love triangles are all about Joey. One person gets what they want, the other person doesn’t. GET WITH THE PROGRAM ALREADY. –Janes
  • Andie’s afraid she’s going to be stared at: “Oh, there’s that really smart girl who almost chemmed herself to death inside an inflatable fun house.” Leaving aside whether “chem” can be a verb, I love how Andie refers to herself as “really smart.”
  • Pacey says, “Maybe not all friendships need to be saved.” Oh, gee, do you think he’s talking about Dawson? Then Andie says, “We can move on without moving away from each other,” which… not sure that those metaphors are different enough to be enlightening.
  • Drue says with that sort of easy, sarcastic, quippy humor that I love about him, “I get the vibe from your friends that they think I’m a bad influence. We can’t have them not wanting to play with me! How will I occupy my time?”
  • Ugh, Mitch again? Seriously, can’t this school find a real guidance counselor? Or at least a permanent teacher, instead of a substitute football coach?? –Janes
  • Oh, but his comment about “Drue’s forthcoming nature” is fantastic, though. Ha burn. –Janes
  • Also, kids with alleged drug offenses are not tried and sentenced by a lone local police officer in a guidance counselor’s office. Not how that works. –Janes
  • Gretchen reminds Pacey he’s on grocery duty just as Pacey are about to get inappropriate on the couch. So Pacey bids Joey good-bye with another long and rather emphatic French kiss. Looking on, Gretchen goes, “Do you want the list?” and Pacey wryly pulls his lips away from Joey’s for just long enough to say, “Not right now.” Hee! I mean, poor Gretchen, but hee.
  • OK, Katie Holmes is so damn pretty that she is almost pulling this off, but like, why does she have approximately four hairs cut to a really short bang length? If you’re gonna get bangs at least try to commit. And it’s not even a side bang because there’s a few on the other side too, like she has inverted devil horns or something!
    Exterior day, closeup of Joey. She has one tiny side bang on the right side of her forehead.

  • Not gonna lie, seems a leetle tacky to title your email “911” when the whole problem is that your estranged friend blames you for his sister actually having to go to the ER. Love that Jack’s email address apparently starts with “Jackers” though. [Dying. –Janes]
    Shot of an AOL mailbox with an email from "JenLindley1" titled "911". Top bar says "Jackers"

  • Wait, Jack has only ONE email in his inbox? I know email was newer back then, but still, what kind of sorcery is this??? –Janes
  • Jack says, “I always pictured you as the girl who didn’t just go to the last party of senior year, but threw it.” Um, what? First of all, should you really be talking to her about partying when the last party she went to ended in an OD? And like… since when was Andie super committed to parties? I could picture Andie going to the last lecture of senior year. Or giving it.
  • Was Jack always this buff?? –Janes [Not to be tacky, but… yes. –Nerdy Spice]
  • “I didn’t save you, you saved yourself. You just took me along for the ride,” Pacey tells Andie, showing that he may have learned just a little bit from dating the more willful and independent Joey.
  • While torturing Jen by forcing her to do community service with him, Drue waxes poetic and veers off of any known rules of syntax: “I could only help but dream of us picking up pieces of trash by the roadside.” Um… what? Jen then says that he’s protecting his “inner Iago,” which… seems like an odd reference for a show with only white main characters. (Five shots!)
  • Jen is admirably steadfast about not letting Drue back in, or at least it would be admirable if Drue had actually… done anything at this point? Other than throw her a fake birthday party, try desperately to be her friend, and have beautiful blue eyes? Get yours, Jen!! –Janes
  • Pacey finds Dawson and Joey out by the creek when Dawson comes to tell Joey he won’t write her rec. Dawson passes Pacey all, “Pacey,” with a cool-guy nod, and Pacey chuckles ruefully and returns the weird greeting with, “Dawson.” For some reason it made me laugh.
  • When Pacey is somewhat understandably upset that Joey asked Dawson to write her peer rec and didn’t tell him, Joey is all, “I know that tone and it signals the start of a really nasty conversation.” Umm… am I too much of a Pacey fangirl if I say I don’t believe that he has a pre-nasty-conversation tone? Sorry, but his fighting style is way more civilized than Dawson’s or Joey’s for that matter.
  • I actually doubt it’s true that Dawson knows Joey better than anyone. He’s not only too narcissistic to pay much attention to Joey at any given moment, he’s also got her so tied in with all his Issues With Women that she’s more of a cardboard cutout representing Girl I Want than an actual human to him. He probably knows very little about who she really is, when you actually get down to it.
  • Andie says she sat down with her “trusty No. 2” to make a pro-con list and I actually spent several seconds trying to figure out if that meant Pacey or Jack before I realized that she meant a No. 2 pencil! Ahh, life at the dawn of the digital age.
  • Joey says Dawson was there when she tried on her training bra for the first time, and she and Pacey just blow past this? I would have so, so many questions. –Janes
  • While they’re making up, Jen tells Jack she hasn’t changed, she’s still “Jen Lindley: girl who screws up every now and again.” But she DIDN’T DO ANYTHING! It’s not like she left an open bottle of vitamins near a toddler! Andie is an adult!
  • I love that Andie’s father wants to make up for his “mistakes” with his family–namely, leaving his family multiple times, kicking one child out of the house, and just generally not being there for them–by… sending Andie away. How adorably consistent of him. –Janes
  • Everyone keeps saying this Italy thing is a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” and for most people, it would be, since it would be like a scholarship or study abroad opportunity. But this is literally just Andie going to live with her aunt, so if she’s that conflicted about missing senior year then… why not just take a gap year? –Janes
  • While they’re saying good-bye, Andie tells Pacey that “There’s a whole world out there. Pacey, you said it yourself.” He says, sounding shocked, “Is that why you’re doing this? Because of what I said?” Um… why are you surprised? You were talking about her going to France at the time, were you hoping she’d ignore you?
  • Andie actually goes like ten minutes there without being annoying, which must be a new record. Then, she says this line to Pacey: “You almost made a hobby out of saving this damsel-in-distress.” NOPE. GOOD RIDDANCE. –Janes
  • Pacey tells Andie, “You know what I think we’re going to miss the most about you, McPhee, is just your overwhelming optimism.” Um… I won’t, but … he had to say something, I guess.
  • Now that it’s coming to a close, I really like how the writers handled the leftover intimacy between Pacey and Andie. It’s portrayed as a little weird, but not actually a threat to his love for Joey. Likewise, Joey is clearly annoyed by it, but never really threatened, and only brings it up when she’s trying to deflect from her own inappropriate ex. That’s some good writing! –Janes
  • Jen–very maturely, I might add–tells Jack that she doesn’t need an apology, she just needs someone who is willing to stand by her, and “is [he] willing to do that?” He replies, “Are you willing to keep standing?” Um… wut. –Janes
  • Aw, it gets me every time when Andie puts Pacey’s arm around Dawson. Bro love! –Janes
  • Aww. I guess Andie and Jack’s dad died shortly after this episode.  [It oddly served as a pretty good send-off to the character, who had seemingly finally repaired his relationship with Jack, but it would have been nice to develop that fraught relationship further over the next couple of seasons. RIP. –Janes]
    Shot of Andie and Jack's dad photoshopped into a picture frame. Caption: "In loving memory David Dukes 1945-2000"


It’s actually really hard to pick, but I think Jen and Jack’s reunion has to win it for me. Even though they were only estranged for like half an episode, it was still so moving to watch them make up!

Most cringeworthy moment:

Actually I think this episode was really pretty free of them, but Andie breaking into Jack’s email was pretty inappropriate.

Most 90s soundtrack moment:

Obviously Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” playing throughout the last five minutes as all our prematurely nostalgic young’uns say good-bye to each other.

Drunkenness rating:

Eight shots, including one for Jack blaming a woman (Jen) for his problems in a completely unreasonable manner.

Season 4, Episode 8 “The Unusual Suspects”

by Nerdy Spice

Full-length shot of Dawson (front), Pacey (middle, doing a weird gesture) and Jack (back) in Dawson's room. Joey seen from back with arms crossed, foreground.

This is an episode supposedly so bad that Janes begged for a switch, so I’ll be doing it. I’m curious to see if it’s really as bad as she says!

Obviously the entire thing is a giant ripoff, I mean shoutout, to The Usual Suspects (shot!). The crime: someone has planted the principal’s boat in the school pool, and stranded his dog Chester aboard.

So Mitch and the principal embark upon Extremely Official Interrogations of Jack, Dawson, Pacey, and Drue. Jack’s a suspect because the dog, once freed, greets him a little too excitedly for a mere stranger; Dawson’s because he might have access to Mitch’s school keys; Pacey because has access to the marine storage facility in the yacht club because he was docking the True Love there up till recently.

So they all have to give accounts of their days. Pacey obligingly reminisces about going on a ridealong with Doug because he got “cop” on his aptitude test (nice continuity there, although Janes’s interpretation was a little more negative: The writers are going really hard on this aptitude test thing. Were they thinking of making Pacey a cop before they gave him the most boring chef job of all time?). Although he starts, somewhat gratuitously, with the part where he was making out with Joey while they waited. I bet Dawson’s dad really enjoyed hearing that. Jack and Drue supposedly went to the hardware store to get supplies for a chem project. And Dawson spent his time cleaning out Mr. Brooks’ study.

As the interrogation wears on, the boys start acting quite stressed. Jack is gulping water like he’s been in lockup for days. Pacey is practicing active resistance by telling a long and boring story about torturing poor Doug through the whole ride-along—not for being gay this time, but for wasting his life being a cop in a tiny town. (Doug finally breaks and says, “If you ever in your life care about anything as much as I care about being an officer in this town, I will be shocked.” OUCH. I think Doug won this one.)

Pacey and Dawson turn on each other, both accusing the other of living up to their ninth-grade pact to do a really good senior prank. Meanwhile, though, both let slip something about Drue: Dawson that he left Mitch’s keys in Drue’s car the night before, and Pacey that he ran into Drue at the marina on his ride-along with Doug (and took a ride home with him). The principal proudly announces that he knows who did it: Drue.

Poor Drue laughs hysterically as he gets flamed for all of this. But he stops Joey in the hall and tells her of the boys, “Tell them I said touché.” Ugh, I love him! He’s not a sore loser. So Joey arrives at Dawson’s excited to hear the whole explanation. The boys say that Drue definitely did it, but hypothetically, if they did do it, Jack might have had time to take the dog and drop off the paint. Dawson could’ve gone to the storage facility between getting the keys from Drue and going to Mr. Brooks (using a code from Pacey). Later, Pacey might’ve been dropped off near the rendezvous point (by Drue) to gather dog, boat, and paint to drop it off at the school. Joey is utterly delighted by all this. “Karma,” they all agree.

Finally, that night, Pacey and Dawson bury the evidence together. “I’m thinkin’ we pulled it off,” Pacey says. “I’m thinking that something’s been right tonight that hasn’t been right for a long, long time.” AWWWWWWW. If Dawson doesn’t melt at one of Pacey’s Heartfelt Confessions of Feelings, he’s a stronger man than any of us. The episode ends EXTREMELY weirdly with Pacey saying he won’t give up on Dawson and Dawson responding that “We could always just kill each other.” Um… I guess in a pre-Parkland world that was OK to say?

This week in side plots: Jack ropes Jen into coaching soccer with him to complete her community service requirements. He wants Molly to be goalie, but she Bartlebys that she’d “really rather not.” Apparently the boys are mean to girl goalies. Jen says that Molly’s like her: she’ll take the easy way out until you piss them off. So Jack basically negs her into playing goalie by telling her that “These guys aren’t going to respect you until you make them.” I’m all for empowerment, but… maybe guys should just respect girls to start with?? Of course, Jack, or the ragingly misogynistic frat-boy pod person who has replaced Jack, has never heard of this concept.

But a bunch of parents, who have never heard of respecting girls either, think that Jack is putting a girl in for goalie because of his Big Gay Agenda and threaten his job over it. Jack defies them, keeps Molly in, and wins the game—but gets fired anyway because Molly let three goals in. I would never criticize the acting of an eleven-year-old girl, so I will merely say that Molly comes over and cries because she’s sorry for messing up as goalie, with no further comment on the quality of the scene.

Also in side plots, Dawson demands payment for his free labor for Mr. Brooks, who turns out to be a misogynist who refers to young women as “floozies” for no reason, so… the perfect mentor for Dawson. But then Dawson figures out that Mr. Brooks wanted to be a filmmaker when he was younger. So this very slow burn of a plotline has finally provided the tiniest of payoffs. Whatever.

Oh, and Pacey’s ride-along ends with Doug helping a blind dude get his groceries, so Pacey learns that having a “boring” job is heroic after all. He finds Doug later and says that he realizes the job matters, and it’s more than he’ll ever be able to do. But Doug just says that Pacey’s a “daring original.” Awwww!!!! [Pacey’s face when Doug calls him a “daring original” and tells him he admires him. I’m dead. So cute. –Janes]

  • Can we just talk about how a high school from a lower-middle-class beach town for some reason sprung for an indoor pool?
  • Oh my God. This episode is so boring. I never thought an extended movie homage could be more boring or pointless than “The Scare,” but the writers have outdone themselves. I’m literally just skipping to Pacey scenes. –Janes
  • Joey negs Dawson pretty hard while also giving him undue praise, which is an achievement (and worthy of a shot): “Dawson, while we do recognize your talent as a witty practical joker, I think that this is even out of your league.”
  • I love how Jack comes by Jen’s house with flowers just after they reconcile, but the flowers are for Grams and not for her. Poor Jen is like, “I’m still asleep and this is a dream in which you’re heterosexual.” Aww. You just know she has that dream every night.
  • “Don’t you think I’d look sexy in a uniform?” Pacey asks. I think we’re all in agreement with Joey when she responds with no words and a big grin. [Oh, Joey. Just wait until he’s a cowboy. –Janes]
  • Joey may be super prudish sometimes but I love this naughty little wave she gives Doug when he catches her with Pacey’s lips like glued to her neck.
    Joey waves, leaning against car with Pacey in front of her.
  • Joey teases Pacey about going on a drivealong with Doug to “observe police policies,” I guess because the word “policy” is sort of close to “police.” –Janes
  • “Don’t you think you’re working this NYPD angle a little too hard?” Dawson says. Shot! And it’s so true. They are definitely acting out some fantasy they developed from watching a cop show on TV, which is a good way to deal with the boredom of their lives I guess.
  • When Jack mentions his soccer volunteer work, Drue quips, “Must be weird. To be selfless.” Everything he says entertains me.
  • The “joke” where Doug surprisingly takes Pacey to get donuts is at least more hilarious than all the homophobic “jokes” Pacey is making on said ride-along.
  • Mitch mentions Dawson’s ninth-grade pact with Pacey to do a great senior prank. Dawson claims this was “four years ago.” Well, it was about twelve years ago for James van der Beek, but I think they need to check their math on the value of 12 versus 9.
  • Pacey and Dawson aren’t exactly “Butch and Sundance,” Dawson says. Shot!
  • When you have a character introduce a flashback by announcing that it’s going to be “very very boring,” as Pacey does before telling a story about his ridealong, it’s… not a great sign.
  • Molly takes up the Precocious Child torch dropped without explanation by season 3’s Buzz and tells Jack that he “pulled a fast one” on her and she knows what he did.
  • Drue comes over specifically to thank Dawson for buying him popcorn and going to a burger with him. “I’m just grateful to find at least one ally in this strange and eclectic hamlet,” he says, seeming completely serious. Awww, I can’t believe Dawson doesn’t even feel the slightest compunction about framing him!
  • Ugh, the parents who are mean to Jack even do this classic bigot thing: they claim to have been total saints for not saying anything when they found out he was gay, but then jump on him immediately for the tiniest perceived transgression. Then they can claim it’s something he did, not what he is. Even though it’s clearly because of what he is, and they were just waiting for the thinnest of covers. Which is a classic page out of the modern racist’s and sexist’s playbook too.
  • Uhhhh, Drue ALSO makes a homophobic joke at Doug when Doug accuses him of stealing the boat. It starts out funny (and non-homophobic) with “Do you see a boat on me, man? I mean, you could frisk me if you want.” Then quickly devolves with, “I bet you’d like that.” WHY NOT JUST STICK WITH THE FIRST PART? It was funnier anyway! Newsflash: being original is funnier and “political incorrectness,” aka bigotry, is the least original thing in the world.
  • Pacey and Dawson both completely fail at Being Stealth when they each finish up their interviews by arguing that the other would never have pulled a prank: Pacey says Dawson is too respectable, Dawson says Pacey is too conscious of his fragile academic foothold.  It’s like the reverse Prisoner’s Dilemma up in here! Guys, you turning on each other was much more believable a cover. Stick with that!
  • Oh my God, you guys, Dawson finds Mr. Brooks on “The Internet Film Search Site.” How cute is that?! It’s a pre-IMDB world. It’s basically ancient history. It’s the Crown. Hell, it’s the Flintstones. (Also, apparently it never existed nor was even commented upon in other recaps?!)
    Screenshot of computer with "Internet Film Search Site" complete with plain-text blue hyperlink to "ADVANCED SEARCH".

  • On the other hand, he calls himself an “encyclopedia of filmic history.” While I bet IMDB wishes they’d come up with that first, I must demand we take a shot for this SHAMELESS and completely unjustified self-glorification.
  • When Joey comes over, Mitch says, “Tell them I know, and congratulations.” Which is by far the most awesome thing Mitch ever did, other than sacrificing his life for an ice cream cone. In that, Mitch is all of us. [So Mitch knows that his son not only got away with criminal behavior, but that he blamed it on an innocent student, and his response is “congrats”? Nice parenting technique there, Mr. Fake Guidance Counselor. –Janes] [I guess once in awhile Janes and I do manage to disagree. —Nerdy Spice]
  • They call framing Drue “karma,” which seems like a pretty crazy false equivalence. On one side there’s Drue, who offered Jen ecstasy and made a few obnoxious comments, and on the other side there’s our boys, who got Drue suspended from school and possibly screwed up his college applications. Not exactly poetic justice. –Janes
  • Speaking of which, the only person who actually does have a reason to be mad at Drue is Jen, but she doesn’t get to be part of the revenge plot, because apparently senior pranks are exclusively male activities. –Janes
  • You know the episode is artsy when they employ the Gratuitous Lens Flare. This, if you can’t tell, is Jack outside the principal’s house.
    Exterior day. Jack stands outside suburban house with lens flare blocking his head.

  • Dawson claims that seeing Pacey and Joey fighting outside his house was the worst moment of his life. Um… drama queen much? Shot for referencing Last Spring in reverent tones, in spirit if not in letter. [I think we’re supposed to feel bad, but all I can think is, “What a lucky kid” and “Hey, didn’t your parents get divorced?” –Janes]


One of my favorite kinds of jokes is the kind where you never get the whole story. Community for example was a master of that genre, and Dawson’s usually seems not to have even a nodding acquaintance with the concept of “leaving things unsaid,” despite its frequent use (or abuse) of the word “subtext”. But Mrs. Valentine’s line, “I should have known after last year’s ferret incident!” is  a PERFECT example. It’s funnier because you have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks!

Most cringeworthy moment:

The possibly-Hispanic kid who yells at everyone to come look at the car in the pool, and is never heard from again, might have the biggest part given to a non-white person this season, beating out the two black kids who are the only other people summoned to the principal’s office for interview (and don’t even get one spoken line between them).

Most wrongly used five-dollar word:

Pacey casually tells Doug that his life is boring because he’s a cop in a boring small town, and poor Doug asks sadly, “Does this diatribe have a point?” I feel your pain, Doug, because your brother is being a dick and a homophobic dick at that, but… no. That was rude, but not a diatribe.

Drunkenness rating: Six shots, though it would have been higher if you counted every single Unusual Suspects reference.

Season 4, Episode 9: “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”

By Janes

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.29.48 PM

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” isn’t the best episode ever, but it does have two of my favorite things about 90s shows: Christmas episodes and a complete and utter misunderstanding of the college process. To start with, Joey gets invited to a “networking party” for some of Fake Harvard’s “most promising applicants,” which is most definitely not a thing. If you’re a “promising applicant” but haven’t been accepted yet, the only correspondence you’ll get from them is mailers for donations. Also, why on Earth are they having this party in Capeside? I imagine it’s for students from the tri-state area, unless they’re just inviting anyone who applied. It’s all so ridiculous.

Let’s back up. First, there’s a funny little scene where Joey gets to work at the yacht club early, and Mrs. Valentine randomly tortures her about her poor family and illegitimate nephew, just in case you forgot that Joey is a Pariah. Then, just as Mrs. Valentine is telling her that she’ll need to wait on the Fake Harvard networking party, the freaking dean of the school recognizes Joey, remembers she had an “outstanding” essay, and insists that she sit at his table. This would never happen, and not only because networking parties for “promising applicants” [and their high school boyfriends?!?! –Nerdy Spice] don’t exist.

What does ring true, however, is the way this party exposes the fault lines in the P/J relationship. Joey tells Gretchen that she’s worried Pacey will “feel out of place,” and Gretchen responds that Pacey is “nuts” about Joey, will want to support her, and “plans to make a career out of being in close proximity to her.” (And then half-jokes that Joey should prevent him from embarrassing her with the “nervous jokey thing he does.”) They’re both saying loving things about Pacey, but the subtext is clear: Joey is the smart, graceful one in the relationship, and Pacey as the lovable, slightly insecure goofball who feels lucky to be with her. In other words, they both sort of think Pacey’s the reacher and Joey’s the settler.

Pacey himself plays into this dynamic; in a cute, banter-y scene with Joey, in which she insists that not attending this “networking party” will “severely diminish [her] chances of getting into college” (NOT A THING), he jokingly tries to get out of the party (“From what I’m told, you can’t take me anywhere!”), but then acquiesces when Joey points out that supporting your partner means doing things you’d rather not do. “For me, that would be Sunday dinners with your parents.” Aw! They’re like an old married couple!

But then, when they actually get to the party, they experience a reversal. Joey’s the one who immediately feels out of place, both because the other kids at the party are boarding school brats who complain about being third in their class, and because she’s kind of socially awkward. In one delightful scene, the kind-eyed dean asks Joey about her interests, and she looks visibly uncomfortable, insisting that she’s “just a typical teenage girl.” (Not really something you want to convey to college admissions officers who are literally looking for exceptional kids.) Then, the Kindly Dean keeps trying, inquires after her “interest in art” (as the audience goes, “haha, what’s that?”), and asks if she’s seen the new Guggenheim. She’s relieved, and finally latches onto something she knows: “No, but I have always wanted to go to New York.” Drue evilly tells her that the dean was referring to the new Guggenheim, in Bilbao, which, to be fair, was almost a trick question. Joey is completely crestfallen, and does a terrible job hiding it, so Pacey cuts through the tension by saying the building looks like “a big artichoke.” Joey is clearly terrified for a second that Pacey is going to embarrass her even further, but instead the dean cracks up, and says it does, in fact, look like a big artichoke. And yeah, it kind of does!

Pacey continues to charm the pants off of the dean all night (because really, who wouldn’t love Pacey??), and Joey gets increasingly anxious, agitated, and even bitter. When the Kindly Dean asks Pacey why he hasn’t applied to Fake Harvard, Joey meanly asks, “Yeah, Pacey, why haven’t you?” Pacey lies and says that his parents are “big lefties” and want him to go to Yale (ha!), and Joey proceeds to take him outside and yell at him for putting on a pretense. Then, Kindly Dean comes out and catches them fighting, then asks Joey if he can borrow Pacey so Pacey can meet the dean. (Oh, so I guess Kindly Dean is not a dean. Whatever, nothing makes sense anyway so it doesn’t really matter.) Joey barely swallows her tears and her voice cracks as she assents. So awkward.

Then, the Kindly Dean comes back to find Joey sobbing. Awk!!!! Joey somehow makes the situation even more awkward by apologizing for “blowing it” and for “not fitting in” (again, not something you want to say at a networking party that is presumably to see if you are a “culture fit”). But then, Kindly Dean says that her performance at the party doesn’t matter, that her “academic record stands on its own” and “no one is grading you on your social skills.” Um, then WHY ARE YOU HAVING THIS PARTY IN THE FIRST PLACE. I give up.

However, it’s almost worth all of this nonsense for what comes next: Kindly Dean tells Joey that Pacey used his time with the dean to sing Joey’s praises. He talked about how she changed him, how she helped him, and how he “couldn’t imagine a better life than one with [Joey] by his side.” (Again, why the dean would care about any of this, I don’t know, but it’s so darn cute it’s hard to care.) Joey, a little slow on the uptake, still gives Pacey a hard time about why he lied about his college prospects, and he states the obvious: that he was doing it all for her. Um, duh, Joey, get with the program!

The ensuing conversation is one of my favorite P/J moments: Pacey tells her that he wanted to impress these people so that they could have the opportunity to see her through his eyes. “To see this girl, this woman [shot!], who has more class and intelligence and beauty and grace than anyone else on the face of the planet. And maybe things like this just come tumbling out of my mouth because I happen to be head over heels in love with you, but the really scary thing is, I think they’re true.” Joey’s heart melts, she admits that she was just being insecure about him fitting in better than she did, and then reciprocates his little speech by telling him that his mother [who, not to ruin it, is actually Jane freaking Lynch –Nerdy Spice] should get a medal for “raising the perfect boy.” “And maybe things like this just come tumbling out of my mouth because I happen to be head over heels in love with you, but the scary thing is, I think they’re true.” Katie Holmes and Joshua Jackson are both teary-eyed and emotional by the end of this, and it’s amazing.

Meanwhile, Dawson is having trouble writing a college essay about why he wants to be a filmmaker. Since he recently discovered that Grumpy Old Man with a Heart of Gold is a former filmmaker, he decides to pry into the old man’s personal life. Dawson tells Mr. Brooks that he’s had a crisis of faith, and Mr. Brooks makes fun of him, saying, “You’re 17! Isn’t that a little young for a crisis of faith?” Which, um, yeah, if one tiny little setback dampens your love of your chosen art form at age 17, you’ll never make it. Undeterred, Dawson demands that Mr. Brooks bare his soul and tell Dawson why he stopped making movies, because Dawson has stopped making movies too. Mr. Brooks responds, “Well, there’s a tragic loss for the arts.” Hee! I’ve never liked Mr. Brooks more than at this moment.

Gretchen, who cares more about Dawson’s baby filmmaking career than any seasoned 20-year-old ever would, tells him that to get out of this rut, he just needs to admit that he loves filmmaking. “It sounds like a guy who broke up with a girl, and he keeps saying how much better he is without her, but everything comes back to this girl. Dawson responds, “That, however, has not stopped her from breaking my heart time and time again.” Gee, do you–do you think he’s talking about someone specific?

If it weren’t already glaringly clear that he’s talking about Joey, Mr. Brooks comes to the Christmas party, very nicely gives Dawson Pauline Kael’s book (and Dawson, a supposed film buff, has no idea who she is), and regales Dawson with the story of why he quit filmmaking: he cast his best friend and girlfriend in a movie, they fell in love, and he was bitter about it forever. This inspires Dawson to… stick with filmmaking? Move on from Joey so she doesn’t make him too bitter for filmmaking? Stay stuck on Joey because she has now become a metaphor for filmmaking? The metaphors are very mixed, but either way he sticks with filmmaking, doesn’t get over Joey, and makes out with Gretchen under the mistletoe so… make of that what you will.

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.41.18 PM

But as usual, if there’s anyone more annoying and solipsistic than Dawson, it’s Jen. Jen goes into full-on avoidance mode and refuses to hand in her college applications. She and Grams are still fighting over the ecstasy thing, which honestly feels like a million years ago, and so when Jen starts doing the “poor little rich girl” dance (mom’s Christmas present was hand-picked by the maid, Dad’s present thrown back in his face by a “slutty secretary,” etc), Grams tells her she is “one of the most spoiled, self-involved brats [she] ha[s] ever had the displeasure of dealing with.” Harsh, but true. Then, even though Jen is being a brat of the first order, Grams and Jack adorably conspire to help her, which makes her “woe is me, no one loves me” schtick all the more annoying.

Then it gets worse (and more nonsensical): Grams and Jack actually hand in her college applications, essays and all. Jack kind of explains later how he shaped the essays from Jen’s school papers and bits of her diary (um, hi, violation!), but still, this makes no sense. This was the early days of the internet, but I’m pretty sure the Common App was already a thing, and they wouldn’t have been able to log in for her. Or even if they did it on paper, didn’t the guidance counselor get suspicious when Jack and/or Grams handed in the applications? She didn’t even talk to Jen herself before handing them in? Jeez, maybe the kids were better off with Mitch as their fake guidance counselor.

In any case, it’s a beautiful gesture, and Jen is not only ungrateful, she’s furious. She claims she doesn’t want to go to college, when really, she just doesn’t want to ask her rich parents for money. Which seems kind of silly, considering that her whole beef with them is that they just throw money at her and want respectability, so it seems like this would be the one thing she could count on them for. Grams gives a beautiful speech that gets me all misty-eyed, and tells Jen that no matter how angry they get, she will always love and be there for Jen. THEN, she says that Jen is the most important thing in her life, and that she, an elderly retired woman, will pay for Jen’s college. AND JEN ACCEPTS. I get that her parents are emotionally abusive, but seriously, her parents are rich. Is imposing on her sweet widowed grandmother (who eventually has to sell her house to pay for this) really the answer? I loved Grams’ speech but honestly, she was right about Jen the first time.

  • Dawson says Mr. Brooks’ film, a pulpy gangster flick called Turn Away, My Sweet, is “the heartbreaking work of a staggering genius,” which–sure. I mean, we’re talking about Dawson here, who thinks he’s a film buff because he watches Spielberg movies. (And five shots for the totally earnest usage of a satirical Dave Eggers title!) [And “great big thumping heart”? Come on. This is worthy of a shot, even if it’s not Dawson’s heart we’re talking about. Dear show, ALL HEARTS BEAT. It’s really not quite the feat you think it is. –Nerdy Spice]
  • Also, his argument is that it’s genius because it’s not really a gangster movie, it’s a “love story.” So… it’s not a gangster movie cliche because it’s actually a totally different kind of cliche?
  • Gretchen says that Tarantino did this a lot better, and Dawson is like, not having it. Tarantino was also mentioned in the last episode, like, didn’t any of these people know any filmmakers other than Tarantino or Spielberg? –Nerdy Spice
  • As soon as I see Mitch and Gail hanging twinkle lights together I get this warm fuzzy feeling that inevitably accompanies Christmas episodes. I don’t care how silly or Christian-centric or sappy or whatever it is. I can’t resist a Christmas episode.  –Nerdy Spice
  • Jen and Jack greet each other with a “Will!” “Grace!”, and it’s the most 90s thing that’s ever happened.
  • Grams is still mad at Jen over that whole ecstasy thing. Did she not get the memo that everyone else totally forgot about it as soon as it served its primary purpose of getting rid of Andie?!  –Nerdy Spice
  • Jack says that he finished his last essay and gave it to Mrs. Watson. Um, the guidance counselor MAILS THEIR APPLICATIONS?! I wish I’d gone to this school. –Nerdy Spice
  • And then she asks him to see a movie that she describes as the “gay St. Elmo’s Fire.” So cute!
  • Dawson tells Brooks that he’s a mixture of Sam Fuller and Cameron Crowe, which is surprising, if only because I had no idea that Dawson knew the names of more than one director.
  • The guidance counselor tells Dawson that his “Why I want to be a filmmaker” essay is “four pages of very eloquently avoiding the question.” Um, is this the first college essay she’s ever read, because that’s literally all of them. (Also she says he’s “skir-Ting” with a hilariously exaggerated pronunciation. —Nerdy Spice)
  • I totally covet Joey’s sweater. She looks so cozy!
  • Gretchen snarks that Dawson should write about fame, fortune, and “bagging a girl from the WB” in his college essay (shot for the meta-reference!), and he says, “Moments like this it becomes glaringly obvious just how related to Pacey you really are.” That’s actually kind of adorable.
  • Nerdy Spice and I hate the cult of Audrey Hepburn, but still, it’s SO CUTE when Pacey gazes at Joey and expresses his elation at “being the only guy in the room who gets to walk in with Audrey Hepburn on his arm.” It’s one of my favorite Pacey compliments.
    Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.27.50 PM
  • In the background of the party, while Gretchen is staring lovingly at Dawson in the foreground, you can kind of see Jen saying “Whoa!!” at Gail’s pregnant belly with visible surprise, and then asking to touch it. Seriously, what is wrong with her??
  • But also, omg Gretchen’s notch neckline. How many shirts did YOU have with this neckline?
  • Gretchen, a college student, tells Dawson to come downstairs because her party is lacking in “cute high school boys at the moment.” Ew! She could have just said “cute boys,” even that would have been better.
  • Ugh, and then she waxes poetic about Dawson’s “great big thumping heart”! That’s 20 shots! [And they literally used thumping earlier in the episode about Brooks’ film! –Nerdy Spice]
  • I love that Dawson originally says the leads’ chemistry in Turn Away My Sweet is “popping off the screen,” and in the end they’re supposed to be stand-ins for Joey and Pacey.
  • This networking party Joey’s at is weird on many levels, but also weird that Joey is so cagey about working at the yacht club. I knew plenty of rich snobs when I was younger… be-LIEVE me… but I never knew one who would actually look down her nose at a part-time job. I’m sure those people exist, but I really think that the notion of “working for spending money is beneath us” is not as widespread as people think, because a lot of rich people genuinely want to believe that their kids have “earned” everything they have. —Nerdy Spice
  • Pacey tells a “rectum, I damn near killed him!” joke, and the Kindly Dean acts like it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard. I kind of love this guy. [Keets thinks he’s above this show, but “[]er, I don’t even know’er” is like his FAVORITE genre of joke –Nerdy Spice]
  • It’s definitely not okay that Jack read Jen’s diary (the men on this show have a lot of trouble with the concept of privacy). But I love, love, love when Jack makes fun of Jen for having sexy dreams about him. Priceless.
  • Mr. Brooks manages to scratch his head in an epically, er, thirsty way after talking to Grams. I did not know such a thing was possible.
    DC 409 thirsty
  • Also weird: that Pacey wants to get away from a stressful situation by going to… Dawson’s Christmas party. Is that the apparently immense power of the senior prank working its magic, or a contrivance to ensure that Joey and Pacey see Gretchen and Dawson kissing?
  • When I was a young and foolish D/J shipper, I liked the symmetry of Dawson and Joey both kissing other people for the first time in episodes when they are strongly reminded of the other person (the whole AJ/Morgan debacle in “A Cinderella Story,” the Brooks story in this episode), but now I just find it annoying.
  • It’s pretty funny to see Pacey and Joey’s faces totally fall in horror when they see Dawson and Gretchen kissing. Let the drama begin!
    Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.41.36 PM


Definitely Joey and Pacey’s “mutual admiration society” at the end. Not only did both actors sell the hell out of what could have been a very average makeup scene, but it’s also a moment that really makes the characters seem like they’re on even ground. Generally, Joey and Pacey both sort of act like Pacey is lucky to be with her, which he is, but this episode illustrates that they have very different strengths, and that she’s equally lucky to be with him.

Most cringeworthy moment:

Joey’s apology to Kindly Dean is super embarrassing, but I have to go with her passive-aggressive, “Yeah, Pacey, why aren’t you applying to Fake Harvard?” It’s so transparently petty, and more than a little mean to Pacey.

Most wrongly used five-dollar word:

Yet another wrong usage of “beg the question.” The writers are doing so well this season, can’t they just learn the meaning of this one phrase? [Also happened in the previous episode! But I also have another contender: Mr. Brooks says he’s ready to “dispense with advice,” meaning he’s ready to ignore some advice, when he actually means “dispense advice,” i.e. GIVE some advice. Awkward! Of course, he also pronounces it Mack-Donald’s so maybe he’s just an unreasonable human being. –Nerdy Spice]

Drunkenness level:

30 shots! Mostly for Dawson’s great big thumping heart (ew, who says that?), and a few more for incorrect literary references and Dawson blaming Joey for everything that’s wrong in the world, even writer’s block. 

Next installment here.

Previous installment here.



  1. You may need to add more shots here, because the movie “The Broken Hearts Club” (the one referenced as being “a gay St Elmo’s Fire”) was written and directed by Greg Berlanti. It’s about a bunch of gay guys trying to find love, and it stars Timothy Olyphant, amongst others, and it’s actually really cute (and, IMO, better than St Elmo’s Fire). Does the ’10 shots’ rule apply here if it’s made by that season’s showrunner, or does it only apply to KW movies?



    1. Ha, well the KW movies are the ones we recognized most easily, but it stands to reason that the other showrunners would have thought this type of meta-joke similarly clever! I guess I need to see both St. Elmo’s Fire *and* the Broken Hearts Club now.



  2. I think they missed an opportunity with “The Unusual Suspects” for an actual Keyser Soze moment by revealing Jenn and Joey being the real pranksters.



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