Welcome to Up the Creek, y'all! In honor of the 15th anniversary of Dawson's Creek - which premiered on Jan. 20, 1998, and which filmed on-site in Wilmington - we're revisiting season one, one episode at a time. I'm Kate Elizabeth Queram, the StarNews environment reporter/former weather blogger, which obviously makes me perfectly suited to be your guide here (I totally bet that creek has water quality issues). I've never watched the show - though I think I tuned in for the very last episode SO I DO KNOW WHO JOEY ENDS UP WITH OMG - so please join me as I see the first season for the first time. New posts will go up every Friday. Legal parameters force me to say that all screencaps, and the teenage angst contained therein, are the property of Sony Television. Let's hit the creek.
The show opens in fantastic Nicholas Sparks action, with some shots of the water at sunset and a nice big house. Inside the nice big house we see Dawson and Joey sprawled on the bed watching E.T. Within the first minute, there is some really magical 90's hair happening.
After the movie ends, Joey puts on her sneakers and says she's going home. Dawson's all, "What? Stay overnight in my room!" because apparently this is a thing that they do, but she's all, "I can't. I am 15 now, and puberty is about to burst forth from my loins. THINGS CHANGE, DAWSON. EVOLVE."
She goes on to explain that they start high school Monday (which I guess means they both have summer birthdays because I was 14 when I started high school. A quick survey of my deskmates reveals that so were they, except for Wayne but his high school was three years so he doesn't count), and she has boobs and he has "genitalia" and so they can't just be having sleepovers anymore because they might accidentally have sex. So Dawson's all, "Do you love me or something?" And Joey replies, "I’ve seen you burp, barf, pick your nose and scratch your butt, so I don’t think I’m getting a thing for you,” although from everything I’ve been told I’m pretty sure that’s what marriage is so it’s clear where this is headed. Anyway, he convinces her that they are probably not going to accidentally have sex, they have an awkward wrestling match and then go to sleep, in their clothes, without brushing their teeth, so I guess it’s a good thing they’re not dating, because that’s going to be nasty in the morning.
The next day (I assume), Joey sits on a chair on the dock sunning herself, and then a swamp thing comes and pulls her into the water, chair and all. At this point you may think, "What kind of teenage show is this?" But it turns out that Dawson is making a swamp-thing movie and he cast his best buds, Joey and Pacey, as the stars. You can tell he is serious about the movie because he is wearing some sweet headphones to listen to the audio.
As Joey and Pacey climb out of the water - and I'd like to point out that nobody retrieves the chair, so ostensibly it's still floating around in there and this is why the Cape Fear River watershed is polluted - Dawson yells at them because they are terrible at acting. But it only matters for a second because right then a cab pulls up, and Michelle Williams climbs out.
Pacey immediately goes to scam on her and Dawson follows while Joey looks super annoyed because she is brunette, not blond, and she has up until this point apparently been the only girl in town. Anyway, Michelle - whose character's name is Jen, which I type mostly to remind myself - gets out of her cab, with no luggage, and comes to meet all of them. It turns out that she's met Dawson before because her grandparents are his neighbors. Dawson replies, "Right, the granddaughter from New York. You look different."
Joey, being obsessed as she is with hormones and glandular development, says, "Puberty," then introduces herself as, "Joey who lives down the creek. We've never met...ever," which is awkward and also a Taylor Swift song kind of, and then we learn that Jen - a teenager - has been sent to help her grandparents out while her grandfather recovers from surgery. Seems legit. The boys slobber over Jen for awhile and then they head into Dawson's house. As they walk there, we see that under his swamp thing costume, Pacey is wearing this.
I realize this isn't the best picture but I just felt you all needed to see his tube socks. They head into Dawson's house, where they discover Dawson's parents making out on the wicker coffee table.
They kind of straighten up quickly and his mom leaves for work, and while she is saying goodbye to Dawson's dad she calls him "Mr. Man Meat" which is pretty emotionally scarring.
Meanwhile, Joey is rowing her boat home, to a house that has a lot of birdhouses outside. A guy comes out with a pot of gumbo or something and asks her to taste it. Then a woman - who we learn later is Joey's sister - comes out and yells at Joey for borrowing her stuff. Then the dude asks the pregnant lady to try the gumbo and she says "It's orgasmic," so this is probably how she got all knocked up in the first place.
In the next scene we are transported to a video store full of VHS tapes. Remember VHS tapes? One time my dad taped over a store-bought Gidget movie with some football game and I was really upset. That kind of thing doesn't happen anymore, which makes me sad for the youth of America. Anyway, Dawson and Pacey work at the video rental place, and Pacey ponders whether Dawson should be called "Mr. Man Meat Junior," which again is pretty emotionally scarring if you ask me. Then Pacey gets into an argument with a blond girl who is apparently the daughter of the guy who owns the rental place but she annoys me so I'm not including her. After they finish squabbling, this older lady saunters into the video place wearing, basically, a slip, and some Kenny G music plays while Pacey ogles her from afar in slow motion.
Dawson says, "Have some respect. That's somebody's mother." but Pacey reminds him that his parents were just about to go to third base on the wicker coffee table which means that moms totally have sex. (By the way, the hot older lady is Shira Huntzberger from Gilmore Girls, who was kind of a drunk, if I remember correctly, and has apparently divorced newspaper magnate Mitchem Huntzberger and started her life over in Capeside.)
She wants to rent a video, so Pacey tells her to fill out paperwork and give him a credit card and then asks if she's new in town, and I just keep thinking how fortunate it is that Netflix didn't exist in 1998 or this interaction could not have taken place. Turns out Shira's name is Tamara, pronounced Tuh-MAH-rah. She and Pacey engage in some cringe-inducing flirtation that culminates with her saying she's in the mood for vintage romance to the tune of "The Graduate," which is of course a movie about an older woman seducing a younger man. She rents the movie and leaves while Pacey fantasizes about the statutory rape in his future.
After work, Dawson goes home with a bunch of videos and is running around the side of his house when he sees Jen sitting out on the dock, so he goes and sits down next to her. He asks about her grandfather who, don't forget, is under 15-year-old Jen's care. She says her grandmother keeps praying which is awkward because Jen "doesn't do the whole God thing," and then asks about the videos he's rented, which are all swamp-thing movies. He says it's research for the film he's making. Then he reminds us that he's 15 (seriously, he says "I'm 15") and invites her to see his "studio," which is just his bedroom, decorated creepily with a ton of Spielberg posters and memorabilia. He explains that the posters are arranged in "receding box office order," culminating with the "critically acclaimed" doors of his closet. Then he opens the closet to show the posters hanging on the inside, which he keeps for "humility purposes," and this is the point at which I feel this girl should be backing slowly out of his bedroom, but she doesn't.
While this bizarre courting ritual is going on, Joey climbs up to Dawson's bedroom window via a ladder and finds him talkin' Spielberg with Jen. Then Jen's grandmother, ostensibly taking a break from her non-stop praying, yells for Jen, and Jen leans out the window - which naturally has no screen, don't people on TV shows worry about bugs? - and Joey sees her and is newly enraged because she is brunette and pre-pubescent and then she climbs in the window after Jen leaves, joining a long line of TV BFFs who enter and exit their friend's room only through the window. (Other examples: Zack Morris with Jessie Spano and Kelly Kapowski on Saved By The Bell, Sam into Clarissa's room on Clarissa Explains It All, Cory Matthews into Topanga Lawrence's room on Boy Meets World, Rory Gilmore into Dean Forrester's room on Gilmore Girls. I am about 98 percent sure that this never ever happens in real life, if only because REAL WINDOWS HAVE SCREENS and also wouldn't your parents think it's weird and creepy, ESPECIALLY if, as on this show, the ladder the teenager is using to get to said window is ALWAYS PROPPED AGAINST THE HOUSE, so it's unclear to me why this is such an enduring trend on teen/tween shows, but whatever.) Joey and Dawson sit down and watch the news - his mom is a local TV anchor - and Dawson asks Joey if she thinks his mom is sleeping with Bob, her co-anchor. Joey says he's wack 'cause his life is perfect and he just can't accept reality because he's such a weird movie freak.
The next morning, Jen enters her grandfather's room. He's sleeping so naturally she takes the opportunity to open his pajama top and finger his surgery scar.
Jen's grandmother walks by and, understandably, asks what the hell she's doing, and then says breakfast is ready, and Jen's all, "I'm glad I'm here," and her grandmother is all, "Whatever. Hurry. You'll be late," which in my opinion is an appropriate response given the scar-touching.
At breakfast, Jen pumps her grandma for info about Dawson. Grams says, "STAY AWAY HE IS TROUBLE," which I kind of agree with, given the super creepy bedroom tour. Next, Jen asks about Joey, and Grams says, "She crawls in his bedroom window. HARLOT. THEY DON'T EVEN GO TO CHURCH." (She obviously received the puberty memo that I am pretty sure Joey distributed around the neighborhood.) Then Grams asks Jen to say grace and Jen says no. Grams is now kind of reminding me of the creepy mother from Carrie. (I can't find a non-terrifying photo to prove this point but just trust me.) Jen tells her grandmother that she's an atheist. Surprisingly, Grams does not drop dead on the spot.
Later, at school, the annoying blond girl from the video store comes to ask Jen if she parties, and Jen says she "likes to have a good time, substance-free." Blond girl says she's lame and walks away. (? I've never been the new kid in school but I feel it's pretty safe to assume that on your first day, the resident party girl doesn't approach you at your locker and ask about your recreational drug use.) No matter, because then Dawson comes and walks Jen to class. Meanwhile, Pacey is in his English class balancing a book on his head - it's unclear why - when Tamara walks in. Turns out she's his English teacher. Elsewhere, Jen - who I've determined is wearing a skort - walks into biology class and spies Joey, which is surprising given Joey's foolproof plan to hide from her, which involved "slouching down" and "looking to the left."
Dawson heads into a classroom and confronts the teacher, who's sitting there watching Psycho. The teacher happens to be Mel Silver, father of David Silver, on the original Beverly Hills, 90210.
Instead of saying hello like a normal person, Dawson regales Mel Silver with a bunch of creepy film knowledge. Honestly, I think Dawson's parents should spend less time making out on coffee tables and more time having their son tested for a personality disorder. Understandably, Mel Silver is all, "Who are you?" Dawson says, "I was denied admittance to your film class." Mel Silver goes on to explain that Dawson is only a sophomore, that his class is popular, and that priority is given to upperclassmen. Dawson tells Mel Silver that he's wack. Mel Silver asks Dawson why he's freaking out so much. Dawson basically replies, "MOVIES ARE MY LIFE. I AM GOING TO BE A FILMMAKER. IF IT WERE POSSIBLE TO PURCHASE STEVEN SPIELBERG'S TOENAIL CLIPPINGS ON EBAY, I WOULD TOTALLY DO IT." He gives an impassioned speech about how this is a small town and how Mel Silver could easily override this "bizarre rule that denies students their education,” and Mel Silver still turns him down. Nowhere in this exchange does anyone mention that next year Dawson will be an upperclassman and can just take the class then. Dawson flounces out.
After class, Jen and Joey walk together. Jen says that her grandma says that Joey is severely troubled, which seems like a strange way to try to be friends. Joey's all, thanks, your grams is cracked, and reveals that her dad is in prison, the gumbo chef is her sister's boyfriend, and that her mom is dead. She tells Jen that Dawson likes her and warns her not to "abuse his feelings," and then walks away, presumably to jot the conversation down in her puberty diary, which I guess only takes a minute or two because in the next scene they are all sitting together at lunch, and Dawson asks Jen to read Act Three of his movie because he's having "climax issues," and there is just no way this kid doesn't have some sort of social disorder. Understandably, this is Joey's face after that remark:
Pacey engages in more inappropriate flirtation with Tamara about her favorite movies, all of which involve older women seducing younger men. In this talk he discovers that she'll be going to the movies that night, so he finds Dawson, explains that Tamara is his teacher, and then says they are going to the movie theater to stalk her and that Dawson should invite Jen. Dawson does, Jen says yes, and then Dawson runs to find Joey so he can invite her to balance out the boy/girl ratio of the outing. Joey is hesitant but finally says yes, and Dawson thanks her and assures her that "Nothing's going to change with our relationship," which makes her kinda bummed, even though it's exactly what she said she wanted at the beginning of the episode. This was before he started saying things like, "Climax issues," though, so maybe she wishes things would change now because he's gotten weird and annoying.
Later that afternoon, Jen tells Grams that she's going to the movies with the hellraisers. Grams says it's fine as long as Jen will go to church with her on Sunday, but Jen says no because she is a godless heathen and she's fine with that. Then they make a deal, sort of, that Jen will go to church when Grams can say the word "penis" so it seems pretty clear that Jen is intent on killing her grandmother slowly with her pagan ways.
Next door, Dawson's dad is playing with dolls while watching his wife on the news.
He takes a break to tell Dawson that "Watching her work is the best foreplay." About his wife. TO HIS SON. So then Dawson goes off on a rant, saying, "WHY IS SEX EVEN SUCH A BIG DEAL? SPIELBERG NEVER EVEN HAD A SEX SCENE IN ANY OF HIS MOVIES," just proving my theory that something is seriously wrong with him. The doorbell rings so Dawson’s dad is spared from having to think of a response to this, which is good, because I don't think there's anything to say to that except, "You're weird, kid."
Joey's about to leave her house when her pregnant sister stops and puts some lipstick on her, then instructs her to freshen it up about every hour. However, she fails to tell Joey that she's wearing ill-fitting mom jeans.
As the group walks to the movie theater, Joey asks Jen a lot of really inappropriate questions about her hair dye and whether she's a virgin and while there are no Spielberg references in any of it, it still leads me to believe that she's been spending too much time with Dawson. Then as they go into the theater Joey shrugs, giving us a great view of the wireless microphone clipped to her mom jeans.
Inside the theater (which I recognize instantly as Thalian Hall), they sit down and Pacey immediately sees Tamara come in and goes to talk to her, leaving Joey alone with Jen and Dawson. Because there's a movie playing and movies seem to be all that Dawson thinks about, and because he thinks sex should be left unseen the way God and Spielberg intended, I’m surprised that as soon as the lights go down he starts contemplating making a move on Jen, which in Dawsonworld means holding her hand, or at least thinking about it. Joey watches this, mortified, and then when Dawson finally grabs her hand, turns and asks, at a completely normal volume, how much emphasis Jen places on penis size. DURING A MOVIE. The conversation continues, and none of them are using their inside voices, and nobody in the audience even gives them a rude look, which seems unrealistic to me given that they're being really loud AND that the conversation is about genitalia.
Meanwhile, Pacey slides in next to Tamara, and - AGAIN, AT A TOTALLY NORMAL VOLUME - has an entire conversation with her. Offers her a Milk Dud. Is generally super smooth. He's all, "I came with friends but I can totally sit here," which seems kind of like, “I live with my mom but I can totally stay out as late as I want.” But while he’s trying to put the moves on her, Mel Silver rolls up and Pacey realizes that Tamara is on a date. She explains that it's weird that Pacey thought she was interested in hm because she was only renting a movie, and then Pacey stands up really fast and Mel's popcorn goes flying on a guy sitting behind them and the guy punches Pacey right in the face.
Joey and Dawson miss this whole thing because they're outside yelling at each other. She says she's being ignored because of Jen, and she is pissed. She tells Dawson that he's "so far removed from reality that you can't even see what's in front of you," and goes on to say that he’s only looking for conflict for his movie script, which seems kind of convoluted to me because a) that movie is about swamp monsters so what does any of this have to do with that at all and b) Dawson was just trying to get to first base with Jen and most importantly c) Joey is clearly the one causing all of the drama here. Then she tells him to grow up and walks away.
After this, Dawson walks Jen home and there is this awkward scene where he tries to kiss her, she pulls away, he talks about how much of a loser he is, she gives him a pep talk and then she runs inside, stopping to say, "I'm just going to pretend we kissed, okay?" He looks really happy about this even though I'm not sure it can really be construed as a good thing.
MEANWHILE, Pacey's walking the docks alone at night - which I don't really recommend - and who should he run into but Tamara, who REALLY shouldn't be walking the docks alone at night, especially not with her enormous purse that is just crying out to be mugged.
You might think this is realistic because sometimes women take big purses to the movies to smuggle in snacks, but Mel Silver bought her a huge bucket of popcorn, so that doesn't hold up here. Anyway, she goes to talk to Pacey, who has an enormous black eye, which seems like kind of a big deal since he's 15 and the guy who hit him was clearly at least 30 and I think that's aggravated assault with about 100 witnesses, but nothing is ever made of it so I assume the guy just walked away and it was all fine. Pacey yells at Tamara about how she was obviously flirting with him and anything else she might try to tell herself is crap. In real life, I believe this would end with a slap to the face, especially when Pacey says a bunch of stuff to her about how she's aging and then ends with, “I’m the best sex you’ll never have,” but because it’s TV, she tells him he’s not just a boy and then they make out. Then suddenly she’s all OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE and runs away. It's never explained why she was just hanging out on the docks. It will be interesting to see if she ever has to face consequences for what she's done, but since aggravated assault man didn't, it's probably safe to assume that Shira Huntzberger will be haunting the creek for many years.
Dawson enters his Spielberg shrine and finds Joey hiding in his closet. She flops on his bed holding an ET doll and it seems that despite all of the evening's drama, she has followed her sister’s advice to freshen up her lipstick every hour or so.
Dawson apologizes to Joey for being insensitive, which is confusing to me since she was basically a huge jerk to him for no real reason. He compliments her lipstick and she gets all excited, but he's like, “But that's it. I'm not into you." She says she's not into him either but she just didn't want Jen holding his hand. And then she brings up puberty again. It’s cool. I figured it would happen since it’s almost the end of the episode.
After their talk Joey goes to leave through the window and Dawson once again tells her to stay the night and she's all, "I can't stay here anymore. We can't talk about everything like we used to." He says that's not true so she asks him how often he "walks the dog," which has nothing to do with walking or a dog if you catch my drift, and he's all, "Uh, okay. You can leave." So she climbs out the window and runs back to her row boat crying. Dawson collapses dramatically next to his FRAMED PHOTO OF SPIELBERG
and then all of a sudden he gets up and runs to the window and tells her that he mostly "walks the dog" in the morning. Apparently, he's a Katie Couric fan.
So Joey's rowing home all happy that she knows this (I cannot imagine why, it is a horrifying piece of information) and she sees Dawson's mom getting dropped off by her co-anchor and it turns out that they are totally banging. Or at least making out.
Which, I’m sorry, but if you’re a married news anchor having an affair with your co-anchor, wouldn’t you maybe NOT make out with said co-anchor in front of your house? Does this mean that he picks her up for work every day? Because that's weird, and maybe that's what should have made Dawson suspicious instead of the way she says "Back to you, Bob," which also makes no sense because every time she says it to him they're sitting right next to each other at the news desk. Anyway, that's how the episode ends. Will Joey tell Dawson about his mom? Will Jen ever let him kiss her for real? Will Pacey go all LeTourneau with Tamara? Will she stop carrying that purse around the docks at night? Will aggravated assault man ever see justice?! I guess we'll find out next week.