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 here 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.
Episode four (real title: "Discovery") opens in Dawson's room, where Dawson and Joey are watching footage of Jen walking in slow motion.
This footage is pretty clearly from the pilot episode when Jen rolls up in the cab and they all see her for the first time. Dawson definitely wasn't filming that, so I'm not sure where he got this phantom footage unless he has access to the Season One DVDs like I do. For this screening event, Joey has decided to wear this poncho.
Joey is super annoyed at having to watch this slow-motion reel of Jen walking and decides to use the footage to predict Jen's future (maybe she also has access to the DVDs). Apparently, Jen is going to attend a small liberal arts college, marry a bond trader and have boring kids in Connecticut. Joey sucks at this game because she doesn't mention Heath Ledger at all. Dawson changes the subject and asks Joey what he should get his parents for their anniversary, but before Joey can answer Pacey and Tamara's sex tape pops up on the screen. They realize pretty quickly that the woman is Tamara, but they can't tell that the dude is Pacey because the only part of him that appears is the side of his ear. That makes it a pretty bad sex tape. Since Dawson technically filmed it, I imagine that's a blow to his ego.
While you're gazing upon that piece of cinematic wonder, I'm going to take the opportunity to tell you about my least favorite scene in the opening credits:
They're dancing awkwardly in a row boat that's moored in shallow water. Y'all, why? Why are they doing this? They're out next to the dock so I'm pretty sure they're not dancing to music. It's like an awkward dance sandwich at a frat party, but instead of drunk on a sticky dance floor they are inexplicably on a row boat that is totally going to tip over and just sit down and STOP IT and also GET OFF MY LAWN. It legitimately fills me with rage every time I see it.
I feel better having gotten this off my chest.
The next day at the restaurant, Dawson and Joey tell Jen and Pacey about the Tamara sex tape. Pacey immediately wigs out and super subtly asks who the guy is.
Dawson explains that you can't really see the guy. Pacey's all, "Can I see the tape when can I see the tape show me the tape," which is kind of awkward but because Dawson doesn't pick up on social cues he thinks it's fine and promises to have a sex-tape viewing party with Pacey. It's kind of like when you get together with friends to watch the Super Bowl, except much grosser.
Jen says she’s gotta get home and Dawson says he'll walk her which I guess means she wasn't trying to get away from him, proving she has zero survival instincts. They’re holding hands and when they get to her house he goes to kiss her, but then Gram peers out the window and Jen is all, "JESUS IS WATCHING." She tells him the longer they wait, the better it'll be, and then she goes to leave but I guess she just can't resist that sweet Dawson booty because she runs back to lay one on him.
Gram sees it and is appropriately appalled.
You and me both, girlfriend. Stay strong.
When Jen gets inside,Gram reminds her that a lot of Jen's problems started with kissing. She still doesn't go into detail about said problems, but apparently kissin’ boys in New York is at least part of what made Jen's parents ship her off to Capeside.
Dawson goes home and watches his parents make out for a while.
Eventually Dawson goes upstairs and finds Pacey in his room, rifling through his piles of film looking for the sex tape. Turns out Dawson is hiding it in a hollow book! I can't imagine why since I'm willing to bet money that his parents would approve of him shooting sex tapes on the sly and hoarding them in his Spielberg torture cave. Also, the fact that Dawson just has a hollow book lying around makes me even more sure that there are instruments of death tucked all over that room.
Pacey takes the tape and then, with a lot of nervous panting, confesses that he's the guy banging Tamara. Dawson, blissfully, is speechless for once.
Then Pacey asks Dawson's opinion of his sexin' skills. "Performance-wise, did I cut it, man?” Dawson, who is obviously an expert on sex technique and who obviously didn't see much of Pacey's "performance" since we established earlier that the tape didn't really show anything, looks all proud and says, “You did fine, man.” Pacey is thrilled to hear that Dawson thinks he's good in bed.
Joey and Dawson are shopping for his parents’ anniversary gift. Dawson says he's unsure what to get them because they spend so much time "making out and dry-humping in the living room,” so I guess he does realize this isn’t normal behavior. At the store they run into Dawson’s mom, who is helping co-anchor Bob shop for suits.
They go over to say hi and Joey is giving major 'tude face
but Dawson, being a moron, seems to think it is totally normal that they're shopping together. Co-anchor Bob sucks up to Dawson by saying that he’s an “indie fan” and would love to see Dawson’s horrible swamp-thing movie when it’s done, so I think it's safe to say that co-anchor Bob will get what's coming to him.
Tamara’s working and drinking coffee and Pacey drops in. She tells him she's trying to decide what book they should read next in class, and Pacey tells her that the books they've read so far are a little light on the bangin' for his taste. He explains that in the books - Romeo And Juliet, The Scarlet Letter - sex is always followed by some huge tragedy. "That's not real life," he tells her, so you definitely get the sense that this is terrible foreshadowing and he'll get hit by a bus soon or something. Then he tries to hold her hand IN PUBLIC and she yanks it away and he makes this face
So either he's upset or he just realized he left the stove on.
Back in the Spielberg torture cave, Dawson screens his terrible swamp-thing movie for Jen. He asks for her reaction and she says it's super great and really promising, so I guess she must like him a lot. He invites Jen to come to the TV station with him while he does some editing, and then he hits on her with movie trivia again which seems to really work on her because it results in them making out for a while. He tries to get her to lie down, though, and she's all, "I'm goin' slow, yo, I promised Grams." I'm not posting any photos of this because I can't watch Michelle Williams pretend to enjoy kissing James van der Beek anymore, y'all. I just can't.
Anyway, so then we're at the TV studio! I wonder if it's WWAY. First on three!! The film editing essentially consists of Dawson trying to get Jen to scream the right way. Apparently she sucks at it, which I'm sure he secretly enjoys because it means no one is likely to hear her after he hides her in his closet.
They take a break for Diet Pepsi. REMEMBER WHEN DIET PEPSI CANS LOOKED LIKE THIS?!
While they're enjoying their product-placement diet sodas, Dawson sees co-anchor Bob kissing his mom. Because if you were having an affair with your coworker, of course you'd be making out at work. Honestly, these people are the worst ever at having an illicit affair.
Dawson is SHOCKED! So he and Jen go to sit on a bench and think about it while angry rock music plays.
After sitting on the bench for a while, Dawson ditches Jen and heads to Joey's. He tells her about the affair and says that he's thinking of telling his dad, and Joey tells him that's a bad idea. She tells him that she kinda sorta knew about his mom and co-anchor Bob, and Dawson gets super pissed that she never told him.
Joey tells him that maybe if he wasn't so preoccupied with Jen he would have noticed it himself, which is a crappy thing to say. This annoys me, because I dislike having to side with Dawson, but come on, Joey. Don't turn this into a fight about Jen.
So, it turns into a fight about Jen. Dawson tells Joey that she has "disengaged" from their friendship. She says, "I just didn't know how to tell you." He's all, "ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS," and then he literally spins on his heel and stalks away, stopping only to yell "HAVE A NICE LIFE" over his shoulder. I laughed really loudly at this, like loud enough to startle my coworkers, so suffice to say my Dawson sympathies were short-lived, and thank goodness for that.
Pacey bikes downtown and sees Mel Silver having coffee with Tamara. I think they didn’t spend a lot of money on Mel Silver’s wardrobe because he’s always wearing that denim shirt.
Pacey is hella pissed that Tamara is willing to touch Mel Silver in public. Who does she think she is?!
Dawson and Jen meet up and he paces around a lot talking about monogamy. He asks Jen to be honest with him always, since Joey is such a liar and a terrible friend. He’s all, “SECRETS DESTROY AND WOUND AND HURT AND KILL,” and Jen starts to look uncomfortable because of all of her New York secrets.
She asks if Dawson is ever curious as to why she suddenly had to move to Capeside. He's all, "Your grandpa is sick!" and Jen is all, "My grandmother is a nurse, idiot!" She explains that she came up here because clichés about teenagers in the big city are true. Turns out she was a hell raiser, stayin’ out too late, runnin’ with a bad crowd, havin’ all the sex with guys who were not her boyfriend. Dawson’s all, "YOU SAID YOU WERE A VIRGIN!" He says he’s okay with her super sordid past, but obviously he's not really okay with it because, WOMEN, MAN. WHY DO THEY ALL GOTTA RUIN DAWSON'S LIFE WITH THEIR LIES?
He spends the whole next day at school avoiding Jen. Pacey spends it stalking Tamara and Mel Silver and getting super angry when he spies Tamara fixing Mel Silver's tie in the hallway. HOW DARE SHE CARE ABOUT HIS APPEARANCE!
Fueled by his indignation, Pacey goes to confront Tamara. He yells at her about AIDS and she's like, "Right, well, I would definitely want to know if you were intimate with someone else, because AIDS be scary, yo." This makes Pacey even more angry. "THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME. Is it gonna be me or Mel Silver?" Tamara tells him that she'd hate to think she had to choose but that Pacey's being an idiot, because Mel Silver is gay and they are just bffs! Then she realizes she just outed Mel Silver to a student and tells Pacey that it's a secret.
Pacey's happy to hear this but then he's all, "I tried to hold your hand and you wouldn't let me!" Tamara says, we were in public and unlike Dawson's mother, I don't suck at the illicit affair thing. Then she tells Pacey that she's confused about their relationship, too, and is just trying to make sense of it, and then Pacey is happy because he realizes they are on the same confused page.
Jen confronts Dawson and says he’s being weird and that she wants to make sure he’s okay with her sexin’ in the big city. He tells her that he is but she calls him on the fact that he's been avoiding her and looking at her weird. He says nothing to deny it and then she runs away.
I guess they're on a break now, so he will probably end up banging the girl from the copy place.
At the video place, Dawson tells Pacey about Jen's sexin' and Pacey says, who cares if she's not a virgin. She's totally giving you an in (pun intended, I think) by indicating that “she wants it just as bad as you do," which is actually exactly the opposite of what Jen has said, since she's made it pretty clear she wants to take it slow. Dawson explains that he is just having a lot of problems adjusting to life right now, what with Pacey having sex on the reg, his mom banging Bob and Jen not being a virgin.
Pacey asks if Dawson has talked to his mom yet and Dawson says he’s gonna tell his dad instead, and apparently he has decided to do it right before their anniversary date. He probably decided to do it after he realized they were wearing matching shirts.
But Dawson's dad doesn't give him a chance to spill about the affair, because he won't shut up about how great his wife is. Dawson's about to tell him anyway but then his mom walks in and kisses his dad and then walks out again and then Dawson’s all, well crap, and he just says happy anniversary.
Jen goes to visit Joey at the restaurant to ask for Dawson advice. She tells Joey that she told Dawson that she’s not a virgin. Joey is all, girl, Dawson is high maintenance and immature and is confused about basically everything. Plus, she says, his sex life is "barren. It's a desert." She advises Jen to just wait for Dawson to grow up, which seems, honestly, like it could take decades, so I guess that's what sustained this show for so long.
Pacey is hanging out at Tamara’s house. There’s a lot of wicker and pink floral patterns and a birdhouse lamp.
It kind of reminds me of Miss Bliss' house, from the very early Saved By The Bell years.
Was there one person in televisionland responsible for making sure that TV teachers lived in hideous houses? (Also, that's terrible advice, Miss Bliss. I bet you are in a codependent relationship.) Anyway, Pacey asks Tamara how many guys she's slept with "who mattered." She says a total of five. We’re supposed to believe, also, that she’s 36. Then she lets it slip that he’s one of the five. It’s kind of a cute moment, actually.
Jen goes to talk to her unconscious grandfather about sex and how everyone thinks she’s a big slut. He's unconscious and so has zero words of comfort to offer, but does seem happy that she is not inappropriately fingering his surgery scar.
A Sarah McLachlan song plays as Joey finds Dawson gazing at the water.
She says that she explained to Jen that Dawson is just mad at his mom and taking it out on her and Dawson literally says, “I’m a teenager, Joey. I’m mad at the world.” He tells her to shut up because he isn’t sure if they are friends anymore and it’s not just because she didn’t tell him about co-anchor Bob, it’s because things feel different lately. She tells him that he gets mad at her too easily, and he says that she's way too critical. Then they just laugh. I don't know why.
He says that in an alternate universe, they were probably married for 50 years. Then there’s this really long, drawn-out conversation about how they each brought dates to the wedding, but maybe they ended up leaving together. He breaks the moment and says, “I can’t remember,” and she says, “Well, when it comes back to you, I’d like to know how it ends,” and he says, “You’ll be my first call.” I guess now they’re admitting they’re secretly in love?
Joey acknowledges this, says, “all this subtext is making me tired.” All I can think of is that it must have been humid in Wilmington when they shot this scene because girl, my hair does that too.
Then she says, “No matter how the wedding turned out, I’m pretty sure I had a wonderful time up until the end.” So now I don't really know what's going on. Are they still friends? Are they more? I guess we'll find out. For now, it's just Sarah McLachlan playing us out while Joey stops and gazes at Dawson from afar.