Up the "Creek" - S1e11, The Carnival Of Cool
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.
BUT FIRST A DISCLAIMER: According to both IMDb and reader Sarah (thanks, Sarah!) the horrible scare murder seance episode actually aired after the one I'm about to recap. I don't know, y'all. The scare one came first on the DVD; I can only conclude that by the time they were putting this show onto discs, no one had any fucks left to give about it.
Screencap to prove I am not lying:
I probably should have posted that screencap before anyway, to let you marvel at Dawson, resplendent in pleated khakis, contemplating the screengrabs of his past.
Episode 11 (real title: "Double Date") opens with Dawson moping around his room whining to Joey about Jen. He's all confused because she hasn't tried to get together with him since they broke up, so I guess he's unclear on the concept of a breakup. Joey asks what he’ll do if Jen asks him to be friends, and he says he’s not sure he can be friends with someone he wants to be in a relationship with. Joey gives him exasperated eyes and says, "IT CAN BE DONE."
The next morning, co-anchor Bob calls the house like a chump and Mr. Leery gets hella pissed. Mrs. Leery says it was just about work. Her enormous hair distracts me from noticing anything else in the scene.
Seriously, what's she hiding in there? (Probably it is full of secrets.)
Jen approaches Dawson at school and asks him if they can be friends. Dawson tells her he needs time to think about it, then heads to biology class to commiserate with Pacey. Pacey says that he knows that Dawson wants to get back with Jen, and that the easiest way to do that is to feign indifference. Pacey is why girls have trust issues, you guys.
As karmic retribution, Pacey gets a 32 percent on his midterm and has to stay after class. His mustachioed teacher says that Pacey can do an extra-credit project and he'll pass, but the twist is that it's a partner project with Joey! Neither of them are thrilled. Mustache guy does not care.
You're no Mel Silver, sir, but you'll do. Also, if y'all didn't immediately key in on the word "anus" written above his shoulder, you are bigger people than I.
Dawson finds Jen and tells her he would totally love to be her bestie, and to prove it he will make awkward small talk RIGHT THIS SECOND! Instantly, Jen seems to regret this idea.
He asks what she's doing that weekend and she's all, uh, well, I have a date with QB Cliff, we're going to the carnival. Dawson totally plays it cool 'cause he's cool and who even cares because he has a date and they are going to the carnival too HOW WEIRD! Let's make it a double date! That's not weird or inappropriate at all! And Jen, as she is wont to do, agrees to this, so frankly she deserves what's coming to her.
Dawson then goes to lunch and has an emotional breakdown, but Pacey is all, no, this is great! Everything is going according to plan! You SHOULD be dating other women, it will make Jen jealous! For an unsuspecting target, Pacey recommends Mary Beth, a girl from their biology class who is just minding her business, eatin' a sandwich and readin' a sex book.
So Dawson descends on her like a large-haired vulture, and Mary Beth tells him that she knows he just broke up with Jen and she has zero interest in being his rebound, especially when she could spend her Friday night reading Erica Jong. Dawson, by virtue of bald-faced lying, manages to convince her that he is totally over Jen, and Mary Beth buys it, so I guess she also deserves what's coming to her.
Joey and Pacey start their biology project, which involves observing the sex patterns of snails. Apparently, the snails reproduce more when they're happy (as do we all), so the project involves varying different conditions in the aquarium to see which ones the snails like. Idk. I do like snails, though.
In a move that surprises no one, Pacey screws up the snail project. "I checked on them last night but nothing was happening, so I figured the snails didn't like each other." Joey is all, I told you that the snails don't need other snails to reproduce. Pacey says, "Whatever, nobody listens when you talk, but anyway so I figured what the snails really wanted was to have a threesome, so I tried to hook it up by taking a pretty snail from the tank by the window and putting it in our tank." It turns out that the other snail was a carnivorous death snail and it ate all of their snails and now they have no snails.
Blissfully ignorant of the horrific snail deaths occurring at the high school, Mary Beth meets Dawson at the carnival. She's wearing a velvet blazer straight from Prince's closet.
In the middle of their meeting, QB Cliff and Jen walk up. Dawson introduces everyone and Mary Beth is instantly uncomfortable because Dawson, true to form, didn't tell her that this was a double date with his ex-girlfriend (who he is totally over, cool). She tells him said date is a horrible idea and that it's really clear that he's still hung up on Jen. Dawson denies it and then says, "Okay, here's the absolute truth," but then there's (what would have been) a commercial break so I don't know what he's saying but it's probably a big fat lie.
Pacey and Joey are going to catch more snails so they hop in a rowboat. Somewhere in Pender County, probably. They squabble at each other, 'cause that's what Pacey and Joey do.
Probably they are just struggling to deal with their grief about the massive snail genocide that occurred under their watch and are taking it out on each other. And then the camera switches to a wide view of a boat which is pretty clearly not Pacey and Joey's boat on account of the lack of trees that were, two seconds ago, lining the corridor in which they were rowing. Also, sunset began pretty quickly there. Whatever.
Dawson tells Mary Beth that Jen was just nervous about being alone with QB Cliff and asked Dawson to double with them to take the edge off. Just, what? Who would believe this? MARY BETH, that's who. What a n00b. She even tells him what a super-great guy he is to do that for Jen.
And then Dawson and QB Cliff attempt to show who is the manliest by playing carnival games. It sort of seems like playing carnival games negates the premise of the argument, but that's okay. QB Cliff wins, as it's a game that involves sports acumen, and says, "Tough luck, D-man." Dawson is not having that and demands a rematch, and QB Cliff says, "You don't need to embarrass yourself, D-man. Losing is not a big deal."
So they play again. The object of the game is to knock wooden milk bottles down using an enormous baseball, and after two throws, both QB Cliff and Dawson are down to one bottle. Then, in a shocking turn of events, QB Cliff misses.
The tension, y’all. I can barely stand it.
^^ Accurate representation of the tension. Anyway, Dawson wins, and when the booth man produces a stuffed animal and asks, "Who's the lucky lady?" Dawson waffles between Jen and Mary Beth. (Maybe because he realizes the answer to that question is, "God, no one, really.") After a few awkward moments, he turns to Mary Beth and says, "We need to talk."
Meanwhile, out at what I assume to be Masonboro Island, snail-hunting is in full effect. So focused on snail-hunting are they, in fact, that Pacey forgets to tie up their boat, and it floats away.
Somehow, even though it's not really that far away, Joey and Pacey never manage to find the boat and instead wade through the muck until they get to shore. That boat was totally wooden; it was probably kind of expensive, but neither of them seem that concerned. Anyway, Pacey tells Joey that the only way to avoid hypothermia is to get naked and wrap up in blankets for the drive home. Joey’s all, "I'M A VIRGIN BAH CHOICE" but pretty quickly agrees to strip after warning Pacey not to peek at her. He obliges, getting into the truck, but realizes immediately that he can watch her in the side mirror. He is totally into it.
When Joey climbs in the truck, he tells her, "When you loosen up, you're kind of fun to be around." I literally have no idea what he's referring to because she spent this entire trip making squinty faces at him and telling him how stupid he is, right up until he climbed in the truck TWO MINUTES AGO. The only logical conclusion I can arrive at is that the power of Joey Potter's nudity has blinded Pacey and erased his memory, and now, they are BFFs. All this time, he just needed to see her boobs.
Mary Beth apparently threw a tantrum and is now in the parking lot eating popcorn.
Dawson comes out to apologize for being uncool and Mary Beth is all, "Whatever, I don't even like you, I just came on this date because I am totally into QB Cliff and I realize now that he isn't into me, he is into Jen and Jen is into him." Dawson gets inexplicably upset at this. People have been telling him for at least three episodes that Jen has moved on with her life and he hasn't believed any of them, but apparently Mary Beth's interpretation of reality is the one that breaks through his shell of denial.
But only for a second, because then they hatch a plan to break up Jen and QB Cliff and keep the remnants of the failed relationship for themselves. The first step in their plan is to go on the Ferris wheel and force Jen to sit with Dawson and QB Cliff to sit with Mary Beth. It works, but once she's alone with QB Cliff, Mary Beth freezes up and they sit in silence for awhile, until she decides to break the ice by telling him that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.
Elsewhere on the wheel, Dawson asks Jen why she's so into dating now, when she told him that the reason they had to break up was because she needed to be alone. Jen tells him that it's just a date and BY THE WAY ALSO none of his business. Dawson says, "YOU WEREN'T TIRED OF MEN, YOU WERE JUST TIRED OF ME." I'd like to point out right now that there are zero men in this situation, thanks. Anyway, he says, "Just tell me I'm wrong, Jen, just tell me I'm wrong," and she can't, so I guess maybe Jen is smarter than I gave her credit for, 'cause it seems like maybe she was just kind of over him. Dawson, with impeccable timing, chooses this moment to tell her he's still in love with her, and asks why she even allowed him to infiltrate her carnival date. "Is it because you need me just as much as I need you?” She gives him The Face and he looks sad, and then he looks sad, so I guess he interprets it as a no? Maybe?
Joey and Pacey pop up at the carnival and Dawson runs to meet them. It’s unclear what happened to Mary Beth, maybe she’s still on the Ferris wheel spouting uninteresting word trivia. Pacey pulls Dawson aside and asks his permission to start dating Joey, because don't forget, he is in love with her after catching a glimpse of her naked chest in his side-view mirror. Pacey says he needs permission because Dawson and Joey are all secretly in love and he doesn't want to intrude. At first, Dawson is all, whatevs! Who cares! Love it! Kiss her! I'll just be over here wearing this necklace! But then, as Pacey strides away to go lay one on Joey, Dawson freaks out and says he's not actually cool with it, DEFINITELY NOT COOL. Then he backtracks again. No wait! Yes I am! Totally! Kiss her! Never mind! It's a confusing moment for young Dawson, and not just because of his questionable accessorizing.
With that glowing endorsement, Pacey walks Joey to the door and kisses her, and she freaks out. "WHY WOULD YOU KISS ME?!"
He tells her he wanted to kiss her because he had a nice time. Literally, they were squabbling all day until he saw her naked, so the bar for a nice time is pretty low here. Joey tells him she's not attracted to him, and he tells her it's probably for the best, anyway, because if she had kissed him back, she would have been thinking about Dawson. She doesn't answer, just makes this face
and then goes inside.
The Leerys hug in the kitchen. The phone rings and they both look terrified - perhaps they just watched the cursed death video from The Ring - and Mr. Leery says, "Let it ring," and that's it. At this point I think the Leerys are still on the show only because Dawson's a teenager and he's supposed to have parents.
Dawson goes to visit Pacey at the video store and tries to find out how the kiss went down. Pacey turns it around, reminding Dawson that it's clear he's in love with Joey and how he should just come to terms with it. "IS IT JEN, OR IS IT JOEY?" Pacey demands, and for the second time in one episode, it appears that someone's view of reality is getting through to Dawson.
It appears we're heading into a brave new world where our main character may be self-aware. I'm not sure if I think that's cool.