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.
In the opening scenes of episode 12 (real title: "Beauty Contest"), Dawson's in his room with Joey watching bugs have sex. Yeah, that's not a euphemism.
He says he doesn't understand how the bugs know who to be attracted to, because they all look alike. Racist.
So the whole gang (I can call them "the whole gang" 'cause it's a feel-good teenage show) is hanging out at the restaurant talking about how Dawson's mom's TV station is letting him cover something called "Windjammer Days," which culminates in a beauty pageant at which someone is crowned "Miss Windjammer." There are many incongruities in this scene. Let's discuss them in bullet points!
- No TV station is going to let a high-school student with zero journalism experience cover an event that seems fluffy but is presumably important to a lot of local people (lookin' at you, Azalea Festival). They are especially not going to do that when the student in question is the lead anchor's son, and they are double especially not going to do that when the student in question is Dawson Leery.
- In the last episode, Dawson and Jen, I'm pretty sure, decided not to be friends anymore, in a somewhat confusing scene atop a Ferris wheel that mostly consisted of blank facial expressions. In that same episode, Pacey tried to kiss Joey and she rejected him. The result of that would be a whole mess of awkward and avoidance, but apparently it's all cool now and they're all having lunch together.
- They're all drinking soda out of lowball glasses, which from a restauranting perspective just makes no sense. You'd be refilling those things every five seconds. None of the drinks have ice, either, so I'm pretty sure they're all drinking rum and Coke on the sly, and their resulting tipsiness is probably why they're able to exist in this social situation that would otherwise be too painfully awkward to even deal with. BOOM BROUGHT IT FULL-CIRCLE.
And for all of my analysis, nothing even happens in this scene. Joey talks about how she hates beauty contests, because Joey hates everything, and Pacey tells Dawson he should just get over Jen already, and Dawson says that he totally already has totally but now getting her back is his new hobby, and then Jen once again tells Joey that they should be friends fo' real without Dawson interfering. Joey agrees to this, albeit in exceedingly unexcited fashion.
At school, Pacey tells Dawson that his dad's all up on his jock for failing biology, and stealing the car, and not being more like his showtune-lovin' police-officer brother Doug. Pacey wants to move out and become an emancipated minor, but he can't afford an apartment that he's found in the newspaper, which runs a steep $250 a month. WHERE U AT, APARTMENT? I WILL RENT U NOW.
In the cafeteria, Jen partakes in her second-favorite pastime of hitting on Joey, telling her "You know you're one of the prettiest girl in school." Joey's all, OH MY GOD STOP I KNOW I AM NOT PRETTY. Still, Jen encourages Joey to enter the Miss Windjammer pageant, saying she'll coach her and it makes perfect sense because the top prize is $5,000 and all Joey ever talks about is how she is so broke and won't be able to go to college. Joey whines for a while about how she doesn't want to degrade herself, but ultimately the lure of 5,000 big ones is too much to resist so they go to the yacht club to sign her up after school. The entire way there, Joey talks about how she's setting the women's movement back 50 years, so I guess she's forgotten about that time she lied to a cute boy and told him she was rich so he'd take her out on his sailboat, or the time she spread rumors about a popular jock getting her pregnant, or the approximately 7,000 times she's passive-aggressively bashed Jen because she's secretly in love with Jen's ex-boyfriend who, by the way, is pretty misogynistic. I'm not an expert on feminism, but I'm just gonna go ahead and bet that Gloria Steinem isn't thrilled with Joey as a whole as it is, so entering the Miss Windjammer pageant probably isn't doing much for the women's movement one way or the other.
When they get to the yacht club, Pacey's already there, trying to sign up for the pageant so he can win the prize money and move into his bachelor pad. He says it's unconstitutional to deny him entry because he has a penis, especially since the rules for the Miss Windjammer pageant, like the Miss Bayside pageant before it, don't explicitly state that you have to be female to enter.
So he gets in. Joey does too, though she doesn't have a penis so the process is easier for her. Upon finding out that Joey's entering the pageant, Dawson, like the chivalrous guy he is, makes fun of and laughs at her. Joey is all, "YOU THINK I'M UGLY! FEMINISM!!! But money takes precedence over everything, including my pride!" I feel like that last line leaves wiggle room for a future Very Special Episode, where the gang intervenes to stop Joey from selling herself to afford tuition.
Later that night, Jen, in her self-appointed role as Joey’s pageant coach, is teaching her the age-old useful talent of walking with a book on her head in heels. Look, I can walk like a rockstar in five-inch heels but I can’t keep a book on my head to save my damn life, so if you ever thought this is a skill that actually mattered for anything, trust that it does not.
Seconds later the book falls and Joey is all, "Jen, why are you doing this?" and for a second I thought we were on the same page, but we're not - she's just fishing for more compliments under the guise of inquiring why Jen wants to be her friend. She's thwarted, though, because Jen's all, "Normally I just like dudes, idk," and then makes her start the pointless book-walking all over again.
Pacey rehearses for the talent portion by singing Sinatra for Mr. Leery and Dawson.
Mr. Leery is not impressed.
Dawson’s all, forget this horrific talent situation, what are we going to do about evening wear?
He tells Pacey that he needs to take this seriously because if he wins, “The Associated Press will be all over this. Not to mention CNN. I mean this could be international news.” Somebody get that boy a press pass, his news judgment is spot-on! Mr. Leery agrees and says it could make Pacey "a political activist." Pacey says he really just wants to make some cash, but thanks.
The next day, Dawson's taping pre-interviews with the pageant contestants. Excusing for a moment the implausibility of him landing this video journalism gig in the first place, I don't believe that an unaffiliated TV reporter would be the person taping the pre-interviews for the judges, but such is life in Capeside. Everything's going fine until Joey plops down in front of Dawson all full of 'tude. I guess they're not speaking because he dared to tease her for signing up for a pageant that she herself made fun of that same day.
He asks where she sees herself in five years (apparently he's interviewing her for a job, not a pageant) and she says, "On a research boat to Antarctica." He says that's far away and won't she miss anything? She spouts a snotty monologue about how everybody disappears and dies and moves away and grows up and EVERYTHING CHANGES, THAT'S JUST HOW LIFE IS, I AM VERY WISE. It's very dramatical. Dawson reacts accordingly.
Finally it's the night of the pageant. Jen does Joey's makeup and makes her put Vaseline on her teeth. Joey looks kinda cute in the big rollers.
The evening-wear competition is first. My extensive viewing of "Toddlers & Tiaras" informs me that most of these girls have no pageant experience at all. When Joey comes onstage, Dawson shoves the camera guy out of the way so he can get a close-up view of her. She doesn't really smile and she definitely doesn't do any punchy curtsies, so if she wins, this thing was totally rigged.
Pacey looks supa fly in his tux and the audience LOVES HIM.
We speed through the middle of the pageant in a cringe-inducing montage. Here are some highlights.
After answering a bajillion questions onstage, Pacey goes to talk to Mrs. Leery, who's a judge. She tells him that everybody loves him. Given her relationship with both Pacey and Joey, I kind of think she’s got too many conflicts of interest to be judging this thing. Then she tells him there's no way he's going to win, because the snooty yacht club people would rather vote for a Democrat than crown him Miss Windjammer.
He's not psyched. Bachelor pad dreams hang in tatters.
For the talent competition, Joey's decided to warble something from Les Miserables. She doesn’t even change out of her evening wear, so again, if she wins, I'm calling this whole thing a farce.
Look, I can't really make y'all understand how horrific this singing is, so here are my notes, verbatim:
"Oh my god you guys. IT'S AWFUL. IT'S AWFUL. THE SINGING. IT'S AWFUL. SHE'S SINGING THROUGH HER NOSE. I CAN’T. OH MY GOD IT IS SO BAD. AND I CAN’T SKIP AHEAD BECAUSE I MIGHT MISS SOME DIALOGUE. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I CANNOT PROPERLY DESCRIBE HOW AWFUL IT IS."
Eventually I muted it, so I can't tell you whether it gets better, but I just think it's safe to assume that it really doesn't. She keeps shooting sidelong glances at Dawson during the song, which I feel he should interpret as a confirmation of her naked hatred for him, because nobody sings like that and then looks at you without meaning to imply that they wish you were dead.
Pacey's in a closet preparing for his magic act. See, even Pacey has a different outfit for the talent portion.
After his talk with Mrs. Leery, he's all pissed. He tells Dawson the Windjammer people are stupid and since he has no chance of winning, he's going to use the talent competition to let them know how much they suck. To do this, he’s going to do a “dramatic interpretation.” This entails facepaint, a vest with no shirt and a monologue about, I don’t even know, something, in a Scottish accent. Actually, he sounds like Scrooge McDuck. I think this would make more sense to me if I'd ever seen Braveheart, but honestly, it still might not.
In the dressing room, Joey overhears another contestant saying that if Joey wins, it'll just be out of sympathy, since Joey lives in a trailer with her sister and her sister's black boyfriend and their enormous illegitimate baby. Dawson comes in – not sure it's really appropriate for him to be bursting into the girls' dressing room, but it's not like anyone's ever going to call him on anything - and calms Joey down, convincing her to go back onstage and answer a thought-provoking question about what she'd like to tell "today's youth." She gives an answer about small-minded people and how you shouldn't sell out or judge people by their station in life, because "one of them might end up being your best friend." Beyond the random "best friend" reference this answer has nothing to do with Dawson at all, but he still loves it.
Pacey doesn't place in the pageant (I guess they didn't understand the McDuck thing either) and Joey gets first runner-up, winning a "day of beauty from Betty's Hair Barn." The winner is a sweet girl who's going to Juilliard after she finishes a stint in the Peace Corps. I approve of this, Dawson's Creek.
I'm sure we'll never see you again, pageant winner girl. I'm glad for you about that, but I do think you would have liked Mel Silver.
Out on the dock, Dawson tells Joey that she left him speechless. Jen lurks in the background pouting as Dawson takes Joey's hand, telling her that she obviously has "newfound confidence" that "just seemed to burst" from her. He gushes over her, saying that his palms are sweating (gross) and that he feels like he's seeing her for the very first time, I guess 'cause she put on makeup and got on a stage and sang a song that killed my soul. Basically, he's telling her all this nice romantical stuff that she's wanted to hear for this entire interminable first season, so naturally her reaction is to get up, make a face and say, "Something's not right here."
She says she's all dressed up and not herself, and since that's what he's responding to, it can't work. "It's just lipstick and hairspray," she says, taking her hair down dramatically. Her hair comes down pretty quickly so I don't think there really was any hairspray in there, or if there was, it's not very good.
Joey, as she loves to do, yells at Dawson, telling him he's had his whole life to process his feelings and that she can't just wait around for him to notice her. I just. What? He IS noticing you, finally, after weeks of you moping and snapping at everyone in sight about his lack of affection. But Joey Potter does not care. Logic has no place in her world. She dramatically whips off Dawson's jacket and walks away. He's left looking confused. I understand why.
Jen goes over to Dawson's and tells him that she didn't have a good reason for breaking up with him. She asks if it's too late to ask him for another chance, thus fulfilling the wish he's had for this entire season. And just like Joey, he turns down the dream, telling Jen it's not the best time because he's got all this stuff to figure out, probably like why Joey just turned him down when she's been lusting after his big hair for 10 weeks now.
Also, isn't she dating QB Cliff? WHY DOES NOTHING ON THIS SHOW MAKE ANY SENSE? And then, just to add to my nightmares, they replay Joey singing that godawful song as they roll the final montage, which is just clips of Joey and Dawson smiling about nothing. Probably they are smiling about how they've managed to completely flummox me, a situation to which I thought I was immune after all this time. If I didn't hate you so much, you creeps, I'd give you credit for that.
Whatever, jerks. You know who would have been a good pageant judge? Mel Silver, that's who.