Balls Deep in the Creek

A full and thorough account of Dawson's Creek, the most important media of our time

5.03-Capeside Revisited, wherein I scream, wherein you scream, wherein we all scream

Oh hey there, I’m back. And what’s this you’ve left for me? Dead Mitch? Oh, Creek. You’re like that cat I had growing up, the one who always brought me gifts of dead animals.

Of the various and sundry ways you can categorize characters and the actors who play them, I think one of the most important has to be in terms of how opaque their actions are, and how oblique those actions are towards their known character. On one end of the spectrum, you have the character who is completely unpredictable because he defies any logical sense of understanding – the kind of character you think of as bad because not only does he not make any sense, but his reactions and motivations are all randomly contrived to serve the plot. On the other end of the spectrum is the character who is completely unpredictable but possessed of a particularly definite character – the kind whose every act is a shock, and yet in retrospect those acts make complete sense. In fact, those reactions deepen the character. In the middle is the character whose motivations and acts are completely predictable and completely clear.

Various narratives demand something in between these two, and various actors can or try to add the correct shades to make those character decisions make more or less sense. Breaking Bad, for instance, played completely on the far end of the spectrum, consistently surprising you with every character decision while maintaining (for the most part) a cohesive set of character traits which each resolve into a convincing person. This is how you do a successful thriller that also gets lauded as a character piece.

Where a particular character comes down on this is some complicated alchemy of writing and acting. Jen Lindley is probably the most inconsistently written main character in the series, but Michelle Williams makes the seemingly incongruous decisions Jen makes seem almost normal. Josh Jackson and to a lesser extent Katie Holmes also pull this off, with less success, filling in the voids and vagueries of the script with references and allusions to other known pieces of the characters. Holmes’ effort to make Joey someone who practices extreme revisionism on her past, or Williams’ slowly emergent portrayal of Jen as someone who is always reacting in one way or another to her own inner (and highly suppressed) romantic do a sort of double duty, both explaining away the apparent inconsistencies and giving the characters more depth.

Because the fact of the matter is that people tend not to react to just what’s going on in front of them. If I’m pissy on the phone with someone at work, that probably has as much to do with other factors in my life as it does with how annoyed I am at them at the time. Humans are, generally, a complex wave of motivations, made up of lesser, smaller aggravations and motivations and biases and reactions. Jen as someone who believes happiness will arrives and be banished in an instant explains her relationships more than whoever she was dating. Pacey as someone who has to constantly hold the other person above or below his own estimation of himself, an estimation that rises and falls precipitously, does the same thing.

But there’s also a different kind of actor on this show, one who sits exactly in the middle. The kind whose motivations and actions are completely predictable, because they are a known quantity, because they never react to what’s going on around them. VDBeek’s Dawson is close to this, as is Humes’ Gail and Smith’s Jack (who’s always hamstrung in his tokenness). But the true exemplar is John Wesley Shipp’s Mitch, a character whose own plots and character struggles never interfere with how he treats and reacts to people and situations.

Mitch is, in this way, the ideal paternal figure. Even when he’s is given plot, and even when that plot isn’t extraneous, he is first and foremost a parent whose tutelage and oversight is never compromised or mitigated by his situation. Where Gail is limited in how truly predictable she can be (as a stereotypical maternal figure she is burdened by traits that essentially limit her agency), Mitch is allowed the width and breadth of pure reaction to what Dawson has done. He can be disappointed, supportive, scolding, excited, in complete despair, in complete ecstasy all on account (as opposed to on behalf of, as with Gail) of Dawson’s particular situation.

Which is, basically, what you want out of a parent in the Rockwellian sense, one whose vision of and reactions to their child are completely and purely wrapped up in that child, untouched by any personal traumas or experiences that might put a spin on it. When Mitch objects to Dawson dropping out of USC, he isn’t thinking about his experience or his families experience or even his own expectations; he opposed Dawson dropping out purely because he thinks that it’s bad for Dawson, for his dreams. Consider Mitch and Gail’s considerable lack of erudition in the face of the gang’s: it should make no sense for the Dawson and Joey and Pacey to trade in references ex nihilo, but in the world of Dawson’s Creek, it makes perfect sense. The kids have agency qua agency. The parents have children.

There’s a weird sentiment I’ve heard that modern advertising is anti-men because it always portrays dads as clueless. Leaving aside the fact that all advertising treats all people as clueless, that argument seems to ignore that that’s what we want out of dads. We see parents as clueless because, no matter how cool they were back in the day, we don’t want them existing as cool: if they existed as cool, they’d exist for themselves, not for us. We see dads as goofy because it’s preferable to agency.

Shipp, during his tenure, was the soapiest actor on this shoe, because soaps are all about wearing your reactions and motivations on your sleeve; even if you’re being deceptive it needs to be clear why you’re being deceptive. And that’s why he was good at what he did. And when he died retrieving his ice cream, hey, what’s goofier than that?

Dawson’s Dick: West coastin’

Movie: Edipo Re

Substances Abused (show): Ice cream

Substances Abused (me): When are the Raven’s Natty Boh tall boys coming out?

Stray Thoughts:

  • Lol, great 9½ Weeks ref, guys.

  • Time Out Boston? Get yourself a real alt-weekly, shitlords. Didn’t Boston used to have the Phoenix?

  • Thanks for the obligatory SatC shoutout, ladies.

  • Joey: terrible at analyzing situations yet somehow arrives at the correct solution.

  • Only Grams can make an oblivious reference to the lost generation and call Dawson an ex-pat while basically putting the bulk of the embarrassment on Dawson.

  • Epsilon Sigma. Idk what that signifies, but who cares. Loving this pop-punk interlude tho.

  • Chad Michael Murray, domestic man of mystery.

  • Jen desperately needs to write in to Reading Between the Texts.

  • So what, Chicago burbs? BORING. Go back to your dumbass…oooh, nevermind, Capesides’ glorious bounty is unfolding before young Dawson Leery.

  • LA is where no one should be. No one should ever be in LA. Ever.

  • Awwww, Dawson is upset that his MAJOR LIFE DECISION is throwing his parents off.

  • Why is a freshman reading Joyce? Is it Dubliners?

  • “Joey likes structure” yes I’m sure it’s that simple

  • “You’re beautiful and you don’t know it” WOW IT’S LIKE THE SAME THING LITERALLY EVERYONE SAYS TO JOEY.

  • Is this how frats operate? Seems a little creepy-friendly.

  • “Are you in or are you out, of this thing you know nothing about. Make a snap-judgment please.”

  • SIGMAS KNOW EVERYTHING. THEY KNOW YOU ARE GAY BEFORE YOU DO.

  • “The roughest, party-hearty alpha-male fraternities on campus,” *le sigh*.

  • Cool necklace, CMM. Aww, you’re honeymooning. Don’t get off the honeymoon train early.

  • Is this about teaching Pacey to be humbler? This is just aggravating people having an aggravating plot.

  • “Don’t bullshit a horndog bullshitter, Dawson.”

  • Ummmm, what adversity has Dawson overcome? And didn’t he want NYU?

  • Well Mitch, most major life decisions involve someone else.

  • Nothing makes me want to listen to someone less than the word “seize.”

  • Seriously Jen just go and do literally anything else, you’re a college freshman.

  • Hehe, gay uncle Tom. Guncle Tom.

  • “I’m not saying don’t follow your heart. I’m saying change what your heart wants.”

  • “The reality of eternal coupling.”

  • I still think someone should name an album “Sexile in Guyville” cause I’m an infant.

  • Does this school not stock condoms in dorm bathrooms?

  • Pacey cuts like such a chode.

  • “I wouldn’t go toking up just yet.”

  • I mean we’re all disappointed in Dawson. That is Dawson’s telos: disappointment.

  • Why is the health center ever closed?

  • Awww, CMM needs glasses. Only why not contacts? This was 2001, I had contacts in 2001.

  • You, Jack. Out of all the gays. We want you.

  • Ahhhhhh thumb ring.

  • Does Pacey not understand training? Oh god, truffles. Hey everyone, genuflect before the truffles.

  • This city of hers. Where she’s lived for a month or two.

  • Oh god, this scene. OH GOD THIS SCENE.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: CAPESIDE IS ACTUALLY REVISITED AND ALSO: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY LILY?!

Hey, sports fans.

So while I am coming out of my summer writing slump, I won’t be doing a ton of it here.  Starting today I’ll be covering some TV for Gotta Watch It under the name John M., and for the next month I’ll be working on launching a community blog with a few friends of mine.  In all likelihood, I won’t be updating this that often.  I’ll slip in an essay or two when I can.

Thanks

CCD

5.02-The Lost Weekend, wherein Katie Holmes pouts and Ken Marino is the master of sexual innuendo

Calling it “The Lost Weekend” is kinda overstating the case, isn’t it? We don’t really get too much between the first and “final” day of Dawson’s visit to “Boston” (I’ll stop soon, promise), but it’s highly unlikely that it was filled with the balls-to-the-wall boning that the term lost weekend implies (it’s confirmed roughly 8 million times in the this and future episodes). There’s nothing really lost about it except that we don’t see what happened, and since it turns out by the end of the episode that Dawson’s gonna be staying on the east coast, the weekend loses any and all significance.

To be honest, the fact that I hate this episode has more to do with how it negates the premise of the 4th season finale than its obvious structural flaws. I’d love to spend some time complaining about those structural flaws (are you telling me that A) the office looks at signatures, B) Ken Marino’s “signature” was legible, and C) Joey never even looked at the paper to see that it said “Oscar Wilde”?), but that would miss the essential inessentialness of this episode. Any episode can be structurally bad, but this one shows weakness in the structure of the show that the writers had created.

It’s not exactly novel for a television show to make huge changes in a season finale that are subsequently negated by the effects of the next season’s premiere, but this just seems particularly egregious. Creek has even done things like this before, sending people away only to claim they came back after the summer, or dropping going to France as a stupidly unconvincing red herring. But sending Dawson to California, to make him choose to cross the country, was really important for his character. Remember how important that was to him last year? I didn’t talk about it a lot but he fled Capeside in roughly the same way Joey did. He did it for different reasons, and unlike Joey his stated reasons were probably his true ones, but his SoCal decision wasn’t made lightly.

And Joey, who’s been portrayed reaching all these important character moments, moments that free her from a paradoxical worldview that had ensnared her over the past god knows how many years, just has Dawson show back up again and is all “yeah okay stay! I love this shit!”

Look, Dawson was never going to stay away. But he’s back with the gang at the end of one episode, and by the end of the second has decided to stay for good. This is fucking ridiculous, a fucking travesty. What am I supposed to believe about the two of them, that they so need closure that Dawson has no choice but to stay? Joey had closure (and was willing to send Dawson back to Cali knowing that she had that closure), and if we’re to believe Dawson at the airport, he had his own sort of (sociopathic) closure. While neither were operating on the same level, both had an understanding of what would happen and where they had left it. And the closest where left with is what, that Dawson doesn’t want to be a stranger to Joey? Tough titties; the mutual rage this episode basically ends on isn’t what makes people do something like this.

The two subplots do a bit to alleviate the thoughlessness of the A plot. Joey trying, and ultimately failing to drop her class works in the opposite way it’s probably intended to; the obvious reading is to say that Ken Marino (like Dawson) is refusing to let her make bad life decisions by basically forcing her to accept him, but it plays way better as a meditation on Joey’s self-doubt, the quality that always leads her backwards. And then Jen, jumping into bed with Chad, works especially well if you view its moral against the backdrop of Joey’s and Dawson’s decision; it isn’t inherently bad, but it’s definitely thoughtless and will probably lead to disastor.

What else? Oh yeah, a little housecleaning that gets Pacey, to po’ to pay for lunch with his girlfriend (a delightful what’s her face from House and that ABC fairy tale show) a job in a restaurant, which he successfully bullshits his way into a sous chef position or something. There, he meets a throwaway character to match Chad Michael Murray, in a black (lo scandolo!) waitress who smokes, who will obviously become a love interest, because I’ve heard that the only things in extraneous-character-ville are mentor-figures and sexual objects, and you sure as hell don’t look like no steer, if you catch my drift. The only real resonance has with the rest of the episode is a heady feeling of “fuck it, we’re already lazily shoe-horning Dawson back into the picture. Might as well do the same with Pacey.”

Better days lie ahead, hopefully.

Dawson’s Dick: Bostonian

Movie: The Undergraduate

Substances Abused (show): Restauranteurs

Substances Abused (me): Twofer tuesdays

Stray Thoughts:

  • Evidence number 8000000 that Dawson is an inconsiderate schmuck: inability to respect the phone take-backs rule.

  • YEAH SHITHEAD THAT’S WHY SHE CALLED YOU TO TELL YOU THAT ESSENTIALLY.

  • Uh, what the fuck did you think happened in that room? It’s so nice that we don’t get Dawson’s view of what happened. We get to guess, and I’m not about to be generous with Dawson’s motivations or interpretations.

  • Jack: “Advances in communications technology are mostly about boning.”

  • What? Jen boned all sorts of boys in season 2.

  • Boston Bay College is what, BU? I’m a little behind on my Boston college stereotypes.

  • Awww, CMM did the sign upside down. Is he illiterate? Only time will tell.

  • Man, basket weaving. When did that become the go to college reference tho?

  • Ken Marino is such a good sophist.

  • Is he talking about rate my professor or whatever it’s called?

  • Great Audrey moment with the tour even if it’s basically stolen from Undeclared.

  • WBCW. Ew, the Smiths. Jen is starting this off correct by shitting on Morrisey.

  • Why not rap, or punk, or the Ramones?” Why not indeed, Jen? Why not baroque, or industrial metal, or civil war reenactment bands?

  • This is stupid inappropriate.

  • Obviously gay men in Abercrombie sweaters” is the name of my post-punk band.

  • Dougie!! Doug-ie Doug-ie Doug-ie!

  • So glad my school didn’t let you drop classes.

  • Jen Jack Joey. J Trip.

  • USC = awful.

  • Accosting celebrities in public washrooms? Tbh I’d probably watch it at a festival.

  • Something I hadn’t considered: did Dawson peak in high school?

  • On monday? You want us to kill people?” How Kitchen Confidential of you, Creek.

  • Great introductions to some tertiary characters no one’s finna remember.

  • A Vindication of the Right of Women and the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas? Ballersauce.

  • Awww, Chad is taking fem lit.

  • Why does he have a battle axe on his wall?

  • On behalf of all my vinyl nerd friends, go fuck yourself Chad.

  • License to Ill and the Essential Dolly Parton collection just confirms that Chad is a white supremacist.

  • Idk, I always thought the point of music was to sound cool when you listen to it.

  • Upper middle class free Tibet girls who drive around in their dads old Volvo is so spot on but misses the mark by quite a bit?

  • Jesus, Jen, don’t mislead him that much you made yourself sound like rustic.

  • Say yes Joey. Say yes.

  • Oh man Pacey get over yourself.

  • This is what legally blondes do for their cute slacker boyfriends.” I MELT FOR YOU WHAT’S-YOUR-NAME.

  • Classic Jen freakout with great sex hair.

  • Did Jen just freak out from seeing Chad’s peen?

  • I FUCKING HATE PEOPLE WHO FLIP OUT OVER ITS/IT’S YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT I SWITCH THEM SOMETIMES. IT’S NOT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “ITS” AND “IT IS” BUT BECAUSE I TYPE QUICKLY AND DON’T GIVE A SHIT.

  • Love that Joey acknowledges that she’s decided she has no future with Dawson but blames that “decision” on Audrey.

  • Fact, Audrey. East coast colleges in the Georgian style (fuck Gothic btw) are what college is supposed to look like. Virginia blue stone is also pretty cool I guess.

  • What is writing but overthinking?

  • This new life I’m trying to start with myself.”

  • No one has done that, Joey. Not really.

  • Hehe, cool, great job Katie and Ken.

  • Pacey Witter, master of utter bullshit.

  • Can anyone catch that brand of cigarettes? It’s dark red. Is it that kind they have in the X-Files? Morly’s or whatever?

  • Yeah Pace solid color shirts went out with the tides.

  • Or not [yanking your chain (euphemistically)] as the case may be.” Audrey, killing it.

  • I love how little early period Audrey is actually invested in what’s going on around her.

  • Hold on, did Joey just not know when Dawson’s flight left?

  • No, that’s not what was bothering you this morning, Joey.

  • Dawson is such a child. “Why? Why?”

  • He’s also complaining about some bullshit right now. They didn’t talk about it for a bunch of reasons, but not out of avoidence.

  • Oh god this isn’t helpful at all.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: COLLEGE DROPOUTS AND ALSO: JOEZUS!

5.01-The Bostonians, wherein we decamp to that most mysterious of cities, Boston

The conventional wisdom about Dawson’s Creek is that it’s misnamed. Aside from the first season (which is different in the same that the original Sopranos arc or the Lost pilot are different from their respective series), the focus of Dawson’s Creek is actually Joey, not Dawson. There’s a ton of evidence that this is the case, no more so than the the fact that Dawson Leery doesn’t appear in every episode of Dawson’s Creek. Joey does, and whenever the show wants to go off on a weird tangent it tends to involve Joey. Moving Joey to the center of the love triangle, rather than Dawson, kinda sealed that in. Joey gets the flagship romances, Joey gets the emotional journey while Dawson is window dressing.

Never is that more clear than the final two seasons, and Joey takes us into her experience with all the awkwardness we’ve come to expect from her. The season starts with a voiceover (from Ken Marino!) reading Joey's understanding of her experience with Dawson over the summer. We get Joey discussing with Ken Marino whether she thinks that was an end or a beginning. We get Jack and Jen serving as light counterpoints to Joey's own indecision, as they both try to decide what the next stage of their lives are gonna be about. And we get Audrey, who, in her 2-dimensional wonder, shows Joey two paths, both seemingly impossible for her: how to retain agency and allow Dawson back in, or accept her understanding of her future and grasp a way forward without him.

The Ken Marino-spoken monolog gives the episode a nice shape, which in turn gives the season a nice shape. Now that Dawson’s Creek is almost certainly about Joey, and now that Joey has entered the period of her life where she feels that she no longer needs Dawson, what does it mean that Dawson’s still in the picture? The show points out the obvious, that Joey herself isn’t sure whether the kiss was an end or a beginning, but Ken Marino overplays his hand by insisting that Joey make a choice. All realism aside (like the fact that she’s a freshman in college, with plenty of life ahead of her), this isn’t a choice that Joey is prepared to make. It involves a clash of two sets of assumptions for her, and between the always desirable Ken Marino, the rise of the Chad Michael Murray arc, and her semi-drunken split-second decision to call Dawson in the bathroom, neither Joey nor the show has realized the cognitive dissonance that Dawson’s reappearance entails.

But that’s enough about Joey, for the time being. There are other character moments. The strongest one comes through Dawson, whose long-awaited reckoning with the Hollywood studio system ends just as we’d all assumed it would: total, unearned disillusionment. There are a couple of catty, pissy digs at Hollywood in his story (not least that his youth gets him mistaken for a writer, which seems weird coming from a show of this generation), but other than the introduction of Todd, our inveterate symbol of the moral turpitude of contemporary Hollywood.

Jack is off being his old show-gay self, going to a frat party because a cute guy asked him to. I’m not going to complaining about the frat, mostly because this season’s plot actually tries to do something with Jack and the frat. In this episode it seems like an aborted idea, mostly just a plot device, so let’s leave it alone for the time being.

And Jen. Good god, the character oscillations poor Michelle Williams portrayed with remarkable verve are remarkable, and in this episode she begins to revise her history yet again, attributing her “cold” period last season to pining for Henry (rather than her relationship with her father, Drue, and her previous sexual history). The way the writers seem to be pointing forward involves playing her off Audrey, whose libertine outlook (while sure to become “problematic” in its own right) clashes hard with Jen’s own pointedly moralistic nihilism.

This contrast is, of course, simplistic, but either way it pushes Jen into a position that serves two purposes: A) it launches her season arc, by making her world-savvy meet its match in the equally pseudo-cynical piss and moaning Chad Michael Murray, and B) gives Joey the push she needs to make a decision (however impermanent) about her relationship with Dawson.

Then there’s Freaks & Geeks own Busy Phillips, who shows up as a renewal of the anti-Joey character Jen was in season 1. A girl-talk with Joey late in the episode does little to deepen her beyond the kind of back-story you can assume most anyone to have. Oh wow, she has an ex. Whether or not you think that relates her to Joey is irrelevant; the pointed edge of that comparison makes something clear about Joey and her status as the narrative center of this show. Audrey, like so many other lazily written women, wonders what Chris, her ex, will do without her. Joey, the one with agency, worries about what she’ll do without Dawson.

Dawson’s Dick: Bi-coastal

Movie: PCU

Substances Abused (show): Kegs

Substances Abused (me): Maryland Carbomb (Pint of Boh, rim dusted with Old Bay, shot of Pikesville Rye)

Stray Thoughts:

  • All seasons of television should begin with a voice-over from Ken Marino.

  • Joyce Carol Oates meets Judy Blume. Like you do. I can’t even with this comparison.

  • Joey the writer is such a necessary conceit but so awful. Awkward handles this much better.

  • That is such bullshit advice Ken Marino gives her, by the way. There have been untold millions of short stories written about evey type of possible relationship; there’s no reason to focus on the subsequent relationship to the exclusion of the truly transient nature of the experience.

  • Hehe, Joey jogging.

  • Is this Boston? I’m not sure, but if I had to guess? Some UNC school.

  • Great cell phones, guys. FLIP PHONE REVOLUTION.

  • So much wisdom to impart. So little time.

  • Oh look, it’s J&J, complaining about their respective relationships. This dialog is so unself-aware it’s painful. This is like a mockery of early season Jen.

  • That said, loved her “hang loose, brah,” routine.

  • ENTER BUSY FUCKING PHILLIPS.

  • I kinda love how 2-dimensional Audrey is right now. That situation doesn’t exactly get better, but it’s so strictly written here it’s kinda admirable.

  • I mean, I think Joey looks perfectly cute right now. Very I-don’t-know-what-I-should-look-like.

  • And Ken Marino pulls an Indiana Jones. And Ken Marino has an unhappy home life.

  • Yeah Jo, it’s fiction. You get to make shit up.

  • God, Dawson, dress your age.

  • Feature version of 7th Heaven. Sounds like my personal nightmare. These are the awfullest transparent references right now.

  • Dawson, have some balls. Maebe Funke didn’t get to be a studio exec by telling people her name.

  • Joey, the literate, explains that Kurtz is “Brando from Apocalypse Now” which just, wow.

  • Did Jack just make the Seifeld bumper music in response to Joey complaining about her roommate?

  • You gotta go to at least one frat party. I guess. My school didn’t have frats.

  • Joey refuses to say whether she’s ever had an orgasm. Let’s think about this. Joey definitely doesn’t masturbate, or else there’d be some hilarious conversations with Jen. Pacey’s great and all, but going solely on stereotypes, Andie was too tightly wound, so either Ms. Jacobs taught him some shit and Joey’s had orgasms, or she didn’t, and Joey hasn’t.

  • Audrey makes a great point, but Joey’s too wound up in herself to effectively date at this point.

  • Secret Pacey! Michelle Williams kills it in this scene. She affects complete dumb girl to counter Pacey’s ovliviousness, and does some great awkward shoving of him in the direction of revealing his presence.

  • Wow, creepy as balls. I fell like self-acknowledging as creepy doesn’t make it any better. If you know, shouldn’t you be actively trying not to be?

  • I don’t get that desire. If I want to make family, why would I do it unconditionally with a group of rapey folks? There are plenty of people about who are happy enough to be friends without making up some bullshit about family. Family isn’t made by quasi-masochistic tendencies and violent tribalism. It’s slightly more important to me than that.

  • Hehe, Dawson’s speech. So dumb, the applause made me crack up.

  • Ow wow, a college student falling in love with Boston. Shocker.

  • It’s a great continuation of the story at the end of last season, anyway. Joey beginning to learn that college isn’t the end of her experience in Capeside.

  • That’s a cell phone, Joey. You can do this outside. The bathroom is a bad choice.

  • That call would be so meaningful if they weren’t just about to flush any meaning away in the next few episodes.

  • Drinky drinky Jen OH MY GOD!! IT’S THE WB’S OWN CHAD MICHAEL MURRAY!

  • Yeah Jen, you can’t really think too hard about the ways and reasons people try to have sex with each other. Randomly guessing is only gonna lead you to embarrassing yourself, because you won’t come close to the creepiest guys can be and you’re unlikely to hit their thing exactly, so they can always just say “nuh unh.”

  • Alls I was gonna say,” omg cmm, great speech. Everyone’s shits but me, and possibly you.

  • Love this Dawson and guard moment. It’s almost, but not entirely, unearned.

  • Are you gonna tell me his name or am I gonna have to kill you?” I love when Joey fails miserably at banter.

  • I can sleep when I’m dead.” That’s super dark, Grams.

  • God this jump pan is awful. Joey, what is goin on with your hair, girl?

  • Oh hey Jo. It’s sexy naked Dawson at the door.

  • This music is so anticlimactic.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: ALL WE ARE SAYING IS GIVE JEN A CHANCE AND ALSO: VOICEMAILS!

Season 4: The fuck it this one goes out to amanda bynes being everyone’s fucking spirit animal right now apparently Season

Graduation is an end, moving away is an end, college is an end.

It’s not exactly an uncommon problem, for a show about teenagers. You just can’t keep the kids in a live-action show in high school in perpetuity. Even for a show (like, say, this one) that starts with actors who are too old, you have to move on. Boy Meets World, Buffy, The O.C., Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars, That 70s Show, Gossip Girl, Degrassi, the list probably goes on a lot longer. People tend to point at the switch as something that kills the show, so much so that any website about TV will inevitably do an article or listicle counting the failures to make that transition. Now this is true in some cases and false in others (Veronica Mars got worse, but was still entertaining so long as Logan was there; Rory got worse in the Yale years but they gave us Danny Strong, a more ridiculous Paris, and Chris Eigeman; and Buffy’s seasons 4 and 5 were in some ways its strongest), but the point is that that’s the way it’s perceived.

There are a couple reasons for this. The college switch tends to happen during seasons 3-5, and TV shows have only a few years to formally innovate before they’ve amassed a fan base. Around this time in a show’s life it needs to adopt a certain amount of conservativeness in order to make the transition to a “classic” of television; they can’t start to become a different show than they were without alienating their loyal fanbase (the ones they’re gonna count on once the syndication package is for sale). And portraying college requires a tonal shift from portraying high school. And a lot of people don’t like this, or the new characters it requires. Think of your least favorite love interests from any of these (or really any) shows. Are they towards the end of the show’s run? Part of that is because you compare them to the earlier interests (something you couldn’t do with the earlier interests), but also because it’s fucking insipid for Rory to date Logan in roughly the same way she dated Dean. She’s in college now, for fucks sake. At least she started [presumably] drinking mimosas with Krysten Ritter.

And those mimosas are a perfect example. You can’t treat drinking on a high school show the same way you treat it on a college show; one is sneaky and more obviously rebellious, and the other must slowly become pro forma. You can’t treat classes the same way, or interpersonal relationships, and you especially can’t treat roommates as if they’re the best friend or someone you purely hate. A show must have that tonal shift, or suffer being a piece of crap. And when you change the tone, you change the show, and long time watchers hate that shit.

I’m not gonna talk about the college years right now (don’t worry, I have OPINIONS), but I think this clear cut fact needs to be mentioned, because it makes the decision the writers made this season make a great deal more sense. In most important ways, Gilmore Girls and Buffy and Degrassi and Boy Meets World weren’t the same shows they had been once they got to college, and it’s to Dawson’s Creek’s credit that it recognized what was upon them, and realized that Dawson’s Creek as we knew it was ending. It wasn’t just ending, it was over; the way in which plots were working out didn’t lend themselves to a single big, season ending climax. Coda was the last episode of a show.

Coda was the last episode of a show that had also, let’s all admit it, grown stale. The driving force of the show (not its ethos or its style, but the pure mechanics of how you craft an arc of Dawson’s Creek) had already forced the show to jettison it’s now useless supporting characters. Andie was the most obvious rider of the bus to Mandy-town, but four seasons of introducing new characters only to toss them in 8 or 22 episodes is no longer cute or normal, it’s fucking grating. Once is a phenomena, twice is a coincidence, three times is a law, four times is fucking grating. Season 4 tried to pass off two characters for its run, one of whom (Drue) was a fundamentally different character depending on whether the show wanted an Abby Morgan surrogate or a Jen confidante or a Jen accuser. And Gretchen was nice and sweet and all, but what was she, exactly? Other than not-Eve-not-Joey? I try to name three, and all I get is synonyms for “older”.

The exciting build up of Joey and Pacey last season managed to extend its own tension by focusing (whether the show realized it or not) on how Joey felt about losing her virginity, but that new lease on life ran out of steam quickly after that resolution. Their relationship went from being about how Pacey and Joey were dealing with the problems their relationship faced to Pacey worrying about his future and Joey worrying about her future. Pacey and Joey were never the most communicative of couples, but the shift of focus from their foibles back to their own, discrete character arcs is just such a blatant shift that it’s become, in my mind, one of the most compelling reasons for why the back half of the season falls apart into itself.

I could list all the ways in which this season doesn’t really deliver (and in fact, because I wrote about every episode, I have!), but that’s not helpful. Television, like anything that requires artistic decisions, defies the symptom/disease dichotomy that we generally turn to for problems. While all of the problems on Creek this season likely fall out of a single problem, each could be fixed on its own without addressing the central problem. Look, that’s essentially what got us through seasons 3 and 4: a revamping of the core concept that plagued Creek then and now, without addressing the central issue that now stares us in the face. When your drama is stronger than your characterization, and your rules for drama dictate that it revolves around bf/gf drama, you have inherent limitations that will eventually start to show.

I spoke earlier about the wall that shows hit in their third-fifth season, when they have to make the jump from popular (or cult popular) to classic. There are two types of shows that don’t have this requirement: procedurals, which live or die on their formulas and cast chemistry, and flash-in-pan classics, shows like Freaks & Geeks and My So-Called Life and China Beach and Twin Peaks which live on through the strength of the mythologizing of how groundbreaking they were. Dawson’s Creek survives in no small part through this exception, but the show wanted to go on making episodes, and that’s where it joins the ranks of other shows that have this mid-run struggle.

Real quick, as an aside, I’d like to plug the term “trash-in-the-pan” to describe trash culture that blows up in crossover appeal and fades away quickly. Like, Honey Boo Boo and anything that can be described as a summer anything. Trash-in-the-pan. Try it out.

Shows grow less innovative over time for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that their concepts get, well, less innovative when they’ve been on the air for a few years. Core concepts that keep you grounded, like Buffy, eventually hold you back by forcing you to throw a random monster into what is otherwise a stark meditation on death. Or look at The X-Files, which refreshed itself by making fun of its core concept starting in the third season, but ended up using that as such a crutch that by the sixth season all the non-mytharc episodes were parodies, until Mulder left and the show reverted back to its bad, season 1 self. Or 30 Rock or Seinfeld, whose relentless refusal to sentimentalize a character moment started to tear the shows apart once we grew attached to the characters.

Or look at the myriad eras of South Park, which has devolved into knee-jerk radical contrarianism that was tired when Hitchens was doing it, solely out of trying to defend the territory they’ve staked out in the various oscillations across the political spectrum. Or The Simpsons, which turned minimalism into an art form so subtly that it took the comparison to Seth McFarlane to figure it out.

It’s a horrific choice if you think about it. You want to be innovative, but your audience wants the results of your prior innovation. And this isn’t just the network yelling at you anymore, no, this is your audience, the people who are keeping you alive, the people you really owe everything to. They want Joey and Pacey to live fuckily ever after, but you have to keep the show going. They want Abed to keep talking about TV, you want to explore the inner workings of his mind that lead him to talking about TV.

It’s difficult.

Community is the perfect example, of course, and because of the public nature of the explosion at the end of the third season we get to perform a sickly clinical experiment in the nature of serialized storytelling. Community was reaching the transition season, and had already gone through several knock-down drag-outs in the fan-base about the changing nature of the show. It was reaching the point of peak gif-ification, and suddenly the showrunner, the raison d’etre, the very driving focus of the show was gone.

And season 4 of Community proved, in an abbreviated fashion, that bereft of any driving force a show will revert to what a less generous man than myself will refer to as fanservice. More to the point, it will go through the motions, hitting all the beats and missing all the notes. Or vice versa, it doesn’t matter.

There was a dude I knew in High School who, hand to god, last time I hung out with him had this pick-up tactic that involved reciting Shakespeare in French. Not just any, he had this one speech memorized. He also spoke enough French to talk afterward, but the key was Hamlet’s “what a piece of work” speech. In French. I can reproduce exactly what he said, because he told me he just used Google translate:

J’ai du retard, mais je ne sais pourquoi, perdu toute ma gaieté, renoncé à toute mesure d’exercices, et en effet, il va donc fortement à ma disposition que ce cadre sincère, la terre, me semble un promontoire stérile; cet excellent auvent, l’air, voyez-vous, ce firmament surplombant courageux, ce toit majestueux rongé par le feu d’or, pourquoi, il semble qu’aucun autre chose pour moi qu’une congrégation faute et pestilentielle des vapeurs. Qu’est-ce qu’un morceau de travail est l’homme. Comment noble dans sa raison, comment infini dans les facultés. En forme et en déplaçant la façon admirable et expresse. Dans l’action, comment comme un ange. En appréhension comment comme un dieu. La beauté du monde, le parangon des animaux. Et pourtant, pour moi, quelle est cette quintessence de poussière? L’homme se complaît pas moi, ni les femmes ni, si par votre sourire vous semblez le dire.

Sure sounds like French, and if you can pick out the occasional word it even sounds like the speech to, no? And of course, this a speech from Hamlet where he pretends to be depressed and world-weary while parodying the depressed and world-weary. Layers of meaning. But the point is that you can have the form and function together, and even be mostly grammatically correct, but still miss the purpose. The motive force. The (stop! I can’t help myself!) je ne sais quoi.

It isn’t exactly groundbreaking for me to point out the double-bind of commercial artistry, yeah. But it is down to all of us to lament. Dawson’s Creek managed to recapture their mission, of Joey/Dawson, with Joey/Pacey, but that all will go away. The things we love about a show are necessarily transient; we don’t want the same show over and over again, we want variety. And we don’t want something we love to be challenged. We want it to keep coming back, the same and in new ways.

A classic show balances this by adapting in one way or the other; think of all the permutations I’ve already listed, or Cheers went through, or the shows that throw in a wedding or a baby. A show changes all the time, but the successful ones own that change, use it to make a new show, a better show, a realer show.

Dawson’s Creek is different than a normal show of this caliber, though. Its social cachet has put it in a form of stasis, unable to shift from the perception of its early years. You say Dawson’s Creek-esque, but you mean high-vocab high school melodrama. It’s frozen in its own early seasons; between all the things it did well and for the first time, the show is, whether you like it or not, that time in high school.

In that way it has a lot in common with another class of shows: the short lived show that comes back. Futurama comes to mind, so does Firefly, after a fashion, and soon enough, Arrested Development. There are already some good reasons why these shows didn’t work, including the calcification of the immortal classics of the show (no one will ever seriously say that any new Futurama beats Godfellas). But another is that once a show is canceled it is effectively frozen. What the show can be will never change, what the show is will never change. As hard as it is to change the show into something good when it’s still running, it is beyond fucking impossible once the show exists as a monolith in the past.

I’m gonna stay up and watch Arrested Development when it comes out Sunday. Because I’m a TV obsessive. And I’ll dissect everything to death, because the only things I love more than TV are talking about TV and reading about TV. And I know exactly how unfair it is that we’re all probably gonna shit on it. And I know exactly how unfair it is that we have such high expectations for a show that was almost always about goofy low expectations.

Should I be looking at these new episodes of Arrested Development with the same trepidation I have about writing about the last two seasons of Dawson’s Creek? Is that fair? Fuck if I know. But there’s an adventure in front of us and miles behind us. So fuck it, I guess.

Onward and upward.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: SHIPPING OUT TO BOSTON AND ALSO: WHY BOSTON?

4.23-Coda, wherein Joey and Dawson get on the highway to the bonezone but are looking to take the next exit, or at least get on an access road

I’m not as well informed as, say, a writer on TV Club Classic, and I don’t really have the resources (or, you know, the inclination) to find out what the facts on the ground were in the spring of 2001, when season 4 was being put to bed. Were they in doubt about the show’s renewal? Its ratings had been dropping since season 1’s high, but had plateaued (cratered? Hit the sea floor?) since 3. The creative team was, at this point, a team of journeymen, who likely weren’t prepared to end the show early on creative principle (this team shared some members with the people responsible for One Tree Hill’s seemingly interminable, perpetual run). The WB was not likely to jettison what had become its flagship series, what would become a model for half the shows it aired and, when combined with Buffy, a template for the other half.

But Coda feels like an end of something. All these arcs are done; everything on the ground has been wrapped up with a nice little bow. Maybe not to everyone’s liking, you know, maybe you wish Pacey and Joey had ended up together, or Jen and Dawson, or you had gotten some closure to Jack’s relationships, but fuck if everyone hasn’t completed an arc. Dawson’s Creek started as a coming of age story, with a boy and a girl talking about the changes that were expected of them in the coming years, and to a large extent it covered what it promised in that opening conversation by exploring, to varying degrees of success, the state transformations that occur once sex is on the table.

Virgin, first time, only time, awkwardly intermittent, pro forma, expected, sworn-off, blasé, cynical, world weary, world savvy, etc. We’ve explored expectations towards sex in myriad ways, and while our gang all resides at different places in the miasmatic continuum of sex, we can send them off to college with some degree of certainty in their future. As Joey says, Dawson will find a girlfriend; he has to, he’s obsessive like that. And he may not even fuck her, but fuck someone he shall. Because while Dawson is Dawson, he’s still a person as well, and the purpose of school, of high school and college, above all, is to make functioning people. I shit on Dawson a lot, but it must be admitted that Dawson is well on the path to being a functioning person.

I’ll deal more with this next time, but this episode is so much about Dawson and Joey that I feel like they deserve the bulk of my focus here. First off, the name of the episode is both appropriate and innapropriate; is the kiss a mere indication of what’s to come? An indication of an untold further story, a conclusion to Joey and Dawson that is outside of the show’s purview? Pathos? Is it canon, that Dawson and Joey end up together? Or is it as it says, a coda, something to sign off with, a flourish?

When I was a kid I loved a series of books called Animorphs, a sci-fi series that went for 60-65 books. It was serialized in that old kids book style, one a month, and I read them once a month from the time I was 7 until I was 12 and knew better (let me be clear, I read till the end, even though I knew I shouldn’t). At the end of the 54 book main sequence, with the enemy defeated, the gang (Jake, Marco and Tobias, because Ax was captured, Rachel was dead, and Cassie knew better [y’all better know I don’t even need to look that up]) set out into unexplored space, to fight an unknown enemy. And the final Animorphs book ended with Jake giving the order: “Ram the Blade Ship.”

I promise that sentence means something. More to the point, that will always be my definition of a coda, some little flourish at the end that lets our heroes continue to live, in our minds, as they had lived when we got to know them. It’s not quite status quo ante, is the point. All this happened before and all this will happen again, and we can continue going forward with our lives knowing that Jake’s still a warrior, Marco’s still a cynic, Cassie’s still an empathic humanist, Ax is still an alien, and Tobias is still a fragile cypher. Rachel is still dead, but you know, that wasn’t about to change.

My first reaction to Joey and Dawson, leaving things with a throwback to so many bedroom scenes past (the pilot, the season 1 finale, the season 3 premier coming to the forefront), is that it’s something like that. The kiss, such as it was, is a throwback as well, and that entire closing scene is a coda similar to the one Animorphs employed; it signs off by giving us one last moment with our characters, leaving us the promise that though our time with them is over, and though we’ve watched them grow up, that doesn’t mean that anything has resolved, that Joey and Dawson (and Pacey and Jen) will keep this going while we aren’t watching.

It’s a show that doesn’t want to leave us with a definitive answer to who ends up with who, a conclusion that answers the question “who does Joey choose?” by acknowledging that every day is a choice for Joey, for Pacey, for Dawson, for Jen. There’s no happily-ever-after in this ending. These people will happily fuck up and make mistakes and fix them and make them again for all eternity, because they are all people, and this is life.

The other option, of course, is that we see Joey choosing Dawson, and Dawson choosing to stay, and they go off together.

Given everything, I’d choose the former. Not because I believe Dawson is bad for Joey (I do) or because there’s something with Pacey that Joey needs to work out (there is). I like the sentiment, of continuation, the idea that however much our characters change, their lives are never less interesting than when we were watching them. After all, if people can just stop being interesting, then that means I might stop being interesting, and I refuse to believe that that is possible. Though it’s also a more honest approach: life doesn’t end, after all, once you win your lady love.

But the show does continue, and they had to know it would. Is that kiss merely a teaser, a hint at something to bring viewers back in the fall? Is it a desperation move?

The last twelve minutes of the episode is pure Dawson and Joey, as long a scene as I can remember on this show. It’s a callback, sure, but it’s advanced. Joey is no longer being revisionist about when she fell for Dawson, and Dawson is no longer actively feeling entitled to Joey. The whole scene in the bedroom plays like a kind of dream-logic: not the kind you find in dreams, but rather in the dream kingdoms of myth, where a conversation is reduced to the idealized exchange of facts and feelings, where the past exists as one with the present (the song playing, btw, is Daydream Believer). Joey and Dawson manage to span the continua of desire and love, and those feelings aren’t progressive; they feel certain things in tandem with all the other things, hate and spite and love and comity.

In an episode so steeped in the ephemera of the first season it becomes even harder to assign smaller thematic significance, or plot significance. The circumstances forbid a simple relationship, the past forbids any seasonal arc to mean anything. So we’re left with character.

Dawson is reaching back to the past because, in the face of the guilt trip his father laid on him, in the face of his avoidance, going to film school isn’t real for him. Dawson is so evidently a kid in this episode, arguing for a Mac for no particular reason, demanding that his parents let him stay out late with his friends. When we glance at Grams and Jen and Jack, when we look at what odd caricatures Mitch and Gail often become in service of the plot, it’s even more obvious that Dawson, in spite of his words and privilege, doesn’t relate to his parents as familial, simply as family. He packs totems of them without any meaning; he’ll see them again, after all, and he won’t need their presence in California.

Joey he needs.

Joey is lonely, unused to having so unpalatable a thing be so certain and so far outside of her hands. Her issue isn’t family, it never was, because Joey’s independence, her ability to not be hurt by her father (or even by Bessie), came at the cost of her devotion to them and to Capeside. She sees her future as separate from Bessie and Capeside, in a way that Dawson and Jen and Pacey really don’t. No, Joey’s principle neurosis has always been what she assumed was true about her future. Long ago she decided that it didn’t really include Dawson. Recently she decided it didn’t include Pacey. Now one has left and the other is leaving. So this must be her future.

Joey doesn’t need Dawson (although Dawson’s mind-games have convinced her she does again and again), but it takes dynamite to get Joey to shift from the status quo. Even if she has to actively pursue it.

I’ve given a couple interpretations here, and I don’t know which I prefer and which I think are true. But we’ve got a long way to go through an entirely different world.

Thalassa! Thalassa!” the Greeks shout in Xenophon’s Anabasis, but as Odysseus learned the water ain’t exactly a cakewalk either.

Dawson’s Dick: Piqued

Movie: What’s that one set during the last day of summer? Yeah, that one

Substances Abused (show): Ugh, Daydream Believer

Substances Abused (me): Kentucky Gentleman

Stray Thoughts:

  • Oh my god, and they start by watching The Pacey from the Black Lagoon. Or Sea Creatures from the Deep. But they should be watching Self-Indulgent Piece of Crap. Or Creek Daze: Soon to be a Major Motion Picture!

  • Wondering about 10th grade, which is pretty pointedly not what they were talking about.

  • Summer program? What is he, a plebe at the Naval Academy? It’s fucking film school.

  • HAHA, “Never fall for a monster from beneath the seas,” is funny cause she’s talking about Pacey.

  • “Thank you Silvia Plath.” Hand to go, literally my favorite thing to call someone or something. My friends have a cat that spends a lot of time staring at the oven.

  • Hahahaha, Dawson is so lame.

  • Man, life before “I’ll text you” was torture.

  • And of course Dawson would be a knee-jerk Mac person. For the price of a Mac you can buy a new shitty computer every 18 months.

  • Oh shut up this is dumb HE’S NOT DYING MITCH.

  • GREAT SHIRT PACE.

  • I do like this weird friendship of convenience they sometimes forget that Jack and Dawson have.

  • Wait wait wait, is Jen really calling Joey out on being the kind of bitch she was in season 1 and Joey just chuckles and returns the subject to her own problems?

  • Really? American Graffiti? Really?

  • Oh my god, all this insistence that babies look like something other than blobs.

  • Loving Joey’s LA hate.

  • “I’m actually in more of a Soderbergh phase right now blah blah blah” shut up Dawson if making childhood bearable is your thing then read Vonnegut like a fucking normal.

  • They bought Dawson a cell phone? What is this, 199…I guess this is 2001, nevermind.

  • Wow, Boo Radley who is beautiful and has breasts, that is totally Jen.

  • Jen, once again, confuses flirting with wit.

  • Wait, are they flirting? I can never tell with these two. Sometimes it’s like they don’t remember that they dated, and sometimes it’s like they did. Remember all the sexual connotations of climbing through the window? God, that was the best, why did I ever hate on it?

  • D’awww, Mitch. Being such a cool dad right now.

  • Grams is like rubbish Gandalf right now.

  • God like, some acknowledgement that Capeside is like a former Hamptons-style thing, current vacation town, or whatever.

  • Pacey and Dawson are so bizarre in this episode, like two old war vets reminiscing about their coming of age by killing Germans or Japanese or something. I guess this lends itself to the more dream-logic interpretation, maybe? Time out of time? Like that Buffy episode?

  • I can’t even anymore with this music.

  • “A hit off his beer bong.” Dawson’s gonna be a hit in college.

  • Oh shut up Joey. Just go on being a weirdo who hates other women.

  • Dawson’s favorite movie is Jaws. Joey’s favorite song is Daydream Believer. Dawson’s most embarrassing moment is getting caught hooking up with Eve, and Joey’s is offering to bang Dawson in his room (that she’s comfortable bringing this up leads us back) (also it seems like early season 3 was the most embarrassing). Dawson’s biggest all time regret is refusing to bang Joey, Joey’s is lying about banging Pacey.

  • JACK. FUCKING JACK HAS ONLY HAD SEX ONCE AND WITH A LADY-PERSON.

  • Joey’s most life-altering moment was apparently not going to the bonezone, but instead the kiss at the end of season 1. This is Joey ending her revisionism.

  • Joey doesn’t want to suffer in silence. She wants to suffer loudly, so that the suffering can be spread around.

  • Can’t tell if this is Dawson being mature or Dawson being a dick, holding Joey’s emotional life in his palms.

  • “Do you believe in magic?” asks a balls out crazy Joey.

  • CHRIST THIS MUSIC.

  • Maybe this is how Joey sees her life, like the tragic heroine in an old MGM tragedy, where romantic music swells and ebbs into epic music as she self-immolates in front of Dawson.

  • “Kinda wish the ladder was still out there. Make a classy exit.”

  • Dawson mentions cinematic, and then…

  • Dawson’s most life-altering moment: could be now when he says good-bye (read: kiss the clit out of Joey).

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: A PENSIVE REVIEW OF SEASON 4!

4.22-The Graduate, wherein Michelle Williams gets pulled out of retirement and Pacey beats on, giving fucks against the current

Graduation is a fundamentally strange thing. It’s one of the oldest purely secular traditions we have, and steeped in symbols that became frozen and lost their meaning over time, ostensibly an “end” but literally a “commencement”.

Graduation ceremonies have proliferated greatly over the last 300-odd years. Originally, university in the west was about religion and philosophy, essentially a training program for court philosophers (Oxford, Cambridge, Paris) or lawyers (Bologna) or theologians (Wittenberg, really all of them). As the system of guilds and apprenticeship broke down in the wake of the German wars of religion (and the creation of the early modern economy), trade schools began to crop up, feeding the growing demand for skilled labor. As these schools sought to legitimize themselves, and seeing an analog between the completion of their course of study and the earning of the Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.), they began to hold graduation ceremonies. Eventually this infiltrated the universities proper, who started to offer these programs, leading to the bizarre spread of academic recognition one can now earn.

Originally, though, earning a degree was recognition that you were raised to the level of your teachers, not that you were finished with anything. Perhaps more importantly, the regalia we now associate with graduation (academic gowns, dumb hats, latin) were simply part of the day to day life of a student. Time was when you wore your gown because that is what someone in your position wears on a day to day basis. Late middle age and early renaissance style eventually dropped away, of course, but academia held on to it, for the most part only dropping the requirement last century. In fact, at my school there was a bona fide movement to require that robes be worn to evening seminars, either because no one has a sense of humor anymore or a sadistic Oxford-complex, who the fuck knows.

But graduation is not really achievement anymore. I don’t mean this is the sense that graduation isn’t hard for some people, or that everyone does it; I mean it more in the sense that it’s like leveling up in an RPG: collect X credits, advance to college. No one raises you to their level, no one is making you defend an idea or even makes sure you find yourself on a philosophical or ideological spectrum (call me crazy, but I like the sectarian nature of academia; I like pigeonholing neo-con twat sausages from Chicago or up-jumped crypto-nihilist analytics from Oxford). Everything you can say about the insufficiency of modern education can be summed up in the insipidity of graduation.

And that’s Pacey. There are two dramatic arcs to this episode, and neither are really about what they claim to be about. Joey’s is the consistent fallback this show has used when it’s scrambling for a emotional reaction from her, and that’s her still rather vaguely defined relationship with her mother. This time out, when faced with the prospect of delivering something like the Salutatorian speech, she blanches, and hence Bessie presents her with a letter from her mother, conveniently meant to be opened the day she graduated from high school.

Like most plots that ask Joey to “just believe in herself” the overwhelming tone deprives Joey of any agency, and suffers just like any other plot that deprives her of agency. Joey is often asked to have a great deal of courage by simply sticking to the status quo, and while it’s generally irritating when any character is forced to reassess the status quo, Joey in particular is a character who really works dynamically. While her neophobic nature is essential to her character (and essentially, to Dawson’s), the show has yet to really pull-off an effective Joey-in-stasis plot.

Pacey gets the other arc, and it’s…fucking strange. It effectively cuts him off from the rest of the gang, which, fine, that makes sense; a lot of the back end of this season has been about the separations, some inadvertant, some purposeful, between Pacey’s life and everyone else. Bringing Andie back in no way bridges that gap, because while she essentially exists in this episode as an optimistic cypher for everyone to bounce off of, she’s almost the epitome of what Pacey has rejected for the past two years. Part of that is just his nature, and part is the disturbing co-incidents of dating Andie and then Joey.

But here, in a series of episodes that can easily be seen as the end of the very specific show we’ve seen for the last four seasons, we see one last impediment in Pacey’s way, and it’s academic. Almost the antithesis of what he’s supposed to represent. It shouldn’t stand in his way, and technically it doesn’t: there’s absolutely nothing in Pacey’s ambitions or future that really requires him to graduate high school. But he blanches at the teacher giving him shit before the exam, and while that plays as both a specific and a general rejection of the kind of shit-bowl that high school is, Pacey goes and just fucking subverts it.

By all the laws of Dawson’s Creek and the WB, after getting kicked out of graduation rehearsal and then his exam, and then magically getting the chance to make it up, Pacey should have made a triumphant entrance to graduation, cheered by his friends, approved of by his father (and Jane Lynch), and generally give off the appearance of a together guy whose life is gonna be alright.

The ending montage, though, doesn’t even show Pacey at graduation. Amidst the “emotional payoff” of Joey’s eminently forgettable speech, and the cheerful moving-on vibe the whole deal gives off, we get long cuts of the montage to Pacey going to the airport. Getting on a plane. Fucking jetting away from the most excellent canopy of Capeside.

It’s not that Pacey’s checked out, though he has. In essence, breaking up with Joey was him checking out, and if you think Gretchen could have held on to him, well, Gretchen’s left, and if you think Dawson could have held on to him, well, then you really haven’t been paying attention to what that towheaded shit-snack has been up to. In my opinion, only Andie could, or has, represented enough of an egalitarian symbol to draw him back, but she’s gone; Joey is too world-savvy to play dumb enough for Pacey.

No, Pacey has always been a character from a different genre. He talks, but he’s not as comfortable talking. He loves, but he’s too comfortable loving. He acts and is undamaged, he cares about symbols more than he cares about what they mean, and what’s right more than what ends up being right.

Pacey as a character has branched out from a more impulsive version of Dawson, but as his character has been sketched in his initial contradictions have become more and more glaring. Leaving Capeside may have been the most honest statement he’s made.

Dawson’s Dick: Out in the cold

Movie: The Graduate 2: The Reckoning

Substances Abused (show): Andie :(

Substances Abused (me): Fucking superior court decisions

Stray Thoughts:

  • Whoa who is this super short extra? Is he sitting down? Nice bowl cut.

  • Hehe, Joey won the “pinnacle award” is Andie valedictorian or WHAT?

  • “Security will be tighter than Ricky Martin’s pants.”

  • That really isn’t how grades work. Doesn’t he just have to pass the exam?

  • Did Meredith Monroe show up in the credits and as a special gust star?

  • Seriously, does it come down to this one credit or what? That makes sense, but saying that he’ll fail “the year” is confusing.

  • I mean, Joey, you never really offered to help him that much while you were dating. Even though you had a good reason not to now you just look like an idiot.

  • No one’s ever accused you of being anything, Tobey. You’re mostly just a blank, gay slate.

  • Wow, we’re in a “can you say boyfriend” thing. Like, seriously, if you’re going on dates and you don’t feel used, how is this a problem for you? It’s not like either of you are concerned about being exclusive; Tobey’s the only one who knows other gays.

  • Jen: “I love bass players.”

  • Awwww, Drue, awwwww.

  • Kicked out of his house, goes to Jen’s. I love Drue.

  • Security is mad low at this high school. Also, the quality of the teachers, and yet I love every one of them.

  • Um, Pacey, teachers hate honors students. At my school we wanted to take a Diff Eq class THAT WE WOULD DO AND TEACH OURSELVES FROM A TEXTBOOK, and even though we didn’t need that period to graduate they made us take an incredibly stupid IBH math class that was basically reteaching calculus badly so the school could have a higher Jay Matthews Challenge Index score.

  • I like Pacey describing the “just friends” proposition as one that is essentially torture, though it doesn’t go a long way towards explaining why he broke up with her.

  • Nothing Seems Easy Anymore: A Physiological Investigation of the Half-Smile

  • “To Joey, from Mom”

  • “Maybe this will inspire you.” Wow, Bessie. WOW.

  • Hahaha I love Andie awkward running.

  • “Assuming we get to attend at least one kick-ass graduation party.” “My people are on it.”

  • Wow, Jack, the moment was right?

  • Grams: naïve old softy, or skilled recognizer of duplicitous butt-kissers?

  • Man I kinda wish Dure had become a cast member. I love his wide-eyed “haha, fuck you” face.

  • Does any adult really regard graduating from high school as the important moment in someone’s life? Or is Joey’s mom like Hari Seldon?

  • My darling Joey, I know if you are reading these words it means you’ve graduated from high school (because what, Bessie would have burned it had she not?). Congratulations, sweetheart. You didn’t have a lot growing up, you even have been shortchanged one mother (nothing about her imprisoned father, who for all Joey’s mom knew had been released two years ago? No? Kool). Still, I want you to be proud of your family. If our strife has caused you pain, remember, it also makes you strong. Bessie’s strong, and I’m sure she’s taking good care of you. Of all the things my illness has robbed me of I count the greatest of them watching you grow up. You’re barely 13 now, still a young girl (not yet a woman, etc.), and so I’m left to imagine the woman you’ve become. Strikingly beautiful, I’m sure (way to congratulate your own cancer ridden genes), and equally unaware of it (girl some boy is finna take advantage of you). Quick-witted and strong-willed (like an ox. A slightly clever ox). Possessing the deep soulful eyes of an artist (this is three years before Joey’s artist phase) and a shy smile that regularly betrays the tough facade you do your best to keep up (well, half right). If any of this sounds remarkably on the nose it’s because it’s the girl you always were, Joey. And it’s the woman you’ll always be. Whatever you decide to do with your life I know your future will be luminous (is that a Star Wars reference?). Wherever you decide to go you will remember your days in Capeside fondly (a prediction that, should it go wrong, goes awfully wrong), and keep close those who shared your childhood. They will always love you in a way no one else can (yes, because we all spend so much time with our old high school friends). And they will always be with you. Just as I love you and will always be with you (yep). Love, Mom.

  • Just check out that sentence structure.

  • Beach par-tay.

  • The architecture, the men, the food. Did I mention the men?” *points at Joey* “This girl knows what I mean.”

  • Pacey doesn’t know what categorically means.

  • Wow, this is kinda an inappropriate way to do a make up test.

  • Everyone. Literally everyone that Andie has ever talked to.

  • Dawson falls in love so easilyt.

  • Man I wish Dawson and Andie had been an item. She has so much to teach him, and so little of it comes here while she’s basically being a sage-for-shit.

  • Why the fuck does he even have a cello? Those things are expensive.

  • The fact that Pacey tells Andie says so much. How much you wanna bet that nine futures out of ten, Joey looks back at Pacey like she was slumming it?

  • Joey’s behavior is so weird right now. She won’t engage Pacey on any level, really.

  • I like that Pacey takes this as a victory, and Joey is obviously pissed off.

  • Oh my god Bessie putting lipstick on Katie Holmes!! Always the grossest!!

  • I really hate that style of watch. Soooooo douchey.

  • So many people believe in Dawson, and yet he’s still a shit.

  • I’m glad. He really deserves it.” …really?

  • You konw the longer this goes on, the weirder it is.

  • Andie deferred Harvard to stay in Italy and do…what?

  • Why didn’t we get the end of that cello thing? Seems like the kind of comedy gold that Creek fucks up and then eats up.

  • Guys, I know you’re nervous about my speech, but it’s okay, because my Mommy loved me.”

  • Bullshit card to play, Joey. Don’t swing your death dick at whoever’s giving the valedictorian speech.

  • Population of memories? Really?

  • Oh yeah, and Drue dumb plan worked and it’s awesome.

  • Dawson throws like an idiot.

  • Pacey is taking a shitty puddle jumper to Miami?

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: A CODA TO A DELICIOUS SEASON AND ALSO: RUMINATIONS!

4.21-Separation Anxiety, wherein Pacey decides to sail the seven seas and Katie Holmes looks on concerned

Yvan eht kcuf.

I feel like the end of this season should be dragging a lot more than it has been. Joey and Pacey have already broken up and so we need to do the necessary draw-it-out-talk-it-out thing (it’s not like anyone could be mistaken and think that they’re getting back together, since the break-up’s had the requisite build-up and “meaning” applied to it). The one relationship that [essentially] means so little that it can be drawn out as long as necessary, Dawson and Gretchen, has completely fallen apart over the last few episodes and no longer provides an adequate distraction. Any residual drama from high school graduation is all concentrated on Pacey, and he’s made it clear that we shouldn’t care. College drama has almost entirely subsided, and Jen’s emotional stuff, which basically took the place of the college drama, is somewhere between a complete bust and a slow burn, but either way it ain’t paying off in the near future.

Something managed to weasel its way into this episode, though I am not entirely sure what it is. I think a lot of it revolves around the fact that there was actually very little of the type of talking we’ve previously seen on Creek. More often than not, the postgame has taken a form that’s weirdly analogous to the second episode of a serialized drama: rehashing and reshowing something, trying to make sure everyone is all caught up on the developments. The thing is second episodes tend to suck, especially after some of the most promising pilots. There’s plenty of time to build a good episode around dropping an important development, and generally there’s enough to do that there’s no choice but to trust the audience to keep up with what you’re doing. By devoting a second episode to the same revelation, you have no choice but to distrust your audience; this is what happened, you are required to say, and here are its implications, as if you, who have known the characters for roughly as long as the writers, don’t have a pretty good idea of what they think.

But this episode is almost entirely unconcerned with the postgame on Joey and Pacey. It makes a vague stab at being about a new kind of normalcy for Joey and Pacey as “friends”, but that’s really a distraction during the lunacy that surrounds even the idea of this plot-line. While Pacey and Joey are taking the requisite awkward time away, Peter Jurasik (from way back in this season) returns to offer Pacey a great opportunity from the dean of admissions, which we must all assume means that he must be getting into Worthington. Worthington is still an Ivy, but fuck it, it’s not like we should care about that, because hey, it’s Pacey!

Of course, Pacey’s not about to get into college. Creek is a fairly optimistic show, all things considered, but more than that it’s a show that is obsessed with things as they are, until the network has the chance to promote the fuck out of whatever change is coming. What was interesting about this choice of plot was that it confronts the very issue at the heart of their break-up. When we were closing in on the end of their relationship, one of the most important factors was that their future together became not a real thing in Joey’s mind.

Now the issue wasn’t entirely college, or the fact that Pacey wasn’t finishing high school; in reality that turned out to be more Pacey’s interpretation than Joey’s. No, Joey’s assumptions had more to do with her belief that college is a plane one ascends to, where one then has little to no contact with their previous life. And the thing is, now she’s given an opportunity to view things the other way. And girl is…taking it?

I don’t really have a variable that casts this one way or the other. It’s easy to view this as Joey being charitable and trying to help Pacey get into school, and it’s just as easy to look at this as Joey not accepting that it was Pacey who broke up with her. We do get that almost painful scene of Joey almost throwing herself at Pacey, but I give Joey enough credit to know, as Andie did, that throwing yourself at Pacey is going to elicite a very specific reaction. Getting Pacey’s dick out requires a different class of pitiful, and Joey either doesn’t go for it or can’t bring herself to go for it.

There’s something here that toes the line between disturbing and anodyne, and it’s a damn sight more interesting than the standard model for this episode.

Oh, also Dawson’s being a shittard and Grams is selling her house, because Jen is too proud to take money from assholes. Cheers.

Dawson’s Dick: Gretchified

Movie: George Washington

Substances Abused (show): Londo!!!!!!!

Substances Abused (me): It was croquet. So, all the booze.

Stray Thoughts:

  • Ahahahahaha at least they haven’t forgotten. Thank fucking god.

  • I LOVE DRUE THE BOOKIE.

  • Dawson has had like, five different computers in three years.

  • Why does Gail even know about this?

  • God remember that Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes a cool 90s kid? That started with yearbooks too, you know.

  • Ahahaha, he’s back! Londo the Great doesn’t understand our human break-ups.

  • Dawson just used the phrase “ill prepared” but swallowed it. Either he’s a better man than I or that line is out of character.

  • Have a bitchin’ summer” is how I signed all yearbooks until I learned how to imply they’d sold me drugs.

  • This is nonsense, of course. Londo is above all a man of procedure; he would never just allow someone like Pacey into bizarro-Yarvard (Hale?).

  • Well awkwarded, everyone.

  • Hehe, funyuns.

  • Great advice, Gretch.

  • Aw, it’s almost like the show didn’t treat their relationship as familial only when the narrative demanded it!

  • Yes, retirement communities are the worst. Not only are they creepy and ageist and whatnot, they are some of the most wasteful places on the planet. It’s the aging boomers and greatest generation types getting in their last “fuck you” to us and the planet.

  • Shut up Mitch.

  • La Brea park also is definitely not something in Massachusetts.

  • Jen can still apply for a student loan.

  • Pacey: not wearing a suit. Blazer and slacks, great church-wear.

  • SHUT UP DAWSON I NEVER GOT TO WEAR THE CAP AND GOWN YOU WHORE.

  • Wow, serial killer eyes much, D-Leer?

  • Oh my god never talk to a baby.

  • Dear Mom and Dad, Eat a big old bag of dicks. Yours etc, Dawson Leery”

  • Cool, I want to sail around the Caribbean and become an attractive and tanned island rake.

  • State schools have frats too.

  • Jen d’Arc. Niccccccce.

  • Aww, Jocey is poorly reconciled.

  • Ewww, Dawson and Gretchen are being weird again.

  • Joey throwing a great hail mary with that “You think I could sleep over tonight,” line.

  • Pancakes comeing fully formed out of a cold pan.

  • I guess this was back in the early 00s when city rents were crashing.

  • Man, Jen’s hair looks really good right now. How is she so hit or miss?

  • Jen really loves marveling at someone having more sex than her.

  • Are you sure I wouldn’t…” *puts on sunglasses* “cramp your style?” YEEEEOOOOOOHH!

  • Pacey doesn’t want to be that guy, which, sure, whatever.

  • I was jealous of the other people who were going to experience your cooter next year.”

  • I like which signs you choose to put your faith in, Pacey.

  • Dear Dawson, I’ve been thinking about what to say to you since I left your house yesterday. I thought about waiting for you to come to my door and saying this face to face, but I knew it would be too hard. I realize that, as much as I need to move on, you need to stay here. Your whole life is about to change in a way that will never be the same (um, dangle much?), you’re opening a new chapter, and you have to give a proper goodbye to the old one. You don’t want to miss these moments, even the sad ones, because you’ll never get them back. So enjoy this time. Let it wash over you so that your memories of it are strong. Besides, I don’t need to spend a month in a car to fall in love with you. I already am in love with you, even more than you know. So goodbye Dawson Leery, thank you for changing my life and opening my heart again. You’ll never know how much it meant to me. Have a bitchin’ summer. Love, Gretchen.

  • And the final scene goes to Dawson/Joey. Of course.

  • And of course Dawson isn’t working this summer. The little shit.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: GRADUATING FROM THINGS AND ALSO: ANDIE!

4.20-Promicide, wherein drinky drinky, Jen, drinky drinky

So first of all, I would be remiss were I not to mention: WOOOOOOOOH 420.

There’s a kind of symmetry to this episode. Last season’s junior prom, the anti-prom, was in a lot of ways about the impossibility of Joey and Dawson being together. In the wake of their break-up, in the wake of the sordid competition Dawson and Pacey engaged in, and in the wake of everything that was wrong with Joey’s assumption that two people can go on being friends by pure force of will, the anti-prom put to bed any potential for a relationship between Joey and Dawson in the foreseeable future. Joey didn’t make her “decision” until the next episode, but that was bullshit and we could smell it; Joey and Dawson together was made impossible by Dawson’s actions and Joey’s realizations during that prom.

There’s a lot that’s strange about Creek’s dismal view of proms. Among other things, people actively going with their significant other is relatively foreign. Junior year, you had Pacey and Andie (exes), Dawson and Joey (as friends, technically), Jen and Henry (right before Henry dumped Jen to go back to Paris during the ‘68 riots), and Jack and Brah (who were both victims of Jack’s slowest dance of seduction). This year, it’s Joey and Pacey (about to break-up), Dawson and Gretchen (about to break-up), Jen and Drue (enemies with benefits), and Jack and Tobey (who are both victims of Jack’s slowest dance of seduction). Let’s hear it for optimism.

When I think about what happened this episode, what happened this season on Dawson’s Creek, my academic mind, the one that searches for connections, immediately jumped to the schema that Creek follows so piously: the big and important moments of high school, of late adolescence. Every little thing about this episode screams tradition from the highest rooftops. Jack is obliged to bring Tobey, and every moment of it is charged with Jack’s indecision. I may be reading too much into Smith’s performance, but uncertainty with his place in the traditions of prom was written all over his face, more so than last year’s more blatantly liberal anti-prom. Pacey is also wrapped up in the details of prom: corsage, limo, tux (Dawson’s wearing a suit), after-party, tickets.

But that’s not all. Jen fulfills the stereotype and tradition of the prom drunk, and her insistence that Jack have a date reveals her own discomfort with not having one (not that that goes particularly well). Jack is possessed by something similar. Dawson is entirely wrapped up in the tradition of after-prom sex; without a single piece of evidence, and without mind to Gretchen’s reaction last time he tried, he becomes obsessed with the idea, buys condoms, drops them in front of Joey. All totems of American happiness, kinda what Mad Men is about, but adapted for the current age (in my opinion, our current age is much more tragic, since we aren’t even allowed to have totems of happiness; we’re supposed to be too smart for that).

This, we are led to believe, is the driving force of the break-up. Pacey thinks that Joey wants him to keep being the good boyfriend, and endeavors (poorly, it should be noted) to provide her with that. Joey is shocked by this; aside from the fact that she (understandably) doesn’t read Pacey’s behavior as in any way obscuring the problems he’s having, doesn’t understand the need for sign or symbol on his part. I think it’s fair to say that Joey doesn’t want or require Pacey’s obeisance towards their relationship, but we should keep in mind that Pacey’s position is still unclear, and that his act, such as it is, deserves the benefit of the doubt.

It isn’t often that Dawson’s Creek keeps us in the dark when it comes to motivation, and framing it against the pomp and order of prom should make us consider the confluence of duty and limitation that ensnares Pacey.

But after these things I’m left to wonder how much motivation really matters. So often on this show people break-up over a specific, one-time thing. Dawson getting Joey to turn on her dad. Something from Jen’s past. Dawson reading Joey’s diary. Andie…well, Andie cheating, alright. That’s not really the point. The point is, citing a single incident for a break-up, even if sometimes that incident easily warrants it, is akin to the great-man theory of history. It makes things easier to remember and understand, but it’s hardly accurate.

I don’t think I’ve ever been completely surprised by a break-up, whether I’ve been the dumper or the dumpee (historically equal levels). You can just feel something in the atmosphere, and when you feel it you learn that, however hard the immediate future, the next step, might be, the state you’re currently in is not unpleasant.

It’s like those old Baroque era paintings of re-purposed ruins. It’s after the rennaisance, and it’s starting to sink in just what it means that something so much bigger, grander than you used to be around, leaving you only with these faded monuments and shades of buildings that are still more meaningful and useful and powerful than anything you, right now, could gather yourself to build. They’re there, and you live amongst them, a memento mori jutting out of the ground. On the one hand it’s the ultimate futility, on the other, it’s still there. Men, gnothi seauton, de, tode gar kai eisi.

Banditti at Rest (Magnasco) shows the ultimate syncretism, the ultimate pragmatism, of bandits taking up residence in some ancient Roman temple complex (not unlike the bandits that attack Edmond Dantes). The moral degeneracy of the highwayman is the perfect counterpoint to the grandeur of the temple and the perfect symbol: here is what was, and here is what remains. Where once was worship now lives violent survival, where once was this is now that, and yet nothing has changed.

This gloomy, autumnal, nocturnal milieu is so foreign and yet so familiar. We all live on top of ruins, even going back to our earliest recorded myths and legends, to the Iliad and the Bible and the Mahabharata, our stories are full of etiological tales, explanations of how things came to be on this lived-in earth. Human memory doesn’t go far enough back to picture a virgin earth, untouched and unsoiled. Our fantasy is never on new ground either; a place unmarked by history is so alien to us it shows its face in sci-fi, while our fantasy is strewn with older, ancient things.

Myths, Campbell would tell us, are of the mind. We don’t just live, physically, in the ruins of giants. Psychologically we are full of the ruins of earlier things. People take up residence in positions you created for someone else, moving here and there in the preexisting voids vacated by others. But migrants are not the only inhabitants of ruins. The inhabitants of Rome are the descendents of Rome, for the most part. You can build something new and great and shiny and it falls apart, but what you built it for might still be there. It may have changed, it may not fit anymore, but it will be there, idling and singing and hanging up its laundry until one day it isn’t anymore. You can see that day coming, just as you know the sun must set, just as you know that the two of you have grown apart. There’s still beauty though, baroque beauty, peering through time or the sunset, knowing, in no way ignorant, of what is coming next.

Dawson’s Dick: Trojans lubricated

Movie: Can’t Hardly Wait

Substances Abused (show): Punch

Substances Abused (me): Riot Punch

Stray Thoughts:

  • Things the WB has taught me: all women instinctively know how to make a dress.

  • Like, my taste ain’t exactly operative here, but Joey’s dress is awful, right?

  • Never 4get S2 Jen hair.

  • “You might think you’re gay now, but give me an hour, honey, and I’ll rock your world.”

  • Ahhhhh Prodigy poster.

  • I. Love. Grumpy Jen!

  • Oh I get it, because it just became a new century OH YOU CARD.

  • See, this is another thing I’m skeptical of. I don’t know anyone who had sex for the frist time on prom night. Again, not that I went to prom. Cause I’m super-cool.

  • “She paged me.” AHHHHHHHH!

  • Yeah Gretch, turns out the Bachelor’s degree really helps.

  • Did Katie Holmes just slur the fuck out of that “You wanna know what?” line?

  • BLA-BLOW, JENNIFER. GET FUCKED.

  • Oh hey Drue.

  • People need to stop telling Katie Holmes to do the full smile. The half-smile is her thing. Don’t take away her thing.

  • That said, Katie Holmes is one of the few on this show to nail the gawkeyness of teenage life.

  • Really Dawson? Just a suit?

  • “Oh cool, a baby. Can I hold it?”

  • Oh Jack and Jen. You two. Just shut up and platonically spoon.

  • AHAHAHAHAHAHA DRUNK JEN! Kill it, drunk Jen.

  • Um this is awesome and I don’t know why none of them is excited about this amazing limo.

  • Are those snowballs? Gross.

  • “You know what I don’t understand? How these guys can be so happy and carefree. I mean, no on e knows what the future holds but I do know that it doesn’t hold what they expect it to.”

  • This kinda is the story of Jen and Joey tonight, isn’t it? And their admittedly strange interactions with their silent-motivation friends.

  • Also Jen has like at least 12 nips o’ hooch.

  • BOAT PROM! PROM ON WATER WHEELS!

  • Jenny-penny! Love it.

  • Jack reminiscing about Ethan “Brah” Fromme (nee Allen)

  • “First guy to break my heart? He looked just like Ted Danson.” “Okay, Becker!” One of these men has taste, and it’s the one who loves Ted Danson.

  • I do like describing Pacey as the Stepford boyfriend.

  • I want a gif of Jen saying “I’m queen of the world!”

  • Jen is always my favorite. That said, this is sooooo late season 2.

  • Suicide is painless, drunky.

  • Have I ever mentioned that buying a three-pack of condoms is the saddest thing in the world? Have a little confidence. It’s not like they go bad like fresh fruit or anything.

  • Dawson: way to creep.

  • I get that Pacey is trying to be gallant, I think, but you really need to pull that off with grace. If you’re gonna lead, you gotta have grace.

  • Drinky drinky, Gretchen.

  • Dancing can certainly be platonic.

  • Promicide: A Year on the Sexing Streets.

  • Joey, it’s alright for you to point out that you’re not that person (to whit: not the person Andie was). Your nurturing takes a very different form.

  • Great words of wisdom, Drue.

  • Tobey is doing a great job of staring off into the distance. How old is Tobey supposed to be?

  • Literally. Metaphorically. Everything.

  • That is such a warped view, Pacey, jesus.

  • “I’ve got news for you, Pacey: how you treat me is totally within your power.” Yes thank you.

  • Jack, you should be a little bit more nervous about Drue’s motivations when he won’t accept the money.

  • Just look at that final shot. This is Joey’s creek now, son.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: BREAK-UPS AND TALKING AND GRETCHEN AND ALSO: OH MY!

4.19-Late, wherein the uterus of Katie Holmes is late to that most important of dates

Hehe, babies. They’re gross. But someone’s gotta have them, am I right, men? Those guys know what I’m talking about.

But the ‘rents are on borrowed time anyway now that the gang is counting down the days to college, so we get a dying gasp out of the Gail-Mitch arc that should have ended sometime between the natural end at the end of last season and whenever we stopped paying attention to them, sometime around the time they had a fight in the middle of a hurricane. Tip of the day: if an apocalyptic weather phenomenon can’t lend gravitas to your marital problems, it’s time to throw in the towel.

But Gail is having a baby, because this is television, so why the fuck not. The laws of television say that the birthing of a baby must become a focus of the plot, so off we go, with nary a concern on our part that we could not possibly give a shit about Dawson’s new sibling.

Now, a simpler, less confident, less fun-loving show would have taken the opportunity to provide a meditation on life and rebirth. And to a certain extent, Creek does that. Gail’s protracted labor (or false labor or something) provides an opportunity for a baby shower, the kind of ceremony I can’t believe the writers felt they needed an excuse to throw. But the backdrop of all of this, behind the joy and light-hearted antics of an expectant mother, are two rather dark subplots inching towards their ends. Dawson and Gretchen are grappling with the fact that one of them is a coast traitor (LA is the worst type of coast treason) while the other is being handed a moderately stereotypical job in Boston, which is technically east coast and as such is fine, I guess. I mean, us real Americans know the difference, but if the rest of the country thinks that we really “accept” Boston then there’s no reason to disabuse them of the notion. Solidarity.

The other thing is that Joey is late, thinks she’s pregnant, and due to the fallout of Pacey’s arrest, Pacey is indisposed at the moment. Joey’s reaction to the pregnancy is its own thing, but its resonance within the Jocey subplot seems to indicate a sort of sea change. “Not talking” is cliché in the end-of-relationships department, but no more so than in this show. At any other time Pacey could be forgiven for being out of town and out of reach for something like this; Joey’s technically not pregnant, after all. But the issue is compounded here by the foregrounded discussion of responsibility and the parting of ways. We can’t simply hand wave the fact that the reason Pacey is indisposed is because he was concerned about the directions in which he and Joey were headed. There is something there.

And there’s something there as well in the fact that Joey, when she finally reached Pacey, didn’t tell him what she’d been through (or even the inspiring journey she’d been on with Bessie, who’s finally recovered her southern accent!). In a way, Joey’s actions (post initial-panic, anyway) speak to a desire, or at least assumption of being, that is the direct opposite of Dawson’s: while Dawson won’t ask Gretchen to follow him to California because he wants her to say yes, Joey won’t ask Pacey to accept the position of father (and hence, a partner a little more permanent than high school boyfriend) because she knows he will say yes. Joey, in my opinion, doesn’t want to Pacey to follow her to Boston.

Perhaps that is a little strong. I think what may be closer to the truth is that Joey, for all her talk of “love” and “soulmates”, has always assumed that some sort of break would occur in her life after high school. A clean break, of sorts. Recall all the times where she insisted that she might be doomed to reside in Capeside, trapped and alone, for the rest of her life. These seemed like silly ideas, on their face, but if you analogize that reaction to her constant assocation of “college” with “away” rather than compare the treatment, you can see a kind of general assumption of what her life is like if certain things don’t happen in high school. In Joey’s mind there’s a clean break one makes after high school, and you can start all over again. And once her brain recognized what it meant to leave and go to Worthington, I think the unspoken assumption in her head became that this was the end of her and Pacey.

A similar thing happens with Dawson and Gretchen; it’s perhaps admirable but not very realistic that neither proposes the long-distance option as something serious. It’s quite an advanced solution to the problem, really, since no one deludes themselves that their love might be strong enough to survive the lascivious waters of LA (or Boston). No, being apart simply means that you’re heading in different directions, that your time together is over. It’s hard for me then, at this point, to get past the idea that pregnancy represents an equally strong layer of meaning. Baby=together, physical separation=emotional separation.

The universe of Dawson’s Creek is awash in such equivalences as these. Symbols that mean things and other relationship synechodoches form the symbolic language that communicates around the conversations proper.

So here we are. In Joey’s mind, while her relationship with Pacey isn’t yet over, it has a definite expiration date. It’s the day she leaves. It isn’t an issue of love or devotion or duty or right or wrong. It’s simply an axiom; that which must be assumed that other things might make sense.

Dawson’s Dick: Slip sliding away

Movie: Vivre Sa Vie

Substances Abused (show): Showers

Substances Abused (me): Ding dong, the witch is dead.

Stray Thoughts:

  • John Tesh and Kenny G are birthing music. Because fuck everything.

  • Braxton Hicks contractions. Hey, this sounds like the ME on Law and Order.

  • Is inducing labor supposed to be scary? Isn’t that, like, common?

  • Wow, this doctor is awful. “Talk to your baby! Name it! I know that you’re worried about something being wrong so let’s definitely break every tradition society has for dealing with this anxiety.”

  • Oh, this apocryphal inner city child.

  • Cambridge Magazine, Assistant Lifestyle Editor. Because why not.

  • For once, Dawson isn’t being the obtuse one.

  • That’s not that bad, Joey, in this day and age. Gretchen, you might want to consider not freaking out. I know, I know, shadows of yourself, but this ain’t about you.

  • Blablow! Gretch sets them up and Joey knocks them down.

  • They’re writing Gretchen so obnoxious for her inevitable writing off.

  • Does “shower” mean something in this context? Baby shower, bridal shower…

  • Man, the Vagina Monologues are great. They did them at my school freshman year. We got super high and yelled cunt. I’m still not sure why.

  • Nice divining string.

  • Bessie: Sophie and Satchel (after Page!!), Jen: Emma and Jackson (after Pollock!!), Gretchen: Kurt (after Cobain!!) and Isabella, Grams: Rosemary and Thomas (after an old sex partner, the tank engine), Joey: brings that dumb necklace that Dawson used to wear.

  • Ugh, Mitch and cigars. I just want one of them to say “ay, see?” while waggling the cigar.

  • Parental instincts, the over-simplified version.

  • Mess of wet chocolate hair, curious saucer eyes: Josephine Potter.”

  • It only hurts when I blink” is the name of my 3rd wave screamo band.

  • I didn’t talk about the Jack plot because it’s a little after-school-specialy, even for me. Jack’s treatment of Tobey verges on the nurturing aspect of tonight’s theme, but it’s a little odd.

  • If I didn’t know you weren’t having sex.” AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

  • Jews say goodbye without leaving and Irish leave without saying goodbye. WASPs just go into labor.

  • Woe is Tobey.”

  • Crutches? Is that where your sex play has gone to now, Jack?”

  • Dawson is being ridiculous, but at least he acknowledges it. That said, that is one of those things you need to keep to yourself, because it involves treating someone like they have less agency than you.

  • Okay, I’m not in any way well informed about obstetrics, but is this a real thing? It seems odd. Also, should Mitch be giving her drugs?

  • You fell in love, you had sex. Even if you use protection, you’re finna get pregnant.”

  • Pacey: great with kids, attentive to women.

  • Okay, so, real quick: do we still believe Gretchen? The more I think about how Dawson overreacted to his mom’s decision to have an abortion, I’m thinking that insisting it was a miscarriage is kind of defensive.

  • Dawson would lasso the moon for you.” Thank you Ms. It’s-a-wonderful-life.

  • Jack really is too trusting of cops. Tobey is rightly suspicious of the criminal justice system.

  • Insert “Joey and Gretchen are lesbians!” joke here.

  • Here Joey. This is the pregnancy test I used. May it bring you luck.”

  • Important thing: at which point must you bring up pregnancy suspicions?

  • Dawson, it’s not what I thought it was gonna be…it doesn’t necessarily bring you closer together.”

  • Sex is like a magnifying glass.” That was actually really cogent, Joey. It’s not entirely true, nor is it universal, but it is nicely bizarre.

  • Oh god, the baby is named “Lillian”. After Lillian Potter, not Lily Potter, which would be confusing but also: awesome?

  • Oh hey, now Pacey’s being obtuse. Kewl.

  • Ahhhhhh Joey’s man hands. Joey is pale Lana Kane.

  • Denial is the BEST, oh my god.

NEXT TIME ON BALLS DEEP IN THE CREEK: THAT THAT IS INTENDED TO CAUSE DEATH CAUSES DEATH AT PROM AND ALSO: PROMICIDE!