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The Dawson’s Creek Recaps: “Discovery”

Hey, I get that title. Three meanings. Fun.

Dawson’s Creek Season Two Title Screen Screencapped From The Season Two Credits

I don’t know if you guys have heard this or not, but when the 2020-21 college basketball season starts, Marquette men’s basketball will have a high profile freshman named Dawson Garcia. You can click the link there and realize he’s kind of a big deal. You know what else was a big deal back in the day? The WB hit show Dawson’s Creek.

Much like we did for The O.C. for Sandy Cohen a few years ago, we’re going to jump in and start recapping Dawson’s Creek episodes. Why? Well, to be honest, I don’t know much about the show other than the basics, so if I’m going to run an internet blog and enjoy making pop culture references along the way, then I’d better learn a few for Dawson’s Creek/Dawson Garcia. Besides, we’ve got nothing but free time between now and whenever college sports actually do start up again thanks to the coronavirus, so what better way to occupy ourselves?

RELATED: If you’re looking for something to occupy yourself and end up binging The O.C., please check out our recaps of Season 1, Season 2, and the first five episodes of Season 3.

ALSO: If you have a catchy name for these recaps other than just “The Dawson’s Creek Recaps,” shout it out in the comments section or kick an email to or send the AE Twitter a note. We used “The Sandy Cohen Chronicles” for The O.C., but that worked since it was an actual character’s name. I don’t think “The Dawson Garcia Chronicles” works quite as well here.

Alright, hit it, Paula Cole!

Season 1, Episode 4: “Discovery”

Written By: Jon Harmon Feldman
Directed By: Steve Miner

Previously on Dawson’s Creek: Pacey falls for Ms. Jacobs when she wanders into the video store, and things just get wild from there. Dawson wonders if his mom is sleeping with her TV news co-anchor, and Joey actually sees the two of them kiss. Joey goes the extra step of telling Mrs. Leery that she knows about whatever’s going on, even though all she knows about is the one kiss. Joey hasn’t told Dawson about any of this, though. Dawson keeps advancing his relationship with Jen, the new girl in town. Oh, and Pacey and Ms. Jacobs sleep together. How did this Previously On NOT include the part where Dawson accidentally caught the Pacey/Ms. Jacobs tryst on camera??

We start off with Dawson reviewing footage from his monster movie, specifically footage of a slo-mo shot of Jen walking towards the camera. It actually looks like the footage of Jen’s first appearance on the show, honestly, but that’s probably smart use of existing shots to create Dawson’s movie instead of shooting pick-ups just to fit into the movie. In case you were wondering where this episode is going to end up, Dawson stares at the screen and declares Jen to be perfect. Joey, who is in her near-constant state of challenging Dawson’s interest in Jen, debates whether or not she’s perfect, right down to elaborating in specific detail about her potential future because her face doesn’t create any kind of a mystery or something. Uh huh.

This eventually turns into a discussion of what Dawson should get his parents for a 20th wedding anniversary gift (SPOILER: he never gets them anything), and Joey says “separate vacations.” That’s not a commentary on Mrs. Leery’s affair, but instead of a joke following Dawson saying that they’ve spent nearly every moment of the past 20 years together. Well, apparently not enough, y’know? Anyway, Joey turns around while making this joke and HEYOOOOOOOOOO That’s Ms. Jacobs getting it on with some mystery man. Dawson immediately realizes that he captured the footage when he and Jen ran away from the camera because they heard someone coming at The Ruins. We never get an explanation of when exactly Dawson went back to get the camera, tripod, and monitor, by the way. Simple physics explains that if the camera could see Ms. Jacobs, then Ms. Jacobs absolutely could see the camera, so when did Dawson get a chance to get the camera?

As Dawson and Joey figure out that’s it’s Ms. Jacobs on the tape, we get to see the same footage that we saw last week, and the camera fades to black and then back in to the title sequence. Now, because of rights reasons, the Hulu version of the show doesn’t have the aforementioned Paula Cole song as the title sequence music. Thus, I merely have to imagine how weird it was for the show to fade out on the Ms. Jacobs/Pacey sex scene into Paula Cole singing “I DON’T WANT TO WAIT.”

The next day, our four teen protagonists are at The Icehouse as Dawson and Joey tell the other two about capturing Ms. Jacobs having sex with a mystery man. I’m just gonna say it: This seems like an amazingly terrible idea, given that 1) Dawson didn’t have permission to make a sex tape of Ms. Jacobs and 2) she teaches at their high school. The possibility of this blowing up because they are talking about this in a very public dining room of a restaurant is very high. Jen’s reaction is, obviously, in the “oh wow” vein. Pacey’s reaction is, even more obviously, much more of a “UH, WELL, Y’KNOW, YOU SHOULD LET ME SEE THAT TAPE” and everyone makes fun of him for being a dirty pervert.

Dawson walks Jen home, and after an aborted kiss because Grams has literally nothing better to do than stare out her window (hey, go pay attention to your comatose husband already), Jen bolts back and smooches Dawson anyway because what the hell. This, of course, leads to Grams giving Jen the business about her behavior, especially with that Leery boy and that Potter girl who climbs through his window. Jen’s return volley of “it was only a kiss” is parried by Grams with a “a lot of trouble back in New York started with just a kiss.”

Remember when I said that Dawson’s “she’s perfect” line was foreboding?

The Leerys have a family talk about a scar on the underneath of Mr. Leery’s chin. Mrs. Leery says she has no idea it’s there or how it happened, while Dawson easily remembers that it was a moped accident 10 years ago up on the cape. Mr. Leery gently chides his wife that if she didn’t come home in the dark of night (TV anchor, remember, she doesn’t have a choice) that she’d be able to see the scar in the daylight. Dawson wanders upstairs fresh off of smooching Jen outside to see Pacey tearing apart his room looking for the sex tape. Dawson is obviously upset that Pacey is ruining his organization for his movie footage dailies, but there’s not discussion of how his parents didn’t, y’know, tell him that Pacey was in the house. Pacey launches into a confession as to why he’s tearing up the place. It’s not that he’s a pervert as everyone was joking before. See, he’s not usually the guy that gets the girl, but this time he did. And it’s on the tape. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. Pacey is, of course, focused on how the tape getting out would affect his life, and not once does he think about the fact that Dawson kind of accidentally filmed what is legally speaking a non-consensual sexual activity where Pacey is the victim. Pacey is also concerned with how his performance came across on camera, and Dawson tells him that he looked fine. I have many many many questions about how 15 year old Dawson in 1998 knows whether or not Pacey’s sexual performance where you couldn’t even see his face was aesthetically pleasing.

Later? The next day? I have no idea. Anyway, Joey and Dawson are walking and talking and anniversary gift shopping while “I Know” by Barenaked Ladies plays. The title is fun from the perspective of where the scene goes, but the lyrics don’t really fit. While Joey and Dawson chit chat about his parents’ sex life, they bump into Mrs. Leery with Bob Collinsworth, who just happens to be her TV news co-anchor. Turns out that the station’s research department says that viewers hate his sport coats, and Mrs. Leery is helping him pick out new ones. Bob is complimentary towards Dawson relative to his moviemaking, and as the adults wander off, Dawson thinks that Bob is definitely not the tool that Dawson thought he was from watching on TV. Yeah, can’t imagine why the man was nice to the son of the married lady he’s sleeping with. Joey seems to catch on to that point, though.

Pacey stumbles across Ms. Jacobs at a cafe with sidewalk seating. She’s going over the 10th grade reading list, and Pacey has suggestions. How about books with sex in them for sex’s sake! Everything they read has sex as a narrative problem: Romeo & Juliet, The Scarlet Letter, Oedipus. Can’t people in books just have relationships where everything works out fine? He puts his hand on Ms. Jacobs’ hand while talking, and she pulls away from him. Either because she regrets their encounter or because they’re in public, but far be it from Pacey to figure that out.

Dawson watches more footage of his monster movie with Jen hanging out in his bedroom. He asks her opinion of all of it, and she likes it, other than her terrible shriek. It’s honestly terrible, relative to the fact that it’s supposed to be her being frightened by the monster. Anyway, Dawson’s going to his mom’s TV station tomorrow to use the equipment to edit because they like him there, and he invites her along to re-dub the shriek. When she accepts, he’s surprised, and she’s surprised that he’s surprised. It’s honestly kind of a savvy move by Dawson to be impressed that the girl you like is interested in spending time with you. I think. It made more sense before I typed that. There is eventually kissing, but Jen stops it there, making a reference to old Hollywood studio censor limits that Dawson had mentioned a moment earlier.

Off to the TV station, where somehow Jen is actually worse at dubbing the shriek than she was at nailing the shriek live. Given what we’ve seen from Michelle Williams up to this point in the show and what we know of her as an actress since, this is incredible work by her to be absolutely horrid here. So, they take a break, Dawson buys her a Pepsi, hey, look, your mom, hey look, Bob, hey look, they’re kissing.

ZOOM IN ON DAWSON’S FACE, and he goes catatonic for a montage. Jen tries to get him to talk about literally anything and fails miserably. Unsurprisingly, Dawson runs off......and heads straight to Joey’s house to talk to her about accidentally seeing his mother kissing a man that’s not his father. A side note: Didn’t Mrs. Leery know that Dawson was coming to the studio? Seems mighty careless by her to smooch up a co-worker when she knows her kid is probably in the building, and also: What’s with doing that in the hallway where random yo-yos at the Pepsi machine can see them? Unless this TV station is some kind of sexual playground, it seems like incredible bad form to be announcing to your co-workers that you’re cheating on your husband.

Where were we? Oh, right, the Potter residence. Dawson admits that his earlier comments about his mom and Bob having an affair were just jokes. As Dawson goes on a tear, eventually he turns and looks at Joey, who just can hide the look on her face that tells him that she already knew. She didn’t say anything to him because it wasn’t her thing to tell him, which is true, especially after Joey told Mrs. Leery. Dawson undergoes a complete transference procedure on the spot, moving all of his emotions about his mother into anger at Joey for lying to him. So much shouting at his best friend. It was a comment about his preoccupation with Jen as the reason why he didn’t notice anything with his mom that really set him off, and Dawson storms away, telling Joey to “have a nice life.” Yikes.

We get a brief moment of Pacey just outside the video store but sees Ms. Jacobs at the sidewalk cafe across the street. He starts to head over there again, but realizes that she’s there with Mr. Gold, the film teacher at Capeside High. Well, I’m sure he’ll react just fine to this after ambushing her in the last episode because she was merely talking in a friendly manner with a co-worker, because, hey, she slept with him after that. It’s fine. Definitely not a problem.

Mrs. Leery comes home, which is apparently the day after Dawson was at the TV studio because she says she didn’t see him there “yesterday.” Okay, so she did know he was going to be there. That’s just some wild behavior by her. Anyway, Dawson just kind of stares weirdly at his mom with nothing to say and runs off next door to talk to Jen, although there is an awkward interaction with Grams in between those two points.

Anyway, after literally staring off into space when Jen was trying to interact with him before, Dawson won’t stop talking now. He needs her to promise that she’ll always be honest with him, and smartly, Jen elects this moment to elaborate on her real reasons for moving to Capeside from New York. See, Grams doesn’t really need help caring for her husband because she’s been an RN for 40 years. Jen’s here because, well, the cliches about teens in the big city are true. Dawson, ever the idiot, asks if her parents wanted her to get away from kids like that. May Odin help and protect you, my boy. No, she was one, and yep, totally having the sex, and definitely not just with her boyfriend. This returns Dawson to his shellshock state, although he does hold her hand upon request. She asks if he’s okay with all of this, and he says yes, but he is most definitely not. Bad 48 hours for our guy here.

At school.... the next day? Monday? I have no idea when things are, but Pacey checks out a girl walking past him like a normal high school sophomore before seeing Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Gold interacting like friendly co-workers again. He scowls and as he goes to confront her, we get a Jen/Dawson interaction where Dawson could not want less to do with 1) this conversation, 2) the afterschool plans that Jen is suggesting, or 3) Jen in general. After Dawson scurries off from his girlfriend, Pacey get high and mighty about his inappropriate relationship with his English teacher, demanding to know about what she’s doing with Mr. Gold. Well, seeing as Mr. Gold is gay (SURPRISE OUTTA NOWHERE), Ms. Jacobs probably isn’t sleeping with him. BUT YOU DIDN’T HOLD MY HAND! My god, he’s dumb, and yes, it’s because it was in public and duh, he’s a minor and her student. Nitwit.

Later, Jen tries again with Dawson, and he’s trying to claim that the events that were mentioned in that other conversation are in the past and there’s nothing he can do about it even if he had a problem. Jen, of course, wants Dawson to be honest with her, and runs through a list of possible of options of what to say. He stares blankly, and she leaves. This is going well. Dawson follows up his inability to talk about Jen with Jen by talking about it a lot with Pacey at work at the video store. Pacey makes an overly elaborate case that Jen not being (relative to Dawson) incredibly experienced at sex is good news for Dawson. It’s kind of very old minded where Jen admitting she’s had lots of sex proves that she’s into having sex, and thus has a carnal mindset to match Dawson, so that’s good! Kind of gross, honestly.

Somehow this all ends up with Dawson deciding that he’s going to tell his dad what he saw happen with his mom, and so he interrupts Mr. Leery as he gets dressed for his anniversary date with his wife. Mr. Leery talks about how great it is that they’ve been married for 20 years, together for 24, and he has friends on second marriages and he doesn’t know what he would do without his wife. Said wife wanders through the room, and Dawson completely chickens out on talking to his parents, offers a congratulations and happy anniversary, and runs away. He’s getting very good at this running away from any kind of conflict thing.

Jen wanders into the Icehouse to talk to Joey about Dawson, and while Ms. Potter is immediately not interested in the conversation, she is literally this GIF come to life when Jen says “I told him I’m not a virgin.” It’s a big ol’ psychological breakdown on Dawson as Joey has watched him over the past seven years or so. My favorite line in the middle of it is “There have been popes with more experience.” Joey points out that the ones who grow up to one of the good ones were probably all dweebs with girls when they were 15, so give him a minute to figure it all out. Jen asks how long should she wait, and Joey says “I’d probably be stupid enough to wait forever, and Katie Holmes is so good in this moment that you can nearly see her actually blush while discussing the idea of waiting long enough for Dawson Leery to finally look at her the way he looks at other girls.

Pacey and Ms. Jacobs are in bed together, but not like that. They’re merely sitting on the bed as Pacey reads Time Magazine with a cover story about sharks and Ms. Jacobs.... I dunno, reads a book or reads English essays or something. I was distracted by sharks. Pacey is a big dummy who raises the issue of her previous lovers, and somehow, this does not turn into a total disaster. For what it’s worth to you, she says that Pacey is #5.

Jen turns her granddad’s bedside into a confessional. Hey, is it all so bad when within 5 years, all of her classmates will be sexually active? This is literally her thesis statement, and I swear, if Grandad never wakes up from his coma, I am going to presume that he was shocked to death by this monologue from Jen. Hey, by the way: Why was Grandad discharged from the hospital after his aorta exploded if he’s apparently in a coma still? That’s weird, right?

Joey finds Dawson down near the water somewhere, and given that it’s CAPESIDE, it’s hard to tell exactly where he is. She points out that he is massively screwing it up with Jen, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s still mad at Joey, to the point of saying he doesn’t know if they’re actually friends any more. Somehow Dawson talking about not know what they are any more (that’s good news for Joey, if you pay attention to everything she’s been saying and doing all series long so far) leads into a weird hypothetical about an alternate universe where they were married for 50 years but brought dates to the wedding? It’s very confusing. They are interacting in a friendly manner, so maybe this relationship has been patched now. The subtext is fatiguing Joey, though, so she leaves, but she stops and looks back at Dawson with a wistful look as she’s clearly waiting for something that’s just not going to come together for her.

A NOTE, before we get into the good/bad things: Wardrobe provided by J. CREW, says the credits. Remember when Dawson mocked Cliff for being a J. Crew model? Well, the whole cast is pulling clothes from the J. Crew rack, so BOOM, YA BURNT.

GOOD THING: I love every single minute of Joey Potter pining for Dawson Leery. It’s just sitting there in the background for you to catch it. Katie Holmes does incredible work putting it on the screen for you to see, and the script never pounds you over the head with it, either.

BAD THING: Hey, remember when Pacey was panicked about finding the tape that had his sexual encounter with Ms. Jacobs waaaaaaay back 2,100 words of this recap ago? Yeah. He has THREE interactions with her over multiple days after that in this episode, and at NO POINT does he tell her that his best friend has a video copy of her at best doing something that would cost her the job she just got in the last few months and at worst committing a felony. I’m not saying there’s a good way to tell your English teacher that you’re sleeping with that a video tape of your sexual encounter exists, but Pacey needs to figure out a way to bring that up.