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The Dawson’s Creek Recaps: “Dance”

There’s a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up, and that always lends itself to teen drama.

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 2: “Dance”

Written By: Kevin Williamson
Directed By: Steve Miner
Original Airdate: January 27, 1998

Previously on Dawson’s Creek: Jen arrives in town, and will be in the same grade as Dawson, Joey, and Pacey. Pacey ogles a lady that turns out to be a new teacher at the high school. Dawson’s making a movie and also was not allowed to take a film class at school because he’s only a sophomore. Joey and Dawson can’t talk to each other the way that they used to because they’re both 15 years old now. Pacey got KTFO by a stranger in a movie theater whilst hitting on Ms. Jacobs, the aforementioned new teacher, then runs his mouth to her about how great he is in bed (again, 15), and then she kisses him.

We open this week’s episode on what is clearly Dawson reviewing footage from his movie. It’s a big moment between Pacey’s character and Joey’s character, and Pacey moves in for the kiss as scripted. Joey has never gotten on board with this acting idea and wants nothing to do with it right up to the point where she ruins the take by breaking character and literally running away. This film review is happening in Dawson’s bedroom while he works on a mannequin head and Joey watches from Dawson’s bed. Dawson says that she’s going to have to kiss Pacey eventually because it’s in the script. Somewhere in here we learn that Pacey’s character turns into the swamp monster, so he’s not playing two different parts when he’s in the costume. Joey converts the scripted kissing talk to unscripted kissing talk, specifically of the Dawson and Jen kind. Joey says Dawson needs to get his act together because Jen’s from New York and “things move faster there.” Dawson says that Joey has good kissing lips, but this won’t make sense as to why he’s thinking about this until much later in the episode.

After the title sequence, we head to another day at school. Nellie Olson announces a big dance on Saturday, following the big game on Friday. That’s one way to set up the big plot point for the episode, that’s for sure. Dawson zips over to talk to Mr. Gold, the film class teacher because he has A Plan. Because he tried to get into the film class but was rejected on the basis on class standing because the film class is popular, Dawson has a study hall for fifth period. It’s awfully crowded in the library, so it would probably be just better for Dawson’s education if he spent his study hall with Mr. Gold. While he’s teaching his film class. Mr. Gold agrees as long as Dawson understands he’s not part of the class, he sits in the back, and he stays quiet. Remember all of that.

After an interlude of Pacey trying to talk to Ms. Jacobs about their kiss and her shutting him down because they have nothing to discuss, Dawson updates the group about the status of his movie. Given the timeline and now that school has started, they’re going to have to shoot all weekend to finish in time before the film festival. This turns to discussion of Pacey and Joey’s on screen kiss and neither of them are fired up about shooting it. Dawson has a Great Idea, which works in parts and if you think about it is actually a bad plan. Step 1) Move up Joey’s death in the flick. Step 2) Replace her with Jen playing her cousin from New York so now Jen has the kiss with Pacey. Step 3) Let Joey help him out behind the camera. Can you see the problems here, even if Joey and Pacey like the changes?

In English, Ms. Jacobs teaches Wuthering Heights to Pacey’s class. She asks about a moment in the book between Heathcliff and Catherine, and Nellie gets the straight interpretation of events correct, so Ms. Jacobs points out the underlying meanings. In short, and spoilers for a 150+ year old book, Heathcliff and Catherine never belonged together and their relationship was doomed from the start. She goes into more detail than that, but the important point here is that Pacey thinks this is a direct message from Ms. Jacobs to him and gets increasingly visibly upset about this. He is an idiot.

Over in fifth hour film class, Dawson is tucked into the back of the room while Mr. Gold talks to the class about the film that they’re preparing for the festival. MY GOD, THAT’S SCOTT FOLEY’S MUSIC! He plays Cliff, who is the starting quarterback on the football team and also apparently the scriptwriter and director for this film they are making. It’s apparently his autobiographical story about something that happened to him during the previous year’s football season, so that makes sense. They appear to be much more organized than Dawson in terms of filmmaking, but I’m just basing this on what Cliff says. At some point in all of this, Dawson raises his hand to ask if this is the Boston Film Festival that they’re talking about. This does two things: 1) We now know that this is obviously in Massachusetts and 2) Dawson has now violated the terms of his deal with Mr. Gold. Nothing is done about #2 for the remainder of the episode, but I found it fascinating that Dawson lasted approximately five minutes before screwing it up.

After class, Dawson goes on a rampage in the hallway to Joey about how dumb the plot of the film the class is making is, and he gets ultra pretentious about how it’s just a typical boring lame sports movie. 1) Chuckles is making a monster movie. 2) Dawson’s just reinventing his script on the fly, while the class appears to have that locked in place based on what Cliff said. 3) This isn’t in continuity related, but it is funny that Varsity Blues would be released almost exactly one year after this episode aired. As Dawson starts to run out of steam on his rant, he notices Cliff talking to Jen in the hallway, so now he’s got that to be mad about now, too. We cut over to that conversation, and Cliff is a perfectly normal human being who interacts pleasantly with the new girl at school. He extends an open ended offer to show her around town/take her out, but it’s left as if she’s interested without a specific timeframe. We go back to Dawson and Joey, and Joey fires up the “they move fast in New York” line again...... because Jen is talking to a person?

Dawson’s at home, running around the house trying to find his camcorder. Mr. Leery tells him it’s on his mother’s bedside nightstand........ oh, and Dawson will probably want to take the tape out and leave it there. WOW. Well, since Mr. Leery broached the topic of male/female interactions, Dawson has questions about the mechanics of kissing a girl. Details, BUT NOT TOO MANY. As Dawson’s dad tells him the story of his first kiss with his wife (chapstick ended up playing a big part, this is actually important later), Joey wanders up and into the house through the ladder and Dawson’s window. Mr. Leery wraps up his story, with the note that the romance of the situation is important. He’s being esoteric about it, but Dawson literally meant the physical mechanics. Conveniently, he’s also holding the mannequin head he was working on at the beginning of the show. Mr. Leery suggests he takes a dry run on the mannequin head. At some point, Joey has wandered out onto the second floor landing and spies/listens in on the nice father/son conversation. She smiles at the nice part of it all, but her expression gets a little more intense when it’s clear Dawson’s going to kiss the mannequin head. As Mr. Leery suggests to Dawson that he close his eyes while he kisses it, Joey also closes her eyes up on the balcony. Guys, I don’t know how much the show can make it obvious that Joey’s interested in Dawson without slapping you in the face with it.

After all of this, Joey sees a phone line (hey, remember land lines that needed to be plugged into the wall?) running down the hallway and under the linen closet door. She overhears Mrs. Leery having a conversation with someone that we will generously refer to as a gentleman caller and who is obviously not her husband. Hey, it’s weird that Joey seeing her kiss her TV news co-anchor wasn’t in the Previously On, right? Anyway, Mrs. Leery comes out of the linen closet, and Joey gives her an “I know” before walking off.

Remember a minute ago when I said that I don’t know how the show could make it more obvious about Joey’s feelings for Dawson? Well, they found a way. That mannequin head? Yeah, it’s for Joey’s character, and they’re filming her death scene now. The swamp monster attacks her, she runs behind a thing, the mannequin pops up and the monster swats the head off of it. Blood spurts everywhere. Just so we’re clear here: Yes, Dawson was practicing kissing a mannequin head designed to look like Joey and Joey was very clearly enjoying the idea of Dawson kissing her face. I like that there was an extra level to that previous scene that’s not completely explained out loud.

Anyway, Joey was the one hosting up the mannequin, so she’s covered in stage blood and goes to clean up. Jen wanders inside to help her since it’s everywhere, and this leads to Jen complimenting Joey’s body since she’s not wearing a shirt any more. Like straight up, “You have very nice breasts” is the dialogue. Jen makes it clear that she’s making a totally hetero observation as someone who also possesses female body parts as to the quality of Joey’s parts. Neither girl actually likes their own body, with Joey saying she’s too tall and Jen saying she looks like a duck. Joey says she doesn’t, and Jen points out that this is the nicest thing that Joey has said to her since she arrived in....... have they actually said the name of the town before? I don’t think they have. I’m calling it Capeside, since that was the name of the high school. Jen says that she’s got a plan to make it very hard for Joey to not like her, and wanders out as Joey stands there in a towel being very taken aback.

This transitions to shooting the scene of Pacey and Jen’s characters kissing, and Pacey really leans into the kiss, both metaphorically and literally. Dawson has a fit because of course he does. It’s way too much of a kiss although Jen wasn’t exactly stopping the take either. Anyway, Dawson’s fit leads to him just cutting the kiss out of the movie because he can’t handle someone else kissing the girl he likes, even though this was his idea. Yep. That’s a wrap on shooting for the day, and Pacey takes off to prepare for the dance tonight because “the girl of my dreams” will be there and will someone please hit him with an oar. Dawson invites Jen over to watch Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and Stayin’ Alive for a John Travolta dance movie marathon in honor of the dance taking place that night. She, uh, can’t, because, y’know, she’s going to the dance because she’s the new girl at school and wants to interact with her classmates..... and also because Cliff asked her to go and she made plans more than 10 minutes in advance. Jen tells him to come to the dance so we can dance together and he says no, his Travolta movies are waiting for him. Dawson Leery is the world’s most amazing goof. I get that he’s 15, but the guy has absolutely no ability to read a room. “Hey, wanna do my thing?” “No, I have plans, but you’re welcome to come to where I will be and interact with me.” “No, I don’t want to do that.” UGH.

Any pity you may have created for Dawson in the moment previous for his inability to read the room is IMMEDIATELY blown out of the water when we transition to his bedroom and he’s on another tear about Jen and Cliff and Cliff’s movie. At least he’s not shouting to himself, but as we all know, aiming this rant in Joey’s direction isn’t exactly going to work out for him, either. Joey does that sarcastic agreeing with the crazy ranting person thing, and Dawson starts scripting out exactly what’s happening between Jen and Cliff at the dance, right up to the two of them kissing. Always fun to make yourself even crazier about things that are happening when the girl in question literally invited you to come interrupt them. My god, kid. Dawson literally asks “What did he do that I didn’t do?” Joey: “He actually asked her out?” BURN. Dawson makes the snap decision to go to the dance because Jen is there! Joey points out that this probably isn’t going to work out for him the way he wants it to, and I presume she means with him acting like a total loon. Remember: Jen did invite him to come dance with her. Dawson starts shouting about how “I should be kissing her, not some J. Crew ad!” Maybe I’m the one who isn’t in touch with what the models in J. Crew ads look like, but I generally think that Dawson Leery needs to double check his own wardrobe before slinging that insult around. He’s not exactly dressing like Joey Ramone, y’know? Anyway, since he’s being a massive creep right now, Joey calls him pathetic and also hitches her wagon to this insanity train just to watch it derail. SPOILER ALERT: Joey is both right and wrong.

Joey wanders downstairs to wait for Dawson as the Leerys share a passionate kiss before Mrs. Leery leaves for some sort of event. It’s not work on a Saturday night, because she’s dressed much fancier than for work. Not sure why Mr. Leery isn’t going but whatever. Anyway, Joey surprises Mrs. Leery again with a “good night” from her seated spot on the stairs. This ends up launching into a story about Joey’s parents and her dad always cheating on her very nice mom and then cancer killed her mom. Just curious, how is Mr. Leery not hearing this from the kitchen? Dawson hears “does Dawson know” just fine from the top of the stairs. Anyway, this is ended here for now as the kids leave followed by Mrs. Leery.

At the dance, Savage Garden’s I Want You plays. It’s not a particularly dressy dance, as Cliff is in a button down shirt and jeans. Capeside did win the football game, which makes the dance a little more festive. Even though he’s the starting QB, Cliff claims to Jen to be rhythmically challenged. Scott Foley kind of pulls that off as he is not a particularly suave dancer. Pacey enters and targets Ms. Jacobs, who is chaperoning the dance.

Joey and Dawson enter. Dawson has no plan. Joey tells him to get his brain in gear because “in some moral sectors, what they’re doing is known as foreplay.” I don’t know if that’s intended that way, but that’s a nice oblique Footloose reference. Dawson technically asks Joey to dance, but it’s really more of a demand. Unfortunately for Dawson (but very fortunately for Joey), Happiness by Abra Moore starts playing about three seconds after they get out on the dance floor, and thus Dawson is forced to slow dance with Joey. Dawson loses sight of Cliff and Jen in the slow dancing process, but notices and remarks out loud that Joey is pretty good at this. Jen and Cliff sidle up in that “high school dance we’re slow dancing but not actually romantically on any level so let’s go over by our friends” kind of way. Jen makes Dawson and Cliff talk about their respective interest in movies, and instead of being a normal person interacting with normal people about things they both like, Dawson drags Joey away. Wonderfully played, idiot boy.

Jen heads to the ladies room after the slow song is over (classic high school dance separation move, love it), and Dawson follows after. Jen is pleased to see him, since she wanted to dance with him. Dawson asks if her date would get upset if he danced with her, but he goes with “why are you here with that nimrod” as his tone instead of “I don’t want to insult you or Cliff” instead, so Jen blows him off and heads into the restroom....... and Dawson follows her. Amazingly, the show doesn’t turn this into a scene in the ladies’s room, as approximately 15 teenage girls immediately scream at Dawson to get out. That was funny.

Dawson sits and pouts, “enjoying my misery” as Jen, the new girl at school, pleasantly interacts with Cliff and his friends. I’m not sure which part of Dawson’s attitude is worse: His possessiveness towards Jen and her romantic interests, or his annoyance at her merely meeting new people at her new school. Joey opines that Jen’s “hardly the only girl at this school,” as she inches closer towards dropping an anvil on Dawson’s head to get the message across. Dawson goes on and on and on and on about his “bond” with Jen and how they’re meant to be together and the something primal between them. It’s totally insane, and Joey tells him so. Dawson follows that up with a “I feel like I’ve known her my whole life...... it’s like how I feel about you.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then gives her “she could be you, except she’s Jen.” Odin help him. The knowledge that Pacey’s movie character transforms into the swamp monster helps us here, as Joey draws a comparison between Dawson and his fictional creation, and then bails on his stupid ass.

Apparently the message that Dawson took from Joey bringing up the movie is the attitude of this situation needs a rewrite, so he literally says that out loud and then heads over to Jen and Cliff to cut in. Instead of being a polite gentleman asking to cut in, Dawson turns this into demands because “we have something going on” meaning him and Jen, and thus Cliff is just in the way and needs to be removed. You’ll never believe this, but the taller, older, and stronger Cliff doesn’t react positively to this situation, which leads to the two of them inching closer and closer to a fistfight. Jen solves the whole scenario by just leaving.

Mrs. Leery comes home while Mr. Leery keeps working on what appears to be the aquatic restaurant, but I’m not sure. She asks about Dawson, and is told that he is probably, about this time, kissing the girl next door for the first time. Mrs. Leery’s commentary about the romantic situation leads Mr. Leery to ask if she remembers their first kiss. She thinks she does, but she keeps describing a kiss from their second or third or fourth date. Mr. Leery is disappointed that she doesn’t remember what is, for him, “the single most vivid memory of my life.” As he talks about his disappointment level in that regard, Mrs. Leery pulls chapstick out of her purse — we get a closeup and everything so you don’t miss the subtext becoming the actual text — and applies it before pulling her husband in for a kiss. See, she does remember! She was just teasing him for a moment before giving him the surprise. That’s nice. They embrace, but Mrs. Leery looks off in the distance with a worried look on her face.

Pacey walks around mournfully after the dance because his planned interactions with Ms. Jacobs at the dance did not go his way....... AND THEN AMAZINGLY BUMPS INTO MS. JACOBS AT THE HARBOR AGAIN. Again, the show admits this is ridiculous, as Pacey says “this can not be happening.” I like when TV does that. Ms. Jacobs thought it was appropriate to try to recreate this moment to apologize to Pacey for everything. It was “deadly wrong” for her to kiss him, and hopefully there are no permanent scars. Pacey takes responsibility for his end of the emotional situation, even if he can’t take responsibility for the legal aspect of the interaction. Buuuuuuut he doesn’t regret the kiss, and she shouldn’t either. Still, Ms. Jacobs says that their relationship is strictly teacher/student from now on. She starts to leave, but Pacey grabs her by the arm and pulls her in for another kiss. The show cuts away before it ends, so who knows how this ends after the speechifying by Ms. Jacobs.

Joey walks and tells Dawson that Saturday in with movies is the best course of action because life doesn’t have a rewind button. Dawson mopes about how he is either running to one end of a spectrum or another in his head and has no middle ground any more. Yeah, that’s because you’ve got the hormones of a 15 year old, pal. Anyway, they stumble across Jen by herself, and I am not kidding here, buying salt water taffy from a push cart vendor. So weird. Anyway, Dawson has no idea what to do — still no plan! — but Joey gives him a completely halfassed and not actually strongly meant blessing to go talk to her.

Jen asks Dawson what he wants from her, and he wants an answer about what’s going on with them. She doesn’t think that can be answered tonight. Dawson was afraid of getting shoved into the friend zone, but he tells her that he wants to be her boy adventures, not just hear about them. That’s actually a really good line, both in construction and declaration of his interests. Jen alludes to her rough past in New York, so she’s not interested in pushing things along quickly with Dawson (Joey was right and also wrong at the same time!), but thanks to some music from a couple on a nearby boat, she will dance with him. Y’know, the thing that she invited him to do literally hours ago within the context of the show and first you said no, and then you were a jerk about outside the bathroom, and then the thing you attempted to do in the worst manner possible on the dance floor. Jen Lindley: Patience of a saint.

They dance while Joey just watches. I’d call it “spying,” but she’s not exactly hiding from view. The camera goes back to Dawson and Jen slow dancing and it slowly pulls out and fades to black.

And now to steal an idea from The Post Atomic Horror, a very in-depth Star Trek podcast.

GOOD THING: While it’s patently obvious that Joey is romantically interested in Dawson, I like the fact that the program is showing it to us in essentially subtle ways instead of making it obvious to all of the characters on the show. We see it very clearly — the mannequin kissing made it clear if it wasn’t already — but no one else on the show does. Related to that point, I like that Joey isn’t being mean to Dawson and Jen any more. It made her kind of unlikeable, and if you’re trying to get me to sympathize with a character who is going unnoticed by the boy she likes, she can’t be a jackass.

BAD THING: The Pacey/Ms. Jacobs storyline can go die in a fire already. I get that it was a thing in the pilot, and I liked the older woman flirting with the boys in the video store turning out to be the new teacher for the pilot. It looked like it was going to die a death here, but we left it on a second kiss between the two. Stop it. This can’t go anywhere good for anyone involved.