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The Dawson’s Creek Recaps: “Road Trip”

There’s a lot going on in this one day.

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 9: “Road Trip”

Original Airdate: March 17, 1998
Directed By: Steven Robman
Written By: Rob Thomas (yes, the creator of Veronica Mars, Party Down, and iZombie, making his second and final contribution)

Previously on Dawson’s Creek: Jen’s ex-boyfriend Billy turns up in Capeside, but Jen doesn’t admit the relationship status right away to Dawson, her current boyfriend. Joey is maybe not unexcited that Billy is lurking around Jen and Dawson’s relationship. After sharing a kiss (which was actually just a goodbye kiss, but that’s not what the Previously On made it look like) with Billy, Jen breaks up with Dawson. Dawson gets mad about said break up because it’s mean of Jen to come into town and make him fall in love with her and then dump him. Jen says the breakup is really because she needs to try life on her own for a while.

Dawson mopes at his bedroom window as Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden plays. I can’t remember whether or not the window faces directly out at Jen’s house, so I’m not sure if he’s just sad or being a creeper here. Oh, hey, Joey’s there. She helpfully lets us know that it’s been 48 hours since Jen dumped Dawson. He hasn’t eaten, he’s been spying (that’s what Joey calls it) on Jen at school, and he brought Sid & Nancy home from the video store. Everything in the world reminds Dawson of Jen, and even he notes that it’s wild that he’s only known her for three months and this is happening. Joey glares in a sad manner. She hits play on the movie but of course, it’s the slow motion movie footage of Jen’s first entrance into everyone’s lives in this series. Dawson needs help, but first he’s going to moan/whine and bury his face in a pillow. Joey clicks stop to send us to the title credits.

After that, Billy ladders his way into Jen’s bedroom window to the tune of Touch, Peel & Stand by Days Of The New. Oh, man, remember Days Of The New? No one’s around, so he camps out on Jen’s bed as Grams wanders in on Jen’s request to track down a shirt for her. Grams only sees Billy on the way out, and amazingly does not start bludgeoning him to death immediately. Grams calls Jen into the room but tells her to bring the phone with. Jen is 1) surprised to see Billy at all and 2) not excited to see him. Billy’s making some sort of dumb play for Jen here because he caught wind that she dumped Dawson. Jen calls it “on hiatus” which might just be for Billy’s effect. “On hiatus” implies “will return eventually,” after all. Anyway, Billy makes his case, but Jen not only says no but “not a chance and never again.” Billy says she used to be fun, while she counters with “I used to be weak and vulnerable.” He heads out the same way he came in.

Dawson walks down a road, even though we’ve seen him with a bicycle before, and what are the chances, he stumbles across Billy. They snipe at each other about their relative involvements with Jen, but this somehow turns into Billy telling Dawson about the thoughts he has about Jen sometimes which remind Dawson of his current thoughts about Jen. When that works, somehow, Billy proposes a road trip (hey, that’s the title of the episode) down to Providence where there’s a club that’s equidistant between two women’s colleges. Billy knows the bouncer there to help allay the worries about Dawson not even being 18 years old, and Dawson figures this will make Jen wonder about him for once! He is very lame. Then again, he’s going to skip school for this plan. Wait, he’s going to skip school to go to Providence? A 2 hour drive? To go to a college bar? In the middle of the day, apparently? This is a terrible plan.

A chap named Warren Gary according to the subtitles and Warren Goering according to IMDB is played by Eric Balfour in a Capeside High letter jacket and a Jeep Wrangler without the cloth cover. He’s driving along and sees Joey Potter walking along to school. He offers a ride, but she’s waiting for Ted Bundy. “Ted’s a lucky man.” In case you were worried about Warren being very stupid, he was merely complimenting Joey and is well aware that Mr. Bundy is now deceased. Anyway, he manages to talk Joey into accepting a ride to school by way of claiming he needs to do it to earn a merit badge. Kind of creative, but his “are you cold or are you happy to see me” line six seconds later is not. The relationship turns very sour at this point, and Warren’s preconceived notions about Joey and Dawson’s relationship do not help his case.

Oh, look, Dawson and Billy stopped at school to pick up Pacey..... and turn in Dawson’s math homework. Literally the least cool thing you’ll ever see. Actually, I’m not 100% sure if they were there to invite Pacey along because he at least jumps the gun and declares himself coming along. While Dawson is running to turn in his math assignment, of course Jen and Joey come around the corner and see Billy and Pacey waiting. Jen is of course not excited. Where are they going? Billy says the club is full of women who take cash and are extremely friendly. Hey, that sounds different than the one Billy sold Dawson on, and in case you didn’t get it, Joey’s here for you: “YOU’RE TAKING HIM TO A WHOREHOUSE?” Subtle. Anyway, Dawson returns about 50 feet away, so he signals to Billy and Pacey, which allows no further questions, your honor, on the entire whorehouse issue. Billy tells Pacey he was just kidding around, but I’m not so sure. AAAAAAAANNNNNYYYYYWAAAAAAAY, back to what Jen and Joey were talking about and that is Warren telling everyone that he had sex with Joey. My goodness that is a speedy rumor mill.

After a commercial break, the boys and Billy’s car get on a ferry. Why? I have no idea, if in fact Capeside is roughly Chatham, MA. It’s definitely not the fastest route to Providence. Pacey wonders why Dawson is suddenly being the rebel. After all, in Pacey’s eyes, Dawson is Richie Cunningham and Billy is The Fonz. That, by definition as Dawson points out, makes Pacey Potsie. Is that better or worse than being Ralph Malph?

Joey elects to confront Warren about their alleged escapades in a very crowded lunch room. Joey is not very smart. He tries to sell her on a win-win situation here, where he gets to maintain his reputation as a chick magnet and she gets to start hanging out with much cooler people. I do have to admit, Dawson would be a lot cooler if he would stop looking down on literally everyone else at Capeside High. Anyway, Joey’s not buying it, so Warren loudly declares “I never said I’d be your boyfriend.” This is actually a pretty solid operation on the fly by Warren, I have to admit.

Joey storms out, and Jen chases after her to talk. They riff about Joey’s type for a while, and after a comment about “even the sensitive ones can let you down,” Jen tells Joey she has a plan for revenge on Warren.

Pacey is still going on about the differences between Billy and Dawson, or really Dawson and Pacey even. He doesn’t have an angel on his shoulder telling him what the right thing to do is because he has Dawson. All the while, Billy notices a pair of jerks he calls “The Deliverance Twins” causing general minor mayhem and harassing people on the ferry. Dawson has an idea.

MAH GAWD, THAT’S MONICA KEENA’S MUSIC! Abby Morgan comes flying into the copier room where Joey is... copying.... to talk all about Joey’s fun sexy times with Warren. “He swore he wouldn’t tell” eventually evolves into “he said we don’t need protection,” and OH MY GOD THE PLAN IS TO SAY WARREN KNOCKED JOEY UP. Abby bites into this juicy tidbit of information and goes flying out of the copier room even faster than she flew into it, but now’s she’s very mad at Warren for abandoning Joey to deal with the pregnancy on her own. I almost feel bad for Abby for getting used like this, but this also appears to just be Joey bumping into her and Joey just throwing a log doused in kerosene onto the already existing rumor fire. In a way, Joey getting the chance to use Abby as the messenger is perfect because, y’know, Abby.

Dawson’s idea? Hooking a chain to the back axle of The Deliverance Twins’ truck. Honestly, as this scene progresses, I’m totally baffled as to how they do not notice him, because this ferry does not have that much space for cars. Anyway, the ferry has arrived at the dock, and as luck would have it, Billy’s car is directly in front of the truck. As it’s time for Billy to start moving, Pacey moons the guys in the truck. This makes them very angry and the one that’s driving stomps on the gas pedal, thus activating the resistance from the chain and ripping the axle off the back of the truck. Dawson celebrates.

We time skip ahead to the club in Providence, and Dawson and Pacey are playing some pool. Billy encourages Dawson to pick out a lady to chat up, but Dawson claims he’s too busy playing pool to notice any of them. Pacey already has three possibilities lined up and then finishes out the table to win, leaving Dawson with no choice but to try to talk to women now.

It’s apparently College Fair Night at Capeside High, and the school librarian thanks everyone who helped set up before pulling Joey aside to chat as everyone leaves. It’s not a very big school, so the discussion of Joey’s pregnancy has gotten around to her. I was wondering if it’s impolite for the teachers to gossip, but then I realized that the librarian probably accidentally overhears more student conversations than any other school employee. Mrs. Tringle recommends that Joey look into the Family Living class because it will help her prepare for what’s ahead for her. I’m trying to figure out how Joey’s supposed to suddenly change her class schedule in the middle of the semester. Joey seems wildly offended by the suggestion for someone who, y’know, is making this story up.

The anti-Warren campaign is in full swing, as he discovers a bumper sticker on this locker that says “Anyone can make a baby; It takes a man to be a father.” Inside is a doll baby, some baby shoes, and a baby bottle. Here’s my question: Did someone skip out of school to run out and buy all of this stuff? Or even just run home and get it? Was that this important of a prank/not-so-subtle message?

Billy talks about luck in volume shooting when it comes to approaching women in a club. Pacey goes off to shoot his shot, and Dawson sees a lady with a Film Threat Tshirt and takes a swing. It goes hilariously poorly, but he steps back into the batter’s box and takes another swing, this time leaning into all of his weaknesses and using honesty about them to ....... actually impress Nina (played by Melissa McBride, aka Carol on The Walking Dead) here? Pacey hilariously strikes out quickly, and returns to check in with Billy who seems annoyed that Dawson’s entire vibe is paying off for him.

Joey turns up at Jen’s house to talk about The Plan, which appears to be “start a rumor about Warren.” Jen and Joey both seem very surprised as to how vehement things have turned against Warren. Oh well, I guess? Jen says she knows how Joey felt when the rumor was starting to fly around, because she went through similar things back in New York and now Joey is mad because she thinks this plan was just Jen’s way of working through her issues through Joey. Jen reads that sudden turn of attitude as “mad because Jen broke up with Dawson and now Joey has no excuses as to why Dawson isn’t with her,” tells Joey that, and of course that leads to Joey storming out. Lot of Joey storming out of places in this episode.

Nina and Dawson are getting along fabulously as they chat on and on and on and on about movies and directors and ha ha Nina makes fun of Dawson for being such a Spielberg honk. Billy wanders up, taunts Dawson with a “your chocolate milk is ready at the bar” line, and then tries to insert himself into the deal with Nina. Upon finding out that’s her name, Billy immediately fires off the exact Christopher Columbus reference that she had warned Dawson off of earlier in the night. “Let’s get out of here,” says Nina as she grabs Dawson’s hand and heads for the door. Dawson looks back at Billy frantically and he makes a finger gun motion..... WAIT. Did Billy intentionally handle that poorly in an effort to get Nina to try and leave with Dawson? Because that’s definitely how it comes off here.

On the way out of the club, Dawson’s chattiness hits about 47 on a 10 point scale, and so Nina sees right through what’s happening here. “We’re just walking to my car, and then I’m driving home, first person singular.” Dawson admits that this was something of a ruse by Billy to get him to forget his now ex-girlfriend, and it actually worked while he was talking to Nina. Because it would completely blow Billy’s mind, Nina offers to let Dawson crash at her place for the night, but no funny business, especially since she gets the impression that she should probably card him. FUN FACT: James Van Der Beek had just turned 21 when this aired, and Melissa McBride was 32. Dawson admits that he does kind of want Jen back, so he doesn’t think even going through the ruse of being with Nina for the night is the right move. He does kiss her, though, and that’s nice. We close out of here on Nina giving Dawson a “Call me if she doesn’t come to her senses.”

Back at Capeside High at the college fair, Abby sees Joey and smiles and shakes her head. Abby sidles up to Jen, and in a very elaborate way of explaining, Abby tells Jen that she knows that Joey is lying because Warren could not achieve an erection with his previous girlfriend. I think that’s an incredibly specious argument as to proof that Joey isn’t pregnant, but I accept her general point here. Jen makes a beeline over to Joey, who makes all the reaction faces while Abby watches Jen explain it to her. I’m not sure what the reaction faces are from Abby here, but I can tell you that it doesn’t matter because we don’t see Abby for the rest of the hour.

We return to the club where Billy and Pacey proceed to shame Dawson for walking away from Nina or blowing outside, or whatever you want to call it. It’s really more Billy than Pacey, as Pacey gets a feel for where this is going and loudly proclaims that it’s time to go. Billy fires off a “now I get why you blew it with Jen,” and Pacey immediately gets a sad look on his face because he knows where this is going. Dawson returns fire with a comment about Billy never seeing Jen ever again if he knows what’s good for him, and Billy points out, with a chuckle, that these are the exact same words that Jen’s dad said to him. “Do you think it’s funny that you sound like her dad? Because I do.” From Billy’s perspective, it is very funny. Dawson’s mouth operates before his brain or Pacey can intercede: “It’s better than sounding like her loser ex-boyfriend.” And with that, Billy abandons them in Providence. I mean, that’s what he says that he’s doing, but he still has to walk out of the club and walk to his car and get in the car and start the car and put it in gear and then drive off, and the boys put absolutely zero effort into chasing after Billy. Like I said, Pacey remembered that Billy was their ride, and wanted to make sure that they at least got into the car before this outburst happened. Might be the smartest thing, or at least the most forward thinking thing that Pacey has done all series so far.

After the college fair, Joey waits for Warren..... for some reason. She makes an allusion to his erectile dysfunction, and at the very least, Warren appears to not have any idea what she’s talking about. Warren says that he stopped to offer her a ride this morning because he thought it would be nice. Not it would be the nice thing to do, but because he thought riding with Joey would be nice. Of course, if that were true, then we have to address the fact that whatever segment of his brain thought that was immediately kicked out of the car by the part that wanted to talk about the visibility of Joey’s nipples, so he’s probably lying. Anyway, he asks her out on Saturday night, and for a split second, it comes off as an actual honest thing coming from a good place: “A public..... official...... groping-optional date.” Close, but so far.

The boys sit at a bus stop in search of a way back to Capeside. Pacey orders Dawson to fill the time by telling him what happened with Nina outside the club. Dawson insists that nothing happened, nothing worth talking about at least. “So, you’re just wearing that lipstick as a fashion statement?” Brilliantly played by Pacey.

Jen reads on her porch and Joey turns up with two spoons and a half-gallon of cookie dough ice cream....... in a paper bag that is completely and 100% totally dry. Given how everyone’s dressing weather wise here, it’s literally impossible for this bag to not be soaked with condensation from the ice cream. Amazingly, we actually see the container get opened up and the girls start eating the ice cream in this scene, so I have no idea how the prop department pulled any of this off.

Where were we? Oh, right, Jen and Joey. Jen asks if they can not let Dawson get between them. Joey says sure, he’s only in love with one of them. Jen responds with a note that it must be easier than being the object of his infatuation, deeply insinuating through a strong look that Jen means Dawson is in love with Joey. Jen gets the BIG KATIE HOLMES EYES staring reaction from Joey in response. This devolves into a discussion of finding the idea of Dawson being super-bro-y and bro-ing his way around a club incredibly distasteful........ oh no I just realized that they are operating under the impression that Dawson is at a brothel. Well then.

It’s sunrise in Capeside, or at least close enough to sunrise to let us know that it’s a new day, and Dawson returns home. Joey, in a brand new outfit, is sitting and waiting in his bedroom for him. Literally just sitting there doing nothing in particular, so who knows how long she’s been there and how long she was expecting to wait there for him. Can we get my girl a book to read or something? Anyway, as the same Savage Garden track from the beginning spools back up, the two make jokes about how their previous day went, although Joey’s is a bit more honest than Dawson’s even though it’s taken as a joke. “There are so many things I want to tell you, Joey, but I haven’t slept in 24 hours.” She says she can wait, and Dawson follows up with a note that he didn’t think about Jen at all for long stretches of the night as he rolls over and goes to sleep. Joey leans over to tuck him in a bit, sits back, looks at Dawson, and says “I can wait” again, and we fade to black.

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

GOOD THING: Monica Keena as Abby Morgan is such a breath of fresh air in this show. Everything involving our core foursome is VERY IMPORTANT DRAMATIC PROCEEDINGS almost all the time, and while Pacey is clearly the comedy relief of the quartet, he’s very rarely able to really let loose in that direction. That’s not the case for Abby, and nearly every single line that comes out of her mouth is high quality entertainment. Part of it is, I think, that Abby Morgan genuinely does not care at all in the slightest about what happens to any of our prime grouping, so she’s absolutely willing to just throw grenades and place landmines and then walk away without caring what the repercussions are.

BAD THING: But seriously, Dawson and Pacey just accepted being left behind in Providence by Billy? Not a single effort to follow after him and beg for a ride home? What about a 2-on-1 beatdown to steal the car and leave him behind? Dawson’s probably mostly useless in a fight, but there’s two of them! Also: Was the bus ride home faster or slower than taking the ferry?