Joey, Dawson and Gail sit, all in black, at Mitch's funeral. Joey and Dawson look devastated but stoic, and Gail is crying


Title: Dawson’s Creek S5.E04 “The Long Goodbye” + S5.E05 “Use Your Disillusion”
Released: 2001
Series:  Dawson's Creek

Drinks Taken: 9

Follow the whole rewatch here!

Last week, on Dawson’s Creek.

Welcome back to the Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project, where I cried my eyes out this week. 

I know we drank to Mitch last week, but we’re drinking to him again, because after his ridiculous ice cream-related death, “The Long Goodbye” is a send-off worthy of one of the great TV dads. He was a dummy, but he was also a babe, and a total sweetheart, at that.

To Mitch:

Jen smiles, sitting in bed with a bottle of champagne

The Dawson’s Creek Drinking Game

Drink Once every time:

Joey purses her mouth or chews on her lip

Joey tucks her hair behind her ear

Sex makes Dawson and/or Joey extremely uncomfortable

Grams says “Jennifaaah”

Pacey wears a shirt that makes you want to blind yourself

Audrey declares something risqué or insane with utter confidence

Drink Twice every time:

You have literally no idea why Joey is mad

Pacey gives someone a really good hug

Cool Jen Lindley is totally crapped on by the universe

Onto the episodes!

A sign posted on the door of Leery's Fresh Fish reading "Closed: Death in the Family"

5.04 “The Long Goodbye”

“The Long Goodbye” is a truly great episode of Dawson’s Creek. Like “The Body” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it takes a departure from the series’ trajectory to spend an hour focusing on the earth-shattering effects of grief. It’s terribly real, and legitimately hard to watch. It’s even harder to write about, but I’ll do my best. 

Everyone has gathered back at Capeside to be there for Dawson and Gail, and to attend Mitch’s funeral. Everyone is so kind and loving – Jen and Jack and Joey and Grams, they’re all saying and doing the right thing in different ways, but of course there is no right thing in a tragedy like this. The four people closest to Mitch each revisit a cherished memory in which they’re playing their parts as the current-day versions of themselves while recalling a moment in their lives when Mitch was especially kind. Dawson remembers Mitch giving him his first video camera. Joey remembers when Mitch first put the ladder up against Dawson’s window, and told her that Dawson would one day wake up to what a catch she is. Pacey remembers Mitch teaching him to drive when his own father flaked, and telling Pacey he’d always be there for him. Gail remembers Mitch building Dawson’s crib, and wondering what kind of man his son would grow to be. It’s a really lovely way for the series to say goodbye to this character, and to show the impact he had on all of their lives:

Dawson, through all of this, is being quiet and resilient, but really, he’s just numb. He hasn’t allowed himself to feel anything yet, because he wants to be strong for his mom and his baby sister. Gail’s a wreck and Dawson has his hands full taking care of her and Lily and the funeral arrangements, and he can’t process the fact that one of the last things his dad said to him was that he’s disappointed in him. Joey offers a gentle reminder that, actually, the very last thing Mitch told Dawson is that he loves him, and Dawson breaks my heart with his response: 

I’ll never go through life doubting that my father loved me, Jo, but do you have any idea how much it sucks to know that my father was disappointed in me the day he died? And he was right. I was acting crazy, like a spoiled brat, and if I’d listened to him, he would’ve been driving me to the airport instead of driving to his death.

Of course Dawson blames himself – who among us wouldn’t? And of course he shouldn’t. Joey does everything she can to be there for Dawson, and as she tells Audrey later, she believes she can be a real resource to him, since she’s gone through this before with her mother. But he’s cold and angry and doesn’t want to be comforted, and that’s a really understandable response, but it doubles the grief for poor Joey, who wants so badly to be there for him. Katie Holmes and James Van Der Beek are both amazing in this episode, and Holmes really nails that helpless feeling we’ve all had when someone we love is in pain, and there isn’t anything we can do to relieve it.

In an unsurprising turn, the only person who can get through to Dawson is Pacey. Pacey, who wasn’t even sure Dawson would want him there, until Joey cuts him off impatiently with an inarguable response: 

Okay, your father dies tomorrow. You’re at the funeral. You look up, and you see Dawson. Would that mean something to you? Would seeing one of your oldest friends mean something to you?

To his credit, Pacey immediately sees the wisdom of this, and he packs up his stuff and heads with Joey to Capeside. And thank goodness he does, because he does something Dawson needed, even though he didn’t know he needed it: Pacey drives Dawson to the site of his father’s death, shows him the skidmarks and talks him through the accident. He tells him that the trucker taking back-to-back shifts, who fell asleep at the wheel, is responsible for Mitch’s death. Not Dawson. And Pacey tells him he’ll always be there for Dawson, no matter what. “Any time, anywhere, any place. Forever.”

It’s a really moving sentiment, but even that doesn’t quite pull Dawson out of his angry stupor. It’s not until Dawson’s at the convenience store buying milk, the same store where Mitch bought his ill-fated ice cream, that he hears the words he needs to hear to finally allow himself to grieve his father. 

As Dawson learns that the last thing his father said before he died is that he was proud of him, we see a montage of his friends, back in Boston, getting together and toasting to Mitch. It’s such a wonderful way to end this powerful, heartbreaking episode – a reminder that life will go on, and that the people who love you will carry your memory long after you’re gone. 

How many times did I have to drink? 

How many times did I have to cry? 


Pacey Witter’s best hug: 


ILU, Grams

When Dawson asks Grams if she has some words of wisdom for him, like “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” Grams sighs. “The Lord and I aren’t on speaking terms this week.” It’s the perfect thing to say, and Dawson looks relieved. Later, Grams tells Gail that “inevitably there comes a day that isn’t as bad as the one before it,” and when Gail asks what she does until then, Grams replies, “Well, that’s what prescription medication is for.” Death makes Grams irreverent! Into it. She also offers to stay in Capeside for Gail, which is amazingly generous, but Gail declines with gratitude. 

ILU, Jen

She tells Dawson she has been racking her brain, trying to think of what to say, but she realizes there’s nothing to say. “So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you a hug, and I’m not gonna let go for a really long time. I’m going to tell you that I love you, which is actually a pretty good deal, because that means that I’ll do anything on the off chance that it’ll make you a little less sad.” Dawson smiles sadly at her, and she hugs him for a good, long time. It’s perfect. 

ILU, Pacey

When Joey tells him, nervously, that she and Dawson have been renewing their romance, he smiles. “I think it’s time the two of you got your shot. Because the way I see it, you never did, and this world could use as many Romeos and Juliets as it can get.” Gah. 

ILU, Joey

When she’s confiding in Audrey (I’m so glad she has Audrey), Audrey asks what Mitch was like. Joey’s response is so true, and so lovely: “Well, he was a dad. You know, in the best possible way, I mean. He was warm and caring and just the kind of pain in the ass you secretly want your parents to be.” It breaks my heart, because Joey, Pacey, Jen, Jack – none of them were blessed with good fathers growing up. Mitch was something of a dad to all of them, and that makes his loss so much harder. 

ILU, Dawson

When Gail is gazing into Lily’s crib, she says, “You want to know what the worst part is? She’ll never even know he existed.” Dawson replies fiercely and immediately, “Not if I have anything to do about it. She’s going to hear about her daddy every chance I get.”

ILU, Leerys

We see this gorgeous family photo in the final second of “The Long Goodbye.”

Dawson, Gail and Mitch standing together outside of their house, smiling big and holding baby Lily

The most recognizable song

The song playing during the episode’s closing montage is James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” I think Mitch would have liked that. 

Joey and Dawson sitting together in her dorm room, looking miserable

5.05 “Use Your Disillusion”

Dawson’s been staying with Gail the past few weeks, of course, and he’s fixing stuff around the house and taking care of Lily and trying to keep busy and generally staying in her hair. She’s grateful, obviously, but she also wants him to live his own life, so she urges him to spend a weekend with Joey, as Joey’s been asking him to do recently. 

Meanwhile, Joey and Audrey are jogging, to Audrey’s immense displeasure, and Joey admits that she’s freaking out about this visit. She wants it to be perfect, to be completely stress-free for Dawson. She’s worried that if it isn’t, he’ll realize she isn’t enough for him and it will affect their future together, but more than that, she just wants her best friend to have a relaxing couple of days after everything he’s been through. While they’re jogging, Prof. Wilder cutely bikes up and invites Joey to be a part of this independent study project, a small group of about five students. Joey’s of course very excited to be invited, and he tells her there’s a party this weekend, which she thinks she won’t be attending because of Dawson. He bikes off and it’s clear that Audrey is SMITTEN, because Audrey has excellent taste. In dearly departed Mitch’s absence, Professor Ken Marino is Dawson’s Creek‘s new Dad Babe.

Dawson arrives and poor Joey is immediately so awkward around him, but they’re trying their best. She gives him a book on dealing with parental death, and she means it to be a helpful gesture, but Dawson shrugs it off. They start a movie marathon together, and he’s so restless and she keeps staring at him all paranoid, and after there’s a car crash in one of the films, which makes for a terribly uncomfortable moment between the two of them, Dawson suggests they go out. They go to Prof. Wilder’s party, and poor Dawson immediately has a severe anxiety attack. It’s really awful. So they leave the party and walk around some, just killing time until the weekend ends. But when it’s time for Dawson to go, he gives Joey a big hug and thanks her. “All evidence to the contrary, you really did make me feel better.” Aww.

After he’s gone, Joey admits to Audrey that she feels so guilty, because she’s a little relieved that he’s gone. I mean, after all of the pressure she put on this weekend to be perfect, it’s not surprising she’s relieved it’s over. Audrey tells her as much, and then Joey sees that Dawson left behind the book, and she’s a little crushed. She explains to Audrey that she gave it to him because she’s bad at speaking her mind, but an email felt too impersonal and a letter felt too weird and formal. So she wrote an inscription in the book, and of course nosy Audrey reads it. It’s really kind, and I wish Dawson had gotten the chance to read it.

Dear Dawson,

When something like this happens, you want to reach out and grab the people around you, the ones who matter the most. The ones you take for granted all the time. And you want to take those people and hold onto them as tight as you can, tell them how precious they are to you, how knowing them makes your life better every single day that you’re living it. Because when something like this happens, you realize how awful it would be if they didn’t know, if they weren’t aware of the profound effect they’ve had on your life. So, I want to take this moment to tell you that I love you, Dawson, and I’m here for you… now, forever, and every day in between.

Love, Joey.

Gah. Poor Joey. Poor Dawson.

Other stuff that happened this episode:

* Pacey’s crushing on Karen, the cute snarky waitress at his restaurant. What happened to his girlfriend, Jennifer Morrison? She appears to be out of the picture. Sad! Pacey’s also man-crushing on Danny, the restaurant’s owner, and it seems like these two are peas in a pod. Pacey’s really looking up to Danny, and when Danny asks if he can use the yacht Pacey lives on for the night, to take his wife on a romantic date, Pacey agrees. But the next day Pacey runs into Danny’s wife and finds out she’s been sick, and definitely hasn’t spent the evening on a yacht with her husband. Pacey doesn’t say anything to Danny, but he looks so disappointed in his mentor.

* Jen and Pacey are walking to a play (college!!) when she sees ChaMM in the window of a restaurant with a pretty woman, on a night that he told her he had to work. She’s furious and wants to go in and confront him right away, but Pacey stops her and tells her to sleep on it. “Maybe he won’t be able to explain, but either way, you’ll be calmer, more rational, and ultimately happier that you waited, because when you do, you’ll have gained the upper hand, okay?” It’s not bad advice, but of course Jen doesn’t take it, even when Pacey attempts to remove her bodily from the scene. She storms into the restaurant, pours an iced coffee onto ChaMM’s crotch and yells at him. He calmly introduces her to his sister, and explains that his work shift was rescheduled so he decided to get dinner with his newly engaged sis. Jen is mortified and apologizes lots and offers to do his laundry, and he seems cute in response, forgiving her easily, telling her that she has to learn to trust him. Later, when she’s bringing by an apology gift basket and balloon, she seems him making out with a woman outside his room, and it’s clear that they just had sex. Damn you, ChaMM!!!

* It’s Hell Week for Jack and his frat, which makes it an inopportune time for Toby to drop by for a surprise visit. Jack keeps flaking on Toby for his frat, and Toby’s so nice and understanding about it, even when Jen is furious on Toby’s behalf and tells Toby that Jack is turning into a pod person. Sweet Toby just defends Jack. But after several more flakes, each less considerate than the last, Toby finally gets the picture. He tells Jack he’ll give him one more chance to see Toby off before he has to go back to school, and Jack doesn’t show up, so that’s it for Jack and Toby. Toby is heartbroken and Jen is furious. She confronts Jack, and Jack says, “I want to meet new people, okay? I want to have new experiences, and I don’t want to have to worry about hurting somebody else in the process.” When Jen tells Jack that he should have just told Toby that, Jack says, “I’m telling you.” Okay, so this new Stupid Jerky Frat Jack just dumped TWO PEOPLE who love him. I hate Frat Jack. 

How many times did I have to drink? 


The truest thing anybody said this week

When Audrey suggests that Joey take Dawson to Professor Wilder’s party, Joey replies, “Parties are stressful.” They really are, you know? 

The second truest thing anybody said this week

When Dawson then convinces Joey to take him to the party, she smiles, “Apparently there’s gonna be brie.” Dawson says, “I love brie,” and Joey counters, “Everybody does!” 

Pretty typical Joey Potter behavior

When the poor thing starts freaking out and Dawson has to comfort her, she says, “It’s not okay, Dawson, because this is your time to freak out and I am totally robbing you of that by making this about me when it isn’t and I know that it isn’t.” Oh man. I feel seen by this nutcase.

Pretty typical Pacey Witter behavior

When Pacey describes Danny to Jen as an older version of himself, Jen laughs, “Wait, your mentor, the guy who could supposedly guide you through your life, is just an older version of you? So what you’re saying is, when you grow up, you just want to be yourself?” Pacey cheerfully agrees. 

That’s it for this week! I have a question for you, readers: what’s your favorite Mitch Leery moment? Mine is when he and Gail dance during the Parent Trap set-up Joey and Jen created, when Mitch was dating that awful film teacher played by Madchen Amick and Gail was scheming to get him back.

Meet me back here next Wednesday morning as we cover “High Anxiety” and “Text, Lies and Videotape.”

Meredith Borders is formerly the Texas-based editor of Fangoria and Birth.Movies.Death., now living and writing (and reading) in Germany. She’s been known to pop by Forever Young Adult since its inception, and she loves YA TV most ardently.