Dawson and Gretchen embrace beneath the mistletoe


Title: Dawson’s Creek S4.E09 “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” + S4.E10 “Self Reliance”
Released: 2000
Series:  Dawson's Creek

Drinks Taken: 17

Follow the whole rewatch here!

Last week, on Dawson’s Creek.

Welcome back to the Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project, where poor, near-eternally virginal Dawson Leery finally gets a little lip action. 

And let’s all drink to that!

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

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!

Pacey, Joey and the dean of Worthington College sit around a table at a fancy dinner

4.09 “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”

One night, two parties. The first is a Worthington dinner held at the Capeside Country Club. What’s Worthington, you ask? Well, let’s quote Joey from “Future Tense“:

Maybe I’ll just go to one of those fictional colleges. You know, like on those lame high school TV shows that go on for way too long? And then, just in time to save the franchise, all of a sudden it turns out that there’s this amazing, world-class college that’s right around the corner where all the principal characters are accepted.

So yes, Worthington is an amazing, world-class fictional college that’s right around the corner from Capeside, and Joey Potter has her heart set on attending. She’s invited to a fancy dinner for prospective students, and she’s really nervous. She arrives with Pacey, and Pacey can tell she needs some social lubricant, so he turns on the self-deprecating charm and has the new student advisor eating out of his hand. Joey starts to feel outshined and gets inexplicably angry (drink!), particularly when Pacey half-jokes/half-lies that he’s going to Yale, and she drags him outside to yell at him. Later, the advisor finds her outside, crying, and she apologizes for blowing it. He assures her she hasn’t – she’s being considered based on her stellar academic record, not her social skills (thank god, since this is Joey Potter we’re talking about) – and then tells her that Pacey’s spent the last twenty minutes talking the Worthington dean’s ear off about how amazing Joey is, and how she’s saved his life. It’s SO sweet. She apologizes to Pacey, and they have a really wonderful exchange. 

The other party belongs to the Leerys, as Gretchen has convinced them to reinstate their once-annual holiday party, apparently a source of much nostalgia for everyone though we’ve never heard anything about it until now, 2/3rds of the way through the series. She and Dawson are having a lot of fun wrangling the holiday trappings together, and once they’re under the mistletoe, well, Gretchen shrugs that it’s tradition. Their kiss, however, seems pretty passionate – and it takes place just as Joey and Pacey arrive to look equally stricken in the doorway. 

Dawson and Gretchen are embracing under the mistletoe

Other stuff that happened in this episode:

* Mr. Brooks and Dawson are still figuring out their relationship – half mentor/mentee, half mortal enemies. But after watching one of Mr. Brooks’ films and realizing that it’s brilliant, Dawson decides he’s inspired to dive back into filmmaking himself, and he wants to start with a documentary about Mr. Brooks’ life. Mr. Brooks is shockingly amenable to this wild proposition.

* Jen’s been MAJORLY procrastinating on college application stuff, and Jack’s worried. He talks to Grams, but it turns out Grams and Jen haven’t really been communicating since the X incident. But Jack convinces her that Jen needs help, so Grams and Jack gather a bunch of Jen’s disparate essays and turn in her college applications on her behalf, and then tell her that they know why she’s been in Avoidance Land: because she’s dreading the idea of asking her terrible parents for money for college. Grams assures her that she has no intention of allowing Jen to do that, and says that she’s going to get Jen through college herself, whatever it takes. (ILU, Grams!) And then Grams, Jack and Jen share the loveliest group hug, because they are the BEST.


How many times did I have to drink? 

Best literary reference

Dawson says of Mr. Brooks film: “This is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.”

Best pop culture reference

Jen and Jack greet each other as: “Will.” “Grace.”

This is Jen Lindley’s avoidance technique

Jen's sitting on her bed, knitting

She knits! 

Pacey Witter’s worst pants 

Pacey and Joey are walking down the stairs at school together, and he's wearing hideous camouflage cargo pants

The best part is Joey and Gretchen are mocking these pants in an earlier scene, out of Pacey’s earshot.

Most meta moment

Gretchen jokes that she knows what Dawson really wants out of a career in filmmaking: “A three-picture deal with Columbia and a spot just high enough on the Premiere power list to bag yourself one of the girls of the WB.”

The truest thing anybody said this week

When Dawson tells Mr. Brooks that he stopped making movies because he had a “crisis of faith,” Mr. Brooks snorts, “Crisis of faith? Gee, you’re kinda young for that, aren’t you?”

The swooniest thing anybody said this week

When Pacey’s walking an elegant Joey into the Worthington dinner, she asks him why he’s grinning ear to ear and he replies, “I can’t help it. I’m the only guy at this party who gets to walk in with Audrey Hepburn on his arm.” HEART EYES!

On the other hand, watch your language, Pacey Witter

He scolds Joey for “bitching [him] out earlier.”

Joey and Pacey sit with Alexander, Pacey's arm cutely around the kid

4.10 “Self Reliance”

Joey’s freaking out about the kiss. She doesn’t WANT to be freaking out about the kiss, but she is. But of course she can’t admit she’s freaking out about it, so she freaks out about a number of other things: getting into college, getting a good grade on a test on the Transcendentalists, taking care of the B&B and Alexander while Bessie is out of town. Pacey’s pretty perfect through this entire freakout, which just makes Joey even MORE inexplicably angry (drink!), even ragging on Pacey for being a perfect boyfriend, until he finally gets her to ‘fess up, and tells her he understands why she’s feeling this way, and that she has to go talk to Dawson. He even gets her teacher to allow her to re-take the test she blew, because he’s fantastic. So Joey goes to see Dawson, and they talk about the kiss, and she just seems so tearfully relieved that they’re good enough friends to talk about this stuff, which is what was really bothering her – not that Dawson kissed someone else, but that he wouldn’t talk to Joey about it. And then Dawson gives her an early Christmas present, a framed picture he took of her and Pacey looking happy and in love, and she’s so, so moved. It’s a really beautiful scene, and Katie Holmes is never better than she is here. 

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Pacey is insanely adorable with Alexander in all of their scenes, and the episode ends with him and Joey making out and studying by the fire with little Alexander playing at their feet, and it’s a scene of perfect domesticity that I would like to rewatch 100 times. 

Also freaking out about the kiss: Gretchen! Dawson is playing it surprisingly cool, but Gretchen’s going to great, great lengths to assure him and everyone else that the kiss didn’t mean anything other than holiday tradition. It’s not very convincing, but Dawson lets her off the hook, until the story of Mr. Brooks’ tragic lost love (his best friend stole his girl, of course, because Dawson’s Creek is nothing if not on the nose) convinces him to take a chance on Gretchen. He goes to her, right before the tree-lighting ceremony in town square, and he tells her how much he likes her: 

I like you. There. I said it. I like you and… that kiss meant more to me than just happy holidays. And everything I said the other day was a lie. Well, not a lie, because I think I meant it at the time, but I was basically just trying to fool myself because I didn’t want to screw up our friendship, and I was going to let that fear stop me. But I don’t want to, and I’m not going to, because I don’t want to learn that lesson at 17 or at any time, for that matter. And you can tell me that you’re too old, and you can tell me that I’m too young, and you can tell me that I’m not over Joey, but nothing you can say is going to change the fact that I said it. And I’m really glad that I said it, because you’re worth risking everything for.

And she just smiles at this earnest, wholesome boy and sighs, “What am I going to do with you?” (It’s pretty clear she’s going to kiss him some more, though she saves that for another episode.)

Other stuff that happened in this episode: 

* Jen drags Jack to a gay rights meetup, and Jack immediately clashes with the head of the group, Toby. Toby’s been bullied his whole life for being gay and nerdy, and he has a chip on his shoulder that Jack – handsome, football star Jack – has rarely had to deal with that sort of thing. They fight and fight and fight (meanwhile, Jen and Toby LOVE each other), but it’s clear it’s going somewhere else very soon. 

* Dawson has gotten started on his documentary on Mr. Brooks, and it seems to be going well – until it’s revealed that Mr. Brooks is very ill, and he hasn’t been taking his medications because they affect his memory, which he wants to keep sharp for the purposes of the doc. 

How many times did I have to drink? 


Guess who? 

Toby is played by TV’s hey-it’s-that-guy! David Monahan, known from stuff like Crossing Jordan and Dexter.

David Monahan as Toby

Best pop culture reference

When Mr. Brooks claims that no good movies have been made in the past several decades, Dawson touts the technical achievements of such films as Fight Club and The Matrix: “That kung fu sequence alone…” Hear, hear!

The truest thing anybody said this week

Joey gives the following advice to little Alexander: “Stay off the road to over-achievement. I’m telling you it will lead to nothing but heartache.”

Speaking of which, here’s little Alexander

Joey sitting with her adorable little nephew Alexander

He’s so cute!!!

Best literary reference

The episode title, in addition to being a nod to Joey’s stubbornly independent spirit, is also in reference to Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay of the same name.

That’s it for this week! Readers, I have a question for you: how are we feeling about Gretchen? I love her! So much of that is due to Sasha Alexander’s warm and nuanced performance, for sure, because the writers don’t ever give Gretchen much to do, but I just really enjoy her character and even her relationship with Dawson. 

Meet me back here next Wednesday morning so we can cover “The Tao of Dawson” and “The Te of Pacey.”

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.