Dawson smiling in a graduation cap and gown


Title: Dawson’s Creek S4.E21 “Separation Anxiety” + S4.E22 “The Graduate”
Released: 2001
Series:  Dawson's Creek

Drinks Taken: 12

Follow the whole rewatch here!

Last week, on Dawson’s Creek.

Welcome back to the Dawson’s Creek Rewatch Project, where we are finally squarely done with Capeside High! I’m actually a big fan of DC’s college years (which may be an unpopular opinion), so let’s bring ’em on! 

Let’s drink to Worthington and Boston Bay College! 

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!

4.21 “Separation Anxiety”

Dawson, Gretchen, Pacey and Joey are still reeling from the effects of their respective breakups, and all four of them have been avoiding each other, until fate and/or feelings throw them back together briefly. Joey has another Worthington dinner to attend, and the advisor guy who was so smitten with Pacey last time asks Joey to bring Pacey, because he and the dean of admissions have an offer to make. Joey naturally thinks this means they’ve found a loophole to allow Pacey to attend Worthington (is Pacey even graduating? Isn’t Worthington supposed to be one of the best universities in the country? This is HIGHLY UNLIKELY, Joe). She goes to tell him the news, just rattling off the facts and her hopes without taking a breath, when Pacey cuts her off and tells her he misses her. She says the same, and they agree to go to the dinner together. 

Gretchen advises Pacey against it – he’s not allowing himself and Joey any distance from their breakup, or time to heal – but he admits to Gretchen that he’s treating this dinner like a sign. If Worthington is somehow going to accept him against all odds, it means that he and Joey are meant to be together. If not, well, there’s his answer. He picks up Joey and they almost kiss and then remember they’re not together anymore, and it’s a really poignant moment. Although Pacey STILL hasn’t apologized for the appalling way he treated Joey at prom, so I’m quite begrudging in allowing myself to be charmed by his gorgeous, warm, puppy dog eyes. 

They get to the dinner and Pacey sees how easily and confidently Joey’s fitting in with this crowd now, unlike the disaster she was last time. Unfortunately, the Worthington guys’ offer to Pacey is to see if he wants to work on their yacht for the summer. It sounds like kind of a dream gig (“The pay isn’t the greatest, but you’ll have plenty of time to yourself to explore the [Caribbean] islands, and it should be an experience that you’ll never forget.”), but not exactly the same as admission to Worthington. So, Pacey has his answer – he and Joey aren’t meant to be together (right now, I would like to amend). She goes home with him, even though he urges her to stay since she’s doing so well at this dinner, and the next morning they have a great talk, where he finally, FINALLY apologizes, and exactly the way he should. He tells her, “I know what I said. And I know how I said it, and it makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about it. Blaming you for my insecurities and then making you feel guilty for all the things that you’ve accomplished, when you should feel nothing but proud,” then goes on to say:

Okay, NOW I can be charmed by those puppy dog eyes. That’s the apology Joey deserves, and the apology Pacey should give. He was being a macho, insecure little pissant, and he fully admitted it and apologized. We’re cool now, Pacey Witter. (I’m sure you were terribly worried.)

Although it’s clear that these two still love each other deeply, they sort of admit to one another that it’s not going to work out right now, and Pacey’s going to take the job on the yacht. But they both say they’re glad their beautiful love story had a much better ending than the one that shook out at prom, and they hold hands and smile sadly at each other. It’s bittersweet, and I will accept it FOR NOW. 

Dawson finally goes to see Gretchen and brings her his yearbook as an excuse. She hangs onto it because she wants time to sign it, and he jokes that the longer she has it, the less acceptable “Have a bitchin’ summer” will be. She tells him she’s leaving for a road trip in two days, before she heads back to college. Dawson decides he wants to go with her, and gives her one of his patented earnest speeches, and she agrees. But as he’s babysitting Lillian, he starts to realize how guilty he’d feel leaving his parents and the new baby the summer before he goes to college (and missing graduation, to boot), and when Gretchen comes to pick him up, she sees the reluctance in his eyes – especially when he starts talking about Joey AGAIN like a total MORON. God, if I were Gretchen I would hate him so much. But she’s a better person than I, and just silently slips away on her road trip, leaving Dawson the perfect yearbook message to remember her by. 

Other stuff that happened in this episode: 

* Mitch saw Dawson’s Mr. Brooks documentary and tells him it’s brilliant. It’s not much of a plot point, but it does remind me that Dawson’s documentary exists. 

* Ahh, I love this so much!! So Jen and Jack have decided to go to that storied old institution Boston Bay College (kidding, that shizz was totally made up on the fly), but when Jen comes home to find a realtor in the house, she realizes that Grams is planning to sell the house and move into a super bleak retirement community to pay for Jen’s college. Jen can’t accept that, and tells her as much, so she’s just not going to go to college. (GET A LOAN, GIRL. Gah, you kids are so all or nothing with this college tuition thing.) Jack calls her on what she’s doing with a great speech: 

Well, I can’t help but notice that, although you’re clearly swimming in a vat of guilt over leaving your best friend in a lurch like this, you also seem to be just a bit, uh, relieved. It’s as if you’re happy to have found something to get you off the hook, so that you don’t have to go away to college. And not only do you not have to go, you then become Jen of Arc, the martyr-saint, willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her grandmother’s… Because you’re scared. I mean, think about it. You’re leaving the only town in which you ever felt safe. The only person who cared enough to devote her entire life to you.

He knows her so well! Jen admits that she doesn’t want to leave Grams, and then the solution seems so obvious. She invites Grams to move to Boston with her and Jack. They can live together, Grams won’t have to move to the crappy retirement community, Jen can still go to college, and we don’t have to watch a Dawson’s Creek without Mary Beth Peil’s beautiful performance. A win for everyone! Grams fights back at first, until she realizes this is what Jen truly wants, and then she’s so happy. Me too!!

How many times did I have to drink? 


Number of episodes until we meet Busy Philipps’ character Audrey:


Aww, Pace and Gretch

They have the sweetest goodbye before Gretchen leaves for her road trip, where they both say thanks for being there for each other over a tumultuous year, and then telling each other, “I love you.” And then Gretchen says the best thing (of course, always): “And even better than that, all familial obligations aside, I actually like you.” Isn’t actually LIKING your sibling the best thing? I’m gonna miss Gretchen.

Matchmaker Jen Lindley

She is SO EXCITED that Jack and Toby are now together, and she keeps grilling him for details. He is not forthcoming, but is obviously very happy with the situation.

Jack’s cute retort

Jen asks for one “juicy little morsel” about his love life, and Jack replies haughtily, “First of all, when discussing my love life, try not to use the word ‘juicy’ or ‘morsel’. It cheapens me.”

Drue, Dawson, Jen, Joey and Jack in graduate robes, standing around the Capeside High School sign and grinning for the camera

4.22 “The Graduate”

It’s graduation time, and as recipient of the weird Capeside High Pinnacle Award, Joey will be giving the speech – I guess because the show wanted her to give the graduation speech even though they’ve already established that she’s not valedictorian. I wonder who the valedictorian is, and if s/he is SO PISSED that Joey Potter keeps stealing all of the academic thunder with her measly 4th place ranking

An aside: Joey’s mom apparently wrote a letter to Joey a few days before she died, and asked Bessie to give it to her when she graduated high school. The letter is very nice, obviously: 

My darling Joey,

I know if you’re reading these words it means you’ve graduated from high school. Congratulations, sweetheart. You didn’t have a lot, growing up. You even have been shortchanged one mother. Still, I want you to be proud of your family. If our strife has caused you pain, remember, it also makes you strong. Bessie is strong, and I’m sure she’s taking good care of you. Of all the things my illness has robbed me of, I count the greatest of them watching you grow up. You’re barely 13 now, still a young girl. And so, I’m left to imagine the woman you’ve become. Strikingly beautiful, I’m sure, and equally unaware of it. Quick-witted and strong-willed. Possessing the deep, soulful eyes of an artist, and a shy smile that regularly betrays the tough facade you do your best to keep up. If any of this sounds remarkably on the nose, it’s because it’s the girl you always were, Joey. And it’s the woman you’ll always be. Whatever you decide to do with your life, I know your future will be luminous. Wherever you decide to go when you leave, remember your days in Capeside fondly, and keep close those who shared your childhood. They will always love you in a way no one else can. And they will always be with you. Just as I love you and will always be with you.

Love, Mom

That beautiful inspiration aside, Joey’s got writer’s block when it comes to her speech, and Dawson guesses it’s Pacey-related. Pacey is “on the bubble” for graduation, and he’s not even allowed to attend rehearsal. He’s grumpy and embarrassed and pretty Pacey-like about it, pushing everyone away and refusing all help from Dawson, Joey, Doug, Mitch, etc. It’s down to one final, the teacher who’s been giving him a hard time all year (in a “you can do it!” way, not in a “you’re a loser” way), and the teacher makes a joke at Pacey’s expense before the final starts, so Pacey goes all super self-pitying, yells at him that he knows he’s a loser and a punchline and walks out on the final and on his last chance at graduation. The teacher then goes to Pacey’s house and apologizes and tells him students like him are the reason he teaches. He gives Pacey his final at his house, and Pacey passes and graduates! He’s so proud! But he decides that he doesn’t need to tell everyone the news and compare his own success with theirs, so he’s just going to quietly leave for his yacht trip feeling proud of himself. I think that’s a good move, Pacey. In the final moments of the episode, we hear the principal calling out Pacey’s name at graduation as we see Pacey heading off on his adventure. Yay!

BY THE WAY, Andie has come back for graduation, and she’s the ONE person with whom Pacey shared his good news, because she was the first person in his life who believed in him <3. It’s so great seeing Meredith Monroe again. Italy has TOTALLY agreed with Andie – she looks gorgeous and happy, and everyone’s so glad to see her.


She goes around giving terrific hugs and wonderful advice to everyone, as is the Andie McPhee way. And she’s SO STOKED about Jack and Toby – and it’s really great to see Jack introduce Toby to Andie as his “boyfriend,” a term that makes Toby break into a huge grin (although not as huge as Andie’s, naturally). Italy has agreed with Andie SO MUCH, in fact, that she’s deferred Harvard for a year to stay there. This is definitely the right decision for Andie. This is the least uptight we’ve ever seen her!

So anyway, graduation is here and Joey gives her speech, and of course it’s lovely. 

And at that moment, a cute prank initiated by Drue and Jen (friends!!) is activated, and the sprinklers go off and drench the senior class. Everyone cheers and dances and throws their caps in the air, and it’s cheesy, sure, but it’s also really, really great. 


Congratulations, Capeside High Class of 2001! Now go to college because I’m ready for Busy Philipps!

How many times did I have to drink? 


Number of episodes until we meet Busy Philipps’ character Audrey: 


An episode of goodbyes

Although, of course, all of these folks will stay in each other’s lives, the format and setting of Dawson’s Creek will change drastically next season, so it’s nice to see these lovely goodbyes between Jack and Andie, Andie and Pacey, Joey and Bessie, Pacey and Dougie (<3), and Dawson and his parents and Lillian. 

For instance: 


Another for instance, and also best callback

In a lovely reference to the pilot, Bessie grabs Joey and applies lipstick on her before graduation. Joey tells Bessie she’s done a great job taking care of her, and that she feels lucky to have had two mothers <3 <3 <3

Bessie applies lipstick onto a smiling Joey

Another for instance, and also Pacey Witter’s best hug

I’m SO GLAD we get to see one more beautiful Pacey and Andie scene. 



Although it’s fun seeing Jen and Lonely Boy Drue Valentine becoming friends, I enjoy it even more when Grams calls Drue out on his BS. He crashes at their house after a fight with his mom, and then tries to weasel his way into Grams’ affections. When Jen expresses concern that Grams is getting scammed, Grams’ response is so hilarious and amazing.

I told him he was more than welcome to spend another night. For a price. I’m not just a naive old softie, dear. I recognize Drue for the duplicitous, smooth-talking butt-kisser he is. And now that you and I have sold this house, we’re going to need some poor fool to pack up and box the thirty years of junk I’ve accumulated in the dark of my attic.

Pacey Witter’s worst shirt but best moment

This is a truly heinous shirt, it’s true, but I absolutely love the moment that Pacey sits in a graduation folding chair by himself, hours before the ceremony, and just quietly celebrates his triumph. He practically killed himself to graduate this year, and in the end, he didn’t do it for anyone but himself. That’s really something.

Pacey reclines in a graduation chair in an empty row, wearing a bright orange Hawaiian shirt and a very satisfied look on his face

That’s it for this week! Readers, as next week we head into Season 5, let me know what your favorite episode of Season 4 was. Mine is “You Had Me At Goodbye,” because I’m a sucker for a great Andie McPhee speech. 

Meet me here next Wednesday morning as wrap up S4 with “Coda” and head into S5 with “The Bostonians.” Bring on Busy Philipps! 

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.