For a post-Dawson breakup episode, it's calm, without any sort of melodrama (which is refreshing). Dawson whines about Jen in the teaser, questions his entire belief system whilst evaluating his character because Jen rejected everything he is and represents--romance, honesty and respect. Joey, the reasonable one, reminds her best friend, and soul mate, that no one died so he should try to get over the break-up. Dawson, surprisingly, listens to Joey because he uses her advice when Billy offers a one-day getaway from Capeside and all things Jen Lindley.
I'm unsure of the reason Dawson agrees to travel out of state with the man who openly admitted his plan to end Dawson's relationship but he does. Billy wants to help Dawson, as the two wear the same shoes currently, because he understands what it's like to lose Jen. Billy wonders how Dawson will handle the short distance between he and Jen's house, how he'll handle seeing Jen bring a new boy home. Billy's offering the chance to meet women that'll help him forget about Jen, that'll show her that she's not the lone girl in his life. Dawson bites because he wants to experience something different, to become someone new however brief it may be.
The teaser established Dawson's insecurities post-breakup so, naturally, Dawson becomes the anti-Dawson. Pacey teases him about cutting classes after turning in math homework. Pacey describes Dawson as the good angel that shows up on one's shoulder in cartoons. Dawson's safe and boring, in other words. As we know, Jen's rejection of him is about much more than the reasons gave (even though it's not) so Dawson wants to live the wild, rebellious life. Two stereotypical rednecks harass an elderly woman on the ferry boat as they cross the water into Providence. Billy wants to slash their tires, Pacey wants to harm the car but Dawson's more inventive. Dawson devises a plan, borrowed from American Graffiti, to destroy the back of the stereotypes truck. He attaches a chain to the back tires. The chain rips the back tires from the truck when they accelerate to follow Billy's car (after Pacey moons them), and Dawson woos. The new Dawson is born.
Fortunately, the behavior doesn't last. At the bar, Dawson learns to accept himself in spite of the break-up. His values and belief system are worthwhile to him, and he recognizes that he's not the type of person to sleep with a girl and forget about her just so he'll forget about another girl. Every girl, not just Jen, deserves honesty, romance and respect (he'll forget those three staples of his life early in season 2). Dawson meets a nice woman, Nina, and they talk for an hour. She offers intercourse but Dawson politely rejects her because of what I wrote in the second to last sentence. The scenes with Dawson and Nina are strong. The actors have chemistry and the characters help with another--Dawson accepts himself, and Nina's faith in men is renewed (Saint Dawson, everyone!).
Dawson also figured out Billy's plan. Billy wanted Dawson to sleep with a random woman, so that he could tell Jen in hopes she'd return to his arms. Dawson continues to rant about how pathetic Billy's style is, and how he'd rather sound like Jen's dad than "her lose ex-boyfriend." Billy promptly leaves the bar and suggests Pacey and Dawson find their own way home because they surely don't want a loser driving them.
The A story is successful because the hero, Dawson, completes an arc, overcomes self-doubt and emerges victorious over the enemy, Billy. It wouldn't be satisfying to the viewer if Billy skipped town after ruining Dawson's relationship--it's also a no-no in the majority of TV storytelling.
Some other thoughts:
--In the B story, Eric Balfour's Warren spreads rumors that he and Joey had sex. Joey turns the rumor on its head by spreading the lie that she's pregnant. The conclusion of the story's karmic--Warren's impotent and Joey threatens to release that knowledge to the school if he doesn't stop the rumor. Not only does he lie about sex, he'll never have sex in his life.
--Abby returns. I barely wrote about her during "Detention" but she doesn't become an active character until season two. In "Road Trip," she feels sympathy for Joey then insults her for lying about Warren.
--Jen and Joey have a tense conversation about Dawson. Jen thinks Joey's scared because she no longer can hide behind Jen's relationship with Dawson. And, well, Joey is but she isn't. Joey's patient. She'll wait until Dawson's gotten over Jen.
--Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars and co-creator of Party Down, wrote the episode. Steve Robman directed it.
UP NEXT: "Double Date"--Dawson, for some reason, double dates with Cliff and Jen--his date is Mary-Beth. Meanwhile, Joey and Pacey work together on a school project when something unexpected happens--he might have feelings for her. And Dawson won't be happy to hear that.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK