Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Double Date" Review

Dawson paces around his room like an animated college professor delivering a lecture on Aristotle's Ethics. Joey watches her friend and soul mate with a blank face and offers no olive branch for Dawson to clutch and hold onto--she's an honest girl, that Joey Potter. Dawson hasn't gotten over his break-up with Jen. The boy doesn't understand why Jen's barely regarded him post-breakup (he's an idiot). Joey reminds Dawson of said break-up. Dawson muffles a half-sob and collapses on his bed. Joey explains why Dawson shouldn't desire contact with his ex because she'll date new men who will surpass him in both intellect and looks. Plus, Jen will try to become friends with Dawson, and Dawson's fragile self can't handle her platonic friendship.

Indeed, Dawson can't handle Jen's friendship. The teenager believes he can because he's a teenager. Once upon a time, I ignored common sense advice from friends with a high school crush because I was young and stupid. The girl burned me AGAIN. While the dialogue in Dawson's Creek is too sophisticated for teenagers to engage in, their behaviors feel very much like the behaviors of teenagers. Dawson's too stubborn to heed Joey's advice. He'll only learn the hard, painful way. So, when Jen asks for his friendship, Dawson responds that he'd love to give her his friendship. The friendly vibes last all of ten seconds before Dawson learns that Jen has a date with Cliff. Naturally, Dawson reveals that he too has a date and suggests they double date. The plan's atrocious and destined to fail but I like the story because it’s true to his age. Dawson the optimist believes that he'll win Jen's heart back.

Dawson's date is Mary-Beth, a nice girl who’s hesitant to say yes because of Dawson's recent romantic failure. She says yes, though, after Dawson swears that he's over Jen. Before his actual date, Joey tries to talk some sense into him. She acts as his Jiminy Cricket in the scene, reminding him that it's cruel to use a girl the way Dawson's using Mary-Beth. Dawson agrees with her but he'll use the girl nonetheless. Mary-Beth's shocked when she learns of the double-date with Cliff and Jen. Dawson lies through his teeth as he explains his intentions to look out for his ex. Mary-Beth sort of buys it; however, once the carnival becomes a pissing contest between Cliff and Dawson, Mary-Beth catches on, and calls him on it when Dawson tries to give a stuffed animal he won to Jen.

Dawson wanted to sabotage Jen's date with Cliff because he wants her back. Any time he's around her he's reminded of how much more he wants of her. He apologizes for his behavior and actions. It turns out that Mary-Beth feels zero sexual attraction towards The Forehead. Instead, she like LIKES Cliff. She went on the date because she felt sorry for him, Dawson seemed harmless and she had nothing else to do on a Saturday. The two then conspire to have some alone time with respective romantic interests--Mary-Beth rides the Ferris wheel with Cliff; Dawson rides with Jen.

The Ferris Wheel ride becomes the loop of melodramatic Dawson angst. Dawson's unable to bite his tongue. Jen openly hopes that she leaves the ride without being insulted; however, this is Dawson Leery. Jen admits that their friendship won't work because of Dawson's feelings. Dawson angrily wonders why Jen concocted the excuse of needing alone time from men when she's on a date with Cliff. Jen tries to explain the definition of a date and how she and Cliff won't become an exclusive couple. Dawson yells some more about hurt feelings. He confesses that he pitched the double date idea because he wants her back. He doesn't want to let go of her. He suspects that Jen feels the same but she's silent and Dawson finally understands that she's over him.

Again, Dawson needed to experience attempted friendship with Jen to learn that it won't work. Yes, Dawson's an ass throughout the series but I related to those feelings he had when I first watched the episode in the summer of 2003, when I was around his age. I didn't yell at or belittle any of the girls, though. Kevin Williamson nailed the adolescent angst as well as the inability to cope with hurt feelings that come with a break-up as a teenager. Dawson's been dumped for the first time in his life. The experience is foreign to him. He's humiliated and embarrassed, so it's not surprising that he acts in stupid ways. The authenticity of a teenager's hurt feelings and emotions is why the A story succeeds.

Following the conclusion of the carnival nonsense, Dawson eyes open slowly with regards to Joey Potter. During the day, Pacey became attracted to Joey. The sworn enemies worked together on an extra credit project for marine biology. Pacey felt sexually attracted to her when he watched her undress in his rearview mirror, so he decided to act on his feelings but not before seeking Dawson's blessing. Dawson feels weird because he's unaware that he feels something for Joey so he tells Pacey yes then no before saying yes.

Joey rejected Pacey after he kissed her. Pacey understands that her feelings belong to someone else. Later, Dawson frantically tracks Pacey down to tell him no. Pacey reveals that he failed with Joey because she's in love with Dawson. Dawson needs to make a decision and soon--will it be the blonde or the brunette? Dawson doesn't answer. The episode ends.

"Double Date" is a great episode of Dawson's Creek because of its authentic depictions of teenage experiences. I like the innocence of Mary-Beth's crush on Cliff. I like the confusion and hope Pacey feels when Joey morphs into an attractive girl who he'd like to court. I remember such moments in my life when I realized "holy cow this girl's amazing." Joey and Jen don't know how to handle the opposite sex nor do Pacey and Dawson know how to handle the opposite sex. It works because that's how it is as dopey sophomores in high school. These characters have so much to say to the other but they don't know how regardless of how sophisticated their vocabulary is, and that works.

Some other thoughts:

--I don't have any additional thoughts on the episode--it's a cut-and-dry story that advances the two major arcs of the season. Only three episodes remain, so it's time for Dawson to see Joey as a potential girlfriend but we're not there yet.

--Mitch spends his time in the episode paranoid of the ringing phone. I'm thankful that Williamson and company barely spent time on the Leery marriage. Of course, season two (with its 22 episodes) delights in that marital drama.

--Jon Harmon Feldman wrote the episode; David Semel directed it. These two reunited for the No Ordinary Family pilot. What a terrible show (but a good pilot).

UP NEXT: "The Scare"--It's Friday the 13th and Dawson plays scary tricks on Joey and Pacey but ignores Jen, which hurts her. The group save a woman from her crazy boyfriend and she helps them with a séance. Emotions are heightened by the knowledge that a serial killer's headed for Capeside.


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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.