It’s Shipper Month at Zap2it. Throughout February 2015 we’re exploring TV relationships, both the ones viewers see on screen and those that fans form with their favorite characters and couples, and how it affects what they watch.
When “Dawson’s Creek” premiered in 1998, television audiences were accustomed to wanting the title character to end up with their soulmate. But The WB hit quickly subverted expectations, showing that the person the show is named after isn’t always part of the obvious end game OTP — instead, that honor belonged to Joey (Katie Holmes) and Pacey (Joshua Jackson).
For the first two seasons, the most iconic teen soap opera of the late ’90s kept up the pretense. Dawson (James Van Der Beek) and Joey belonged together … at least, they did until Pacey emerged as the much better option. From Season 3 to Season 6, the show became embroiled in a passionate love triangle, but true fans of the show there was only one couple that could come out at the end, and it’s easy to highlight specific episodes to prove that point.
Even creator Kevin Williamson realized in the end that Pacey and Joey had become the ultimate couple of the show — despite Dawson being based on Williamson’s teenage self. How does that happen? How did the patented Witter/Potter banter turn into one of the greatest fictional love stories in TV history? It took a lot of subtle hints, angst-filled yearning, heart-crushing drama, a boat, a romantic ski trip, a K-Mart and a dear friend dying for it all to come together.
If none of that is familiar or you want to relive the precocious drama of it all, Zap2it has mapped out the essential Pacey and Joey romance episode guide. While “Dawson’s Creek” has been taken off Netflix Instant, all episodes are available on Amazon Instant Video, and a box set of the entire series can be yours for just over $40. So grab the popcorn and tissues and set sail with True Love. Be warned, the waters get choppy at times.
Season 1 is getting used to the teenagers of Capeside, Mass. Dawson is mostly too
preoccupied with sexy new neighbor Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams) to notice that his best friend, Joey, is in love with him. It’s also a good setup for how Joey and Pacey start off hating each other — except for one episode.
Episode 10, “Double Date”: Did you know that Pacey kisses Joey long before Dawson does? They are partners for an extra-credit biology assignment. At the end of the night, Pacey kisses her unexpectedly and she immediately turns him down, though he suspects she likes it more than she says. When he tells Dawson he might have a thing for Joey, Dawson strongly discourages Pacey from doing anything about it. Pacey backs off because he realizes Dawson’s own feelings and wants to be a good friend. This is important to keep in mind later.
In terms of the Pacey and Joey story arc, Season 3 is the holy grail. This is where it all really begins. And ends. And begins again. It’s one of the best examples of a “slow burn” relationship that’s ever been done on a primetime soap. The entire season is recommended viewing for the most hardcore of P/J shippers, but for those wanting the Cliff Notes, these are the mandatory episodes.
Episode 1, “Like a Virgin”: After a summer apart, Joey miraculously forgives Dawson for convincing her to send her dad back to prison in the Season 2 finale. In fact, she’s so eager to see him she strips down in his bedroom and offers up her first time, but he rejects her. Instead, he sends his best buddy Pacey to go look out for her. So the Witter/Potter rivalry turns to friendship.
Episode 12, “Weekend in the Country”: In an effort to help Joey and her sister Bessie get their fledgling B&B off the ground, Pacey invites a high-profile travel critic to stay at the inn. It turns to complete disaster when the B&B isn’t ready. Luckily, their friends and parents are willing to chip in, and everyone pretends to be guests at the inn to help get the good review. Most importantly, Grams (Mary Beth Peil) drops some very important knowledge about how to tell when you really love someone — when you can spend all night sitting by the fire, watching them sleep. You can take a guess how Pacey spends that evening.
Episode 17, “Cinderella Story”: Joey’s fling with college boy A.J. (Robin Dunne) comes to an end when she realizes he’s actually in love with someone else. She calls Pacey to pick her up from the station, prompting him to make Joey analyze her feelings for him. When she can’t answer why Pacey was the first person she thought of to call, he kisses her. This time it can’t be construed as a joke, and P/J have finally crossed a line they can’t uncross.
Episode 19, “Stolen Kisses”: A trip to Dawson’s Aunt Gwen’s (Julie Bowen) cottage turns into nothing but temptation for Pacey and Joey as they try to avoid the “hormonal glitch” magnetic attraction they have together. The second kiss happens, and the third. Most importantly, Joey stops denying that Pacey has gotten under her skin.
Episode 20, “The Longest Day”: You can’t fall for your best friend’s soulmate and not expect consequences. The episode is told from multiple perspectives as Dawson finally finds out that Pacey and Joey have developed serious feelings for each other. Feeling totally threatened by the situation, Dawson offers Joey an ultimatum between their friendship and being with Pacey. This is Dawson’s second douchiest choice of the whole show (right behind the aforementioned sending Mr. Potter back to prison) — and puts Joey in an impossible situation.
Episode 22, “The Anti-Prom”: When Jack (Kerr Smith) isn’t allowed to buy tickets to the Capeside prom because he’s gay, the group decides to boycott the dance. When Dawson realizes that means he won’t have a chance to make Joey fall in love with him instead of Pacey, he organizes the “Anti-Prom.” It still doesn’t work, because Pacey shows up and delivers the “I remember everything” speech that ranks as one of the top five most romantic moments of the entire show. Meanwhile, Dawson throws more temper tantrums.
Episode 23, “True Love”: This episode is known to “DC” fans as the “Ask me to stay” episode. It is known to the Internet as the episode that birthed the crying Dawson GIF. Dawson’s parents are getting remarried, and Pacey drops the bomb that he’s sailing on his boat, True Love, down to the Florida keys. He wants Joey to ask him to stay, but she won’t because she’s so scared of losing Dawson — whom she tells if there wasn’t an ultimatum she would choose differently. Something about this finally gets through Dawson’s fivehead, and he lets Joey go. As she literally runs to tell Pacey how she feels, Dawson collapses on his own dock with the most pitful face to ever be meme’d.
Season 4 is the season of Joey and Pacey actually being in a relationship and trying to make that work outside the bubble of True Love. It turns out that relationships are hard. High school is hard. Life is hard, and the outside world gets to them in painful ways, but not before Pacey and Joey create some really beautiful memories.
Episode 1, “Coming Home”: After spending the summer alone together, Pacey and Joey must return to Capeside and face the rumor mill of how much sex they’ve been having on that tiny boat. They also have to face Dawson, who still pretty much looks like the above GIF but with longer hair. He, of course, manages to forgive Joey once she tells him she’s still a virgin, but it’s icier than the arctic between him and Pacey. The reveal of Pacey and Joey’s “thing” — that’s not sex — at the very end makes it more than worth it, though.
Episode 14, “A Winter’s Tale”: The senior ski trip turns into a sexual minefield as Joey and Pacey fight over why exactly they haven’t done it yet. This episode causes a lot of exasperated sighing and the desire to pull your hair out, but all the drama and monologues come to fruition when Joey says she wants to throw the wrapper of the condom Pacey has in his wallet away.
Note: If you would like to not make use of the tissues Zap2it encourages you to have with you during this, pause here and skip straight to the series finale. It’s a downward slope from here.
Episode 15, “Four Stories”: Once again Dawson feels entitled to know the status of Joey’s virginity. He asks her once again whether she’s slept with Pacey, only this time she lies because she wants to spare his feelings. Pacey inevitably finds out and fans can see the dark clouds of doom beginning to roll in.
Episode 20, “Promicide”: “Dawson’s Creek” makes your senior prom seem like the best night ever by comparison. The pressure of being good enough for Joey Potter finally gets to Pacey. He melts down in the middle of the prom and delivers a scathing rant that is still painful to watch even 14 years later.
Members of the Pacey/Joey fandom like to forget that Season 5 exists. Just fast forward through that black hole. Everyone is in Boston now. Joey is in college. In Season 6, Pacey has become a stockbroker and is making tons of money. He also has a goatee that you have to learn to forgive, but it’s a small thing to ask when he’s given so much. It’s been a season and a half since Pacey and Joey have officially been together. so most people had given up hope, until one drunken party and an early closing K-Mart changed everything.
Episode 14, “Clean and Sober”: Jack and Pacey (now roommates) throw a party to celebrate the purchase of a big-screen TV. Joey gets drunk to get over Eddie (Oliver Hudson), who has left her for the creative life. Drunk Joey is a pretty fun time, but it becomes legendary when she calls out Pacey for never getting over her during a game of Truth or Dare. Later when he’s putting her to bed, he reveals she’s right, he never did.
Episode 15, “Castaways”: Joey was too drunk to remember Pacey’s confession, which makes her being his date to a work party a little awkward. It gets worse when they leave early so Pacey can pick up condoms from K-Mart before dropping Joey off and going back to sleep with the hot girl from the party. Joey’s weak bladder causes them to get locked inside the store, and once confined in a closed space together all the secrets come out. The goatee is shaved. There’s kissing in sleeping bags. It’s the dream.
Episode 17, “Sex and Violence”: Joey needs some extra cash, so Pacey hires her as his secretary, but she’s actually awful at it. It’s hilarious, and their make-out session on Pacey’s office couch is delightful. It is also entirely ruined when Eddie shows up at the bar, rudely announcing that he has returned to Boston.
Episode 18, “Love Bites”: You’d think after six seasons that these two would know that nothing good for them happens at school dances. However, now they are attending as chaperones for Joey’s professor’s daughter Harley (Mika Boorem) and her delinquent boyfriend Patrick (Taylor Handley, who would later go on to play Oliver — yes that Oliver — on “The O.C.”). Pacey proves his charm by teaching Patrick how to be a gentleman, and Joey rewards him by dumping him on the dance floor because she has to see how the Eddie thing pans out.
Episodes 23 and 24, “All Good Things…” and “…Must come to an End”: The series finale of “Dawson’s Creek” time-jumps five years so that everyone is really an adult now. Dawson is the showrunner of a popular TV show called “The Creek” (go figure). Joey is an established book editor, Pacey has gone back to being a chef and owns his own restaurant in Capeside, and Jen is a mom. The group reunites for Dawson’s mom’s second wedding, and questions about the future arise when Jen’s heart murmur becomes fatal.
It’s while visiting Jen in her last days that Joey realizes she’s always known who she’ll end up with between Pacey and Dawson. Of course, the audience doesn’t find out until the final few moments of the show. Joey doesn’t let herself be taken off the hook, and she finally chooses the love of her life — proving that we didn’t have to wait for our lives to be over to get our happy ending.
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