“Be Careful What You Wish For” (season 2, episode 16; originally aired 3/3/1999) and “Psychic Friends” (season 2, episode 17; originally aired 3/10/1999)
Whatever cold water the show was throwing on its genre in season one has finally dried up. Last semester Joey could have a well-deserved good time by giving in to her id with the aid of some alcohol for a night; nowadays even Andie the fun drunk winds up saying, “If I ever pick up a drink, please remind of me of how I feel right now.” Silver lining: At least now when a student hangs out with his teacher after hours she inspires his tragic downfall. But the tug-of-war between Dawson’s pained romanticism and Joey’s bracing realism has reached a surprising point: The players seem to have switched sides. At least, that’s how the wind’s blowing.
“Be Careful What You Wish For” concerns Dawson’s 16th pity party. Dawson gets drunk and yells at the few people who can stand to be around him because Joey being single again doesn’t immediately translate to Joey being romantically available to him. What a bitch. She’s last in his rant, of course, and he calls her “My Joey.” Anyone who ever studied Willa Cather can guess how I feel about that. That said, it’s pretty delightful watching Dawson dig his own grave, and he does have a perceptive point about Pacey’s sainthood, though it's wrapped in Dawson’s all-time greatest douchebag moment. Dawson wants Pacey to go back to being the screw-up so Dawson can feel better about himself. Jesus. He also wants Jack to pick a team, and frankly, producers, so do I. After the previous weeks’ incredibly complicated but beautiful mic-drop, Jack making out with women in both succeeding episodes reeks of anxiety. Dawson also calls out Jen’s wild-child days, which are so six weeks ago.
Only at the end does Dawson realize how lucky he is. So lucky that the consequences of his animosity evaporate into bygones because the episode ends. There’s a deleted scene somewhere where Pacey gets together with the gang and decides Dawson puking his brains out is punishment enough, and then they all laugh and jump into a mid-air high five. I also don’t get Joey’s self-loathing. She gets depressed at the end because her boyfriend turned out to be gay and she threw the world’s worst surprise party, but she knows she had nothing to do with either outcome. Well, inviting Abby Morgan is a sin she’ll carry with her to the grave, but bitter, season-one Joey would never have let that get her down. Fortunately this is all a feint so that Joey and Jack can have a serious bonding moment, a seed for the next episode. Admirably, Jack still barely has relationships with most of the regulars, because they don’t all hang out at the Max after school.
Besides, Joey’s party isn’t a complete failure: It gets Jen and Ty to break up. The circumstances are so galling I’m baring my teeth just thinking about it, but at least he’s out of the picture for now. Ty never got the best deal from the writers, and Christianity is such an easy target that some nuance could have helped, but the best part of their breakup scene is that Ty looks, sounds, and acts like a boy. As Gail says when Mitch asks if they screwed up their son, “He’s 16 years old.” Exactly. Teen dramas can be too adult sometimes. If there’s hope for Dawson, why not Ty?
Alcohol isn’t the only fun vehicle for psychological exposition. “Psychic Friends” opens with a dream sequence that goes from nauseating to hilarious in about 30 seconds, as Joey runs off with Great Artist Jack to Hollywood. “Get over it, Dawson. You’re not my type. You never were.” If only. What’s more, a fortune teller running a commendable scam and/or a portal to the gods offers up some foreshadowing with her exposition. Later Joey projects a whole character into existence just to work through her issues. I thought that was Dawson’s thing?
The timeline of the first two seasons is screwier than Lost, but it’s autumn now, and the holiday chill is perfectly suited to the show’s romantic dive. Snow falls outside Dawson’s window as he lies in drunken agony and Joey stares into the future. The wind is blowing in the background of every outdoor shot, carrying this new wave of magical spirits to Capeside. Christmas lights dangle from the booths of an art fair, adding a little twinkle to the chance encounters. An old friend Grams hasn’t seen in 30 years spots her from across the fair and insists on taking her to dinner. She doesn’t know then that he disappears when the moon rises, but at least she gets a makeover from Jen. If “Psychic Friends” didn’t have such a mystical aura, it’d be hilarious that Colin Manchester assumes Joey is the artist just because she walked into the booth. As if it weren’t obvious that Colin Manchester is a pseudonym, presumably for a prince trying to find someone who loves him for him.
Colin is actually interested in Jack, so Joey does the magical carnival version of giving him Jack’s phone number. But when she tells Jack, he freaks out so they can have another final-act bonding sesh. Not sure why he needs to kiss the second layer of ski cap on her forehead at the end, but their relationship is so much more moving now. Jack isn’t ready to date just yet, which heightens my sense of behind-the-scenes anxiety but is forgivable on the grounds of believability. He doesn’t rub her face in the fact that she did to him what Dawson did to her an episode ago, counting on his romantic interest just because he’s single. Instead they hug and fantasize about the guys they, er, she is going to find to kiss before the millennium, becoming by far the most fulfilling friendship on Dawson’s Creek. Someday Dawson and Pacey will hang out again.
As long as we’re talking supernatural guidance, the Dawson plots of both “Be Careful What You Wish For” and “Psychic Friends” set the table for the future nicely. The drunken rant that calls out frustrations with the narrative achieves its apotheosis in the final season, and Dawson finding himself alone with his movies is going to be a regular occurrence. For now, Dawson is busy feeling dismayed about his filmmaking, but Creek Days does boast some exciting rear projection. He tries to find some friends to lean on, but they’re all pretty happy with each other not being drunkenly insulted, especially now that Pacey has rescued Andie from another funk (this one based on a psychic’s predictions for her stormy future). Joey thinks better of visiting him, which lends some support to Dawson’s nightmare. She has a new friend now, a new person to talk to at the end of each episode. This is Joey’s creek now. And her father is on her doorstep. “Daddy?” I already have goosebumps!
- Sorry for the impromptu week off. Something about the networks flooding television-review sites with new shows to cover. I think the timing worked out, though, a week off after a biggie. The rest of the reviews this season should air uninterrupted, which is good, because the party is just getting started.
- But seriously, what Dawson says to Pacey at his party needs to be addressed.
- Jack wins half a grade for saying, “Why do you keep talking to me? I don’t like you, Abby.” But then Abby ruins the entire episode by saying, “That’s ’cause no one likes me. I’m an outcast.” In her defense, my jaw dropped when she shows up at the Ice House with some friends.
- Jack tells Joey why he made out with Abby, “She was saying some things tonight that just made me feel like everybody else.” I get it. I mean, I don’t get it, and I certainly don’t get it with Abby, but I get it. Like his cold feet with Colin, this plot plays like heteronormativity but still takes Jack seriously as a character.
- It does rankle, however, when Joey tells Jack how lucky he is. Pundits love to say how lucky gays are to be a part of a minority with a relatively swift civil rights movement, as if that light at the end of the tunnel makes it better inside.
- Lotta Titanic going on. First Jen slaps the fogged-up window of Dawson’s parents’ car. Then Joey and Jack try to find Leos. “Dawson is definitely a Leo,” she rules. I agree with that sentence, just not her taste.
- Joey says, “In many ways I feel like you partially invented me, Dawson.” If she’s saying she feels like he wrote her in a script, then yep, that’s exactly what happened.
- Dream Jack has some game. “I ran into Steven Spielberg in the cafeteria. He offered me a job!” Also, Jack’s gay hair is working for me.
- “Psychic Friends” gets off to an aggravating start with a bunch of push shots that feel like someone put the camera on an office chair that jerks every time the wheels hit grout, but it eventually evens out. I know this is a network drama, but there’s a lot more clumsiness behind the camera this season.
- Grams sees there’s something on Jen’s mind. “What?” “What is that he’s very sexy.” That took a surprising turn. Either patronizing or suddenly very exciting.
- Jen and Grams get a lot of good bonding banter in “Psychic Friends.” Jen asks, “You do have contraceptives right?” “That’s it, I’m not going.”
- The psychic tells Dawson, “A soul mate walks in your path.” Can’t wait to keep hearing about that for the next four seasons.
- Next week: A wedding catered by the Ice House brings everyone together in “A Perfect Wedding,” and in case that title doesn’t immediately strike you as ironic, the next episode is named “Abby Morgan, Rest In Peace.”