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'Dawson's Creek' recap: 'It's all about romance. And ChapStick.'

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “Dance” | Aired Jan 27, 1998

Movies tell us that first kisses are supposed to be perfect and magical, so it’s only natural that Dawson Leery, who believes “all answers in life can be found in a Spielberg film,” would spend an entire episode obsessing over the perfect kiss with Jen Lindley.

We open with footage from Dawson’s spectacularly bad Swamp Thing homage. At the moment she’s supposed to kiss Pacey, Joey breaks character. “He is just TOO repelling.” Dawson isn’t sympathetic. (He constantly shoves Joey and Pacey together, leaving him no right to be mad when they eventually DO fall in love.)

Dawson and Joey continue to argue about the kiss as Dawson crafts a terrible likeness of Joey’s head for her big movie decapitation. When Joey spits that Dawson should just kiss Pacey, he proudly states that his lips are reserved for someone else, even though he hasn’t kissed her yet. Joey warns that he should get on with it, but Dawson clings to his slow game. “The question is, will your lips ever find Pacey’s?” (They will and it’s amazing.) Dawson stares at Fake Joey and proclaims that she has kissing lips. He also says she could just pretend it’s someone else, putting him at the top of the heap for the “Clueless Dolt of 1998” trophy.

At school, Pacey and Miss Jacobs are dealing with the aftermath of their kiss. Pacey struts around like the cat that got the canary, while she is understandably shaken. Lecturing on Wuthering Heights, she says, “Catherine was essentially a mess; Heathcliff was basically a decent guy who had a lot to learn about life.” I THINK there’s a double meaning in that.

Dawson has managed to con his way into auditing film class, where golden boy Cliff (a pre-Felicity, pre-Scandal, anti-aging wizard Scott Foley) expounds on his autobiographical film Helmets of Glory. To add insult to injury, Dawson sees Cliff hitting on Jen. Jen reciprocates. So much for the slow game.

In a case of art imitating life, Dawson decides to kill off Joey’s character, Psycho-style, and have Jen be the new love interest. On the shoot day, Dawson seeks out some fatherly advice on kissing from Mitch (sporting some hot-dad glasses). Mitch tells the story of his first kiss with Gail, which involved a very smooth move with ChapStick. He tells Dawson to practice on the Joey head, giving him pointers. “It’s your bottom lip. You got to keep it relaxed. You want to let it have a mind of its own. You want it to dance with hers.” (Hot. And hey, episode title!) Joey, who is quite the creeper, observes the conversation from upstairs. Her reverie is interrupted when she overhears Gail making kissy noises on the phone for Bob. Gail is flustered when she finds Joey in the hall, and then Joey drops some knowledge. She knows.

Joey’s death scene goes over perfectly, and Jen helps her clean off all the fake blood in an attempt to bond. “You have nice breasts,” she says, matter-of-factly. Joey stands dumbstruck as Jen rattles off the list of all the things she hates about HER body, the biggest of which is that her face looks like a duck. “You don’t look like a duck,” Joey says softly. Jen points out that that’s the nicest thing Joey’s said to her since they met, adding, “I’m going to make it really hard for you to not like me.” I wish these two girls didn’t have to fight over stupid Dawson, as they need each other in the worst kind of way.

Dawson pitches a hissy fit when Pacey gets too eager in the kissing scene, prompting him to cut the kiss entirely. Dawson tells Jen that he planned a Travolta movie night in lieu of going to the school dance. Jen reveals that she’s going to the dance with Cliff, and THIS is why you tell people your secret seduction plans, Dawson. He has a colossal meltdown to Joey. What did Cliff do that he didn’t? “He asked her out.” Duh-doy.

Never one to spare himself emotional torture, Dawson decides that he and Joey should go to the dance. As Joey waits for Dawson to change into his sweetest vest/oversized button-down combo, she encounters Gail strutting off to meet Bob in a teeny power suit. Gail tries to do damage control, but Joey cuts her off at the knees, bringing up her own father’s many affairs and the damage they wrought. She warns Gail that her actions will have great consequences and pointedly tells her to have a nice night.

At the dance, Cliff and Jen are having a grand old time while Pacey skulks around Miss Jacobs. Dawson and Joey arrive and hit the dance floor just in time for a slow song. Dawson whirls Joey around the dance floor, oblivious to her giant doe eyes. They share a brief moment of highly charged eye contact, but it’s broken when they bump into Jen and Cliff. Later, Jen asks Dawson to dance with her, which he blows off, since he’s still pouting about Jen being on a date in the first place. Joey asks why Dawson is so obsessed with Jen, and he gives the most sensitive reply ever: “I mean, it’s like the way I feel about you. She challenges me the way you do, she could be you. Except … she’s Jen.” That’s the last straw for Joey. She leaves with a scathing, “I’m dead already. Remember?”

At his wits’ end, Dawson storms up to Jen and Cliff in the middle of a slow dance, claiming ownership over Jen. She is visually upset by this, and the boys begin to argue about who has the rights to Jen for the evening. She storms off alone. Nobody owns her. Best dance ever, amirite?

Back at the Leery house, Gail seems to have heeded Joey’s warning, as she cut her evening with Bob short. Mitch asks Gail if she remembers their first kiss. She tells the wrong story, and the way Mitch’s face falls is heartbreaking. Behind his back, Gail pulls out a tube of ChapStick, then plants one on him. She remembers … and we hate her all the more for cheating on this wonderful piece of man meat.

On the docks, Pacey and Miss Jacobs finally talk about their kiss. Tamara apologizes for her behavior while Pacey counters that she doesn’t bear the sole responsibility. He kissed her back. He knew what he was doing. Tamara insists that their relationship has to remain teacher-student, which devastates him. “I’m not good with girls, ” he confesses. Tamara laughs, knowing that to be false, and tells him that will change. Pacey grabs her and kisses her, and once again I feel icky for enjoying it.

Dawson and Joey are walking home when they see Jen alone on the pier. Dawson asks Joey for permission to ditch her, which she gives. “I hope you get your kiss,” she says mournfully. Jen expresses her valid anger at Dawson’s behavior, and he tells her that he wants to be the adventure, not the boy she tells her adventures to. Jen says she’s interested in an adventure with him and wants to know how to start it. “You can kiss me,” he states, which is a dick move because it puts all the impetus on HER when he is supposed to be the one doing the romancing. Jen confesses that she is afraid to kiss him. A slow tune starts on a nearby houseboat. Jen asks Dawson to dance, which is what she’s wanted to do with him all night. From afar, Joey watches dejectedly.

“See, the kiss is just the end result,” Jen says. “It’s not what’s important. It’s all about desire. And wanting.”

“And romance,” Dawson says, finally listening to his father’s advice.

Just keep that ChapStick handy.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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