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'Dawson's Creek' recap: 'You can't storyboard a kiss'

Season 1| Episode 3 | “Kiss” | Aired Feb 3, 1998

Current Status: Still waiting for Dawson to nut up, stop talking, and kiss Jen.

Dawson and Joey’s movie of the week is From Here to Eternity. While watching the iconic kiss, Dawson rhapsodizes on how his first kiss with Jen is going to be just like that. Joey, speaking for the audience, expresses her disbelief that this STILL hasn’t happened. What is he waiting for? Dawson’s taking Mitch’s advice about romance to heart and is now obsessed with creating the perfect moment, down to the music, production design, and dialogue. “You can’t storyboard a kiss, Dawson,” Joey says, rolling her eyes. “Sure you can,” he replies smugly, failing to ever take real life into consideration.

Movies don’t HAVE to be a fantasy, he insists. After all, Joey could be Deborah Kerr, if not for her cynicism and bitterness. (Ouch.) Joey doesn’t buy it. She’s perfectly happy in her cynicism, thank you very much. “One day you’ll understand, Joey. You’ll know what it’s like to long for someone, to desire to want to kiss them, and then you’re going to come to me and say, ‘Dawson, you were right,'” he proclaims. Because Joey clearly knows nothing about longing, right?

At school, production is gearing up for Helmets of Glory and the film class is in a final script meeting. Even though he’s only auditing the class, Dawson can’t resist piping up. He insists that they are going about it all wrong. No one wants a story about the golden boy. The world wants Rocky and The Karate Kid. They want the underdog. Even though it infuriates mean girl producer Nellie Olsen, Dawson’s big mouth earns him a spot as a production assistant. If he does well, he can join the class full-time.

Meanwhile, Tamara calls Pacey in for a student-teacher conference. (An ACTUAL one, you perverts.) Pacey failed a quiz and he’s doing poorly in other classes as well. Pacey brushes off her concerns, claiming he’s doing it deliberately so she will tutor him privately. “I need a slave driver. Somebody with a whip, maybe?” Okay … so maybe it IS that kind of conference. Against her better judgement, Tamara agrees to tutor Pacey.

At the Icehouse, we meet the new actor playing Bodie (Obi Ndefo) and we get to hear Dawson’s plan for his first kiss with Jen. He plans to take Jen out to “the ruins” to film the final scene of his movie and kiss her at sunset. While Dawson is yammering on, a handsome stranger walks up to the restaurant, making eye contact with Joey. Joey gets flustered and Dawson is immediately whiny the moment he doesn’t have her undivided attention. Typical. Pacey sees Joey crushing and warns her that rich guys don’t typically go for waitresses. Once Joey’s shift is over, she goes down to the docks, where she finds Rich Boy perched on his yacht. His name is Anderson. Over the course of their banter, Joey (heeding Pacey’s warning) lies and creates her own rich-girl persona, Deborah Carr … son. Anderson asks Deborah/Joey to go sailing with him the next day, and she agrees.

During their tutoring session, Pacey is less interested in Ethan Fromme than he is in learning what Tamara was like in high school. Specifically, he wants to know if Tamara would have dated him. “Probably not,” Tamara replies. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve learned a lot.” She gives Pacey some review questions, saying that she’ll give him some “positive reinforcement” if he gets them right. (Perhaps Tamara is inspired by the American classic Billy Madison, where Veronica offers to remove one article of clothing for every correct answer?) Pacey calls her bluff, rattling off all the correct answers. Tamara claims that his reward is his education, but when Pacey presses her for more, they get involved in a game of emotional chicken. She unbuttons her blouse and demands that Pacey drop his pants; when he balks, she callously asks if it is his first time. “You KNOW it is,” Pacey says, suddenly bashful. The air in the room changes as they both realize the gravity of their situation. She tells Pacey to go home.

The next morning, attired in her best “rich girl” outfit, Joey goes sailing with Anderson. They have a wonderful day together, but Joey continues to build her web of lies. After discussing their theories on the Kennedy assassination (as you do), Joey’s From Here to Eternity moment comes when Anderson tries to kiss her. She chokes, saying she has to get back to her parents.

Meanwhile, the Helmets of Glory shoot is off to a rocky start. Cliff wants a particular tracking shot and the cameraman can’t get it. Dawson, unable to control himself, says that he knows how to fix it, which infuriates Nellie. Cliff, however, lets Dawson take his chance. Dawson gets in a wheelchair and has Pacey pull him while holding the camera. He gets the shot and Dawson somehow resists taking a bow in front of everyone. After the shoot, Pacey overhears Tamara and Mr. Gold flirting. He confronts her in the hall and Tamara finally asks what he wants from her. “You,” he says.

Dawson and Jen stop by the Icehouse, where they encounter a glowing Joey. In the midst of taking their orders, she sees Anderson, prompting her to quickly join her friends instead of working. Anderson greets Joey as Deborah, prompting Idiot Dawson to reply “Who’s Deborah?”—much to Joey’s chagrin. Jen catches on immediately (because she’s awesome) and helps Joey save face. Dawson is having none of it and continues to try to out Joey’s lies, causing both girls to kick him under the table. Bessie starts calling for Joey, and Dawson sits back delightedly while panic crosses Joey’s face. Bodie gives Joey a knowing smile as he brings out the orders instead. You can stay, new Bodie.

Later that evening, Joey goes to say goodbye to Anderson. She continues her charade, but unknowingly names a long-closed restaurant as her favorite haunt. In that moment, Anderson knows. Perhaps he’s known all along? He kisses Joey and it’s sweet and entirely lovely. He gives her his number, but when Joey realizes her faux pas, she sadly tosses it out the window.

At the ruins, Dawson sets the atmosphere for his perfect shot. He gives Jen some excellent direction and Jen carries it off with aplomb. Dawson says it’s a shame to waste the sunset and moves in to kiss her. Jen is into it … until she realizes that Dawson has the camera running and is attempting to film the moment. Furious, she demands to know why Dawson can’t just let moments happen instead of trying to force them. Dawson explains that he’s at the end of his rope because he wants to kiss her so badly (and that makes everything okay). Jen is afraid that she won’t live up to his expectation, but before they can go any further, they hear someone coming. As they are technically trespassing, they hide under a trellis.

In close quarters, the moment comes completely organically. Dawson and Jen FINALLY kiss and it’s incredibly sexy. In his haste to hide, Dawson left his camera, still filming, on the ledge. A couple is filmed in the midst of a steamy tryst. The woman tosses her head back in ecstasy. Afterward, Tamara and Pacey snuggle in the grass, unaware they had company.