The Dawson's Creek Episode Guide: Baby
It only took six hours of programming, but I finally figured out why the Pacey/Tamara story has bothered me so much on this rewatch of Dawson’s Creek: It’s because I’m basically as old as Ms. Jacobs (she has alluded to her age in previous episodes, but cops to being 36 here), and the idea of engaging with a teenager in any form (let alone sexually) repulses me in myriad and profound ways. Like, why does Tamara want to hang out with Pacey at all? He’s an idiot child! He’s failing sophomore English! There’s no way he’s preternaturally good at sex! The whole scenario becomes more and more absurd, even without bringing up the fact that the whole thing is a serious cavalcade of felonies. Tamara is a lunatic.
It all comes to a halt in “Baby,” which finds Pacey casually discussing his affair in the boys room at school (a thing he has done constantly). The rumor about Pacey’s relationship with Tamara quickly spreads despite Dawson’s insistence that it won’t stick, and it allows for a tremendous sequence wherein all of the teen extras cover their mouths and point at Pacey as he walks down the hall. The rumor makes it all the way up to the faculty, and both the police and the board of education get involved in efficient fashion. The whole scenario derails Pacey’s planned day of love in Providence, though he still for some reason thinks they can be together after the cat is out of the bag. She breaks up with him, which he pouts and rages about because he is a child, but in the end he falls on his sword and storms into her board of ed review to tell everyone that he made the whole thing up.
Against all odds, the Pacey/Tamara drama ends with a lovely little scene between Joshua Jackson and Leann Hunley. With their biggest bullet dodged, Pacey thinks that he and Tamara can get back to the business of secretive boning, but Tamara tells him that their break-up is going to have to stick and that she is leaving Capeside. Having her life nearly ruined by her carnal desires gave her a moment of clarity, as she explains to Pacey that not only is she leaving because their relationship is wrong, but also because she wants to have children before it’s too late. It’s a sweet encounter that puts a relatively satisfying bow on what has been a problematic arc both morally and narratively.
In fact, “Baby” puts a button on a couple of dangling plots that clear the deck for the back half of Dawson’s Creek’s first season to shift the focus back on our four teenage protagonists (and particularly the various love triangles that continuously shift). The title refers to little Alexander, who Bessie delivers on the floor of Dawson’s living room while his parents are away at a counseling retreat. Since they apparently live out in the sticks (which is accurate to pockets of Cape Cod), the baby gets a home delivery care of retired nurse Grams, who puts aside her hand-wringing self-righteousness to practice a little medicine. Not only does the arrival of Alexander signal that Bessie and Bodie will be sent to the back burner for a while, but it also thaws Grams a little bit. I had forgotten how intense and single-minded her devotion to getting Jen to go to church was, and clearly the writers of Dawson’s Creek were running out of ways for the two of them to be at loggerheads over the Bible (there’s a great scene where Grams twitches over a calendar of semi-nude men after handling a particularly sexy pair of Jen’s panties). Not only does Grams set aside her delirious faith for the sake of a baby, but Jen also admits that she is beginning to understand where Grams is coming from. No character on Dawson’s Creek ends up in the same place he or she began, but considering the primary characters are teens, it’s ironic that Grams has perhaps the greatest personal journey of anybody over the course of six seasons (she will later adopt Jack and get her own dating life, two of the many developments that make for a plethora of amazing moments for actress Mary Beth Peil). The early season focus on so many of these non-high school stories (particularly Dawson’s parents) seems sort of crazy now considering the young talent that was on hand, but beginning next week that all changes and we can get back to the business of wondering just what Jen or Joey sees in Dawson.
Baby Alexander’s name isn’t actually spoken in this episode, but I remembered it instantly 20 years later.
Using the tepid excuse that Bodie is going to miss the whole thing (he has taken the bus to a job interview somewhere sort of far away), Dawson insists on filming the delivery, which is weird. And then he gets in the way and gets sort of diva-ish about it, which is weirder.
She isn’t given all that much to work with, but you can really see Michelle Williams ratchet up the intensity during some of the birth scenes. It’s an emotional depth that she has since used to great affect in movies like Wendy and Lucy and Manchester By the Sea. Jen almost never has anything interesting to do but Williams constantly elevates the material and keeps the character compelling.
Breakfast in the Potter house is odd: Pregnant Bessie sucks on a lime popsicle, while Joey has a Diet Coke.
This show actually plays with the Potter sisters’ relative poverty pretty subtly: When Joey finds Bessie trying to drive herself to the hospital because she is in labor, she reveals she can’t call anybody because the phone doesn’t work, and the passive suggestion is it doesn’t work because they didn’t pay the bill. (This sequence unfortunately pays off with a poorly staged bit of comedy when they are forced to row to Dawson’s house in order to have access to a phone.)
I remember this was the first time I cocked a skeptical eye at on-television childbirth, mostly because Grams delivers a four month old who must way 15 pounds.