The Dawson's Creek Episode Guide: Hurricane
I’ve been cheated on before, and it’s one of the worst things that ever happened to me. I experienced a truly brutal mix of emotions: Plenty of rage and a healthy sense of betrayal, sure, but also a strong dose of failure and a powerful jolt of inadequacy. Our relationship was already fissured by the time this revelation came to light, so there was no hope for reconciliation. I reacted with a level of cruelty that I still find jarring, though on certain days I don’t think I was nearly harsh enough.
So while my initial reaction to Mitch Leery’s discovery that his wife Gail has been having an affair with her co-anchor was, “Man, this guy is on some serial killer shit,” I realized on reflection of my own life that Mitch’s reaction is more or less spot on. Because he is a character on a television show aimed at teens, Mitch indulges in some cartoonishly soapy bon mots (my favorite is “You don’t get to cry!” though “I choose to hate you now” is also pretty great), but his emotional reaction feels uncomfortably accurate, right down to his hiding in the car while most of our main characters are taking shelter in the Leery house during a hurricane.
You can’t blame Mitch for his lashing out—he has, after all, invested two decades in building a family and seems to have neither a career nor a hobby to turn to as an alternative outlet for himself—and if I’m going to give him that kind of leeway, I suppose I also have to forgive Dawson’s actions in “Hurricane,” even though I think he acted like a knob. Once again, our hero is caught up in his girlfriend’s sexual history and is allowing the past to intimidate him into idiocy. (I guess Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy never made it to the Rialto, because it deals with exactly the same issues.) Jen reveals a bit more about her somewhat sordid history, much of which she presents with a shrug but sounds deeply traumatic: She lost her virginity at 12, used to be a drunk, and was sent into Capeside exile after she was caught having sex in her parents bed. She explains to Dawson that she’s no longer that girl, but also certainly not pure, and she hopes that he’ll accept her for whatever in-between version she discovers for herself. That’s an incredibly generous and mature approach for Jen, and one that Dawson doesn’t really deserve: That series of revelations comes at the end of the episode, after Dawson has spent the entire hurricane scare taking out his pain about his mother’s infidelity on Jen, furthering Dawson’s general slut shaming in the first five episodes of this show. After pining after her for the first few episodes, now all Dawson seems to do is push Jen away. Why does she see in this guy? Is she attracted to his passion for film? His sense of romance? His almost strident sense of idealism, which manifests in the line “Is the proposition of monogamy such a Jurassic notion?” when discussing his mother? Even when I first watched Dawson’s Creek, the title character’s conservative nature bothered me, though it is a little easier to swallow now that I have accepted that Dawson is the villain of the piece.
Speaking of villains, I can’t stand the version of Grams that we see in the early part of the series. She eventually becomes one of my favorite elements of the show, providing grounded wisdom for just about everybody on the show (her dynamic with Jack later on in the series is by far the best use of Jack), but at the moment she mostly acts as the morality police who primarily harasses Jen but also turns her judgmental eye towards Bessie and Bodie in this episode. And she’s not even consistent! At one point, she encourages Dawson to forgive his mother for her affair, even though everything we know about her character suggests that she would consider the violation of marriage vows to be a capital offense. Unless Grams is retroactively trying to let herself off the hook for past indiscretions during her own marriage, the whole thing makes no sense. There are a lot of characters that grow into better versions of themselves in later seasons of Dawson’s Creek, but I’m most looking forward to the molting of Grams.
- This is my least favorite episode of the first season of Dawson's Creek, and I really do wonder what kept me watching back in 1998. While I'm interested in their relationship now, there's no possible way I was engaged in the Dawson's parents story, and it's jarring to me this time around that the show spends spend so much time on it. I guess my crush on Katie Holmes was enough to keep me tuning in.
- I didn't mention Pacey at all because the b plot of this episode is so unbearably stupid and shows that the Tamara story is running out of gas. It does introduce Pacey's brother Doug, which also introduces one of the more uncomfortable recurring themes in the Witter household: Pacey's assurance that his brother is gay (primarily because he listens to Broadway musical recordings). Pacey hammers this throughout Creek's six seasons, and in the end he is vindicated, as Doug is out of the closet by the finale. It's just so weird to me that Pacey's casual cruelty ends up being somewhat vindicated by the time the show wraps up. It's never sit right with me.
- The Brothers Witter end up staying with Tamara during the hurricane, and that sequence of events involves the trio playing Monopoly and Doug pulling a gun on Pacey so that he'll say Doug's not gay. And then Doug asks Tamara out! It's madness, though it does provide Tamara with one line of dialogue that represents a moment of clarity (and a possible endgame for this arc) when she says, "You know we're going to have to end this. It's getting too dangerous." (Though in the end she still invites him back in to fuck.)
- While dodging the evil eye of Grams, Bessie and Bodie also spend an inordinate amount of time in this episode arguing about circumcision.
- Grams, Jen, Joey, Bessie and Bodie are all invited over to the Leery house to wait out the hurricane. Is Dawson's house more hurricane-proof than anybody else's place? It doesn't seem that much safer.
- Hurricane Chris was not a real storm, though he was a middling rapper with who had a novelty hit with "A Bay Bay" back in 2007. Do we think his name is a Dawson's Creek nod? (Unlikely.)
- Gail's approach to admitting her affair to her husband is mildly savage, particularly when she explains that she cheated on him for no reason at all. "Perfection obtained is a discomforting state, and I got restless," she tells him, which is some serious bullshit.
- R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" underscores Capeside's hurricane prep, which had to have been kind of expensive and is also so on-the-nose it's almost endearing.
- I can't tell if Jen's pragmatic attitude is an evolved way of approaching her relationships or just an example of lazy writing. For example, in the beginning of the episode, she tells Dawson straight up, "You're being cold to me, Dawson." Is that a refreshingly frank identification of the world around her or the writers' inability to show without telling?
- My favorite moment of the episode comes at the end, when Dawson finally apologizes to Joey for being a self-obsessed idiot and alienating her while he was drooling over Jen. They retreat to his closet to recite lines from Jaws (though somehow don't invoke my favorite line from that movie: "I saw one eat a rocking chair once.")