The Dawson's Creek Episode Guide: Crossroads
It’s appropriate that I write this only a few days after my own birthday—an annual event with which I have a deeply complicated relationship—on the occasion of Pacey’s case of “the Molly Ringwalds.” (Joey deduces that he is referencing Sixteen Candles, not Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club.) Pacey is disappointed that his best friend Dawson has forgotten the he is turning 16 (they were planning on taking a road trip to Maine to celebrate) because he is so preoccupied with his new relationship with Joey. His pain is rooted in neglect, which leads me to believe that Pacey is, like most people, somebody who takes his birthday relatively seriously and expects at least a modicum of attention on that day. He ultimately takes Dawson’s abandonment as an opportunity for some sort of reinvention that ultimately leads to the early seeds of his relationship with Andie, so all’s well for him in the end (though not before a series of humiliations at a strangely existential dock party). Dawson later realizes the error of his ways after an argument that seems to create the most serious fissure in their friendship since Dawson broke Pacey’s damn nose back in season one. (This whole episode is another series of evidential entries in the question of “Why is anybody friends with Dawson?” but we’ll get to that later.)
My own ambivalence with my birthday stems from a handful of hang-ups stemming from a multitude of psychological casualties. Though it was not on the occasion of my birthday, I once threw a party that nobody showed up to, which has permanently scarred me for gatherings in my own name. For a guy who hosts his own radio show and once believed he could make a career out of performing on stage, I’m pretty uncomfortable with attention. And I never want other people to feel obligated to celebrate me in any way, so I tend to shy away from birthday-related events so as not to create that sense of obligation. It’s one of the many toxic plants that have taken root in my bad brain.
Though Pacey ends up throwing himself a party and invites a series of total strangers to it, the very idea of which gives me hives, I believe our shared birthday malaise does overlap in one key area: We both have relatively high expectations of other people. A birthday is a really easy victory to show that you actually give a shit about someone else’s existence, and Pacey is so devastated by putting himself out there that he can’t help but spiral into self-loathing. (On the other hand, I so dread putting other people in the position of potentially letting me down that I eschew the one day a year that I should feel good about being about me.) (This all being said, my wife too me to Disneyland on my birthday this year and it was a goddamn blast—I even got to wear the birthday button!)
ANYWAY, Dawson does come around and make amends with Pacey by the end of the episode, and our title character does show a rare level of guilt about his neglecting his theoretical best friend, saying the very straightforward mea culpa, “Yeah, I pretty much suck.” But more importantly, Pacey’s failed dock party does result in another delightful encounter with Andie McPhee, and I had forgotten how deeply charming their relationship ended up being. Andie clearly brings out the best in Pacey—in fact, the version of Pacey that everybody falls in love with when he finally ends up with Joey is first given life here in season two. And though we don’t know it yet, Pacey will provide the perfect counterpoint to Andie in the coming episodes. Their series of meet-cutes is great, and in this episode she gifts him with a Magic 8 Ball, which she then promptly shakes so vigorously that it flies out of her hand and ends up in the water. Pacey lays bare his existential crisis to Andie, and she somehow comes up with the perfect response: “Maybe you’re just Pacey Witter, guy who’s still trying to figure it out.”
As Pacey and Andie drift closer together, “Crossroads” gives us the first storm clouds in the still-nascent relationship between Dawson and Joey. They cannot stop making out with one another, even as they try to study together in Joey’s bedroom (which I did not think existed; in the first season, doesn’t she sort of just crash on the couch?). When Joey ducks out to tend to a crying Alexander, Dawson noses around Joey’s space, first sniffing the perfume on her bedside table (like a creeper) and then reading an entry in her diary (LIKE A DERANGED CREEPER). Whatever he sees sets him off, and he exits in a huff.
It turns out that Joey had written that she doesn’t think he has any potential as a filmmaker. He first complains to Pacey, who is in the midst of hanging flyers for a party he’s throwing himself because Dawson forgot his birthday. He then turns to Joey herself and dons his black belt in passive aggression, telling her, “It’s really important to me that you think I have talent and potential as a filmmaker.” Joey IMMEDIATELY recognizes that phrase from her journal and rightfully calls him out for the profound invasion of privacy. He then later tries to confront her while she is at work and says the incredibly emo line, “Now I realize I don’t think I know you at all!”
But the most insane aspect of this whole ordeal is they never end up resolving it. After Dawson drops in on Pacey’s party, gets kissed by a drunk Jen (more on her in a second), and realizes the error of his birthday-forgetting ways, he finds Joey in the rain, and they kiss during a slow-motion sequence that was originally set to Billie Myers’ immortal “Kiss the Rain” but is now scored by some dumb replacement song. Joey explains the passage in her journal was written out of frustration when Dawson was with Jen (reasonable!) and then ends up letting him off the hook for snooping! Whether it was the intention or not, Joey ends up looking in the wrong here, which she 100 percent is not.
By the end of the episode, everybody is paired off: Dawson and Joey are back to being on the same page, Pacey and Andie are on their way to being bananas-charming, and Jen and Abby Morgan have formed their bond. Though they never actually date, Jen and Abby end up being one of my favorite couples over the course of the show, mostly because I think Abby Morgan is an amazing combination of teen drama contrivances. She’s a cliché, but an incredibly effective cliché. Abby is fascinated by Jen’s experiences in New York (she dated the doorman at the Curtain, which I think was an actual club), and Jen feels empowered by someone who takes a genuine interest in her. They crash Pacey’s party with a bottle of champagne, hatch a plan to get Dawson back for Jen (because, as she says, “I still love him”) and end up puking off the side of the docks. One of the last images of this episode finds a sweaty and nauseous Jen returning home to stare hard into a mirror, and I swear Michelle Williams conjures the emerging DARK JEN. The Abby and DARK JEN narratives that play out over the second season of Dawson’s Creek are typically relegated to C-plots, but they remain some of my favorite bits from this era. Now if only Dawson and Joey would hurry up and break it off already.
- As mentioned, this is the first episode wherein the music changes are really noticeable. The “Kiss the Rain” cue change is a real bummer, and Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” originally played over the end of the episode when Dawson and Pacey resolve to take the “Mitchmobile” to Maine. The replacement tracks aren’t bad, per se, but they are distracting (and the mixing is all wrong, which is especially noticeable if you’re watching these while wearing headphones).
- This week’s chapter in the Book of Dawson’s Parents’ Nonsense: Mitch has a conversation with a fisherman we’ve never met and gets the idea that he should pitch his wife on an open marriage. Meanwhile, Gail has a conversation with Grams about her marriage struggles and admits that she has “Maxed out her Victoria’s Secret credit card.” What is the actual limit on a card like that in ’98? Considering they’re a one-income home, that seems like very bad budgeting on Gail’s part.
- Dawson’s parents also try to give Dawson and Joey sex-related pep talks after walking in on them making out. Mitch tells Dawson, “No hat, no glove!” (Gail corrects him: “No glove, no love.”)
- This episode also marks the first appearance of Jack McPhee, who Andie introduces to Joey in the hopes of getting him a job at the Icehouse. He’ll end up becoming Joey’s next boyfriend, and then he’ll reveal that he is gay in one of the more important arcs in the history of LGBTQ people on television.
- Next week’s episode revolves around another high school plot contrivance: The "let’s see if we can treat a bag of flour like a baby!" experiment!