Thanksgiving Special! Dawson’s Creek “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1999)

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Hello, and welcome to Thanksgiving week! I’m taking a break from the (Mostly Failed) Pilot Project to tackle a couple of childhood Thanksgiving episodes. I’ll update again on Thursday with a second as to be determined ep, but for today we’re going to talk about Dawson’s Creek. This is going to be a fun one, because the last time I watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek it was 1998 and I was a Freshman in college. I had little to no interest in the show but it became a weekly habit to hang out with the girls in Unanue, a dorm named after the Trump loving former CEO of Goya Foods. I have not seen an episode since, and definitely no season three episodes, which is where “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” falls in the timeline. Therefore, I know who Dawson is, I know who Pacey, Joey, and Jen are, but I’m learning what the current state of relationships is as this episode goes on. If you’re a big Creek head you may want to move on because this review is probably going to annoy you, maybe as much as me calling you a Creek head. For everybody else, let’s learn together. If you’d like to watch in advance, Dawson’s Creek is available on Hulu and this is episode 8 of Season 3. Onward!

The cold open features Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Jen (Michelle Williams) shopping for groceries for Jen’s grandmother’s Thanksgiving feast. I know who both of these characters are! So far, so good. Then they reveal that they’re hooking up and this is new information to me. Everybody was apparently with everybody at some point on this show. The real shock comes next when the credits kick in and what’s this?! Somebody tell me why the theme song is different now! I don’t wanna wait. Eh? Eh? Oh, apparently due to rights issues. Thanks Internet. Instead of Paula Cole we get “Run Like Mad,” by Jann Arden. It was weird.

Anyway, picking up the plot, when Jen arrives at home she goes to her room and Surprise! Her mom is there. So that’s who’s coming to dinner. I only sort of remember this but apparently Jen’s mom caught her having sex and sent her to live with her grandmother, who I think has a Boston Brahmin accent? So Jen’s not super jazzed to be running into mom in her bedroom. All of the regular cast members come over to have Thanksgiving dinner at Gram’s house because she traditionally throws these big outdoor Thanksgiving dinners which would seem to be a problem if this show were actually shot in Massachusetts where it’s set instead of North Carolina, where outdoor dinner in November makes more sense. This tradition conveniently collapses all of the storylines and ramps up the drama, so that’s good. Let’s see, what else happens? Dawson’s (James Van Der Beek) parents tell him that their divorce is finalized, Andie (Meredith Monroe) is feeling super awkward because apparently she and Pacey were dating and have now broken up. I think that’s the right move because Meredith Monroe was 30 years old when this show aired and 30 year olds should not be dating high school students. Or playing high school students, for that matter. Speaking of people who are way older than the character they are playing, her brother Jack (Kerr Smith, 27 years old at the time) is also there. Rounding out the folks whose attendance actually matters are Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Bessie Potter (Nina Repeta), and Bessie’s son, who I assume had a name but it’s not worth looking up. “Actually matters” is kind of overstating it since Joey has very little to do in this episode and she and Bessie are only there to reinforce that their mother is dead and families are what you make of them. The only other thing Joey does in this episode and really the only thing that Jack does is have parallel conversation between Jack and Pacey and Joey and Andie about how much their breakup hurt each other. It’s scenes like this that teenagers find clever that made Kevin Williamson and Greg Berlanti extremely wealthy.

Other things that happen: Dawson reveals to Jen’s mom that he knows she had another daughter, because Dawson met her (and got a blowjob from her right before she crashed his dad’s boat in episode one of this season, according to the summaries on Wikipedia). Jen’s mom ends up revealing this to Jen after dinner, which sets Jen off since she was sent away for having sex as a teenager when her mom had a kid as a teen that she gave up for adoption. Hypocrisy, thy name is whatever Jen’s mom’s name was. Pacey talks Jen down and makes her realize that parents are people who make mistakes, and Jen’s mom explains that she sent Jen away because she didn’t want to ruin her by failing as a mother. They make up, all the teens realize that family can be a group of friends who are there for each other, and the true meaning of Thanksgiving is revealed.

Ok now that the plot summary has been dispensed with, let’s talk about what’s really important: the dialogue in Dawson’s Creek is insane. It’s like the plane crash black box joke and they’ve decided to make the entire show out of Rory Gilmores. Every single one of the teens speaks in paragraphs, and you can practically see Kevin Williamson smelling his own farts in every line the actors deliver. Here are some of the offenders that really stood out:

Jen describes her mother’s feelings about her being around as “mild disregard, like I was some stranger who spilled a cocktail on her carpet.”

“The dark nights will pass and eventually you’ll find peace” is something that Joey Potter says when describing a high school breakup.

But the cringiest lines are saved for our titular boy. After telling Joey about his parents’ divorce being finalized, Dawson suggests that they should “act out our teenage ennui in wanton, destructive ways” but then changes his mind and instead says “or we could just sit right here and have a mind blowing three hour conversation.” I have no words.

I also have no more words to say about this Thanksgiving episode of Dawson’s Creek! Stop back on Thursday when I will actually cover a television show that I used to watch.

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