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Throwback Thursday - Dawson's Creek - The Longest Day

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"Ever have one of those days you wish you could live all over again?"

Episode Title: The Longest Day
Written by: Gina Fattore
Directed by: Perry Lang
Original Air Date: May 3, 2000

Before there was Delena vs. Stelena, Brucas vs. Leyton or more recently, Barchie vs. Bughead there was the love triangle to end all love triangles on the WB, Dawson/Joey/Pacey. It was a love triangle that is so epic and happened to occur before there was the widely used term, shipping. There was no twitter available to plant your flag and sway others to see that you are on the superior side. You simply had to digest what you just saw and possibly write fan fiction.

This particular episode was a turning point for the triangle because Dawson found out that his two best friends had fallen for each other while he wasn't looking. At this point, I would like to say that I purposely did not look up what ship names the kids are using for Dawson/Joey and Pacey/Joey because this show and this triangle is near and dear to my heart so I don't want to bring it into the modern age with ship names, I hope you understand.

The Longest Day is also unique in that it showed the process of everyone finding out through a Groundhog Day esque plot and made the viewer pay very close attention to what was being said with each reset. This was a cleaver way to make sure that the threads were all pulled together to make perfect sense. This feat for a teenage drama was pretty impressive back then because it made us feel each character's emotions as the bombshell about Pacey and Joey was dropped.

Perspective #1: Pacey
In the previous episode, Joey had finally kissed Pacey first and they are in a sweet and loving bubble that has yet to be popped (oh you sweet kids, it's about to explode!). They are pawing at each other in a shed at the docks like, well, teenagers. They finally come up for air with the bitter realization that they must tell Dawson about this before things get really messy. Let's be honest, the moment these two finally gave in to their extreme chemistry and attraction, it was always going to get dirty and Dawson was never going to tell Pacey to go for it in a mature manner. Pacey tells Joey he will tell Dawson, he just needs one day. She agrees with a sigh of relief that the pressure is off her. Pacey exits the shed first as he and Joey agreed upon to find his friends ready to christen his boat True Love.

Dawson is there to proudly give a bottle of Champagne to his friend and we distantly hear him wax poetic about Pacey finishing the thing off and making it sea-worthy. This part is bittersweet because by episode's end, their friendship will be altered forever and fractured. Pacey spends his day navigating the proper avenues to find Dawson and tell him that he has fallen for Joey. As a teenager, I ate this up, but now as an adult woman, I cannot stop myself from shouting 'HEY GUYS.... SHE IS NOT A POSSESSION', but I digress.

Pacey is hopeful that it will be okay, but when Joey stops him out of nowhere as he reaches Dawson's doorway by nightfall, it is clear nothing will be easy. Joey tells Pacey that he can't tell him and that she should do it because of their history. With each word Joey says to spin why it should be her, Pacey comes to the realization that she was never going to tell Dawson and all the fears that he had tucked away were very real. At that moment, Dawson saunters down the porch stairs with a much different look for Pacey than we saw in the opening. He asks what the two are arguing about and Pacey finally stops the endless circle of doubt and misdirects that Joey seems to want to continue and calmly tells his best friend that they were talking about US, because there is an US here now. The camera cuts to black and we reset the timeline.

Perspective #2: Joey
The episode is once again at square one starting with Joey and Pacey in the shed only this time, Joey is the focus as she exits the shed after Pacey and looks like she is pulling a boulder of guilt behind her. Joey had taken the longest to realize her feelings for Pacey and that was due to Dawson. She has this obligation to him that has weighted them both since childhood and it has clouded her feelings to the point that she thinks she is doing something terribly wrong. Now if anyone remembers, Dawson had pushed her away at the start of season three and she had to distance herself to heal. So while falling for Pacey wasn't something she expected, she also didn't cheat, which makes her extreme guilt seem a little gratuitous.

Back to the episode, Joey finds Jen and confides in her that her feelings for Pacey are mutual and she doesn't know what to do. Jen, ever the level-headed bastion of sensibility, tells her that she should tell Dawson but that she and Pacey make perfect sense. She also shuts down Joey's pity party when she goes on about how in all the movies the girl in the triangle is some bimbo that always looks bad by cooly telling her 'keep in mind, most of those stories are written by men.' Oh how I appreciate Jen much more on this re-watch because she is the level-headed feminist this show needed and deserved.

Joey apparently doesn't have enough guilt to contend with, because as she continues to move along The Longest Day, she talks to Andy who confesses that while she is excited for her date with Will, he is NOT Pacey. This was pure plot device to remind us that another ex would be hurt by the big reveal and that is Andy. After running into to Dawson and making up excuses to get away from him, she calls Pacey's answering machine and urges him not to tell Dawson. Cell phones and texting would be mighty useful right about now, but it also made the constant missed connections that much more delicious! Joey decides to climb the Dawson Ladder that night to tell him herself. We find him watching The Last Picture Show, the movie they had seen on their first date. Remember those movie plots Jen and Joey discussed earlier? It is one of those movies and fits the narrative completely and even has back round from one of the movie characters whining 'she was my girl'.... Oh how on the nose!! Dawson clearly knows all, but makes Joey squirm to add to her ever mounting guilt-fest and even reminds her what the plot of the movie is. This moment did make me scream on re-watch because it was incredibly emotionally manipulative on Dawson's part.

Joey retreats and we again see Pacey standing at Dawson's door. She leads him away and lists all the reasons she should tell him and we also see Dawson watching this go down from his bedroom window ala Norman Bates. When he makes his way downstairs and Pacey says 'there's an us here now', it doesn't cut and Dawson says calmly but somewhat scary 'I know' then we cut to black again.

Perspective #3: Dawson
So far, we have seen that Dawson knows but are not quite sure how; This is where we find out. Dawson is happily going about after celebrating Pacey's boat and is at the library working on a school project. He sees Pacey's friend Will looking like a lost puppy and says hello. Will and Dawson exchange small talk and then get down to brass tacks, Will asked Andy out and has no clue what their date should be. Dawson, is of course an over-the-top romantic, and suggests a moon lit boat ride on the creek. Because most 16-year-old boys think of dates straight out of a Danielle Steele novel, right guys? Something about this suggestion stirs feelings in Dawson and he says he might ask an old friend to watch a movie, that friend is you guessed it, Joey. He does have one errand to run and that is, picking up a VHS from Jen (for the younger kids reading this, that is a video cassette that was all the rage before DVDs and streaming). Jen is busy trying to keep the only teenage boy who acts like a teenage boy Henry, from breaking her Grams' strict rules about inappropriate interactions between the underage when she sees Dawson coming and tucks her boyfriend away in the house. Remember when Joey told Jen about Pacey? Well that is why Jen thinks her former paramore is there and alas we have the bean spiller.

Jen sympathetically tells Dawson she'd been expecting him to which he is a bit confused about the tone. Jen goes on to reassure Dawson it was better Pacey told him now, but the blonde Spielberg lover looks confused then switches to angry. Jen tries to stop what she has set in motion when she realizes that is NOT why he is there but the damage is done. He knows she is talking about Pacey and Joey and is not very happy. He also is mad at Jen for not running right up his ladder and telling him when she found out. He storms off and tells her to say NOTHING.

Dawson is then seen in the shadows of night by himself watching his movie when Joey comes in. We again must cringe while he makes Joey squirm and watches Joey and Pacey talk about their next move. This time though, we see the whole blow up and it is a doozy!

"You know Pacey, I feel sorry for you, because when all this is over, you're going to need your friends and you're not going to have any! You're not going to have a single one!"

Dawson unloads on both Joey and Pacey accusing them of everything under the sun including doing this all for sex. This accusation is particularly cruel given what we know in regards to Joey being a virgin and not one to just sleep around. On top of that, Pacey may have started as a horny teenager but he has evolved past that at this point and wouldn't risk two valuable friendships just for sex. Dawson storms off after letting Andy know about it when she and Will walked up out of nowhere, and Joey goes after him. She begs for his forgiveness but tells him that she needs Pacey and it is real. He puts forth an ultimatum, that it is him or Pacey because she can't have both. Teenage love back then was messy! Instead of just acting like it's fine while slowly unraveling which seems to be all the writing fare these days, Dawson's Creek leaned into those character reactions, specifically Dawson's. They let them verbalize what they felt right then and there.

Perspective #4 Andy/Jen and the aftermath
These last moments are more housekeeping, we see Andy on her date and freaking out about Pacey and Joey. Jen kicks Henry out after he feigns little interest in the drama involving her circle of friends.

Finally, we see all members of the triangle miserable and unable to do what needs to be done because this is episode twenty of season three and they still have more angst to cover. Joey goes to Pacey who is resolve to the fact that it won't be Dawson telling him to go for it. Joey tearfully says it's over and unlike his former bestie, Pacey does not lash out or throw down ultimatums, he simply takes a long beat and tells Joey that maybe she should go first this time. We end with Joey alone on the dock with another symbolic boulder behind her to drag. Oh and did I mention Pacey is in tears, which left me in tears. Josh Jackson was amazing even back then, well all of these actors were and it is a great remembrance of where they started.

End Thoughts:

This episode set the trajectory for the rest of the season and if you haven't seen the show and plan to binge, I won't spoil the outcome. I will however tease that this episode was the pivotal shift in where Pacey, Joey and Dawson ended up.

The writing and direction for this one was one of the best that the show had ever done. I still remember the first time I heard Joey say the quote at the top and realizing this episode was one for the ages.

So what do you remember about this one? I must ask, team Pacey or team Dawson? Let me know!

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