Friday, 24 January 2014

Dawson's Creek - 215 - ...That is the Question

Original air date: February 17, 1999

So, when we last left off, Jack declared that he was completely straight but may have been lying about that. I also stated that when the episode first came out, I had a hard time buying that Jack was suddenly gay after all his mooning over Joey but this episode is what sold me on the idea and re watching it now, I don't think the issue came up as out of the blue as I thought it did when I watched the first time as a teen.

For starters, I think the writers, whether intentionally or unintentionally set up this story arc for the character really well. We have this shy, awkward guy who does not look comfortable in his own skin. He is not great with talking with girls and in the beginning is set up with Jen, who is pretty darn experienced in the boy department. He rejects her, she intimidates him. This could have been because of how shy he was or it could be that she intimidated him because he was so unsure of his sexuality and she was so sure. Next we have the milkshake incident, where Jack spills milkshake all over Joey's drawing of a naked man. Now it could be that he was nervous talking about her drawing because he's a guy who's not supposed to be comfortable talking about another man's body, or it could be that he was nervous because of the feelings it brought up in him, which made him get really clumsy. Jack's an art nut, at least that's what the show tells us, and believe me, guys into art are pretty mature about things like drawing naked men. I was in a class with a bunch of them and they had no problems with it and why should they? I certainly had no problems drawing naked women. I think the reason he spilled his milkshake over the drawing was because he was so surprised by his feeling of excitement at looking at the drawing, not in an artistic way but in a sexual way that he hadn't let himself feel before. Then, let's not forget his failed attempt to go all the way with Joey where we find out that he couldn't get it up, as much as he wanted to. Could it be the nerves of having sex that got to him or was it just that Joey was not quite his "type"? To be silly about the whole thing, he does go for the sexually naive girl with the guy name...just saying.

It all culminates in this episode where Jack finally comes to terms with his sexuality and it is handled really, really well. Surprisingly well, actually. So without further ado, let's get on with the recap.

We start the episode in Dawson's room, of course. But the person on the bed is Pacey, who is watching Jerry Maguire because that was a thing in the late 90s. Apparently, Pacey identifies with the movie because he stood up for what he believed in too and got burned. Dawson looks like he just wants his room back but Pacey refuses to go back to his own house until his suspension is over. For the top cop in Capeside, Pacey's father is pretty damn useless at keeping track of his son.

Pacey then asks how everyone is doing while really wanting to hear how Andie is doing and Dawson surprises me again with his solid advice:

My God! Dawson is using...logic.

Pacey says it's not that easy because he's a teenager and the easiest things are just never easy at that age because angst. Seriously though, I do get why he was hurt but Dawson is right, he should just call her and sort things out already.

We next cut to Jen and that Ty guy making out in front of the school. They part ways and Dawson walks up to Jen, bugging her about being in love. She laughs and says that she feels silly, like she has a "stupid Junior High crush" you know, as opposed to a "sophisticated high school crush"? I mean, high schoolers are so much more mature than junior high kids, everyone knows you are a kid until high school and then you are automatically 20 and gorgeous.

At any rate, Dawson proves once again to be a good friend by saying how happy he is for Jen and...he actually sounds like he means it. What the hell is going on guys? Did Dawson's body get taken over by aliens?

It is a refreshing change for Dawson to not be so whiny and petulant all the time and be a supportive friend. Jen has noticed how awesome Dawson is being too and invites him to come out with her and Ty. Dawson asks if it's a bible party but Jen and the audience know better.

Joey is searching in her locker for a book and unloads her purse onto Jack to free her hands. Of course, some jocks make fun of Jack for having a purse which upsets Joey. Jack blows it off and tries to joke about it but Joey wants to angst over it and proclaims that Jack is straight so why would people get joy out of saying he's not? Um, because some people are morons? Jack still cracks jokes which makes Joey laugh and send him off to class but then her face drops.

 Enter Dawson, champion friend of the hour, to ask her what is wrong. Joey snaps that she doesn't want to talk, so Dawson immediately drops it and invites her out with he, Jen and Ty instead. Nice move, Dawson. He's seriously growing up this season. Joey says she can't and Dawson is fine with it, so she thanks him for the invite and explains that she and Jack are going to study and complains that they haven't been focusing on fun tonight. Dawson earns even more brownie points from me by inviting both her and Jack to come along to Ty's thing or even better, that Joey should plan something fun for her and Jack to do, even something romantic. Joey is as surprised as I am that Dawson is willing to give her good relationship advice. 

Slowly evolving into an actual, real nice guy

Pacey is back in Mr. Peterson's class and Mr. Peterson starts harassing him immediately. You'd think that he would learn his lesson and not push the kid that spit in his face but, whatever. He hands back Pacey's poetry assignment and Pacey sees that he got an "F".  Pacey asks what was wrong with his assignment and Mr. Peterson unhelpfully tells him it stunk. When Pacey asks for advice on how to write something more to Mr. Peterson's liking, this is the advice he gives:
Mr.Peterson: Yes. Write better. From now on, people, your grades will be subjective, whim to my personal taste. Those of you with talent, intelligence, and ability will have no problem and the rest of you should come to terms with your inevitable failure.

Pacey complains about it to Dawson in the cafeteria until he spots Andie. Dawson tells Pacey to go talk to her but Pacey wants to give it a moment.

 Joey tells Jack that she is making dinner and gives him a menu so he can let him know if there is anything he doesn't like. Jack is thrilled and thanks Joey for being so supportive.

Pacey finally walks up to Andie to try and talk to her. Both end up being petulant jerks waiting for an apology from the other but refusing to give their own. Since they aren't making any progress, Andie opts to abandon the conversation.

 She bumps into Jack and explains she's on her way to meet the guidance counsellor and Jack says that he was called there too.  They wonder why they were both called in until they reach the office and see a man standing with their counsellor. Andie excitedly rushes over as it is their dad but Jack does not look as enthusiastic.

I sense a bit of tension here...

Joey is packing for the romantic picnic she's planned when she gets a call from Jack explaining that he can't go because his dad just came into town. Joey is obviously upset by the news but you'd think she'd understand a bit about how estranged fathers coming back into your life could be difficult to deal with. Instead, she decides that since Jack ditched her, she should be free to go out with her ex. 

Indeed she does as the next scene she is at the club with Dawson and saying that being there is better than "feeling dumped." Uh, Joey? You weren't dumped at all. Your boyfriend had, essentially, a family emergency come up and couldn't go out with you just for tonight. Shut up and stop whining! 

Everyone should do things when I want to do them!

Dawson asks Ty if he comes to this club a lot and Ty says it's "practically home" which is punctuated by a waiter asking him what everyone will have by name. He is then asked by the singer to play piano for them and...I'm so fucking confused by this storyline, you guys.

 Who the hell is this kid? Why can he get into this club in a small town so easily and why does everyone in the club cater to him? How does no one realize he's not of legal age? Is the singer supposed to be his mother? Why was religion a thing with him? Why does everyone question why he can go to a club and be religious? This isn't exactly the most risque looking club, it looks like a high class lounge for adults. I guess it could be his lying that they are objecting to with regard to religion but why? Why is this happening? Why won't this goddamn show explain this?? It's like the writers just went, "we want to have a religious boy be into Jen but he's got an edge to him." "what's his edge?" "uhhhhhhh.....he hangs out at a bar, where he's this head honcho there and he's buddies with everyone!" "great! Let's write this!" But I'm sitting at home, thinking "how the hell is any of this happening in a fucking small, supposedly religious town?" HOW!?

Shhh, don't question it. It's easier that way

Pacey, meanwhile, has decided to stop by the library and look into codes of conduct for public workers and teaching guidelines. There are a lot of thick books he has to look through but I think it's pretty safe to assume that Mr. Peterson is not following guidelines given that he announced to the class that he was grading on his own personal tastes, rather than the merit of student's writing.

At dinner, Andie is babbling to their father about how she made honour roll and how Jack is working at the Icehouse but Mr. McPhee is having none of it. He is here for one reason and that is to talk about the rumours that Jack is gay. He basically tells Jack that as his only son, he has to not be gay which cements in my mind that Mr. McPhee is a duckweed.

Joey and Dawson are dancing at the club. Dawson mentions how he's happy that Joey came out and says that Jack is missing out which makes me side-eye him a bit but he has been good this episode so I'll cut him some slack. Joey then projects her own thoughts on to Dawson by suddenly exclaiming that Dawson thinks Jack is gay. Dawson admits that the thought crossed his mind but admits that Joey would know better. Joey says she does know Jack but not as well as she knows Dawson.

This strokes Dawson's ego

As I predicted, Ty finally shows his douche-tacular side by crowing on about what a great couple Dawson and Joey make and questions why Joey would want to be with a "fruit fly." Jen takes immediate offence to this, as does most of the audience. He aggressively states his religious views on how it is a choice and how the gays want to make you believe that it isn't but no one has to be gay if they don't want to be. Everyone in the audience then makes the same faces Jen does:

A mixture of disgust and...

"What the fuck you on?"

Meanwhile, Andie goes to Jack's room to apologize for the things their father said. Not up to you Andie, it's up to your father to apologize for his own behaviour. Jack is used to Mr. McPhee's behaviour by now and brushes it off. This upsets Andie because she clearly still wants him back and thinks that Jack is scaring their father away by resisting loving him. Jack says there is no point trying to list off accomplishments to see if they can get approval from their father when they can't even say they are proud of their father. Andie is upset by this.

 Back at Jen's house, she is quietly helping Grams clean up some dishes. Grams tells Jen how much she likes Ty just as Ty comes in and thanks her for making him a sandwich. Jen remains quiet until Ty asks her if something is wrong. She then tells him how upset she was by his remarks regarding Jack and homosexuality. Ty says he never said it was wrong, just that it wasn't a choice so Jen asks him if he thinks it's OK then. Ty then responds by saying that it's definitely wrong and is condemned in the bible. Uh, so why did you bother with the "I didn't say it's wrong" bullshit if you do think it's wrong?

You said it, Kat

He then asks Grams what part of the bible says that homosexuality is a sin but Jen interrupts Grams' answer asking them not to gang up on her. She rightfully calls Ty out for not being a saint himself but Ty just glosses it over by saying he will answer to the Lord when the day comes but being gay is damaging to the world or some junk. Then Grams interrupts to lay down her opinion despite Jen complaining that she is going to side with Ty. Grams, tell it like it is:

Grams: What I have to say is not directed at you, Jen, what I have to say is for Tyson. If Jack is gay, he does not need your judgement, young man. The Lord above will judge him, as he will all of us. What he needs from you, from me, from everyone else in this world is love and tolerance. If anything, that boy is feeling scared and alone and he will need the understanding of his fellow man to help him through this. Let's save judgement for someone much more experienced than you.

You just got schooled, Grams style

Dawson is walking Joey home and Joey asks him if he thinks she's "sexual". He tells her he does but she denies it because he picked Jen over her and then Jack might be gay and probably picked her because she was safe. Dawson says that he was just stupid and that she is sexy and that the question isn't why did Jack pick her but why did Joey pick Jack? He leaves her to think about this.

Pacey confronts the principal the next day with his research. She asks him what he's handing her and my immediate response was "the work you should have been doing, you lazy ass hole." Pacey confirms that he researched professional ethics for teachers and discovered, shock of all shocks, that Mr. Peterson is in violation of almost all of them. The principal appears just as shitty as Mr. Peterson as she asks Pacey what she's supposed to do with the document ("your fucking job, perhaps?"). Pacey says she doesn't have to do anything but that the document also contains testimony from other students affected by Mr. Peterson's lack of teaching ethics. The principal then has the gall to say that she hopes he knows what he's doing and again, I have to say "he's doing your fucking job for you!"

Now this next scene is my absolute favourite and totally sold me on the concept of Jack's character being gay. I'm just going to show you the whole scene because you need to see it all to see how good it is and how powerful Jack's coming out was. Kerr really sells it.

Really solid acting there. I especially love how Meredith portrayed Andie's change from wanting her father to stay to just a sudden realization of what a useless ass he is. Andie standing up for her brother and asking their father to leave was great. A+ scene.

The next day, Jack makes plans to see Joey that night and thanks Pacey for everything he did for him with Mr. Peterson. Pacey is happy that he helped Jack out, but I'd also argue, despite my love for him, that he was happy to have his hero complex fed. He really does have a hero complex.

Pacey then discovers that Mr. Peterson's class is not in session. He spots Mr. Peterson sitting at his desk though and this show actually has the gall to try and make us feel sorry for this cartoon villain. Like, laying on the guilt trip for Pacey getting a man fired just because he's old and close to retirement. I'm sorry, no. Regardless of a teacher's age, he does not have the right to treat students the way he did and keep his job just because he's close to retirement. No show, you will not make me feel sorry for this ass hole, you spent too long making him an absolute ass to redeem him now.

My reaction to the writers trying to make me feel bad for Mr. Peterson

Ty walks up to Jen and begs for a second chance. I hate Ty by this point, he's a douchey loser but for some reason, Jen decides that he's charming and obliges him by giving him a second chance. Jen, you seriously make the worst decisions on guys. You know his religious views are just going to get in the way again.

No, no he doesn't. At all

Pacey and Andie finally meet up and both apologize for their behaviour. Pacey claims that Andie's apology was so much better and asks why she always wins. Then they kiss.


Meanwhile, Jack shows up with Joey and realizes that he shouldn't have been so vague with his asking to meet up with her tonight because she's gone out of her way to set up her romantic picnic for them. He immediately feels like an ass, rightfully so. He finally tells Joey the truth, that he's gay and she takes it pretty well, but is still shell-shocked. I think that's pretty realistic. It cannot be easy for a girl to hear that the guy she's been dating is actually gay. Jack thanks her for being her and the scene fades out.

We are left with these two images of both Joey and Jack seeking comfort from the people they care about most:

Yay, sibling love!

Dawson continuing to be a good friend!

And that was That is the Question. I think it is probably one of the better done, character coming out episodes. I'd dare say it's better than Willow's coming out episode on Buffy but I'd argue that Buffy handled the aftermath of Willow coming out better than Dawson's Creek did with Jack. Still, it's a pretty great two-parter for a character's struggles with their sexuality and I'd definitely recommend it to people as one of the stronger episodes of Dawson's Creek.

So, where will the show go from here? How are the characters going to handle Jack's coming out? Will it continue to address this issue or will we have to suffer through an awkward blues singing scene featuring Dawson and Andie? You'll find out in the next recap, Be Careful What You Wish For.

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