"Beauty Contest"

image Dawson and Joey are watching a "Discovery Channel" program about the mating habits of insects in his room one night. Dawson thinks, like the ladybugs on the screen, that love is instinctive, while Joey argues it is influenced by the dictates of the society around us. After asking Joey what kind of guy she is attracted to, Joey's exasperated expression leads us to believe that Dawson will be forever clueless to Joey's true feelings for him. Little do we know, that is about to change.

The group meets at the Icehouse for lunch and discusses the upcoming Windjammer Days and the annual beauty contest associated with the festival. Jokes are traded back and forth and Dawson manages to insult Jen. But, with the winner receiving a $5,000 cash prize and a trip to New York, by the end of the discussion at least Joey and Pacey actually consider entering the contest. Pacey needs the money to move out on his own away from a home situation that continues to deteriorate and Joey needs the money for an education beyond the local community college.

image With encouragement from Jen who is trying hard to become a friend, Joey is persuaded to show up at the first meeting of the Miss Windjammer contestants. Upon their arrival they are surprised to see Pacey, with Dawson, arguing his way into the contest based on the technicality that the rules do not specifically disallow male contestants. Dawson continues to put his foot in his mouth and accidentally upsets Joey by mocking the idea of her entering a beauty contest.

image In preparation for the contest Pacey practices with Dawson while Jen coaches Joey on the finer points of walking with heels. The conversation on both sides focuses on the relationship, or lack there of, between Dawson and Joey. Joey tells Jen that Dawson will forever see her as "the gawky little girl down the creek" and Dawson tells Pacey that he sees Joey as more of a sister than anything else. The tension reaches a climax when Dawson, who has volunteered to help in the contest, asks Joey preliminary questions. While the questions and answers on the surface seem meaningless, the subtext tells the real story. The interaction turns very personal and when Joey tells Dawson that everything changes, he seems truly affected by his now emerging realization of Joey's feelings.

image On the night of the Miss Windjammer contest Pacey, who was actually entertaining the thought of winning the event, finally realizes there is no way the blue-bloods in the club will award him a prize. A lot of spite and a little bit of class clown combine when he decides to change his magic act to a "dramatic interpretation" of a scene from the movie "Braveheart." In a surprise to everyone, especially Dawson, Joey sings a heart felt rendition of the song "On My Own". The lyrics of the song speak directly to her feelings for Dawson and his lack of recognition toward her. The look in Dawson's eyes tells us that he is seeing Joey as a beautiful woman for the first time in his life.

After her performance Joey overhears snotty comments from some of the richer and bitchier contestants. She almost drops out of the contest on the spot, but Dawson intervenes to tell her how incredibly proud he is of her. Infused with confidence, Joey gives a pointed response to her question about what she would tell today's youth.

image Although we are disappointed that Joey takes second in the contest, the turn of events that follows are the highlight of the episode. Dawson and Joey find themselves alone near the pier. Dawson, dealing with emotions he has never felt before toward Joey, admits he is "seeing her for the first time tonight". In his own awkward way, Dawson seems to want to kiss Joey. To everyone's surprise Joey rebuffs his advances. She tells Dawson that what he sees tonight, the hairspray and the lipstick, is not really her. She wants him to love her for what she is really like everyday.

image In the final scene of the episode Jen approaches a confused Dawson. It seems she is ready to get back together with him. And while he would have jumped at the opportunity just days earlier, the events of the last few hours have truly changed everything. He tells Jen he has to think about it, but we all know where his heart is really turning. As Dawson sits by himself thinking of Joey and Joey combs her hair in the mirror thinking of Dawson we a relieved to see a smile appear on her face. Dawson is falling in love with Joey and Joey could not be more pleased.

Written by Dana Baratta
Directed by Arvin Brown
Originally Aired Tuesday, May 12, 1998 9pm/8pm C
The WB Television Network