Dawson’s Creek premiered on Hulu for the first time this month, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled the eight sweetest Pacey and Joey episodes of the series. Because yes, the creek may have been named after Dawson, but through the years, it was the unlikely love between the goofy sidekick and neurotic overachiever that stole our hearts.
Season 1, episode 10: ‘Double Date’
Pacey: Amazing! A personality like yours, and you still can’t get any dates.
Joey: Even more amazing: a personality like yours and you can.
Oh, Pacey and Joey. They were friends of a friend, but despite growing up together, the two “mortal enemies” pretty much hated each other’s stinkin’ guts. But after Pacey accidentally kills their science project with cannibal snails, these two crazy kids are forced to go wading through swamp water to try and save their grades.
They’re wet and uncomfortable and inconveniently naked, but somehow, despite the odds, this “repressed control freak,” and “remedial underachiever” find that their bickering banter makes their unlucky day not so bad in the end.
Pacey: You know a lot of people would consider you a very lucky woman.
Joey: And a lot of people would consider you a very deluded man.
The two bond over their underdog status and dreams of escape, but when Pacey takes the leap and kisses her, our hearts simultaneously break with his when she shuts him down. She’s still hung up on Dawson (ugh!), and it’ll be another two seasons before we see her fully succumb to the Witter charm.
Season 3, episode 9: ‘Four to Tango’
Pacey and Joey spent most of their childhoods fighting over their best friend’s attention, but the start of season 3 was something special in that as Dawson pulled away from Joey, for the first time, Pacey and Joey were allowed the space to build and eventually solidify a friendship outside of their mutual bestie’s shadow.
We got to watch Pacey comfort Joey during heartbreak, and then later on, we got to watch her return the favor. We watched them ditch school, and build boats, and break into mental institutions. We watched them, first accidentally and later on purpose, become each other’s go-to-person.
The essence of their relationship comes to a head in this episode as Pacey and Joey strike up a bargain to help each other out through math homework and dance lessons. Their dance instructor notices the subconscious sparks flying and comments, “If people dance that badly, they’re usually hot for each other. The dancing doesn’t lie.”
As Dawson’s typically self-centered suspicions boil over (though this time, not altogether unwarranted since yeah, finding someone else’s condom in your bedroom is hella gross), Pacey lashes out at him about neglecting his “goddess” of an ex-girlfriend (swoon!) and proceeds to let off some steam by making out with Jen in the coat closet (boo!).
When Dawson and Joey walk in on the chemistry-free coupling, Joey’s shock and resulting fury reveals itself as the burgeoning realizations of a crush to Jen (who we are all aware was the show’s wise resident sage of sex-advice.) Jen confronts Pacey about his feelings, and though he denies them adamantly, it doesn’t take a tango teacher to realize that the seed’s been irrevocably planted in Pacey’s periphery.
Season 3, episode 17: ‘Cinderella Story’
Okay, time to catch up: it’s been eight episodes since “Four to Tango” and Pacey is finally ready to admit to himself that he’s fallen hard for his best friend’s girl. He’s saved her sister’s inn, and bought her a wall, and spent the night in jail because his unspoken feelings are threatening to burst out and rock the foundations of his world.
Pacey: Her name’s Joey.
Buzz: Is she a hottie?
Pacey: I’m not answering that.
Buzz: Come on, I’m nine, I have years before I get there. The least you can do is cough up a description.
Pacey: She’s so beautiful that when you look at her, your knees tremble, your heart melts, and you know right then and there, without reservation, that there’s order and meaning to the universe.
Buzz: She’s a hottie.
Pacey: She is.
So when Joey calls him in the middle of the night to pick her up after breaking up with her boyfriend, he finally lets her have it by asking the hard questions. She’s living in a fantasy searching for the perfect man to make up the perfect relationship. But why did she call him? Why was he the first person she thought of?
“Don’t you ever just get tired of talking?” he asks, and then it happens: the kiss that changed everything. The Dawson’s Creek equivalent of Pandora’s Box had been opened, and nothing on the show would ever be the same.
Season 3, episode 19: ‘Stolen Kisses’
Joey’s world was pretty much rocked by the kiss that she would never let herself admit she wanted, but when Dawson and his friends head off to hang out at weird aunt Julie Bowen’s house for spring break, avoiding Pacey and his ever-present lips becomes even too hard for her to resist.
The memories of her and Dawson’s epic friendship are drowning Pacey and Joey in guilt, but after finally fessing up to their feelings Joey takes the plunge, and the two daydream believers agree to give their unlikely love a shot.
Season 3, episode 22: ‘The Anti-Prom’
“I remember everything.”
Sure, most of the time she’s a neurotic mess and he’s a slacker who can’t seem to get to get it together, but somehow these two bring out the best in one another so that their flaws are turned into strengths. They just fit.
In this episode, Dawson sets up an anti-prom so that he can pretty much parade around Joey like a trophy he’s desperately trying to hold onto, but his focus on perfection only succeeds in pushing her away as we realize just how out of touch he is with the reality of who Joey has become. Dawson and Joey were a fantasy built on idealism, but as Pacey and Joey steal away a dance we realize that what they’ve built is very real. And while Dawson sees Joey through the rose-colored lenses of who he wants her to be, Pacey just sees — and loves — her for who she is.
Season 3 Episode 23: True Love
ASK ME TO STAY he paints on the wall. Their wall. The one he bought her because he believes she can do anything. Because he knows she’s got so much to say. Because he’s not ready to give up on her yet!!! It’s such a different attitude towards their relationship than the entitlement Dawson feels towards Joey, and the sense of security he feels in pushing her away anytime their relationship is struggling.
But the one thing that Joey always had in common with Pacey was that she’s a fighter. She’s scrappy, and unwilling to give up — when things are hard, she pushes through. And Pacey challenges her to reach her potential, not hide from it.
Joey: I think I’m in love with you.
Pacey: You think, or you know?
Joey: I know.
The season comes full circle. It all started sitting on the dock in the season premiere, and in the season finale, the seeds that were planted finally set sail. Was their love inevitable? Or was it something Dawson accidentally facilitated between his two best friends? Pacey acknowledges that things are never going to be the same between them, and he’s right, things never really are. They aren’t Dawson’s trio anymore: they’re Joey’s.
Season 4, episode 1: ‘Coming Home’
Okay, so their back and forth banter kept their sexual tension sizzling in season 3, but how would PJ keep up as a couple? That was the real question going into season 4: back from their blissful sailboat summer escape, would Pacey and Joey ever work out in the real world?
As it turns out: yes. They were arguably the Dawson’s Creek couple with the most successful run (next to soulmates and life besties Jack and Jen, of course), and even after spending a claustrophobic three and a half-months together, Pacey and Joey sailed into season 4 not only still happy, but stronger than ever.
And though Dawson still believes that Pacey and Joey’s relationship is entirely based in sex, we know what they really did on those hot summer nights… reading each other to sleep. (Cue geek girl swooning!)
Season 6, episode 15: ‘Castaways’
Joey: You gonna answer that, or are we gonna finish this?
Pacey: We could live a thousand years and never finish this.
Sure, most of us like to pretend that the college years didn’t even happen, but sifting through two seasons worth of trash is worth it to get to television’s cutest 42 minute rom-com. One of the hands down best episodes of the series, “Castaways” is a self-contained episode that takes place in a single night after Pacey and Joey find themselves locked inside a K-Mart.
Joey: Why don’t you seem surprised?
Pacey: Maybe because I’ve been wanting to kiss you since I saw you in that outfit.
Joey: Even when you were yelling at me?
Pacey: Especially when I was yelling at you.
Joey: Is this a recent development?
Pacey: Wanting to kiss you? No, it’s sort of always there. Like white noise. Or the secret service. Or the threat of nuclear war for that matter. It’s just something you get used to.
Life is tough in the time before cell phones, and when Pacey and Joey can’t find a way out, they’re forced to air out their dirty laundry amidst the frustratingly accidental supermarket slumber party. It’s all adorably endearing, but bonus points to Joey Potter who finally heard the cries of fangirls everywhere and got that hideous goatee to go! Now that’s love.
“What I know is that you and I were one of the only things — maybe the only thing — that ever made total and complete sense in my life.”