Previously on Dawson's Creek: Dawson bores Mr. Brooks by blathering on about Mr. Brooks's former life as a director; Dawson bores Mr. Brooks some more by announcing that he's "ready" to make a movie again -- specifically, a movie about Mr. Brooks; Dawson chaffs Gretchen about mistletoe, and she chaffs him back that "it's tradition"; Dawson and Gretchen, under aforementioned mistletoe, mack (tm Aaron); Joey and Pacey see Dawson and Gretchen mack, and Joey looks horrified, and Pacey looks nauseated.
Fade up on the Darkroom Dawsonorum, where Jack "'Six Geese'? Sure. 'A-Laying'? Wrong Subplot, Pal" McPhee asks Dawson "Forehead Calling Birds" Leery how it feels to have a dream come true. Surrounded by prints of Gretchen "Eight Old Maids A-Milking" Witter herself, Dawson makes a lame joke about getting trapped in an elevator with Kate Hudson, and Jack rolls his eyes and reminds Dawson that he liplocked Gretchen at the party the previous night, and that Dawson has described Gretchen as his first crush. Dawson observes mildly that "she does photograph rather well, doesn't she?" Jack rolls his eyes again and cracks on Dawson for his "attempts to feign coolness." Heh. Dawson makes more evasive noises, which prompt Jack to ask in disbelief if Dawson doesn't think kissing Gretchen meant anything. Dawson flips on the lights and shrugs that he had it bad for Gretchen back in the day, but not anymore; she's a friend, and he wants to keep it that way. "Famous last words," Jack quips, and Dawson observes that "not every kiss has to be life-altering." Right. Unless it's with you, in which case it could result in a lifetime of intensive PTSD therapy. Anyway, Jack jokes that believe him, he knows, and says he has to get going. Dawson hands him a photo to take to Grams, and Jack splutters, "Hey, how do you know I'm goin' over there?" Dawson arches a brow and snorts, "Please." Hee! Jack quickly caves and admits that he is in fact bound for the Ryan Home; Jen "Nine Ladies Clomping" Lindley has talked him into attending a gay-straight teen coalition gathering of some sort. Dawson comments as they head upstairs that it sounds political, and Jack says yeah, that's what he's afraid of.
As the two boys arrive in the foyer, Gretchen herself hails them with a "hey." Jack, struggling into his coat with the photo in his mouth, stares with naked glee at Gretchen, who glibs that she came by to help clean up after the party, but it looks like Dawson already did it, Dawson beams at Gretchen, blah blah blah. Jack throws a "duuuude" look Dawson's way before saying, "Yeah okay I'm gonna go." I can't really do the line delivery justice, but Kerr Smith has a real talent for these funny moments-of-awkwardness bits they give him. Memo to the writers: keep Jack away from the crying from now on, because he's way better at comedy -- or rather, "what passes for 'comedy' on this show."
Anyway, Jack bolts, and as Dawson shows him out, we get a quick shot of Jack giving Dawson the "awwwww yeah" face before Dawson stuffs him out the door. Snerk. I'm loath to admit that I approve of any element of Dawson's Creek which contains Dawson himself, but Dawson and Jack make me laugh. Moving right along, then. After Jack leaves them alone, Gretchen admits to Dawson that she came by because she "reacted stupidly" to "the whole mistletoe thing"; she should have just "cleared the air" then and there instead of waiting, an m.o. she describes as "sort of [her] policy on things like that." Dawson, dryly: "You have a policy on kissing your younger brother's former best friend underneath the mistletoe at holiday parties?" Bwa! Damn -- not only does Dawson get two good lines off in the space of a minute and a half, but James Van Der Beek gives the drama-club-veep routine a rest while delivering them? Christmas came early at Sars's house, y'all. Gretchen snorts that no, she doesn't; she just didn't say anything right then because she thought that Dawson might think the kiss meant more than it did, and he's young, and…Dawson interrupts to say that he's not that young, in a tone that implies that he resents the condescension, and on one hand, I don't blame him; Gretchen's only two or three years older than Dawson, supposedly, and her whole Mrs. Miyagi routine is getting super-tired. On the other hand, it's about time Dawson got a taste of that medicine. Whatever -- so Gretchen backtracks with, "No, no, right, of course not," and then says that obviously Dawson didn't think the kiss meant something more, all the while giving him a "Right? Right?" look, and Dawson shrugs disingenuously that "obviously" he didn't, and Gretchen blathers on about clearing things up before they get awkward, and how that would suck, and Dawson agrees, but despite the fact that the horse has dropped dead in front of her and flies have begun to circle its carcass, Gretchen keeps whipping it: "So, to sum up -- last night was strictly a season's greeting [sic] kind of a kiss." Dawson, the stench of rotting horseflesh assailing his nostrils: "Uhhh. Yeah." As the angry yowl of a cat forced to wear novelty pet antlers comes up on the soundtrack, Dawson follows Gretchen to the door. In the doorway, they exchange a long, awkward look before Dawson wheezes, "Happy holidays," and Gretchen wishes him a glazed "happy holidays" in return before slinking away, and Dawson closes the door behind her and sighs, a fake smile still glued to his face.