'Daddy issues' are a firm favorite of the television genre, and they arrive here in the form of Sheriff John Witter, Pacey's drunken, abusive father who goes out of his way to undermine his son at every opportunity. It's a story that's been casually referenced since the show's inception, but this is the first literal depiction of the abuse -- Pacey driven to tears by his father's constant belittling of his life choices, his personality and his future. Uncharted Waters, as a result, is arguably a little manipulative as a story. We don't get a whole lot of insight into why Mr. Witter acts this way, or why somebody so volatile is happily elected Capeside sheriff. But if you ignore the stretches in logic, Pacey's characterization is mildly affecting. Joshua Jackson is able to finally source his character's inner trauma and low self-esteem, and conveys a real desperation for parental approval.
Unfortunately, you can't truly ignore the stretches in logic during the girls' storyline. This is one of those episodes that splits the DC ensemble apart by gender, so while the guys are out on the high seas, the girls are wrapped up in a contrived news report scenario of Gale's. Jen is written as particularly clueless this week, inviting Abby to the gathering despite the group's collective dismissal of her just last episode. Their trip to Dawson's bedroom to watch his porn collection similarly bugs, and the monologue-heavy navel-gazing party they later embark on feels unearned.
Additionally, the Joey/Jen tension has literally become the storyline that just won't die. I feel like they've had the same argument at least thirty times since the show began, and it seems Joey's allegiances change every damn week. She dumps Dawson, avoids him, befriends him again, and is now jealous of Jen again? It's plot regression of the worst kind.
Dawson's animosity towards Jack is similarly annoying. Once again, both Dawson and Joey attack others instead of looking at the trauma they're causing themselves. And while he did learn a lesson in the end, Dawson's casual undermining of Pacey's issues as well as Jack's paternal absence only exhibits his very worst qualities.
Uncharted Waters is a strange misfire, especially as it's a Mike White script. You can see where he was going with this one, but the execution is weirdly bungled by contrivance and character inconsistency. Only Joshua Jackson saves the episode from being totally worthless. D+
Guest stars Meredith Monroe (Andie McPhee); Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee); Monica Keena (Abby Morgan); John Finn (Sheriff John Witter)
Writers Dana Baratta, Mike White Director Scott Paulin