Oh, God. Kids. Specifically wise-cracking, over-articulate asshole kids that we've been conditioned to consider 'cute'. I'm not advocating child abuse, but Jonathan Lipnicki's bratty nine year-old is the most annoying thing to happen to this show since Eve knocked her knockers through Capeside at the start of the year. His story with Pacey tries to be charming and adorable, particularly Pacey's emotional growth coming about as a result of a poor kid in foster care, but it's such a generic, hatefully overused plot device that you can't help but violently dislike every minute of it. Which sucks, since the rest of Cinderella Story is excellent.
Joey has really been pushed this season, anchoring stories that allow her to express her growth as a character. Her subplot with A.J. has never been hugely absorbing, but I loved how her story this week enabled her to grow up a little. Visiting him once again, Joey encounters A.J.'s oldest friend Morgan, and quickly realizes that they're exact doppelgangers of herself and Dawson. But, being a little older, they're a little more mature with the romantic longing, and Joey's decision to push them closer together and remove herself from their story was ridiculously sweet. It takes a lot to acknowledge that you're sort of the 'guest star' in the romance between two other people, and decide to take yourself out of the equation.
It's all made a little more challenging because of Joey's burgeoning feelings for Pacey. While she sees a lot of herself in Morgan, Joey's also realizing that she no longer has the kind of emotions for Dawson that Morgan still has for A.J., and once again she begins to piece together her own love life and accept how important Pacey has become to her. If you ignore the Lipnicki hooey, Pacey's subplot at least guides him to throw caution to the wind and kiss her for once, and I'm crazy happy that one of them finally took the initiative and acted on what was so clearly there.
The rest of the cast are all wrapped up in Gale's restaurant this week, Dawson pushing himself center stage (shocking!) and going over his mom's head by bringing in Mitch to help out. It's an unnecessary gesture, especially considering it's sourced from Dawson's own desire to get his parents back together, and not because he actually wants to help his mom's new career. I guess it all works out in the end (they seem amicable again), but I was happy to see Dawson recognize his issues nonetheless. Strong use of Jen this week, too, who's been either wrapped up with her annoying boyfriend or absent all-together for the last couple of episodes.
Cinderella Story wastes way too much time indulging in 'cute kid' cliches, but the rest of the hour is strong and engaging, particularly the romantic and emotionally mature Joey storyline. She's come so far this year. B+
Guest stars Jonathan Lipnicki (Buzz Thompson); Robin Dunne (A.J. Moller); Deborah Kellner (Morgan)
Writer Jeffrey Stepakoff Director Janice Cooke-Leonard