It's no surprise that the show is once again playing up the love triangle vibe. Just as Joey and Pacey finally get together, Dawson's feelings for Joey surface once again, and he begins to think there may be mileage in them yet. Thanks a lot, crazily invasive Julie Bowen! Stolen Kisses tosses the main cast together in the same location and features another previously-unheard-of character meddling in their personal lives, this time Bowen's ambiguous 'Aunt Gwen', a wacky bohemian artist type who doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. Her inappropriate machinations grant Dawson motivation to pursue Joey again, even when it's perfectly clear that Joey's attention is elsewhere. It's all a little annoying in its predictability, but the bones of the arc continue to be wonderful.
Every episode lately seems to spin Joey and Pacey off into mature new directions. Unlike Joey's last relationship, there's little angst anymore, or over-analyzing of what their 'thing' entails. There are obviously some hurdles they're still trying to overcome, least of all how other people will react, but that deep longing for one another forces them to act like adults for once. Most of Stolen Kisses plays like a direct sequel to Neverland, only with Joey trying to find the courage to tell Dawson about her new relationship, since Pacey's attempt last week didn't work out so great. It similarly ends with no progress on that front, but it's absolutely the right time for Joey to come clean emotionally, finally initiating a kiss rather than just waiting around for Pacey to do it for her.
Away from that, Stolen Kisses isn't great. Andie has gotten herself a new love interest, Rodney Scott's book-smart 'friend of Pacey's' clumsily thrown into the show in advance of getting his own short-lived spin-off, that old summer series Young Americans. It's all a little bland, but I liked Andie being confident enough to tell Pacey that she's experiencing feelings for someone else, and that she wants to pursue it. Even though there's little between them anymore, it's important to express these kinds of things, especially when the DC ensemble is so tight.
Jen's subplot is horrible. Sarah Lancaster is wasted as a skanky waitress at Gale's restaurant who constantly comes on to Henry and has no issue with telling everybody how desperate she is to sleep with him. What makes all of this so lame is that Jen sits idle and takes it, refusing to just tell the girl that she and Henry are dating, or tell her to not be so damn inappropriate in a work environment. Blah. It's all ridiculous, and I'm still not feeling Jen and Henry... particularly when Henry is written as some kind of irresistible sex machine. No.
Finally, Mitch and Gale are inching closer together again. I've never been hugely invested in this, and there are absolutely no surprises anymore when it comes to the two of them, but I admit getting a little absorbed in their story this week, with the dead friend used as a kind of instigator for memories from the past and a mutual sense that they both want to return to their best days. It's cute, I'll give the show that.
A lot of this episode is sort of contrived and silly, but I remain impressed with how the writers are handling Joey and Pacey, even if it's stumbling down an expected route with the red flag of Dawson's feelings crawling out of him once again. Gosh, Dawson. You always ruin everything. B-
Guest stars Michael Pitt (Henry Parker); Rodney Scott (Will Krudski); Julie Bowen (Aunt Gwen); Sarah Lancaster (Shelley)
Writer Tom Kapinos Director Greg Prange