There's a moment this week in which the Witter family get together, many of them, particularly Pacey's parents, ribbing him constantly and reciting a long laundry list of embarrassing moments from his past. Thrown into this are casual insults about his future and his complete failure to do anything right. Sat at the center of it all, surrounded by nothing but dismissal, is Pacey himself. His face reads absolutely numb, struck down with this inevitable feeling of resignation. He knew that his birthday party would turn out like this, and he just radiates isolation. It's a wonderful scene, flawlessly acted by Joshua Jackson, who grabs this Pacey-driven episode by the horns and knocks it out of the park.
I've sometimes felt in the past that the Witter family abuse was a little heavy-handed. I'm still unsure if its particularly believable, but maybe I'm just ignorant to the fact that there are people out there who are undermined at every opportunity by their parents. Regardless, The Te of Pacey gets to the root of Pacey's spirit, all of his self-doubt given a cause, and any example of his sometimes harsh treatment of others (notably his older brother) finally explained -- since there's absolutely no sense of belief at home. How is Pacey supposed to move on with his life and become somebody if his own parents don't believe he can?
There's no happy ending here involving the Witter's, outside of a thin apology from Pacey's dad in which he tells him that he's just not college material... but it's hollow. At least he has his supportive girlfriend, who puts up with his family and is able to reinforce some kind of self-belief whenever Pacey is feeling low. This story isn't at all pleasurable to watch, but the harsh, insidious cruelty within that household is crazy effective.
At least Gretchen seems to have gotten out unaffected. She's still dancing around the subject of a relationship with Dawson, even if they're constantly making out, but she eventually admits her fears that she'll end up leaving. But Dawson, being this newly mature adult, tells her that he too is leaving soon, but that they can't abandon what they have right now purely to benefit what happens in a couple of months. This story continues to unfold really well.
Something that hit a road block this week was the awkward relationship between Jack and Tobey. I had initially pegged them as both a little flawed when it came to their understanding of their own sexuality, but it's Tobey who comes off crazy here. He's immediately sort of rude and obnoxious towards Jack, even if Jen continues to insist that there's something there between them. I'm going to wait and see how this plays out before judging it too harshly, but it seems like a story based on nothing particularly tangible right now.
The Te of Pacey is one of the most serious and frequently uncomfortable episodes that the show has ever done, but its depiction of agonizing emotional abuse and a hostile home environment are both arresting. The acting is on fire, and Joshua Jackson is especially strong. I don't want this tone every damn week, but every once in a while works fine. B
Guest stars Sasha Alexander (Gretchen Witter); Dylan Neal (Doug Witter); David Monahan (Tobey Barret); John Finn (Sheriff John Witter); Jane Lynch (Mrs. Witter)
Writer Maggie Friedman Director Harry Winer