Hold onto your hearts, friends, ’cause the scrappy teens of Outer Banks are here to stomp all over them. At the tender age of 16, the treasure-hunting Pogues—John B., JJ, Kiara, Pope, and new recruit Sarah—are bound to fall in and out of love with each other, maybe even in the same season. In fact, why don’t you just strike the word “endgame” from your vocabulary now? You’ll thank me later.
Caveats aside, I myself am already so invested in the characters of this new Netflix series, aptly described as Dawson’s Creek meets The Goonies, that I’m having a ball imagining all the shipping possibilities over the years.
Won’t you join me in analyzing the potential of the pairings already drawing legions of fans online?
Spoiler warning: You’ll learn very little about the plot of Outer Banks from this post, but if you want to go into the 10-episode first season completely unspoiled, maybe stop here.
Outer Banks really does owe a lot to The Goonies. The new show’s unsurprising (yet somehow still satisfying) John B./Sarah relationship is one of those things, modeled as it clearly is after Brand and Andy’s from the classic ‘80s movie. Rich, popular girl who barely knows our hero’s name gets drawn into the wild treasure hunt he’s on with his misfit friends and slowly starts to fall for him? Mmmhmm. Still, I’ll give them this: John B. and Sarah’s spy games and fashion show in Chapel Hill are pretty cute. Now the question is whether their love can endure being on the run together as fugitives with no money and nowhere to go…
Despite how pretty they are together, this newly minted canon pairing took me by surprise in the season 1 finale. It didn’t match up with what I’d been seeing on screen in the last few episodes. Pope guilting Kiara for her “Kook Year” and later rebuffing her for not immediately returning his affections were not great looks. Plus, Kie was firm in her attempts to nip his confession of love in the bud, explaining as coolly to him as she did to John B. that she wasn’t interested. The reasons she listed were solid enough; namely, their old rule of no Pogue-on-Pogue macking and her fear of being tethered to OBX when she wants to see the world. The fact of the matter is, though, she doesn’t owe him (or anyone) any explanation at all. If she’s not feelin’ it, she’s not feelin’ it!
Having said that, something clearly happens to change Kiara’s mind, if not necessarily her heart, in the last minutes of the finale. Flush with the success of their plan to help John B. escape, Kie leans up and kisses Pope softly, even as JJ looks on. What inspires that impulsive kiss? Has all the danger they’ve just survived made her realize she does have feelings for Pope? Or is she simply riding high off of adrenaline and regretting her treatment of him? Only season 2 will tell!
Full disclosure, “Jiara” chatter online is one of the reasons I caved and gave this show a shot, but it wasn’t hard to sell me on their shipping potential. For all his talk of constantly hitting on Kiara because she’s a “super hot, rich, hippie chick who’s slumming it” with the Pogues, JJ is the one guy who doesn’t make a move on her in season 1. Instead, he casually (or so he thinks) encourages John B. to act on a crush that I’m not sure the guy ever really had. He also quietly stands by as Kiara kisses Pope. All throughout their adventures, however, you can catch him sneaking longing glances whenever he thinks she won’t notice.
How does Kie feel about JJ, though? That’s murkier water. Her casually asking (or so she thinks) John B. if he told JJ about kissing her may be a clue that JJ’s crush is requited, but it’s hardly definitive evidence. Ditto the way that she seems to worry about him and holds him in the hot tub. Long story short, they could be the Pacey/Joey of a new generation, but if so, their story will require a lot of patience.
The moment I accepted that I was well and fully hooked on this show was when JJ stepped in to take the blame for Pope’s costly prank in sinking Topper’s boat as revenge for helping Rafe jump him. But whereas my first impression was of bromance, and maybe even a little bit of an attempt to impress Kiara, the Internet has opened my eyes to the romantic potential. JJ holds Pope’s face a lot, and even kisses him on the cheek in one episode. It’s enough to make you wonder: Is JJ jealous of Kiara, Pope, or both of them as he watches Kie kiss Pope in the finale?
I felt as unmoved by John B. and Kiara’s kiss as Kie looked, so I’m gonna venture to guess this is one friendship we can count on to remain platonic. While John B. admits that all the guys have had a thing for their gorgeous friend at one time or another, the dude only kisses her after JJ plants the idea in his head that she has a thing for him. He seems a little confused that she’s not into him after all, but broken up about it? Not hardly. They mend fences quickly, and there are zero indications of pining from either side. If JJ/Kie give off Pacey/Joey vibes, John B/Kie are the Dawson/Joey of Outer Banks. And I’m sorry, but NO ONE needs that.
My fandom-fueled interest in Kiara/JJ aside, there’s no denying that the most passionate we see our girl get about a n y o n e in season 1 is her former BFF turned #1 enemy, it-girl Sarah Cameron. Kie goes so far as to describe an afternoon spent saving sea turtles together as “the best day of [her] life.” The reason for her epic grudge against Sarah? Why, it’s because Sarah didn’t invite her to a party. This intentional oversight effectively ended their friendship with no warning, hurting Kie deeply.
For her part, Sarah seems equally overwhelmed by how much she has always liked Kie. As she later elaborates to John B in an admittedly different (but not that different!) context, Sarah recognizes that she has a bad habit of running away from meaningful relationships. When someone likes her too much, she bails before they can change their mind. Hmm! The fanfics, they write themselves for this pairing.
As a sucker for friends-to-lovers, how could I leave out John B. and his BFF since third grade, JJ? Given that he has chemistry with everyone, I could see JJ winning me over to the idea of this pairing if he tried. At this point, though, I’m just not sensing anything between them beyond a sort of brotherly affection.
Now for an unapologetically unscientific poll…
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