The second week of Steven is done. You know what that means; RECAPLET TIME!
Steven, in his quest to find something new to eat at a place with an ostensibly fixed menu, accidentally sparks a Beach City restaurant war. He orders mozzarella sticks from the fry shop. Kofi, from the pizza shop, sees this as infringing on his territory. Kofi starts serving fries in retaliation. Before long, the two establishments begin purposefully warping their menus, incorporating their competitors specialties into their fare (i.e., french fry pizzas). As the situation gets out of hand (like attempting to brand customers as a show of loyalty), Steven gathers the children of both proprietors to find a solution. The show seems content with Steven taking the blame, which is not correct. Steven suggests Ronaldo and Kiki pretend to be in love to end the feud. Despite everyone’s best acting, the situation blows up when Ronaldo’s actual otaku girlfriend shows up. The group tries to end the feud by creating another competitor; the "enemy of my enemy" route. Steven sets up a faux restaurant at his house and manages to terrify Fryman and Kofi with his gourmet prowess. My BS meter is going off. Everything is wrapped up neatly with Steven agreeing to shutdown his “amazing” new restaurant if Fryman and Kofi end the feud.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore: Fryman and Kofi have had a restauranteur’s rivalry brewing that resulted in a "restaurant war" at least once before in the past.
Geek References: Ronaldo’s now ex-girlfriend returns his kawai styled anime dvd’s. Ronaldo’s pet name for his ex-girlfriend is otaku slang. The final restaurant scene has reactions and anime cutaways ripped from any number of Japanese sources (Phoenix Wright, Danganronpra, etc). Kofi utters the famous slogan, "When pizza's on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime."
Queer References: Nothing really queer, though Kiki and Jenny openly show sisterly affection, which is empowering.
Final thought: This was a light hearted episode and purposefully so. No powers, no danger, no panic. Still the notion that two adults behaving poorly was the fault of a little boy doesn’t sit well with me. That lesson was a misfire. Also, the idea that a restaurant created by a little boy would terrify two seasoned restauranteurs is ludicrous. If a show about talking magical space rocks loses believability for that, then something is wrong. Despite its fun moments, this episode couldn’t make me suspend my disbelief, and for that it receives 2 gems out of 5.
Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service
Steven is treating himself to some pizza. Kiki is his delivery woman extraordinaire, filling in for her sister Jenny. In a pizza induced sleep, Steven’s dream overlap with Kiki's. He saves her from a cheese monster. The next day Steven goes to tell Kiki of his crazy dream and is mortified to find out that he was in Kiki’s dream. Rather than feeling upset, Kiki invites Steven to do so again. Steven defeating the monster in the dream allowed Kiki her first good night sleep in weeks. Cut to a montage of Steven continually defeating Kiki’s dream monster. After a few defeats the monster bashing takes a toll on Steven. When he's being a dream warrior, he can't get actual rest. Finally Steven says he can’t do it anymore. Kiki is bummed but understands. Steven and Kiki resolve to find the source of the nightmares. After some wordplay, Kiki and Steven trace the problem to a creepy cheese Jenny, channeling some Evil Queen realness from Snow White and the Huntsman. Steven convinces Kiki to stop covering Jenny’s shifts as its killing her quality of life. Kiki manages to do the same in real life too, getting back in touch with her inner happiness.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore:We got to explore Kiki for the first time in depth. It was confirmed that she and Jenny aren’t just sisters but twins. Kiki is an avid runner. We also learned that Steven’s dream powers can adversely affect him if overused.
Geek References:Dream Jenny emerged from her hiding place just like the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman
Queer References: Nothing really popped out.
Final thought: This was a good romp for Steven. He got to use his powers, he got to help his friends, and we got to bend our minds to accommodate his reality. Kiki and Jenny are being fleshed out nicely in the last two episodes. This episode allowed us to explore Steven's powers, his interactions with his human friends and how he acts as a leader amongst his peers. That is why this episode receives 4 gems out of 5.
Steven's healing powers finally reassert themselves. His first thought is to heal some of the monster gems bubbled in the temple. First on the list is Centipeetle. Steven succeeds… kind of. Centipeetle is now bipedal and seems to have more of a gem mind, but she has a monster face, mannerisms and some other features. Steven convinces the gems to let him try to heal her further instead of mercy-poofing her. They remind him that her gem is corrupted, not cracked. That is a whole other kind of damage. Steven tries to establish communication with Centi. They can’t vocalize, and Centi cannot write in an intelligible way, so Steven and Centi decide on pictures. In this way, Steven learns that Centi was a captain of her squad and fought many battles in the war. However, Centi and her crew were abandoned on Earth, and the Diamonds sent a corruption frequency that turned her into the Centipeetle. Soon after, Centi’s form starts to recorrupt. In a tearful panic she convinces Steven to return her to her ship. Now in her fully Centipeetle form, Centi finds her old crew and is non-hostile to Steven. Rather than bubble the centipeetles, Steven and the gems opt to keep them sealed in their ship until they can heal them properly.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore:Cracks and corruptions are different things. The Diamonds can force corruptions through something like a "song." The scribbles Centi made are actually gem writing. There's an entire written gem language that is very complex. Steven's healing ability doesn’t just heal injuries, but reverts people and things to a state of wholeness.
Geek References:Steven broke out the crayolas so he and Centi could draw.
Queer References: Centi has a strong emotional attachment to her crew and is distraught to the point of tears when she couldn’t reach them.
Final thought: This episode revealed a lot and was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Steven Universe is at its best when it has this level of emotional complexity. It also left the door open to fully heal Centi. For tugging at our heart strings and teaching us more about Gem culture, this episode receives 4 gems out of 5.
Alone at Sea
Steven tries to lift Lapis's spirits by taking her out on a sea cruise. Lapis is reluctant and says she doesn't deserve such nice treatment but Steven argues otherwise and convinces her to give it a shot. Most of the activities Steven tries leave Lapis wanting, except for blowing the ship’s horn. She loves that. She also reveals her sizable powers again while fishing. Greg lets her real in a fish but it’s too strong and breaks the rod. Lapis senses something troubling and freaks a bit. Lapis reveals that even though she hated Jasper, and what Jasper made her become, she misses being Malachite a bit. She'd never go back but can feel the allure of the union. This episode is clearly going into explaining the emotional effects of abusive relationships. Soon after, Jasper appears on board! It was her who stalled the boat. Jasper uses tactic after tactic to attack Lapis's self esteem, and to convince her to re-fuse. Jasper even uses the cliche "It'll be better this time, I've changed." Lapis is strong though, and stands up to Jasper. Jasper turns her aggressions towards Steven, blaming him for Lapis's self actualization. Lapis reacts and punches a whole through the ship with a water fist, sending Jasper flying. The boat sinks, but Lapis finally has a stronger sense of self.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore:We know more about the experience Lapis had while fused with Jasper. She misses the cruel gem in a certain way. She hated the experience, but took an unhealthy pleasure in harming Jasper.
Geek References:Steven and Greg have a "Fonz" moment with some shared Ayyyyyy’s.
Queer References: Lapis and Jasper are represented as having been in an abusive relationship.
Final thought: Once again Steven Universe tackles a VERY heavy subject, abusive relationships. Once again, the show utilizes subtlety and nuance, allowing the viewer to see that the world is shades of gray, not black and white. Lapis was with Jasper partly because she wanted it. Lapis doesn’t value herself enough to think she deserves better. Lapis has her own flaws and demons that drew her to Jasper's side. The point is that Lapis isn’t some perfect heroine, domineered by Jasper. She is the victim, but in rare instances, also the aggressor. In some ways, Lapis even wants to return to her awful situation. The complex and seemingly contradictory emotions can occur following an abusive relationship, particularly an emotionally abusive one. For offering such a comprehensive lens on the subject, this episode receives 5 gems out of 5.
Greg the Babysitter
Steven wants to know about how Greg got started at the car wash. Cue Flashback. We see Greg and Rose’s dating life. Greg was basically a busker and beggar in order to stay by Rose's side. Greg hits up young Vidalia, now looking after baby Sour Cream. They have a real brother-sister vibe. Vidalia has given up on the music scene and has "gone legit" in order to support her kid. Her babysitter quits last minute so Greg offers to babysit Sour Cream. Rose meets Greg and SC on the beach, and is fascinated by the baby. Rose explains her fascination with humans and her utter confusion with them. While saying something profound, Rose inspires Greg to get his guitar. Sour Cream disappears in the interim. Rose displays her ineptitude with humans by allowing SC to climb a ferris wheel. Greg gets him but cannot get down. Rose accidentally sends the wheel into a tizzy when she breaks the controls. Rose and SC go flying but Rose catches them in a makeshift basinet. It's a tad creepy when you see that Rose loves Greg romantically and a teeny bit maternally. Greg returns SC safe and sound, then wanders by the car wash. Inspired by Vidalia's plunge into adulthood, and having Rose show him that he has a lot of growing to do himself, Greg answers the help wanted sign in the window.
Final Score Time
Additions to the Lore:We get to see Rose in a day-to-day sense for the first time. She loves humanity in all of its changing ways; she almost envies a human’s ability to age and grow. We also get to see how Rose’s maternal instincts and love of babies may have started her on the road to Steven.
Geek References:Greg channels George Jetson when he screams "Rose, get me off this crazy thing” while on an out of control ferris wheel.
Queer References: Not queer, but Greg and Vidalia show that men and women can have platonic friendships. She even makes him disrobe, without any sexual undertones, so he can wash his stained shirt.
Final thought: It is almost weird to see how Rose is interwoven throughout the plot of SU, and finally we get to experience her as a character proper. She is aloof, yet kind; ignorant yet wise. In many ways Rose is the inverse of an audience familiar. She is obsessed with humans in much the same way much of the fandom is obsessed with gems. While I'm sure we'll see more of the experiences that inspired Rose to create Steven, we get a firm peek into how she begins arriving there. For creating a relatable, yet eye opening Rose-centric experience, this episode receives 4 gems out of 5.
Next Episode: “Gem Hunt”, August 1 @ 7:00pm EST
Please feel free to add things I missed, your reactions, theories, and whatever else you’d like in the comments!