Spoiler Policy: All spoilers up to and including the currently discussed episode will be unmarked. Spoilers for episodes beyond the current point will be enclosed in Fast Forward blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.
Official Description: Steven befriends a magical mirror that can mysteriously communicate with him.
Do you know how excited I am to get here? Pretty damn excited, and not just because this two-parter is a classic fan favorite, but because this is almost universally regarded as the point where Steven Universe goes from good to great. As fun as Season S1A is, we’re about to get a dramatic upturn in quality for Season S1B, which has some of my favorite material in the entire series.
Of course, I’m also excited to get here because of LAPIS LAZULI.
The episode opens with Steven talking to Connie on the phone. She explains that she can’t come over now because she has tennis practice — a callback to Lion 2, where she uses her sweet tennis moves against the not-Zelda-boss. Her glasses are missing their lenses here, as she popped them out after having her eyes healed in An Indirect Kiss. This is also the first time we see the Maheswarans’ house.
Connie mentions that since it’s summer vacation, she’ll be able to start hanging out more, including all day tomorrow. Steven somehow isn’t familiar with the concepts of summer vacation or school even though he watches TV all the time and does talk to other humans frequently, which seems a bit contrived — especially since this episode could have gone exactly the same way if he were just curious about playing pretend and not literally unfamiliar with the idea of school. At any rate, this is confirmation that what education he has comes from being effectively homeschooled by Greg, and later, the Gems.
Steven enlists Pearl to help him make a school, resulting in this giant pile of school-related objects in the middle of the beach house. Pearl asks him what they do next, and Steven says he doesn’t know: “Why do I never ask followup questions?!”
Of course this is lampshading the fact that Steven not really asking crucial questions tends to be one of the main drivers of the plot at times. It can be really, really frustrating at times when he doesn’t seem interested in asking important questions about things he really should want to know about.
Pearl here is enthusiastic about helping Steven with his “school,” and in general is enthusiastic about educating Steven, but it’s interesting to wonder if education really even exists for Gems in general, since they are apparently formed knowing all of the information they need to know for their jobs and aren’t supposed to deviate from those roles. There would have to be some idea of occupational training, since Gems in some professions would need a way to pick up new knowledge that didn’t exist when they were being made, but the idea of classes of general knowledge for enrichment would probably not exist or be limited to the elite classes.
Pearl, realizing that Steven wants to be taught, does an overdramatic dance in order to pull an object out of her gem, just as she did in Lars and the Cool Kids. (Later in the series this seems to be dropped, and Gems can pull things out of their gems with less theatrics.)
The object she produces is this fancy mirror. On the back, it has a blue, teardrop-shaped Gem with a large crack running through it. Pearl explains that it’s a Gem-powered mirror they found at the Galaxy Warp.
We’ve had a few instances before of Gem-powered objects, but this episode is the first one where we see that it means effectively trapping and enslaving a consciousness, which is incredibly dark no matter how you look at it.
Much later in the series, we’ll see lots more Gem-powered objects including living walls. I hope that in the Future era, the gang frees all of these Gems and outlaws this sort of thing as a punishment.
The Galaxy Warp Pearl mentions is the old Warp to Homeworld, which the Gems have purposefully broken to prevent anyone from Homeworld arriving on Earth. Later, it will be repaired by Flask Robonoids to allow Peridot to reach the planet, then smashed again by Garnet. It also makes a notable appearance in Same Old World, where Lapis tells the story of being found by the Crystal Gems from her point of view.
Pearl says that the mirror can capture and display any event it’s witnessed throughout Gem history, and that it “will offer [Steven] everything [he’s] ever wanted to know about [his] fellow Gems and [their] culture.”
This whole setup is honestly really strange given what (and who!) the mirror actually is, and doesn’t hold up very well if you think it through. Part of this is likely due to things revealed later.
Same Old World would seem to indicate that Lapis didn’t really see that much between being put in the mirror as punishment and being picked up by the Crystal Gems. The vast majority of that time was spent in one spot at the abandoned Galaxy Warp. It’s not clear how much the mirror actually has to show Steven.
Furthermore, it’s weird that Pearl would actually trust Steven to learn about Gems and their culture from a mirror powered by an unknown cracked Gem. There’s a whole lot about Homeworld culture and the Rebellion that Steven doesn’t know, that Pearl probably wouldn’t want him to hear from a Homeworld Gem. Then again, after this episode she also neglects to tell him lots of important information until he hears it from Peridot, so getting out ahead of exposition-dropping Homeworld Gems is not Pearl’s strong point.
Pearl does seem to assume that the mirror is not truly sentient and can only follow orders, but even if that were true it could still easily result in Steven seeing lots of things about Homeworld that she’s probably rather not explain.
Steven looks in the mirror and says, “I must be incredibly important to Gem culture.”
Which, yes, obviously he turns out to be.
Pearl asks the mirror to show them the Galaxy Warp, but it refuses. She decides the mirror must be broken. Steven asks if that means school’s out for the summer, and Pearl agrees. Steven grabs the mirror and runs off happily. Pearl comments that the asymmetry of the pile is really starting to bother her.
It’s hard to blame Lapis for not wanting to show her effective jailer the same location she had to stare at for thousands of years.
Steven runs to the boardwalk and crashes into Lars and Sadie, who are putting up tables outside of the Big Donut. Steven asks them if they’re excited for summer, and Sadie comments that she’s about as excited as she can be for setting up extra seating. Lars, on the other hand, fantasizes about “out of town summer babes.” When he asks Steven if he knows what he means, he gets an innocent “nope!”
Sadie says that maybe she’ll make a new friend. Steven decides that he wants a new friend to have summer fun with, and he’ll walk backwards with the mirror until he finds one.
Lars continues to talk about how he’ll be on the arm of a hot woman, prompting an irritated Sadie to tell him he can stop talking about it, continuing the one-sided dynamic we saw in Joking Victim.
Steven isn’t looking where he’s going as he walks backwards, so he almost doesn’t notice Mayor Dewey’s van driving up the boardwalk. The mirror alerts him by repeating a clip of Lars saying “watch where you’re going!” from a minute earlier when Steven nearly ran into him. The van stops in time anyway, but this is the first indication we have that the being in the mirror is actually able to communicate.
Steven asks the mirror what just happened, and the mirror shows him a clip of himself laughing.
Steven: You work! This is so cool! What’s it like being a mirror?
Mirror: (repeating Steven) You work!
Since Lapis in the mirror is clearly able to communicate however she likes instead of simply responding to direct requests like the Gems seem to assume, it’s unclear how the mirror is “supposed” to work. Are the Gems simply mistaken about it? Or perhaps the mirror really is broken or the crack on the Gem is interfering with its normal operation, which somehow actually allows Lapis to do things she’s not “supposed” to?
Mayor Dewey is giving a speech on the beach, and as he makes comments about things like “a warm summer breeze wafts through the air,” Steven makes a fart noise with his mouth. The mirror picks this up and copies the fart noise as Mayor Dewey talks, prompting the people in the crowd to giggle.
In Same Old World, Lapis will remember this joke and make silly fart noises with Steven again.
Later, Steven is talking to the mirror on the beach. He tells it “you’re pretty funny for a mirror,” and the mirror echoes it back to him. When he points out he’s not a mirror, the mirror combines two clips to make something new: “you’re pretty funny for a — Steven!”
Steven is excited that the mirror was able to say something new, and the mirror follows up with: “Steven — is — a new friend!”
This is the first Gem friend Steven has made outside of the core Crystal Gems! She certainly will not be the last. This is probably also the first real friend Lapis has ever had. He’s definitely the first friend she’s had for thousands of years, at any rate.
I have a lot of feelings about Steven and Lapis’s friendship, but we’ll have plenty of time to get into that in later episodes.
Steven wants to tell the Gems about his new friend, but the mirror uses a clip of Steven yelling “noooooooo!” Steven blithely ignores the protest and runs to the beach house anyway. See, this would be a good time for him to ask followup questions, like “Why don’t you want to see the Crystal Gems?”
Garnet and Amethyst are watching as Pearl attempts to make a symmetric tower out of the school things from earlier. Garnet greets Steven with finger guns and a “Howdy. Bang.”
Is that her internal Ruby Rider showing?
Amethyst trolls Pearl by putting one of Steven’s teddy bears on the side of the tower, causing her to spear and discard it. Steven momentarily laments MC Bear Bear before remembering why he came here. He declares that he fixed the mirror, but “you didn’t tell me it’s like a person!”.
The Gems’ reactions:
They knew it was a Gem-powered mirror all along, so it’s interesting how shocked they are here.
Steven tries to get the mirror to talk, but nothing happens. He turns away and starts talking to it, asking if they’re not beach summer fun buddies. The mirror repeats the farting noise from earlier, and says “Just – for – you – Steven!” Lapis is risking herself here, and it’s notable that she’s doing it for Steven’s benefit.
Pearl: It’s talking to him? It shouldn’t be able to do that. It should just be following orders…
Again, it’s not really clear how all of this is supposed to work, or why Lapis here is able to do things that the mirror is supposedly not able to do.
This whole scene is absolutely horrifying if you look at it from Lapis’s point of view. She’s been trapped in the mirror for thousands of years at this point, and likely given up on any hope of ever being released now that the Crystal Gems have her. Unexpectedly, they hand her to Steven — a being she likely doesn’t really understand, but who almost immediately befriends her. For the first time in so long she’s having a little bit of fun and maybe even a bit of hope, and then he takes her back to the Gems whose reaction is to try and take her away from Steven.
Garnet approaches Steven and asks him to give the mirror back, prompting the mirror to use Steven’s voice to yell “Noooooooo!” Amethyst says they should bubble it as Steven gets increasingly distressed.
Garnet: Don’t make me have to take it from you.
Steven: It doesn’t want to go with you. Don’t you hear it screaming?
Garnet: It’s just a mirror, a tool. It can’t want anything.
Now, this is clearly a lie, given Steven’s interactions with the mirror.
This whole exchange is an example of something that happens more than once in the series, that mildly annoys me every time: the Gems ordering Steven to do something without taking the time to explain why. When the mirror is literally shrieking to not go with the Gems, it definitely warrants an explanation better than what Garnet is offering here.
In this case, at least, it’s understandable that the Gems would be reluctant to offer such an explanation. “Sometimes Gems are trapped for thousands of years as sentient objects” is the kind of bleak history that it’s obvious Garnet and Pearl don’t really want to expose Steven to yet. Even if they did explain what the mirror really is, it wouldn’t really explain why they don’t want it talking to Steven.
This is as good a spot as any to address the big ethical question of the episode. We see in just a few minutes that it isn’t hard to free Lapis from the mirror. Why did our protagonist Gems leave her to her obviously cruel and inhumane punishment instead of helping her?
I think there’s a number of potential reasons behind it.
The fact that all the Gems seem surprised about Lapis’s ability to communicate with Steven may indicate that the mirror is an anomaly and other Gem-powered objects don’t contain fully sentient Gems. This would explain why they don’t consider it a problem to leave her this way, and would match up with some of the earlier information about Gem artifacts, like the Gem shards that reanimated Frybo.
Another possibility is that they think there is nothing they can do for her if they free her, considering she is cracked. They are able to heal cracked Gems in Rose’s fountain, and Rose could heal them directly, so that couldn’t have been the only explanation.
The darker possibility is that they purposefully left her like that because she is an incredibly powerful and potentially hostile Homeworld Gem. We’ll see in Ocean Gem how she’s effectively able to wipe the floor with the entire group of Crystal Gems despite her Gem being cracked. Not only that, but as soon as her Gem is healed, she flies off into space, which puts the Crystal Gems at risk of catching Homeworld’s attention. The Crystal Gems may not have wanted to risk their own safety to free such a dangerous Gem — not exactly noble, but somewhat understandable. It seems clear that this possibility is what Lapis thinks is true, which is part of why she is so furious with the Crystal Gems.
A terrified Steven slaps Garnet’s hand away as she reaches for the mirror, knocking off her glasses and wow, that is a scary angry face. This is the only time we’ve really seen Garnet angry so far.
Steven flees with the mirror. Garnet follows: “That little boy is in big trouble.”
By my count, this is the third time in the series where Steven saves the day by ignoring the Gems’ advice/orders. In this case, the “saving” comes much later. Without Steven rescuing Lapis here, the entire course of the series is changed — notably, without Lapis’ intervention in Reunited, the fight with Blue Diamond may have gone very differently and may have ended before Steven had a real chance.
Garnet seems fairly blindsided by everything that happens in this episode, which may indicate that she didn’t see the events with Lapis in her Future Vision.
Steven runs down the beach, hiding behind a rock. He asks the mirror what the Gems’ problem with it is, and it answers: “Away from home. Let – me – out!”
There’s nothing Steven loves more than to try and help a Gem, of course. He asks the mirror what he can do. For the first time, the mirror produces an image that it hadn’t seen before — an image of Steven pulling the gem off of the back.
As Steven pulls, water from the ocean starts to pool up around his feet, forming a pattern that resembles the pattern on the front of the mirror, and foreshadowing Lapis’ hydrokinectic powers. It’s also a very ominous moment — they do a good job of making the viewer wonder if what Steven is doing is actually a good idea or not.
It’s our very first Gem character other than the core four (and Rose): Lapis Lazuli (voice: Jennifer Paz).
Now that we’ve finally reached Lapis, I will of course link this excellent article written by Agnew: Why Lapis Lazuli Matters
Lapis is one of my favorite Gems on the show, and, in my opinion, one of the most interesting, and I’m so excited to finally get to her. I’m not sure I can offer any insight better than the linked article, but I basically have to write about her as part of these recaps, so write about her I shall!
Throughout the series, Lapis is a character who is largely defined by the trauma she experienced. Although I was often frustrated by the fact that she did not receive the character development and screentime I think was necessary to really do the character justice, I find that the way she ultimately overcomes her trauma to find a measure of peace to be very uplifting and hopeful. I’ve also always enjoyed her snarky attitude and dry humor.
Lapis can be a difficult character for some fans to engage with, mainly due to the way she lashes out as a result of her trauma. Personally, I found her actions for the most part understandable and sympathetic. The way she chose to run away in Raising the Barn broke my heart, but I also think it was a realistic action for Lapis to take. She’s a deeply flawed character, but ultimately has her heart in the right place. Her inclusion on the show is, I think, important to the show’s messages of inclusiveness and empathy.
Lapis’ gemstone is on her back. Some possible reasons why include the idea that it symbolizes her lack of control over her own life or the way she is looking back at her traumatic past.
Lapis seems so shocked that Steven actually talked to her and helped her, and my heart is just breaking for her experiencing the first kindness she’s seen in thousands of years (maybe ever, given what Homeworld is like).
She has somewhat eerie empty eyes, which we later learn is a side effect of her cracked gem.
Steven befriending Lapis and freeing her from the traumatic nightmare of the mirror puts Lapis firmly in Steven’s debt, and effectively ensures her loyalty to him forever. We’ll see later in the series that, even though she does not like the Crystal Gems (at least up until Reunited, where she officially joins them), she is willing to do anything to help Steven in particular, even at the cost of her own safety.
In a lot of ways, Lapis being saved by Steven and her resulting loyalty is a parallel to how Pearl and Garnet relate to Rose.
Lapis: Are you really a Crystal Gem?
Lapis: But… you set me free.
This is the first indication that there are Gems other than Crystal Gems, and also the first indication that these other Gems may not be on friendly terms with the Crystal Gems. Steven, for his part, reacts with confusion.
The Gems find Steven, and immediately summon their weapons upon spotting Lapis. Steven runs in front of them, marking the fourth time in the series that Steven stops the Gems from attacking someone. The last time was in Monster Buddies, an episode that foreshadows future instances of Steven befriending hostile Gems — like he does here!
Lapis shows off her hydrokinesis by creating an enormous water hand. She’s furious at the Crystal Gems: “You three knew I was in there, and you didn’t do anything! Did you even wonder who I used to be?”
As I pointed out above, it’s not necessarily true that the Crystal Gems actually realized that a sentient Gem was in the mirror. They certainly seem genuinely surprised when the mirror begins talking to Steven. Lapis, on the other hand, certainly thinks that they deliberately left her trapped — and given that, it’s hard to begrudge her her anger here.
One of my big disappointments with the series is that they never really address Lapis’s relationship to the other Crystal Gems. Here, she hates them for very understandable reasons, and she’s still not on good terms with them when she first moves into the barn. At some point she becomes okay with their presence and with helping them, but it’s not really clear if she ever forgave them for this transgression, or if she’s just getting along with them for Steven’s sake. An episode exploring Lapis’s reconciliation with the other Crystal Gems could have been very interesting, but unfortunately it was not to be and wouldn’t make sense now that’s she’s long since officially become a Crystal Gem.
The soundtrack of this scene is I Am Lapis Lazuli, a theme that blends sharp, discordant noises with a more serene piano score, underlining Lapis’s turmoil.
Lapis uses the water hand to smack the Gems (minus Steven) away, dramatically declaring, “I’m Lapis Lazuli, and you can’t keep me trapped here any more!”
Lapis parts the ocean to form a pathway, asking Steven to come with her. When Steven asks where, she simply says, “Home.”
This is the first (oblique) mention we’ve had of Gems having a home other than the Crystal Temple, although we’re not going to get more detail on Homeworld until later.
Steven, confused, doesn’t follow Lapis. She tells him not to trust the Crystal Gems, dispels the path, and walks into the ocean, summoning a huge wave behind her that knocks Steven and Garnet off their feet.
It’s interesting that Lapis’s first impulse is to go home, given that Homeworld punished her with the mirror imprisonment in the first place. Perhaps she thinks she won’t be noticed and will be able to return to her old life. Of course, when she does get to Homeworld, things don’t turn out for her the way she hoped.
I assume that Steven’s nature must be incredibly confusing to her as well. He befriends her, but he’s also allied with the Crystal Gems and refuses to go with her when she wants to escape. She may not even realize at this point that he’s part Gem.
Steven asks the Crystal Gems if that was another Gem, which Pearl confirms. Garnet tells Steven he’s grounded.
This is the first true two-parter in Steven Universe, leading directly into Ocean Gem, so let’s get right to it…
Official Description: The ocean disappears on the first day of summer.
I love the vague descriptions given for some of the more pivotal episodes of the series.
I definitely did not notice this the first time I watched this episode, but the ocean is gone from the title card, giving an indication of what’s about to happen.
In the beach house, the Gems are telling Steven that he’s grounded. Amethyst, not really understanding the meaning of “grounded,” brandishes a shovel and says that they’re going to bury him until he’s learned a lesson.
The conversation is interrupted by Greg running into the house and telling them all to come take a look.
A crowd of pretty much everyone we’ve met in town so far is standing on the beach, where the entire ocean has gone missing.
Mayor Dewey spots the Gems: “Hey! It’s those magical ladies!”
He runs up to them and asks them what’s going on. Garnet deadpans, “The ocean’s gone. Obviously.”
Dewey and the townsfolk are freaking out about all the summer business they’re going to lose with no ocean, and he demands an immediate explanation.
It’s never really fully explained how ordinary humans in this world see the Gems. At this point, the Crystal Gems don’t interact much with Beach City, but the townsfolk do generally recognize them. There definitely seems to be some awareness that the Gems are related to all the weird stuff that happens around Beach City, but in general, their presence is pretty much accepted unless something really troubling happens.
Garnet explains that the source of the problem is Lapis Lazuli, and Pearl projects an image of her.
Steven: But she’s a Gem, just like us!
Pearl: There’s a lot you don’t know about Gems, Steven.
Yes, Pearl, because you never explained any of this to him. I realize that there’s a lot about Gem history and culture that Pearl would rather not get into, but it definitely seems a mistake to not even let Steven know that there are other Gems and that they may be hostile, or at least not aligned with the Crystal Gems’ goals.
Back at the Beach House, Pearl is saying, “How could I have known the Gem contained in the mirror would be so powerful?”
You’d think Pearl would recognize the fairly distinctive Gem of a Lapis Lazuli, all of which seem to be powerful. On the other hand, she may not have realized the immense power Lapis has even while cracked — compare Lapis’s state to Amethyst’s when she was cracked. Our Lapis also seems to be an uncommonly powerful specimen, given how easily she cows the two rival Lapises in Why So Blue?
Steven is packing his cheeseburger backpack, last seen in Lion 2, with supplies. He feels responsible for the ocean going missing and is determined to get it back. This is one of the first times in the series we see Steven stepping up to take responsibility — a sign that he has already matured quite a bit from the beginning of the series.
Until, of course, he takes the “responsibility” thing too far and ends up causing a lot of damage by attempting to turn himself into Little Homeworld.
Greg, Connie and Lion declare that they’re coming along too. Connie comments that she feels weird in Steven’s house when he’s not there, and that’s a whole mood of being stuck in your friend’s house with just your friend’s parents when you were a kid. The Gems decide that Steven is ungrounded and that they’re coming with him.
The group takes off across the dry ocean floor. Steven and Connie are riding Lion, Greg is driving his van, Garnet is in the passenger seat, and Amethyst and Pearl are crammed awkwardly among a bunch of junk in the back of the van.
Greg puts on music he describes as one of Rose’s favorites. Amethyst and Pearl look at each other uncomfortably. Greg asks Garnet what she thinks.
This is one of my favorite visual gags in the entire series.
Later in the evening, they’ve come to a more agreeable arrangement, with Garnet perched on top of the van, Pearl driving, and Greg and Amethyst in the back among the junk. Connie is sleeping with her arms wrapped around Steven while they continue to ride Lion.
Steven: I can’t believe Lapis would do this. Gems shouldn’t fight each other.
Pearl: …we’re always fighting Gems, actually.
Pearl has clearly been reluctant to tell Steven this, but given everything that’s happened it’s long overdue.
Pearl and Amethyst explain that all of the corrupted Gems they’ve fought in the past used to be Gems like them, and the best they can do for them is to subdue and bubble them, since they currently can’t be healed. They flash back to previous monster encounters: the Centipeetle in Gem Glow, the worm from Bubble Buddies, the cave creature from Arcade Mania, the giant pufferfish from Beach Party, and the ice monster from Monster Buddies.
Of course, Lapis isn’t a corrupted Gem. By bringing up the corrupted Gem monsters, instead of addressing why Lapis, specifically, is fighting them, Pearl is avoiding topics that she should really be telling Steven about but understandably does not want to: the Gem War and Homeworld culture.
While in the middle of the explanation of corrupted Gems, they reach the giant spire that Lapis has created out of the water of the Earth’s oceans. People have done the math on how big this spire would actually be if it were somehow real, and the answer is much larger than this, yet not even close to tall enough to actually get Lapis to the next nearest star.
“That’s some magical destiny stuff right there,” says Connie.
“Guys, I just had the best idea for an album cover,” says Greg.
Greg will eventually draw that album cover and pair it with a song about Lapis in The Message.
Lapis senses the Gems at the bottom of the water column. Forming her face out of water, she yells at them to go away.
Steven: But we’re beach summer fun buddies!
Lapis: (mimicking the clip of Steven in the mirror) Noooooo! (in her own face) You’re one of them. One of the Crystal Gems.
Steven: What do you mean? We’re all Gems, right? Just let us help you.
Lapis: You don’t understand. Just leave me alone.
Again, of course Steven doesn’t understand, because no one has yet explained to him what Lapis’ issues with the Crystal Gems could be. Honestly, all things considered, I think she’s taking this rather well. She no doubt considered the Crystal Gems to be enemies when she was a Homeworld Gem, and since then all she knows about them is that they’ve kept her imprisoned in her mirror and made no attempt to help her. With her powers, she could have easily swept them away on sight, or even attempted to shatter them, but she first attempts to just tell them to go away before escalating.
Steven says they’re not going to leave her alone until she gives back the ocean. She summons a water clone of Steven that she uses to punch Steven back into Garnet’s arms. She then summons four water clones of the four main Crystal Gems. Garnet tells them not to get separated just as her clone punches her away from the main group.
Garnet fights her clone, who mostly uses brute strength. They match each other punch for punch and neither makes much headway, but they do generate a large crater.
Amethyst’s clone dodges everything she throws at it by shapeshifting, mimicking Amethyst’s love of the same. Frustrated, Amethyst shapeshifts into her Purple Puma form from Tiger Millionaire and launches herself at the water clone.
Pearl is winning against her clone until it splits in two. “I hate fighting me,” she comments as she summons a second spear. Pearl’s clone forming an additional double seems to be a reference to Steven the Sword Fighter, where she creates a Holo-Pearl to fight.
Lion is trying to catch the Steven clone by roaring at it, but he’s too fast and dodges everything. The Steven clone knocks him back into Greg’s van, Greg running after.
Steven and Connie attack the Steven clone with a squirt gun and a rock, respectively, which goes about as well as you’d expect. The Steven clone encases both of their heads in water. It’s interesting that Lapis apparently realizes this is an effective attack against humans (or half-humans, in Steven’s case). Is she genuinely trying to drown them here?
Greg rescues them by driving his van into the Steven clone, freeing the kids. “Is this a normal magical mission for you? ‘Cause I’m not sure how comfortable I am with you going on these any more!”
The subject of Steven’s safety as he goes on missions will come up again, particularly in the aftermath of Jail Break.
The Steven clone throws Greg’s van, which lands hood-first. Greg crawls out of it as the kids run up — he’s broken his leg. “See, this is why we wear seat belts, kids!”
Greg’s broken leg will factor into the mediocre episode House Guest.
Steven will get another critical lesson in wearing seat belts from Pearl in Last One Out of Beach City.
Steven declares, “Lapis, I don’t want to fight any more.” This is going to be basically be his mantra for the rest of the series.
When the Steven clone throws a water ball at him anyway, he summons his shield for the very first time since all the way back in Gem Glow, and for the first time completely purposefully. Steven being able to control his shield for the first time makes a great bookend to the season.
The shockwave of the shield dispels the water clones, an ability that won’t be seen again for some time.
In a great example of the bravery and empathy he’ll display over the course of the series, Steven marches up to the column of water and says, “Lapis, I’m coming up to see you. So please don’t drown me.” He dives into the water, and Lapis forms a hand to lift him up to the top.
Steven confronts Lapis at the top of the tower, accurately observing that what she’s doing is crazy. Once again, he says that Gems should be friends.
Lapis: Don’t you know anything, Steven? Your friends, they don’t really care about other Gems. All they care about is the Earth. But I never believed in this place.
Of course, this reflects the attitude Homeworld Gems seem to have had towards the Crystal Gems: that they are traitors to their kind, who value the Earth and humans over their fellow Gems. Peridot displays a similar mindset at first, particularly in It Could Have Been Great, where she can’t understand why the Crystal Gems would want to protect the Earth over allowing the colony to be built.
Of course, this impression of the Crystal Gems is not entirely accurate, as one of the goals of Rose’s Rebellion is to allow Gems to be free to choose their own lives, to fuse, and to exist outside of their rigid caste system.
Lapis finally releases Steven from the bubble she’s holding him in and says that she’s just trying to get home. Steven points out that the ocean is a part of his home, and she took it away. She explains that she’s only trying to use the ocean to stretch out into space because her gem is cracked.
Steven remembers his healing spit from An Indirect Kiss, and offers to heal Lapis’ gem for her. She agrees, and he licks his hand and slaps it on the gem on her back.
Lapis’ gem glows and the crack is fixed. The pupils in her eyes return, and she manifests two large wings of water from her gem.
Here, we have the unfortunately rare Happy Lappy.
She thanks Steven, who remarks, “No prob, Bob.”
“It’s Lapis,” she replies.
This exchange will get a callback when Lapis chooses Bob as her “human name” in Hit the Diamond.
Lapis simply says, “Bye!” and flies off into space.
In Season 1B, we’ll learn what happened to her — she makes it back to Homeworld, but ends up captured and interrogated by Peridot and Jasper after the Crystal Gems disrupt Peridot’s mission to check on the Cluster.
This is one of the first times our boy Steven will save the day by simply talking down the threat, in what will eventually become his signature move.
The tower of water collapses as soon as Lapis is out of range. Connie demonstrates quick thinking by jumping on Lion’s back and using his portals to reach Steven quickly and portal back down to the ground.
Connie riding Steven during Gem missions becomes one of her primary moves, and Lion becomes her pet arguably even more than Steven’s. Examples of Connie and Lion working together include Reunited and the Movie.
And yes, the force created by the entire ocean crashing down into Earth from the atmosphere would create massive tidal waves and kill everyone, but clearly physics don’t work like that here.
We cut to Beach City as the ocean returns. Lars rejoices about the beach babes, and Sadie pushes him into the ocean.
We see how our gang makes it back — Steven conjures a bubble around everyone and the van, and they drove out of the ocean. The van collapses as soon as Steven drops the bubble. This is the most control Steven’s had over his bubble yet.
The opening bars to the end credit theme, Love Like You, plays as Pearl says: “What’s that thing you always say about the pork chops and the hot dogs?” This is a callback to Greg’s catchphrase in Laser Light Cannon.
Steven and Connie are surrounded by the cheering townspeople. Meanwhile, Garnet and Pearl stand off to the side.
Garnet: So, Lapis made it off planet.
Pearl: What does that mean for us?
Garnet: We wait and see.
They’re being remarkably calm about this, much more calm than they’re going to be about Peridot in the next season, probably because they have no idea what Lapis is going to actually do. After thousands of years of being ignored by Homeworld and encountering no off-world Gems, it must be absolutely nervewracking for them to not have anything they can do but wait to see if Lapis’ escape brings down anything on their heads.
The Red Eye that appeared all the way back in Laser Light Cannon was sent by Peridot, something she remarks on in Marble Madness, so an eventual encounter with Homeworld Gems was inevitable regardless of what happened to Lapis here — of course, they had no way of knowing this. Lapis’ escape here ends up being a net positive for the Gems for several reasons: she gets out a message to warn them about Peridot’s arrival, she saves them from fighting Jasper by fusing into Malachite, and Steven’s success at befriending her is almost certainly part of what encourages him to befriend Peridot, which ends up saving the entire planet. That’s just for starters, of course, because Lapis saves them a few more times in the series.
The Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem two-parter is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the show and the moment at which Steven Universe really comes into its own. In two episodes, we’re introduced to the conflict that forms the backbone of the entire series’ lore. We learn that Gems are from space, and that there are more than our core set, and that other Gems have different agendas that clash with the Crystal Gems. We meet the first new Gem, who has interesting new powers. These episodes also have some very solid funny moments, some lovely music and fantastic backgrounds. They also feature great character development for Steven — not only does he control his shield properly for the first time, he also uses his legendary empathy for the first time to defuse a dangerous situation and help a traumatized Gem in need.
Regular readers of the comment section may know that, as much as I truly love our core Crystal Gem team, I tend to be an even bigger fan of the side Gems, so this episode is also exciting for introducing our very first B-team Gem. Although I’m not always pleased by the way the show handles Lapis — mostly due to lack of screen time — she’s one of my favorite Gems, and I look forward to writing about her much more in the future.
Season 1A Summary
Now that we’re wrapping up Season 1A, I’m going to provide a quick rundown of the best and worst episodes in the season!
Worst Episode: Onion Trade
For the most part, there are few to no truly bad episode of Steven Universe. The worst episodes tend to be those that are inconsequential, both in terms of lore and characterization. Onion Trade is a great example of that. While it has some funny moments and delves into Onion’s character a bit more, if there’s one 1A episode you can skip and never realized you missed anything, it’s this one. It also features Steven being much dumber than usual when he hands over the duplicator in trade instead of simply duplicating the action figure.
Top Five Episodes of S1A
5. Coach Steven
One of the show’s first episodes to focus on one of my favorite characters, Pearl. Not only does this episode have a wonderful character moment for Pearl as she confronts Sugilite, it also features the first time she sings in the series, and Strong in the Real Way is a wonderful song. Not only that, but we get what is likely the only speaking appearance of Amethyst and Garnet’s fusion.
4. An Indirect Kiss
This episode introduces Steven’s healing powers. It bounces back and forth between Connie and Steven having a picnic in the present, and Steven trying to heal Amethyst’s cracked gem in the past, and does a great job of juxtaposing Steven feeling useless with Connie’s own insecurities. Amethyst’s antics as she continuously deteriorates are both funny and a little distressing. This episode also features an early heartbreaking moment, when Steven wonders how he should feel about his mom.
3. Bubble Buddies
A wonderful introduction to one of the best characters of the series: Connie. Connie and Steven gradually becoming friends over the course of their adventures inside the bubble is natural and charming. The scene where Connie laments that she’s never had any friends is pretty relatable to anyone who was a bookish loner as a kid.
2. Giant Woman
This episode features not the greatest song of the series, but one of the catchiest and most memorable. It deserves a place in the top five simply for introducing the absolutely critical lore of fusion, but it’s also just a great episode in its own right. Amethyst and Pearl finally putting aside their differences to save Steven, and the love that Opal clearly has for the young Gem, are heartwarming.
1. Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem
Am I cheating by considering this one episode? Maybe, but I don’t care. I covered why these are two of the greatest episodes in the series just a few paragraphs above, so I won’t bore you with it again.
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! We see the aftermath of Greg breaking his leg in House Guest, followed by the episode that truly sold me on Pearl’s character: Space Race.