Episode Description: Steven finds out what happens to all those sentient watermelons he created.
Look, I know you guys are probably eager to learn what happens with the looming threat of the Cluster, and what Yellow Diamond might do next, and what’s going on with Malachite, and more about Homeworld, but really, weren’t you wondering about those watermelons?
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 Future Vision blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.
Steven wakes up in a watermelon body. You might recall the sentient Steven-shaped watermelons from Watermelon Steven, and this island is the same one from Island Adventure.
I might as well just get this part of the recap done up front: the watermelons are one of my least favorite creative decisions in the entire series.
The watermelons are the most glaringly obvious sign of how the limitations put on them with the Steven POV rule hobbled the show at a few key moments. Here, because the plot of Gem Drill required Steven and Peridot to be separated from the other Crystal Gems, Steven couldn’t be there himself when they fought Malachite, so they invented this notion that he can inhabit a watermelon body.
Steven being able to possess the watermelon is fine, as a concept, as he turns out to have a whole power suite around possession and dreamwalking. The big problem is that the Crewniverse seems to enjoy creating and depicting the society of the watermelon people far more than the audience likes watching it. With the time constraint of just eleven minutes an episode, the first three minutes of this episode about Malachite — a plot point everyone was dying to see — are taken up by a leisurely examination of watermelon society that doesn’t really go anywhere. Sure, it has metaphorical value in setting up Steven’s self-sacrificial nature, but that’s already been set up in less hamfisted and time consuming ways.
Escapism is even worse — right at the end of the series, when tensions are high and there are multiple interesting scenes we could be seeing among the other cast, we spend nearly an entire episode with the watermelons. And sure, it makes sense to have a breather episode before the big finale, but there are plenty of other ways that could have been done — for example, an episode focused on what Peridot, Lapis and Bismuth were going through back at the house.
On paper, there’s nothing wrong with the metaphors, or having a slow beat before a big climax, or any of that. The cardinal sin of the scenes of watermelon society is really that they’re boring, simple as that. For an example of a quiet moment before a big climax done right, I’ll reference the very next episode in the series, where Steven and Peridot have a chat about her feelings on leaving Homeworld before all hell breaks loose.
Steven is shocked by his new form. He tries to speak, but can only make a sputtering noise, with seeds coming out of his mouth. There’s a tremor, and he’s greeted by this little watermelon dog. As much as I dislike the watermelon concept, the watermelon dog is cute, I’ll admit.
The dog leads Steven to an entire little watermelon town.
So, quick recap of Watermelon Steven, an episode which I had put out of my mind because I thought it was going to be inconsequential: Steven inadvertently created a whole patch of sentient, Steven-shaped watermelons. They lived to defend him, and ended up attacking the Crystal Gems when they thought Steven was in danger. The smallest melon, Baby Melon, deliberately attacked Steven to draw the crowd off of the Crystal Gems, and sacrificed itself to stop the fight. Steven then chastised the crowd of watermelons, telling them to leave until they understand why Baby Melon did what he did. They all then walk off into the ocean.
So now we see that they made it to Mask Island and built a little society where they grow more watermelons and swell their population.
We see a cart delivering a baby melon to this Watermelon Nuclear Family, complete with watermelon chickens.
In the center of town, we see a huge statue of Baby Melon, holding its arms outright. A watermelon priest stands in front of it, training young watermelons to imitate Baby Melon’s sacrificial pose. Apparently, the Watermelon Stevens took Steven’s command to heart, and have built an entire religion based on Baby Melon’s sacrifice.
There’s another tremor, and a Watermelon Steven rings a gong. Everyone gathers around the Baby Melon statue and plays “nose goes”. Steven, slow to realize what’s happening, is chosen. A star is painted on him and he’s adorned with a flower crown. Apparently, the Watermelon Stevens took the lesson of Baby Melon a little wrong. Instead of learning compassion, it seems like they’ve instead learned how to sacrifice themselves.
The imagery of Steven becoming a literal sacrifice is almost too on the nose to even say much about it. It’s obvious foreshadowing to the growing idea Steven has in his head that he has to martyr himself for the greater good, an idea that will come to its logical conclusion when he turns himself in for his mother’s crimes in I Am My Mother. It also manifests in many other ways, from swallowing his own problems so as not to be a burden, to having an unhealthy notion that everyone depends on him entirely.
Out of the water comes Malachite, the fusion of Lapis and Jasper that they formed in Jail Break. We last saw her in Chille Tid, where Lapis was close to losing control of the fusion. We see here that she’s still in water chains, indicating that Lapis still has some control, but considering she’s menacing the Watermelon Stevens, Jasper is at least partially calling the shots.
But why is Malachite menacing the Watermelon Stevens?
It’s unlikely that Jasper really cares about the watermelons. She’d rather go after the actual Crystal Gems, and she knows where they are. Even when they move to the barn, they’re not very far from the house, so Malachite could easily track down the real thing. Lapis would be preventing her from doing so, of course. Is the whole Watermelon Steven sacrifice thing some kind of compromise? Is Jasper actually satisfied in any way by eating this Watermelon Steven in place of the real Steven? I just always thought this plot point seemed like a weird contrivance.
And that speaks to the greater issue I have with this episode — that we don’t really get to see much of Malachite, or know what she’s all about, before she gets dispatched. We learn more about Malachite in Alone at Sea than we do in the episodes actually featuring her. The struggle between Lapis and Jasper and how it affects their fusion is an interesting topic, especially given what a critical moment this is for both of them and how this is one of the only antagonistic fusions seen on the show. Unfortunately, Super Watermelon Island gives us little insight into Malachite, and where her head is at this point in time.
Back at the barn, Steven wakes up. Peridot is understandably panicking about the tremors, believing that the Cluster is about to emerge. Steven explains that the tremors are actually being caused by Malachite. Garnet surmises that Lapis is losing control.
The Crystal Gems decide that this problem needs to be dealt with immediately, and take a warp pad to Mask Island, leaving Steven behind because it’s too dangerous. This isn’t something they’ve done for a while, and it also seems like a contrivance, especially given that Lapis only trusts Steven. I like Gem Drill a lot, and I appreciate they had to find some way to get Steven and Peridot on the mission together to make it work, but I wish they could have done it a little more organically. Peridot’s abject disappointment that they’re focused on a two-Gem fusion instead of the massive Gem Cluster is pretty funny, though.
On a total side note, Amethyst is eating what looks like a torta, the same food she lamented losing in Monster Buddies.
Steven explains the situation with Malachite to Peridot. Apparently this never came up in the couple of months it’s been since Peridot was captured, and Peridot never wondered what happened to Lapis and Jasper. Steven says that Lapis must be getting tired of fighting Jasper. “Just being on a ship with Jasper made me tired,” says Peridot.
Steven wants to help the Crystal Gems, but they told him it’s too dangerous. Peridot asks why he doesn’t just rebel — “isn’t that, like, your guys’ thing?” Steven comes up with the plan to go to sleep again and possess a Watermelon Steven, so he can help and be safe at the same time.
“Wow, you’re a real anarchist,” says Peridot.
Poor Peridot is clearly uncomfortable being left all alone with the ongoing tremors that she’s still concerned are Cluster-related (and she’s not wrong).
Back on Mask Island, one of the Watermelon Stevens playing a game suddenly falls over unconscious, before Steven wakes up in his body. The fact that Steven is possessing watermelons who have their own lives and personalities is kind of disturbing and clearly something the show doesn’t want you thinking about too hard.
It’s especially disturbing in Escapism where the watermelon Steven possesses becomes grievously injured and likely dies.
We’ll see Steven being way too cavalier about possessing a human in one of the most controversial episodes of the series, The New Lars.
Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl form Alexandrite to do battle with Malachite. The fact that they’re able to form her easily shows that they’ve put their differences aside since the Sardonyx arc, and that they have a clearly defined, united purpose. Alexandrite’s outfit is a little different here than it was in her last appearance in Fusion Cuisine, owing to the fact that Garnet and Amethyst have new outfits.
Malachite breaks free of her water chains. Jasper-in-Malachite tells Lapis she’s impressed she held out this long, even as Lapis keeps trying to hold her back. This makes sense as the moment Lapis would falter, though. She has no real attachment to the Crystal Gems, apart from Steven. Lapis had previously accused them of keeping her captive in the mirror without even wondering who she used to be, and there has been no resolution on that. So if Lapis still has a lot of anger towards the non-Steven Gems, it’s the perfect thing for Jasper to use to tip the balance of the fusion in her favor when Alexandrite shows up.
Unfortunately, we never get proper closure on Lapis’ understandable grievance with the Gems, something that bothers me to this day.
They fight, Malachite mainly using Lapis’ powers including ice shards. Alexandrite has fire breath — presumably derived from Ruby — and uses Opal’s bow. Malachite summons Jasper’s helmet weapon and uses her Sonic Spindash move against Alexandrite. Malachite’s assault ends up smashing the warp pad.
Steven runs, and he finds the watermelon people hiding in a cave, cowering in fear. He gives what is apparently a moving speech in watermelon-speak, inspiring the watermelons to take up arms and help fight Malachite.
In Escapism, we’ll see that this act eventually caused the Watermelon Tribe to split into two factions, one that still worships Baby Melon, and one that worships the Steven-possessed watermelon that led them into battle.
In a cute touch, the nuclear family from earlier appears, but the female-coded watermelon is going off to war and leaving the male-coded watermelon behind.
Malachite is getting the upper hand on Alexandrite. “There really is something to this fusion thing. It’s not just a cheap trick,” she says, echoing Jasper’s words in Jail Break.
Jasper learning to enjoy the power of fusion will become her downfall, as she first begs Lapis to fuse with her once again in Alone at Sea, and then attempts to fuse with a corrupted Gem monster, causing her to become corrupted as well.
In Alone at Sea, we learn that Lapis also enjoyed this kind of power, a fact which disturbs her. It isn’t hard to see why she might enjoy throwing the Crystal Gems around like this, given her time imprisoned in the mirror.
Alexandrite briefly wavers, having difficulty keeping herself together. It’s known that Garnet is particularly sensitive to the concept of unhealthy fusion, so it’s possible that she’s having particular trouble staying focused here.
The watermelons start attacking Malachite in a scene reminiscent of the Ewoks attacking the Empire. At first, she’s amused by their paltry efforts, but she becomes increasingly annoyed when they actually manage to harm her with stones launched from catapults.
Malachite violently smashes the watermelons, and the fact that they burst into neat little watermelon slices when they die has always been kind of a weird touch.
Alexandrite takes advantage of the distraction to break free of Malachite’s watery grasp. She uses Sugilite’s flail to pull her in close for a massive punch, then sends her soaring into the stratosphere with Sardonyx’s hammer.
From high in the sky, Malachite looks down on Alexandrite, who is now wielding Opal’s bow. “You two should spend some time apart,” she says, shooting the arrow. The arrow turns into little silhouettes of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl holding hands. This is an echo of the Laser Light Cannons from the beginning of the series, which form Rose Quartz silhouettes, and a lovely symbol of the renewed friendship the three Gems have.
Jasper and Lapis fall out of the sky, unconscious. They’re caught by Alexandrite, who breaks into her exhausted components. Steven runs up to Pearl, who immediately recognizes his presence inside the watermelon.
A massive tremor shakes the island, splitting it apart. Amethyst grabs onto Lapis, but Jasper very conveniently slips away into a massive crack in the earth.
This is such a contrivance, obviously done because the Gems would have simply bubbled Jasper indefinitely otherwise. Although there’s a non-zero chance that Steven might have attempted to release Jasper like he did with Peridot, resulting in his likely demise.
As it is, this clunky plot beat at least gives us some room to breathe before Jasper shows up in the plot again midway through Season Three.
Lapis will wake up two episodes from now, in Same Old World.
Garnet realizes that, with Malachite split, the tremors must really be from the Cluster. With the warp pad smashed, the Crystal Gems can’t get back to the drill in time, and it’s up to Steven and Peridot to save the Earth. Steven’s connection to the watermelon begins to fade.
Garnet: The Earth needs you, Steven. We’ll be fine. You can do this. We believe in you.
Amethyst: You got this, dude. You know the drill!
Pearl: Be careful, Steven. Watch each other’s backs.
Garnet: And Steven —
The screen fades to black, and you can very faintly hear Garnet say “I love you.”
One of the things that makes the Cluster arc so great is how it shows off how far Steven has come from the immature kid he was at the start of the series. No longer the whiny boy demanding he gets to tag along on Gem missions, now he must complete this absolutely crucial task without the help of the original Crystal Gems. His only companion is Peridot, who wouldn’t be part of the team if it weren’t for Steven, and who has come a very long way from her first appearance as well. But we’ll have a good chance to talk about Steven’s growth and his friendship with Peridot next week.
As for Super Watermelon Island, I found this episode anticlimactic, and it isn’t one of my favorites. I had very much been looking forward to the return of Lapis, and was disappointed that this episode spends most of its runtime on watermelon society and fusion fights instead of delving into the psychology of Malachite. The emphasis on fighting, and especially the fact that that is effectively how the problem gets solved, is a bit of a rarity for the show.
Next week on Steven Universe Rewind! We explore the power of friendship and empathy as Steven and Peridot drill to the center of the Earth in Gem Drill.