Episode Description: Steven flies around the world.
…and Lapis relives some trauma.
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.
We have entered the part of the show where Peridot’s hair threatens to engulf her body.
Peridot is telling the Crystal Gems the story of how they defeated the Cluster, embellishing her own part quite a bit, describing how she took down Cluster Gems with her “photon blaster.” “And Steven was all, ‘my feelings!’ and up and passes out on me!” she says, which, yeah, that is kind of what happened. At this point she turns over the storytelling to Steven, who she explains was the one to really save the day. She’s definitely come a long way.
In the background, we can see the enormous hole left behind by the drilling. In a few episodes, this will get filled in to make a “smaller than average lake.”
Instead of telling his part of the story, Steven gets up to check on Lapis. She’s sleeping in the barn, but seems distressed. While Steven is obviously worried about Lapis, I think it’s telling that he goes to check on her at this exact moment. He’s been through a lot emotionally, and telling the story of how he bubbled the Cluster is quite possibly still difficult for him. It had a good ending, but that doesn’t erase all the pain and fear he felt when he nearly died hundreds of miles below the surface of the Earth.
Garnet approaches him. “Lapis spent an unbearable amount of time fused with Jasper. The emotional and physical strain of that type of fusion, I can’t imagine.” I always kind of wished they got into this a little more on the show, although it’d probably go to some pretty dark places. We’ve seen in episodes like Giant Woman that fusions tend to immediately dissolve if both parties are not in alignment, so it must have taken considerable effort for Malachite to stay together.
Alone at Sea hints that they were kept together partially by the desire for the amount of power the fusion granted — we’ll discuss that in more depth when we get there.
Garnet remarks that Lapis will take a long time to recover from what she’s been through, and I appreciate that this is a show that often acknowledges that, instead of having characters be rescued from traumatic situations and immediately be okay.
I wanted to comment on the symbolism of Steven using a caterpillar sleeping bag in an episode that’s all about how things on Earth grow and change, but I have a feeling it’s just there because it’s cute.
Steven wakes up and goes to investigate. Lapis is leaving. “I don’t belong on Earth, not with the Crystal Gems. I never have,” she says.
Lapis fleeing as a way of trying to escape from her problems will become a recurring issue with her, occurring again in both Raising the Barn and Can’t Go Back.
It’s a very understandable, if sometimes frustrating, character trait. After having been trapped for so long, the appeal of the freedom of flying away alone must be extremely compelling. Unfortunately for her, flying away is never the answer, and the self-imposed exile she finds herself in after Raising the Barn turns out to be not a significant improvement over being trapped in the mirror.
Her comment about not belonging with the Crystal Gems is a source of frustration for me, because I feel like it is an important character conflict that never actually got resolved. Lapis’ distrust of the Crystal Gems is for an extremely good reason – they left her imprisoned in the mirror, when they could have freed her. For their part, the Crystal Gems may have had their own good reasons not to free a Gem they believed was on Homeworld’s side and who is incredibly powerful when she has access to Earth’s oceans. In fact, she nearly destroyed the Earth in Ocean Gem, and was only stopped because of Steven’s friendship. This conflict is never resolved or even truly addressed — she seems more or less fine with the Crystal Gems as of Gem Harvest and joins officially in Reunited, without ever having more than a few lines shared with Gems other than Steven or Peridot. I can’t help but think this would have been a better use of the show’s time than some of the inconsequential episodes we did get.
Steven is disappointed that Lapis is choosing to leave. Lapis was his first success story with redeeming a Gem, and the first Gem he met and befriended who hadn’t had a hand in raising him. Steven is consistently hungry for friendship with Gems outside of the Crystal Gem group, something we saw throughout Peridot’s arc.
“It’s okay, I understand, I just wish we could’ve hung out more. I feel like I only get to see you when something horrible’s going on,” he says. The fact that Steven is understanding and doesn’t pressure her to stay is, I think, a big part of why their friendship works and why she trusts him.
“That’s just how it is with me,” she says, sadly.
The next day, Steven and the Gems are packing up to go home. Peridot declares that she’s going to stay at the barn. Steven suggests she could come back and live in the bathroom again, but she’s gotten used to the barn and feels like she should repair the hole she made with her Peribot.
It was really disappointing to me that I thought she was going to become a part of the core cast, but instead she was relegated to the barn and only appeared in a handful of episodes per season (along with Lapis, as we’ll see).
Peridot living in the barn makes sense from a character standpoint. She’s used to it, and she has far more room and freedom than she’d have living out of Steven’s bathroom. The barn gives her space and parts to make all kinds of things. The problem was that it was used as an excuse to never integrate Peridot properly into the cast, even though she has great chemistry with them, and the warp pad is right there, so she’s never more than a few minutes away.
And yes, I realize this was partially because the casting budget made them limit the amount of characters per episode, something that becomes very noticeable in upcoming seasons, but it results in Peridot and Lapis’ character arcs being rough and unfinished from this point out.
On a largely unrelated note, Peridot will actually learn how to use that tractor in Gem Harvest. Steven tells her to have fun redecorating, and we’ll see in Beta that she and Lapis make some pretty massive changes to the barn.
Greg and the Crystal Gems are in the loaded-up van, but Steven says he’ll stay behind and catch up on Lion. Lion, as usual, is nowhere to be seen, so I kind of wonder if this is just an excuse for Steven to have some alone time. I’m sure he could use it after everything. He has his hot dog duffel bag that we saw in Unboxing.
Steven calls out to Lion that he can’t hid from him for too long, and instead finds someone else who apparently can’t stay away — Lapis is on top of the silo.
Lapis explains that she has nowhere to go. She can’t go back to Homeworld because of what she did to Jasper (and it’s not like returning to Homeworld went well for her last time). She also feels like she can’t stay on Earth.
Lapis feeling like she has nowhere to go is a recurring problem for her. When she leaves out of fear of the Diamonds in Raising the Barn, she seemingly has no plan and only gets as far as the moon. Even when she flees from Steven in Can’t Go Back, she seemingly doesn’t get very far before returning to the moon again.
Steven decides to convince her that she can stay on Earth. After all, there’s an entire planet to see, so if she’s uncomfortable with the Crystal Gems, it’s not as though there aren’t many other places to live. Lapis seems uncertain, but agrees to the plan, having nothing to lose. She gathers Steven on her back so they can go flying.
“Ready, Freddy?” says Steven.
“It’s Lapis,” she says, in a callback to Steven calling her Bob in Ocean Gem.
Steven is nervous as Lapis takes off, but quickly becomes thrilled to fly with her. They fly over and into a forest in the countryside. Steven suggests that she could live out there, building a home in the trees and making friends with squirrels. “There’s no noise, no rules, and it’d just be you becoming one with nature.” Lapis doesn’t understand why anyone would want to do that.
We eventually learn that Lapis’ original job was to terraform for the Gempire, destroying nature to make way for colonies, so it’s no wonder that this idea would be foreign to her. She gradually changes her mind, though, as she and Peridot learn to grow crops. Later, in Why So Blue, she says that living in nature and getting creative was one of the things that helped her appreciate the Earth. Well, that and the cycle of horrible torture.
Steven shows Lapis an orange leaf, signifying the change from summer into fall. Of course, the idea that things change on Earth, as opposed to Homeworld where things can remain stagnant for thousands of years, is one of the key pieces of series lore. It’s important for Lapis to understand, since she’s had thousands of years of misery, that it is possible for things to be another way.
Steven shows off a leaf that’s changed, and says that soon it will happen to all of the leaves — is it reading too much into it to see this as an analogy for the fact that a few Gems turning will eventually lead to all of Homeworld changing their minds. Maybe, but this is an episode with some pretty heavy symbolism.
The leaf will later show up as one of Lapis’ meep-morps. It reminds her of the time Steven gave her a leaf.
Steven decides to show her something very different from nature — Empire City, which seems to be New York City mixed with multiple other cities. “What happens in Empire City never sleeps,” he says, conflating common sayings about New York City and Las Vegas.
Empire City will later play a prominent role in Mr. Greg, where they even sing a song about it.
And let’s bring Pearl!
In Empire City’s equivalent of Times Square, se see many billboards, including one for Dogcopter: Turn Off the Bark, a riff on the massive flop Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Steven says that if Lapis lived here, she could work at a local coffee shop and have a wacky roommate, and the keyboards of a thousand fanfic writers all started up in unison.
While the coffee shop thing stayed confined to fanfic, she did end up with a wacky roommate — although we’ll see that she isn’t thrilled about it at first.
“What’s that shadowy place over there?” Lapis asks, in what may be a reference to The Lion King. That shadowy place is Jersey, and I appreciate how the show goes out of its way to give most other places cutesy not-real-world names like Keystone and Delmarva, but Jersey is just… Jersey.
“You’d like it in Jersey. The people here seem to hate the Earth too,” says Steven. Someone on the ground yells and throw trash at them. Lapis and Steven laugh and blow raspberries at them. Freedom from the mirror has not diminished Lapis’ appreciation for fart noises.
Behold, one of the rare instances in the show of Lapis actually enjoying herself! Steven comments on how beautiful it is. “Eh, it’s all right, I guess. I can see why you like it,” says Lapis, smiling. All this Lapis-and-Steven friendship right after last week’s Peridot-and-Steven friendship really warms the void where my heart should be.
So of course the episode is about to take a turn.
They happen to pass above the Galaxy Warp, last seen in Catch and Release. Steven points it out, and Lapis just stares, intently, even as Steven nearly slips from her grasp. She’s clearly having a traumatic reaction to the Galaxy Warp.
They land on the Galaxy Warp, and Lapis raises the water from the ocean to form a mirror on top of the main warp. Her eyes have the same effect they did when her Gem was cracked as she uses the mirror to show Steven her story.
I’ve always kind of wondered about this mirror power of hers. It doesn’t seem to really go well with her job of terraforming. I figure that some Gems must have powers that don’t directly relate to their jobs for whatever reason (like all Era 1 Gems being able to shapeshift), or that Lapis Lazulis had different responsibilities in the past.
“I was only meant to visit for a short time, but I got caught in the middle of the war.”
I always thought this story was likely sanitized for Steven’s sake. Why would Lapis just be “visiting” the Earth? Homeworld doesn’t seem like much for a tourism industry. How would she just happen to get caught in a battlefield when she has wings?
This is purely speculation on my part, but I always figured that Lapis, although not technically a soldier, was asked to use her formidable abilities on the battlefield, and that’s how this happened. She wouldn’t want to tell Steven on the grounds that Steven might judge her or not trust her for fighting for Homeworld. There’s nothing textual to support this, though.
Hello, there, Bismuth, you’re looking a bit murdery today…
Bismuth, of course, will be introduced this season as one of Rose Quartz’s key Crystal Gems, who was bubbled for her ruthless approach to the rebellion. As of the movie, Lapis and Bismuth appear to be friends. The Crewniverse has said that neither realizes they met before, as Lapis didn’t get a good look at the Gem who poofed her, and Bismuth poofed multiple Lazulis (which also, I think, supports the theory that they were being used as weapons).
Lapis was confused for a Crystal Gem, put in the mirror, and interrogated. They apparently believed she had some kind of information. This implies that there were Lazulis on the Crystal Gem side, although I don’t believe we ever see any — imagine the Crystal Gems trying to fight a corrupted Lapis Lazuli, especially near the ocean! We never really learn why they assumed Lapis was a Crystal Gem or why they think she has information.
When the Earth is declared a lost cause, the Homeworld Gems all flee by ship and warp, leaving Lapis’ mirror behind on the Galaxy Warp. She was apparently cracked when someone stepped on her, which seems less resilient than Gems normally are. There is a bright flash in the air. If you’ll recall back in The Return, Greg says, “In the end, your mother could only save a handful of her closest friends. If it weren’t for her shield, man, I don’t know.” This scene gives further insight into what happened then.
In Monster Reunion, we learn that this was an attack by the Diamonds that corrupted any Gems remaining on Earth, even those loyal to Homeworld. In this freeze frame, you can see that the light is blue, yellow, and white, corresponding to the remaining Diamonds.
Lapis was trapped there, looking up at the same patch of sky for thousands of years, until she was found by the Crystal Gems. This is some weapons-grade existential terror. Realistically, no one could survive this kind of confinement and still retain mental coherence. Humans experience severe deterioration after even a year in solitary confinement. Gems are obviously more resilient to this kind of treatment, but that doesn’t mean that Lapis is fine now.
Pearl is the one who found her. She’s wearing the same outfit she is in the flashbacks with Rose and Greg, which indicates that this probably didn’t take place more than a few decades ago, although there’s really no way of telling exactly how long Pearl had this design. As we know from Mirror Gem, Pearl and the other Crystal Gems chose to keep Lapis in the mirror, likely due to the danger she posed. It’s no wonder that Lapis can’t bear to be with the Crystal Gems apart from Steven, though.
I’m still very disappointed that we never got resolution to Lapis’ anger with the Crystal Gems. She doesn’t even have significant interactions with them for the rest of the series, and seems to be fine socializing with them in Gem Harvest.
Steven is concerned, but Lapis says she’s fine and just wants to get out of there, demonstrating how she tends to deal with problems by leaving. “For a moment, I really felt like things were different, but they’re not. No matter where I go, I’m trapped.”
Steven points out that being on Earth doesn’t mean she’s trapped. Earth itself is so much more than the unmoving sky that Lapis stared at for thousands of years: “Nothing is still on Earth. Everything’s always changing. Leaves, cities, even Jersey changes. My dad says the rest stops used to be pretty gross, but now they have sushi!”
First off, I can’t imagine a faster way to get food poisoning than eating sushi from a Jersey rest stop.
Secondly, we’ve really been hitting the show’s thesis statements lately, between this episode and Gem Drill. The ability to grow and change is one of the main things that separates humans from most Gems. In fact, exposure to Earth, where things are in constant flux and require adaptation, seems to be a catalyst for many Gems to learn growth. Lapis was denied this growth due to being trapped in the mirror, but now she has a real chance to experience it herself.
Steven says that maybe Lapis can change and see the Earth as her home, as well. Like Peridot’s redemption, this does happen, but it takes a while and involves some backsliding.
Steven and Lapis land at the barn, and Steven hands her the fall leaf. “I know you can’t go back to Homeworld, but if you stay here, it’ll be your choice to stay here.”
Along with the ability to change, Earth is also notable for giving Gems the ability to choose. Homeworld culture does everything it can to restrict Gems’ choices, dictating their jobs, their assignments, their beliefs, and their (lack of) personal relationships. Lapis in particular has had few opportunities to make actual choices, as she went from the mirror to imprisonment on Homeworld to being trapped in a fusion. The fusion was technically her choice, but from Lapis’ point of view, it seems like she felt she didn’t really have any.
Choice can be a difficult concept for those who struggle with trauma. When you feel like you have little agency, when you’re exhausted and stressed, it can be so tempting to just take the path of least resistance, or to make poor choices out of fear, even if you know that it’s not the right thing to do and will leave you feeling worse. Choice comes with responsibility, and responsibility can be scary to anyone, much less someone who has had their autonomy violated again and again.
We’ll see how Lapis struggles with her choice to stay on Earth, fleeing in fear of the Diamonds in Raising the Barn. She’ll finally make a definitive choice about how she wants her life to be when she drops the barn on Blue Diamond and joins the Crystal Gems in Reunited, although even that is just a step on the way.
“It’s funny, for all this time spent on Earth, I barely saw any of it,” says Lapis.
“That’s not funny! It’s super sad!” says Steven, stating one of the show’s mottos.
Lapis decides she wants to stay on Earth, specifically at the barn.
Aaaaaand Peridot ruins everything.
We’ve seen Peridot go through an entire character arc and know how much she’s changed, but Lapis certainly hasn’t. Last time Lapis saw Peridot, Peridot was keeping her imprisoned on a ship and interrogating her for information. It’s never made totally clear what exactly went on between them, but it’s obviously not something Lapis is willing to immediately forgive, as we’ll see in the next episode.
…weird, I seem to hear the sound of thousands of ships launching. Wonder what’s causing that.
I really enjoy this episode. We get some lovely scenery and the wholesome friendship between Steven and Lapis, something we didn’t get nearly enough of. Honestly, my only real problem with this episode is that it reminds me how Lapis’ character development tended to get shortchanged through the rest of the series, as there’s so much interesting potential here.
Next week on Steven Universe Rewind! The conflict between Lapis and Peridot continues in Barn Mates.