‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episodes 15-16: ‘Alone at Sea’ and ‘Greg the Babysitter’
Welcome to Together Breakfast, the feature where Elle Collins and Katie Schenkel come together to dig in and relish every last drop of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe. With the current nightly summer schedule, we’re going to be doing a couple of these a week, and two to three episodes per column. It may be hectic, but hopefully you’ll keep up with us as we dive headlong into the world of the Crystal Gems.
In the latest episodes, a fun boat trip turns into a dramatic reunion, and we find out why Greg started working at the car wash. Alone at Sea was written by Hilary Florido, Kat Morris, and Rebecca Sugar, and directed by Kat Morris and Jasmin Lai. Greg the Babysitter was written by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, and directed by Joe Johnston and Jasmin Lai.
Elle: So the drama on this show really sneaks up on you sometimes, huh? You’ll be like, oh here’s an episode about Greg doing something big and showy with his new fortune, and Steven bringing some joy into Lapis Lazuli’s life, and then suddenly it’s an episode about toxic relationships and how hard it can be to really let go of them.
Katie: The title of the episode being “Alone at Sea” had me nervous from the start because who do we know who’s alone at sea? Oh right, Jasper. But even within the first couple minutes seeing the setup of Steven showing Lapis a good time had me thinking “Okay, this could be a cute, fluffy episode or this could go dark really quick.” Turns out a little of the former, mostly the latter.
Elle: There was a lot of fun stuff along the way, like the taped on “Little Lappy,” and a look at how boring fishing is, and the useless owner’s manual --- “It’s mostly advice on suntanning and what crackers go with caviar!” But once there was something big and unseen messing with the boat from below, I had a pretty good idea who/what it was.
What I really didn’t see coming was the complexity of the Lapis/Jasper dynamic. It would have been easy to make it about Jasper hurting Lapis and Lapis wanting to be rid of her. But emphasizing that Lapis also hurt Jasper, and that they both miss each other and kind of want to be fused again… that’s messy. And the metaphor adult viewers like us are bound to see in that is even messier. And obviously I mean that as a compliment to the writing.
Katie: Lapis softly saying “I miss her” made the episode for me. I’ve known people who have been in toxic, abusive relationships who have described how hard it is to turn away from dependency on that unhealthy dynamic. That scene with her admitting missing fusion with Jasper (and then telling Steven she sees herself as a horrible person) rang so true to me.
And then Jasper’s return, and the way she almost deliriously begs Lapis to fuse with her again … as you said, it’s a compliment to the show’s writers that these characters are allowed to be so complex in their feelings and relationships, and that the show is so good at framing this particular relationship as dangerous even in its complexity.
Elle: I really liked how vulnerable Jasper was when she was asking Lapis to fuse again. It certainly didn’t make her likable, but it made her way more complex and interesting than she’s been before. And I completely agree that this felt so accurate to real people’s experiences, which is particularly impressive considering it’s about sentient rocks from space fusing their energy bodies into a larger, more powerful body. But of course the show has already done an excellent job of setting that up as a relationship metaphor.
I also think it’s interesting that Jasper is a kind of villain we haven’t really had on the show, at least not since Peridot’s face turn. Because this is the third time she’s been fended off without being destroyed, or bubbled, or sent away from Earth. She’s just going to keep coming back.
Katie: It’s also interesting how she learned the wrong lesson since the last time we really saw her as just her. Garnet’s “Stronger than You” is such an iconic moment in the show, and represents so much about a strong relationship, and Jasper tells Lapis she understands what Garnet meant about fusion now, yet clearly doesn’t really get it at all. It’s telling to me that she still dismisses Steven as just watered down version of Rose. It’s still about power for her.
But you’re right --- Jasper keeps coming back. And even at the end of this episode, Lapis only sent her farther into the ocean. So who knows when she’ll be showing back up on the show.
Elle: But in the meantime, we definitely need an episode with a lighter tone, which is just what we get in Greg the Babysitter. Which is mostly a flashback to Greg’s early days in Beach City. I loved Vidalia in this episode, but the actual best and funniest character is baby Sour Cream, who’s still voiced by Brian Posehn in the same deep voice he always uses.
Katie: We also get another Greg song, which tends to be both catchy as heck and delightful. The little montage of Greg and Rose’s early life together was a great way to start the story, mostly because I want to get as many details of what Rose was like as possible.
And then we get to Greg mooching off Vidalia. Like you said, Vidalia was so great in this episode, and I love the idea that she and Greg became pals after Marty left town. I’m also just impressed by how well she is keeping everything together as a single mom to a newborn. Go Vidalia!
Elle: I loved seeing how Rose wasn’t always wise and perfect. She let a baby climb a ferris wheel, because she was so busy thinking about how exciting it would be for him that it didn’t occur to her that he could die. And by the way, that was a pretty impressive climb for tiny Sour Cream. Actually, it was still pretty impressive when Greg did it.
And of course young Greg was that much farther from wise and perfect. When he finds out that Vidalia has a job, he calls her a sell-out, which is especially obnoxious after he ate the last of her cereal. But this is obviously the moment when Greg had to learn a lesson about growing up. And how not to be a baby.
Katie: The episode’s conclusion also brings some more reasoning to Greg still working at the car wash even after he gets stinkin’ rich (beside for the occasional joke like in “Beach City Drift”). Greg is a better adult when he has a focus, and since his passion for music is mostly for enjoyment for him, it makes sense that he wants to keep the structure of his day job.
The most revealing thing for me about the episode was Rose explaining to Greg why she finds humans (and babies) so amazing --- that humans don’t start off as perfectly formed beings like gems are. "You're allowed and expected to invent who you are" is 1. A very beautiful sentiment on the nature of humanity and 2. Another insight into Rose’s reasoning for giving up herself to become/make Steven. And it shows that Rose’s love of humans goes beyond curious entertainment and into real appreciation.
Elle: Totally. But it also made me appreciate the Crystal Gems more. Because here are these people who sprang fully formed out of the ground knowing exactly what they were made for, and they eventually decided to change anyway, and do something else. That’s a process we’ve seen Peridot go through recently, but it had to happen to every one of them at some point.
Katie: As Greg said, that whole scene and what it says about the gems was “really profound, yet relatable,” which to be honest is the show’s bread and butter.
Of course, then the episode ends on the very silly gag of Steven asking, “Whatever happened to Baby Sour Cream?” a moment before teen Sour Cream walks by.
Elle: I loved that too, and teen Sour Cream making the same “Meh” sound that he made as a baby. In the same voice of course. I really loved both of these episodes a lot. Which is good, because there’s even more coming this week (and for weeks yet to come).
Katie: In honor of Greg’s sailor humor, “Full steam ahead!”