‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 19: ‘Room for Ruby’
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 show back on a weekly schedule, at least for now, we’re keeping up with it once a week.
In this episode, a Ruby falls to Earth, and Steven is really determined to welcome her, despite Lapis Lazuli’s reservations. Room for Ruby was written by Raven M. Molisee and Lauren Zuke, and directed by Kat Morris and Ricky Cometa.
Katie: So the first thing I thought with the start of this episode was that we’re getting some good Charlyne Yi moments. Between this and the wrestling episode last week, you must have been pretty dang happy, Elle.
Elle: Yes, very much so. Actually, of all the Rubys we’ve met, I think Navy is the one that seems to push Yi’s voice the farthest out of her usual range. So I thought it was surprising that Navy would be the one they’d bring in and add to the show’s regular cast. And as it turns out, that’s the closest I had to a clue where this episode was going.
Katie: I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure where they were going with the episode. Like Garnet, I had a few guesses that ranged the gamut of “new Homeworld gem friendship” to “100% betrayal,” and my guess changed several times throughout the episode. I admit, the fact that Navy seems just so sweet in her previous appearances threw off my BS meter. It didn’t seem quite so suspicious that she’d crash to Earth and want bygones to be bygones with the Crystal Gems.
Elle: I love how she’s introduced to the episode, with Steven and Garnet watching falling stars, and then one of the stars is red and screaming. And it’s great how Garnet is convinced not because she’s inclined to trust Navy, but because she knows how great Steven is at promoting harmony. “Go work your magic,” she tells him. So that leads him to the Farm for Misfit Gems, where Peridot, Lapis, and Pumpkin are watching the sun rise.
Katie: The Farm Gems’ reaction to Navy was interesting, mostly because Peridot is such a different character from when we first met her, or even from when she first became an ally to our heroes. You’d think she’d be the one who was suspicious of a new person wanting to join their little family, but she’s immediately accepting now. Which makes sense because the track record for Homeworld gems who have fit in on Earth has been two out of three so far, which are pretty good numbers. Also I get the feeling that Peridot thinks if she can change as much as she has, then anyone can. Lapis is more suspicious.
Elle: Peridot seems to be really good at fitting into whatever her role is. Now that she’s fully accepted the Earth as her home, she’s really excited about positioning herself as an expert on the Earth and welcoming a new Gem to it. But Lapis is still dealing with the trauma of some of the things that have happened to her on Earth, and she has a hard time fully embracing anything without being skeptical, and that definitely includes Navy. So the fact that Navy’s so immediately, unrelentingly positive about everything just gets under Lapis’s skin all the more.
Katie: Maybe my favorite part of the episode was how Peridot described Earth as making no sense and being really confusing but that being the best part about Earth. But like you said, the fact that Navy immediately clicks with the concept of an always changing world bothers Lapis, as does Navy’s ability to sleep without practicing. And it makes sense that this would get under Lapis’ skin because she’s worked really hard to be okay with all of this. In fact, she admits that she’s still working on being okay with it after going through some major trauma, so having this new kid come in and “get” everything right away is infuriating.
Elle: Lapis clearly envies Navy’s openness and positivity, even as she doubts Navy’s sincerity. It turns out the latter feeling is the one that gets validated, but we’re getting to that. Navy seems genuinely upset when Lapis storms off and the others follow to make sure she’s okay. This is the moment when Lapis continues to be a really validating portrayal of someone who has dealt with trauma. But when Navy overhears and feels bad that she’s made Lapis unhappy, Lapis and Peridot both encourage her to stay. And it’s only then, after all this time, that Navy even mentions the spaceship.
Katie: So I was relatively convinced for the middle of the episode that they were going the route of having Navy either join the team, or at least want to, but having something pressing take her away from Beach City so she couldn’t join the main cast. It was only when she mentioned the spaceship that my red flags went way up. And then when Steven said it was perfect because the Crystal Gems would finally have a pilot, my red flags started flailing. And then Navy told Steven to press the big button and… well, I think my exact words were, “Oh no.”
Elle: I only started to catch on to the real deal when she asked Steven to push the button, but once the red light came down on Navy and everyone else got blown out the hatch there was no doubt left. What’s great about Navy is that her demeanor doesn’t change at this point --- she wasn’t necessarily faking how sweet she is, she was just faking the part where she liked these people and wanted to live on Earth.
Katie: One criticism I’ve seen about the show is it tends to skew towards butch female antagonists/villains. So to have Navy, who speaks very sweetly and presents very femme, be gleefully sadistic and arguably the most manipulative character we’ve seen on the show so far was a nice change of pace.
It also allowed Lapis to have a good moment of catharsis knowing she was right and that “no one is that well adjusted!”
Elle: For all that this show is usually in favor of positivity and open-heartedness, I also found it really validating that in this episode Steven is wrong and Lapis is right. Being welcoming to everyone is great in general, but there are always going to be some people who will take advantage of that, and a lot of those people will seem just as sweet as Navy does.
Katie: It ends with them making it to shore and meeting up with Garnet, who has brought two balloon options for in case Steven’s hunch was right or not. The fact that the pinkish-red balloon (Ruby’s color) was the celebratory message and the blue balloon (Sapphire’s color) was the sympathies message makes me think Garnet might have been split in how she thought it would turn out. But she makes a good point --- it was still worth a shot.
Elle: I have to concede that it was worth a shot. And as far as the show’s ongoing narrative goes, giving the Crystal Gems a spaceship probably made things a little too convenient. Not having it feels like a return to the status quo. And speaking of returns, it looks like next week is a Lion episode! So that’s something to be excited about.