‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 3: ‘Same Old World
In this week’s episode, the Crystal Gems head home to Beach City, Steven takes an unplanned side trip, and Lapis Lazuli makes a big decision. “Same Old World” was written by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, and directed by Joe Johnston and Jasmin Lai.
Katie: We start off this week’s episode smack dab in the middle of Peridot being absolutely delightful. She’s regaling the Crystal Gems with her story of how she and Steven totally saved the day in the last episode. She gets so into the story and so animated that it’s only towards the end that she remembers that it was more or less Steven who actually ended up saving the day. The very fact that she acknowledges willingly that Steven and his feelings were what did it is evidence of the amazing character growth for her (and I love how the Crystal Gems are listening intently, too!).
Elle: Peridot’s so great that I was pretty sad when she declares she’s not coming back to the Temple with the others.
But I’m jumping ahead a bit, because we haven’t discussed how preoccupied Steven is with worrying about Lapis. The scene of him peeking in on her from the barn door is very sweet. I love that Steven still has this friendship with Lapis that’s totally separate from the Crystal Gems, and that Garnet totally respects that. Given everything that’s happened to her, it makes perfect sense that it’s second nature for Lapis to always say, “I can’t stay here, I have to go,” even if there are no destinations left.
Katie: It only just now occurred to me in this episode that the barn is a decent distance away from the temple. I can’t remember when we first saw it but for some reason I thought it was closer. As you said, for Peridot to stay in the barn does mean less interaction at Steven’s home, but at the same time it’s still pretty close, right?
In any case, Garnet makes a good point in her talk with Steven (a point that she was most likely to pick up on) --- Lapis was fused with Jasper in an unhealthy fusion for far too long, and that had to come with an emotional as well as physical toll. I wouldn’t be surprised if that toll comes back in a big way for Lapis... which we’re bound to see since we realize along with Steven that Lapis didn’t leave earth when she said goodbye.
Before we talk about Lapis and Steven’s talk, did you think Lion going missing was a clue to the next episode? We see him sleeping by the barn when Steven goes to check on Lapis, so I’m putting on my detective hat and deducing that next week’s will involve Lion (and by extension, Rose).
Elle: Oh yeah, I definitely think Lion’s disappearance is significant. It says a lot about Greg as a dad that he’s okay with Steven riding Lion home, without even double checking that Lion’s nearby. I’m also not sure quite how far the barn is from Beach City and the Temple, but when Connie came up for Steven’s birthday it seemed like a significant trip.
Anyway, I’ve always been intrigued by Lapis (I’m sure I’m not the only one), so I was disappointed when she flew away, and then excited when she not only wasn’t really gone, but the whole episode ended up revolving around her. Also, I think this was the first time on this show that we’ve seen much of the world that wasn’t remote gem-infested islands and desolate old battlefields.
Katie: Around the time we got to Empire City (“What happens in Empire City never sleeps,” Elle!), I started thinking of this episode as the world-building episode. There’s been hints and online speculation that human history in Steven Universe is ever so slightly different from our own thanks to the Gem World’s attempted invasion and the Crystal Gem’s presence in it. So we get more confirmation of that as Steven shows Lapis around, particularly once we get to Empire City, but also with the untouched forest. And of course the various water-themed towns Steven name drops, which got a good laugh out of me.
Elle: I guess it’s because I grew up watching The Simpsons, but I’m endlessly amused by lists of fake cities, like Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook. And I agree about the world-building.
Obviously Beach City and its surroundings are very much made-up (despite being based on where Rebecca and Steven Sugar grew up), but prior to this episode, I couldn’t have told you if Steven Universe took place in the sort of world with a New York City, or the sort of world with a thinly-veiled analogue of New York City. Now we know it’s the latter. I just love the speech Steven gives about how Lapis can work in a coffee shop and live with a wacky roommate, and her deadpan, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” in reply.
Katie: My absolute favorite thing about that exchange with him imagining her living as a single girl in the big city is that it’s the exact plot of Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23. Which I hope Steven isn’t watching yet because that is not an age appropriate show for him!
So then we get to what might have been my biggest laugh of the night, which is that New Jersey exists in the Steven Universe universe and it’s just called “JERSEY.” Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in the midwest all my life, but New Jersey jokes do make me laugh and this little scene felt good-natured enough that I doubt it would make anyone from there feel sore about it.
Elle: It’s so great when Lapis responds to the guy yelling at them by making a fart noise with her mouth, and then she and Steven both laugh. That’s not the sort of thing we usually get to see from Lapis, and it’s a weirdly charming side of her.
And of course that leads to the scene of them ascending up into the clouds and having fun swooping around as they fly out over the ocean. I have a fear of falling that sometimes makes me uneasy even when watching cartoons, but with Steven it helps to remind myself that he has a protective bubble that appears whenever he needs it, and would probably be fine if Lapis dropped him.
Which of course she almost does when she sees the Galaxy Warp. I think that the moment when her eyes glaze over and her grip on Steven loosens was one of the most direct portrayal of someone’s PTSD being triggered that I’ve ever seen in a cartoon.
Katie: The over-the-clouds scene with just the two of them reminded me of something you’d see in a Miyazaki movie, and the melody playing during the scene drives that home for me. It’s very sweet and happy, which made Lapis’ glaze-over once she saw the Galaxy Warp that much more unnerving.
There was something great about the fact that Lapis doesn’t actually drop Steven, that she catches herself letting him slip and readjusts her hands before he actually slips out of her reach. For some reason I’ve rarely seen that situation in movies or TV happen that way (usually the person actually gets dropped), and the way it plays out in the episode made me less anxious in the moment. It’s a very small thing, a very small choice by the animators, but really it’s those little details that make Steven Universe stand out.
Elle: I agree! So this leads into the flashback about how Lapis got trapped in that mirror. Although am I wrong, or does it feel like there’s more to learn? She says she was only supposed to be on Earth for a short visit, but she doesn’t say what she was doing there. Past episodes have given us the impression that Homeworld Gems all have very specific roles and jobs, but Lapis acts like she was just hanging out, and happened to innocently get caught up in the Crystal Gems’ rebellion. I doubt she’s lying out of any malicious intent, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s something she’s leaving out.
Katie: I have to believe she came with someone, right? Visit implies coming for a reason, either to visit someone or to visit to do something. And as you said, the rulers of Homeworld don’t just send gems on vacation. And Lapis also has a very particular, very powerful powerset. She can control water and was sent to a planet made primarily of water --- I doubt that’s a coincidence.
Thinking back to her first appearance, though, it’s interesting that we get more context for why she blames the Crystal Gems not only for her imprisonment (she was mistaken for one of them) but also for her staying in the mirror for so long. And yet it also feels like Lapis doesn’t feel quite as much animosity towards them as she had before. I’m not sure if it’s from simply finding perspective on their part in her being trapped or if her friendship with Steven had more to do with it.
Elle: They’re also the ones who freed her from Malachite and brought her back with them, which ought to count for something.
But there’s one Gem that Lapis still has plenty of animosity toward, and that’s Peridot. We’ve seen Peridot’s redemption over the course of the Cluster storyline, but Lapis was in the ocean restraining Jasper that whole time, and missed it. In fact, I’m pretty sure she had no idea Peridot was even on Earth until the end of this episode. It’s a comical moment, with Steven doing his broad, sitcommy shrug, but it’s also really sad, that Lapis finally decided she was ready to stay, only to discover that someone she really hates (and for valid reasons) is already making herself at home.
Katie: Steven’s point about choice was up there as far as episode moments. Steven Universe (the character and the show) knows how to frame a point so you feel better about the world, and helping Lapis understand that staying on Earth as a choice rather than staying on Earth because she was trapped are two very different things.
To your other point, I was so impressed that the show managed to make you forget that Peridot and Lapis haven’t interacted since all the way back before Lapis fused with Jasper. By the time we see Peridot heartily welcoming Lapis (and again, so many good Peri moments despite this episode having a not-about-Peri plot), it almost a surprise when Lapis is shocked and mad that everyone’s favorite green triangle is still on Earth.
Even after noting during last week’s Together Breakfast that Lapis wouldn’t be happy Peridot was around, by the time we were deep into this episode I had forgotten about my prediction. My main thought with the ending is that after slowly gaining the trust of those around her, Peridot will have to do that all over again.
Elle: For sure. After everything that happened in this episode, I’m pretty sure Lapis won’t just fly away again now that she knows about Peridot, but I won’t be surprised if that’s her first instinct. Fortunately Steven’s here, and for a little boy, he’s become a pretty spectacular diplomat. Helping people get along and be happy is pretty much his favorite thing to do, so surely he’ll rise to the challenge. And then of course there’s the question of where Lion is.
Katie: Yes, I want to know where Lion is, dang it. But at the very least if we’re getting a new Lion/more-Rose-feelings episode, I have time to prepare for tearing up and feeling emotions.
Can I just say how relieved I am that this was a bittersweet but largely pleasant episode? After the intensity of “Gem Drill,” I was worried we’d be getting another tense episode this week and what we did get felt like a treat. It did occur to me that it’s now been quite a few episodes since we’ve had a new song outside of instrumentals --- could next week bring us a new one?
Elle: Now that you’ve said it, it’s exactly what I want! More music, more feelings, and hopefully some gems learning to get along. And then more of us talking about it, next week!
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