‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episode 4: ‘Barn Mates’
In this week’s episode, Peridot puts her best foot forward, Lapis Lazuli is unreceptive, and something pretty scary arrives. “Barn Mates” was written by Hillary Florido and Lauren Zuke, and directed by Joe Johnston and Jasmin Lai.
Elle: To start with, Peridot is just so darn cute in this episode! The opening where she’s describing into her tape recorder how she’s going to get Lapis to like her and want to live with her, and then you realize that she’s saying all this with Lapis and Steven right there, is as funny as it is endearing. It’s clearer than ever how far she’s come, but also how far she still has to go, in terms of understanding how non-coercive relationships work.
Katie: Last week we had mentioned wanting lots of Peridotty goodness and by jove, we got it! I was delighted by all the different faces she made throughout this episode --- such good work from the animation team because she’s so sweet and expressive. And that opening recording with Peridot confident Lapis would be impressed by her “new compact look and capacity for friendship” was so good.
She does still have a long way to go, and this episode was a challenge for her because all her other friendships among the Gems were forged while she was the most unwilling participant. It’s much harder when you’re the one wanting to give of yourself and it’s someone else who has to open themselves up.
Elle: And the other thing is, Lapis is not being very nice in this episode, but she’s not wrong. Peridot has won us over, even as she’s won over Steven. But Lapis knows her as the gem that held her prisoner, interrogated her, and dragged her back to a place she didn’t want to go. It makes perfect sense that she’d want nothing to do with Peridot, which only makes Peridot’s failed attempts to befriend her that much more heartbreaking.
But of course Steven, as always, is good for lightening the mood. I loved his line about, “I saw this on an episode of a TV show. I didn’t see how it ended, but I’m sure it worked out great,” as he draws a line down the middle of the room.
Katie: And I love how, right after that, Peridot requests trading Lapis something for the paint cans, a nice callback from her time using them as stilts. But that leads into the three shenanigans Steven and Peridot concoct to win Lapis over, starting with the go-to kid gift --- the handmade card. And thanks to the card, we get to see Steven’s amazing artistic skills that lean ever so slightly into a manga style, which is pretty much perfect for Steven.
Elle: I’m pretty sure I’ve already seen crude manga-inflected drawings of Lapis and Peridot holding hands on Tumblr, probably posted by people not much older than Steven, so it makes a lot of sense. Also Peridot’s attempt at offering a sincere compliment shows how new she is to the whole “being nice to people" thing. But the size of her grin as Lapis reads it makes clear how hard she’s trying.
Katie: I’m telling you, tonight had the best Peri faces! I kept wanting to pause the episode to look at them, especially the smiles. And of course she decides it was Steven’s art and its lack of nose that displeased Lapis.
I’ll give it to the two of them, though --- their second idea of making a pool for Lapis wasn’t the worst idea ever, since they don’t know if she needs water to survive. Of course it fails miserably as Lapis reminds them that she was imprisoned underwater for months and thinks of it as a tomb now, but the attempt was admirable.
It makes me so happy that Peridot announces it as “H2Oh my gosh --- it’s a smaller than average lake!” 1. That she’s clearly learning turns of phrase from Amethyst (which we see later) and 2. Just the fact that she declares it “smaller than average” with such celebration.
Elle: Oh yeah, that was great, especially with her sitting in that inner tube with a smug look on her face, so proud of the little lake she’s made.
And of course when that doesn’t work, it leads to the third gift, Peridot’s precious tape recorder. Giving Lapis her most prized possession seemed so right that I genuinely thought it was going to work for a minute. But it was never going to have the same appeal for Lapis, who doesn’t have the same habit of compulsively chattering that’s so central to Peridot’s character.
Katie: Can we also acknowledge that we now know there are at least five seasons of Camp Pining Hearts, and that Peridot apparently only has one of the crummier seasons on tape? Peridot, I know your pain, my friend. During this third plan is another example of Amethyst’s influence on Peridot when she tells Lapis “I got yo numba!” I mean... it’s so ridiculous that this is coming out of this character’s mouth, and yet we’re at the point that it’s actually believable because of how much she’s changed.
Like you, this was the one moment when I thought Lapis would be moved by the tries at friendship. At the very least, Peridot did her very best to explain why she was doing what she was doing, and she was certainly trying to be as empathic to Lapis as she could. The “I don’t want your garbage” and crushing of the recorder cut through me hard. Yes, it makes sense for Lapis to still reject Peridot, but it was the first time the whole episode I thought she was actually out of line and willfully misinterpreting Peridot’s kindness, which is why I’m glad Steven called her out on it, too.
Elle: Totally. But in a way, the most meaningful thing Peridot did for Lapis was when Lapis said all she wanted Peridot to do was leave, and Peridot left without further argument. I think that, plus Steven calling her out, was making Lapis doubt how harsh she’d been --- but then of course Peridot comes running back screaming, pursued by a newly arrived Roving Eye ship from Homeworld.
Katie: So let’s talk about that ship. The episode sets us up to think Peridot is going to be targeted (“I'm kind of a big deal --- a big anti-Homeworld deal!") and the ship’s spotlight is on her. But the ship’s spotlight is also consistently on Lapis, and considering our talk last week about our sneaking suspicion Lapis isn’t telling Steven the whole truth, my bet is the ship is really after her! And to be honest, her using her incredible powers to take down the ship only helps solidify my hypothesis.
Elle: I’m not so sure that the ship’s not after Peridot, but I agree that it’s ever more clear that Lapis Lazuli has some secrets. I imagine we’ll get confirmation of the ship’s mission next week from its pilot.
But before we get to how creepy that reveal of the pilot was, We have to acknowledge the final payoff to the thread of Peridot learning expressions from Amethyst, which is Peridot saying “Holy Smokes!” when the ship gets knocked out of the sky, and then Amethyst immediately running up and saying “Holy Smokes!”
Katie: That was such a great payoff. And this little scene post-ship crashing is also the final Peridot smile of the episode, with her finally starting to earn Lapis’ friendship (even in a little way) and her response being a smile of pure “sempai noticed me” joy. Which is pretty much what you want out of a Peridot-focused episode, right?
Elle: It is! That was the cutest smile of the episode, and Lapis blushing in response to that must have surely launched a thousand ships across the internet. Not that there weren’t fans shipping these two before, but I’m betting it’s already exploded since this episode aired.
But let’s talk about that Ruby. She creeped me out in a big way. We learned back in “The Answer” that Rubies are warrior gems who all seem to be identical except for the placement of their ruby. But a ruby instead of an eye is such an unsettling visual. And the prospect of the arrival of another Ruby who’s not the Ruby that we know and love, and even more importantly is not the Ruby that Sapphire knows and loves, is equally unsettling.
Katie: Details of this grouping of episodes must have gotten out because in the last week I swear I’ve seen two or three pieces of fanart of that Ruby with the ruby for an eye, so I wasn’t so surprised by the eye itself as I was surprised when the red hand grabbed the door of the ship and I realized that character was going to be part of the show.
But yes, when it hits you that it’s not an eyepatch and is in fact a gem where the eye should be, it’s very unnerving. It’s equally unnerving not being sure where this is leading. Because I seriously do not know where the show is going to go in the next episode, and that’s equal parts exciting and worrisome for the next few days!
Elle: I know! Just the suspense of not knowing what this Ruby is going to say or do is almost unbearable! I can’t wait till next week! I mean, clearly I can, because I have to. But it’s going to be rougher than usual.
Katie: The only thing we anticipated from last week that didn’t come true was a new song. Could the Steven Universe crew surprise us with a new one next week? I hope so!
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