Can we say that last night’s Steven Universe was a home run? Or is that pun too cute?
After plenty of intense action and some excellent character development of Lapis and Peridot over the previous four episodes of “In Too Deep,” it felt right for the show to get back to an episode that exudes happiness, without thinking too hard or advancing plot. Today, you won’t get any analyses of Lapis’ existentialist struggle for purpose, nor will you get a psychological diagnosis of Peridot’s attention-seeking behavior. “Hit the Diamond” was, like most episodes of Steven Universe, all about enjoying life on Earth even under the most dire of circumstances… but the enjoyment here far outweighed the sense of peril, or anything else. The Rubies never seemed like a real threat; Peridot’s hysteria was adorable; the baseball game itself, played under pretty high stakes (the Gems legitimately thought they were playing for Peridot’s freedom), brought on far more laughs than tense moments.
Let’s go through some of the highlights and pretend I’m a sportswriter.
Our past encounters with these two have come either in times of great trouble, when they were not happy at all to be separated, or in a pre-Garnet world where they weren’t yet locked in their millennia-long romance. (Y’know, come to think of it, that’s a pretty huge miracle in its own right. Imagine being married for almost 6,000 years and not physically tearing your spouse limb from limb in that time.) But last night, we got to see them voluntarily separate for the good of the group—and then proceed to nearly screw everything up.
Seriously, it’s amazing how competent Garnet is compared to her two component parts, and, consequently, how much they need each other. Ruby seems incapable of anything resembling composure without Sapphire by her side—almost instantly, she went from a confident grin and a “casual,” Steph Curry-like swagger to sweating bullets when it came time to actually blend in with the other Rubies. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised, since Ruby’s been established as the emotional, heart-on-her-sleeve half of the relationship. But Sapphire, normally so put-together, couldn’t manage to keep her eye on the ball. Yes, it was positively heart-melting to watch her and Ruby flirt. But if there’s a deeper message in “Hit the Diamond,” it’s some cautionary tale about losing your identity completely in a romantic relationship, to the point where you can’t function outside of the relationship’s context. Even winning the baseball game required Ruby to put hitting the ball in terms of their love for each other.
Is the near-total loss of independence worth it to Ruby and Sapphire? Completely. They’re fulfillment is each other, and their separation for the purpose of “Hit the Diamond” was obviously a temporary measure. Still, though, it would be hard to watch these two try to make do on their own for a longer period of time. Let’s hope the Crewniverse never puts us through that.
There were lots of things to love about “Hit the Diamond,” but it’s always a special treat to meet other Gems—and we got to meet FIVE of them! Besides being adorable, the Homeworld Rubies actually proved an important point: not all Homeworld Gems are mere carbon copies of each other. Each Ruby had a distinctive personality, which goes to show that even on a repressive, emotionless planet, individual differences can’t be totally masked. We have to wonder how they’d do on Earth, where they’d be able to ditch their ostensible roles as dumb lackeys and grow into their characters. Luckily, I’ve done some of the wondering on behalf of everyone, so here’s a ranking of how well each of the Rubies would fit in with the Crystal Gems. (Not included: Garnet Ruby.)
5. Left Shoulder Ruby
She’s a total stickler for orders, hierarchy, and seriousness. Her patience vanished long ago into the interstellar cosmos. Flowers are things to be drop-kicked into oblivion. Under the Crystal Gems, it’s hard to say whether she’d self-combust out of fury and frustration before or after she went berserk over some irregularity at the beach house and destroyed the whole Temple.
4. Clueless Ruby
There’s a limit to how much the Crystal Gems can do for someone, and Clueless Ruby is a goddamn space cadet (well, she literally is a space cadet, but in the metaphorical sense, too). To be fair, she’s a new recruit to this Ruby team, but she’s not a rookie of the year candidate; if anything, she’s getting sent back down to the minors after this is all over. If Clueless Ruby were a Crystal Gem, neither Pearl nor Peridot would be able to deal with her idiocy, and someone would get poofed.
3. Leader Ruby
She shows a lot of initiative (at least, more than her fellow Rubies) and a little charisma—at least, her troops respect her command. And she did manage to figure out that Garnet and the rest of the “Humans” were actually the Crystal Gems. As a lieutenant for a leader with actual intelligence, like Garnet, she could maybe chip in some good ideas on occasion. The Crystal Gems would just have to make sure she’s not in charge of counting things.
2. Belly Button Ruby
Belly Button Ruby seems to legitimately enjoy Earth—or perhaps she just legitimately enjoys everything, seeing as Neptune, a brutally cold, brutally remote gas giant far, far away from any star, sounds lovely to her. But she’s got the right attitude to join the Crystal Gems. In some ways, she’s farther along than Lapis, who still views the earth with apathy at best, and downright derision at worst. With some freedom and some education, Belly Button Ruby could make a good team member and find a good life on our planet.
1. One Eye Ruby
If only to see the scope of her growls, she’d belong here. The Crystal Gems could use an intimidator, too, particularly for situations in which they don’t want to handle things themselves. One look from One Eye Ruby is all it would take to make a corrupted Gem shard poop its pants and consent to be bubbled.
Peridot was her usual adorkable green Dorito (a little more frightened animal-istic than normal, but that was for the better last night), and watching her stand up for her friends was another little step forward in her development. Steven and Pearl and Amethyst were their usual awesome selves; it was nice to see their personalities reflected not only in their style of play, but also in their uniforms. Pearl could’ve pitched for the team from A League of Their Own.
But Lapis—er, “Bob” (nice callback to “Ocean Gem,” guys)— was the stud of the diamond. The only proper way to appreciate her baseball prowess is through the art of the GIF.
You gotta love the effort she puts into this catch.
And this one.
And this one. (But actually, this is Web Gem material, and Lapis knows it. Look at that genuine smile.)
Her effort on the basepaths is legendary.
And she tops it off with the celly of the century.
But no Lapis moment better defines her, or the game of baseball, than her titanic bat flip.
That’s the type of thing that would start a benches-clearing brawl in the MLB. In fact, it did in last year’s AL playoffs when Toronto’s Jose Bautista performed what was, until last night, the most epic bat flip anyone had ever seen.
But it’s easy to flip your bat after a monster home run. It takes far more swagger to flip your bat after a bunt that landed right back on home plate, then strut to first with the knowledge that your opponents will commit several simultaneous errors and allow you to reach first base safely.
With “Hit the Diamond,” we’ve officially reached the end of “In Too Deep,” the four-week special that Cartoon Network hyped up hard. Overall, the five episodes were pretty satisfying; the Cluster’s diffused, Lapis is free, Peridot continues to justify all the screen time being devoted to her. But there are a number of unanswered questions we’ll have to wait on for now:
1. When is the Summer of Steven even going to air?
As all fans of Steven Universe know, its air schedule is extremely unpredictable. It’s not even consistent from country to country, as the episode “Steven Floats” has already aired in France. So even though Cartoon Network has promised a “Summer of Steven,” we have no idea yet when they’ll give it to us, let alone the format it’ll take (week-long bombs, weekly episodes, some ridiculous Fourth of July marathon). Whenever it does air, though, we’ll be right here to talk about the episodes.
2. Where the hell is Jasper?
Last we saw her, Jasper was falling into a massive crack in the earth’s crust, unconscious following her defeat at the hands of Alexandrite. There’s no way she’s going to stay there to be squeezed to death by massive geological forces. Jasper needs to meet her demise at the hands of the Crystal Gems, for all of us to see, in some sort of epic battle. The only question is when that’s going to happen. Will the Crystal Gems go on ranging parties for her, the way they did for Peridot? Or is Jasper going to find them?
3. What’s going to get Lapis to open up?
We all know this is an inevitability. Peridot has proven that no one with even the smallest inkling of a heart can spend time around Steven and not be changed for the better. Lapis is already showing signs of emotional recovery; watching the whole process unfold promises to make for some very compelling, very mature story. Tears will be spilt.
4. What happens when the Rubies realize they’ve been tricked?
Probably nothing, honestly. They’re dumb enough that they might assume Jasper is hiding from them on Neptune. But Yellow Diamond can’t be done with the earth yet, not now that she’s been insulted (even if the insult came from a lowly Peridot) and is missing her Jasper.
5. What’s Lion doing?
Seriously, we haven’t seen him in three episodes. This could be nothing. It also could be a plot point for the Summer of Steven.