The Final Summer of Steven Masterpost - Steven Universe Recap S03E22-25 + 4x01-02

And here we are: the very last week of Summer of Steven. This time, we’ll have the explosive final four episodes of season 3, and begin season 4, with nothing being the same anymore.

S03E22 – Beta

Steven takes Amethyst, who is still anxious about her near-death encounter with Jasper (minus the Bismuth episode) to Peridot and Lapis's countryside home (i.e., the barn). It turns out that the two managed to work things out with each other and create what could tentatively be called a friendship, or at least, on Lapis's part, a tolerance with shades of affection. The two spend their time watching “Camp Pining Hearts” (the Canadian romance TV series Steven introduced Peridot to a while back) and creating what Lapis calls “meepmorps”—what the rest of us know as “modern art.” 

It's actually surprising and fun to see Peridot in the role of an “artiste,” explaining the meaning of her newest creations to Steven and Amethyst. It's equally fun to see Lapis take a more aloof and literal approach. The two also are nicely supportive of each other: when Peridot messes up using her magnetic powers to be a one-Gem band, Lapis offers her help, taking one of the instruments and playing it with her. And when Amethyst inevitably blows up that they're wasting time and should be readying for Jasper, Peridot informs her not to use the J-word in front of Lapis, and takes their guests outside to find out what's bugging Amethystand to allow Lapis some time to cool down. It's encourageing to see the show touch upon the idea of triggers, no matter how briefly.

Anyway, Peridot laughs off her concerns about Jasper, revealing that their antagonist was, like Amethyst, made on Earth herself though in a different kindergarten called “Beta Kindergarten” (hence the title). Beta was established in the middle of Rose’s rebellion to create a lot of Gem troops as quickly as possible, and much less organized than Amethyst's Prime Kindergarten on account of being a rush job. The trio (leaving Lapis to calm down in front of “Camp Pining Hearts”) warp to the facility in question, and at first it seems that Peridot was right: the Kindergarten was indeed poorly designed, with every hole the Gems would come out of badly misshapen. Every hole, that is, except Jasper's, which Peridot is forced to admitafter thorough inspectionto be absolutely perfect. Somehow this does help Amethyst's confidence, who vows to not stop until she defeats Jasper.

A chance to fulfill her promise presents itself no sooner than she utters it, as the trio find out that Beta is where Jasper has been keeping her captive Gem monsters. And Homeworld's top-ranking bruiser is still there.

S03E23 – Earthlings

The second episode of the three-parter begins where we left off, with Jasper unaware of the Shorty Squad’s presence in her hideout, and the trio keeping out of sight. That is, until Amethyst tries sneaking up on Jasper, who ends up noticing her despite seeming busy monologue-ing to a corrupted Gem about how Earth destroys everything on its surface, except for her (the whole speech suggests that she doesn’t know the Diamonds are responsible for the corruption). Amethyst attacks her, but is barely able to land a scratch on her. In the end, Steven finally gets through to her: she won’t beat Jasper not because she’s imperfect, but because she’s doing it the wrong way; Jasper’s way, that doesn't work for her. Amethyst is perfect the way she is. This, and the shared understanding they gained back in “Amethyst vs. Steven,” allows her to reach out to Steven and…

…form the first Steven/Crystal Gem fusion! Give it up for Smoky Quartz, playfully and punnily voiced by Natasha Lyonne, the show’s second guest star from Orange Is the New Black in the span of a single week.

After a short fight the yo-yo wielding fusion defeats Jasper and frees all the Gem monsters she held captive except one Jasper immediately fuses with. This fusion gets quickly defeated as well, and the monster runs off, unwilling to fuse with Jasper again, with her looking sadly and still unable to understand that you don’t force someone to fuse with you.

Unfortunately, fusion with a Gem monster spreads the corruption to Jasper, and her stubborn adherence to the toxic value system in which she was brought up (where Gems are supposed to do what the Diamonds intend them for) makes her reject Steven’s offer of healing, no matter how much she needs itand hates herself for wanting it .The trio tries talking Jasper down, but she stands her ground even as she slowly turns monstrous and reveals why she hates Rose Quartz, whom she continues to mistake Steven with: Rose did something to her Diamond. Not Yellow Diamond; Pink Diamond, the subject of many long-running fan theories. We still don’t know what happened (only that something did), but this marks a major step that means the Crewniverse is ready to start spilling some answers.

In the end, Jasper becomes corrupted, and is poofed by a piece of rebar Peridot used her magnetic powers on. This is, obviously, not the end of Jasper but it means Steven has finally someone he can practice his corruption-healing skills on. The trio warps back to barn, exhausted, satisfied and in Peridot’s case excitedonly to find Lapis, Garnet, and Pearl with the Ruby squad trapped in Lapis’s water orbs.

S03E24 – Back to the Moon

The Rubies finally realized they’ve been tricked and came back, demanding to be told where Jasper is. Since she’s just been poofed, Amethyst decides to shapeshift into her. And since the Rubies are unimaginably dumb, they fall for it and start gushing over her, especially Eyeball (Steven nicknamed them after the placement of their gems), who is revealed to be a veteran of the war on Earth. "Jasper" claims she has to stay and guard the Crystal Gems but that leads to Rubies needing her to submit a proper report in the Homeworld base on the Moon. They take her and her "prisoners" (minus Lapis and Peridot) and blast off.

Along the way we get more delightful antics as Amethyst, increasingly tired from holding this form, does all she can to trick the Ruby Squad. Finally, as they reach the Moon, we finally get more information on how the Crystal Gem Rebellion began: as it turns out, Earth was the colony of Pink Diamond, now dead and treated as an un-person by the other Diamonds. And, according to Eyeball, Rose Quartz shattered Pink Diamond’s gem.

Steven can'tand in fact, doesn’twant to believe it, but Pearl’s shaken reaction to the revealed truth is proof enough. The fallout has to wait as the Rubies discover the communication panel Garnet smashed way back in "It Could’ve Been Great." Amethyst manages to convince them to return to the main ship and make that report in her place, as a favor to their hero. Everything almost ends well until the Rubies accidentally find out about the whole charade. It almost seems like a fight will break out, until Steven opens the base’s blast door, and with Sardonyx’s help sends them all out into space.

Along with Steven himself.

S03E25 – Bubbled

Thankfully, this isn’t The Walking Dead, and there’s practically no doubt Steven would survive his deep space adventure. This allowed the series’ background artists to show off their skills by creating stunning space backgrounds. Meanwhile, Steven (who instinctively surrounded himself with his bubble) has a chance to interact with Eyeball (who was caught by the bubble’s gravity). Eyeball reveals herself as a witness to the shattering of Pink Diamond, pretty much completely confirming her story, even if we still don’t know the full of it.

After they pass through an asteroid field, Eyeball’s gem ends up with a crack. She unhappily allows Steven to heal her, which confirms his previous claims of being a transformed version of Rose Quartz—and leads to Eyeball turning on him, trying to kill him for the glory of being the one who ended the infamous Rose Quartz.

Faced with a murderous Ruby, Steven has no choice but to release his bubble and send Eyeball into space. This event, the resulting loneliness and the truth of his mom’s act forces him into a fetal position, with a shrunken bubble around him. That’s how the Crystal Gems find him in the Ruby ship. And, after a minute of everyone crying their eyes out with relief, Garnet confirms Eyeball’s story. This leaves Steven in an introspective mood, wondering if he’ll be forced to do the same thing one day.

And thus we end the show’s third season (which felt like the second part of the first season) and start a new one.

S04E01 – The Kindergarten Kid

After all this plot-related drama we begin our new season in a lighter manner, with some Wile E. Coyote-style antics starring Peridot. The team is cleaning up after Jasper in the Beta Kindergarten by corralling the remaining Gem monsters, poofing them and bubbling their gems. The final one proves too quick for Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, which in turn elicits a mocking reaction from Peridot. She announces she’ll prove her cleverness by capturing it, and Steven volunteers to help.

Since I mentioned Wile E. Coyote at the start, you can probably guess how well that went. What I didn’t mention is that those antics aim to further Peridot’s redemption and increase her empathy. So far, she managed to take a first step by becoming friends with Steven and a member of the Crystal Gems. But she still often struggles with empathy and it’s hard to find a better example of this than the corrupted Gems, which have oftentimes served as the show’s allegory for mental illness.

It’s also worth noting that a concern raised by Amethyst is how different bubbling corrupted Gems is, from Jasper imprisoning them. This is parallel to treatment of mentally ill people in real life. Bubbling is akin to giving them a temporary place to stay, until they can be helped, as opposed to keeping them in a prison and treating them as potential threats.

S04E02 – Know Your Fusion

For our final episode of the week, we get the long awaited return of Sardonyx and her voice actress, Alexia Khadime!

Steven and Amethyst finally tell Pearl and Garnet how they defeated Jasper and introduce them to our new Fusion, Smoky. It's adorable and hilarious to see Garnet overcome with Joy to an even greater extent than when Stevonnie made their debut. However, Smoky is so excited to show theirselves off to them that the house can't take it, forcing the other two Gems to form Sardonyx and take them into Sardonyx's room in the temple. Apparently the structure creates new rooms every time a new fusion is formed, which exist as long as the fusion does. This makes sense: Garnet herself is a fusion and she has her own room, why shouldn't the other ones?

Sardonyx's room takes the form of a late night show stage, with an (easily amused) audience she herself created. Unfortunately, this means the big introduction Steven and Amethyst were planning gets hijacked by Sardonyx, who in her excitement downplays their yo-yo skills and starts looking for comparisons with other, past fusions (who only get a video or a voice clip, in order to keep to the budget that's already probably overspent by having Khadime and Lyonne for most of the episode). The problem is, Smoky is not Opal, Sugilite, or Alexandrite, and continued comparisons to these fusions takes an increasing toll on their self-confidence. It adds up to the confidence issues Steven and Amethyst already had, as their fusion came from their feeling of impotence compared to Pearl and Garnet. It's heartrending as their self-deprecating jokes turn more into outright self-aimed insults. The effect is compounded by the audience's continued laughter, to the point that even Sardonyx doesn't think it's funny anymore.

Sardonyx realizes that she ruined Smoky's big surprise by making it all about herself; this leads to her defusing and the immediate unraveling of her room. This crisis allows Smoky a moment to shine, as their yo-yo skills get everyone out of the pocket dimension just before the door disappears. In the aftermath, Pearl and Garnet take a step back to let Steven and Amethyst explain their new fusionthey way they wanted to do it.

And that’s it for Summer of Steven! With the month-long binge behind us, we can finally return to a regular, weekly episode releaseat least for a few weeks until September 1. We’ll start next week with “Buddy’s Book.”

Dominik Zine is a nerdy lad from northeastern Poland and is generally found in a comfy chair with a book in hand.