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Recap / Steven Universe S1E16 "Steven the Sword Fighter"

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The episode begins with Steven and the Gems watching a Japanese movie called "Lonely Blade IV", which Pearl criticizes, claiming that it is nothing like real sword-fighting. She then offers to show a demonstration of proper sword-fighting techniques to Steven, which he excitedly accepts.

Pearl then takes the Gems to a cloud temple where Amethyst is sitting on a cloud floating in the air. Pearl says she is in need of a sparring partner and Steven raises his hand, but Garnet quickly shoves it down. Pearl then says that she already has the perfect partner and projects a hologram of herself who is trained to sword-fight. They then have a battle, Steven and Garnet cheering on Pearl, Amethyst on the other hand cheering for Holo-Pearl. Pearl finally wins, and Steven asks Pearl to teach him the art of sword-fighting. She then shows him the basics, leaving him bored, so he requests for Pearl to do the "Boomerang Blade" from the movie. Pearl then begins to lecture him on how you have to "wait for the perfect time" in sword-fighting and gets distracted from her fight. Holo-Pearl then stabs Pearl in the back with her sword, impaling her. All the Gems go in shock as Pearl disappears, leaving only her gem behind. Steven begins to cry and blames himself for what happened to Pearl.

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Garnet then explains that this has happened in the past, and Pearl will reappear as soon as she is gathered enough energy to heal from her wound. Steven then asks how long it will be, two weeks pass and Pearl still has not regenerated. Steven gets depressed and tries to fill Pearl's void by hanging out with Pearl's holographic clone, but the clone is only interested in combat practice. The other Gems tells Steven to stop hanging around with Holo-Pearl, as it is getting creepy. Meanwhile, Amethyst eats a part of a cloud, inflates like a balloon and goes flying into the sky when Garnet accidentally lets go of her leg.

Steven tries to get a reaction by taking her to Pearl's favorite tree, but when he tells her "not hold back" she takes this as acceptance of her challenge for battle and chops down the tree. Steven, annoyed by how much Holo-Pearl wants to fight him, runs away and back to the house.

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Later, Steven is planning to watch "Lonely Blade V", but Holo-Pearl tries to get Steven to fight her again and destroys the TV in the process. Steven finally snaps at Holo-Pearl, yelling at how horrible she is and how all she wants to do is fight him, unlike the real Pearl, pushing the holographic version in the process. This results in Holo-Pearl attacking Steven in basic attack mode, which Steven throws his toys at, one of them hitting her, only to activate her advanced mode. She then attacks Steven, actually trying to kill him, while Steven tries to use items he finds around the house, like a walrus and boomerang. Although neither the boomerang nor walrus worked, eventually he destroys her by throwing a mop like the boomerang blade and impaling her. Finally, Pearl finishes regenerating and sees the mess that Steven has made of the house and the inflated Amethyst, and says she can not leave them alone for a second. Steven ties his shirt on like a headband and begins banging a pot with a spoon, marching around the room repeatedly chanting "Pearl's back!" as the episode ends.


Tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Steven is able to beat holo-Pearl with the "boomerang blade" (using a mop) because it's not a real sword technique, and thus the training program has no defense against it.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Having someone akin to a son watching you as you get brutally murdered in a method as graphic as a kid's show would allow? Pearl's expression all but screams this. Granted she gets better, but Steven didn't know that until Garnet explain this to him.
    • Steven all alone in his room with an Ax-Crazy AI, attempting to murder him at the climax of this episode. Even with all the funny moments one still has to remember that Steven is just a child.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: When Pearl offers to show Steven some proper sword-fighting technique, he places his hand on her forehead so she'll see his starry-eyed reaction.
  • Almighty Janitor: In Lonely Blade IV, the janitor turns out to be the president of the evil secret government.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The Hologram Pearl goes fully berserk while Pearl had been reduced to Gem form, Amethyst is floating off from eating a cloud, and Garnet is chasing after Amethyst, leaving Steven to deal with it himself.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Pearl spars with Holo-Pearl while looking away to instruct Steven on her technique. As she explains combat is about waiting for the perfect moment to strike, Holo-Pearl strikes her while she's most distracted.
  • Banging Pots and Pans: Pearl's return is celebrated by Steven with banging on a pot with a wooden spoon and chanting "Pearl's back!"
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Steven throws a sheet over Holo-Pearl, and its eyes glow, giving it a ghostly appearance.
  • Big "NO!": Uttered by Steven right after Pearl reverts to a gemstone. He does another one when he beats Pearl's hologram in a duel and it asks if he wants to fight again.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Not a drop of blood is seen when a sword pierces Pearl's gut (thanks to their Bizarre Alien Biology). Considering that the stabbing is fairly graphic as is, the episode probably wouldn't have passed the censors if this trope hadn't been used.
  • Boomerang Comeback: A boomerang Steven throws at Holo-Pearl uselessly flies around its head and back into his hand.
  • Break the Cutie: Steven comes within inches of being broken after Pearl's "death", but Garnet and Amethyst managed to clear things up for him.
  • Calling Your Attacks:
    • "BOOMERANG BLADE!"
    • Parry! Parry! Thrust!
  • Chekhov's Skill: Steven combines the boomerang blade technique from the movies he watched with Pearl's advice on "waiting for the perfect moment" to defeat the hologram.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Amethyst and Garnet return to the house only seconds after Holo-Pearl is dispersed.
  • Continuity Nod: The tree that holo-Pearl destroys is the same tree Pearl stood under with Steven describing how she summons her weapon through discipline in "Gem Glow".
  • Crystal-Ball Scheduling: Lonely Blade V has a scene where the hero encounters a zombie incarnate of his brother, only to realize that it's essentially not his brother and fights the zombie. This mirrors what's going to happen next in the episode: After holo-Pearl stabs the TV, Steven finally snaps and comes to realize holo-Pearl is barely even the real Pearl's ghost, and ends up fighting her.
  • Death Is Cheap: Garnet reveals that if a Gem's body takes too much damage, they "poof" and go into hibernation before reforming. And it's not the first time it has happened.
    • It would be revealed in "An Indirect Kiss" that a Gem's life if at stake if their gem itself takes damage.
  • Dinner Deformation: Amethyst eats a cloud. It causes her to swell up like a balloon and float around for the rest of the episode.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: In Steven's kung fu movie, the President of Martial Arts is disguised as a janitor. While this takes Steven completely by surprise, Pearl points out that the janitor was in the background of every fight scene and even appears on the video cover.
  • Exorcist Head: Downplayed in that it happens quickly and Steven doesn't react to it, but when he throws a boomerang to distract holo-Pearl it watches the boomerang with a full 360° head rotation.
  • Flynning:
    • Discussed by Pearl, as she criticizes the sword fighting in the movie.
    • Also justified... the parry, parry, thrust that Pearl teaches is the very BASIS of Flynning… as it's the most basic sword drill out there!
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Pearl's revival, silhouettes of her previous designs (in and out of universe) can be seen.
  • Gameplay Grading: In-universe, Holo-Pearl can give letter grades for technique which go up to at least "S" rank.
  • The Glomp: Steven pretty much rockets himself into Pearl when she finally comes back after two weeks.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • Pearl stabbing Holo-Pearl to finish their first spar is shown from the opposite side, despite the latter just being a hologram that shows no injury at all.
    • Played with — Pearl's midsection is just offscreen as Holo-Pearl stabs her, but the immediate (bloodless) aftermath of the attack is plainly displayed seconds later.
  • Heroic BSoD: Steven doesn't spend much of the episode severely beating himself up for indirectly getting Pearl poofed, but the fact that he starts tearing up when he remembers the incident makes it clear he's very troubled by it.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: The Hologram Pearl sticks around and mistakes Steven for a swordfighting opponent.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Amethyst swells up into a ball after eating some clouds, then calls Pearl's hologram gross.
  • Ignored Aesop: Steven starts to make a speech about how he should just accept that Pearl isn't around, only to be interrupted with Pearl's regeneration.
    Steven: You know, I might miss Pearl a whole lot. But sometimes you just have to accept things the way they are before you-
    [Beat as Pearl regenerates]
    Steven: Nevermind, Pearl's back!
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Pearl gets a sword all the way through the gut when she gets distracted in the middle of sword training. She has to regenerate for a couple weeks and gets a new outfit out of it.
  • Iris Out:
    • Unusually for this series, the usual star iris-out is used and reversed mid-episode for an Idiosyncratic Wipe.
    • The episode ends with an iris closing over Pearl's face as she notes that she can't leave any of them alone for a second, with Steven jump in front to add one last "Pearl's back!"
  • Kung-Fu Sonic Boom: The first time Pearl and Holo-Pearl clash blades, it cause a blast of wind that knocks Steven off his seat and messes up Garnet's hair.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Semi-averted. After Pearl regains the energy to make a new body, she creates a different outfit for herself. From this point forward, it will be what happens every time a gem is seriously injured.
  • Lip Lock: The dub of Lonely Blade V that Steven watches has a lot of obvious pauses to match the lip flaps. (Steven doesn't mind.) This is compared to the subtitled version of Lonely Blade IV that the Gems watch at the beginning of the episode.
    Lonely Blade: Brother... is that you?
    Zombie Swordsman: Yes. It's me, your... brother.
  • Make Sure He's Dead: Steven makes extra sure that Holo-Pearl doesn't reform after he tears it apart with a mop.
    Amethyst: Are you alright? What's going on?
    Steven: Oh, just moppin'.
    (The hologram begins to regenerate)
    Steven: Die!
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Pearl's reaction to being impaled by her own hologram is a nervous laugh and a "Whoopsy daisy!" Of course, for a Gem, it really isn't major, just a bit of rest.
  • Medium Awareness: A subtle example: as Steven jumps around at the end, celebrating Pearl's return, he manages to jump at exactly the right spot to get in the Iris Out.
  • Mood Whiplash: The mood violently swings back and forth the entire episode. The episodes starts with the Gems spending some movie time together, Steven being amazed by Pearl's sword fighting abilities, and deciding that he wants to learn too. Pearl tries to teach Steven the basics of sword fighting while demonstrating them against a hologram she created. Much to her displeasure, Steven is more interested in seeing flashy moves. Pearl turns her head to scold Steven then Pearl gets stabbed in the gut and DIES. The extreme horror of this lasts only a few seconds as it is quickly explained that Gems can regenerate their bodies as long as their gemstone remains intact, and she will be back. Most of the rest of the episode is a sequence of humorous scenes of Steven trying to use Holo-Pearl as a Replacement Goldfish for the real Pearl... which goes from funny, to sobering when Steven misses the real Pearl, to terrifying in an instant when he accidentally activates its advanced combat training routines and is nearly killed.
  • MST3K Mantra: invoked When Pearl complains that the sword fight in the movie isn't realistic, Steven replies "It's just a movie, Pearl."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Steven has this reaction after he thinks he caused Pearl to get killed. He still feels guilty for his actions for the entirety of the episode.
  • Nerf Arm: Steven attempts to make Holo-Pearl harmless by giving her a balloon sword. She still somehow manages to cut down a tree with it.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Defied, the Holo-Pearl sticks around while Pearl is regenerating in her gem, following it's purpose as a training tool despite the fact that Steven feels no desire to train while he's worried for Pearl's future.
  • Oh, Crap!: Everyone (save for Hologram Pearl) is in shock when the real Pearl gets stabbed.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Pearl appears to die, but it turns out all Gems can survive mortal injuries to their body by reverting into a gem form to regenerate. This is mentioned to usually happen to Amethyst.
  • Preemptive "Shut Up": A non-verbal variant; Pearl asks for a volunteer to spar against, and Garnet pushes Steven's hand down before he can finish raising it.
  • Rain, Rain, Go Away: The Crystal Gems start the episode rained in and watching some movies.
  • Reality Ensues: It turns out no matter how skilled she is with the sword, being distracted from even a low level opponent is enough for Pearl to get fatally stabbed.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: Steven angrily rants to Hologram-Pearl, but it just hears one part of what he says.
    Steven: I hate you, I hate you! You're nothing like Pearl! Pearl is smart, and she always wants to protect me from danger. All you want to do is fight me!
    Holo Pearl: Challenge accepted!
  • Safety Gear Is Cowardly: Pearl's training exercise uses real swords with no armor whatsoever. She probably doesn't consider being "poofed" that big of a deal.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Pearl run through by the hologram's sword is offscreen, then in silhouette, then in plain view.
  • Shoot the Television: Pearl's hologram stabs the TV set with her sword.
  • Spin Attack: The "Boomerang blade" attack from Steven's movie involve spinning a pair of swords.
  • Spoiler Cover: Discussed in-universe. Pearl points out that it was obvious the janitor in Lonely Blade IV was important as he's in the background of every fight scene and is in the cover artwork.
  • Subbing vs. Dubbing: In-universe, Steven seems to like the dub for Lonely Blade V just fine compared to the sub.
  • Superlative Dubbing: In-Universe, Steven thinks the dub of Lonely Blade V is really good.
  • Sword Cane: In Lonely Blade IV, when the janitor is revealed to be the Big Bad, he reveals that his mop contains a hidden sword.
  • Sword Limbo: After Pearl's sword is knocked across the room, she powerslides under Holo-Pearl's horizontal slash to get to it.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Averted. When Pearl starts explaining sword techniques in the middle of a duel, her opponent takes the opportunity to stab her in the back.
  • Tender Tears: Steven tears up on seeing Pearl become impaled on the Holo-Pearl simulacrum's blade.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Lonely Blade's Signature Move involves throwing his dual katana. Steven throwing his mop ends up defeating Holo-Pearl.
  • Trash of the Titans: Without Pearl to help with/bother Steven about the cleaning, Steven's house is a total mess within two weeks.
  • Virtual Training Simulation: Pearl can use her Gem to project a hologram version of herself for training purposes. It's essentially just as lethal as an actual opponent though.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: Pearl's eyes open wide and her irises shrink to dots after she's stabbed. In reaction, Steven's irises also shrink.


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