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Recap / Steven Universe S1E46 "The Message"

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Steven and his dad are messing around musically on the beach. Greg asks Steven to plug in one of the electric guitars so they can jam. Steven can't get the guitar to jam because, as Greg points out, Steven plugged into the video port rather than the audio. Then they play around with his voice vocoder. Greg explains that the events involving the ocean getting sucked into space have inspired him; he shows Steven his ideas for a cover for the "Water Witch" single he's thinking about. He's drawn an image of Lapis Lazuli, the author of those events, as a vicious villainess. He begins to sing a song portraying her the same way. Steven, who sees her in a different light, sings a counterpoint, indicating all she wanted to do was go home.
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As they continue to fool around with music, a new sound interrupts them. At first they think it's Greg's equipment, but it turns out to be coming from the Temple. Greg tells Steven to go on without him, because he wouldn't want to mess anything up.

When Steven arrives, the Gems are at their wits' end, due to a horrible, loud wailing. It turns out to be coming from the Wailing Stone that they brought home some time ago — and nothing they try will shut it up. Garnet uses a gauntlet to hit its off button, but it just turns back on. Pearl bubbles it, but the bubble just pops. Steven sticks his arm in it, but the sound just forces its way out through his mouth. Garnet finally stuffs a pillow in the hole to muffle it. The behavior of the stone confuses them, as they have all the Wailing Stones on Earth. Though it's reasoned that the signal must be coming from space, this doesn't explain why it's just making loud noise instead of transmitting a voice like it's supposed to. Pearl muses that the incoming signal might be too advanced for the stone and it can't decode it, which gives Steven an idea: Greg.

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Steven: He's the audio daddy-o!

The Gems are a little skeptical (or a lot skeptical in Pearl's case), but they're out of ideas, so they let him try. Pearl is dubious and has a low opinion of the primitive Earth technology they can bring to bear. They hook the Stone up to Greg's van-studio setup, and after a few tries they can kind of hear a voice. Greg tries again to clarify the signal, but when he draws too much power, he kills his battery. The Gems go back to the Temple with the stone, and Greg watches them leave. He expresses his feelings once again in song: in which he sings about how much he respects and looks up to the Gems, and how much it hurts him that they don't even have the smallest tiny bit of faith in him. Steven considers the problem before them a little longer and the answer comes to him. He's so excited that he can't even bring himself to speak, so he gestures at his father.

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Greg: Magic... eyeballs?

But eventually Steven makes known what he means. Perhaps the message is not just audio, but also video. Excited, Greg and Steven run back to the house. Greg bursts in, asking the Gems to have a little faith in him, but he isn't even facing them due to where they were sitting. Greg goes on to say that he has never known the Gems to give up on anything — except him. But if the signal is really video, they might be able to see it if they try again.

Garnet and Pearl re-charge the battery. Amethyst starts the van. Greg hooks the stone back up, fiddles with the settings, and the noise and garbled signal on the screen resolves — into Lapis Lazuli!

She isn't even sure her message is getting through, but she wants Steven to know there's a Gem on the Homeworld who knows his name.

Lapis Lazuli: I don't know how she knows! I didn't tell her! I swear!

Lapis goes on to say that the Gem who knows Steven's name is on her way to Earth, and she's not alone. She elaborates that Homeworld has changed so much since she was last there that she barely recognizes it. She says there's no way that anything on Earth could stand against it, and advises them to not put up a fight to avoid devastation.

The Gems, stunned, realize that the Gem in Lapis' message must be Peridot, and now they have proof that she's on the way to earth, and not by herself.

Garnet is determined to remain calm. She indicates that they have received the message. She gently takes Greg's hand in both of her own and thanks him sincerely for his assistance. Greg is momentarily overcome with emotion that the Gems have acknowledged his help and thanked him.

Steven acknowledges that Lapis seems sad, but not to grasp the gravity of the situation the message has put them in; he picks up the vocoder again, and he and Greg go back to playing around with it.

The Gems, on the other hand, are clearly disturbed by the message and exchange worried glances.


Tropes:

  • Androcles' Lion: Steven's previous kindness to Lapis pays off when she sends a message to warn them that the Homeworld Gems are coming. She also makes it clear she never revealed the existence of Steven or the Crystal Gems, which was clear from Peridot's reaction three episodes ago.
  • Auto-Tune: Greg and Steven play around with Greg's vocoder (the analog ancestor of Auto-Tune) to pretend to be robots.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Lapis wanted to go back to the Gem Homeworld, but it's implied that she's absolutely horrified of what it's become in her absence.
  • Before My Time: Greg's choice of reference is a bit too dated for Steven.
    Greg: You plugged into the video jack. We're making audio here. Don't you know? Video killed the audio star.
    Steven: ... I have no idea what you're talking about.
  • Break the Cutie: Lapis' return to the Gem Homeworld has not been kind to her.
  • Call-Back:
    • To "Rose's Room", where the Gems first obtained the Wailing Stone.
    • Back in "Ocean Gem", Greg remarked that he had a great idea for an album cover after seeing Lapis Lazuli's water tower. In this episode, he carries through and even wrote an actual album to go with it, calling it "Water Witch" in a reference to Lapis's water powers.
    • Garnet generates electricity to power Greg's van, the same way she powered the Meat Beat Mania machine in Arcade Mania.
  • The Chains of Commanding: After Lapis's message ends, Garnet stoically thanks Greg for his help, but it's clear the message deeply troubled her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The TV that Steven accidentally plugged his guitar to turns out to be the key to revealing the Wailing Stone's message.
  • Continuity Nod: The little television in Greg's van is the one they unearthed from the storage unit in "Maximum Capacity".
  • Creator Cameo: When Greg decodes the signal into audio it sounds like a voice right before his car battery blows up. The sound used is actually Rebecca Sugar's voice.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!:
    Greg: I know my audio equipment seems like a pile of Earth junk to y'all, but—
    Garnet: Greg, it's OK.
    Greg: No, it's not. You guys don't give up on anything—except for me! Come on... it's not like I can make it any worse!
  • Eureka Moment: Greg says if he can't figure out the signal with all his experience working audio, then maybe it isn't even sound. Steven then notices the TV in Greg's van and that it's a video signal rather than an audio one. Rather than telling his father directly, though, he drops hints to guide Greg to his own eureka moment.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Downplayed; about half the cast—the Universes—are laughing as the episode ends. The other half—the Gems—are not.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Lapis' message reveals the Gem Homeworld has advanced significantly in the thousands of years since her last visit, to the point she can hardly recognize it.
  • Foreshadowing: Greg's referring to Lapis Lazuli as a mean "water witch", and Steven showing his father that Lapis was not that bad foreshadows her return in this episode.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The Wailing Stone receiving a video message it was not designed to relay causes it to make a horrible, terrible, awful noise (and that's compared to its regular awful horrible noise as first seen in "Rose's Room").
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In universe, Greg's album art and song makes Lapis look more malevolent than she came off in the episode. While Greg never talked to Lapis Lazuli directly and only saw her as a projection, he got a pretty good look at her works: the Ocean tower and the water constructs, one of which broke his leg.
  • In a Single Bound: How the Gems get back to the temple from where Greg's van is parked on the beach. Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst simply leap directly out of frame. Steven tries, but isn't anywhere near there yet.
  • Irony: After the battery in Greg's van is blown trying to unscramble the message, Pearl says Earth technology is just too primitive to stand up to their superior Gem tech. Lapis later reveals that current Gem technology has advanced so far from what the Crystal Gems are used to that it's primitive by comparison.
  • iSophagus: Steven tries to shut up the Wailing Stone by sticking his arm in it, but after a second the sound just channels through his body and comes out his mouth.
  • "I Want" Song: Greg sings about wanting the Gems' respect, and to "Have a little faith in me."
  • Last Note Nightmare: The theme song in the credits starts to distort part-way through and by the end is all static.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": All the Crystal Gems have this reaction when Lapis' message reveals that that Peridot and the other Homeworld Gems are coming for them.
  • Mood Whiplash: Right after the the message of doom and gloom, Steven and Greg start playing with the vocoder to sound like robots again, which ends the episode.
  • Mundane Solution: After whacking and bubbling the Wailing Stone fail to silence it, and Steven sticking his arm in the hole only turns him into a speaker, Garnet settles for stuffing a pillow in the hole.
  • Nerves of Steel: Despite being worried about the upcoming threat to Earth, Garnet keeps calm and thanks Greg for helping them.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The consequences of Steven revealing himself to Peridot are revealed to be very severe. Peridot is coming to Earth, and she's bringing friends.
  • Noodle Incident: Amethyst says she's never started a car by turning the key, implicitly having hotwired at least one.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Garnet attempts to shut off the Wailing Stone by whacking the button on top with her Power Fist. It works, but the Wailing Stone turns itself back on the moment her fist is no longer applying pressure to the button.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: Greg's belief that he can turn the distorted audio from the stone into something understandable makes a degree of sense if you assume that changes to technology over time have resulted in some simple distortions to the end result that he could play around with and remove. (After all, if it was just audio, the signal was already, hopefully, mostly 'decoded' by the stone; he could plausibly figure out how it's distorting it due to version differences and reverse that.) The ability to interpret it as video by plugging it into a TV, though, doesn't make any sense since there's no particular reason aliens would use a video encoding standard with any relation to the ones used on Earth (unless Lapis was familiar with it and trying to use a format the Homeworld Gems would have no idea how to decode), and the stone itself obviously isn't decoding it into something compatible for TV.
  • Resistance Is Futile: In a non-malevolent version, Lapis warns the Crystal Gems that they are so hopelessly out-gunned by the advanced technology of the Homeworld Gems that they can't possibly win, so it'd be for the best for them not to fight at all.
  • Space Age Stasis: Averted by the Homeworld Gems; in the 6,000 years since the split, Homeworld technology has advanced so far ahead of the Gem tech on Earth that even Lapis transmitting a simple message is nearly impossible. Without Greg to clear up the transmission, the Crystal Gems likely would never had figured it out. Lapis insists that any battle between the two groups would end decisively in the Homeworld Gems' favor.
  • Split-Screen Reaction: Steven along with the Gems when Lapis claims how Homeworld has become much more advanced and that they wouldn't be able to stand a chance.
  • Smash to Black: The episode abruptly cuts to credits without an Iris Out as Steven and Greg amuse each other, but Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl remained worried for the future.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Peridot and the Homeworld Gems are coming to Earth, and they are coming for Steven and the others.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    Steven: (speaking into the vocoder) My mind is the internet, I know every continuity mistake ever made on television.
  • Tender Tears: Greg's eyes well up when Garnet takes his hand and respectfully thanks him for helping them get the very important message.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Greg's audio expertise gives him a way to be helpful to the Crystal Gems.
  • Wham Episode: The message is revealed to be from Lapis who warns Steven and the Gems that Peridot and other Homeworld Gems are heading for Earth.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Greg finally calls out the Gems for not respecting him.

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