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Recap / Steven Universe S1E48 "The Return"

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Greg and Steven are talking after having gotten fry bits. Steven explains about the robonoids, and Greg admits he finds it all rather scary. He asks Steven if being a Crystal Gem isn't too much for him. Suddenly, before Steven can finish his sentence, there's the thunderous BOOM of something entering the atmosphere; every window in the city is shattered and everyone knocked off their feet. It is a giant green hand, and it is pointing directly at the Temple of the Crystal Gems.
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Garnet and the Gems are as ready as they think they can be. They unearth the laser light cannons, and Steven fires them by saying their trigger phrase into a walkie talkie. But four cannon blasts are simply shrugged off by the hand. The Gems realize they may be outmatched but they still intend to fight. Steven calls Mayor Dewey, who, as a politician, is very nervous of pointing fingers. Steven tells the mayor he needs to evacuate Beach City. Dewey arranges it, and when Steven turns back from watching him address the crowd, he sees the Gems helping Greg pack the van. The Cheeseburger Backpack is amongst the things ready to go in and Steven stops in his tracks.

Steven: ... Is that ... my luggage?

Greg asks who wants to explain to Steven. Amethyst flatly refuses, saying she's no good at it. Pearl pats Amethyst comfortingly, but remains silent. Garnet steps up to explain the Gems reasoning to Steven.

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Garnet: I know you think we don't trust you. And that more often than not, we treat you like a human child. But the truth is we rely on you. Your voice inspires us, binds us, reminds us why we decided to protect the planet. We need you now to do that — for them. And if anything happens, you need to be there to protect them like your mother did. It's your destiny.

Steven is sufficiently convinced and rides off with Greg in the evacuation convoy. The Gems wave good bye, with smiles on their faces — that disappear in anguish, worry and sad tears as soon as he can no longer see them; Garnet remarks this is everything they can do for him and calls the other two to get themselves together for what's to come. As they drive off, Steven says he hopes that Peridot and her reinforcements realize how nice humanity is and decide not to do anything mean. Greg is fondly reminded that this exact thing is true of Rose, but goes on to say he doubts they would care for humanity any more than they did last time, but regrets it as Steven curiously asks what he means. Greg is quick to remind Steven he wasn't there and only knows what Rose told him about it, and remarks that the Gems should have told him before but, of course, they don't want him to see them like that. Steven, now more curious, keeps asking; what don't the Gems want him to see them like!?

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Greg: LIKE ALIENS, STEVEN! Aliens who invaded Earth! [...] All they do is try to make up for it, but they just can't forgive themselves. Do you understand? Look, they were doing something awful to the planet and your mother couldn't stand it anymore; she told me that's why she had to turn on her own kind. She gave up everything just to stop what they started here and drive the invading Gems off of Earth.
Steven: So she saved the world! That's good!
Greg: No such thing as a good war, kiddo. Gems were destroyed; people, too. In the end, your mother could only save a handful of her closest friends. If it weren't for her shield... man, I don't know...

Steven, on hearing that, immediately decides to go back, asking Greg to turn the van around. Greg, reminded of his lost Rose, riddled with guilt over bringing up the civil war, and terrified of losing Steven in the newest invasion, refuses. Steven points out he has the shield Greg himself mentioned was the only thing that saved the day. Steven pleads, but Greg holds firm, even while trembling and sweating with guilt. Steven finally grows angry...

Steven: Dad. Turn the car around. Please.

...and punches Greg's dashboard hard enough to trigger the air bag and blow Steven clean out of the car. He bubbles himself to safety, and Greg accepts that his son is going back to help the Gems. Steven says he'll find some way to get back — and as if on cue, Lion arrives to give him a ride home.

En route, Steven calls Connie and, in response to the curt directions of Dr. Maheswaran's voicemail, leaves a short message explaining that he and the Crystal Gems might all die. On the beach, the Gems are trying to defend Earth with all they've got. Amethyst and Pearl have formed Opal and fired a barrage of arrows — to no more effect than the laser light cannons.

The Gems sadly reflect they're in trouble as they've thrown their biggest attacks at the handship. As Garnet takes comfort in the fact that Steven's safe, he returns astride Lion; the surprise and shock separates Amethyst and Pearl from the fusion. Before they can try convincing him to leave again, the handship comes to Earth; realizing it's too late, Garnet urges Steven to stay behind the three Gems. The ship lands and its passengers disembark: Peridot, a huge, imposing Gem, and an unwilling Lapis Lazuli.

Peridot petulantly points out the Crystal Gems and Steven as the ones who keep destroying her work. The big, brawny Gem whom Peridot addresses as Jasper takes one look at them and writes them all off as not worth her time. She goes on to express disappointment that Rose Quartz isn't there, as she wanted to fight her. She turns her back on them and dismissively orders Peridot to destroy them with the ship's gun. Peridot obeys, and powers up the weapon in the handship's pointer finger. Garnet yells for Steven to run, but he refuses.

Steven: This is my home. And you are my family! And I'm ... I'm a Crystal Gem too!

He leaps in front of the trio and manifests his shield, now several times larger than normal, stopping the laser in its tracks. Jasper turns around and recognizes not only the power but the rose-thorn spiral as belonging to Rose. She seems to think Steven is Rose, having for some reason taken a small, weak form. Jasper commands Peridot to fire again, this time to separate the Gems; Amethyst and Pearl are pushed away while Jasper goes for Steven, only to have Garnet get in the way, who once more commands Steven to run. Jasper primes a weapon she calls a Gem Destabilizer and strikes Garnet with it. Lines climb the Crystal Gem leader's body splitting her into pieces like a cutting laser, before she finally vanishes in a puff of smoke, leaving the two gems on her hands to fall to the beach before the eyes of a horrified Steven.

Jasper snatches him up and announces her intention to take Steven back to Homeworld, so someone named Yellow Diamond can see him, despite Lapis' plea that their mission doesn't involve him. Jasper taunts to the Rose Quartz gem on Steven's stomach:

Jasper: I was there, you know? Back at the first war for this garbage planet. I fought your armies, I respected your tactics, but THIS [Steven]? THIS is SICK! I don't know what you're planning Rose, but look: Your base is taken, your army has fallen, and you? You. Have. FAILED!

...and headbutts him into unconsciousness. Bam. Steven sees stars from the impact and then we Smash to Black.


Tropes:

  • Adult Fear:
    • Greg is understandably worried that he might lose his son to invading aliens, and yet he knows he has to let Steven help because it's the only chance the Gems have.
    • The Crystal Gems want to keep Steven out of the fight, and they keep telling him to run.
  • The Atoner: Greg describes the Crystal Gems as constantly trying to make up for the damage to Earth they were initially a party to.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Lapis is clearly not happy to see the Crystal Temple under attack, and lies to protect Steven from Jasper.
  • Black Comedy: When he arrives at the beach, Steven says to Lion to stay there and if something happens... his dad may need a new son.
  • Blood Knight: Jasper is disappointed that Rose Quartz isn't around for her to battle.
  • Bowdlerise: The Cartoon Network UK edit and multiple other regional edits cut off just before Garnet starts to crack and cut back just as she poofs. However, this same scene was shown uncensored in the flashback in "Full Disclosure" in every region except the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: After using his shield powers to save the Gems from Peridot's attack, Steven slumps on the sand and can't fight when Jasper grabs him.
  • Call-Back:
    • Steven calls in a "political favor" from the Mayor to organize an evacuation.
    • Pearl and Amethyst once again fuse into Opal.
    • When Greg vaguely hints at the civil war between the Crystal Gems and the Homeworld Gems, Steven remembers the Kindergarten from "On the Run", the Gem battlefield from "Rose's Scabbard", and Pearl's stories from the same episode.
    • Steven manifests his shield again in the same way as he did in "Gem Glow" and in "Ocean Gem": it's the same shape. It has the same pattern. But there's one crucial difference. It also contains his force field from "Bubble Buddies", and for the first time, is large enough to protect all four Gems.
  • Children Are Innocent: Despite all the hints sewn across the season that not all Gems are nice, Greg has to spell it out to Steven that most of the Gems are malevolent aliens who tried to do something bad to Earth, and that Rose raised an army to drive them away of which Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl are the only remnants of. Greg's exposition is juxatosposed with flashbacks of the Kindergarten from "On the Run" and the Gem battlefield from "Rose's Scabbard".
  • Circling Birdies: The Iris Out for closing out an episode is essentially the stars Steven sees when Jasper headbutts him into unconsciousness.
  • Clean Cut: Jasper's Gem destabilizer neatly bisects Garnet before her body disintegrates apart entirely.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: Played With. Steven doesn't try to hide anything himself, but Lapis claims he's just a human so Jasper won't see him as a threat. Then he outs his powers by using his mother's shield to protect the Gems, which makes Jasper take interest. On the other hand, Jasper mistakes him for Rose.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jasper effortlessly cuts Garnet down thanks to having a Gem Destabilizer causing a One-Hit Kill.
  • Cliffhanger: The episode ends with Jasper knocking Steven out.
  • Continuity Nod: The episode opens with Steven telling Greg about Peridot and her Robonoids.
  • Dark Reprise: An orchestral, more ominous version of Rose's theme can be heard while Greg is explaining the war to Steven.
  • Disintegrator Ray: Jasper uses a Gem destabilizer to destroy Garnet's physical form, cracking her apart until she disappears in a puff of smoke, leaving only her gems.
  • Finger Gun: Peridot's ship fires its main weapon through and while pointing its index finger.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Apparently Steven has Lion as a cell phone contact. And Onion, who is The Voiceless when interacting with anyone but his dad, and The Unintelligible even then.
  • Giant Hands of Doom: Peridot's spaceship is a giant, green hand the size of a building.
  • Giving Someone the Pointer Finger: Peridot's hand-shaped ship enters the atmosphere pointing its finger toward its destination. Mayor Dewey says that it's never a good thing; he should know, he's a politician.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: The arrival of Peridot's ship shatters every window in Beach City.
  • The Heart: Garnet mentions Steven's emotional significance to the Crystal Gems when telling him that they're sending him away to protect him.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me:
    • According to Greg, Rose's shield was the only reason any of the Crystal Gems survived the civil war.
    • Steven combines his solid shield and bubble shield into a transparent version of the former several times larger than normal, which he uses to block an attack from Peridot's ship.
  • Mama Bear: All the Gems, especially Garnet, put up a fight to give Steven a chance to "run".
  • The Man Behind the Man: Apparently Jasper and Peridot are working for a Gem named Yellow Diamond.
  • Mistaken Identity: Steven has Rose Quartz's gemstone and uses her shield, which makes Jasper mistake him for Rose in a new form.
  • Multi-Part Episode: With "Jail Break".
  • No-Sell: Peridot's ship shrugs off the combined might of four light cannons and Opal's arrows without so much as a scratch, even though one destroyed a giant gem eye that shrugged off everything else.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Lapis tries to keep Steven out of Jasper's interest, saying he's just a human. When Steven's powers are revealed, she almost begs for him to be left out of it, since he wasn't part of their mission.
  • The Power of Love: Steven manifests Crystal Gem-level Super Strength when he's angry that his father won't turn around and let him help Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl, punching the dash so hard he engages the airbag. That same feeling allows him to use his shield in time.
  • Psychic Link: Either Steven and Lion have a mindlink or Lion can sense when Steven needs him. The van stops after Steven's anger triggers the airbag and blows him out of the van. Steven says he'll find a way to get back to the Gems. Cue Lion arriving.
  • Punch a Wall: Steven punches Greg's dashboard when Greg refuses to turn the van around. He punches it so hard he goes straight through and triggers the air bag, launching himself out of the car, protected by his bubble shield.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Jasper derides the Crystal Gems as defective (Pearl), an overcooked runt (Amethyst) and a shameless display (Garnet). She's not impressed with what's left of Rose (Steven), either.
  • Second Person Attack: We see from Steven's perspective when Jasper headbutts him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • This episode has some obvious visual Homages to Dragon Ball Z.
    • With a Giant Green Hand that was sent by beings with near-godlike power whose forms are energy projections and are nearly immortal, there are more than a few shades of the classic Star Trek episode "Who Mourns For Adonais".
  • Skewed Priorities: Peedee refuses to leave the store despite the giant hand spaceship bearing down on the town, and Ronaldo is blogging about said spaceship rather than helping to drag Peedee away.
  • Smash to Black: The episode ends with Jasper headbutting Steven into a flash of stars on a black screen.
  • Stab the Salad: The episode opens on an ominous shadow that turns out to just be a closeup of Steven's hand before he bangs on a counter for fry bits.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Jasper drags around Lapis by the top of the arm, but Lapis wasn't really struggling anyway. When Jasper moves onto Steven, she lifts him by the shirt instead.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Greg asks Steven if being a Crystal Gem might be a little too dangerous. Steven doesn't even have time to finish his reply.
      Steven: What do you– [Glass-Shattering Sound]
    • Then, when the ship is about to land, the Gems say that at least Steven is safe. Cue him turning up on Lion.
  • War Is Hell: Greg says outright that "there's no such thing as a good war" and that both Gems and humans died during the rebellion.
  • Wham Episode: Greg reveals that the Crystal Gems are only the handful of Rose's friends that she managed to save during the civil war, a new Gem named Jasper has traveled with Peridot and they've brought Lapis along, Steven's powers are revealed to the Homeworld Gems, and Jasper reveals she fought in the rebellion before beating Steven and the Crystal Gems effortlessly.
  • The Worf Barrage: Peridot's ship takes the combined power of all four of Rose's cannons and Opal's arrows without even slowing down.
  • The Worf Effect: Garnet, the strongest Crystal Gem, gets taken out in a single hit from Jasper's Gem destabilizer as a way of showing just how dangerous things have gotten.


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