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Recap / Steven Universe S2E9 "Sworn to the Sword"

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Keep your stance wide.
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Steven and Connie are having a mini picnic and literal Jam session up on the Temple hand where the laundry is. As they finish playing their ukulele and violin respectively, Steven goes to have a biscuit with jam. Before he can have a bite, seagulls divebomb them, but Connie draws the bow of her violin and swings it like a sword, driving them off!

Seeing this, Steven suggests that Connie is practically a swordfighter already, and tells her that she should train with Pearl. Pearl is not a fan of the idea at first, but Connie's impassioned speech about wanting to be there for Steven (and also wanting to help protect her home planet) touches her deeply and brings her around. She takes Connie for her first warp to the sky arena, where one of the first battles for Earth took place. Delighted by the warp, Connie listens to Pearl describe the concept of knighthood. After Pearl says Connie will make a great knight due to being brave, selfless and loyal, the training begins. Connie throws herself into listening to Pearl's commands, and learning to fight against the holo-Pearl constructs, as Pearl teaches in song.

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You'd do it for him
and you would do it again...

As time passes and Connie shows amazing improvement and skill, Steven sees something unsettling in the way Pearl is training Connie; that in order to protect and defend Steven, she must be willing to consider herself nothing in comparison, and sacrifice everything for Steven — absolutely everything. Steven tries to talk to Connie about his feelings about this, but Pearl takes Connie off for more training, leaving Steven behind.

When Garnet and Amethyst emerge from the temple, Steven tells them that he's a little worried about Pearl's training methods. Garnet (who isn't surprised) explains that Pearl's knightly devotion for Rose Quartz became all-consuming; during the war, she threw herself between Rose and danger constantly (sometimes needlessly) with no regard for her own safety, getting destroyed constantly in the process. Steven, realizing Connie can't regenerate from a gem and the likelihood she could die in the process of protecting him, rushes to the arena, where Pearl is training Connie. Pearl summons multiple holo-Pearls, and creates a fog to test Connie's skill. Steven runs into the fog looking for her.

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Steven encounters a holo-Pearl in the fog, and it views him as an unregistered opponent and is about to attack him until Connie defeats her from behind. She asks Steven his reason for being on the training grounds, and insists she must protect him. She has completely bought into Pearl's teachings, but Steven is having none of it.

Steven: If you're the one protecting me, then who's the one protecting you?!

Steven shakes her out of it by saying he wants to fight with her as a team- not have her fight for him- and offers his hand. A holo-Pearl attacks and the pair easily fend her off and defeat her. Connie realizes that fighting together is easier. As the youthful pair begin fighting the holo-Pearls together, they prove to be pretty much poetry in motion — moving instinctually together, sword and shield. The real Pearl appears and chides Steven that Connie must face her alone. Steven and Connie declare themselves a team, and that they will fight together.

Pearl refuses to accept this, insisting Steven is too important to be on the battlefield at all. Steven insists he's not. Pearl says he is, and when Steven denies it again more strongly, Pearl snaps:

Pearl: Why won't you just let me do this for you, Rose?!

Realizing her emotions have run away with her again, Pearl drops the sword, declaring the lesson over for the day, and goes to sit alone. Steven and Connie join her, Steven apologizing for ruining the training, but saying he was freaked out by the "I am nothing" message she was teaching. Connie asks Pearl if Rose made her feel like nothing.

Pearl: Rose made me feel like I was everything.

Acquiescing to the children's wishes, Pearl says their devotion to each other will make them both great knights, and that Steven has catching up to do since Connie is nearly an expert. The episode ends with Pearl looking forward to more complicated training grounds for them.


Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Connie was never exactly defenseless, but here she starts training with Pearl so she can hold her own on the battlefield.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: While not evil as such, the holo-Pearls seem to be single-minded about sword fighting, to the point of being willing to attack people who enter their field of vision even if they're not programmed to attack anyone else.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The outfit Connie uses for sword training halfway through isn't (just) a Whole Costume Reference to the ones Gohan and Piccolo from Dragon Ball wore. It's the kind of outfit worn for the real Indian martial art Kalaripayattu. Connie, of course, is ethnically Indian.
  • Amusing Injuries: Steven's image spot of Pearl jumping in front of his mom and her opponents and Pearl being "poofed" constantly is quite hilarious thanks to being rendered in Super-Deformed style. Then he imagines the same happening to Connie...
  • An Aesop: It's better to collaborate with others on something than throwing yourself headfirst into a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Arc Symbol: A new version of the diamond grouping appears, this time with a pink diamond shape added. Notably, the pink diamond is broken on one of the two symbols on the arena...
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Steven asks Connie about the point of her training while defending her from a holo-Pearl.
    Steven: If you're the one protecting me, then who's protecting you?!
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: At one point, when Connie is on the offensive against Pearl, Pearl starts to strike back only for Connie to turn and have Steven standing there with his shield.
  • Badass Boast: Steven and Connie made a bizarre one while confronting Pearl over her refusal of letting them fight together.
    Steven: Why not? We're a team! She's the strawberry...
    Connie: And he's the biscuit!
    Steven: And that makes us...
    Together: JAM BUDS!
    Pearl: What?
  • Badass Normal: In her duet with Pearl, Connie admits that she knows she's just a short-lived human, but still will do what she can to protect her friends against threats far stronger.
  • Battle Couple: Pearl trains Connie to fight for Steven in the way a knight fights for a king, but Steven wants Connie to fight with him as an equal.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Pearl acted as a bodyguard to Rose, despite being much less powerful, a situation that's true to a lesser extent with Connie and Steven. Deconstructed in Pearl's case, as she got herself involved in fights she could not win, even though Rose could have handled them, which Steven fears could happen to Connie.
  • Call-Back:
    • Connie showed an interest in swords before, such as in "Lion 2" and "Open Book".
    • Pearl generates numerous copies of Hologram Pearl as training aids, which Steven is understandably nervous about from their last encounter in "Steven the Sword Fighter".
    • One Holo-Pearl is defeated by a sudden stab through the back, which is what temporarily did in Pearl in the same episode.
    • Connie's reaction to Holo-Pearl is also pretty much the same as Steven's in "Sworn to the Sword".
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Until Garnet told him about Pearl's tendency to put Rose Quartz before her own safety, Steven was having trouble telling Connie about how he wanted a partner, not a knight.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
    • Connie, when swatting at some poaching seagulls, declares "RUN BACK TO YOUR MASTERS! TELL THEM WE'RE NOT AFRAID OF YOUR KIND!"
    • Amethyst asks Steven why he's upset in a manner befitting the most dramatic of professional wrestlers:
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The episode opens on Connie playing violin, an instrument she was shown holding in her house in "Fusion Cuisine".
    • Steven mentions how he and Connie fought against the robot from "Lion 2" and Cloud Connie from "Open Book".
    • When Connie face-plants after her warp ride to the Cloud Arena, Steven mentions that it takes some getting used to. He did the same the first time he was shown using the pad.
  • Courtly Love: Pearl felt her love for Rose best expressed by serving her, and tries to get Connie and Steven's relationship to mirror it (though they opt to have a more even relationship).
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus:
    • In "The Jam Song" at the beginning of the episode, the line "Come on and share this jam with me" refers to both the jam sandwiches Steven and Connie are sharing and their musical jam session.
    • Pearl is ostensibly describing Connie during one chorus of "Do It For Him", but she's also describing herself. This is upheld by her jealousy of the other gems' greater battle prowess, and Jasper's sneering dismissal of her as "some lost, defective" Pearl.
      You do it for her, that is to say, you'll do it for him.
      Deep down, you know you weren't built for fighting.
      But that doesn't mean you're not prepared to try!
      What they don't know is your real advantage.
      When you live for someone you're prepared to die.
  • Duet Bonding: The first scene is Connie and Steven jamming together over jam with biscuits.
  • Faux-To Guide: Steven reads a book titled How To Talk To People. The two shown pages say "Step 1: Think of what you want to say. Step 2: Say it."
  • Flat "What": Pearl is flabbergasted when Steven and Connie compare themselves to jam and biscuits out of context.
  • Foreshadowing: Steven and Connie seem to harmonize effortlessly on ukulele and violin, and while singing. Wait until you see them fight together.
  • Freudian Slip: When singing to Connie about how she should dedicate herself to Steven, Pearl repeatedly substitutes "her" for "him" (as she's thinking about her past with Rose Quartz). Finally, in the the middle of a heated argument with Steven which is ostensibly about Connie, Pearl blurts out "Why won't you just let me do this for you, Rose?!"
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Steven's imagine spot has Pearl repeatedly "poofed".
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Steven's Imagine Spot with Connie throwing herself into danger for him ends before Connie's presumed bloody defeat.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Connie decides to learn to fight, and ends up learning to use a sword because Pearl can teach her.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A flashback to the gem war shows that Pearl had a worrying tendency to perform such sacrifices to protect the much stronger Rose Quartz, most of which were actually unnecessary. Steven is terrified by the idea that Connie may get herself hurt — or worse — doing the same for him.
  • Hidden Eyes: Pearl's eyes are hidden in shadow twice during the song "Do It For Him."
  • Imagine Spot: Steven imagines Pearl repeatedly throwing herself into danger to protect Rose, and getting "poofed". He then imagines Connie doing the same...
  • Innocently Insensitive: Pearl's method of training unintentionally threatens to screw up Connie's self-esteem, and since she can only train from the perspective of a Gem, means that Pearl was planning to throw Connie into life or death situations without realizing that it would ultimately be a Stupid Sacrifice if she died.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: In-Universe, Pearl is very confused by Steven and Connie's "Jam Buds" declaration because she wasn't present at the jam session where Steven convinced Connie to study sword-fighting.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Pearl says that Steven and Connie can't know that he'll always be there to fight with her. Since they can be separated by circumstances beyond their control, it really makes the most sense for them to learn to fight both individually and as a team.
  • Kick the Dog: Pearl basically teaches Connie to view herself as lesser than Steven. Steven's having none of it, and convinces her to again view herself as his friend and equal.
  • Lady and Knight: Pearl invokes a gender flipped version with Steven and Connie, and says she had a similar relationship with Rose.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: According to Garnet, Pearl had a habit of jumping into battle to protect Rose without any concern for her own safety.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Pearl's song sounds like something out of a pleasant musical about dedication to another, and then it suddenly starts taking a dark turn with Pearl talking about how worthless her own life is, and Connie thinking the same with Pearl encouraging her to do so.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Pearl learned of the human concept of knighthood, and decided to describe her relation to Rose (and the one she hopes to instill in Connie toward Steven) in such terms.
  • Meaningful Echo: Steven gets Connie to let him join her spar with a line from their earlier song: "Won't you share this Jam with me?"
  • Mundane Utility: The laundry room on the statue's hand, as shown in the title card, appears in this episode. The large gem is actually a warp pad. So instead of just keeping the washer and dryer in the house, the Gems hauled them up there and installed a warp pad for easy travel.
  • Mysterious Mist: Pearl moves around the clouds in the Sky Arena to create a literal Fog of War during Connie's training.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Pearl is suddenly able to move a huge quantity of wind/mist to enshroud the arena, though it may be a function of the location rather than her abilities.
  • Off-Model: Amethyst switches to her original outfit for one shot when Steven is talking to her and Garnet.
  • Power Incontinence: When Steven sees hologram Pearl, he instinctively bubbles himself and Connie without realizing it, then sheepishly dispels the bubble and walks over to the stands.
  • Precocious Crush: Pearl implies that Rose Quartz was significantly older than she, even by Gem standards.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Garnet's version of Pearl's attempts to protect Rose during the war show what the reality of Bodyguarding a Badass really is, with Pearl pointlessly throwing herself into danger against opponents Rose could have easily handled, and getting poofed repeatedly as a result.
    • Steven and Connie attempt to prove The Power of Friendship by teaming up against Pearl in a sparring match. As soon as Pearl gets over her shock and starts fighting back, they lose in about a second. She's a superhuman with at least 6,000 years of combat experience, and they are two kids. Fortunately, the match wasn't as important as the discussion that followed it.
  • Rule of Three: As Garnet explains Pearl's reckless self-sacrificing for Rose Quartz, Steven envisions three occasions of it — the fourth one is Connie, but the Imagine Spot cuts away before the vision would have showed what happened to Connie — who can't regenerate like Pearl can.
  • Safety Gear Is Cowardly: Pearl doesn't seem to have internalized that Connie can't recover from the kind of injuries she can. Connie, Pearl, and the holograms immediately use swords meant for combat without wearing any kind of armor. The only thing even close to safety gear Connie wears is a wrap on her right hand after she develops blisters from the intense training sessions.
  • Self-Serving Memory: During the "Do It for Her" montage, Pearl shows Steven and Connie a scene of her heroically jumping in front of Rose to defend her from a tough-looking Gem. When Garnet explains Pearl's tendency to risk her life unnecessarily, we get a shot of Pearl throwing herself at the same Gem and getting poofed as a result.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: The book Steven reads about talking to people is extremely blunt, telling him to just spit it out.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Pearl's selfless defense of Rose more often translated into Pearl, a Glass Cannon, Taking the Bullet for Rose, a Barrier Warrior who would have been able to handle it herself. Pearl's still here despite that because she can regenerate. Connie, on the other hand, can't.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Amethyst to Steven when he's just standing around.
    Amethyst: Yo Steven! (suddenly sounding angry) WHY YOU STANDING THERE ALL SAD LIKE THAT!?
  • Sword and Fist: While still holding her sword, Connie defeats one of a Holo-Pearl by tripping it with a leg sweep.
  • Take Our Word for It: Amethyst warps in with Garnet, laughing at a joke unheard by the audience.
    Amethyst: Wow, Garnet, that was the funniest thing I've ever heard!
    Garnet: Garnet, master of comedy.
  • Tears of Joy: Pearl is deeply charmed and impressed when Connie explains her reason for wanting to learn sword fighting, barely fighting back a well of tears.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Connie goes from just swinging a sword around to actually learning how to handle it.
    • When defending Connie from the Holo Pearls, Steven demonstrates complete control over both his regular and bubble shields, able to summon them at will and control the size of the former. He can even use both at once, using the shield to block several Holo Pearls then generating the bubble to send them flying.
    • This is even reflected in the new opening sequence, which has Steven summon his shield alongside the Crystal Gems with their weapons, and Connie holding the Rose Quartz sword.
    • Pearl implies she was once much weaker, singing "Deep down you know you weren't built for fighting/But that doesn't mean you're not prepared to try."
  • Training from Hell: Pearl's training for Connie is quite stressful physically (including such things as fighting armed holograms and an underwater dueling arena), but it's far worse mentally: Despite verbally acknowledging Connie is human, Pearl began systematically breaking down her sense of self and conditioning a child year to fight at the cost of her own life. Steven stepped in before it could cause Connie serious harm.
  • Training Montage: About half of the episode is Connie training.
  • Trauma Button: Thanks to the events in "Steven the Swordfighter" involving a Holo-Pearl poofing Pearl (the first time he'd seen that happen to a Crystal Gem, which he mistook for actual dying) and almost killing him, Holo-Pearl's "Do you wish to engage in combat?" makes him bubble himself and Connie without even realizing he's done so.
    Steven: Sorry, sorry, sorry...Reflexes.
  • Undying Loyalty: Deconstructed with Pearl's attempt to make Connie into a selfless defender like herself. It's portrayed as giving Pearl terrible self-esteem, to the point that she openly considers herself to be nothing and engaged in outright self-destructive behavior for the sake of playing the "defender". From the perspective of the person being protected, it's condescending and would cause someone who actually cares about their "knight" no small amount of grief to see them act that way. On the other hand, Steven and Connie are able to see a more practical solution (both in terms of combat and lifestyle) protecting each other as equals, instead of it being all one-sided.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Pearl romanticizes her role in protecting Rose Quartz, making herself sound tougher than she was. As Garnet bluntly explains, Pearl instead needlessly put herself in harm's way and was outmatched.
  • War Is Hell: Pearl describes the battlefield of the Gem wars as chaotic.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Connie brings up humans being short-lived compared to Gems ("with my short existence"). It's implied to be one reason she (with Pearl's encouragement) starts thinking it good idea to dedicate her whole life to protecting Steven.
  • Wham Line:
    • From Pearl's song: "What they don't know is your real advantage/When you live for someone, you're prepared to die." It's when you realize Pearl is taking Connie's training in the wrong direction.
    • "Why won't you just let me do this for you, Rose?"
  • Wrong Name Outburst: Pearl's feelings for Rose peeped out during the "Do It For Her/Him" training montage song, but they come all the way out when Steven refuses to be considered too important to be on the battlefield, and refuses to allow Connie to sacrifice herself as his knight.

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