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Recap / Steven Universe S4E4 "Mindful Education"

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Connie arrives at the beach house and knocks on the door. She has an uncharacteristically grim expression. She knocks, and Steven answers, with a shiny bald head.

Steven: Lovely day isn't it?
Connie: Yeah, I guess...
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Connie walks past without even noticing and begins unpacking her bag for training. Steven makes a quip about inheriting male pattern baldness from his father, but it showing up unexpectedly overnight. Connie doesn't bat an eye, responding absently. Steven. frustrated and confused by Connie's reactions simply blurts out:

Steven: Connie, I'm bald!
Connie: Oh. What happened?

Steven reveals he was just joking with a bald cap. He starts to ask Connie if she is okay, but Garnet and Pearl arrive. Pearl points out how excited Garnet is to sit in on this special training. Connie asks if she was supposed to bring somethinng, but the Gems say themselves is enough as they'll be training to fight as Stevonnie.

Garnet, excited, has made a sign cheering on Steven and Connie on one side, and cheering on Stevonnie on the other.

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Steven: Ha! Fusion joke.

Shortly up in the Sky Arena, Pearl begins training by having two holo-Pearls fuse into a giant holo-Pearl to fight Stevonnie. Steven and Connie do their Fusion Dance and Stevonnie is ready to fight! Garnet spins her sign around, and the fusion fight is on!

Stevonnie puts Steven's floating powers to use which confuses the fusion for only a tiny second. They realize the power for what it is and go in to finish the fight on the surprised holo-Pearl fusion. But as they go in for the coup de grace, the face of a startled boy appears, and...

Stevonnie: [Connie's voice] I'm sorry!

The fusion has lost their cohesion and Stevonnie falls apart. Garnet and Pearl make sure the kids are unhurt. As Steven asks what happened, Connie gives a pained grunt and runs off. He follows, finding Connie huddled in a ball on the stairs. When Steven asks if she's all right, Connie tells him she did something terrible at school and doesn't know what to do about it. Steven tries to comfort Connie by touching her shoulder but she pushes him away and explains that she accidentally beat up a boy at her school; someone she didn't even know. He bumped into her unexpectedly and her Gem training just kicked right in without her thinking about it. She explains she was so embarrassed she just ran away. Steven tries to console his friend by telling her she didn't mean to hurt anyone, and that sometimes you do hurt people by accident.

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Steven: You just have to try not to think about it.

Before he can offer any more advice, Garnet joins them. She takes them back to earth, and sits with them on the beach. She explains that a fusion must be balanced to hold together. Imbalance can cause a fusion to lose touch with reality, hallucinate, and fall apart.

Garnet: That is to say, if one of you is falling apart, your fusion will as well.

She goes on to explain to the kids that in order for their fusion to be balanced, they must understand their feelings by seeing them clearly without running from them. She tells them they need to form Stevonnie once again. Steven and Connie look to each other, agree, and without getting up from their seats on the sand, Stevonnie has replaced them sitting in the space between them.

Garnet begins taking them through a guided meditation: she explains that they're safe in the darkness and they can hear the waves and let the sound fade away.

Garnet: Here comes a thought.

Stevonnie and Garnet are together on the mindscape. As Garnet describes how an intrusive thought can take over and cause a person to focus on it to the point of losing touch and giving it far more importance than it deserves.

Garnet: ♫Take a moment, remind yourself to take a moment to find yourself. Take a moment to ask yourself if this is how we fall apart. But it's not. It's okay. You've got nothing to fear. I'm here. ♫

Stevonnie embraces Garnet's lesson and the mindscape reveals Connie's memory of hurting the boy. But even though she feels terrible, Steven is still there. The meditation ends with all four components of the two fusions lying together on the mindscape watching thoughts go by without acting on them.

Garnet and Stevonnie: ♫ It's just a thought. We can watch them go by from here.♫

Another training day arrives, and Connie is her usual bright, cheerful, and spirited self. She explains to Steven that she apologized, explained, and that it all worked out. Jeff, the boy she injured, understood. She shows a picture of him with his arm in a sling, but he's smiling to show no hard feelings. To Connie's delight, Jeff even wants to learn from her when he's better. Feeling much more confident and ready to fight as Stevonnie once again, Connie goes to change.

Steven glances at Rose's sword and sees one of the thought butterflies from the mindscape Stevonnie shared with Garnet... but soon they're back in the Sky Arena fighting holo Pearl again. Pearl compliments Stevonnie on their technique. As Stevonnie moves in for a sword thrust, Stevonnie begins hallucinating again: the sword thrust has triggered Steven within Stevonnie. An image of Bismuth appears before their eyes, and Steven cries out in frustration and dismay.

Stevonnie: [Steven's voice] Oh no. It's coming from me now!

Garnet yells encouragement to them. Pearl asks what's happening, but Stevonnie is able to focus on Garnet's advice. As they prepare to return to the fight, though a new hallucination appears: Jasper, succumbing to corruption. The image grows huge and lurches toward Stevonnie, Steven tearfully trying to explain himself to Jasper. But then Jasper becomes the Eyeball member of the Ruby Squad.

Stevonnie is still physically one being but Steven and Connie begin having a conversation as the imaginary enemies grow larger and loom ever closer.

Stevonnie: [Steven's voice] I tried to help you. You wouldn't listen. I-I told you to stop. I had no choice I'm sorry, I shouldn't — [Connie's voice] It's okay! It's okay to think about it! [Steven's voice] I thought I could, but it's so much! I can't do it!

The trio of defeated enemies burst into rays of light and converge, coruscating and morphing until they become an enormous image of Rose Quartz, glaring down on Stevonnie with anger and disapproval. Stevonnie drops their sword and backs away, right off the edge of the Sky Arena.

The startling realization that they're falling knocks Stevonnie out of fusion, leaving Connie and Steven in freefall! Connie, still level headed, immediately suggests they fuse again because they can hover and be safe. But Steven is completely overcome with his guilt and grief. Connie angles herself so her fall collides with Steven so she can grab him.

Steven: I didn't want to hurt anyone! I'm sorry! None of them would let me help them! I had no choice!
Connie: It's okay!
Steven: No it's not!
Connie: But it's okay to think about it!

Connie goes on to console Steven when he protests how bad he feels. She tells him he has to feel how he feels, accept it, and move on. She explains that's how it was for her with her classmate. Steven accepts it, and they fuse back into Stevonnie. The hallucinations loom toward them again but Stevonnie can embrace Garnet's advice from both parts of themselves now. They breathe through it, and use their floating power to drift safely to earth again.

Laughing with relief from having fused again in time to survive, and having learned that being honest with themselves helps recover from the thoughts which seem overwhelming, Stevonnie drops to lie in the grass and watch the clouds go by.

Stevonnie: ... I'm here.

Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Amethyst does not appear in this episode.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Connie goes through a period of severe self-doubt after having a violent episode that accidentally hurt one of the students at the school she goes to.
    • Steven continues his period of self doubt about failing to talk Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball down from trying to kill him, and the situation he left the three of them in when they forced his hand: poofed and bubbled; corrupted, poofed, and bubbled; and lost in space, respectively.
  • An Aesop:
    • It's better to think and talk about your problems than keep them bottled up and let them fester.
    • Sometimes, unpleasant things really couldn't have happened better than they did. It's okay and even natural to feel bad about it, as that's part of the process of moving on.
  • Animal Motifs: Butterflies feature heavily in this episode, representing the characters' personal issues.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Steven and Connie talk this way to their hallucinations, Connie to Jeff for hurting him, and Steven for not saving the Gems that he fought.
  • Art Shift: The Dream Sequences are animated in a subtly Animesque style, by Studio Trigger animation director Takafumi Hori.
  • Behind the Black: While Stevonnie hallucinates, they walk around in a daze and eventually take a step by step back, falling off the arena. Only when the camera goes back to Garnet and Pearl do they worry about Stevonnie's safety.
  • Blue And Orange Contrast: Connie's vision of her problem is tinted blue, and later, Steven's shameful thoughts are tinted orange.
  • Broken Tears: Stevonnie (from Steven) has tears streaming down their face when the butterflies form into Rose.
  • Call-Back:
    • Stevonnie has hallucinations again, like in "Alone Together" and "Beach City Drift". Garnet explains this as a manifestation of a conflict between the two minds, though it's more literal in this instance.
    • Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball all show up as hallucinations, being the three Gems Steven couldn't talk down.
    • Rose's appearance in the hallucination is more oblique, but it's likely connected to the fact that her actions caused the problems with the aforementioned Gems in the first place, and since Steven has her gem, he inherits the consequences of her actions.
    • Ruby and Sapphire seem to be re-enacting their argument from "Keystone Motel", with Sapphire overwhelmed by a spiral of thoughts stretching into the distance and Ruby focusing all her anger on a single thought.
    • This episode also shows how the "conversation" mentioned in passing in Garnet's song "Stronger Than You" works.
    • Rose frowning also represents Steven's repeatedly stated concerns of not being able to measure up to perceived expectations of being like Rose.
    • Connie's battle experience with the Corrupted Gems and Jasper have been affecting her day-to-day life and causing a mild form of PTSD, so that someone running into her during school triggers her to go on the defense.
  • Character Development: Connie's confidence has grown to the point she makes a new friend, the same boy whose wrist she accidentally broke, with her being the one to instigate the said new friendship.
  • Compressed Hair: Steven hides his hair under a bald cap to prank Connie.
  • Continuity Nod: Garnet's "Hold the phone, now give the phone to me" was said before by Steven to Greg in "The Message".
  • Cooldown Hug: Connie offers one to Steven as they're falling while assuring him that it's all right for him to feel the way he does.
  • Death Glare: Since Rose has never looked angry before, the imaginary Rose's scowl at Stevonnie comes off as frightening.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: "Here Comes a Thought" portrays Garnet and Stevonnie meditating as their components in a featureless Mental World confronting butterflies made of light that represent their anxiety.
  • Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: Connie, still jittery from combat training, flips a random kid after he bumps into her in the hallway.
  • Easily Forgiven: Jeff forgives Connie pretty easily once she explains why she attacked him and apologizes. It's especially notable since he walked away from the ordeal with his arm in a sling.
  • Failed a Spot Check: At the start, Steven is wearing a bald cap as a prank, and making wisecracks about it, but Connie fails to notice until he actually points it out because she's so distracted by her reaction to Jeff bumping into her in the hall.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Besides Connie being unusually distant, Jeff's face is what Stevonnie sees right before they de-fuse.
    • Steven's first piece of advice to Connie is to not think about the feelings over the incident with a grieving expression on his face. After the lesson from Garnet, he sees another butterfly before he and Connie fuse again, hinting that his problems will arise.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Stevonnie fly past Holo-Pearl instead of striking her, Garnet already has her sign flipped back to "Steven + Connie" because she already knew that Stevonnie would come unfused with her future vision.
  • Fusion Dance:
    • Stevonnie's dance is actually seen this time, and it's just Steven and Connie doing their own dances before lining up back-to-back.
    • Pearl has her holograms do a dance (The Robot!) to fuse into a larger hologram.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: In the fusion mental world, Ruby becomes furious at one butterfly and goes running after it.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Once Connie's issue is resolved, Steven's hangups start interfering with Stevonnie staying fused.
  • Headbutt of Love: Connie and Steven do one as she offers him a Cooldown Hug.
  • Heroic BSoD: Both Connie and Steven go into a state of depression. In Connie's case it's guilt over reflexively flipping a boy and hurting him. In Steven's case, it's guilt over not being able to save Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball, as well as his conflicted feelings about Rose.
  • Hidden Depths: Ruby has one little negative thought butterfly which she runs after and screams at. Sapphire is practically drowning in them.
  • I Am What I Am: During their fall, Connie helps Steven with his emotional turmoil, enough so they can fuse and use their floating powers to land. Upon landing safely, Stevonnie collapses happily on the grass and says, "I'm here." Based on the meditation scene, it also doubles as a You Are Not Alone between Steven and Connie.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Connie didn't learn who Bismuth was, though she does remember Jasper.
  • Magic Pants: Connie's training outfit manages to fit over Steven's normal outfit when they fuse as Stevonnie.
  • Mental World: Garnet takes Stevonnie into the mind of their fusions, which is represented as a mostly empty void where both the fused minds and the component minds exist.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: The entire scene in the Mental World is sung.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Connie is full of guilt after she instinctively threw a boy to the ground when he bumped into her.
  • My Greatest Failure: Steven regards his inability to save and talk down Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball as this.
  • Not Quite Flight: Stevonnie is confirmed to have Steven's floating powers, which takes them by surprise the first time. However, it isn't as intuitive for them as Smoky Quartz, or even Steven, seems to find it, since they appear to be running in midair for it to take effect. Unlike Steven or Smoky, however, Stevonnie also seems able to increase their momentum while floating by running, while Steven limited to his already existing momentum, and Smoky has to use their yoyo.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Connie had this at school after flipping Jeff.
    • Garnet and Pearl when Stevonnie freaks out and fails against the Holo-Pearls. They have this reaction again when Stevonnie falls from the arena during the next training session.
    • Stevonnie has this when Steven realizes that his issues are emerging.
    • The hallucination of Bismuth also bears this expression as she did when Steven had to poof her.
  • Offscreen Inertia: The last we see of Pearl and Garnet is their horrified reaction to Stevonnie falling off the platform, and by episode's end they apparently still don't know Steven and Connie survived.
  • Personal Horror: Steven and Connie are both dealing with this. Connie from attacking a kid who bumped her out of reflex and the All-Loving Hero Steven from being unable to save Jasper, poofing Bismuth and sending Eyeball out of his bubble when they were lost in space.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The result of adventure involving deadly combat is a sharpened fight-or-flight response, and combined with combat training means in that moment you know how to fight. A boy at Connie's school startled her by bumping into her entirely by accident, and got his arm in a sling as a result.
    • After having no apparent long-term effect, the trauma from Steven's encounters with Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball finally become apparent and send him into a Heroic BSoD.
  • The Reveal: Garnet explains that the graphic hallucinations Stevonnie experiences are a sign of instability in a fusion.
  • Running on the Spot: When Stevonnie floats, they wave their legs in the air as if they were running, though it's unclear if this is simply from being unused to them or if that's how they work with the mostly human fusion.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The final conflict in the episode involves Steven's issues with some of the darker stuff that recently happened.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Stevonnie rapidly swinging their legs to slow their descent resembles Luigi's or Yoshi's flutter animation in certain games.
    • While falling from the Sky Arena, Steven and Connie hold onto both hands, bringing to mind Chihiro and Haku's flight at the climax of Spirited Away. The fact that Steven's tears usually look like the usual Ghibli-style tears certainly helps.
  • Shown Their Work: "Here Comes a Thought" is an accurate (if simplified) explanation of mindfulness meditation, a popular and widely successful form of psychotherapy used to help people deal with depression, stress, anxiety, and PTSD. The episode's title is another direct reference to that technique.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Steven's biggest issues (failing to talk down Bismuth, Jasper refusing his help, and Eyeball attempting to murder him) are reflected on the actions his mother did in the past, and now he (as, technically, Rose's reincarnation) has to deal with the consequences despite not being actually responsible.
  • Sky Face: The butterflies combine to form Rose, and she's glaring down at Steven, a reflection of how she has wound up seriously hurting others despite how others admire her as an All-Loving Heroine, throwing everything Steven knew about her into question.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Butterflies are used in this episode as a symbol of repressed fears and anxiety. They're like butterflies in your stomach.
    • Mental!Connie's butterflies came out of her backpack; she was carrying some emotional baggage.
  • Stepford Smiler: Although Connie delves into this a bit with her conflict with Jeff, Steven is the real example here. He starts the episode pranking Connie with a bald cap and laughing at Garnet's fusion joke, and when Connie comes the next day he's happily reading a book. He's been repressing his grief over not being able to save Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball to the point that he has a nervous breakdown when they resurface. If Connie hadn't snapped him out of it, the two of them might have fallen to their deaths because he couldn't work up the nerve to use his floating powers as Stevonnie again.
  • Tuckerization: The boy that Connie unintentionally hurts and later apologizes to and befriends is named Jeff, likely named after Jeff Liu, one of the writers and storyboard artists, who also worked on this episode.
  • Waving Signs Around: Garnet made a sign that says "Go Steven + Connie" on one side and "Go Stevonnie" on the other, for waving around encouragingly while Steven and Connie train together.
  • You Are Not Alone: The key to a stable fusion, according to Garnet, is the component minds being there for each other when their individual thoughts become overwhelming.
  • You Did Everything You Could: Connie comforts Steven on not being able to save Bismuth, Jasper, and Eyeball.

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