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Recap / Steven Universe S5E17 "Can't Go Back"

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Maybe I'll find myself sitting on that distant shore
Maybe I'm not alone
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Steven gets ready for bed one night when Ronaldo knocks on the front door, screaming that he's spotted something strange on the Moon. Tired and somewhat irritated, Steven accompanies Ronaldo to the lighthouse observatory and tells Ronaldo that he's already aware of the Diamond Moon Base. When Ronaldo asks Steven why it looks like a barn, Steven is shocked, and looks through the telescope to find that it's the Barn, which Lapis took with her when she left, meaning she may be on the Moon.

Steven arrives on the Moon with Lion and finds the Barn abandoned. He tracks Lapis down to the Moon Base's upstairs and starts talking to her. It turns out the mysterious orb on the Moon base first seen in "It Could Have Been Great" is an observation device. Lapis reveals she has been using the observation orb to keep watch over the Crystal Gems. She tells Steven that she planned to flee further into space, but couldn't stand the thought of losing all connections to Earth and decided to stay on the Moon. When Steven asks her why she won't just return to Earth, Lapis says that she's disgusted by her own decision to flee, feeling that the Gems, and especially Peridot, will never accept her back.

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Nonetheless, Steven draws Lapis into a conversation (and eventually, a song) where she confesses that despite her struggles to adapt, Earth was the only place she'd ever felt loved and accepted. She feels lonely in space and bored living on the Moon, but is afraid to come home because she fears something bad will happen. Steven asks her "what if something good happens?" causing Lapis to react with incredulity. Nonetheless, after further conversation with Steven, Lapis seems open to the possibility of returning to Earth. All seems to be going well until Steven falls asleep...

Then Steven experiences a traumatic dream, witnessing Pink Diamond enduring a lecture from Blue and Yellow Diamond about the Rebellion on Earth and how she needs to act like a leader to keep her subjects strong. Shortly afterwards, Steven witnesses a vision of Pink Diamond's shattering. To Steven's surprise, her killer turns out to be Pearl.

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Steven snaps awake and relates his dream to Lapis, who immediately panics and assumes that the Diamonds are soon returning to Earth. Despite Steven's pleas to stay, Lapis flies into space, leaving Steven alone with Lion in the Moon. Steven is upset over Lapis' departure, but even more shaken by his dream. As the episode concludes, he turns to Lion and demands that he take him to see Pearl.


Tropes:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Would you rather be alone?!"
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: It's more than a little implausible that Ronaldo could make out small buildings on the Moon with a conventional telescope. Even if it could, it's very unlikely he could find any of them — the visible area of the Moon is several times that of the continental United States.
  • Art Shift: During Steven's dream, everything is stylized two-dimensional silhouettes like in Revolutionary Girl Utena.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Even before it killed her, Pink Diamond regretted wishing for a colony because she couldn't or wouldn't keep it under control.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: When Lapis reveals that she's using the Moonbase Orb to watch Beach City:
    Steven: You're spying on us?
    Lapis: Well, I wouldn't call it spying, because that would make me feel bad.
  • The Bus Came Back: We finally see Lapis again, this time on the Moon.
  • Death Glare: Past Pearl gives one to Steven during his dream, frightening him awake.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The title can either refer to Lapis not wanting to return to Earth out of fear, or Blue and Yellow Diamond telling Pink Diamond that she can't give up on the colony she constantly asked for.
  • Freudian Slip: Steven makes it clear he's not going to demand Lapis come back to Earth, but as he falls asleep while trying to her into it, he mentions what she could do "when" she comes back. Luckily, Lapis just finds his choice of words slightly amusing.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Isolated on the Moon, Lapis feels like she may as well have put herself back in the mirror.
  • Hope Spot: It looks like Lapis has decided to return to Earth... but then Steven scares her off with his dream of the Diamonds, and she leaves again, this time for real.
  • Jumpscare: In Steven's dream, a silhouette approches Pink Diamond, and pulls out a sword, ready to attack her. Once Steven realises the silhouette in question might be Pearl, it suddenly turns around to throw a Death Glare at Steven accompanied with what sounds like a heavily distorted screech.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: The observation orb's projection glitches a few times before and during Lapis' song, which isn't of any literal significance, but they're timed to punctuate her descriptions of anxiety.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Lapis seemed to be considering coming back to Earth, but when Steven mentions his vision and doesn't properly articulate that it was a memory of the past, she freaks out and leaves.
  • Noodle Incident: The first three times Ronaldo bothered Nanefua.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Lapis doesn't want to call watching Steven and the Crystal Gems spying... because "that would make me feel bad".
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Steven wakes up from his dream and tells Lapis that he saw the Diamonds, Lapis automatically assumes that they are coming to the Moon. Unfortunately, Steven is too frightened from the sight of past Pearl's Death Glare to tell her that it was only in the past. Although even if he had, she may still have stuck to the reasoning that he would only be getting Diamond visions because they're near.
  • Puppet King: Blue Diamond's dialogue in the flashback implies that she and Yellow had effectively reduced Pink to a figurehead for her own colony.
  • The Reveal: The strange orb on the Moon is an observation device that can generate a real-time hologram of any location on the planet, though evidently it can't play sound.
  • Sinister Surveillance: The Moon base orb let the Diamonds observe wherever they wanted on Earth.
  • Small Universe After All: Lapis had already left the Milky Way by the time she decided to turn back.
  • Theme Song Reveal: If there wasn't enough other evidence the Pearl holding the sword in the flashback is the same one who joined the Crystal Gems, as she draws it the opening notes of "Do It for Him/Her" play.
  • Trapped in Villainy: Blue's lines in the flashback implies Pink only kept fighting the Crystal Gems because Blue and Yellow wouldn't let her abandon the colony.
  • The Un-Reveal: Blue Diamond cuts Pink off from talking, keeping us from hearing her voice for the second time.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Steven accidentally drives Lapis as far away as possible thanks to the above Poor Communication Kills.
  • Wham Episode: Steven has a dream about the Diamonds which involves Pearl showing up out of nowhere and drawing Rose's sword with a threatening expression.
  • Wham Line: "Why does it look like a barn?"
  • Wham Shot:
    • The barn on the Moon.
    • Pearl's silhouette in Steven's dream... approaching Pink Diamond with Rose's sword and a threatening expression.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Once Steven sees the barn in the telescope, we cut to him riding Lion through a portal to the Moon base. What Steven told Ronaldo, who was asking questions about the base and wanted to be taken there, isn't specified.
  • You Did Everything You Could: Lion seems to silently relay this to Steven when he nuzzles him in comfort after Steven fails to stop Lapis from fleeing again.


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