Lapis faces her demons in the ocean.
Steven wants to take Lapis on a little boat ride so they can just have fun and hopefully make the water NOT have painful connotations for her anymore.
Lapis: It’s nice, Steven, but I don’t know…
Steven: Lapis, I know you spent a really long time fused with Jasper at the bottom of the ocean, but you’re not Malachite anymore! Water is a part of who you are. You can’t let one bad experience take that away from you!
Lapis: It was more than one.
Steven: Just give it a chance! I promise we’ll make this the most fun you’ve ever had.
Lapis: Steven, I…don’t deserve this.
Steven: Of course you do! We even named her Lil Lappy.
His heart’s in the right place, but his methods are sorely lacking. You can’t counter trauma with “fun”. And it’s not so easy to have fun when none of them really know what to do with a boat (it’s only a rental).
Greg: Maybe somebody else should take a shot at being captain. What do you say, Captain Lazuli?
Lapis: I shouldn’t…
Steven: Go for it, Lapis!
Lapis: Don’t put me in charge! Sorry, I mean, you shouldn’t trust me with the boat…
Steven: Okay, don’t worry about it! We can all be first mates, so there’s no pressure. Only fun stuff today!
They do manage to have fun, despite the occasional Gem/Human awkwardness.
Then Lapis tries to reel in something really big, and the tenor of their little cruise starts to shift.
Greg: Looks like this pole rental turned into a pole purchase. But you did a good job tangling with that beast!
Steven: Yeah, don’t worry about that one getting away.
This episode has a decidedly blue color palate, which stands out from the shows typical rose-tinted palate.
Lapis starts to get moody and introspective as things start to go wrong on the boat, and the episode gradually builds a sense of legitimate suspense.
Steven: Lapis, um, I have some not so good news. There’s trouble with the engine and we might be stuck out here for a while. I’m so sorry, this whole thing is my fault. I just wanted you to have fun, but everything’s a mess. I shouldn’t have made you come on this trip.
Lapis: It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame.
Steven: That’s not true.
Lapis: I’m really trying to enjoy it out here, but I can’t stop thinking about being fused as Malachite. How I used all my strength to hold her down in the ocean, how I was always battling against Jasper to keep her bound to me!
Steven: But it’s not like that anymore. You don’t have to be with Jasper.
Lapis: That’s not it. I miss her.
Lapis: We were fused for so long…
Steven: But she’s terrible!
Lapis: I’m terrible! I did horrible things, I broke your dad’s leg, I stole Earth’s oceans – go on, tell me I’m wrong!
She knows that her relationship with Jasper was twisted and horrible, but that just makes her hate herself more because some part of her misses that painful intimacy.
And then, as if summoned by her commanding wish, Jasper appears out of the sea.
Jasper: I thought I’d never catch up to you!
Lapis: You’ve been following us?
Jasper: I’ve been following you.
Steven naturally tries to intervene, but Jasper doesn’t feel terribly threatened by him.
Jasper: This dulled-down version of Rose Quartz works for you now? You’re pointing that shield the wrong way. She’s the one you should be afraid of!
Lapis: That’s not true.
Jasper: You can’t lie to me. I’ve seen what you’re capable of. I thought I was a brute, but you, you’re a monster.
She literally spent thousands of years trapped because of a war she had nothing to do with. That’s a lot of time for anger and frustration to build up with no outlet.
Jasper: Let’s be Malachite again!
Lapis: Why would you want that?
Jasper: I was wrong about fusion. You made me understand! Malachite was bigger and stronger than both us! We could fly! […]
Lapis: I was terrible to you. I liked taking everything out on you. I needed to, I hated you! It was bad!
Jasper: It’ll be better this time! I’ve changed! You’ve changed me. I’m the only one who can handle your kind of power! Together, we’ll be unstoppable!
But of course Lapis has more sense than that. You think twice walking in the door of a place after you escaped from the roof.
Lapis: No! […] What we had wasn’t healthy. I never want to feel like I felt with you, never again! So just go.
Steven: She said no! Leave her alone!
Jasper: This is your fault! I’ll shatter you!
But they’re on Lapis’ turf, so she promptly water-punches Jasper into the sky…and punches a hole in the boat. But it’s still so worth it.
This episode gives you an idea of what Steven Universe generally aims for: Not realism so much as a cathartic fantasy. In a more realistic scenario, a victim of abuse can rarely disentangle themselves from their abuser so easily; Rin from Fruits Basket is one such more realistic example, where some of her abusers are never held accountable and she’s still stuck holding the pieces of her own life at the end, even if she’s beyond their reach. This is not that. This is a world in which you can stand up to your abuser, punch them in the face, and move on with your life. I’m still not completely sure how I feel about that, but I can definitely see the appeal.
But one thing I definitely know how I feel about is Malachite shippers. I know it’s pretty common practice for fandoms to latch onto a “bad” couple (which may or may not be canon), but this is one ship I simply cannot stand, largely because it’s repeatedly stated to be bad – not just framing, there’s more than one dialogue about it! Also Lapis is clearly not interested and I wish people would respect that, but shippers gonna ship i guess.
Steven: Hey, the ocean’s really beautiful from up here.
Lapis: Yeah. It is.
Until next time…