Lars might actually be trying to change! Maybe.
This is the episode where the show’s pacing finally starts to pick up, and it maintains that momentum (for better and worse) until the end of the series proper.
It all starts when Steven discovers Lars’ secret hobby: Baking!
Steven: Ooh, this is amazing! How’d you get it to look like a pumpkin?
Lars: I just made seven small crescent-shaped cakes and used cream cheese icing to hold them together. Anyone with two hands and half a brain could do it. And, you know, a recipe.
Sadie: That’s his way of saying thanks.
Steven: I know. I speak Lars.
First of all, that cake looks delicious. Second, anyone who’s ever tried to construct a layer cake will tell you sticking stuff together with frosting is a lot harder than it looks.
Buck: I wanna order you, to come to dinner! Me, Jenny, and Sour Cream are having a potluck. You know, like parents do, except we’ll be doing it. All three of you should come. You should bring some food because that’s what you do at a potluck. It’s so funny.
Lars: That is funny, Buck! It sounds great! Super cool! Can’t wait! Bingo-bongo!
I can kinda sympathize with Lars’ social awkwardness. Especially the desire to die of embarrassment at the thing that just came out of your mouth.
Initially, Lars is so embarrassed that he wants to back out completely, but Sadie and Steven present it as a prime opportunity to show off his mad baking skills to the Cool Kids.
Steven: Maybe we could…make a cake with your face on it!
Sadie: That’s a great idea! You should make something that represents you!
Then he pulls out a recipe notebook and selects a childhood favorite of his, the ube roll.
Because clearly Lars is sweet, purple, and cream-filled!
Lars: So, how is it?
Steven: It’s amazing!
Sadie: This is delicious.
Steven: You’re an amazing baker, Lars!
Lars: Well, yeah, of course I am.
It’s so good that Steven and Sadie eat it all up before Lars can have a bite, so he starts a second one while Sadie heads out and tries to figure out what to bring for herself.
Then Steven and Lars start talking for once, because at some point it seems they became actual friends (probably after that time when Steven spent a day in his shoes).
Steven: Open up about your feelings!
Lars: I’m not worried about the cake. The cake is gonna rule. I’m worried about showing up with a cake.
Steven: What do you mean?
Lars: There’s a reason I don’t like telling anyone that I like baking.
Steven: And…what’s that?
Lars: Because it’s lame, Steven! If I show up to this party with my family’s weird purple cake and with Sadie, everyone is gonna know I love baking, and everyone’s gonna know I love- This isn’t gonna be an ironic potluck, it’s gonna be like family, couple, neighbor, actual potluck! And I’m gonna be there being all “bingo bongo!”
Steven: These are your friends. They want you to come. That’s why they invited you, so they’ll get to know you better! If they like you, they like you. If they don’t, then it’s their loss. Right?
Lars: That’s pretty smart. When did you get so mature?
Steven: Somewhere in between learning to summon my shield and finding out my mom is a war criminal.
Seriously, though, sooner or later you have to just take a leap and trust that people will like you for who you are – that’s what you call self-confidence.
Then Steven leaves to make his own dish to pass, and is the first of the three to arrive at the party.
It’s a far cry from any of the potlucks I’ve ever been to, but it’s not exactly surprising considering they’re all teens. Except for the durian. Sliced or not, a durian is always surprising to me. Evidently Buck heard that sometimes people bring fruit as a dish to pass, but didn’t quite understand the purpose of it.
Steven: I can’t wait for Lars to get here! He made a- wait, wait! I shouldn’t tell you, it’s a surprise!
Buck: That Lars is full of surprises. The other day he did this thing, what was it? Bingo bongo. It was transcendent.
Jenny: That is so creative!
Then the next to arrive (rather awkwardly) is Sadie.
Sadie: Sorry, I didn’t bring any food, just these paper plates. They’re for Lars’ thing and he’s not even here yet. Actually, I probably should just show myself-
Sour Cream: Did you say paper plates? Hooray! Now I don’t have to do the dishes.
Sadie: Wow. I never thought anyone could get excited over paper plates. I guess they are biodegradable.
Welcome to adulting, Sadie.
So once Sadie is properly introduced and settled in, Steven heads out to look for Lars.
He checks Lars’ house and all over town before he thinks to just call him. But he gets voicemail.
Steven: Lars, hi. This is Steven. I was just wondering where you were. The potluck is going really great. Everyone’s having a nice time and we’re all excited for you to come join the fun. Or maybe I just missed you and you’re already back at the party, and that’s the sound of you enjoying music with all our friends…
Or, maybe you decided not to go inside. That’s okay, though! I guess I’ll see you later.
This is something I definitely have experience with: Standing at the door for five minutes trying to get up the nerve to knock. And sometimes failing to.
Steven returns to an impromptu jam session, which doesn’t produce anything resembling a song, but it at least allows them all to express themselves.
Sadie: Hey, Steven! We’ve been having such a blast over here! Did you find Lars?
Steven: Uh, yeah. He can’t make it tonight. Something came up.
Sadie: Ah. Bummer, huh? Well, that’s okay. Let’s keep playing music!
It’s not until after they leave that Steven shows her how he knew Lars had bailed.
Steven: Maybe we should’ve tried harder to get him to come?
Sadie: Guess so. He wants to be in with them so much…it’s funny. I never thought I’d be the one hanging out with them. You know, they really are cool. Like, not like he thinks, but like they’re actually cool people. How’s he going to realize that if he doesn’t give them a chance? I wish I could just force him to be happy! Oh, no. I sound like my mother! Maybe I should be trying to fix my life instead of his.
If my own experience is anything to go by, Lars didn’t need more convincing, he needed someone there to keep him moving forward and not let himself get sucked into his own head. It is interesting how Sadie turns the equation around: It’s not that the Cool Kids have trouble accepting Lars, it’s that Lars can’t accept them. Because he has this image of “the Cool Kids” in his mind, and he can’t believe that those people would ever like him; he can’t see them for who they really are.
And once again, we end on a pair of ominous shadows…
Until next time…