Steven is faced with the fallout for the people he left behind.
This episode sets the tone by kicking off with all of Steven’s guardians being (kinda understandably) paranoid that he’s going to disappear again (this was the second time he landed in a space adventure, as well as the second time he’s been imprisoned by aliens).
Steven: They’re never gonna let me out of their sight again. Connie? Connie, I know you’ve gotta get home and get some sleep, but once you’re all rested up I can’t wait to tell you about everything! Being on Homeworld was crazy! After I turned myself in, they put me on trial! And Lars was there, we got chased by killer robots, what a wild ride that was! And, uh, I’m really happy to see you again. Um…are you happy to see me, too?
Connie: Of course I’m happy to see you, Steven…
Steven: Uh, but?
Connie: But how could you just give yourself up like that? […] I mean, you just gave up!
Steven: I had to! They were gonna take all those people. They were gonna take you!
Connie: But what about our training? Stevonnie, jam buds…I believed in us! We could’ve done it, together!
Steven: This is different! This whole thing was my fault, but I knew that I could fix it all if I turned myself in. And look! No one got hurt! Well, except for Lars, but I saved him too.
Connie: But, I’m hurt.
Steven: No you’re not. You’re safe! You’re here! I’m here! We’re safe, everything’s fine.
Connie: It’s not, though.
Steven: You know, it was a tough decision for me to make, but it had to be done.
Connie: You don’t get it.
Steven: Get what?
Connie: Let’s go, Lion.
Steven: “Wow, Steven, that was so brave of you! I’m so glad you’re back!”
She’s not exactly mad at him – she probably doesn’t know exactly what she feels, except that he hurt her, and she can’t just pretend that nothing happened like he wants her to. What he thought of as “saving” her also meant not trusting her to help when he honestly could have used some support. He could very easily have been trapped on Homeworld for the rest of his life (at best), and the only reason why he’s not is because Lars literally died. Speaking of which…
Sadie: What? And Lars is still in space?
Steven: Yeah, he is, but don’t worry. He’s with some very nice Gems who are on the run from their Homeworld overlords!
Sadie: Ugh. Lars…
Steven: Sadie, he’s fine! We can go see him anytime through Lion.
Sadie: Glad he’s not…at least he’s some kind of alive. You told his parents, right?
Steven: You’re kind of my practice run for that.
There’s still plenty of hurt to go around, even if things turned out much better than they might have.
Then we get to what’s allegedly the central conflict of the episode: Small-town mayoral elections! (it’s all in the name of vicarious character development)
Honestly, Nanefua is fantastic, but she starts blaming Mayor Dewey for the recent spat of alien abductions, and if there’s one thing Steven can’t stand, it’s letting someone else take the blame when he can blame himself!
Steven: If only I could’ve warned you about this abduction stuff sooner, then everything would be fine now! I really dropped the ball.
Mayor Dewey: You’re right, Universe. This is all your fault!
Don’t beat yourself up, Steven! That’s what the killer robots are for.
So Steven effectively (or ineffectively, as it were) stumps for Mayor Dewey by explaining how not his fault the alien abductions were.
Mayor Dewey: Wow! This whole abduction business was a real close call, huh? But look around you! Everyone is safe and accounted for.
Sadie: That’s not true! What about my friend Lars?
Mayor Dewey: Who?
Sadie: Lars? Lars Barriga? Mr and Mrs Barriga’s son? Did you even know he’s still missing? Did you know he’s still somewhere in space? What kind of mayor doesn’t know when his own people are lost in space?
Mayor Dewey: The donut boy? Is that why the donut shop was closed this morning?
Steven: Yeah, but-
Mayor Dewey: Do not worry! I will do everything in my power to hire a new donut boy!
This understandably results in a tomato in Mayor Dewey’s face.
At some point, Steven’s goal shifted from “set the record straight” to “help the incumbent mayor win reelection”, and at any rate he now has a vested interest in seeing him stay in office for whatever reason.
Steven: Look, we’re gonna get through this together. Tomorrow is the big debate. You still have one more chance to win back the town’s love.
Mayor Dewey: But Steven, some of the things people have been saying about me are really painful and mean.
Steven: We just need to change the conversation!
So they pull an all-nighter (or something like that) preparing for the debate, which is far worse than pulling an all-nighter to write a paper because debates are basically all about performance. Steven’s making a lot of bad life choices is what I’m saying.
Steven: Alright! Today’s the day! You got your notecards, you look great, and if anyone brings up the alien invasion thing, I wrote a bunch of Oceantown jokes for you to use!
Mayor Dewey: Aw, shucks, Universe! You’re like the son I never had!
Steven: You have a son.
Mayor Dewey: I know that! You’re just very different from him is all.
Steven: I’m rooting for you, Dewdrops.
Dewey’s opening speech is literally all about how hard it is to be the mayor and how you always get blamed when things go wrong when they’re usually (but not always) not your fault.
Mayor Dewey: Most people can’t handle that kind of pressure, but I can! So I say to you Beach City citizens, just enjoy our wonderful ocean breeze and don’t worry about a thing! Just let Dewey do it for you. […]
Nanefua: You know, Mayor Dewey, you are right.
Mayor Dewey: I am? About what?
Nanefua: I have blamed you for too many things, and that is not helping. Blaming our problems completely on the mayor is not getting us anywhere. When one of us suffers, the town suffers! When you suffer Mayor William, the town suffers. So, no longer will I point my fingers at you. I will extend all my fingers, on both my hands, to everyone here today, and ask that we share responsibility for the welfare and safety of Beach City, together! Thank you.
At this point, Dewey recognizes Nanefua’s awesomeness and subsequently admits defeat.
Mayor Dewey: Beach City deserves a real mayor, someone wise and collected like Ms Nanefua.
Steven: Wait, no no no!
Mayor Dewey: I withdraw from the race. You can find the key to the city under the city welcome mat.
Steven: Mayor Dewey, what are you doing? You can’t just throw the election like that, we can still win!
Mayor Dewey: Well, I know it’s not very traditional to do that in the middle of a debate, but why drag it out?
And of course this is where Steven recognizes what Connie was upset about earlier.
Steven: We could’ve won! I really believed in you! I really believed in us!
Mayor Dewey: Well, you were wrong. What do you want me to say?
Steven: How about, “I’m sorry, we were in this together and I let you down!”
Mayor Dewey: Come on, Universe. You know she’s gonna be a better mayor than me. It was the right thing to do.
Steven: I guess, but I still feel betrayed…that’s probably how Connie feels.
Mayor Dewey: Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’ve gotta find a new job.
I think the main insight he got out of this is that even if it was the right thing (which I think is debatable), it’s still natural for her to be disappointed. Just because you think you’re doing everyone a favor doesn’t mean they’re obligated to be happy about it.
Until next time…