I need a breather after last night’s insane episode. “Don’t Forget Your Floaties” was one hell of a way to start an entire week of new episodes, and I welcome the slower pace of “Be Sweet,” which casts Lumpy Space Princess as a tragic figure with intense insecurities. The humor of the dialogue provides a great contrast for the darker psychological elements of the plot, making this a hilarious character study that also builds a lot of tension for the final episodes of the season thanks to the presence of the ever-foreboding Sweet Pea.

At the start of the story, LSP is camping out in nature, dissatisfied with a lifestyle that requires her to gather bear sweat every day to mark her territory and keep rodents out. While mud-wrestling a raccoon for a piece of fried chicken (the bear sweat doesn’t work as well as she thought), LSP gets a call from the Pig Trunks household asking if she’d be willing to babysit Sweet Pea, and she jumps at the opportunity to live in a house with a roof and a bathtub and a fridge full of food, even if just for a few hours.

This would have been the perfect episode for me to cover two weeks ago when I was crashing at my boyfriend’s parents’ house in the Indiana Dunes, a home in the woods that is a huge step up from my Chicago apartment. The house is a few minutes walk from the beach, has a newly upgraded kitchen, and most importantly of all, has a jet tub that can easily accommodate my 6-foot frame. I was essentially living the first half of LSP’s babysitting experience in this episode, getting accustomed to a house that was not my own and the implied elevated status of that environment.

The difference between LSP and myself (the only difference) is that I recognize my adventure into privilege is temporary. LSP becomes instantly addicted to her new lifestyle and wants to find an easy way to make it permanent, but I’m aware that at the end of the week, my time is up. LSP operates in extremes, so when she gets a taste of the good life, she begins to think that the future is going to be one big feast of domestic bliss, and when Mr. Pig and Tree Trunks leave LSP on her own with Sweet Pea, the very first thing LSP says is, “Time to get down with the chill out. What a princess like me deserves.”

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This idea that she deserves this life is where a lot of this episode’s emotional weight comes from, because as LSP starts to get more comfortable, she starts to doubt her worthiness. While a bathing LSP is on the phone with Marceline, the raccoon from earlier makes its way into the Pig Trunks house through the toilet and starts to tell LSP that she belongs in the woods with the garbage animals. The raccoon continues to degrade LSP until she finally flees the house to find Sweet Pea (who has escaped while LSP shirks her babysitter responsibilities), telling her that everything she touches turns gross like her and that she is a giant rat that wandered into somebody’s nice house.

So what’s this raccoon’s deal? Does he just hate LSP, or is there something more sinister here? The similar voice of the raccoon and The Lich suggests that this raccoon has been possessed by evil forces that want Sweet Pea to realize his dark destiny, and the easiest way to make that happen is by denying Sweet Pea the affection he needs on a regular basis. LSP can’t care for Sweet Pea if she’s wallowing in despair, so the raccoon tries to break her, but doesn’t take into account how far LSP is willing to go to prove that she’s not worthless. “I’m a good person!” LSP screams. “I take care of babies!” In her efforts to disprove the raccoon, LSP discovers that Sweet Pea is gone, rushes to the Candy Kingdom, and delivers the tenderness Sweet Pea needs to keep his bad dreams and true self buried.

There’s potentially a very literal reason for the raccoon’s personal attacks of LSP, but another possibility is that the raccoon is a hallucination that gives LSP’s insecurities a physical form that she associates with the homeless life she’s trying to escape. The humiliation of her experience in the wilderness has given her a diminished sense of self, and she’s starting to believe the raccoon’s words that she belongs in the forest with the other garbage animals. After Mr. Pig and Tree Trunks turn down LSP’s proposal to be their new live-in nanny, the raccoon returns to offer LSP some of that fried chicken they were fighting over. She gives in to her primal impulses and starts gnawing on the meat while the raccoon chews the bone, but instead of being depressed at this situation, LSP finds pleasure in the delicious taste of the chicken leg. A house doesn’t define LSP’s worth, and if she’s going to be living out in the wild, she’ll ultimately find a way to enjoy it because that’s the kind of person LSP is.

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LSP finds Sweet Pea crying at the police station after his gentle reign of terror, and quickly goes through all the necessary steps to calm him to show that she’s a good babysitter. She pats him gently on the head, kisses his cheeks, gives him a treat, sings a soft and sweet song, touches his forehead and think the words, “You are more precious than anything in this world and I will always, always love you.” This sequence of steps is this show’s way of showing the importance of affection in a child’s development, and it’s not just about the overt physical displays of tenderness, but a deeper love that the child can sense mentally.

If a caretaker doesn’t do these things, they run the risk of creating a future demon instead of an angel. Which makes me very nervous about the final scene of this episode, which hints at the return of horrible father Martin to this series before the season is up. Tree Trunks and Mr. Pig’s love has kept The Lich locked inside Sweet Pea, but what if Sweet Pea ends up Martin’s hands? Luckily, we won’t have to wait very long to find out what happens when Martin’s spaceship comes back to Ooo.

Stray observations:

  • Marceline’s living blue cell phone thing reminds me a lot of the dolmantle in Brandon Graham’s Prophet series. I suggested the Graham joins this series as a prop designer in my write-up of “Jermaine,” but if he doesn’t have time for that, I don’t mind the designers just pulling from his comic-book work.
  • Ethan Maher’s voice work for Sweet Pea is adorable perfection. It’s the exact voice you want to hide the fact that this giant toddler is essentially embodiment of death.
  • Marceline pulling small creatures out of her belly button is very disturbing, but I love how casual the whole thing is. This is just something she does, like tweezing eyebrows or cutting nails.
  • “Those bears did not want to give up that sweat.”
  • “I feel something crunchy. Like fried chicken. Oh my glob, it is fried chicken!”
  • “What my life has become!”
  • “Refrigerators are just…great. I never stopped to think how great they are.”
  • “Rich person indoor fire! It’s just so great!”
  • “It’s not black and crunchy like when I throw bread into my campfire.”
  • “This music’s way better than owl’s hoots.”
  • “Did you break into someone’s house again?”
  • “Success isn’t about skills. It’s about being cool!”
  • “Maybe we can get NEPTR to sit. I don’t know.” Oh man, I am so down for an episode about NEPTR babysitting Sweet Pea.

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