The last episode of In Too Deep could have been a huge plot twist, setting up the next round of conflicts between Home World and Earth. After all, there was a crazy cliffhanger at the end of “Barn Mates” with a group of Rubies showing up on Earth. And the title “Hit The Diamond” obviously conjures images of the Diamond Authority, with a possible reappearance of Patti Lupone’s Yellow Diamond. But Steven Universe enjoys trolling with episode titles far too much to actually include any Diamonds, and we just got rid of Malachite and the Cluster in a double play. Rushing into anything too crazy would miss an opportunity to goof around. Instead, we get a bit of a curve ball.
I get that “Hit The Diamond” might not be your favorite facet of Steven Universe. After all, Home World sends an envoy of Rubies to come after our Gems (or, as we eventually find out, really Jasper), and instead of treating it like a serious threat, the Gems wind up challenging the Rubies to a wacky game of baseball that feels like it came straight out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. (How far away is Steven Universe: Wacky Races? I’m into it.) So yeah, it’s a bit of a swing and a miss, dramatically speaking, from last week’s episode. But I loved it.
Steven Universe has shown time and again that it can field serious emotional stories and Gem action in equal measure when it wants to, so the show has more than earned the right to swing for the fences on something like this. Everything is really broad and silly, from the sitcom trope of our Ruby telling the others that their target is definitely not in the barn, to the Rubies just accepting that they have to play baseball, to the human names taken by the Gems. (Earl, Amy, and… Bob.) The idea is less of a non sequitur than “Say Uncle”—you can almost hear the laughter emanating from the conversation where this was pitched in the writer’s room—and it’s clear that everyone was really committed to it. So it’s not surprising that this episode is both funny and sweet. (Cue Sapphire: “I saw that this was a possibility, though I am surprised this is the path we’re taking.”)
With a ridiculous base, Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu get to have a blast with the outsized visual touches in the episode, from the sequence of the Rubies all being introduced as Ruby to Lapis bunting to the final fireball-versus-ice bat sequence. Let’s talk about those Rubies: credited as Leggy, Navy, Army, Eyeball, and Doc, they are very fun additions to the show for the few minutes they’re here. First and foremost, they are very dumb—Team Leader Ruby (the one I am pretty sure is “Doc”) counts five other Rubies instead of six, total, allowing the ruse to continue, and they are easily duped by Steven telling them that Jasper is on Neptune. This is funny, but it also helps confirm something about Gems—not all instances of the same Gem are the same, even if they share the same material and, broadly speaking, the same function in Gem society. (Also, they know almost nothing about humans, assuming it makes sense for someone to be purple—a broader failing of Gem missions to Earth.)
More importantly, the presence of the Rubies forces Garnet to unfuse, providing the emotional anchor of the episode (such as there is one). Most of Ruby and Sapphire’s separate appearances to date have focused on their status as components of Garnet, to the detriment of both their characters. (And their antagonism in “Keystone Motel” made it harder to understand their relationship, and the reasons why it works.) Here, though, they show at least some semblance of personality, primarily in terms of their attachment to the other Gem. Ruby is afraid to be out on her own, which makes sense considering that she’s used to subsuming her identity within Garnet. Sapphire is a little insecure, and unable to focus on baseball with Ruby standing right behind her.
Lapis, Steven, and Pearl’s reactions to Ruby and Sapphire flirting throughout the episode are glorious, both because they’re vaguely exasperated and because Ruby and Sapphire’s affection is threatening the ruse. Where Garnet is usually the most level-headed member of the team, here her Gems threaten all the work everyone else is doing, including Amethyst toning down her Sonic rolling attack, Lapis actually trying, and Peridot hiding herself in the barn, then a cardboard box, then trying to sacrifice herself to the Rubies. (Echoing their conversation in “Gem Drill,” Steven tries lying to Peridot to make her feel better, to which she responds with a yelped “Thank you!”)
Everyone’s fears are well-founded: Sapphire’s game-winning home run backfires when she and Ruby reform Garnet (“Whoops”), prompting the Rubies to get in attack formation. Faced with a gigantic Ruby, Peridot attempts to sacrifice herself—and steals the episode at the last minute by calling herself the new leader of the Crystal Gems. But in another goofy touch, Steven sends the Rubies off to Neptune, hunting for their true target: Jasper. It’s possible we’ll see those Rubies again, but it doesn’t really matter if we don’t. After all, we’ve spent the past few weeks clearing the bases. Let’s take some time to see what’s next.
- “This plan sucks.” True, Lapis.
- I’m sure there are other animation references I’m missing here providing precedent for the baseball game here besides Hanna-Barbera stuff. What are they?
- “Barn Mates” was Ian Jones-Quartey’s last episode as co-executive producer, and though he has a few more episodes with story credits, this feels like a good time to point out that his involvement with the show will be significantly reduced going forward, and acknowledge his contributions to the show thus far. Thanks, Ian!
- And that’s a wrap for another run of new Steven Universe episodes. This wasn’t my favorite event, but I still dug all of these episodes, and really excited to get back to Beach City. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long this time!