ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Dec. 4th, 2014
SYNOPSIS: Lion is trying to tell Steven something important, but he can't figure out what.
At the Big Donut, Sadie patiently waits for Steven to pick a snack. Lion leans towards the Lion Lickers, those icky snacks that replaced the far superior Cookie Cat ice cream bars. Steven is absolutely offended! He then notices a role of bagged lunches out on display with Sadie's name on them. They're not some Big Donut promotion that just happens to have her name, they're lunches Sadie's mother made for her every time she goes to work. Sadie is embarrassed by them since she's not a little kid anymore, mom. She doesn't eat them, just leaves it out on the shelves in public...somehow. I am sure that violates several rules and health codes.
After asking Sadie if he can try out a lunch bag, Steven takes one home and ponders what kind of lunch his mother would have made for him if she was around. Lion eyes Steven cryptically, but he doesn't register it. That night, Lion gets awfully cozy with Steven when previously he largely kept to himself. Steven has to force the big cat out of his bed before sleeping. Afterwards, he dreams of a beautiful pink field, which is somewhat ruined by the lack of air, forcing Steven to hold in his breath. The supposed dream only lasts a few seconds before Pearl swoops in and pulls Steven out after she noticed Lion resting on top of the boy, suffocating him. Steven asks why Pearl is even here, prompting her to confess that she sometimes like to watch him sleep. How creepily overprotective of her.
Steven shoo both Pearl and Lion away before going back to sleep. He has a dream where he's playing a checkers/chess match with Dogcoptor as the latter dispenses wise advice. He ends it by telling him to take a deep breath. Indeed, after Dogcoptor leaves, Steven is back in that pink field. Again he wakes up smothered by Lion. For once, that big lug refuses to let Steven go, so he pushes the creature out to the front porch so he can sleep uninterrupted. It doesn't last, Steven can't resist Lion's adorable face. He approaches the aloof feline and hugs him, unintentionally getting sucked into Lion's mane and back into the pink field.
This is no field of dreams, but a gateway into...well, some place. Steven wanders around until he finds a lone tree housing a number of items: Rose's sword, a flag, a Mr. Universe T-shirt, a treasure chest, a photo of Rose and Greg (the same one previously seen in "Laser Light Cannon"), and the most interesting of all, a bubbled Gem. Steven doesn't know what to make of any of this, then he spots a VHS tape that reads, "For Steven." Much like the secret chambers Lion took Steven and Connie to in "Lion 2: The Movie", this episode never states whose hideout this is, but it's very clear that it belongs to Rose just by visual cues alone.
With the tape in hand, Steven rushes to the Big Donut (curiously without informing the Crystal Gems) and asks Sadie to watch the tape with him in the employee's room. What we get is one of the single best scenes in the entire show: a video recording Greg and Rose did for Steven while the latter was pregnant with him. It's a cute video: Greg and Rose play around at the beach, with Greg showboating his musician skills for his future kid while Rose records the whole thing. The video ends with Rose imparting a message for her son and for the first time, we hear her speak and it is a doozy:
"Isn't it remarkable, Steven? This world is full of so many possibilities."
"Each living thing has an entirely unique experience; the sights they see, the sounds they hear, the lives they live are so complicated and so simple. I can't wait for you to join them."
"Steven, we can't both exist. I'm going to become half of you and I need you to know that every moment you love being yourself, that's me loving you and loving being you! Because you're going to be something extraordinary, you're going to be a human being. Take care of them, Steven."
This was the episode that made me a Steven Universe fan.
I remember the first time I saw "Lion 3: Straight to Video" and how restless it made me feel. I felt the plot was dragging and I couldn't imagine the pay off at the rate it was going. The tape was worth it. Susan Egan deserves the highest praises here, voicing Rose Quartz with such a compassionate, emotional, and soft-spoken tone that it's hard to believe this is the same actress who can punch out biting sarcasm as Megara from Disney's Hercules.
Rose was a character whom we only knew secondhand through Greg and the Crystal Gems. Steven had a frustrating experience trying to feel something for his mother that wasn't apathy, but unfamiliarity with her meant all he had to go by was through stories and anecdotes shared by others. It's enough for him to be inspired by her and know his mother was a good person, but that's not the same as hearing or seeing it straight from the horse's mouth. The tape is the closest Steven has ever gotten to that. For the first time, Steven hears his mother's voice and sees her interacting with another person (Greg in this case.) All the claims of Rose Quartz being this kind and loving woman is officially validated by this tape, a tape that she and Greg specifically made for him. While there is no doubt that Steven knows his mother loved him, this here is undeniable proof for him. Finally, he can cry over his mother.
That's why Lion was getting really snuggly with him, too, he was trying to tell Steven about Rose's secret hideout. Tape in hand, Steven walks out with a satisfied smile, hugging Lion for all his help. Having watched the tape with Steven, Sadie calls her mother to tell her that maybe those bagged lunches weren't so bad after all.
For thirty-four episodes, I pondered if I really wanted to continue the show. There were potentials that kept me glued such as "Laser Light Cannon" and "Bubble Buddies", both of which proved the show could carry sincerely emotional moments. Episodes like "Too Many Birthdays" and "Lars and the Cool Kids" revealed lighthearted plots could turn into nightmarish mood swings that had your head spinning. The "Mirror/Ocean Gem" two-parter hinted of a greater story arc waiting in the wing. All of them were good, but I still gave up at one point. I resumed months later because I saw gifs of "Lion 3" (specifically the scene where Rose made the video) and even that bout of spoiling did nothing to prepare me for how emotionally-charged it really was. This was the episode that rewarded my patience.
It was worth it.