ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Jan. 15th, 2015
SYNOPSIS: Steven and Connie are in for a big surprise when they fuse together.
Steven Universe's continuity is incredible, especially in light of their shorter timeframe. They have to squeeze an entire plot in just eleven-minutes and some of them can be exceptionally dense. Season One has plenty of breathing space since it's meant to introduce the characters and settle into a groove as it slowly - very slowly - teases us with a greater story. It is a series worth revisiting once the proper context airs because all the little innocuous moments, the subtle visuals in the background, and character reaction makes so much sense in retrospect. "Giant Woman" ended with a small two-sentence epilogue hinting of a possibility that Steven is capable of fusing as much as the Gems can. Twenty-five episodes later, our patience is rewarded when Stevonnie comes to town.
The Crystal Gems' latest training involves dancing as they teach Steven how to be in sync with any future partner he plans to fuse with. Steven may be a whiz when it comes to instruments, but he has far less rhythm on the dance floor, though some of the moves the Gems are showing him are a little too provocative for a twelve-year-old. It's probably intentional given "Alone Together's" theme, but still, take it down a notch, guys.
Steven later relates this to Connie at the beach. Connie wishes she could dance in public, but she's too self-conscious. Steven gently asks her to dance with him though and before long, the two of them are having a blast. They're so in sync that none of them notices until the last minute that Steven's gem is glowing.
When they wake up, Steven and Connie have fused, transforming into Stevonnie. Confused, but excited, Stevonnie reports the news to the Crystal Gems. Pearl and Amethyst's reaction is what you'd expect, but Garnet's reaction is interesting. Instead of her usual unflappable self, she's beaming. Garnet is quick to encourage this fusion, telling Stevonnie that they are an "experience" and to go out and have fun. Garnet has never been more prouder than this moment; her enthusiasm is unparalleled and unlike anything she has ever displayed before.
Stevonnie takes Garnet's words to heart and runs across the beach, just experiencing themself with such exuberance. When they're hungry, they stop by the Big Donut to grab a bite to eat, earning blushed stares from both Lars and Sadie in the process. Stevonnie takes a moment to essentially talk to themself. Fusion is an interesting thing: you're not two people who fused nor are you solely one person. Stevonnie, Opal, Sugilite - the ones we've seen so far have all been presented with a singular individuality that is their own. Stevonnie is wholly one person, but we frequently see them talking to each other, indicating that there is still something of a consciousness fom the separate beings that made Stevonnie in the first place. Naturally it's Steven asking Connie if she's alright with this; Connie sounds a bit nervous, but she's fine otherwise. Sour Cream, enamored at Stevonnie, approaches them with an invite to a rave party he's hosting. They accept.
Once they reach the party, Stevonnie starts dancing with confidence. When they finish, everyone stares. Stevonnie starts panicking, wondering why this isn't turning out the way it should have been. They expected it to be cool, with everyone accepting them without any baggage. Instead, it recalls what Connie confessed earlier: how she went to a school dance once, but never had the nerve to break a leg because she feared what the other kids would think of her. She was worried it would happen here and then it did happen. The awkwardness, the embarrassment, and the stares are agonizing. Stevonnie starts to panic. All of this is visually represented in a surreal nightclub background as a disco ball engulfs Stevonnie. They're trapped and can't get out, too paralyzed by their own anxiety.
A teenager named Kevin approaches Stevonnie, but the latter runs off. Connie speaks through Stevonnie, wishing Steven was here. They may be fused together, but they are still by themself. Kevin is a persistent beast and gets up in Stevonnie's face, forcing them to dance with him. Stevonnie is clearly uncomfortable and tries to decline, but when he won't let up, Stevonnie essentially challenges him to a dance-off. Stevonnie goes all out, freaking out Kevin. It's enough to unfuse Steven and Connie, which is cue for Kevin to turn tail and leave. Don't let the door hit you on the way out, doofus. Together at least, Connie finally gets the courage to dance and laugh away her fears. Steven follows suit and in spite of all the confused stares, the two dance away.
"Alone Together" is many things, specifically Stevonnie challenging gender norms. While the episode never says it or use "they" pronouns, Stevonnie is very clearly representative of a non-binary individual. Their design isn't just an anagram of Steven and Connie, but consciously meant to be androgynous. This is an amazing leap forward in American cartoons. Cartoons have done fusion plots before, but never with this analogy and certainly never with the intent to give people a character whom non-binary folks can identify with. I can't speak for this as a whole since I am cisgendered, but Stevonnie is an incredible inclusion to the show and LGBT representation as a whole. Let's hope Steven Universe can be a trendsetter for future Western Animations down the line.
Stevonnie, as par the creator's words, is also meant to represent the awkward first stages of puberty. Apart, Steven and Connie are just at the cusp of childish adolescent and teenage adolescence. With a body that is decidely "adult" in appearance, Stevonnie gets into complicated situations neither Steven nor Connie would have known at the age they're in. Along with it comes desirable gazes from other people and unfortunately, unwanted advances from the rest. There is no redeeming factor for a guy like Kevin, he's a scumbag who doesn't know when "no"means "no." It's especially low that he tried to coerce them into dancing with him during a very vulnerable moment for Stevonnie. The fusion test drives all the awkward signs of puberty by introducing Steven and Connie to a number of hormones, awkward body changes, and emotions they haven't been exposed to before and have no ready knowledge to deal with.
The latter point also brings me into the issue of anxiety. It's something I personally suffer from, so seeing Stevonnie freeze up in the middle of the dance floor, especially after getting their hopes so high, is not only relatable, but stomach churning. The stares and the fear of judgment is all too real. I've had numerous moments in high school where I reacted poorly to those around me because I couldn't find a better way to cope. I had none of the cleverness to snap back at those who would not stop bullying me and I had not a sliver of the confidence I have today to go out on the dance floor, let alone talk to someone. I'm appreciative of Connie's personal journey because it's as much her decision to change her life as it is getting help from others when needed. She doesn't have to fight alone. Having someone like Steven to goof around and dance with her is the moral support she needed to boost her self-esteem. Steven would never judge her no matter what she did.
Steven Universe often uses Gem biology and culture as allegories to the themes its telling and "Alone Together" is a triumphant example of such.