Ep. #38 ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Jan. 22nd, 2015 SONG: No SYNOPSIS: Steven wants to test his merits, so the Gems set up an obstacle course.
Steven and the Crystal Gems are playing a rousing game of Citchen Calamity, a food-themed board game. None of the Gems really get it, but as usual, they go with the flow. After Steven wins, he searches the closet for another game to play, but instead stumbles upon the Moon Goddess statue. Steven is dejected, remembering the screw-up that cost the Sea Spire's longevity. Pearl accidentally lets slip that the whole Sea Spire incident is not as important as Steven makes it out to be; the whole thing was just a secret test in order to prepare Steven for missions. Steven is upset, because it means he had failed the test (an easy one according to Pearl), making him feel even more guilty and incompetent. Steven wants a second shot and asks for another test. The Gems are reluctant, citing his improvement over the months that defeats the purpose of such, but he's insistent.
The Crystal Gems alter the temple to create a customized dungeon for Steven to bypass. Three challenges await Steven with the goal to reach the end where the Crystal Gems will be waiting. The first test is from Amethyst where the goal is to outrun a massive boulder Indiana Jones-style. Steven barely makes it in time for Stage Two, Pearl's. Her course fittingly uses logic: floor tiles glow in a certain pattern and Steven must step on the exact spots to get across. That was the easy part, the second half involves swinging pendulums. Finally, Steven reaches Garnet's obstacle course: he has to make it past a narrow hall while dodging lava shooting from above. A nasty end waits for him at the end: a spiked platform that nearly crushes him from above. Steven doesn't make it in time, but just when he's about to meet his maker, the platform stops just barely above his head.
Steven is confused because the spiked platform functions properly whenever he's not in its path, but as long as a part of him is anywhere near the vicinity, the thing stops before it can hurt him. Steven tests out the other obstacles and realizes the Gems had rigged everything so he'd never lose or get hurt no matter what. Steven feels cheated. He walks out of the obstacle course, furious that the Gems won't take him seriously. How can he improve if they don't believe he can?
Steven overhears the Gems and sneaks up to witness the three talking amongst themselves. The Crystal Gems acknowledge his growth, but they're concerned that he hasn't been feeling like himself since he lost his healing powers. The course was designed to secure a win in an attempt to boost his confidence. Amethyst is the one to point out a very sad truth: they don't really know what to do with Steven. He's not fully Gem; his needs are always going to be different and Rose isn't here to guide them. The Crystal Gems have always struggled to function as a team without Rose. Though they work together beautifully, a large part of this is carried via their familiarity with each other. Rose's death has put a severe dent in their lives and they're still recovering from the aftermath. The Gems are doing the best they can for Steven, but different biological function and expectations means they aren't always going to succeed. Sometimes this means cheering him up with little white lies instead of admitting the harsh truth about themselves.
Well, Steven can play that game, too! He waltzes past the obstacle course to meet up with the Crystal Gems proper. The trio congratulate him for a job well done and Steven plays along. What is important now is not what they did, but to cheer them up for the effort they put into it. The Crystal Gems have always been there for Steven, now it's his turn to be there for them. This doesn't solve his problems nor the Gems' and the latter group's bad habit of holding back on him will bite them in the butt as the series goes on, but it shows a remarkable growth on Steven's part. Growing up sometimes mean not just sympathetizing with your loved ones, but often sacrificing your time and issues to cheer them up instead.