ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Dec. 2nd, 2013
SYNOPSIS: Steven’s awkward crush on Connie turns complicated when the two are trapped in an indestructible bubble.
The Crystal Gems are concerned about the reoccurring earthquakes that’s been happening recently. Steven notices, but pays it no mind since he’s got a far more important mission to accomplish: impressing a girl. Steven attempts the world’s most adorable flirting session with a girl reading by the shore, but she’s too absorbed with her book to notice. Steven’s plan fails when he falls off his bike. This one does catch her attention, but the embarrassment is too much and Steven runs back home in a panic. The Crystal Gems saw the whole thing go up in flames.
They figure out real quick that Steven has a crush on her. Pearl wants to set up a playdate, but Garnet stoically informs the kid to just talk to her. Steven agrees, but tells the three to stop watching him since it’ll mess up his “funky flow.” Garnet promises they won’t. Steven runs to the fridge to fetch a glowstick bracelet, then walks back to the girl.
Before he has a chance to introduce himself, the quake strikes again, causing a large rock to crumble off a cliff overhead. Steven dives in to protect Connie, his gem reacting at the same time, creating a protective bubble around them. Good News: it’s strong against wayward boulders. Bad News: Steven has no idea how to deactivate the bubble, trapping the two inside. Consolation Prize: Steven manages to introduce himself. Likewise, so does the girl, saying her name is Connie. Her full name is Connie Maheswaran, incidentally a surname that translates to “universe.” The two chat as they try to get the bubble moving: Connie’s father is a beach security guard, so they travel from one beach to another, never staying in one spot. Steven talks about his role as a Crystal Gem. You know, small talk.
They try to roll the bubble up to Steven’s house, but the hill is too high for them. Steven yells for the Crystal Gems, but there’s no response from them since they promised not to peep in on his romantic ventures. Connie thinks they should wait till the Gems arrive, but Steven says he has other friends who can help. The scene switches to the Big Donut where Sadie is hard at work pounding the bubble with a hammer while Lars makes fun of them. Steven tells Connie he and Lars are BFFs. Boy, this kid does like everyone. Sadie argues with Lars to help out, but it’s clear they can’t do much of anything.
They head to the docks where Connie shows a keen knowledge of boats. Steven is impressed, but Connie merely says she had time to learn because she doesn’t have any friends to hang out with. A kid named Onion runs past them. Oooh man, Onion, way till we get a better look at this kid. Steven asks Onion for a harpoon gun to pop the bubble, but Connie rightfully thinks this is a bad idea. When Onion doesn’t seem to understand, Steven blows on the bubble and draws a picture to get the message across. Onion just stands there though since the drawing is a little obtuse. Connie steps in and writes a better message: “harpoon gun.” Onion finally gets it and actually launches the thing himself. The bubble is ridiculously strong as the harpoon gun ricochets off the thing and hits another boat, sinking it. Onion responses with a thumbs up. It’s one of those scenes that works better watched than explained because those five seconds are just maddeningly hilarious.
Steven’s next plan involves taking them to the Beach City Funland Amusement Park. “Horrible accidents happen there all time”, Steven cheerfully states, surely something can break them free. His solution is to race the bubble on the roller coaster track and hopefully hit a roller coaster, freeing them. Connie smartly asks what will happen after they break free, but Steven is optimistic things will be alright. Another earthquake sets in, forcing the two into the track and getting hit by a coaster. The owner, Mr. Smiley, stops it before anyone can get hurt, but that sends the bubble flying until it hits the ocean. Steven and Connie are literally sunk as they land in the bottom of the sea.
Connie is panicking. So is Steven, but he tries hard to keep a cool head and figure out a solution. They roll the bubble out in hopes of reaching the surface, but they confront a giant sea worm. Unlike the Centipeedle from “Gem Glow”, this one has a gem lodged in its mouth. The worm violently reacts by retreating deeper into the ocean, unwittingly dragging Steven and Connie down. Steven tries to downplay the danger once more, but Connie chews him out, saying he has no idea what he’s doing and now they’re going to suffocate and starve to death. No one will care about her except her parents when she dies because she has no friends.
And then Steven gives her the glowstick bracelet.
“Bubble Buddies” was a bit of a turning point for me. “Laser Light Cannon” hinted of its grand potential as a sensitive show where positive feelings and open communication would play a vital part as an overall theme. It would be a later season one episode that would ultimately convince me to stick with Steven Universe, but “Bubble Buddies” proved its sincerity in terms of using emotions as a narrative tool was not a fluke, but a genuinely important element of the show.
Steven noticed Connie from the boardwalk parade last year (he was one of the parade members, representing his father’s car wash) and the glowstick bracelet she accidentally left behind. Steven wanted to return it, but couldn’t find her, so he’s kept it in the freezer to keep the glow intact until he’d run into her again. Indeed, you can actually see the bracelet in the very first episode. Steven apologizes to Connie for messing everything up and says he’d love to be her friend. Connie notes in spite of all this, she is having fun. It is a beautiful, heartwarming scene laid over with a lovely score. There’s no known release of the completed version of the track, but the original piano demo is one of those charming little ditties that makes you feel like everything is going to be okay.
Then the bubble pops. The two swim to the surface where the Sea Worm attacks them. It specifically targets Connie because it’s attracted to her glowing bracelet. Steven takes the bracelet, tells Connie to run, and lures the creature around the bottom of a boardwalk, entangling its body around the pillars. The monster struggles to reach for it, causing the pillars to crack and the entire boardwalk to fall on top of it. The thing bursts, leaving behind its gem.
The Crystal Gems arrive, relieve the two are safe. Garnet bubbles up the leftover Gem while Connie praises Steven’s awesome heroism. Pearl and Amethyst go into Embarrassing Parenting Mode and eggs Steven on his crush. Garnet saves the day by dragging the two away, telling them not to mess with Steven’s “funky flow.” Connie is amused, but poor Steven is petrified once more.
Steven’s powers have always been tied to his emotions. His shield was brought forth by a genuine desire to use his Gem powers, but it couldn’t be activated until he was at his most comfortable and satisfied AKA eating a Cookie Cat ice cream. It’s very obvious (and this is something Lars of all people figured out) that Steven’s bubble activated due to a desired effort to spend alone time with Connie. But then the episode digs a little deeper: the bubble doesn’t pop because Steven and Connie are increasingly uncomfortable in their predicament. He spends most of the episode trying to calm Connie down and figure out a solution that the two didn’t have the means to connect on a personal level. He’s just as scared as she is and the bubble serves as a metaphorical shield as it does physical, blocking out Steven’s true feelings in favor of bravado and terrible plans. Only when they literally hit rock bottom does Steven and Connie have the time to get across their real emotions. This level of trust and comfort removes all the awkwardness and anguish they’ve experienced earlier, causing the bubble to burst. It is no longer needed.
Connie as a character is a standard archetype in western animation: the lonely nerd girl. That doesn’t mean her personal journey is no less inspirational and wonderful to observe because it will be. And let’s face it, we’ve known or were a Connie at some point. Maybe you still are, I certainly was and at times, still am. I used to grow up lonely, comforted only by books and geeky pursuits. I, too moved around a lot, making it harder to build friendship. My time was spent sitting in a corner somewhere during recess, wondering why everyone had friends and I didn’t. Connie’s tearful confession didn’t just work on an emotional scale, but hit me on a very deep, personal level. Though she’s presented as the girl Steven has a budding crush on, “Bubble Buddies” ensures right from the start that she has feelings of her own and a personal issue she wants to overcome. She also presents suggestions and actively attempts to help when Steven’s plans don’t pan out, showing shades of cleverness and intelligence as oppose to Steven’s gut instincts. This isn’t just about Steven and the girl he likes, it’s as much Connie’s story and she’ll only grow from here on out. Why yes, Connie is one of my favorite characters in the show, how did you guess?