We open with Jadeite watching a replay of one of his defeats and looking frustrated. A woman appears from a sudden burst of water, and starts flirting with him. She's a Youma called... well, fandom has forever been split over whether her name should be Thetis or Tethys, and Viz gives us... Tetiz. Eh, fair enough. Anyway, Tetris here is a Youma who works directly under Queen Beryl, and her aim is to get into Jadeite's pants. Jadeite isn't interested... and, you know, maybe he has a point. I mean, she's in her human-like form now, but in their true forms, most of the Youma we've seen so far have been giant lizards or walking corpses or evil mechanical dolls. Hell, one of the more attractive Youma we've seen so far was a green bat woman with chest fur. It makes sense that Jadeite isn't looking to form romantic relationships with women whose main purpose is to scare the crap out of viewers, but this Youma has a proposition to make. She has an awesome plan to collect human energy that's guaranteed to get Jadeite back in Beryl's good books, or at the very least out of her "marked for death" books. She calls it... Operation Romantic Cruise.
Usagi sees a romantic cruise in Tokyo Bay advertised on TV, and wants to go on it. At school, she and Naru look at a print ad for the cruise. Umino comes over and reads some copy from the ad, including that the ship can carry 666 passengers (which is in no way suspicious). Though he has a little fantasy of himself and Usagi on the cruise, it turns out he did actually have tickets... but he gave them away because, well, it's past his bedtime. He says that the local lottery is giving away tickets as prizes, though, and on hearing this, Usagi makes her way calmly to the exit.
Rei asks Ami to go on the cruise with her. I mean, practically begs her. Rei is so much fun in this episode, saying one thing and immediately doing the exact opposite. She says that she intends to find a boyfriend while on the cruise, sure, but don't recalibrate your yuri detectors just yet. Rei has tickets for a romantic cruise, and the plot hinges on which of her female friends she wants to take with her. You can take the talk of finding boyfriends at face value if you want, but this episode is just swimming in lesbian subtext. Even though the show introduces openly lesbian characters later on, this is the episode that a lot of people - including Erica Friedman, benevolent overlord of western yuri fandom - point to as the one where they first picked up on all that subtext.
So, back to the episode. Usagi overhears Rei and Ami agreeing to go on the cruise together, and resolves to get on that cruise no matter what. And how will she manage this without a ticket? Well, for times like this, she has the Disguise Pen! Over Luna's objections, she disguises herself as a photographer. Usagi with short hair is adorable.
Speaking of couples, Rei and Ami notice they're the only girls who came without guys. Since everyone else here is part of a couple, it doesn't look like they'll be finding any single dudes here.
Usagi's having better luck, though. While poking around the suspiciously-quiet engine room, she meets a nice, single man: the captain! She says she got separated from her crew, and she's sure a hot guy like him would be able to help her out, right?
Luna immediately senses something evil about the captain, but she's in the box and can't communicate with Usagi. The contrast between Usagi and Jadeite's reactions in this scene is really telling.
episode three, he seemed so much more powerful than she was. Now, just being close to her freaks him out, while he isn't even a blip on her radar. One of the people in this scene is way more threatening than the other. Meanwhile, Rei wonders if she and Ami might be able to find guys if they just wait for some of the couples on the ship to fight and break up. Guys who'll hook up with you moments after being dumped by someone else are always top-tier, right?
Usagi is still hanging off Jadeite's arm and scaring the crap out of him for reasons he can't comprehend. He finally gets away from her when Tetiz shows up and needs him for important evil business. Luna finally gets the chance to tell Usagi that the ship is full of evil energy. They spy on Jadeite and Tetiz, who are discussing their plan, but can't hear what they're saying. Usagi has doubts that someone so attractive could be their enemy, but when Jadeite and Tetiz both disappear, she resolves to investigate.
In the dining room, Rei is channeling all of her frustrations into eating as much food as possible, embarrassing Ami. Who'd have thought that out of all our characters, Rei would be the most embarrassing date?
Tetiz starts to drain the energy from the couples using the mirror ball on the ceiling: based on this and episode seven, I'm just going to assume those things are evil from now on. Everyone collapses except for Rei and Ami, because they didn't bring guys, and I guess the mirror ball was calibrated to hetero couples only?
Sailor Moon bursts in and tells off Jadeite and Tetiz for being so inconsiderate as to not steal energy from everyone: what about those girls over there without boyfriends? Tetiz charges Sailor Moon and they end up on the deck of the ship, where Tetiz summons and controls torrents of seawater, aiming them at Sailor Moon. Inside, now that they've had a chance to transform, Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury deal with the water monsters, and prepare for some sweet revenge.
Mars and Mercury come to assist Sailor Moon, and together they're able to wipe out Tetiz. Jadeite confronts them, observing that they're much stronger than they used to be, and they prepare to battle. Jadeite summons a ball of dark energy and... is abruptly teleported away.
Oh boy, Queen Beryl is pissed. On top of his previous failures, Jadeite just let one of her Youma get killed. It's not looking good for him right now.
With Tetiz gone, her magic fades. The passengers wake up to find themselves adrift in Tokyo Bay in a rusty derelict, with rescue ships surrounding them. And then... well, once again, the ending is a bit weak, with all of the characters reverting to their archetypes: Usagi and Rei squabble, Luna gets exasperated and Ami talks about studying. But since Usagi doesn't cry or fall over, it's forgivable.
Monster of the day: Tetiz gets more development than any other monster I can think of, really. She's strong, smart, and really her only flaw is the persistent desire to bone Jadeite that ends up getting her killed.
Most valuable person: Everyone was on fine form, and it's hard to pick a winner. Let's give it to Usagi for freaking out Jadeite so badly, even when posing as a regular person.
Least valuable person: Again, tricky. Nobody really annoyed me here. Jadeite gets it by default for being a bit pathetic and acting kind of dickish towards Tetiz, while proving to be a lot less competent than her in everything other than not-getting-killed.
I like this episode a lot. The characters are funny, the plot is interesting, and we even get a monster of the day with some depth. The lesbian subtext has plenty of "but we really want boyfriends" plausible deniability, but it's there. It's all kind of Class S - an older genre of Japanese fiction where girls crush on girls as a rite of passage before getting on with the important business of being attracted to men. These days, some elements of Class S can seem pretty iffy, as it carries the implication that lesbian attractions are a phase to be grown out of, but in its day it was pretty subversive, as it served as a means to acknowledge and celebrate same-sex attraction without falling foul of censors (though the genre was banned by the Japanese government in the 1930s). Maria-sama ga Miteru is an example of a modern Class S series, and in keeping with more modern attitudes, it has at least one canon lesbian among the many schoolgirl crushes. Sailor Moon would go on to be groundbreaking in its portrayal of lesbian characters, and this feels like a first, nervous step in that direction.
All in all, this episode ranks amongst the most memorable of early Sailor Moon, and earns itself a solid four stars out of five.
Oh, and I don't usually comment on the next episode trailers, but thank you, Viz for doing a better job translating the next episode's title than ADV did.