Steven Universe Rewind: Bubble Buddies / Serious Steven

Spoiler Policy: All spoilers up to and including the currently discussed episode will be unmarked. Spoilers for episodes beyond the current point will be enclosed in Fast Forward blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.

Bubble Buddies

Official Episode Description: Steven looks like a hero when he forms a magic crystal bubble around himself to protect a girl from danger.

Actual Episode Description: Steven looks like a big dork when he almost gets poor Connie killed in her first appearance.

I’ve been excited to get to this one. Perhaps you can guess why!

The episode opens with a be-helmeted Steven attempting to ride his bike across the sand. The other Gems walk by, discussing earthquakes that have been happening recently. They’re confused about what Steven is trying to accomplish.

As it turns out, he’s trying to get the attention of this girl sitting on the beach. Hey, it’s the same girl from the opening!

Connie Maherswaran (voice: Grace Rolek) is a smart, level headed, and currently somewhat reclusive girl who lives in the Beach City area. She enjoys reading and playing the violin. I’m going to be up front: she’s one of my absolute favorites on the show. Steven Universe Rewind is a Love and Support Connie zone.

Fast Forward

CONNIE!

Connie blossoming into a valued member of the Crystal Gems over the course of the series is one of my favorite character developments. Her friendship/relationship with Steven is one of the most interesting, well developed, and all around wholesome on a show with a lot of great friendships. It’s fun to look at her here, and think of her in the last episode where she’s fearlessly attacking an enormous Diamond mech with a custom-made gem sword.

Part of what immediately drew me to Connie’s character is the fact that I can relate pretty hard to being the lonely, bookish kid with strict parents. The way she almost immediately wants in on magical adventures like she read about in her books is also quite relatable.

And then there’s Stevonnie, another character all their own that I also love. We’ve got quite a ways to go before that, though.

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Steven parks his bike in front of Connie, loudly talking about its features, but she’s too engrossed in her book to notice. She doesn’t notice him until he falls over onto the sand, causing him to get embarrassed and run back to the house.

As it turns out, the Gems were all watching him out the window like the Moms they are. They want to know what Steven was up to, and when he says he was trying to talk to a girl, we get:

  • Amethyst teasing him
  • Pearl being an embarrassing mom suggesting they set up a “playdate” (and commenting that they need to know what kind of tea Connie likes)
  • Garnet actually giving the best advice, telling Steven to just go talk to her.
Fast Forward

Of course, since Garnet is literally the embodiment of a relationship, she’s the one best suited to giving relationship advice throughout the series… mostly.

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Steven agrees to go talk to her as long as the Gems aren’t watching, because it will mess up his “funky flow.”

Fast Forward

Garnet adjusts her visor when agreeing to this, which makes me think she’s likely using her future vision to see what the outcome will be if they don’t watch Steven. Steven gets into quite a bit of trouble here, but it ultimately results in him summoning his bubble for the first time, poofing a corrupted gem and impressing Connie, so it makes sense that Garnet would go along with it.

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Steven goes to retrieve a glow bracelet from the freezer. We saw this bracelet back in Gem Glow.

Apparently, in real life sticking a glow bracelet in the freezer will work to keep it glowing longer, but not for an entire year like we see here.

Steven practices what he’s going to say to Connie as he walks back to where she’s sitting, but just as he arrives, an earthquake knocks a rock loose from the cliff face right above her. Steven dives for Connie and his gem glows, activating a pink bubble that protects them both from the rock.

There’s a great rose effect here as the bubble forms, which they don’t always bother to animate in future episodes.

Fast Forward

Apart from his shield, Steven’s bubble is probably the most iconic and frequently used of his powers. As he increases his mastery over his gem abilities, he’ll be able to do a lot more with it — grow it, shrink it, add spikes, etc.

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Connie asks what happened, and Steven explains: “I’m magic! Well, half-magic. On my mom’s side.” He explains briefly about the Crystal Gems, and I like how up front Steven is here about his whole deal.

Steven says he helps protect humanity and fight monsters. Connie says that reminds her of her dad, who is a private security guard. She says that he works for a bunch of different beaches, so they’re never in the same place long.

Fast Forward

This aspect of Connie’s life effectively gets dropped, and I’m very glad it did. When I first heard this line I expected they were lining us up for a heartrending episode where Connie moves away. For once, Rebecca Sugar decided not to rip our emotions in half.

Connie’s family moving around doesn’t really make a lot of sense, because, as we learn later, her mom is a doctor in residence at a hospital, a job that would require a stable location. It doesn’t track that they’d move around for her father’s security guard job. This was probably just a throwaway line to explain why Steven never saw Connie between the parade last year and now.

I guess they could still give us Connie moving away in Steven Universe Future, but given that Lion is effectively her pet now and the existence of warp pads it’d be a lot less meaningful.

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Connie asks how long the bubble usually lasts, and Steven experiences the same problem he had in Cat Fingers — he has no idea how to stop using his powers yet. He reassures Connie that it will be okay, because they can get help from the other Crystal Gems. They try to roll the bubble up the slope leading to the house, and fail. Steven yells for the Gems, but remembers that they’re not paying attention because he told them not to watch.

Steven decides that maybe they can get some help from other friends…

Cut to the Big Donut, where Sadie is ineffectually hitting the bubble with a hammer while Lars taunts them. “Way to go, Steven. Is this your magical love bubble or something?” (Note that Connie has a small smile when he says this.)

Steven introduces Lars as “basically my BFF” while Lars makes faces and licks the bubble. Thank goodness Steven is about to gain Connie as his BFF instead. Sadie tells Lars to knock it off and help, and they begin arguing.

Steven: He and Sadie run the Big Donut.

Connie: Do they… get along?

Steven (deadpan, as Lars and Sadie argue in the background): They’re crazy about each other.

Connie explains that her parents don’t let her eat donuts because they have trans fats, shocking Steven, whose idea of strict parents is Pearl not letting him go on Gem missions. A second later, Sadie runs out of the Big Donut brandishing a stool and smashing it against the bubble, shattering the stool. Good try anyway, Sadie.

Steven and Connie head to the Beach City pier. Connie excitedly identifies all the boats.

Steven: You know a lot about boats.

Connie: That’s what happens when you hang out at the beach and don’t swim and don’t have friends. You… look at boats.

See, this is what I mean about Connie being way too real.

They come across Onion (voice: Zach Callison, the voice of Steven, and I didn’t even realize that until looking it up just this second. Probably because Onion almost never talks). Onion is… a divisive character. Personally, I find it hard to write a little blurb for him that goes beyond “weird kid” because I feel like they never quite decide what to do with this character.

Anyway, Onion is here eating popcorn. Steven asks him to get a harpoon gun to break the bubble. Connie has some logical concerns, but is reassured by Steven.

Steven fogs up the inside of the bubble and creates this elaborate drawing to demonstrate what he wants. It doesn’t work. I do appreciate his commitment to drawing the sun and clouds even though it has nothing to do with his point.

Connie has the far more sensible idea of simply writing “harpoon gun,” which gets the message across. Steven is impressed.

Onion commandeers the harpoon gun on a small boat nearby. Connie and Steven try to leap out of the way in alarm. The harpoon bounces off the bubble and hits a nearby trawler, sinking it. Onion gives a thumbs up, because one of his few consistent personality traits is a love of chaos.

Next, Steven and Connie roll into Beach City Funland, a somewhat questionable seaside amusement park. Note the “Wiener in Hand” sign because it wouldn’t be a cartoon without trying to sneak stuff past the radar. Steven cheerfully informs Connie that it’s a great place to find something to pop the bubble because “tons of horrible accidents happen here every day!”

Fast Forward

We see at least one example of these horrible accidents in the very next episode when Steven destroys the teacup ride.

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Steven and Connie run up to the kiddie coaster. Steven thinks they can roll the bubble in front of one of the roller coaster carts as it’s coming down the hill, and break the bubble that way. Connie sensibly asks what will happen to them once the bubble is popped and points out that this is a bad idea.

Fast Forward

Calling Steven out on some of his worse ideas is really one of the things Connie is best at.

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There’s another earthquake like the one that initially broke the rocks free, and the bubble is knocked onto the coaster tracks. A cart hits the bubble, and not only does the bubble not pop, it’s sent flying into the ocean with its screaming occupants.

The show isn’t all that consistent about the overall strength of the bubble — which you could easily chalk up to the idea that Steven’s bubbles are of different strength depending on skill and circumstance — but here’s what it’s withstood so far: falling rocks, a hammer, Sadie smashing a stool against it, a harpoon gun, and getting hit by a roller coaster.

They’re at the bottom of the ocean, seemingly unharmed. Steven comments that it’s a good thing the bubble is airtight, otherwise they would drown. Connie doesn’t seem particularly comforted.

So… how does this work, exactly? Obviously the real answer is “it works like the plot demands it to” but since this is a nerd column written by a nerd let’s think about the physics of this bubble for a second. It’s heavy enough that it immediately sinks to the bottom of the ocean, yet Steven and Connie can push it around easily. If it were actually full of air, it would probably take longer to sink even if it is fairly heavy. If the only air in the bubble was the air that was naturally in it when it was created, it seems like Connie, at the least, would have suffocated given the amount of time they spend underwater. (Whether Steven would have also suffocated is more of a wildcard due to his gem powers.) One very plausible theory is that Steven’s bubble has some of the same abilities as the stasis bubbles, providing a kind of life support to whatever is inside. As for what it’s made of, it’s almost certainly hard light like the Gem’s bodies and weapons, and since that isn’t actually a thing it can have whatever properties the stories demands it has.

Fast Forward

A few episodes where Steven ends up in space or low atmosphere situations seem to indicate he can go longer without air than a regular human — some examples that come to mind are the entirety of Bubbled, the scene where the spaceship falls apart in Space Race, and the part where Steven goes outside of the warp streams in Warp Tour.

Bubbled is probably the best example of how Steven’s bubble is capable of supporting life. When Steven ejects Eyeball from his bubble, he’d presumably lose any air that it originally contained from back at the moon base, but he is able to reform the bubble and stay alive inside it for an unknown amount of time afterwards (albeit in a sickly looking state). This supports the idea that the bubble can sustain life in an environment without air for much longer than normal, but not indefinitely.

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The two are startled by an enormous worm swimming overhead. Steven reassures Connie that the worm only seems interested in eating “that bright stuff.” The worm suddenly roars, revealing a huge gem inside its mouth, and slams into the ground, cracking it. This explains where the earthquakes were coming from. The bubble falls into the trench it forms.

We never really get an idea of why this particular gem monster is interested in glowing seaweed, or really why there’s glowing seaweed in the first place.

Steven once again tries to reassure Connie that it’s okay, but she finally has had enough — “It’s not okay!” She points out that Steven has no idea what he’s doing and now they’re in danger of suffocating at the bottom of the ocean.

Connie: Only my parents will notice because no one else cares about me! I’m gonna disappear without ever making a single friend.

Honestly, Connie’s gone through a hell of a lot in this episode — trapped in a bubble, shot at with a harpoon gun, knocked off a roller coaster, and more — so the fact that she’s only breaking down about their problems now goes to show you that she’s actually pretty tough, particularly since she is in no way used to Gem Shenanigans.

Connie is the first person to point out that Steven’s unshakeable positivity isn’t always helpful or appropriate, a lesson that is going to take quite some time to really begin to sink in.

Fast Forward

One of Connie’s most consistent roles in the series is serving as a wake-up call to Steven when his Gem adventures are going too far. Steven tends to be reckless with danger, and sometimes he only truly realizes the potential harm of his actions when he sees how they effect Connie. Examples include Full Disclosure, where he decides he shouldn’t involve Connie in any more Gem adventures; Sworn to the Sword, where Steven becomes disturbed by Pearl’s insistence that Connie should be prepared to die for him; and the aftermath of the Wanted arc, where Connie refuses to speak to Steven for some time due to her anger that he turned himself in to Homeworld.

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Steven tells Connie that he will be her friend as he holds out the glow bracelet to her. The music here is the first occurrence of Connie’s song, a quiet piano theme.

Steven explains that he saw Connie watching the boardwalk parade last year, and noticed that she dropped her glow bracelet. He couldn’t find her afterwards, so he kept the bracelet in the freezer for her.

Connie remembers that Steven was the kid riding on top of the car wash float, and HOW CUTE IS THIS. Apparently Steven’s costume is supposed to be a scrub brush. I love how the float is just Greg’s van with a sheet and some decorations on it.

Steven apologizes for trapping Connie in the bubble with him, but Connie says she’s been having fun.

Anyway, Steven and Connie are friends and my day is improved, my crops are watered, and my wounds are healed.

The bubble suddenly pops, and you know what, I’m going to stop putting everything tied to the fact that Steven’s powers are controlled by his emotions in spoiler boxes, because it should be obvious by now. Steven’s powers — at least before he begins to control them fully — are strongly affected by his emotions, as you can see here when he is only able to pop the bubble once he finally befriends Connie.

Just after Steven and Connie break the surface, laughing, the worm monster bursts out of the water, knocks them to the shore, and begins chasing them. They run to a dock and hide, but it continues to pursue Connie. Steven realizes that the glow bracelet is the same color as the glowing seaweed the monster was eating before. He tells Connie to hand him the bracelet, reassuring her that it will be okay one last time — except this time he actually has a plan.

Steven uses the bracelet to trick the monster into tying itself around the posts of the dock. Steven and Connie hold hands for the first time as it struggles against the posts, finally breaking them, bringing the dock down on itself, and poofing.

This is Steven’s first solo gem monster takedown!

The Gems run up in alarm, Pearl demanding to know what happened, but Connie is thoroughly dazzled: “He was incredible!”

Fast Forward

In Rose’s Room, when the room generates a fake Beach City, this line is the one that fake Connie will repeat over and over again. It’s safe to say that this moment made an impression on Steven!

This is the moment when Connie’s fate to be Steven’s magical adventure partner is effectively sealed, and it’s a little bittersweet knowing how much pain and stress it will eventually cause her. She wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

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Amethyst and Pearl want to be introduced and embarrass Steven, but Garnet carts them off, telling them not to mess with Steven’s funky flow. “Funky flow?” asks Connie. Steven blushes as the episode comes to an end.

Final Verdict: Along with Cat Fingers, this was one of the first episodes to really grab me. This is in large part due to the character of Connie. I love how she isn’t simply a damsel in distress, but actively helpful, and not afraid to call Steven out when she’s frustrated with him. Their friendship is one of my favorites on the show. It’s also a funny episode, with some great comedic timing on the efforts of the townies to get Steven out of the bubble.

Serious Steven

Official Episode Description: Steven tries to prove himself to be a worthy Crystal Gem to Garnet.

Replace “to Garnet” with “to the rest of the Gems” and that’s basically S1A in a nutshell.

This episode opens very non-traditionally: with the sound of ears ringing as a scene of wreckage gradually comes into view. It seems like Steven was somehow part of a disaster at Beach City Funland that involved the teacup ride.

Smash cut to Two Weeks Later. The Gems are in the warp stream, and Garnet is informing Steven that this is his first serious mission. Steven is absolutely thrilled. Pearl wants to know why he brought his guitar along, and he practically hyperventilates as he says, “I don’t know! I was excited, and it’s mine, and I like it!”

This episode is very similar in structure to Cheeseburger Backpack as it involves a series of trials and Steven not quite being able to handle the mission, although this one shows character growth by ending better for our protagonist.

Steven’s goofing off causes him to be thrown from the warp stream and dumped into a field of strawberries. The strawberries attract butterflies that “attack” Steven.

Fast Forward

The scene of Steven flipping out about the butterflies and Garnet brushing them away reminds me a lot of the visuals of Here Comes a Thought. I doubt there’s any real connection, I just like that song.

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As usual, Pearl is having second thoughts about bringing Steven along. Garnet reassures her: “Shhh. Just look at him.”

…yeah.

The strawberry field is littered with blades, and Pearl remarks that this was once a Gem battlefield. She enthuses that wild strawberries reclaiming a battlefield is an example of what she loves about the Earth.

There’s some lovely background music in this scene that’s very reminiscent of Chrono Trigger or other JRPG field music.

Fast Forward

I think this is the first unmistakeable reference to the Gem War. I almost started to write about it outside of the spoiler box before I remembered that it hasn’t really been directly referenced at this point. I had forgotten what a slow burn it is to even learn about the most important lore in the show.

This particular battle seemed to have been important, because this battlefield is referenced a few more times in the series. Much later, they’ll take Bismuth here — she was apparently bubbled not long after these events, and almost certainly forged some of the blades on the ground.

…I think this is the first time I’ve referenced Bismuth in a Fast Forward. I love her and I’m looking forward to her getting more screentime in Steven Universe Future!

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They reach their destination, this mysterious pyramid. Garnet produces the key to the pyramid and they head inside.

It’s our very first lore mural!

I think the battlefield and this mural are the very first solid indications of the conflicts that occurred in the Crystal Gems’ history. The central mural here appears to depict Rose Quartz fighting an unknown Gem. The mural on the left is another unidentified Gem, and the murals along the bottom actually depict the various trials that await inside the pyramid.

Fast Forward

It’s still not clear who the Gem Rose Quartz is fighting is meant to be. It doesn’t really look like anyone, and the Wiki doesn’t know. I’m guessing it was just a random early Gem design.

That leftmost mural reminds me a little of Yellow Diamond and the Cluster, but the gem shape is wrong.

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There’s a small floating pyramid in the center of the room, and Steven touches it just as Pearl starts to warn him away from it.

Pearl: Steven, what have we told you about touching magical things?

Steven: Definitely… always… never do it.

A hole above them opens up and sucks them in, and they’re dropped into another room, all Gems except Steven landing gracefully.

Fast Forward

This exact shot is recreated in the series finale Change Your Mind, except with Steven landing perfectly as well!

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A bunch of torches light up, revealing a not-quite-a-Triforce symbol on the ground, and yes, this pyramid dungeon is a big ol’ Legend of Zelda reference. Even the music playing in this scene sounds like a Zelda pastiche.

There are many corridors leading off from the main room, and the Gems decide they need to split up. Pearl’s proposal, of course, is that she stays with Steven where it’s safe while Garnet and Amethyst explore the corridors. When Steven protests, Amethyst picks him up and starts to take him with her. Pearl declares the two “a disaster waiting to happen.” Garnet stops the argument by saying that Steven will go with her, which thrills Steven. She reminds him that this is a serious mission, and he does a goofy pose while activating “Serious Steven.”

Fast Foward

Steven’s ultimately the one who figures out the secret of the temple, based on his experience with Garnet. Odds are good that Garnet saw that the best way out of the pyramid was to take Steven with her, for this reason. It’s even possible that she already has seen what the pyramid’s secret mechanism is with her future vision, but wants Steven to have the experience of figuring it out himself.

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Steven sings as they walk along and, y’know, I end up like Steven’s singing but this particular instance is really irritating and Garnet has a lot more patience than me (obviously). They pass through a doorway, and the door shuts behind them with bars exactly like it does in Zelda when you’re being forced to fight a boss or complete a puzzle.

The floor lights up with panels indicating where they need to step. Steven makes it across fine, but then a low rumbling noise vibrates the room, he trips off the last panel, and activates the trap while Garnet is still halfway across.

The low rumbling noise is a bit of a rewatch bonus, for when you learn that the rooms are actually rotating.

The floor begins to collapse, and he nearly falls into the fire below before he’s saved by Garnet.

Fast Forward

How much of this did Garnet see with Future Vision? It’s revealed later on that Steven can be somewhat unpredictable sometimes.

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The pair enters a second puzzle room. Steven is looking a bit sick, and Garnet asks if he wants to take a break. He says he’s good to keep going. “All right, but be careful. You might trigger a trap with that gun show.”

Steven tries to look for a clue in the designs on the wall, but accidentally hits a button that triggers a spike trap from above. Garnet deflects the spikes with her gauntlets, but Steven nearly loses his ukulele. He pauses underneath the spike trap Garnet is holding up to tune it, as she points out that now is probably not the best time for that. Both of them make it to the other end of the room.

The next room is this extremely formidable looking swinging blade trap, and Steven looks even more distressed, like he’s about to pass out. “Get ready, Steven. This is going to be intense,” says Garnet.

Cut back to TWO WEEKS EARLIER. Garnet once again says, “Get ready, Steven. This is going to be intense,” except now she’s talking about the teacup ride at Funland. Pearl is missing the point by carrying a teapot.

Steven is getting motion sick and jumps off the ride, landing on Harold Smiley (voice: Sinbad, yes apparently that Sinbad, for S1, and then Colton Dunn). He’s the overworked proprietor of Beach City Funland.

Steven accidentally breaks the lever off the control panel of the ride, causing the disaster shown at the beginning of the episode. Mr. Smiley declares he’s banning Steven from all the rides at Funland forever.

Fast Forward

This ban is apparently lifted sometime between this episode and Too Short to Ride, where Mr. Smiley threatens to reinstate it again.

Garnet apparently didn’t see this possibility with her Future Vision. Or maybe she did and just wanted to destroy Funland for some reason. But she reveals later that it’s not always easy to predict what Steven will do.

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Back in the present day in the pyramid, Steven opens his eyes and is surprised to find that he and Garnet are on the other side of the intense trap room. She says she carried him while he took a nap, embarrassing Steven.

They arrive back at the room in the center of the pyramid. Pearl and Amethyst are also there, flipping out because they can’t find a way out of the temple. Pearl, very much starting to lose it, explains that they take three rooms in a straight line and somehow end up back where they started, which doesn’t make sense. Meanwhile, Amethyst runs randomly from room to room getting caught in various traps.

Steven asks what they’re going to do. Garnet says they’re going to go back into the rooms “again and again and again and again.”

This kind of single-minded stubbornness is a fairly common character trait of Garnet’s, like when she thought it was a good idea to keep chucking Amethyst at the Red Eye.

Fast Forward

This trait definitely seems to come from the Ruby side of her.

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Steven says he can’t take it any more. Garnet says it’s okay, and Steven says it’s not. (This is a lot like Connie’s breakdown in Bubble Buddies, except this time it’s Steven who is freaking out about being trapped.) He says he wanted to do this so badly, but now he just feels like he’s going to throw up, “just like the teacups!”

Suddenly, Steven realizes what’s happening: the pyramid is actually just like the teacups, spinning the rooms around. That explains why they’re lost and why he’s getting motion sick. Garnet punches through the floor to reveal this huge spinning mechanism.

Pearl gives a more detailed explanation of how the spinning rooms work with a hologram from her gem, but Garnet, always eager to be supportive of Steven, points out that he had figured it out first.

Steven spots the gem powering the device, and tells Garnet he needs to get off the ride. She throws him at the mechanism, and he pulls out the gem.

This is an interesting gem. It’s enormous and normally white but glows yellow when pulled.

Fast Forward

It doesn’t appear to be corrupted or cracked. You would think that since it’s a Gem powering a device, it would regenerate upon being freed like Lapis, but it doesn’t.

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That was apparently a load-bearing Gem because the entire pyramid begins to disintegrate and finally explode. The Crystal Gems are unharmed, though. Pearl takes the white gem from Steven and bubbles it — this is the first time we’ve seen Pearl bubble something. She praises him for handling the mission well. Amethyst says, “Nice job, Serious Steven,” and Garnet says she prefers regular Steven, handing him his unharmed ukulele.

Final Verdict: This is a fun episode. Steven is still goofing around and hindering the Gems on missions, but this time his main problem, motion sickness from the moving pyramid, is very understandable and out of his control. More importantly, he’s also the one to figure things out and save the day. This is the first episode where Garnet is the main Gem accompanying Steven, and you get some insight into how she supports and teaches him. The Zelda homages are also a nice touch.

Next Time on Steven Universe Rewind! I know a few of the regular commenters have been excited for the debut of wrestling superstar Tiger Millionaire! There’s also a second debut, this time of a character I’m quite fond of, in Steven’s Lion.

Previous: Frybo / Cat Fingers

Next: Tiger Millionaire / Steven’s Lion