Steven Universe Rewind: Tiger Millionaire / Steven’s Lion

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.

Tiger Millionaire

Official Episode Description: Steven joins Amethyst in an underground wrestling league.

It’s our first character development episode focused on a Gem other than Steven! And we’re going to start with Amethyst.

I’ll confess, Amethyst is a character it took me some time to warm to. Oh, I liked her fine from the start, but I didn’t really get attached to the character until probably On the Run. Rewatching the series from the start, though, I’m all about Steven and Amethyst’s effectively-siblings relationship, so I think I appreciate this episode more now.

I’ll also confess: I don’t really know anything about pro wrestling other than what I pick up by cultural osmosis. I’m led to believe that this episode has clever pro wrestling references in it, but if you expect an in-depth discussion of that, I’m the wrong choice for that — but please feel free to call them out in the comments!

We open with the Crystal Gems returning on the Warp Pad. Pearl is yelling at Amethyst for “punching a blood polyp” and getting Steven covered with nasty goo. Steven says he doesn’t mind, but Pearl points out it’s going to harden. Steven says he’s going to go wash up, but gets stuck in the kitchen as the goo hardens.

I do like how Steven’s being included on missions as a regular thing now.

Pearl: You’re always putting us in danger with your little outbursts! Ugh, you are just so childish!

Amethyst: Yeah yeah, and don’t forget reckless, vulgar, loudmouth, and that’s just what makes me so AWESOME!

Pearl and Amethyst have probably always butted heads, but you can see how the presence of Steven would make their personality differences clash even harder. Up to this point, Amethyst has been the youngest and least mature of the Crystal Gems. With Steven regularly going on missions, the dynamic has shifted. Pearl expects Amethyst to take on more responsibility and keep Steven safe. Amethyst is being a typical big sister to Steven: she loves him, but doesn’t particularly want responsibility for him.

Amethyst looks to Garnet for backup, but Garnet sides with Pearl: “You are a Crystal Gem. You need to act like it.” Amethyst huffs off to her room. Pearl says Garnet really got through to her, but Garnet just groans and walks out of the house, seemingly annoyed with Pearl as well.

Meanwhile, no one helps Steven, who is still stuck in the goop in the kitchen. The scene shifts to nighttime where Steven has fallen asleep in a way that cannot possibly be comfortable.

Amethyst emerges from her room, wrapped in a cloak. It’s not super clear why she thinks she needs the cloak because it’s not like it does a particularly good job of disguising her, but maybe it’s just an essential part of sneaking out at night. Steven wakes up, manages to bust through the hardened shell, and runs out of the house after her.

Amethyst shapeshifts as she runs into this old, abandoned warehouse. This warehouse will make quite a few appearances in the show, not just as the location of underground wrestling, but also for concerts and parties.

It’s hard to see, but the banner next to it says “Beach City – We Make Salt” and there’s graffiti on the fence that says “Keep Beach City Weird” (I didn’t think Ronaldo was the graffiti type, but I can’t imagine who else would have written that.)

Inside the warehouse is a wrestling ring and a crowd seated on folding chairs. Amethyst has shapeshifted into the Purple Puma form we saw briefly in Cat Fingers. Mr. Smiley is the wrestling announcer, and he introduces Amethyst as “the single most hated wrestler in Beach City Underground’s history!”

do know enough about pro wrestling to get that Amethyst is playing the heel here. The crowd boos loudly and she — or rather, he — eats up the attention. Purple Puma uses male pronouns, and I love that Steven never questions this.

Mr. Smiley introduces Purple Puma’s “next victim,” the Loch Ness Blogster — Ronaldo Fryman in a terrible costume. The kilt, khaki shorts and mandals combo sure is a fashion statement.

Unsurprisingly, Puma lays out Blogster with a quick clothesline, tossing him out of the ring.

Puma exits the warehouse, shapeshifting back into Amethyst and letting out a long sigh of relief. Steven jumps her from behind and she instinctively flips him over her head.

Steven, stars in his eyes, asks Amethyst if she’s a secret wrestler, which, obviously, yes, she is. He asks her why, and she explains: “In the ring, nobody can tell me what to do! And if they try, I hit ’em in the face with a chair!”

Steven asks if people like that, and she explains her role as the heel: “They love it! Well, they hate it, but it’s all part of the fun, you know? Everyone here gets that!”

It’s interesting and completely in character for Amethyst to want to be the heel, especially at this point in her character development. She doesn’t want to be a hero or for crowds to love her. She wants to be as loud and brash as she wants and soak up the attention she gets. It’s a pretty clear response to the pressure she’s under to be more responsible now that Steven is in the Gems’ care.

Fast Forward

Later, when we see flashbacks to the time when Rose was dating Greg, we see that Amethyst had the form of a child at the time and acted childishly too. That changed at some point before the flashback in Three Gems and a Baby. Did Amethyst feel compelled to grow up because of Rose’s death and Steven’s birth? Perhaps, and that would certainly explain a lot about her behavior in these early episodes.

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Amethyst says Steven doesn’t know what it’s like to have Pearl and Garnet on your back all the time, and Steven vehemently disagrees, imitating Pearl: “Oh Steven, I told you before not to take peanut butter on missions”; and Garnet: “I’m not going to say anything, but I expect you to understand that that was wrong.” Both impressions are backed by snippets of each Gem’s signature instruments.

Steven says he wants to be a wrestler with Amethyst because he feels stifled too. Amethyst agrees because she hasn’t won the tag team belt yet, but demands that Steven keep it a secret from the other Gems.

Fast Forward

Steven stifling his feelings and not having appropriate outlets for them is going to be an issue for basically the entire series, and certainly not one that a bit of wrestling will solve.

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Back in his room, Steven gathers up all sorts of things for his wrestling costume: a dress shirt, a tie with a dollar sign, suspenders, and a cat nose (choosing it over the mask on the right).

Steven emerges to show off his new heel wrestling persona to Amethyst: Tiger Millionaire, a wealthy but cruel businessman. He’s also thought up a backstory: the single child of the Tiger family, he clawed his way to riches in the coconut mines of Jungle Island.

Amethyst is surprised he came up with that, and Steven asks her what her backstory is. “Pumas are cool.”

Purple Puma, of course, represents Amethyst’s desire to be brash and rude and not care about consequences, desires she feels she can’t express without being chastised by the other Gems. So what does Tiger Millionaire represent? I think Tiger works best as foreshadowing for Steven’s character development.

Fast Forward

S1 Steven still has a lot of his childhood selfishness, but one of Steven’s biggest conflicts post-S1 is that he tries to be everything to everyone and gives too much of himself. It makes sense that Steven’s heel persona would be selfish and unempathetic.

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It’s also fitting that Tiger is more mean and petty than actually evil or violent. Steven is not the kind of person who can have fun being a bad guy if it goes too far (as we’ll see.) Also, Steven continues to have a minor cat motif.

Here’s the first pair of wrestlers Purple Puma and Tiger Millionaire face: Concrete Heat and Chunk Truck.

Mr. Smiley introduces Purple Puma and Tiger Millionaire. Lars is unimpressed. Sadie points out that Tiger looks like Steven, but Lars dismisses her.

Throughout the episode, it’s clear that Lars is really into wrestling and Sadie is just along for the ride to spend time with Lars. I really enjoy how this pair kind of have their own thing going on mostly in the backgrounds of episodes.

I think Lars also obviously realizes that Steven is Tiger, but since he’s a big wrestling fan he doesn’t appreciate Sadie breaking the illusion. Sadie doesn’t really understand that aspect.

(Also, I apparently share the same fashion sensibilities as Sadie and frequently feel called out by her outfits. In a weird coincidence, she’s wearing almost exactly what I wore yesterday in this shot, down to identical hoodies.)

The match starts, and Amethyst informs Steven that she’ll take care of all the fighting. He’s just there to let her enter the tag team tournament. Steven seems upset, but asks if he can still wear the costume. Amethyst tells him, “I don’t care!”

I just screencapped this because it’s so cute.

Puma easily takes out Chunk Truck, but Concrete Heat sneaks up behind him and plunks a road cone on his head, in what Mr. Smiley declares “a gross misuse of safety equipment and your tax dollars.” Steven cries that it’s unfair, but Mr. Smiley says “Anything goes in wrestling!”

Steven has an epiphany, and yells to Chunk Truck that he’ll give him a million Jungle Bucks to throw the match. When Chunk approaches, he flips open his briefcase, smacking Chunk in the face and earning a big reaction from the crowd. Puma pins Chunk and wins the match, pleased with Tiger’s creativity.

We see a montage of Puma and Tiger wrestling various competitors, Tiger taking them out in various creative, thematic ways like smacking this guy with an enormous cell phone prop…

…and hitting coconuts into another wrestler’s face with a tennis racket.

Fast Forward

Much later, you’ll see Garnet and Greg playing tennis together, which explains how Steven got a tennis racket.

“Being rich has made you weak!”

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Back at their day jobs, Amethyst and Steven are happy and getting along better than ever, but Pearl and Garnet keep finding their props around and are getting suspicious that something is up.

Puma and Tiger work together to win match after match.

Tiger throws his tie out to the crowd, where it’s caught by Lars. Unlike the rest of the crowd who is booing Tiger, Lars is thrilled by his antics and has become a huge fan. Sadie is less impressed.

I just love how Steven’s getting so into his evil rich guy persona. The next match, in record breaking summer heat, Steven buys all the soda from the stand and then spills them on the ground so no one can have any.

Lars, of course, thinks this is hilarious, and runs up to Tiger, asking him to sign his soda cup. Tiger smacks the cup out of Lars’ hands, shouting, “You couldn’t afford it!”

Lars looks genuinely upset, and Mr. Smiley calls Tiger “the cruelest creature on the planet” for turning on his own fan. Steven realizes he went too far and is no longer enjoying the crowd’s boos.

Back at the house, Steven is reluctant to put on his costume for their final match.

Steven: Amethyst, am I the cruelest creature on the planet?

Amethyst: Oh Steven, those are just words people use to describe how they feel about you!

Amethyst tells Steven he can’t let anyone make him feel like garbage, and Steven immediately picks up that that’s how Amethyst often feels, even though she unconvincingly denies it, saying she only feels how she wants to feel. It’s fitting that Amethyst is really the first of the Gems that Steven connects to with his empathy; compared to Garnet and Pearl, Amethyst and Steven are younger and tend to find it easier to get on each other’s level.

Puma and Tiger’s final opponents in the Tag Team Tournament are the Good Looking Gang, Dashing Danny Doober and Handsome Hank Hackleschmidt.

Mr. Smiley introduces our pair to the enthusiastic jeering of the crowd, saying they’ll “eat your kids and fire your parents!” Puma and Tiger are at slightly different levels of enthusiasm here. Lars is holding a sign that says, “Tiger is a jerk!”, saying, “He’s awful because he hurt me specifically!”

Before the match gets started, Pearl and Garnet jump from the shadows into the ring. They discovered the underground wrestling ring from this hand-drawn flier that Steven made because he thought their team could use some promotion.

Pearl is furious that Steven has been sneaking off to this “circus of violence” (as if Pearl ever really shies away from violence) and Amethyst has been using her Gem powers on humans. While the crowd, believing Pearl and Garnet to be new wrestlers, chants for them to fight, Pearl declares the match canceled, and Garnet tells Amethyst to go back to the temple.

Amethyst angrily shoves Garnet, and the two begin to fight. Amethyst is not really winning this one.

Steven grabs the microphone and yells that he wants to tell them Purple Puma’s backstory.

“Puma was the wildest cat in the jungle, so wild the other cats couldn’t take it. So she, I mean he, went to look for somewhere he fit in, somewhere with other people who felt misunderstood. That’s why we’re all here. To be wild and free, and body slam each other, and wear cool costumes, and make up nicknames… so can’t we just have this? Can’t we just wrestle?”

Times Steven breaks up inter-Gem conflict with a heartfelt speech: 1

The audience and Pearl are moved by Steven’s speech, but Garnet takes the microphone and says, “No.”

…but then quickly clarifies that it’s because she and Pearl are the “Notorious Order of Wrestling Haters.”

Pearl, picking up on Garnet’s cue, dramatically declares that they’re there to stop all wrestling forever. Lars, who has amended his sign to say “Tiger is NOT a jerk,” starts the crowd cheering as Tiger, Puma, Pearl and Garnet play-wrestle each other, Pearl and Garnet taking the fall. The Good Looking Gang gets a ladder for Tiger to climb up and grab the tag team belt, while Amethyst and Garnet quietly apologize to each other for how they behaved.

It’s really very sweet how Garnet and Pearl go along with this. Pearl in particular is frequently annoyed by Amethyst, but she never really intends to actually hurt her. She even seems to be having a bit of fun with her wrestling performance!

Tiger grabs the Tag Team belts.

Sadie: Lars, I’m really confused.

Lars: I love you, Tiger Millionaire.

This episode is really one of the standouts of S1A, and you can really see the writers hitting their stride here. This episode shows off what Steven Universe is best at: blending heartfelt character development with an interesting story and lots of cute and funny bits.

As noted above, I appreciate this episode a lot more now that I know it’s just the first of many episodes highlighting Steven and Amethyst’s friendship and how it changes over time. Steven loves all the Gems, but Amethyst is really the one he understands and relates to best. They have very similar issues — they’re the youngest and least experienced of the group, they often feel alienated by Garnet and Pearl, they’re very aware of their perceived flaws, and they both suffer from insecurity and long to be validated. This episode demonstrates how Steven is always there for Amethyst when she needs it, and how Amethyst can help Steven feel included and valued.

Fast Forward

One of my favorite parts of the movie was that Amethyst was the first Gem Steven brought back, and she was easier than the other two because her key moments of development all happened with Steven. The way Amethyst becomes more and more herself through the repeat-after-me song, finally ending in her remembering their cute secret handshake, is a wonderful culmination of all the character work put into these two over the course of the series.

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This episode has a direct sequel in Season 4, Tiger Philanthropist, which revisits the themes of this episode through the lens of several seasons’ worth of development. I didn’t care for that one as much for several reasons, but we’ll get to that much, much later.

Steven’s Lion

Official Description: Steven makes friends with a magical lion.

Compared to the previous episode, this doesn’t really pack in a lot of character development. But it does pack in an adorable pink lion.

This episode opens in a vast desert. Columns made of sand are appearing and disappearing at random. There’s a cool music sting associated with the columns that will be heard several times throughout the episode.

Garnet and Pearl explain the object of their mission: there is a power inside the far-off temple that has turned “aimless” and is building columns and other structures at random. Pearl particularly seems distressed at the idea of aimless, random building, and Amethyst antagonizes her a little bit by jumping over Steven and mocking Pearl’s concerns.

They hear what sounds like a roar, and the Gems decide to run to the temple and investigate. They tell Steven to stay behind because it could be dangerous. Steven points out that there could be something in the desert that could eat him, but Garnet tells him there is “nothing out here that can harm him.”

This seems like a pretty bold claim given they just heard a roaring noise.

Fast Forward

Of course, Garnet can likely see that nothing bad will happen to Steven with her Future Vision.

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Steven sits in the shade of a column and pulls his shirt over his head for shade. He hears a noise, and lifts his shirt to investigate. He sees this silhouette, with glowing eyes looking right at him.

Steven freaks and runs behind the column, which inconveniently collapses, revealing cute lion face this extremely ominous creature.

Steven backs away, but is stopped by a wall that appears behind him. The lion advances on him, and…

…yawns and takes a nap.

Steven very carefully approaches the lion, petting its nose. The lion opens his eyes and allows Steven to pet his head. Steven decides that the lion just wanted attention.

Steven buries his head in Lion’s soft mane and tells Lion that he likes his pink fur. This scene has the first occurrence of Lion’s Theme, which is a playful tune with little shaker noises.

Fast Forward

I love how both of these seemingly innocuous things turn out to be huge plot points.

As we’ll learn in Lion 3, Lion’s mane is a portal to a pocket dimension that was once used by his mother to store precious items. Here, Steven is apparently not sticking his head far enough into Lion’s mane to access it (or perhaps Lion has to allow him first, and doesn’t want Steven to do this yet.) This is absolutely critical to the plot, particularly when Lars gains the same ability and allows Steven a link between Lion on Earth and Lars in space.

Of course, the entire reason Lion has this ability is because he was once an ordinary Lion that was resurrected with Rose’s healing abilities, turning him the same color as Rose’s hair and gem, extending his life, and giving him supernatural powers. In Buddy’s Book, Buddy visits the same desert that Steven visits in this episode, and meets Rose, followed by a pride of lions. It is likely that one of these lions became the Lion that we know and love. Of course, even though Lion is pink, Steven has no reason to suspect any of this yet.

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Steven climbs on top of Lion, very excited to make an animal friend and declaring Lion to be his best friend.

There’s a sudden sandstorm as the structure in the background collapses, and the Crystal Gems walk back to where they left Steven. Pearl is telling Amethyst to bubble the gem she’s holding, but she says “My kill, my keep.” The little music sting associated with the desert glass plays again.

A couple of things on this. Amethyst referring to a Gem they’ve captured as a “kill” is really weird terminology considering they aren’t killing these Gems at all, just putting them in stasis. In this case, they didn’t even have a monster to fight and poof. Granted, it’s just a turn of phrase but it’s a little jarring.

Secondly, Amethyst’s refusal to bubble the Gem is pretty much just a pure plot contrivance, as it only takes a second and she has no real reason not to do it.

Fast Forward

So we never really come back to this, but what’s with the desert glass being embedded in a pillow? The fact that it doesn’t look corrupted, is embedded in an object, and has control over sand is a strong reminder of Lapis’s mirror — is this a similar situation? The gem in the pillow is not a Lapis, even though that would make perfect sense given that they’re later revealed to be terraformers.

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Once again, Pearl gives out crucial information that Amethyst and Steven won’t remember: “If you drop it on the sand, it’ll rebuild everything!”

The Gems are shocked to see the lion, but Steven explains that it’s tame.

Times Steven stops the gems from attacking someone or something: 1

The Gems want to get back to the house, so Steven sadly says goodbye to Lion. “I had a lot of fun, I feel like you really get me.”

Cut to Steven and Amethyst napping under a fort made of couch cushions and this is just so cute and wholesome. Steven hears a scratching noise and wakes up. Amethyst grumpily tries to shush him.

Steven: I thought Gems don’t need sleep.

Amethyst: We don’t. Feels good though.

Sleeping, like eating, is something Gems don’t normally need to do that Amethyst enjoys anyway.

Fast Forward

In Chille Tid, it’s shown that Pearl has never slept and doesn’t know how. It’s unclear if Garnet ever does (I couldn’t recall any instance of it) but both Lapis and Peridot learn to sleep at some point.

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Steven gets up, grumbling that it’s probably a kid trying to sell “lava insurance,” to see Lion at the door. Steven is thrilled that Lion came all that way to see him.

Fast Forward

When we learn that Lion can teleport, it’s significantly less impressive.

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Steven tries to play games with Lion, first jumping off a high sand dune and trying to get Lion to catch him, and then throwing a ball for Lion to fetch. Thankfully, Lion is not one of the majority of cartoon animals that inexplicably acts like a dog. Lion is unquestionably a cat, and doesn’t care about any of this.

Steven tries something else, and takes Lion to Fish Stew Pizza, a boardwalk business right next to the fry shop. Steven comments that the place is “jumping.”

Of course Ronaldo is wearing a fedora under his giant headphones. Also, his computer appears to have an orange slice on the back.

Steven tries to get everyone’s attention while ordering a “large pizza, extra fishy.” Here we see Kofi Pizza (voice: Godfrey C. Danchimah), the no-nonsense proprietor of the pizza shop, and his hard-working daughter Kiki Pizza (voice: Reagan Gomez-Preston).

Kiki points out that that’s a lot of pizza, and Steven says he’s eating for two. Ronaldo spits out his soda: “Steven’s pregnant?!”

Steven tells them he has a new pet lion. Kiki thinks he’s joking, but Ronaldo believes him, and plugs his blog, Keep Beach City Weird. You can see on his laptop that he was writing up a blog post on Steven’s cat fingers, using the picture he took in that episode.

Kiki, Ronaldo and Onion file outside, but Lion is no longer there. Ronaldo: “I bet you’re not even pregnant.”

Onion makes this terrifying face.

Steven returns to the house, where Lion is scratching at the door. He busts the door to get in, and roars at the still-unbubbled Desert Glass.

Steven is upset that Lion only cares about the Desert Glass, and flings the pillow out onto the beach, having paid no attention to Pearl’s warning about the sand earlier.

The Desert Glass begins rebuilding its fortress on the beach, as the Crystal Gems run outside in alarm. Pearl quite sensibly asks Amethyst why she didn’t bubble it: “Welcome to shrug city, P.”

Steven, caught in the sandstorm, tries to reach the Desert Glass on its pedestal, but it continues to build up defenses and obstacles that stop him from getting at it. The other Gems can’t reach him due to the walls and columns the Glass is creating.

Just when Steven is about to fall into a bunch of spikes, Lion catches him on his back. Steven realizes that Lion was just trying to protect him from the Desert Glass. Lion uses his roar to knock down the spikes and columns the Glass is creating, and together they run up one of the columns and snatch the Glass from the center of the sandstorm.

Pearl finally bubbles the Desert Glass. Steven says goodbye to Lion, but then pretends that Lion is actually saying he wants to stay.

Fast Forward

The first time I watched this, I figured Lion would be a one-off. I was surprised that the magical Lion actually became a regular character, but I’m glad he did. I particularly like the later development where Lion effectively becomes Connie’s pet.

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Pearl: Are we really going to let him keep that?

Garnet: We kept Amethyst. (Pearl laughs hysterically.)

Fast Forward

Oof.

This one is so much worse in hindsight, now that we know how insecure Amethyst is about having been created in the very kindergarten the Crystal Gems were trying to destroy, and apparently having been taken in by Rose out of kindness. This is an uncharacteristically cruel joke from Garnet, although On the Run indicates that she and Pearl may not have known how much this still bothered Amethyst.

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Overall, this is a solid episode. The plot is a bit thin, and features another problem that could have easily been avoided if Steven paid attention to Pearl’s warnings, but Lion is cute as heck and the antics between Steven and Lion make this episode breeze by. The Desert Glass is also a cool Monster of the Week idea, and the climax with Steven tackling the sand obstacle course is well-animated.

Important Announcement: We’re just a few days away from Steven Universe Future’s premiere and I’m both excited and scared for my favorite characters! I plan to keep up with the show, so be warned that Fast Forward blocks from now on may contain SUF information.

Next Time on Steven Universe Rewind! All I wanna be is someone who gets to see a giant woman! It’s Arcade Mania / Giant Woman!

Ooh, I get to talk fusions. Yesssss.

Previous: Bubble Buddies / Serious Steven