Steven Universe Rewind: Onion Trade / Steven the Sword Fighter

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.

Onion Trade

Official Description: A toy trade between Steven and Onion escalates to epic proportions.

This is one of the least essential episodes of the entire series, in my opinion. It’s not terrible to watch or anything, but I certainly forgot that it existed until it was time to do these recaps. Thankfully, the other half of the article is a little more interesting.

Fast Forward (SUF)

Not going to lie, it’s a little hard to watch and write about super naive child Steven after the gut punch that was the last handful of Steven Universe Future episodes. Poor kid needs therapy so bad.

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This episode opens with Steven asking Amethyst if she’s seen his missing Ranger Guy toy. Ranger Guy is part of a line of collectible toys called G.U.Y.S., Guys Under Your Supervision, which is a reference to 80s era collectible figures like M.U.S.C.L.E.

Stevne lists off the various G.U.Y.S. in this cute little moment. The arrangement and music seems to be a reference to Mega Man’s level selection screen.

Pearl walks out of the house and asks what’s going on. She tells Steven it’s not a surprise he can’t find his toy given how messy his room is, and to drive the point home, she opens up the window and a seagull covered in trash flies out.

Amethyst says Steven’s room isn’t any worse than hers. Pearl asks Amethyst why she hasn’t found her “magic axe” yet, in another S1A reference to magic.

Fast Forward

As pointed out in previous articles, the references to magic will be phased out around the time of Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem and learning more about what the Gem’s situation actually is.

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Amethyst tells Pearl that all her nagging has made Steven depressed, as Steven walks away.

Steven visits his dad at the car wash, and Greg playfully squirts him with a hose as he walks in. Aw, I love wholesome Dad moments.

Steven tells him to stop, and Greg realizes his son is not in the mood for a water fight: “Man, you look sad and wet. What happened to your life, little guy?”

Fast Forward (SUF)

Stars, the days when Steven’s biggest problem was a lost toy are long gone, aren’t they? I’m getting way too melancholy over an episode I don’t even really like, let’s just get through this thing.

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Steven: I lost something. Something precious!

Greg: (gasp) Your innocence?!

Way to get that past the radar!

Steven explains that he lost Ranger Guy, and that Greg bought the toy for him on their “special day at the beach.” Greg doesn’t remember Ranger Guy, but he does remember the delicious funnel cake they had that day. (I can relate to Greg here, I also remember special occasions based on the food I ate.) This particular Ranger Guy was one of a kind because he had a miscolored hat.

Greg tries to help by rummaging around in his van, giving Steven a bag full of quarters that he can use to get some more GUYS out of the vending machine.

Steven learns the pain of gachapon as he puts a quarter into the GUYS machine at the Funland Arcade, only to receive a Dave Guy. He comes with taxes!

To his increasing despair, the machine spits out Dave Guy after Dave Guy until it finally runs out of GUYS, leaving Steven with a grocery bag full of Dave Guys.

As Steven gives up, the snacks machine next to him rattles, and out of the dispenser chute pops Onion, eating a bag of chips. As Onion walks away, Steven spots the coveted Ranger Guy in his back pocket.

Steven follows Onion into this Suitcase Sam’s shop. I love the background of the quaint little shops here. I don’t think we ever see this again.

Onion talks to the clerk at Sam’s, and the clerk hands him a lunch? To be honest I’m not sure what this was all supposed to be about.

Steven follows Onion to the docks, where Onion pulls the hamburger out of the lunch bag and tosses it into the ocean, to Steven’s confusion.

A boat pulls up to the dock, and out steps Yellowtail (voice: Tom Scharpling, the same as Greg), Onion’s dad. He’s a fisherman who speaks in a different language than the rest of the cast, that sounds like indistinct mumbling. He greets Onion happily, but then gets back on his boat and leaves a minute later.

Steven momentarily speculates on whether Onion waits all day for his Dad to show up, but then remembers why he’s following Onion and gets down to business. He offers Onion a brand new Dave Guy for his Ranger Guy, which Onion declines, gesturing that he wants more. Steven offers more until he proposes trading the entire bag of Dave Guys for the one Ranger Guy. Onion has no interest and walks off.

Steven returns to the house, complaining about Dave Guy to Amethyst, who is still sitting on the porch.

Steven: Does it look like his life is going anywhere?

Amethyst: Aw, cut him a break. Maybe this is the year he gets his life together. Maybe he’ll get a cool internship.

Steven: I doubt it.

I really hope the Crewniverse didn’t have an intern named Dave!

Steven explains that thirty Dave Guys weren’t enough to get Onion to trade his Ranger Guy, and Amethyst pulls this device out of her hair. It’s Pearl’s Replicator Wand, which can make copies of objects. This seems incredibly useful to the point where it would kind of break the world, so I guess it’s a good thing that it gets destroyed before the end of the episode.

Like, could this thing make copies of Gems? I’m just asking.

Steven: Have you been sitting here all day with this in your hair?

Amethyst: Nah, I got up to look for Pearl’s dumb axe but found this instead. Then I replicated a bunch of garbage and stuffed it all in Pearl’s room.

I haven’t included all of it, but Pearl and Amethyst keep sniping at each other all episode, showing that their relationship hasn’t really improved since forming Opal in Giant Woman.

We cut to Onion, who pulls a bunch of ketchup packets out of the lunch sack and throws them on the ground, running them over with his scooter. This is the same scooter he won with stolen tickets in Arcade Mania. When he’s done, he tosses the scooter, causing a huge explosion and setting part of the boardwalk on fire.

Part of the reason that Onion is one of my least favorite characters is that the show can’t seem to decide whether he’s a sympathetic kid who just needs a friend, or a comic, sociopathic force of destruction. Personally, I actually prefer the latter. At least it’s funny; the attempts to make Onion sympathetic tend to fall flat for me.

Steven approaches, cloning Dave Guy and shooting them out of the Replicator Wand in an attempt to get Onion to trade Ranger Guy. Onion refuses, and gestures to the Replicator Wand itself. Ominous music plays as we’re treated to the above shot of a near-demonic looking Onion.

Look, I know Steven can be dumb sometimes, but the fact that he trades the Replicator Wand without even thinking of just cloning Ranger Guy is incredibly stupid even for Steven.

Also, holy shit do not ever give Onion a powerful magical artifact.

Steven makes the unwise trade, and plays with Ranger Guy on the beach, but finds that Ranger Guy really isn’t all that interesting after all. Suddenly, capsules full of Dave Guys begin raining from the sky. Onion is using the Replicator Wand to flood Beach City with thousands of copies of Dave Guy.

The Gems show up, wondering how Onion got the replicator. Steven explains that he traded it to Onion for Ranger Guy, and Pearl points out that the obvious solution was to clone Ranger Guy. The Gems try to move through the mountain of Dave Guys to confront Onion, but Amethyst gets stuck. Steven suggests that she “try and act like a rich duck,” a reference to how Scrooge McDuck swims through his money bin on DuckTales. Wow, there are a lot of late 80s / early 90s references in this episode. Greg also shows up, partially buried under the toys.

As Pearl and Garnet approach Onion, he starts shooting them with a stream of Dave Guys from the wand, then switches tactics and zaps a nearby car. He starts flinging cars at the Gems. He also materializes one over Amethyst and Greg, which could have easily killed Greg if Amethyst didn’t push him away in time.

Steven tackles Onion, and offers to trade back Ranger Guy for the Replicator Wand. As he does so, he notices his own initials written on the bottom of Ranger Guy’s feet (like Woody from Toy Story). The Ranger Guy in question is actually Steven’s toy that Onion stole. Steven angrily declares that the trade is canceled and takes the replicator back, tossing it on the ground.

Garnet steps on the replicator, poofing it. “I’m not cleaning up this mess,” she declares, as everything that was replicated disappears.

Steven tells Onion that he realizes he probably stole the Ranger Guy because he was bored and lonely waiting for his father, and gives the toy to him, because he needs it more than Steven. And, uh, everyone is really forgiving here of the fact that Onion just tried to kill them all.

Greg: You went through all that trouble for a toy?

Steven: It was more about the memories than the toy. Now we have new memories. Horrible, horrible memories.

Oh Steven. Just you wait.

Most townie episodes like this one have a thematic element that relates to the main plot, and honestly, if I had to pull one thing from this…

Fast Forward

…it would be that Steven does a self-sacrificial action to make someone else happy, something that’s going to get him in a lot of trouble later.

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Otherwise, as noted above, this episode is pretty much completely inconsequential. It has some cute dialogue and isn’t awful, but it’s one of the most easily skippable episodes of the whole series.

Steven the Sword Fighter

Official Description: Pearl tries to teach Steven the art of sword fighting.

Actual Description: Pearl fucking dies.

I really appreciate the gradual way Steven Universe introduces its lore. This is another episode like Giant Woman that revolves around introducing a critical aspect of how Gems work. While it isn’t quite as good as Giant Woman, it’s still a very solid episode, and really the first dedicated primarily to Pearl.

I highlighted the title card because it’s one of the first major variants — the gloomy, pouring rain sets the tone for an episode that goes to some dark places.

It’s a rainy day, and the Gems are in Steven’s room watching Lonely Blade IV, which seems to be a cheesy samurai movie. Steven is shocked when the janitor reveals himself to be the main villain, but Pearl points out that the janitor was in the background of every fight scene and on the cover of the movie.

In the movie, Lonely Blade draws two katanas, attaches them together, and flings them at the evil samurai like a boomerang. Steven is very much into it. Pearl complains that nothing in the movie is like real sword fighting, and tells Steven if he wants to see a demonstration of actual sword fighting she’d be happy to oblige.

Steven puts a hand on her head and makes this adorable face. (He’s currently perched on top of Garnet, and it’s really sweet to see all the Gems spend this quality time together.)

They end up in this Smash-Bros.-stage-looking location, which is official named Pearl’s arena. This is the only time it appears; in later episodes where the Gems train, they go to a different, larger arena. Amethyst is riding on a cloud.

Pearl needs a sparring partner for her demonstration. Steven raises his hand, but Garnet lowers it for him. Pearl projects a Holo-Pearl from her Gem. This is the first time we’ve seen Holo-Pearl and the first time we’ve seen Pearl make something so complex with her holograms.

Holo-Pearl: You have already made a mistake by challenging me!

Pearl: We shall let our swords decide!

Amethyst: NERD!

Well, Amethyst isn’t wrong! So far in the series, Pearl has mostly been in uptight mom mode and hasn’t gotten a real chance to show off her nerd side. This episode did a lot to endear me to her character.

The two duel, Pearl showing off her extremely impressive sword fighting skills. Steven cheers them on from the sidelines, and Amethyst momentarily distracts Pearl by cheering for Holo-Pearl. Pearl is disarmed, but slides underneath Holo-Pearl’s blade to regain her sword and win the match.

Fast Forward

TERRIFYING RENEGADE PEARL

I just love how the show depicts Pearl’s elegant battle style. I’m usually not all that interested in the show’s fight scenes, but I’m here for Pearl’s sword techniques.

Much later, we’ll learn that Pearls are meant to be decorative accessories and personal assistants. Pearl’s combat prowess goes completely against her built-in nature as a Gem. That makes her accomplishments so much more impressive.

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Steven is thrilled by the demonstration.

Steven: That was amazing! You were so cool!

Pearl: (blushing) Well, one does try their best!

That’s Pearl in a nutshell: always trying her best. That’s part of what makes her so relatable.

She offers to teach Steven sword fighting, and puts the Holo-Pearl into a basic training mode.

Pearl: Do you see what I’m doing with my feet, Steven? Notice my center of gravity.

Fast Forward

This is basically the same advice she starts Connie off with in Sworn to the Sword: “Keep your stance wide, keep your body lowered.” Connie is a lot more serious and receptive than Steven is. They have a very wholesome relationship that I wish would have been highlighted more.

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Steven is bored by the basics, and asks Pearl to show him the Boomerang Blade from Lonely Blade. Pearl, annoyed, gets distracted and —

This is pretty hardcore for an otherwise cute cartoon, even if there is no blood due to her body being made of hard light.

Pearl has a hilariously understated reaction to being stabbed: “Whoopsy-daisy!” She uses her last moment to reassure Steven that she’s going to be okay, before her body poofs and leaves behind her gemstone.

This is the first time we’ve seen an on-screen poofing (that isn’t a monster), and they do a good job of making it incredibly jarring, since Steven and the audience have no idea what’s happening. Even though a Gem is full healed after regenerating, it’s shown that poofing is still a painful and scary experience for them, as they do feel the injuries. Furthermore, effectively going into a coma with your gemstone left completely unprotected seems like it would be terrifying. It’s one thing for it to happen here, where Pearl is surrounded by friends and in no real danger, so she can be confident her gemstone will be safe. It’s another thing when a Gem gets poofed by enemies who could easily shatter the defenseless Gem.

Pearl taking her last moments, when she’s actively impaled by a swordto try to reassure Steven is also very sweet and shows how much she cares about him. On the other hand, they really should have talked to Steven about this sooner, especially considering they’ve taken him into multiple dangerous combat situations. This would have been so much worse if it happened in the middle of a mission and Steven had no idea what was going on.

Fast Forward

Part of the reason that Pearl is able to keep her composure while being poofed is that she has been poofed a lot, as show in Sworn to the Sword, where we learn about her old habit of recklessly throwing herself into danger for Rose.

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While we’re on the subject of poofing and regenerating, the show hasn’t directly confirmed it, but it seems highly unlikely that this is something Steven can do. His organic body sustains damage like a human. If he takes a fatal blow, that’s probably it for Steven Universe.

Fast Forward

His pink Gem form could potentially live on without his body, though. Let’s hope we don’t actually see this question addressed in the show.

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Of course, this is the first time we see Pearl’s gemstone without her body. It has a silver ring around it, which many, but not all, gemstones have.

Amethyst and Garnet rush to Steven’s side and explain: “Sometimes, if our bodies are badly damaged, we release our physical forms and retreat to our gems to regenerate.”

Amethyst: Don’t worry, bud. These kind of things just happen sometimes. Usually to me.

Garnet: Always to you.

Fast Forward

I believe Amethyst is indeed the Gem who gets poofed the most over the course of the series, especially counting her joke regenerations in Reformed.

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Steven asks how long it will take Pearl to regenerate, and we cut to Two Weeks Later.

Pearl still hasn’t regenerated, and the house is a complete disaster. Steven has placed her gem in a little basket and is watching over it. Amethyst is still riding the cloud she took from the arena.

Fast Forward

Pearl really is taking a ridiculously long time here compared to every other regeneration we see in the series. We never really see what it’s like for a Gem while they’re in gemstone form, but I like to imagine she spent all this time dithering over her new outfit.

The fact that she feels like she can take this long indicates her complete trust in the other Crystal Gems to take care of her pearl.

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It’s cute to see Steven missing Pearl. Previous episodes have shown them a bit at odds with the way she nags Steven and can be a little overprotective, but these two really do care about each other!

Unfortunately, Steven misses Pearl so much he makes the unwise decision to pull the sheet over the still-existing Holo-Pearl and try to use it as a replacement goldfish for actual Pearl.

Steven tries to get Holo-Pearl to act more like Pearl by having her help clean up his messy room. His N64 shows up again, and his action figures are Pikachu, Gitaroo Man, and Sanic from the “gotta go fast” meme. The last one resembles Cloud Strife from FFVII, but is actually the Hero from RPG World, a webcomic made by Ian Jones-Quartey, one of SU’s original storyboarders and Rebecca Sugar’s now-husband. Of course, Hero’s character design was likely intended to be an expy of Cloud to begin with. (I actually read RPG World way back in the day and it’s always a little surprising and heartwarming to see creative people with small web projects make it big!)

Steven holding up the Hero figure with its little sword triggers the Holo-Pearl’s combat instincts, and she runs the action figure through.

In the next scene, we see Amethyst wadding up the cloud and eating it, encouraged by Garnet. She becomes bloated and begins to float. Steven shows up with Holo-Pearl and tries to get her to tease Amethyst, which is another one of Pearl’s usual behaviors. Thankfully he finally had the presence of mind to take the actual sword from her; Holo-Pearl is now carrying an umbrella.

Holo-Pearl doesn’t understand and threatens Amethyst with her umbrella. Amethyst and Garnet encourage Steven to be patient and stop hanging around with the creepy Holo-Pearl. Garnet crosses her arms and loses her grip on Amethyst, who floats up into the sky. Garnet’s reaction: “Hm.”

Off-screen, Steven takes Holo-Pearl to the boardwalk, so she is now wielding a balloon sword. Steven is getting frustrated with trying to get her to act like Pearl, so he takes her to Pearl’s favorite tree. We saw this tree all the way back in Gem Glow when Pearl was trying to explain summoning a weapon to Steven.

Steven tells her to “not hold back” with what’s on her mind, which activates Holo-Pearl’s attack mode. She somehow cuts down the tree with a balloon sword. Steven finally gives up on having her act like real Pearl and tells the hologram to get away.

We’re back to the same gloomy, rainy atmosphere as the start of the episode, as Steven explains to Pearl’s pearl that he found a copy of the fifth Lonely Blade movie. Steven takes the pearl, the movie and popcorn upstairs, ignoring the Holo-Pearl, which is still asking him if he wants to duel. He starts watching Lonely Blade V — unlike his copy of IV, this one is dubbed instead of subbed.

Lonely Blade draws his two swords to make the Boomerang Blade. Steven can’t enjoy the movie, as he keeps thinking about Pearl being stabbed.

Aw, it’s Steven’s very first trauma-induced flashback! This poor child needs therapy so bad.

Holo-Pearl sees the sword fight in the movie and stabs the TV.

Steven: Why must you destroy the things I love?! … I hate you! You’re nothing like Pearl! Pearl is smart and she always wants to protect me from danger! All you want to do is fight me!

Aww, Steven loves Pearl.

Unfortunately, Holo-Pearl only hears the “fight me” and goes into combat mode against Steven. She starts in basic mode. Steven easily “defeats” her by chucking one of his action figures at her head. Unfortunately, this causes her to go into advanced mode.

Steven jumps out of his room and searches for something he can use to defend himself against Holo-Pearl. He spots a boomerang and tries to use the Boomerang Blade technique, but it simply circles around Holo-Pearl’s head uselessly.

He grabs a mop identical to the one used by the evil samurai president in Lonely Blade IV, but it doesn’t do much good against Holo-Pearl, who chops the top part off.

Steven: Pearl! I should have just waited for you to come back! I should have just waited for — the perfect moment!

Steven spots an opening and throws the mop at Holo-Pearl, finally defeating her. Steven dismisses the hologram, wiping it out of the air with the mop as Garnet and Amethyst arrive. Garnet is pulling the still-floating Amethyst by a string.

Steven: You know, I might miss Pearl a whole lot, but sometimes you just have to accept things the way they are before you — Never mind! Pearl’s back!

Pearl’s pearl glows and rises into the air, forming silhouettes of all her previous forms before she turns into the form she has for the bulk of the series. And honestly, it’s a bit of a relief for Pearl to look like “herself” again instead of the early S1 look. I love her shirt and her little sash!

Cycling through previous forms upon reforming seems to be a thing that most Gems do. Taking a new outfit upon reforming also seems to be standard practice among the Crystal Gems, and is a clever way to get updated character designs into the series.

Fast Forward

Some of Pearl’s forms seen in silhouette include her form in the pilot and her 80s-esque form seen in flashbacks with Rose and Greg. The first form she takes doesn’t actually seem to be her original form as seen in the movie and in pre-Rebellion flashbacks, probably because they hadn’t settled on that design yet.

I specifically noted that Crystal Gems tend to take a new outfit upon reforming. It seems that Homeworld Gems stick to their original outfit — when Lapis regenerates from the mirror and when Peridot regenerates from the bubble, both seem to be in their original forms. It makes sense that Homeworld would frown upon a Gem taking a form other than their original designation. In fact, it seems likely that the CGs take on alternate forms specifically as a way of bucking Homeworld tradition.

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Pearl is dismayed by the state of the house and has no idea what happened to Amethyst. Amethyst: “I got hit by an airplane!” Steven immediately runs up to Pearl and gives her a hug.

Overall, I really enjoy this episode! Pearl’s sudden “death” is a great way to introduce the concept of poofing and regenerating. It gives us a number of very sweet moments between Pearl and Steven, showcasing their relationship. And Pearl’s new design is fantastic.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Connie finally returns in Lion 2: The Movie, and we’re formally introduced to the Fish Stew Pizza family in Beach Party.