Steven Universe Rewind: Monster Buddies / An Indirect Kiss

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.

Monster Buddies

Official Description: Steven accidentally releases a monster from a Gem bubble and attempts to tame its wild, violent instincts.

This episode has a direct sequel in Season 3’s (excellent) Monster Reunion. Because that episode recontextualizes the events of this episode so much, it’s very difficult to discuss this episode at all without diving into that one. What I’m saying is that a huge chunk of this week’s discussion is going to be in spoiler boxes.

The episode opens with the Crystal Gems fighting an ice monster in a snowy cave. As the ice monster crashes into a wall, an icicle falls from the ceiling and rips its arm off. “Yikes, your arm!” calls out Steven.

I’m not sure if I was properly keeping track in previous episodes, but Steven showing concern about someone/something that is actively trying to kill him is one of his most consistent character traits throughout the original series. So let’s start the counter here. Times Steven Shows Concern About Someone Actively Trying to Kill Him: 1.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (SUF)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This ice monster is the corrupted form of Little Larimar, one of the original Crystal Gems. She was once an ice sculptor, and now works at Beach City Funland where she can enjoy the sound of human screams. She’s also one of my favorite one-offs and I hope we see her again.

“One day I’ll make you scream, Steven.”[/spoiler]

The Gems successfully defeat the Ice Monster and bubble her Gem. Pearl reveals they’re after an artifact called the Shooting Star.

The cave begins to collapse around them, and Amethyst is buried in ice. Garnet and Pearl decide they need to get Steven out of there, so Garnet bubbles him and sends him back to the temple.

Bubbling Steven is something I genuinely forgot was possible. It definitely feels like a skill they could have used at other times. One thing that’s interesting about this is that Steven can move and talk from inside the bubble. I had assumed that the Gems inside bubbles don’t reform because the inside of a bubble stops time, but that’s clearly not the case. The “magic”/tech that stops a Gem from reforming must be more specific than that.

Pearl is distraught about Garnet bubbling Steven, and it seems to be related to not wanting him to be in the Burning Room without supervision. That’s better than him getting crushed by ice, though. Seconds after Steven disappears, Garnet says, “Watch your head,” and the roof collapses.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Garnet’s use of future vision is extremely obvious in this episode once you know what you’re watching for. This is just the first example.[/spoiler]

Steven, back in the Burning Room, frees himself from his bubble, but falls on top of the bubble containing the Gem of the Centipeetle from Gem Glow, accidentally freeing it. As the Gem reforms, it takes on a clearly humanoid shape before monster characteristics appear.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This is one of the clearest indications yet of something that has been hinted at but not yet confirmed: that the Gem Monsters are all corrupted Gems. As we learn in Monster Reunion, this Gem was once a Nephrite that led a squadron for Pink Diamond. She and her crew were corrupted in the Diamonds’ attack.[/spoiler]

The Gem first looks like she’s going to reform into the enormous Centipeetle from Gem Glow, but, upon spotting Steven, instead takes on this tiny, much less threatening form (although she is still slobbering acid everywhere).

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]There’s a lot of questions that are never completely answered about just how much sentience the corrupted Gems actually have. Most of them seem to mindlessly attack the Crystal Gems, but there are also moments where they seem to have some awareness. This is a good example: why would she take on a smaller, weaker form here unless she were in some way responding to Steven’s presence? Another example is when the corrupted Gem beasts run in fear from Jasper trying to fuse with them.[/spoiler]

Steven talks softly to the little Gem, trying to get her to relax and calm down, which actually seems to work. He sits on the floor some way away from her, inviting her to come closer and saying they can be friends.

This marks the first time Steven tries to make friends with someone that was once trying to kill him.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This scene is some screamingly obvious foreshadowing to upcoming instances where Steven will befriend Gems that are trying to kill him. At this point, we’re only a couple of episodes away from Ocean Gem. Like Nephrite here, Lapis was also imprisoned indefinitely and released by Steven. In both cases, Steven tries to make friends with Nephrite/Lapis, but his efforts are disrupted when the other Crystal Gems show up and threaten her. In both cases, Steven would like to heal the Gem, but he only succeeds in Ocean Gem due to new knowledge of his abilities and the fact that the injuries are different.

Upon watching this, it’s also hard not to notice the similarities between this scene and Catch and Release, as well. Steven realizing that the Nephrite is just scared of him is the same thing that motivates him to try and release Peridot. The shots of Steven freeing the Nephrite from the bubble are very similar to Steven freeing Peridot. This scene in particular where Steven is on the floor trying to get the Nephrite to trust him is almost identical to the scene where he sits across from Peridot to try to get her to tell him about the Cluster.[/spoiler]

The Gems show up and immediately draw their weapons to protect Steven. Steven throws himself in between the Gems and the Centipeetle. This is the second time he’s stopped the Gems from attacking something (the first was Lion, back in Steven’s Lion.)

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Of course, he will also jump to protect both Lapis and Peridot from the Gems in a very similar fashion.[/spoiler]

Steven begs to be allowed to try and help the Centipeetle. Garnet relents, saying that “she can’t say no to that face,” even over Pearl’s objections.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]I think there’s a couple of things going on here. This episode has some pretty clear use of Garnet’s future vision, and I think she wouldn’t allow Steven to attempt this if she saw it was likely he was going to be seriously hurt. It’s possible she can even see, at this point, that the Centipeetle is going to save Steven in the ice cave.

Next, now that we know that the monsters are all corrupted Gems, many of which were Garnet and Pearl’s friends, it’s likely that Garnet is hopeful that when Steven comes into his powers, he can take another crack at healing the corruption, which Rose Quartz failed to do. She all but says as much at the end of the episode.

Finally, I think this is also just Garnet trying to be a good parent. Steven has a compassionate heart, and if he weren’t allowed to at least try to help out a Gem monster, the idea would likely eat away at him and he might become resentful later. By allowing Steven to try with a Gem monster who at least seems somewhat receptive and less immediately dangerous than most, she is giving him a chance to learn and grow on his own.

Also, one more spoilery note: Amethyst comments that Pearl has been shut down by the G-Squad, which is a funnier nickname for her once you know that she’s a fusion.[/spoiler]

The other Crystal Gems tie the Centipeetle to a rock and stand behind Steven with weapons drawn as they give him a chance to tame it. Steven points out that it’s still, understandably, scared, and asks the Gems if they can leave them alone. Garnet relents, again over Pearl’s protests.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This seems to be a third example of Garnet overriding Pearl due to her future vision — seeing that Steven can handle the situation, and also possibly what the Centipeetle will do later.[/spoiler]

Steven pulls a bag of Chaaaaps out of his coat and entices the Centipeetle with one. The Centipeetle takes it and seems to enjoy it, although Steven wonders how she’s eating with an eyeball in her mouth. Steven starts playfully tossing chips around for the Centipeetle to catch, while singing a little song.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]It’s interesting that the corrupted Gems can apparently eat, something which doesn’t come naturally to Gems and apparently requires shapeshifting.

Later, the partially uncorrupted Nephrite will remember this moment and attempt to sing the song about chips back to Steven.[/spoiler]

Steven, holding a handful of chips, gets bitten by an angry seagull. The Centipeetle spits acid at the bird and scares it away. Steven realizes that the Centipeetle was trying to protect him.

As a former resident of the Florida coast, I welcome Centipeetle’s anti-seagull agenda.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]The Centipeetle becoming attached to Steven here is so much more heartbreaking when you learn more about her in Monster Reunion. Nephrite was just trying to get back to her crew when the corruption wave hit, and they were all corrupted too because they stayed on Earth waiting for her instead of evacuating. The Centipeetle’s protectiveness likely mirrors a personality trait she had as the captain of her former crew. Steven treating her nicely in this episode is probably the best thing that’s happened to her in thousands of lonely years — again, a strong parallel to a certain blue Gem we’re going to meet shortly.[/spoiler]

Steven runs back into the house to demonstrate how he’s trained the Centipeetle. He imitates a seagull, and the Centipeetle spits acid at various objects around the house, including this beam that I hope isn’t load bearing.

Nooooooo! ¡MI TORTAAAAA!

Pearl is angry, and laments that they can’t go back to the ice cave for the Shooting Star since they need to deal with Steven’s “situation.” Garnet realizes that they can use the Centipeetle’s ability to melt the ice in the cave without causing a cave-in.

The Gems plus Centipeetle make their way through the ice cave, Centipeetle melting passages open and Steven tossing her chips. Poor Centipeetle seems so happy to follow along and be included.

At one point they come across a human skeleton, which only seems to mildly faze Steven. How’d this guy get down here, when the Crystal Gems required an acid-spitting monster to get to the same location?

They find the Shooting Star, which Pearl describes as “an ancient elemental so hot, and so volatile, it can only be contained in ice! Bare skin cannot endure its intensity.” This is slightly odd phrasing for Pearl. Since Garnet has to wear her gauntlets to handle it, she likely means that Gems can’t handle it with bare “skin,” but Gems don’t exactly have skin.

Steven asks what you do with the Shooting Star, and Amethyst deadpans, “You shoot it.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]The Shooting Star will show up later in Winter Forecast, where the Gems attempt to use it to permanently destroy the Galaxy Warp.[/spoiler]

When Garnet summons her gauntlets to pick up the Shooting Star, the Centipeetle freaks out at the sight of the weapons, shooting acid everywhere.

Pearl attacks the Centipeetle with her spear to get it away from Steven, and all three Gems begin to try to protect Steven from her.

Steven steps in between the Centipeetle and the Gems, marking the third time he’s stopped the Gems from attacking something. “Stop! You don’t need to fight!” he calls out. Later, this will practically become his catchphrase.

“You’re not a monster any more!” he says.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Again, this is much sadder when you learn that she really wasn’t always a monster. On the other hand, she’s uncorrupted and back to normal post-series finale![/spoiler]

“You’re more than that! We have so many memories now! Remember the chip times? And how you saved me from that vicious seagull? And how we became best friends? You have to remember! This all happened today!”

Steven hugs the Centipeetle even as her acid drips down his back and burns his jacket, and is this ever an on-the-nose metaphor for Steven’s actions throughout the rest of the series.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (Future)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Notably, in the recent episode Prickly Pair, Steven performs a very similar action — calming down a monster by hugging it even though it hurts him.[/spoiler]

The ceiling rumbles, and an icicle begins to fall towards Steven. The Centipeetle pushes him out of the way, getting hit by the icicle herself and poofing.

Garnet comforts Steven, telling him he did a good job taming the Centipeetle and that his mother would be proud. She says that Rose Quartz also tried to heal the monsters, but never could.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This is heartbreaking to think about in light of what we eventually learn about the Gem monsters. Many of them were Rose’s friends and trusted allies, turned into hostile, destructive monsters. Not only that, but she no doubt felt at least partially responsible for their condition.

In Monster Reunion, Steven does indeed try to heal the Nephrite with Rose’s healing powers, but ultimately cannot fully heal her, and she reverts back to being a monster.

Of course, Garnet telling Steven his mother would be proud is a bit of a fraught declaration given how much of Steven’s self worth is bound up in trying to live up to his mother’s legacy (and much later, trying to fix his mother’s mistakes). [/spoiler]

Pearl tells Steven, “Maybe when you have better control of your powers, you might help them in ways that even your mother couldn’t.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Of course, Steven does this, but not in a way even Garnet could have predicted: he eventually reconciles with the Diamonds, and the essences of all four Diamonds are used to uncorrupt all of the Gems.[/spoiler]

Steven promises to keep the Centipeetle safe and to heal her someday, and he produces his very first bubble. A few bars of the main theme play as he warps it back to the Temple.

He also decides to bubble the bag of Chaaaaps.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Later, the Chaaaaps will be seen in the background in Catch and Release.[/spoiler]

This episode is an excellent one in its own right. Steven’s interactions with the Centipeetle are heartwarming, and it really shows Steven coming into his own with the compassion he demonstrates. This episode is also where you can really feel them solidifying the lore as we head into Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem. At this point, the days of episodes featuring strange fantasy elements that don’t fit the rest of the series are pretty much over. From here on in, the lore is remarkably consistent all the way through to the end.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]For that reason, this episode also holds up very well to a rewatch. In fact, the dynamics on display seem completely different once you realize who the Centipeetle truly is and what she’s gone through, Garnet and Pearl have experienced as a result of the corruption. It also is rewarding in terms of spotting the parallels between Steven’s actions here and in the many upcoming episodes where he tries to redeem hostile Gems. This episode is basically a massive foreshadowing time bomb.[/spoiler]

An Indirect Kiss

Official Description: When Amethyst cracks her gemstone, Steven and the Crystal Gems go on a mission to heal her.

Two feelings episodes right in a row! Obviously the show is trying to toughen us up for what is to come.

The episode opens with Connie laying out a picnic in front of the lighthouse overlooking the Temple. Steven rides in on Lion but seems fairly despondent.

Connie wants to know what’s wrong, but Steven claims he’s fine, while making this face. This episode, despite being a fairly serious one overall, is full of wacky, exaggerated faces.

Connie asks if the fence around the cliff is new. Steven says it’s a long story. Connie eagerly asks if it’s a “magic story,” and Steven finally agrees to tell her.

In Steven’s flashback, Amethyst is horsing around by the cliff. Steven, concerned, asks her to be careful. Amethyst mockingly asks if he “cares about [her] or something?” and Steven makes this face and replies, “yeeeees.”

This seems like another example of Amethyst acting out a bit for attention, really.

Amethyst teases him and says she’s not going to get hurt because she’s a “Gem warrior,” which I believe is the first hint we’ve gotten about Amethyst’s backstory.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]We learn later that Amethyst is a type of Quartz, and that she was original created on Earth to be a soldier in Pink Diamond’s army. Since she came out five hundred years late, she is much smaller than a “standard” Quartz soldier, but still has all of the abilities.[/spoiler]

A chunk of rock breaks off the cliff and Amethyst falls, landing directly on this rock on her gemstone.

The fact that this happens is more than a little silly, given that she has enough time to react on the way down and could have probably shapeshifted or at least attempted to shield her gemstone. However, since this is a flashback from Steven’s memories, it’s possible that he didn’t really see what happened to cause her to land like this.

We have a brief cut to Connie and Steven where it’s revealed they’re drinking durian juice boxes. If you’re not familiar with durian, it smells like garbage mixed with cleaning fluid. I’m not sure if the durian juice boxes are supposed to symbolize something or if it’s just an in-joke, because they reappear multiple times.

Steven runs down to check on Amethyst, who claims she’s fine — “except for this!” She reveals that her left eye has become enormous. Garnet and Pearl come running up, and Pearl demands to see Amethyst’s gem. She bats Pearl’s hand away, saying “Fresh!”

Garnet pulls down Amethyst’s shirt to reveal that her Gem has a small crack in it, the first time this has happened in the series.

Amethyst seems surprisingly unconcerned about the fact that she has one of the few injuries that can be fatal to Gems. It would make sense for her to treat this lightly back when Rose Quartz could easily heal it, but she must realize that Steven doesn’t really have that power. It’s possible that she’s just trying to treat it like nothing so Steven doesn’t panic about her.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (Future)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]In Volleyball, we see that Steven has a small “clinic” for healing cracked Gems, and the Quartzes of Little Homeworld treat the injuries like they’re nothing. Is that just because Steven is there to heal them, or do they lack self-preservation instincts? Some of the other Gem behavior throughout the series suggests that it may be at least a bit of the latter.[/spoiler]

Pearl asks how this happened, and Steven tells her that Amethyst fell off the cliff. Pearl dramatically declares that they need to build a fence.

“And that’s why there’s a fence. The end!”

Connie is not at all satisfied, and wants to know what happened to Amethyst. After some cajoling, Steven agrees to tell her, but only if she lets him wear her glasses. She does, but only if he gives her the rest of his juice box. He warns her that it’s mostly backwash.

Steven puts on Connie’s glasses and asks her how he looks. Connie, squinting, says, “I have no idea.”

In the flashback, Steven asks why the situation with Amethyst is such a big problem. Pearl explains that if the injury were to her physical body, she would be fine (as we saw in Steven the Sword Fighter.) However, this injury is to her gemstone.

It’s interesting that the gemstone is the most critical part of the Gem, apparently the only place where real, permanent harm can be caused, and they don’t usually take many measures to protect them, even when heading into combat.

Steven asks how the gemstone crack can be healed, and Pearl says that they used to have Rose. For the second time in two consecutive episodes, we have angst over Steven not being able to fulfill his mother’s role. It certainly won’t be the last time.

Garnet explains: “Steven, your mother had healing tears that flowed from her Gem. She felt real love for those around her. She felt real sorrow when they were hurt. You have the Rose Quartz gem now. I know that power is in you, too.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This is, of course, a very… rosy view of Rose. This was the Rose the Gems knew in her later days, and the Rose that lives in a whitewashed form in their memories. Later, we’ll learn about some of her less benevolent qualities. It seems that her ability to feel real love and sorrow for those around here were born out of her earlier experiences hurting other Gems and the regret she felt when she did so — mostly notably, Volleyball.

Steven, of course, is an empathetic kid who does feel real love and sorrow for those around him. We see in Future how he’s struggling with that nature quite a bit, as his natural empathy has some darker consequences to it, such as feeling worthless when he is not needed.[/spoiler]

Steven goes into full-on magical girl mode as he tries to summon his mother’s healing tears. Cut to him anticlimactically standing in front of Amethyst, trying to cry on her gemstone.

Steven: It’s not working. I guess I’m just too tough to cry.

Pearl: Just today, you were crying about snakes.

Steven: (visibly distressed) They don’t have arms!

Garnet declares that they need to take Amethyst to Rose’s healing spring. Amethyst claims she’s fine and not getting any worse, just as soon as she starts to get worse.

She speaks backwards (and does so for most of the rest of the episode). Here, she says: “Hey guys, what are you doing on the beach?”

This would seem to indicate that she can’t understand what’s going on around her, but most of the rest of her dialogue is relevant to what’s happening, just backwards, so perhaps not.

It’s interesting that gem cracking gets worse over time, likely as the Gem moves around. You’d think that they might try to immobilize her.

The gang warps to Rose’s fountain, as Pearl talks up that it’s full of “your mother’s healing lacrimal essence.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (Major Spoilers)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This healing essence is later revealed to be a Diamond ability. This doesn’t surprise Pearl, of course, who carries the secret that Rose Quartz is Pink Diamond. You’d think Garnet might have been suspicious, but then again it’s shown that she never questioned Rose after they met.[/spoiler]

The fountain is covered with enormous, thorn-covered vines. Pearl does not take this well. “Let’s keep it together! Our memories of Rose can’t be tainted by some overgrown brambles!”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (Major Spoilers)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Oh boy, this is some industrial-grade foreshadowing to the revelations that will later taint everyone’s memories about Rose — her secret identity as Pink Diamond, her abandonment of Spinel, her past treatment of Volleyball…

It’s also interesting that Pearl says “keep it together” to Garnet, who sometimes unfuses when she is under stressed (such as in the episode actually titled Keeping It Together. She isn’t in danger of unfusing here, but she does seem to be under more stress than usual.[/spoiler]

Pearl clings to Garnet as she says that the thorns are “a mess without her guidance. Directionless, pathetic, clinging things.”

So this episode is not subtle about what it’s trying to say. We’ve seen Pearl’s insecurities on full display back in Coach Steven, and here we see confirmation of what the viewer already likely suspected: that Pearl has felt adrift ever since Rose’s death.

I have to admit: neurotic Pearl is the most relatable Pearl.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This line is also a close echo of her lyrics in “It’s Over, Isn’t It”: “What am I now in this world without her? Petty and dull with the nerve to doubt her.”

This also gives some insight into why Pearl didn’t become the leader of the Crystal Gems despite being Rose’s second-in-command: she simply could not figure out how to move on after Rose’s death.[/spoiler]

Garnet and Pearl look for a path through, leaving Steven with Amethyst. Amethyst says, backwards, “If your body can’t cry on its own, you gotta make it cry.” To make Steven understand, she slaps herself and mimes crying.

Steven gets her meaning, and looks around for something to cause pain. He tentatively reaches out to prick his finger on one of the brambles, when the vines suddenly rear back to attack him. Amethyst notices and knocks him out of the way, worsening her crack.

Pearl pokes her head in and chastises Amethyst for roughhousing. Amethyst, backwards: “The vines are coming to life and are gonna kill Steven, just so you know.”

As Amethyst gets up to walk away, her head suddenly turns around backwards, causing her to walk straight into a rock and hit her gem again. She begins glitching out, and her head switches places with her foot. Amethyst, backwards: “Don’t worry or anything, I’m good.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]We see similar injuries of transposed body parts on the cracked Quartzes in Volleyball.[/spoiler]

Pearl nearly loses it with panic, while Garnet drags a giant boulder into place and uses it to punch a pathway through the brambles. “I needed that.”

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This is one of the first indications of Garnet not being quite as calm as she normally appears. It’s also very much her Ruby side showing at the moment![/spoiler]

“We could have probably gotten in without hurtling a giant rock into Rose Quartz’s most precious sanctuary! But if you’re okay with it, I’m fine too!” says Pearl.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Her priorities seem a bit off here, considering, but not only is Pearl panicking about the situation, but memories of Rose are really her one-way ticket to Irrationalville.[/spoiler]

They arrive at the center of the brambles to find an enormous fountain in the shape of Rose Quartz. Garnet points out that it’s not running.

Steven, seeing the statue of his mother, attempts to “get emotional,” but still can’t cry.

Back in the present day, Steven complains of a headache, and Connie tells him to give back her glasses. Note that she’s not squinting any more, an indication of what’s to come.

Steven fails to cry on Amethyst’s gem as the crack grows worse. Pearl tells him it’s okay, but she looks like she’s barely holding back her serious annoyance. She and Garnet go to look at what’s wrong with the fountain.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]For all they fight, Pearl does actually care about Amethyst, and for all Pearl loves Steven, she also has conflicted feelings about losing Rose for him. At this moment, she’s almost certainly thinking about how Rose would have solved the problem by now, if only she were here. Thankfully, she’s able to hold herself together enough to not take it out on Steven.[/spoiler]

Amethyst’s body turns into a pile of noodles. “Uh, little help here?” she says to Steven, backwards, as the main part of her body tries to gather her parts.

“I can’t understand you,” says Steven, frustrated. “I don’t understand anything! Why is everyone acting so strange? Why can’t I cry?”

Steven walks over and sits on Rose’s fountain.

“I don’t know how to feel about you, but everyone else does. I wish I could have met you. Then this place could make me sad, and I could cry healing tears, like you.”

Sorry, there’s… something in my eye.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Steven’s deeply conflicting feelings about his mother are one of the core emotional beats of the series. Here, he has the very real problem of not being able to feel anything for a person he’s never actually met. After all, he’s had a loving father and the equivalent of three moms (or two moms and a sister) taking care of him, so he hasn’t really missed out on having parents. Rose’s larger than life presence in everyone’s memories almost certainly does not help him to get a realistic picture of who she was.

Later, as he gets to know more about Rose, his conflict over her will become even worse: trying to reconcile the loving Gem that Greg and the Crystal Gems knew, the one who gave her life so Steven could live, with the Gem who has done terrible things in her past. She atoned for them, but was it enough? What kind of person was she, really? There are no easy answers to these questions, and we’re still exploring them in Future.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=’Personal’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Steven’s speech about how he doesn’t know how to feel about his mother because he never met her resonates personally with me in a somewhat different way. I was adopted as a baby, never knew my birth parents, and likely never will. When I was a kid, people would often act like this was somehow shameful (as though actions taken when I was a baby were somehow my fault) or that I should feel sad for not knowing my “real” mother. I always felt like I had no idea how I should feel about any of it — it took place when I was too young to remember, and I had parents my whole life. How should you feel about a woman you never met, who you’ll never know what she was thinking when she gave you away? I don’t know the answers to these questions. Maybe there aren’t any.[/spoiler]

Aww, Connie.

In the flashback, Amethyst suddenly starts screaming as the vines come to life and begin to surround them. They wrap around some of Amethyst’s noodly limbs. Steven grabs her head and runs to her body to protect it. They both end up in the dry fountain with vines surrounding them.

Steven sadly apologizes for not being able to heal Amethyst. Amethyst says, slowly, but forwards: “Ha, ha, you care about me.”

She must have had to actually say these words backwards to ensure that Steven could actually understand them! She’s in rough shape and has apparently decided that if it’s her time to go, she’s going to go out with the most Amethyst last words possible.

“Please let me be a magic healer,” says Steven, as he finally cries. A single tear dramatically splashes onto Amethyst’s gem.

It doesn’t work.

“Oh, come on!” yells Steven.

The fountain suddenly turns on, submerging Steven and Amethyst. The brambles turn into roses and recede. Steven looks up at his mother’s statue from under the water and imagines it reaching out for him.

I hope we’re all ready for Sad Mom Feelings, because this is only the beginning.

Amethyst is healed. “Look at this guy, saving my life and junk!”

Pearl and Garnet arrive, covered in flowers. Steven excitedly explains that his healing tears brought the fountain back to life, but Pearl says they just unclogged the chamber.

Steven: Don’t you think my crying was a little related to that?

Pearl: Oh Steven, you don’t have healing tears. You’ll never have any real magic powers, and we don’t want anything more to do with you.

(present day)

Connie: (shocked) She didn’t really say that!

Steven: No, but that’s what it felt like.

Poor Steven is just so worried about living up to his mother’s legacy and pleasing the Crystal Gems. It’s heartbreaking to see him be so insecure about himself.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward (Future)’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]This also shows a glimpse into what’s going to go wrong with Steven later. He places too much of his self-worth on having powers and being the best Crystal Gem. This leads to him being thrown into despair when his powers are missing or when they can’t help, such as in the movie when Spinel’s rejuvenator resets his abilities.

It also shows a problem that Steven is still struggling with in the Future series: his need to be needed, and his feelings that no one will want anything to do with him unless he is useful to them. There’s nothing I’d like more than for the Gems to sit him down and try to get him to understand that they all care about him for him and not for what he can do for them, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a very hard road.[/spoiler]

Steven: Everyone expects me to be like my mom. What if I never get those powers?

Connie: Then you’ll be like me. That’s not so bad.

This conversation is pretty clearly leaning hard into Connie’s own insecurities. Of course, she has no magic powers, and unlike Steven, has no real chance of getting them. Seeing Steven lament that he’s worthless because he lacks magic must be pretty hard on her, even though Steven clearly has no idea he’s being insensitive here.

“If I don’t have powers, I can’t hang out with Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, and I can’t go on missions!” Steven cries — and again, this mirrors Connie’s own fear that her lack of magic powers means that Steven is going to get bored with her and leave her behind.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Thankfully, Connie does end up learning ways to contribute, even if she doesn’t have magic, and eventually does hang out with the Gems and go on missions.

…I’m worried about where she is in Future, though. So very worried.[/spoiler]

“You don’t need any powers to be here with me,” says Connie, and shyly leans in for a kiss. Oh, this is so cute I can’t take it.

Before they close the distance, Connie suddenly complains of a headache. She takes her glasses off and realizes that she can see without them.

The juice box the two kids shared sparkles — this is the standard effect they’ll use for Steven’s healing powers. Steven realizes that he doesn’t have healing tears. He has healing spit!

Honestly, healing spit seems a lot more useful, since it’s much easier to produce on demand.

Connie freaks out: “What will I tell my parents? What will I tell my optometrist?” As a kid who grew up with super strict parents who flipped over anything even a little weird, I can feel her here.

Steven is thrilled and runs off to tell the Gems about his new power, leaving Connie behind.

Connie pops out the lenses of her glasses and puts them back on, looking very serious.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]Her glasses will remain like this until Nightmare Hospital, where she’ll call out her mom for never noticing that her eyes were healed.[/spoiler]

This is a beautiful episode, full of complicated feelings. I especially love the part about how Steven doesn’t know how he should feel about his mother — it shows SU’s willingness to tackle emotions that aren’t just simple black-and-white, happy-angry-sad. Not everything has a clear answer, and it’s okay to just feel however you feel. The way Steven’s issues dovetail with Connie’s is also a very nice parallel.

[spoiler title=’Fast Forward’ style=’default’ collapse_link=’true’]It’s also clever storytelling how these two episodes lead directly into the climactic Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem by setting up a bunch of the plot points you need to know: corrupted Gems, Steven’s desire to understand and befriend hostile Gems, cracked Gems, Steven’s healing spit.[/spoiler]

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind!

I’m taking next week off! There will be no Steven Universe Rewind article.

After, that, on 2/12, is one of the articles I think we’ve all been waiting for: Mirror Gem / Ocean Gem. We’ve finally arrived!

Thanks for reading Steven Universe Rewind so far! Almost a full season down, only five more to go!