Steven Universe Rewind: Secret Team / Island Adventure

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.

Secret Team

Official Description: Steven, Amethyst, and Pearl accidentally pop a bubbled Gem and form Secret Team.

Steven’s hanging out in Amethyst’s room in the Temple, diving off of her piles of trash / treasure into various puddles. Amethyst shapeshifts into a ball to show him how to put more “ball” in his “cannon.”

Steven wants to try a different puddle, so he sticks his head in one that seems to lead to the Burning Room. Garnet is there, placing a bubbled Gem.

Amethyst pulls him out, because only Garnet is allowed in there, and suggests they do something less dangerous.

Amethyst gets Steven to jump off an enormous tower of stuff into a little puddle. He comes out the other side into Pearl’s room. I like how you can tell where he is because Pearl’s piano theme starts to play as soon as his head emerges from the water.

Pearl is dancing around and looking carefully into this pink bubble full of Gem shards, one that was originally created by Rose Quartz. Amethyst wonders what she’s doing with it, and says, “Garnet’s gonna be so mad.”

Amethyst sneaks up on Pearl and surprises her, asking her what she’s doing with the bubble. Pearl says she wants to see how the shards are reacting to the Rose Quartz bubble.

Fast Forward

Neither this episode nor any future episode really make it entirely clear what Pearl is doing here. Given what we learn about Gem shards later, Pearl is effectively admiring the dead bodies of (what were likely) her old friends, which is a little distressing.

Pearl’s excuse for why she has the bubble is presented as though it’s a lie, but if we took it at face value, it could mean that Pearl is hoping that the Rose Quartz bubble might have some healing powers for the shards. This is never implied anywhere else, though.

They never really make it all that clear why Garnet is going to be mad, either. Presumably it’s because it’s dangerous if the bubble is accidentally popped, but it’s a little weird that Amethyst emphasizes that it’s a Rose Quartz bubble, as though there were something particular about them that would make Garnet care more? I don’t know.

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Pearl demands that Amethyst not tell Garnet what she was doing, and they start fighting over the bubble. Steven breaks up the fight, only for the bubble to accidentally get popped when both Pearl and Amethyst reach for it.

Each shard reforms into a Gem-like body part, as seen above. They crawl away and escape down drains and waterfalls.

Fast Forward

This is early foreshadowing for the Cluster, the forced fusion of many Gem shards like these. The smaller Cluster monsters tend to form bundles of these hands and feet.

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I like the looks on their faces as the shard monsters escape.

Steven wants to go get Garnet, but Amethyst says if Garnet knows they released the Gem shards they’d be dead. Pearl agrees, and they decide to catch and bubble all of the shards before Garnet finds out.

I think this episode suffers from the fact that we really don’t know why they’ll be “dead” if Garnet finds out about the shards. Garnet has been fairly reasonable in previous episodes — the primary time she has lost her cool was when Steven wouldn’t give her the mirror, and Lapis was several orders of magnitude more dangerous than these little shard monsters.

When Pearl explains they’re going to keep this all a secret from Garnet, Steven is excited. He says they need to come up with a name for their secret-keeping team… The Secret Team.

He passes out “membership cards” for the Secret Team, which are really VIP(izza) cards that you fill to get a free pizza at Fish Stew Pizza. Why does Steven have three partially filled cards, anyway?

The Scooby-Doo-looking Secret Team logo is pretty cute.

They first fight a few of the shard monsters inside Amethyst’s room.

Next, they’re in the room with rocky floating platforms that we saw in Together Breakfast. Pearl and Amethyst are working together efficiently to stop the shard monsters, which Steven is happy to see.

Finally, they’re in the Crystal Heart, also last seen in Together Breakfast.

They meet back up in Pearl’s room after collecting all the shards. Pearl checks multiple times to make sure they’ve got them all, and then Steven forms the bubble. In Amethyst’s room, they suspend Steven in the puddle so he can replace the bubble in the Burning Room without Garnet noticing.

Their mission accomplished, Steven asks what’s next for the Secret Team. Amethyst and Pearl tell him there’s no “next” since the mission’s over. Pearl: “Now everything goes back to normal and we’ll never speak of this again!”

Fast Forward

While this is a light moment, it does speak to Pearl’s tendency to want to brush issues under a rug instead of actually resolving them, something that comes up again and again.

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Steven approaches the Fry Shack, decked in a fedora. As he asks for the bits, he pulls the VIP(izza) card from his pocket and mutters about the Secret Team.

Steven: How come the best things in life are things you can’t tell other people because you’d get in big trouble?

Fryman: Steven, are you in a gang?

Fast Forward

Again, a light moment, but Steven isn’t always going to be so happy about keeping secrets later in the series.

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Steven consumes the bits in one go as though they’re a shot. Ronaldo compliments his hat as he walks away.

Steven calls Amethyst and Pearl together, and tells them they have a new Secret Team mission. He left his hat at the Big Donut, and they’re going to have to break in to get it. Neither is interested.

Fast Forward

Steven inventing a fake mission to have an excuse to form a team with Pearl and Amethyst is a much milder, more benign version of what happens with Sardonyx in Cry for Help.

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Pearl points out that Secret Team wasn’t about fun, but about fixing “their” mistakes, and she and Amethyst start bickering again, tearing up their Secret Team cards.

This episode reuses the locations from Together Breakfast, and the way Steven is so determined to get the group together and spend time with Pearl and Amethyst is very reminiscent of that episode, as well.

Steven meets with Garnet at Fish Stew Pizza to confess what Pearl and Amethyst did.

Garnet: And now you’re trying to do the right thing.

Steven: Not really… I just want Secret Team again.

Steven being more interested in everyone getting along than in what is actually right is very in character for Steven.

Garnet tells him they’ll have to form their own Super Secret Team: “Pizza daughter! I’ll take one ‘pizza posse’ card.”

Garnet brings Steven and Amethyst to Pearl’s room. She tells them that she knows all about the Gem shards, and Steven — using some very bad acting — confesses to popping the bubble.

Both Pearl and Amethyst are totally allowing Steven to take the fall, which I honestly think is a little out of character for both of them. Hiding things from Garnet, absolutely, but both of them value protecting Steven over almost anything. Of course, it could be that they’re thinking Garnet will go easy on Steven for the transgression.

Suddenly, a giant hand monster emerges from the waterfall and grabs Garnet. Pearl and Amethyst, believing it’s a shard they missed, run to fight it, but they’re stopped by a second hand emerging.

The two hands grab Amethyst and Pearl. Pearl asks Amethyst if she can shapeshift, but she says she’s freaking out. Amethyst asks Pearl to shapeshift, but she says she can’t concentrate.

Fast Forward

As discussed in Cat Fingers, Pearl doesn’t shapeshift at any time in the series until the flashback in A Single Pale Rose. Amethyst likely knows that Pearl never shapeshifts, which makes her request unusual.

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Pearl admits that they’re in this mess because she had the bubble, and Amethyst likewise admits to being partially responsible for it popping. Steven confesses that he knew Secret Team was wrong, but he just wanted to see Pearl and Amethyst being friends.

Garnet emerges from the waterfall, and it’s revealed that the “hand monsters” were just her shapeshifted hands. “So, you two can’t get along unless you think I’m going to kill you,” says Garnet.

This is kind of an interesting character insight, but I feel like it doesn’t totally line up with what we’ve seen so far (and will see). The best previous example of Pearl and Amethyst putting aside their differences to work together is when they form Opal in Giant Woman, and in that case, it’s to protect Steven, not because of Garnet.

Garnet points out that they’re all on the same team, the Crystal Gems, and rips up her VIP(izza) card. The Crystal Gems theme plays as Steven does the same.

Steven: You know what? Between the four of us, we could have had a free pizza.

There are some episodes that I enjoyed a lot more than I remembered when watching them for these recaps, such as Tiger Millionaire. This was an episode I enjoyed a bit less. For a Crystal Gems episode, we don’t really learn much about any of the core Gems that isn’t done better in a different episode — we already know that Pearl and Amethyst fight and that Garnet holds the team together. The secret keeping aspect could be considered some vague foreshadowing for what is to come, but overall this episode is fairly inconsequential and could be skipped without missing much. It has a few funny moments, but not much that truly stands out.

Island Adventure

Official Description: Steven takes Lars and Sadie on a vacation to a magical beach to mend their friendship.

The episode opens on a beautiful tropical island, where the Gems are discussing a monster that escaped. Steven asks if he can be the one to warp the Gems back to the Temple.

I’ve always kind of wondered how warps work. It’s explicit that you need a Gem to operate a warp (as seen in House Guest, where Greg needed the flute to use the warp himself), but it’s not clear how they choose a destination — probably by visualizing it?

Steven successfully warps the Gems back to the house. He declares himself to be the Warpmaster, and Garnet and Pearl praise him. Amethyst trolls him by shapeshifting into a fly monster.

Pearl says they need to warp back out again, and Steven can’t come with them because they’re going underwater. He decides to run off to tell his friends that he’s the Warpmaster.

Steven runs to the Big Donut, throwing open the door and yelling, “I’m the Warpmaster!” Sadie and Lars look like me earlier today completely dead. Sadie wakes up Lars as she goes to fetch Steven’s donut, and the two start bickering.

Lars ends the argument by declaring, “I’m sick of this place. I want to go somewhere new!” Steven remembers his new warping power and offers to take them on vacation “somewhere warm, beautiful, and magical, for just the two of you. And me!”

They warp to the island from the beginning of the episode. Sadie is enthusiastic, but Lars thinks it’s too weird and threatens to leave. Sadie stays behind near the warp pad for a moment while Steven and Lars walk off.

Lars: It’s a beach. We live on a beach!

Steven: It’s a magical beach!

Lars complains about lack of cell reception and asks Steven why he was even here. He says it was to look for a dangerous Gem creature “that we never found.” Lars and Sadie exchange a look and Lars immediately heads back to the warp pad — but when he returns to the spot, the warp pad isn’t there.

Lars starts freaking out, and blames Steven for getting them lost. Steven thinks that the Gems will come find him when they realize he’s missing… eventually.

Fast Forward

It’s worth noting that they spend over a week on the island and the Gems never do come looking for Steven. Either time flows differently here, or they realized that Steven would come home on his own eventually (with Garnet’s future vision), or they simply did not notice, which seems unlikely.

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Sadie points out that it’s not a terrible place to be stranded. There’s a lot of beautiful background work here that really sells you on this tropical island — I absolutely love the lighting in this episode.

Steven finds some rocks that look like pillows, which seems way worse than just sleeping on the grass. Lars grumpily drags his rock away from the other two. Steven confides in Sadie that he doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong, and that he expected the two of them to love the island so much that they’d never want to leave. Well, that certainly seems to be true of Sadie, as we’ll learn later. Sadie tells him that Lars is a tough nut to crack.

Oh gosh, I really do want to go to there.

In the morning, Sadie and Steven are trying to catch breakfast. Sadie is having no luck spearfishing. Steven is using a little worm with a mask as bait on a line, but is getting no bites either.

Lars walks by, still trying to get phone reception. Sadie asks him to help fish, and he ignores her. Frustrated, she jabs her spear into the ground and comes up with three fish.

It’s worth noting that later in the series, this location’s name is revealed as Mask Island, hence why the worm and the fish have little masks on them.

Sadie badgers Lars into cooking the fish, so he grills them over a fire. Steven is reluctant to eat a fish that’s looking at him, and puts a little leaf over its face / mask. Sadie praises Lars, saying the fish tastes great. Steven gets enormous stars in his eyes to see the two of them getting along.

Fast Forward

This is foreshadowing to the fact that Lars’ secret hobby is cooking and baking, one that he’s deeply insecure about.

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Steven stands up with his guitar and starts to sing…

Why don’t you let yourself just be somewhere different, whoa-oh

Why don’t you let yourself just be wherever you are?

This is low-key one of my favorite Steven Universe songs, and one of the ones I sing to myself often. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself to just be wherever you are, you know?

There’s a montage of the group adjusting to the island as days pass: Sadie spears dozens of fish, Lars makes elaborate skewers of fish and fruit, and they construct a kind of tent. Lars hears Sadie and Steven laughing and making flower crowns in the tent, and decides to join them. Steven puts a crystal necklace on Lars.

Sadie is suddenly attacked by an enormous fish, and Lars and Steven help pull her back to the beach as she spears it. Later that night, they cook the fish while Lars tends to Sadie’s wounded arm.

Lars cuddles up to Sadie while they sleep. Steven tries to cuddle Lars, but is kicked away.

A couple of details here: Sadie has a scar from the fish’s attack, and that scar will remain on her for the rest of the series. Also, I appreciate that Sadie actually grows leg hair after spending a week on an island, a totally ordinary thing that happens that even most shows for adults can’t deal with.

In the morning, Sadie is disappointed to see Lars still trying to get phone reception. He throws his phone off a cliff in frustration and tearfully confesses to Sadie that he’s homesick.

Fast Forward

Given how unhappy Lars’ life at home seems to be in general, that’s saying a lot.

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He asks Sadie, “Do you ever get lonely, even when you’re around people?” Sadie nods, and a second later they’re sloppily making out. I like how their kissing is pretty awkward and a lot like what I would expect from teenagers.

Lars being lonely and never feeling like he fits in is going to be a major part of his character arc, but unfortunately it’s going to take a while for that train to truly leave the station.

Steven interrupts the moment by singing, and Lars and Sadie turn on him angrily. “Don’t you know what privacy is?” asks Sadie. Steven points out that people go in and out of his room all the time. At this point in the series, with Steven so young and used to unusual living arrangements, he really doesn’t seem to understand the concept of privacy.

Fast Forward

Sadie echoes this almost exactly in Little Graduation, when Steven is upset that he didn’t know that Sadie and Lars moved on from each other amicably. He has far less excuse there, because he is old enough to have a better grasp of privacy.

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They head back to their tent, which has been knocked over. There’s a Gem lying on the ground, which quickly rises into the air — it’s the Gem monster they thought had escaped earlier, which has the power to turn invisible. Steven quickly forms a bubble and the group is knocked off a cliff onto a ledge.

They run from the monster, Lars wailing about how he wants to go home. Sadie pulls them to the side and takes them to the location of the warp pad. She pulls away some leaves to reveal that the warp pad was there all along.

They were on this tiny island for over a week and didn’t notice that the warp pad was just hidden under a few leaves? Steven and Lars really failed their perception checks here.

Lars angrily accuses Sadie of hiding the warp pad. She confesses that she did it because Lars really needed the vacation.

This is the worst thing Sadie does in the series, and is frankly pretty indefensible. Yes, she’s correct that the vacation was (or could have been) good for Lars, but effectively stranding him for over a week on false pretenses is not okay.

“Why don’t you ever let me help you?!” cries Sadie, and oh boy, here’s one of the thesis statements of the show.

Fast Forward

One of the longest running themes on the show is the idea of helping and supporting those who need it — but also the idea that helping inappropriately, or for selfish reasons, can make problems worse. Generally, the person in question needs to actually, on some level, want the help, which is why Steven’s usual tactics fail with characters such as Jasper and Aquamarine.

Sadie’s outburst here is eerily reminiscent of Steven’s primary character arc in Future, where he he is upset that everyone has apparently moved on in their lives without them and no longer needs his help. I mentioned Little Graduation before, and this is another parallel to that episode — I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two episodes mirror each other, because Lars and Sadie’s relationship is one of the places where Steven inappropriately meddles throughout the series.

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Lars accuses Sadie of trapping him on an island so she can come onto him. That’s a very uncharitable reading of the situation, but it does have some uncomfortable truth to it, since one of Sadie’s motivations certainly seemed to be getting closer to Lars.

Sadie and Lars fight while Steven urges them to get on the warp pad and argue back in Beach City. Sadie accidentally pushes Lars into a mud pit, where the invisible Gem monster starts charging at him. Sadie leaps down the pit and begins to fight it.

Steven throws Sadie her spear, telling her to “use her fish murdering skills!” She successfully kills the Gem monster single-handedly, making her one of the only humans in the series to do so. Sadie’s actions in this episode may not be great, but she is a total badass here.

Steven bubbles the Gem, but doesn’t tap it away — perhaps hoping to show it off to the Crystal Gems. Lars awkwardly praises Sadie for saving him, but she’s utterly dejected. The episode ends on this uncertain note.

One of the common complaints about Lars is that his character development comes in fits and starts and he tends to backslide a lot. This episode can provide a bit of in-universe explanation for that: Lars has suffered a pretty massive breach of trust here, and for someone who obviously already has trust issues, that could certainly take him quite a while to work through.

Unlike the previous episode, I enjoyed this one more than I remembered. The highlights are the extremely lush backgrounds and the catchy musical number. The focus on Lars and Sadie is also nice if you’re a fan of those characters. This is the first episode where we’ve really seen what kind of issues Sadie might be dealing with.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! The children are playing swords. Sorry, playing with swords. Oh, no, they are bleeding. They are dead. Don’t call again. Also, I know we were all waiting for Ronaldo, right? It’s Keep Beach City Weird and Fusion Cuisine.