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.
Keep Beach City Weird
Official Description: Steven gets caught up in Ronaldo’s paranormal theories about the strange occurrences in Beach City.
It’s our first Ronaldo episode! I know everyone’s very excited about that. Seriously, I don’t think this one is so bad.
The show opens with a lively game of Steven Tag. Steven Tag is a game where whoever gets tagged has to shapeshift into Steven. Steven tags Pearl, who refuses to play.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]As noted on previous instances of shapeshifting, Pearl isn’t seen shapeshifting until the flashback in A Single Pale Rose, which is likely the reason she does not like to do it.
The concept of Steven Tag would later have an entire SUF episode devoted to it, Snow Day. In that episode, Pearl, having finally revealed what happened to Pink Diamond and far more comfortable with herself, does finally participate, shapeshifting for the first (non-flashback) time on the show.[/spoiler]
Without Pearl participating, they’re out of players for Steven Tag. Amethyst declares it’s time for Steven Tag Advance and tries to tag Garnet, who ruthlessly dunks her into the beach.
Steven strolls down the beach, but is stopped by Ronaldo Fryman, hiding behind a rock and yelling about how this is a restricted zone. Steven asks if he can have clearance, and it’s granted. Ronaldo puts plastic bags on Steven’s hands and feet and hands him binoculars.
Ronaldo is examining unusual holes made in the cliff face. These were made by the drill monsters in Arcade Mania.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]Considering this episode contains a few bits of foreshadowing, I feel like the holes here also resemble the holes in the kindergarten we’ll see later in the season.[/spoiler]
Ronaldo is taking pictures for his blog, Keep Beach City Weird, which was first mentioned in Cat Fingers. “You can’t always trust facts and books!” Ronaldo declares.
His younger brother Peedee shows up and tries to get him to work his shift at the fry shop, but Ronaldo refuses because he has important “weird” stuff to do. Peedee begrudgingly agrees to cover for him.
Peedee deserves better in the series, I’m just saying.
Steven walks down the Boardwalk with Ronaldo, who is carrying a “weirdometer” that appears to be some kind of marble toy. They come across their first “weird” thing, these red rock fragments, which Ronaldo believes grew up from the ground. These are actually the fragments of the Red Eye from Laser Light Cannon.
On the Big Donut’s dumpster, they find many pink flowers with small pink gems inside.
Ronaldo: “According to an online encyclopedia, which I am a user / editor of, this species isn’t indigenous to this region… or this dimension!”
These are the flowers that bloomed from the moss in Lars and the Cool Kids. And of course Ronaldo is a Wikipedia editor.
Ronaldo points out his brother, Peedee, working at the Fry Shack, saying he doesn’t care about the weird stuff in the city and is always getting on his case to work more. Ronaldo says that Steven understands and is more like him, which really just reminds me of how Peedee was a really interesting foil to Steven in Frybo and then basically never again.
Ronaldo decides that Steven is someone he can trust, and invites Steven into his “office.” It’s the old lighthouse on top of the cliff overlooking the Temple. It’s unclear how Ronaldo was able to claim this place as his office. There’s an obligatory X-Files poster behind Ronaldo and Steven here.
Ronaldo shows Steven a bulletin board full of newspaper clippings and references to well-known conspiracy theories and paranormal sightings (like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster). Each headline here references a previous episode.
“Theater Attacked by Strange Creature”: This is about the battle between Lion and the not-Zelda boss in Lion 2.
“Baffling Ocean Drain Remains Unexplained”: This is about Lapis stealing the ocean in Ocean Gem.
“Unknown Man Impersonates Local Boy”: This one is about Steven turning into an old man in So Many Birthdays.
Ronaldo thinks there’s only one explanation for all these strange happenings: Snake People, or Sneople for short. This is a reference to real-world conspiracy theories asserting that lizard people are running the world.
A lot of what Ronaldo comes up in his conspiracy theories turns out to be true foreshadowing for later, so it’s a common meme to joke that the Sneople are going to show up any day now…
As evidence of his Sneople conspiracy, Ronaldo points out the snake on the dollar bill, which resembles the famous “Join or Die” political cartoon. He also claims the diamond on the bill represents the snakes’ “underground mines or their sharp teeth.”
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]The diamond on the bill is oriented exactly like Pink Diamond’s gemstone. It seems possible that the Gems influenced human money in some way.[/spoiler]
“They pit mammals against each other with elections, sports, and anime message boards! We spend so much time fighting about dubs vs. subs that we miss the big picture!”
Dubs vs. subs and the picture of the internet message board really takes me back.
Steven leaves Ronaldo’s office deeply concerned about the, uh, revelations he just heard. He almost immediately encounters this cute little guy and freaks out.
Steven runs to the house to tell the Gems they need to snake-proof the house. Pearl and Amethyst don’t take him seriously, so he shows them the pictures of the “weird” stuff he encountered with Ronaldo earlier. Pearl and Amethyst point out the actual sources of all those weird things.
Steven: Is all the weird stuff that happens in Beach City because of us?
Pearl: Well, yeah. Obviously.
Steven heads outside, where Ronaldo is making a cast of the crater that Amethyst (as Steven) left when Garnet dunked her into the beach during Steven Tag. Steven explains to him that everything weird they found together was actually just the Gems. Ronaldo seems disappointed for a second, but then comes back with:
Ronaldo: Don’t get hung up on these minor facts. Truth is more than that. Truth is a feeling in your gut that you know is true!
This is almost exactly the definition of the word truthiness as coined by The Colbert Report.
Steven points out that that doesn’t exactly sound like the truth, but Ronaldo hopes the cast he’s making will offer some new evidence for his theories. It turns out to just be Amethyst-as-Steven, and Steven explains where it came from. Ronaldo is devastated to learn that his conspiracy theories are false — and that he’s therefore not at the center of everything, or anything.
Steven sadly looks at Ronaldo’s blog, where the latest post claims that he’s shutting it down for good. Pearl asks Steven what’s wrong, and offers up this wisdom:
Pearl: Humans just lead short, boring, insignificant lives, so they make up stories to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. They want to blame the world’s problems on some single enemy they can fight, instead of a complex network of interrelated forces beyond anyone’s control.
First off, I like how Pearl — generally a sympathetic, motherly figure — has such a dim view of humans. Space Race had some obvious hints that Pearl wasn’t entirely happy with her life on Earth, and this continues that characterization. Honestly, though, her point of view is pretty understandable coming from an immortal being who has seen countless humans come and go.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]There also seems to be some projection on Pearl’s part, here. As a Pearl, her own life would normally be considered boring and insignificant by Gem standards. With Pink, she “made up a story” so she could be a part of something bigger.
The later part of what she says also could be considered a bit of a criticism of the show itself. Instead of dealing with the many interrelated forces that oppress people, the finale of the series came down to Steven finding a single enemy he could fight (or at least convince to change her mind). On the Future series proper, we’ve had very little exploration of what all those Homeworld Gems think of Era 3 or what the logistics are like. That makes sense given the show’s Steven-centric focus, but in practice it does come off a bit like everything in a massive dictatorship would be fine as soon as the dictator is deposed. (Like most of SU, it works much better as a metaphor for families or interpersonal relationships than actual political commentary.)[/spoiler]
Steven spots a coin with a snake on it, inspiring him to “fix” Ronaldo.
Back at the Fry Shack, Peedee is trying to cheer up a despondent Ronaldo when Steven shows up in this super cute Sneople costume. “Snake men are real and we’re puppeting the go’ment!”
Peedee and Ronaldo freak out. Ronaldo starts laughing hysterically and beans Steven with a potato, knocking him out.
When Steven wakes up, he’s chained to a chair in Ronaldo’s “office.” Peedee is filming the “interrogation” with a camcorder. Ronaldo hands Peedee a potato that he can use to knock Ronaldo out if the snake people take over his body, which freaks Peedee out.
Ronaldo: You gotta look at the big picture! Something important is finally happening to me!
It’s interesting how this is kind of a silly reflection of some of the more serious character arcs on the show. For example, one of Steven’s primary motives at this point is to become a proper Crystal Gem so he can participate in missions and other activities. Perhaps more obviously, Connie is thrilled to find herself in a situation that closely resembles one of her beloved fantasy novels and constantly worries that she isn’t important enough for her new role in Steven’s world.
The Gems show up to rescue Steven. Ronaldo, believing them to be snake people, rips open his flame shirt to reveal ridiculous armor.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]In Reunited, he will wear this armor to Garnet’s wedding because he’s a huge nerd.[/spoiler]
Ronaldo attacks the Gems, who proceed to wipe the floor with him. He declares he’s going to use his “psychic ghost powers” as the Gems wind up to give him a second beating.
Steven stands between Ronaldo and the Gems, showing that he’s okay and that he was just wearing a snake person costume. By my count, this is the fifth time Steven has jumped in front of someone the Gems were about to attack.
Steven tells Ronaldo he just wanted to inspire him to become weird again. Ronaldo is devastated to learn that yet another weird happening is just due to the Gems. It’s funny how Ronaldo apparently considers the Gems and everything they do to be completely mundane instead of another weird thing that needs to be studied.
Peedee tries to return Ronaldo to “normal” by gathering up a bunch of his conspiracy theory articles and getting him interested in them again, but Ronaldo just scoffs at him. A second later, though, he realizes something and spreads the papers around, forming a brand new theory…
Ronaldo: Polymorphic sentient rocks! They’re here to hollow out the Earth! It’s part of the Great Diamond Authority! They’ll take on any form, you can read all about them on my blog!
Polymorphic sentient rocks is, of course, a fairly accurate description of the Gems themselves.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]The Gems hollowing out the Earth is confirmed during the Cluster arc, where we learn that the Gems have buried a world-destroying bioweapon.
This is the first mention of the Great Diamond Authority — in fact, I believe it’s the first mention of Diamonds at all.[/spoiler]
Ronaldo is a divisive character, and this episode is nothing amazing, but I find it fairly enjoyable. There’s some fun stuff here, like Steven Tag and Ronaldo ranting about “sneople.” It also has some fun setup for future episodes that you can spot on a rewatch.
Official Description: Steven convinces the Gems to fuse together and pretend to be his mother.
This episode opens with Steven and Connie watching what seems to be an absolutely ridiculous medical procedural called Under the Knife. Connie is happy that she gets to watch it at Steven’s house. She isn’t allowed to watch it at home because her mom thinks it’s not a realistic depiction of an emergency room.
Note that Connie’s glasses are flipped up here, because her vision was healed by Steven in An Indirect Kiss.
Connie’s mom calls, and it’s notable that Connie flips her glasses down to talk to her, even though she has an old-style flip phone and it’s not a video call. It’s a little bit of foreshadowing the events of the episode, where Connie is pretending to be a different person for her parents.
Connie’s mom wants to talk to Steven’s mom. Steven points out, “That’s gonna be pretty hard since my mom gave up her physical form to make me.” Connie probably should have just told her parents that Steven’s mom was dead, but that ship has already sailed.
In one of my favorite funny bits in the series, Steven hands Garnet the phone and asks him to pretend to be his mom.
Garnet: Hello. This is Mom Universe. Yes. The children are playing swords. Sorry, playing with swords. They’re bleeding. Oh no, they are dead.
Garnet: Sorry, I panicked.
Estelle’s absolutely deadpan delivery here is perfect.
Steven frosts a cake and decorates it with Utz Cheese Balls in preparation for Connie coming over to watch the midseason pre-finale of Under the Knife, but Connie isn’t allowed to come. They were really upset by the phone call with Garnet and won’t let Connie visit Steven until they have dinner with Steven’s parents.
Steven starts thinking about dinner for eight (Connie, her parents, Steven, Greg, and the CGs), but Connie tells him that she told her parents that Steven has a nuclear family. He misunderstands that for something having to do with explosions and radioactivity. Connie explains that a nuclear family is two parents and a child or children.
I like that, even when Connie is describing a traditional nuclear family, she says “two parents” instead of “a mom and dad.” I also appreciate how SU is about all different types of family, not just traditional family.
Later, Greg is pulling on a respectable sweater while Steven lines his three “moms” up to try and decide who he is going to take.
Pearl: Why does it have to be dinner? We get all the energy we need from our gems, and while our human constructs are capable of eating, I find it very uncomfortable.
This is the first time we’ve had it confirmed that Gems don’t need to eat and that Pearl doesn’t like to do it. There are a couple of instances early in S1A where Pearl said she liked pie (this was retconned to mean that she simply enjoys the process of making pies) and where she agreed that ordering pizza was a good idea (which could have meant that it was a good idea for Steven). This is another way that Pearl — despite being the most humanoid in appearance and caring a great deal about Steven — is the most alien and divorced from human culture among the Gems.
Garnet protects Steven from “bad guys,” like a mom would, but she’s “not the best conversationalist.” Her panicking on the phone is also part of the cause of this problem, so she’s definitely not the right one to choose.
Amethyst would be “a super fun mom” but her manners leave a lot to be desired.
Steven: Pearl! You’re always worried about me, you teach me lots of stuff, you’re approachable, and you’re, like, totally not gross… but you can’t eat dinner.
Steven pointing out Pearl’s Bird Mom qualities is very sweet and you can tell she’s just soaking it up. Also, given the three moms here, I think taking Pearl and making up some excuse for why she can’t actually eat would easily be his best option, assuming honesty is not on the table.
Steven is frustrated. “Why did Connie have to say I have one mother instead of zero… or three?” which is a good question. Even if Connie does feel she has to lie to make Steven’s family seem more normal, telling his parents that Steven’s mother died, which is more or less true, would have been a much safer option than what she went with. Then, they’d just have to bring Greg, who is both a great dad and a mostly normal human.
Steven gets the idea that all three Gems should fuse into one so Steven can pretend to have just one mom.
Pearl: Steven, you know we only fuse in deadly situations!
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]As pointed out in Giant Woman, this becomes less and less true as the series goes on. By the time of Future, they’re fusing for fun in Snow Day or to help out around town in A Very Special Episode. It’s a good indicator of how much more comfortable everyone has become around each other.[/spoiler]
Garnet: Fusion is serious magic, not a trick for dinner parties.
Garnet explicitly calling fusion “magic” here is interesting, especially since we’re now in S1B and we know the Gems are aliens, not fantasy creatures. The magic terminology eventually gets dropped entirely, and I’m surprised it shows up this late.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]Of course, Garnet taking fusion extremely seriously is one of her core character beats. There’s a lot in S1B that is leading up to her big reveal as a permafusion in Jail Break.[/spoiler]
Steven laments that he’ll never get to see Connie again, and Garnet immediately caves. I love that, out of the three, the seemingly tough and stoic Garnet is almost always the one who is weak to Steven’s pleas — Monster Buddies is another good example. It’s a good way to show how much she really does care about Steven.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]If I had to guess, I’d say it’s primarily her inner Ruby that simply cannot take seeing Steven sad, and caves to him before Sapphire can try and stop her.[/spoiler]
At the Crab Shack, Connie’s parents are waiting impatiently for the arrival of Steven’s family. This is our first appearance of Priyanka Maheswaran (voice: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) and Doug Maheswaran (voice: Crispin Freeman). These two are not terribly likable in their first appearance, but get some decent character development down the line.
Greg and Steven arrive riding on the shoulders of Alexandrite, the fusion made up of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl (voice: Rita Rani Ahuja).
I read some reactions to this episode at the time of airing, and a number of people were disappointed that, instead of this fusion being formed as part of some huge climactic fight, they show her for the first time in a wacky sitcom plot. In hindsight, knowing that we do get to see Alexandrite in more serious circumstances, I think it’s pretty funny and fitting for the show.
Alexandrite has a mishmash of clashing colors, six arms, and two mouths, reflecting the clash of personalities contained within her. It’s actually impressive that she stays fused as long as she does, considering it’s not a life-or-death situation and the Gems contained within have tons of unresolved personal conflicts at this point. Presumably, it’s the influence of Garnet keeping Pearl and Amethyst together so they don’t immediately fall apart like Opal tends to do.
Alexandrite sits down and eats the entire basket of breadsticks. Doug goes to make a comment, but Priyanka shushes him and tells him not to be rude. “How’d you two meet?” she asks.
Before Greg can answer, Steven chimes in: “They met on a roller coaster!”
I love Connie’s face here as she silently mouths “What?!”
Greg goes along with it as best as he can.
Priyanka asks, “What is it that you two do for a living, Mr. and Mrs. Universe?”
Greg says that he owns a local car wash. Before Alexandrite can say anything, Steven chimes in again: “My mom works on an apple farm!”
Everyone at the table is baffled.
Greg: You know what they say: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Alexandrite: I hate doctors.
Priyanka: Well, I’m a doctor.
Connie: Steven, help me find the restroom!
We’ll see more of Mrs. Maheswaran’s career later, but it helps explain her protectiveness and her insistence on overachieving.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]The gag of fleeing to a restroom during an awkward moment gets used a lot in SUF, especially in Rose Buds, another episode rife with awkward humor.[/spoiler]
In front of the restrooms, Connie freaks out on Steven about bringing Alexandrite instead of just one of the Gems. Steven says that bringing just one Gem would be a lie, which isn’t actually the reason he thought he couldn’t do that, but whatever.
He notices Connie’s still wearing her glasses, even though he healed her eyes, and realizes that Connie hasn’t told her parents anything about Steven’s Gem side. He accuses her of being ashamed of him, and she brushes it off, saying they should just finish the evening.
What Connie’s doing is wrong, but I can still sympathize a lot with her here. I also had very strict, conservative parents, and I spent a lot of time telling little white lies to try and cover up anything in my life that didn’t fit their extremely narrow worldviews. This was especially true when it came to my friends, where I had to be very careful to gloss over anything that might make them or their families seem like anything other than safe and traditional, so I would still be allowed to see them.
It isn’t right, of course, but I think a lot of the blame lies on the parents for making their child feel like they can’t be honest with them, not on the kid who is still forming their sense of right and wrong. Steven Universe more or less comes to the same conclusion, eventually.
That being said, it’s also very understandable for Steven to be angry with Connie’s lies here, especially since he’s never felt the need to hide those parts of himself and doesn’t fully understand why Connie would want to.
Back at the table, dinner has been served. Alexandrite tries to eat the shrimp, but the Pearl part of her pushes it away. Pearl and Amethyst begin fighting for control, with Garnet unsuccessfully trying to mediate, until the fusion falls apart.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]There’s a brief frame here, as Alexandrite splits, where you can see Ruby and Sapphire holding hands before they fuse back into Garnet. I had to steal this screenshot from the Wiki because for the life of me I couldn’t get the video to pause on this specific frame.[/spoiler]
Pearl is incredibly relieved that she doesn’t have to eat food, saying she can’t stand the process of swallowing goop and having it come out of you. Amethyst comments that she loves it when mush passes through her body. Garnet beans them both with her gauntlets.
Priyanka is furious that Connie lied to her about Steven’s family, and Connie runs off, upset.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]The trust issues between Connie and her mom don’t get wrapped up here, and will persist until Nightmare Hospital, when Connie finally comes clean to her mother about many of the things she has been hiding.[/spoiler]
Steven runs after Connie. She explains to him that she wasn’t ashamed of him, but that she was terrified that if her parents found out the truth, they wouldn’t be allowed to hang out any more. Steven apologizes for ruining the evening.
Steven: I wish there was a way we could just hang out without having to worry about stuff.
Connie: Steven, let’s just hop on a bus and live somewhere else without telling anyone!
Steven: That’s a great idea!
On the bus, Connie says they’ll be able to survive wherever they go, because she’s been reading about sustainable living.
This scene is the next entry in the “Connie is super relatable” series. I had these fantasies about running away on a bus, complete with elaborate plans for how I would live, constantly (see: strict, conservative parents). They may have been influenced by The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Their plans to run away are foiled when Alexandrite runs after and picks up the entire bus.
Back at the Crab Shack, Connie’s parents start to lay into her for running away, when they see Greg and the Gems scolding Steven for the same thing. Garnet tells him he’s going to be punished with no dinner for a thousand years. Pearl amends that, saying they’d never starve him, so instead his punishment will be “no TV for one thousand years.”
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]This punishment stands for most of the season, and is mentioned in Maximum Capacity and Horror Club when Steven enforces the punishment himself by refusing to watch TV.[/spoiler]
Priyanka and Doug approach them, saying they’re impressed by how they disciplined Steven.
Doug: That “one thousand years of dinner” bit was pretty funny.
Garnet: All comedy is derived from fear.
Garnet really steals the show in this episode with hilarious line reads.
Connie’s parents decide that Steven’s family are responsible caregivers after all, and that they’ll allow Connie to continue to hang out with Steven.
This episode seems to be kind of divisive, but I like it. I’m guessing it has a lot to do with your appetite for awkward humor, which this episode heavily relies on. I love awkward humor, and the phone call with Garnet and the bit at the table with Alexandrite always make me laugh. Connie’s dilemma is also sympathetic and relatable, and just look at her adorable dinner outfit.
The biggest problem with this episode is probably that the conflict gets resolved too easily. Connie’s parents see Steven being disciplined and are suddenly okay with everything, even the six-armed giant woman? Obviously they had to wrap this up in eleven minutes and they weren’t going to permanently estrange Connie and Steven so there isn’t much choice, but it’s still a little unsatisfying.
[spoiler title=”Fast Forward”]Speaking of estranging Connie and Steven, who is ready for Connie’s return on Steven Universe Future?
I’m not! I’m going to cry so hard in the likely event that these two kids don’t make it. I just love them so much.[/spoiler]
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Two of the weirder episodes of the season in Watermelon Steven and Garnet’s Universe.
I’ll have you know I’m showing great restraint by not skipping ahead to Warp Tour.