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 Future Vision blocks, which will include spoilers for the entire series.
Official Description: Connie trains with Pearl to be a swordfighter.
Here we are, we’ve arrived at one of the finest episodes of the series! Before we get to that, however, now that all three Gems have shed their S1 looks, we have a new intro!
This version of the intro is much flashier and lacks the ukeleles and clapping that the first version has. The most obvious change is that, while the S1 intro had Steven struggling to keep up with the others, this version of the intro features Steven as a full-fledged member of the Crystal Gems. An extended version of this intro was also released, which I will cover when I do an article featuring the shorts.
The S1 intro had Steven kind of floating obliviously when the warp pad was activated. This version has Steven front and center, activating the warp pad himself.
Is he doing a Diamond salute here? It sure looks like it. Where would he have even learned that?
Also, allow me to register my disappointment that we never got an updated intro with Peridot and Lapis until Future.
In S1, Steven looked irritated at the Gems patting him on the head; here, he looks happy, showing his increased confidence. The next shot features all of the Gems summoning their weapons, including Steven, who now has near full control over his shield.
The shot of Beach City is far livelier, too. Instead of Connie looking at the van curiously, she now cheerfully runs after the van. She’s carrying Rose’s sword — foreshadowing what happens in this episode — and is wearing the glow bracelet Steven gave her. Her outfit and general appearance also look more confident and a bit older.
There’s a lot more citizens in the shot as well, now that the townie cast has been more or less fully introduced. From left to right, we have Jamie staring out at the ocean; Mr. Smiley, Kofi, and Mr. Fryman talking as Peedee sits on his father’s shoulders; Kiki carrying a pizza next to Nanefua; Ronaldo picking up spilled papers; Sadie and Lars hanging out in front of the Big Donut; and the Cool Kids lounging around a table. Onion is peeking out from the Big Donut awning, ready to cause chaos.
We now have Lion and Connie joining Greg and the Gems on the beach. Nearby, Connie’s glasses sit next to Rose’s sword, due to Connie’s eyes being healed as of An Indirect Kiss.
The S1 intro showed each Gem separately as they sang their names, and ended with Steven eating a hot dog. This version features each Gem sitting down next to Steven as they sing. The intro ends with the three main Gems clustered around Steven, reflecting his new, more central role in the group.
This episode opens with Steven and Connie singing an adorable song about their friendship. Steven is playing his ukulele and Connie is playing her violin as they sing about sharing a jam together. This is the first time we’ve heard Connie sing in the series and she is so cute. They’re perched on the hand of the Temple where the washer and dryer are situated for some reason, and Steven has brought his cheeseburger backpack.
Steven spreads some jam on a biscuit, and is immediately attacked by seagulls, the worst of birds. Connie chases them off with her violin bow. “Run back to your masters! Tell them we’re not afraid of your kind!” she says.
It’s possibly not a coincidence that this is also a valid thing to yell at invading Homeworld Gems…
Steven compliments her on her bow-swinging skills, and Connie says that she’d love to know how to use an actual sword. Steven’s eyes fill with huge stars as he gets an idea.
Steven explains to Pearl that Connie wants to learn swordfighting. Pearl is skeptical, but Steven points out times when Connie has fought in the past: against the “robot floaty thing” (in Lion 2) and against the “evil clone of herself” (in Open Book).
Pearl thinks Connie might be too young, but remembers that she was a few thousand years old when she began fighting alongside Rose Quartz.
This puts Pearl at around eight or nine thousand years old — a few thousand years with Pink, five hundred years of the rebellion, and five thousand years since.
Connie: I don’t know what will happen in the future, but if something dangerous comes along, I don’t want to be a burden, I want to help! I want to be there for Steven, to fight by his side! The Earth is my home, too, can’t I help protect it?
This is, of course, the moment when Pearl connects her own experience with Connie, prompting her to make the above face. Connie is mimicking Pearl’s exact feelings towards fighting alongside Rose. She quickly agrees to train Connie.
Pearl wants to get started right away, and warps the kids to the Sky Arena. Connie, not used to warp pads, falls flat on her face the way S1 Steven used to. She’s very enthusiastic about getting to use the warp pad, though.
This is, I believe, the first time we’ve seen the Era 1 Diamond Insignia. The one on the upper part of the arena has the pink diamond broken in a very unsubtle reference.
The Sky Arena reminds me a lot of a Smash Bros. stage. Pearl says, “It was here that I became familiar with the human concept of being a knight, completely dedicated to a person and to a cause.”
This is an interesting statement that never really gets elaborated on. How much contact did Pearl have with humans pre-Steven? There’s a number of hints that humans fought alongside Gems in the Rebellion — this, the armor in Rose’s armory — but nothing ever fully confirms it. Did this concept of a knight really even exist five thousand years ago? Is that kind of a moot point, given how different human history obviously was in Steven Universe?
It’s interesting that Pearl mentions being dedicated to a person and to a cause as a human concept, when she herself was custom built to serve Pink Diamond However, I think the main difference is that Homeworld actually forces allegiance to Gem society over all things. Her dedication is technically not to Pink, but to Gem society (like all Gems), and that happens to take the form of serving Pink because that is her designated role in society. As a knight, Pearl dedicates herself to Rose directly and at least partially by her own choice. Of course, the concept of being dedicated to a cause is foreign to Homeworld, unless that cause happens to be the expansion and maintenance of the Gempire.
Pearl instructs Connie to first bow to her teacher, and then to her “liege,” Steven. She does so, and both kids find it funny and start giggling.
This is another instance of imagery of Steven as a ruler, which could be considered subtle foreshadowing for the reveal that Rose was Pink Diamond. Pearl already knows this connection, of course, and that this knowledge is influencing the way she treats Steven in episodes like this one.
Pearl summons the Holo-Pearl last seen in Steven the Sword Fighter. Connie thinks it’s cool, but Steven is obviously still traumatized from seeing Pearl poof in that episode, and has a painful grimace on his face.
We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s fitting that one of Pearl’s powers is projecting.
Holo-Pearl asks the kids if they wish to engage in combat. Connie is enthusiastic, but Steven instinctively encases them both in a bubble. This is all another demonstration of how the traumas that pile on Steven throughout the series never really go away.
Steven’s immediate protectiveness here also foreshadows that he won’t ever be okay with Connie being his knight and risking her own life while Steven stays back. For now, though, Steven dismisses his bubble and lets Connie and Pearl start the lesson.
“Do It for Her” is one of the series’ best songs. Throughout the song, Pearl urges Connie to “do it for him [Steven],” but she also keeps singing “do it for her [Rose]” instead. She begins by singing some basic sword fighting instructions to Connie, which she sings back. At this point, Steven is cheerfully watching their lesson.
The song is accompanied by a montage of Connie training. We see her arriving at Steven’s house, dressed in clothes more appropriate for sword fighting, and greeted by Steven with a green health shake.
Connie’s training increases in intensity, and Pearl’s indoctrination into making Connie a knight becomes more pronounced. “Concentrate! Don’t you want him to live?!” she shouts as Connie challenges Holo-Pearl. One would really hope that the new version of Holo-Pearl is using a blunt practice sword but I wouldn’t count on it.
“Everything you have, everything you are, you’ve got to give!” says Pearl, reflecting her attitude towards fighting alongside Rose, the unhealthy view she thinks Connie should have when “serving” Steven.
Pearl flashes back to the Rebellion, and sings about the battlefield, where “you have nothing but the way you feel, your strategy, and a sword.” In this memory, she sees an enormous Gem that resembles Jasper challenging Rose.
Despite the fact that Pearl’s indoctrination of Connie goes to a dark and scary place, this goes to show the mindset Pearl is operating from, and why she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s coming from a point of view of literal war with hostile Gems, and is painfully aware that there’s only a handful of Gems left to stand against the might of Homeworld. If Homeworld succeeds in retaking the Earth, it would mean the end of humanity anyway — so from Pearl’s point of view, risking a human life for this cause is morally correct. Although she recognizes that Connie is young, she also probably does not have any idea of why child soldiers are considered taboo, considering soldier caste Gems can fight straight out of the kindergarten.
Pearl fearlessly throws herself in front of Rose, defending her from the enormous Gem, showing Connie what would be expected of her. It’s worth noting that Rose looks surprised in this flashback, not pleased — an indication that Rose was not entirely okay with this behavior (and Steven won’t be, either.)
“You just think about the life you’ll have together after the war,” sings Pearl, a line that packs so much tragedy into it. She faced these enormous odds with her life with Rose as a motivator — and, as we know now, Rose would ultimately leave her behind to have a child with Greg. She no longer has that life with Rose she fought so hard for.
Pearl’s story makes Connie more determined, but Steven is starting to grow uneasy.
Pearl bandages injuries on Connie’s hand, showing she has at least some small knowledge of first aid for humans, possibly learned for Steven, or perhaps learned if she fought alongside humans long ago. “Deep down, you know you weren’t built for fighting, but that doesn’t mean you’re not prepared to try,” she sings.
This takes new meaning when we learn that Pearl was never intended to be a fighter, and is actually supposed to be a glorified decorative assistant to a higher caste Gem, one with no real skills of her own. Pearl’s fighting and engineering skills were apparently all self-taught and go explicitly against her caste.
“What they don’t know is your real advantage. When you live for someone, you’re prepared to die.”
The song takes a sudden turn into much darker territory, and you can see Steven’s distress contrasting with Connie’s determination.
As we’ll see later in the episode, Pearl being willing to throw herself into danger with little regard for her own safety was apparently her primary fighting technique during the war. Of course, it’s much riskier for Connie to engage in that behavior.
Connie sings, “Deep down I know that I’m just a human, but I know that I can draw my sword and fight.” Despite Pearl rebelling against Homeworld, a lot of their beliefs linger on in her, and you can see it here with the way she indoctrinates Connie. Although she does like Connie, she’s still disdainful of humanity in general, and you can see it when she teaches Connie she’s “just” a human.
Also, look at Connie’s cute sword fighting outfit with her braided hair!
Pearl encourages Connie as she sings, “With my short existence I can make a difference. I can be there for him. I can be his knight.”
The idea that Connie’s “short existence” is best spent serving Steven is more Gem indoctrination. If humans fought alongside Gems during the Rebellion, you have to wonder if they were trained in a similar way. I like how Pearl’s face is shadowed here, making her look somewhat sinister.
Despite the questionable beliefs Pearl is imparting to Connie, Connie become quite good at fighting by the end of the montage, and the two of them look like a great team here.
They finish the song and the training by kneeling before Steven, who looks incredibly uncomfortable.
The next time Connie comes over, Steven is reading How to Talk to People, a book that I feel like I could use sometimes. “Step 1: Think of what you want to say. Step 2: Say it.”
…You’d be surprised how difficult that is, book!
Steven stops Connie to talk to her, but they’re intercepted by Pearl, who wants to get right to training. “She’s making great strides. She’s going to be an asset to you,” says Pearl, employing more dehumanizing language. Connie agrees and they warp away.
I think that Connie’s strict upbringing makes her very susceptible to this sort of thing. When you feel like your primary worth is not innate, but rather a function of your academic and extracurricular achievements, it’s easy to see why all of this would be appealing to her. Pearl is offering her praise for her skills and telling her how useful she is — all things Connie is conditioned to want to hear. When you’re told your main value in life is getting good grades to eventually get a good job, the idea that you should strive to be an “asset” seems right in line.
Amethyst and Garnet emerge from the Temple, Amethyst laughing hysterically at something Garnet said. Garnet calls herself a “master of comedy.” Well, she has mastered the idea that all comedy is derived from fear. Amethyst loudly demands to know why Steven is so sad. Steven explains that Connie is training with Pearl, and Pearl is encouraging her to do dangerous things to protect Steven.
Garnet isn’t surprised. “Back during the war, Pearl took pride in risking her destruction for your mother. She put Rose Quartz over everything: over logic, over consequence, even over her own life.” In the flashback, we can see Pearl getting poofed over and over again while trying to protect Rose. Just as in Pearl’s memory, Rose looks distressed every time Pearl sacrifices herself, again indicating that she wasn’t happy with this behavior.
The last vision is of Connie leaping into danger to protect Steven, causing Steven to freak out. He runs to talk to Connie.
Steven runs up to Pearl as she tells Connie, “In the heat of battle, Steven is what matters. You don’t matter.”
“I don’t matter,” repeats Connie.
His fears confirmed, Steven runs into the arena as Pearl summons a massive amount of fog for the training exercise. He can hear Connie fighting a Holo-Pearl, but can’t see them.
As Steven searches the arena, he runs across a Holo-Pearl. “Unregistered combatant detected!” she says, and immediately raises her sword to fight Steven.
You know, after what happened in Steven the Sword Fighter, you’d think Pearl would have invented some safety protocols for these things so they don’t do things like decide anything she doesn’t recognize must be stabbed. Apparently not, though. Before Steven can summon his shield, Connie stabs it from behind.
Steven begs Connie to stop doing this. “No, Steven, I understand now!” she says cheerfully. “Your legacy, your destiny — you are everything, and I am nothing. But I can do this for you! I can give you my service!”
Another major factor in Connie accepting this indoctrination is the fantasy books she loves to read. She sees Steven as the protagonist in a fantasy story, one with a “magical destiny” that must be fulfilled. She sees herself as the relatively powerless best friend — and in those stories, said friend sacrificing themselves to allow the hero to achieve what has to be done is seen as the greatest good.
It also ties into Pearl’s ideas that love is bound up with giving service — this is one that she’s going to have to work on for a good chunk of the series.
Steven protests that he doesn’t want her to do this, and points out that if she’s protecting him, then who is going to protect her? He punctuates this by blocking a Holo-Pearl with his shield.
Steven tells Connie that soon they might need to fight some “really bad guys,” and that when that day comes, he wants them to fight together. “Please, won’t you share this jam with me?” Connie takes his hand as they’re surrounded by Holo-Pearls.
While Connie and Steven do fight together many times, Steven does eventually break this promise to fight together at the end of Season 4, when he allows himself to be taken to Homeworld by Aquamarine. This prompts Connie and Steven’s largest conflict in the series, as Connie feels betrayed that he would throw himself into danger without her — exactly the sort of thing he told her not to do here.
Steven uses his bubble to block the Holo-Pearls from attacking, which Connie says makes things much easier. It’s interesting here that he can summon his shield inside of his bubble, which I don’t think we’ve seen yet.
The fact that Connie fights with a sword and Steven with a shield would naturally make you expect that Stevonnie will fight with sword and shield — and eventually they do!
Pearl dissipates the fog and scolds Steven for interrupting the exercise, one where she expects Connie to take her on alone. Steven and Connie reject this.
Steven: We’re a team! She’s the strawberry —
Connie: And he’s the biscuit!
Together: And that makes us JAM BUDS!
…Pearl is confused.
Steven and Connie charge Pearl, giving her a real challenge as Connie parries her sword strikes and Steven protects Connie’s back with his shield. Connie slides under Pearl’s legs and comes at her from behind as Steven attacks from the front. Pearl manages to disarm them both.
Pearl: In a real battle, Steven won’t be there to save you!
Steven: Yes I will!
Pearl: Steven, you don’t know that!
Steven: Yes I do!
Although it’s notable that in the series finale, Steven really isn’t able to save Connie — she eventually ends up saving him. This is also true of Future!
Pearl protests that Steven shouldn’t be anywhere near a battle because he’s “too important,” which seems like more wishful thinking, considering she wasn’t able to keep Steven away from the fight in The Return.
“Why won’t you let me do this for you, Rose?!” she screams, anguished and crying.
And there you have it — the confirmation that this scenario has played out before. Rose likely didn’t want Pearl to risk herself any more than Steven wants to risk Connie, but Pearl thought it was the only way she could be useful. Now, she wants to live that dynamic vicariously through Connie.
This becomes even more poignant when you realize that Pearl was built to serve Rose. Even after they broke free of Homeworld and Rose encouraged Pearl to be her own Gem and not a servant, Pearl was never quite able to shed the idea that her main purpose in life was to serve Rose. It’s possible that Rose was never fully able to stop seeing her this way, as well — this may have been one of the reasons that Rose ultimately decided to give up her form, knowing that Pearl would never truly be free as long as she was alive.
Here, we see that Pearl can’t help but conflate Steven and Rose — a dynamic we previously saw play out in Rose’s Scabbard. Not only that, but Pearl’s grief over losing Rose is still raw, and the idea of losing Steven is unbearable to her. No wonder she wants Steven to stay far away from the battle, and wants him to have a human knight to protect him.
Pearl drops her sword and sits down, Steven and Connie following. (The blocking where we only see half of Pearl’s face is back, but this time lacking the sinister-looking shadows.)
Steven apologizes for ruining the training, explaining that telling Connie she was nothing was freaking him out. Connie cuts right to the heart of the matter: “Did Rose make you feel like you were nothing?”
“Rose made me feel like I was everything,” says Pearl.
Pearl wipes away her tears and hugs them both. “I see now, how deeply you care about each other. That will make you both great knights!” She chatters excitedly about the upcoming “midair and underwater” exercises she has planned as the episode ends.
This is one of the finest Steven Universe episodes. It has everything you could ask for — great character development, an outstanding song (plus a cute bonus song!), beautiful moments, and a tearjerker ending. This episode gives us a deeper insight into Pearl and Rose’s relationship, and by extension, Pearl and Steven’s relationship. Connie learning to fight is also a significant development, ensuring that in future episodes she won’t exist merely to be a burden that must be protected. Connie and Pearl’s teacher/student relationship is one of my favorites in the series, and one that I wish we could have spent more time with.
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Rising Tides / Crashing Skies! That sounds significant, right? Maybe the return of Malachite?
…or maybe it’s just a weird one-off starring Ronaldo. That’s what you wanted, right?