Steven Universe Rewind – Cry for Help

Episode Description: Steven’s favorite TV show gets interrupted by a magical disturbance.

Personally, I wouldn’t classify Peridot as a “magical disturbance,” but okay.

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.

The episode opens with Steven enjoying an episode of his favorite cartoon, Crying Breakfast Friends, which Amethyst doesn’t seem to understand: “Why don’t they just eat the ice cream off the floor? They don’t have to cry about it.” The show is interrupted by static, and by a familiar face…

It’s Peridot, who, having apparently completed her mission in Keeping It Together, is now sending out a distress signal to Yellow Diamond. This is the second mention of YD in the series, and confirmation that Peridot is working for her. She calls Earth an “abandoned Crystal System colony,” potentially explaining where the Crystal Gems got their name. “My escort and informant are gone, and I am now stranded,” she says, referring to Jasper and Lapis, respectively.

Future Vision

Yellow Diamond later comments that Peridot has a manager, so it’s interesting that Peridot is addressing Yellow directly in her distress video. It’s likely just for economy of storytelling, though, as we never learn who Peridot’s manager was.

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The message is showing up on Connie’s TV as well, and the Crystal Gems realize there’s only one way Peridot could be broadcasting such a strong signal: the communications hub that they destroyed in Coach Steven. This episode forms a loose sequel to that one in many ways. They take Lion to get to the hub, because the warp pad was accidentally destroyed by Sugilite previously, and it seems to take a lot out of him.

Their instincts are correct, as the communications hub is lit up and broadcasting.

So how did Peridot repair the hub on her own? Pearl, later in the episode, uses the tractor beam on Peridot’s escape pod. Peridot would probably have had to use the similar tractor beams in her limb enhancers, which seems like it would take a very long time.

Steven suggests that they smash up the hub again by forming Sugilite — he’s always enthusiastic about seeing the Gems fuse. Amethyst isn’t as openly gleeful as she was last time, saying it’s up to Garnet, but she clearly loves the idea. Pearl, meanwhile, is freaking out, understandably so, considering last time she had to fight Sugilite to get them to unfuse.

Garnet shuts her down. “I can be brash. You can be reckless. And we can both get carried away.” This bit of dialogue retroactively explains some of what went wrong with Sugilite. Garnet naturally favors bold action, but it tends to be tempered by her wisdom. With Amethyst’s impulsiveness in the mix, the delicate balance is tipped.

“What we need now is to be careful,” says Garnet, the opposite of what she said in Coach Steven: “We don’t need to be careful, we just need to be huge!” She turns to Pearl and asks her to fuse.

Pearl’s immediate response is shock, her eye swirling with tears like washing machines. She’s obviously wanted to fuse with Garnet quite badly, although even her tearful reaction doesn’t quite convey the full extent of her desire. Steven is thrilled as he always is when he gets to witness a fusion (with Malachite and the Cluster monsters as obvious exceptions). His reaction likely mirrors that of many fans, who had been waiting to see this fusion ever since the concept was revealed in Giant Woman.

Pearl stretches, saying it’s been such a long time. When was the last time Garnet and Pearl fused? I’m guessing it was before Steven and maybe even before Rose met Greg — but this is mostly based on my theory that Pearl hadn’t fused with anyone since Rose’s death up until her fusion with Amethyst in Giant Woman. The dance they perform is graceful and more romantic-seeming than many of the other fusion dances in the series.

It’s Sardonyx (voice: Alexia Khadime), one of my favorite fusions in the series. She combines Pearl’s gracefulness and intelligence with Garnet’s over-the-top qualities and snarky sense of humor. She takes on the role of a performer, addressing Amethyst and Steven as though they are an audience, and emerging through a “curtain” made of light. She has four arms and four legs, indicating that she is not the most harmonious of fusions.

Sardonyx is very charismatic and appears to be having a great time when she shows up — it’s really no wonder that neurotic Pearl would love the chance to inhabit this larger than life personality for a while.

Steven is characteristically thrilled to see a giant woman, and Sardonyx picks him up to admire him. “Was I worth the wait?” she asks, in a bit of a meta-joke, as Pearl and Garnet’s fusion was heavily requested by the community. She does the affected sort of laugh commonly called the “noblewoman’s laugh” or the “ojou-sama laugh,” depending on how steeped in anime you are.

Steven calls her “articulated,” a malapropism for “articulate,” but also a reference to her four arms. She playfully presses him between her hands him, declaring, “I could literally squish you right now! It would not be hard.”

“I’m just so excited to be here! I haven’t been myself lately,” she says, laughing at her own fusion joke, while Amethyst groans, annoyed.

She combines Pearl’s spear and Garnet’s gauntlets into her weapon, an enormous, cartoonish warhammer. Steven asks if she’s “gonna smash stuff,” and Sardonyx says that that better describes what “someone else might do,” a reference to Sugilite. She lists off all of the other adjectives that she believes describe herself: “Specific! Intelligent! Accurate! Faultless! Elegant! Controlled! Surgical! Graceful! And powerful!” Although self-aggrandizing, all of these traits are exactly what you might expect the fusion of Pearl and Garnet to have. It’s another reason why Pearl likely enjoys being Sardonyx so much: she has Garnet’s bold self-confidence, a trait that Pearl has often been lacking since Pearl’s death.

Sardonyx makes quick work of the communication hub, and tells Steven that if they have need of her, “let Pearl and Garnet know,” before unfusing without a fuss. This seemingly makes them a more stable fusion than Sugilite, who refused to unfuse, although we’ll learn that this is not quite the whole story.

Garnet and Pearl have both clearly enjoyed this experience, celebrating happily. Pearl wonders why they don’t do that more often, which seems a valid question, considering how useful Sardonyx is and how much fun they had. Given the rest of the episode, it seems likely that Garnet may have anticipated Pearl’s issues and avoided fusing with her in the past for this reason.

The next day, Steven is watching Crying Breakfast Friends with Garnet. Crying Pear is begging forgiveness after having lied to Sad Spoon. “Aw, Pear! I’d forgive her. Wouldn’t you?” Garnet’s response is a noncommittal scowl. When I first saw this episode, I initially thought this might be foreshadowing for something “Pear”-idot was going to do, before realizing it refers to “Pear”l instead.

Steven asks Amethyst if she wants to come watch, but she’s still in a glum mood from the events of the previous day.

The TV goes haywire again, although this time there’s no message from Peridot, just static. Pearl enters the house right at this moment, which we’ll learn is not a coincidence. The Gems are off to the communications hub again, where Pearl and Garnet eagerly fuse once more.

As Sardonyx does her thing, Amethyst sings a short song about her feelings, as one does in Steven Universe. “I think you’re better off with her. I think she’s better for you,” she sings, referring to Garnet fusing with Pearl instead of Amethyst. “I forgot how great it was to be us. I guess I got carried away.” She sings that line while looking at the warp pad, smashed by a rock, a reminder of what happened when Sugilite got “carried away.” Amethyst truly loved fusing with Garnet, and the revelation that she’s “made of love” in Jail Break gives one indication as to why. She’s a loving, stable relationship, something that Amethyst and Pearl both lack (at least with peers, which Steven isn’t yet) — it’s no wonder why Amethyst, who craves acceptance and a sense of family, would enjoy fusing with Garnet so much. This is why she sympathizes with Pearl so much later in the episode, something that Amethyst normally does not do. It’s worth noting that Pearl was the Gem most opposed to fusing with Amethyst in Giant Woman, while Amethyst wondered why they didn’t do it more often.

“I had to use you to make me feel strong, but I don’t care about that now,” sings Amethyst, referring again to the events of Coach Steven. While I think Amethyst certainly does enjoy being strong, I think summarizing why she enjoyed being Sugilite in that way avoids her real motivations, which have more to do with the close bond felt when in fusion.

“Is there something I can do? Can I make it up to you?” This has echoes of Rose and Greg singing “what can I do for you?” just a few episodes ago. Just as Rose and Greg are wondering what they can bring to the relationship, Amethyst is once again insecure about her role on the team and in the family.

It’s interesting that in this song, Amethyst frames the situation with Sugilite as something that was wholly her fault, that she should make up to Garnet. Garnet, on the other hand, believes that they were both responsible for what happened, which seems more accurate to what we saw in the show. It’s a contrast to Pearl in this episode, who is clearly in the wrong, and who Garnet is legitimately angry with for quite some time — Garnet was never shown as angry with Amethyst after Sugilite, another indication that it wasn’t fully Amethyst’s fault.

Steven hears Amethyst’s song, and comes up with a plan for Amethyst to make things up. The next night, they take Lion to the communication hub, reasoning that if Peridot keeps returning there to repair it, they can catch her. “She’ll think I’m cool again!” says Amethyst, the Gem who has repeatedly claimed to not care what anyone else thinks of her.

Their plan is so obvious that one might wonder why the other Crystal Gems haven’t proposed it. That is explained by Garnet not seeing Peridot in her future vision, and Pearl knowing the truth of what’s happening.

Steven thinks he spots Peridot in the distance, but it’s just a weird cactus. Hours pass and the Gem in question doesn’t show. Steven shows Amethyst how to unfocus her eyes and make a “weird sausage” appear in between her fingers, a trick that doesn’t work for Amethyst until Steven uncovers her right eye.

Steven spots Peridot’s escape pod, confusing both Gems, as they believed that the pod was in the Temple after they recovered it in Joy Ride. The pod uses its tractor beams to repair the communications hub.

So we know this isn’t Peridot. What was Peridot up to this whole time? Apparently she never came back to the communications hub, probably believing that the risk of getting caught by the Crystal Gems after they were on to her was too great.

A Gem emerges from the pod, and Steven zooms in on her, realizing with shock that it’s Pearl. From Amethyst’s tone, she realizes what’s going on immediately, probably because she herself loves fusing with Garnet so much. We’re also just a couple of episodes out from We Need to Talk, an episode where Pearl made improper use of fusion by fusing with Rose just to make Greg jealous.

At the house, Steven speculates that Pearl might be repairing the hub to figure out how it works. Amethyst shoots down that idea — she’s already dead certain she knows why Pearl is doing what she’s doing, although she doesn’t voice that to Steven.

Steven turns on the TV, which is displaying the staticky signal again. Pearl is immediately there, calling the team together to go back to the hub.

“She’s evading my future vision. No matter how many times I try, I can’t see us finding Peridot,” says Garnet, which is one of the most interesting comments on how her future vision works so far. The idea that Garnet has to search for particular outcomes among possible futures is a good way from preventing her future vision power from becoming too strong for the story. She can’t see the reveal that Pearl is repairing the hub because she’s focused on finding Peridot — which she never will, at least not in this way. The idea that Pearl is the one repairing the hub never occurs to her, so she doesn’t look into those futures.

This also definitively proves that fusion components can hide memories from each other, as Pearl was able to fuse with Sardonyx the second time without revealing what she had done.

At the communications hub, Pearl and Garnet prepare to fuse once more, Pearl talking about how it doesn’t matter how many times Peridot fixes the hub, because they can easily take care of it together. Amethyst can’t keep it in any more. “Stop!” she calls out, and Pearl’s face shows that she knows she’s been caught out.

Steven chimes in that Pearl needs to tell Garnet that it’s been her. “I’m sorry,” says Pearl, realizing she can’t avoid it. “It’s just so much fun being Sardonyx with you.”

This shot of Pearl reflected is reminiscent of other times in the series when Garnet has been particularly intense, such as when a charging Jasper is reflected in her visor during “Stronger Than You.” It’s a clear indication that things are about to go down.

Let’s stop and talk for a moment about what Pearl is doing and why. By lying to Garnet and fusing with her under false pretenses, she’s obviously performed a massive violation of Garnet’s trust. A healthy fusion requires complete trust in one’s fusion partner and an honest line of communication, points that were recently reiterated in We Need to Talk, when Garnet was advising Greg on fusion. Pearl knows all this, and knows how strongly Garnet feels about fusion, yet she does this anyway.

She likely didn’t consider that she would be caught. In fact, if she had only done her stunt once instead of twice, or if Amethyst and Steven hadn’t happened to stake out the hub, she very well could have. But it was still a significant risk, as she must realize that her entire relationship with Garnet will be torn to shreds if she’s found out, and Pearl is not usually this reckless.

It’s apparent that her desire for the intimacy of fusion, and her need to lose herself in the appealing facade of Sardonyx rather than her insecure, messy, neurotic self for a while, was so strong that it overrode both her good sense and her moral compass. It’s been obvious for some time now that Pearl is deeply lonely. Her relationship with Amethyst is strained, Garnet often seems cold to her, and her feelings for Steven are complicated, as she still on some level resents him for Rose’s absence. At this point, she has no one she can talk to about her feelings. She clearly didn’t feel like she could just sit down and talk to Garnet about how fusing with her makes her feel and that she’d like to do it more often, no doubt expecting to be rebuffed. None of this excuses her violation, but it shows how isolation and neediness has harmed Pearl’s judgement. Being accepted into Ruby and Sapphire’s loving relationship is too big of a temptation for her to handle.

Future Vision

It’s also quite likely that her innate caste plays into this. Pearls are custom made to serve another Gem. Unlike some Gem types, they are not accustomed to being alone — the expectation seems to be that a Pearl will be by her owner’s side at all times. While Pearl bucks her programming in some ways, there are still obvious remnants of this side of her. Although Rose nominally set her free, Pearl still remained by Rose’s side for thousands of years, and she’s only been gone for thirteen.

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Garnet drops Pearl to the ground and advances on her furiously. Pearl tries to explain that she just wanted to “share a few more victories with you!”

Amethyst jumps in to defend Pearl: “You know, we’re so much weaker than you! Fusing with you is our one chance to feel stronger!” This is perhaps the first time in the series where Amethyst has taken Pearl’s side against Garnet — usually she’s gleeful when Pearl is in the wrong or in trouble. This shows Amethyst’s growing emotional maturity and how her relationship with Pearl has improved, but more importantly, it shows how she really does understand what Pearl is going through here, because she feels the same way. She understands the desire to fuse with Garnet so well that she’s actually willing to stick her neck out for Pearl in the face of a wrathful Garnet, which really shows you how much loneliness and the need for intimacy is affecting both of these Gems.

I think it’s telling that Garnet never really considered this before. She knows very well how wonderful fusion can be, and she knows Pearl and Amethyst and their personal issues. The incident with Sugilite probably should have caused her to reflect on how fusion affects her companions — with an honest conversation up front, they may have been able to avoid this outcome. This isn’t to say that Garnet is at fault here, because she clearly is not, but it’s an example of how critical empathy and communication can be. I think because Garnet is fused all the time, she’s lost track of how it can feel for Gems who only rarely have that experience.

Garnet angrily demands that Amethyst fuse with her, in a way that is completely uncharacteristic for her, and reminiscent of Jasper demanding Lapis fuse with her in Jail Break. They form Sugilite, smash the tower, and immediately defuse without a fuss, showing their very different mindset from the last time they fused.

Meanwhile, Pearl is completely devastated. If she’s irrevocably damaged her standing with the Crystal Gems, she’ll have nothing left. She fully realizes how badly she screwed up.

Steven and Amethyst are watching Sad Spoon forgive Crying Pear on Crying Breakfast Friends. On the ground floor, Pearl and Garnet pass each other without speaking. “Man, it sure would be nice if things worked out the way they do in cartoons,” says Amethyst, a nod to the fact that this plotline will take several episodes to resolve.

I really enjoy this episode — it’s a great insight into Amethyst and Pearl’s unhealthy mindsets at this point in the series. Sardonyx is an outstanding fusion design, and the conclusion is gut-wrenching.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! We get to see exactly how useless Ruby and Sapphire are when they split apart in Keystone Motel.