Steven Universe Rewind – Historical Friction

Episode Description: Steven and Jamie put on a play about the founding of Beach City.

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.

The episode opens with the return of Jamie as Steven’s mailman, showing that he’s retained his job since the end of Love Letters. Steven greets him by shouting his name, as always. He shows Steven a poster for a play, a local production that he’s holding auditions for — showing that he also took Garnet’s advice to start with local theater.

“If ya need a great-a actor, you’ve come to the right guuuuuuuy,” says Steven in a horrible fake Italian accent.

“What was that?” “An accent.” “From where?” “I dunno.” “ACTIIIIIIIIING.”

Steven shows up at the stage set up on the beach. He’s the only one there, but Jamie rationalizes that two people is twice as many as a one-person play. He gives Steven a copy of the script, “Beach City or Bust: The Tale of William Dewey.”

“This is my first production, so it needs to be exciting. It needs to be classic. It needs to be fully funded by Mayor Dewey. And it is, because he wrote it.”

Mayor Dewey shows up at that moment, excited to see a play of sentimental and political importance… to himself. He awkward-sits on one of the nearby folding chairs.

Jamie gives Steven the lead role of William Dewey, and himself the roles of everyone else. It’s surprisingly non-egotistical of Jamie to not give himself the lead role — or maybe he realizes that it’s a very boring part. We cut to an old-timey-style illustration of William Dewey as captain of a ship, sailing the seas in search of land for a new city. His crew heaps praise upon his captaining abilities.

The ship gets caught in a storm, and William Dewey saves them with his “supernatural ability” to turn into a fifty-foot-tall giant, picking up the ship and carrying it to shore. He’s elected to be the first mayor of Beach City, and the story ends.

Steven enjoys the story, but Jamie thinks it lacks any kind of meaningful struggle. Mayor Dewey disagrees: “The great William Dewey did not struggle! He was good at everything on the first try! Just like me when I wrote this play! Not a single word needs to be changed!”

Mayor Dewey leaves, and Jamie laments that the play will be a disaster. The character of William Dewey is totally unbelievable, not because he grows into a giant, as Steven guesses, but because he has no character and no flaws. Steven points out the script keeps saying he’s really good, but Jamie knows that that’s part of the problem.

So this is not at all a subtle meta-lesson on why characters need flaws to be interesting, probably anticipating some backlash to Pearl’s breach of trust, as well as other instances where characters were shown to be flawed. It’s also a quick primer on how to avoid flat, boring characters that always solve all of their problems easily.

We cut from the discussion about characters having flaws to Pearl staring despondently at the ceiling, because we’re still in the middle of the Sardonyx arc. Although momentarily startled by Steven’s entrance, she’s eager to help him out with his problem. Steven explains about the play, and that his part, William Dewey, is boring: “He’s perfect and he never makes mistakes!”

“Wish I could say the same for myself,” says Pearl — and indeed, Pearl is someone who has often presented a surface version of herself as perfect, in an effort to cover up her significant flaws.

“Yeah, but nobody’s like that! Everybody gets stuff wrong, and then you have to keep going and it’s hard, which is why it’s great that you never stop trying!” This episode is not even remotely subtle about the points it’s trying to make. Pearl, of course, recognizes how this applies to her and appreciates it.

Pearl glances through the script and declares that it’s not only boring, but historically inaccurate. She was actually there and knew William Dewey. Steven asks her to tell him what really happened.

We cut to Steven presenting the new script to Jamie. It’s co-written by Pearl with jokes by Steven, and Jamie loves it. When Steven suggests that they put on this version of the play instead, Jamie dramatically declares that they’d need new costumes and props, and Mayor Dewey would have their necks. “A real hero struggles,” says Steven, winning Jamie over.

That night, the residents of Beach City gather in front of the stage, which has been adorned with Mayor Dewey decorations. From left to right we have Sadie, Lars, Jenny, Ronaldo, Sour Cream, Peedee, Barb, Pearl, Nanefua, and Kiki. Pearl is sitting front and center like the supportive mom she is.

Mayor Dewey sits next to Pearl and attempts to impress her by pointing out that he wrote this play. Pearl simply gets up and sits in another seat without responding. Mayor Dewey had referred to Pearl as “the hot one” in Political Power and he is apparently still smitten with her. Sorry, Mayor, but Pearl has a type and you’re not it.

Jamie and Steven are backstage, fretting over whether Mayor Dewey will be mad about the changes.

Jamie: This could either make or break my career.

Steven: You could lose your job at the post office?

Jamie: This could either make or break my hobby.

“Boardies and gentle-boardies,” Jamie says as the curtain opens. I noted this in a previous episode description, but it seems like the Crewniverse called the townie cast “boardies,” something that never seems to have caught on with the fans.

Steven and Jamie deliver their opening lines, and Pearl yells “Hi, Steven! You’re so talented!” from the crowd. Considering what she’s been through lately, it’s nice to see her in her usual role as overly eager mom. No doubt, it’s also a relief for her to get out of the house and support Steven rather than sitting and brooding.

As William Dewey, Steven talks about his doubts and how he was ridiculed back home. It goes over well with the audience, but Mayor Dewey isn’t pleased. The Crystal Gems appear in silhouette against the moon, and Jamie plays the part of Pearl. He wears a birthday hat strapped to his nose (much like Amethyst imitating Pearl in So Many Birthdays), and imitates her mannerisms, complete with a little version of her theme. “Pearl” warns William Dewey to turn around, as the land ahead is hostile for humans.

Jamie then plays the role of Garnet, wearing a cardboard box and his “movie star” sunglasses from Love Letters. “You should turn around, lest you fall into the sea. And you know… humans aren’t… very good… swimmers.” This line and its delivery are an exact match for a line Garnet said to Jamie in that episode, clearly making a significant impression on him.

The role of Amethyst is played by a mop with a gem taped to it, which Amethyst would probably find hilarious if she were here.

William Dewey decides to turn his boat around, knocking over his sail in the process. The audience laughs as Mayor Dewey cringes. His son, Buck, calls William Dewey a loser, causing the Mayor to sink down below his seat.

The ship is caught in a storm, and Steven hits a lever to release a cardboard tentacle, and I have to say that their set work is pretty good considering it’s a no-budget two-person show. The monster drags William Dewey’s first mate, Buddy, away, but not before he can tell Dewey that “you’re the bravest man I know because you try!”While very on the nose, one of the things I like best about Steven Universe is how much the show values trying, even if you stumble or fail.

In silhouette, the monster does battle with a giant woman. The woman seemingly defeats the monster, and a hand from the ceiling pushes the boat onto the shore. This seems to represent how William Dewey was saved by a fusion, which resembles the same figure carved into the Temple.

Future Vision

The fusion is Obsidian, but we won’t see her properly until much later. In fact, we technically won’t see her at all, as this Obsidian that appears later was formed with Steven in place of Rose Quartz.

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The fusion warns William that the land is dangerous, but he decides to stay anyway, as not giving up is what makes him great. He’s about to name the land after his dead first mate, Buddy, but then Buddy washes up on shore, so he calls it Beach City instead. The play ends with a banner telling the crowd to vote Dewey for Mayor.

Future Vision

In Buddy’s Book, we learn that not only did Buddy survive, he went on to write a book about his adventures exploring the world and visiting Gem locations.

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Mayor Dewey is still upset, until he realizes that the audience is applauding the play, even breaking out into a spontaneous “Mayor Dewey” chant. Buck says he appreciates learning his ancestors was “a real person with flaws.” Dewey approaches Jamie backstage and offers him a job as director of Beach City Community Theater.

Steven says some of the credit for the play should go to Pearl — and it’s nice that he’s making the effort to lift her spirits! Dewey thanks her for preserving his legacy. “What’s two hundred years between friends?” she says.

Pearl comments that she didn’t remember the play ending on a campaign slogan. “Sometimes you gotta make the audience happy! That’s why you always end on a joke!” says Steven, as the last line of the episode. It’s both a meta-joke and a slam on Dewey’s campaign out of nowhere.

This episode is slight, but generally enjoyable. It’s good for giving Steven a moment with Pearl, after he’s had time with Garnet and Amethyst, and also to show that significant time passes before Garnet is ready to discuss things with Pearl. Jamie is more endearing here than he was in Love Letters, and the play is cute.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! We conclude the Sardonyx arc and begin spinning up a new one. One I’ve been looking forward to covering since starting this series.