Episode Description: The Crystal Gems explore an ancient Gem spaceship.
Another great entry in the “technically correct but doesn’t even begin to properly describe the episode” descriptions.
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.
Guess what time it is, my friends?
IT’S PERIDOT TIME
Peridot is at the Galaxy Warp, last seen in Warp Tour. In that episode, Garnet destroyed the warp to Homeworld to prevent Peridot from returning to Earth, but now that same action is preventing her from leaving. We also see that the Gems did not go through with their plan in Winter Forecast to destroy the Galaxy Warp entirely with the Shooting Star, as it still looks the same as it did in Warp Tour.
Peridot, as usual, is peeved that the Crystal Gems have broken her things and made everything massively inconvenient for her.
The Crystal Gems arrive, and Steven greets Peridot with a friendly “Good morning!” Pearl, on the other hand, is awkwardly eager to capture Peridot, as we’ll see.
Peridot is surprised that they were able to find her, and Steven says they have a secret tracking method that he’ll never tell, taunting her. Garnet and Amethyst attempt to deliver pre-asskicking one-liners, but Pearl interrupts and steps all over them.
Peridot asks them if they don’t have anything better to do. She charges her blaster, saying, “This planet has an expiration date, and I’m not gonna stick around to find out when!”
Peridot’s question about whether the Crystal Gems have anything better to do might be genuine from her point of view. Her only goal is to make it off-planet, and she had no real intention to engage with the CGs at all until they continued to interfere with her plans to escape. It’s no wonder she’s so hostile, since from her point of view the most likely reason they could be doing this is because they’re Rebellion Gems aiming to poof or shatter a Homeworld Gem. She’s proven partially right in her fears when it turns out that the CGs’ plan is to bubble her indefinitely (minus Steven).
And then we have the line about the expiration date, which none of the Gems seem to take notice of — but to be fair, they’re kind of in the middle of a fight. This alludes to the Cluster emerging and ending the world, something which will become a major focal point of the rest of the season.
Peridot shoots a pillar behind the Crystal Gems, causing it to crumble and fall over on them. Steven summons an enormous shield in one of the best displays of his power so far. Peridot is knocked flat on her behind by the energy blast, and seems very surprised by it — it’s quite possible she’s never actually had to use it before.
Pearl recklessly charges Peridot, ignoring Garnet’s call for her to wait — presumably because Garnet saw the outcome in her future vision. Peridot catches Pearl in her tractor beam and flings her into Steven, causing his shield to break. Garnet stops the debris with her gauntlets and calls on Amethyst to get her. Amethyst uses her Sonic-the-Hedgehog-esque spindash to go after Peridot, but crashes into the rubble of the Homeworld warp.
Peridot scuttles away on her fingers, laughing at Amethyst’s miss.
Peridot’s goofy behavior in this episode is a far cry from her first appearance in Warp Tour. Presumably the combination of being desperate and increasingly out of her element — evading the Crystal Gems and trying to come up with ways off planet instead of simply carrying out a task — are causing what we will learn to be the true side of her personality to surface much more.
Steven shoves Pearl off of him to chase after Peridot, who has jumped on another warp, irritated that nothing works. He tosses his shield, Captain America style, and hits her right in the nose. Amethyst tosses a large chunk of rock at her, smashing the warp and launching her into the air. Garnet and Pearl both lunge to catch her, accidentally crashing into each other as she summons her helicopter fingers to escape.
Pearl apologizes profusely to a seriously annoyed Garnet, and if her behavior wasn’t obvious before, it is now. This episode is still part of the Sardonyx arc, and Pearl and Garnet have not yet made amends. Pearl’s reckless, overeager behavior is her misguided way of trying to make it up to the team by being enthusiastic about catching Peridot. As we’ll see, not only is this not addressing the real problem, she’s actively making things worse.
Peridot taunts them, mimicking Steven’s earlier action, before warping away. Steven cheerfully waves and says, “Have a great weekend!” When he notices the glares of the other Crystal Gems, he amends that: “I mean… I hope her weekend is… not so great?”
Peridot copying Steven’s taunt is the first example of what will later become a prominent character trait of hers, mimicking other characters’ behavior, mostly in an attempt to fit in.
It’s adorable how Steven seems to consider Peridot a friend of sorts despite all the evidence against that. As I’ve noticed in previous articles, I think his prior success at befriending Lapis plays into this, as well as Peridot’s fairly goofy behavior. It’s a good thing, too, as Steven’s unwavering friendship to Peridot literally ends up saving the planet. This moment reminds me of what Peridot says in I Am My Monster: “You never gave up on me for some reason I don’t understand!”
Back at the house, Pearl is being overly optimistic in a way that is obviously forced. She says that even though that was a fiasco, they now know for sure that they can track Peridot using her escape pod, the one they retrieved back in Joy Ride. I’m not actually sure how that’s supposed to work, but whatever, handwavey Gem tech.
“It’s only a matter of time until we catch her, and when we do, we’ll be able to close this chapter and finally move on!” She stares pointedly at Garnet. “Right?” Garnet doesn’t respond.
Obviously, the “chapter” Pearl is referring to has more to do with her estrangement from Garnet than with Peridot — and that’s the whole problem, because Pearl has convinced herself that capturing Peridot will help her make things right. Of course, Garnet was less upset about the fact that Pearl interfered with the efforts to catch Peridot than she was with the violation of her fusion, so this won’t have the effect Pearl thinks it will.
Still, Pearl throwing herself fake-cheerily into her work in an effort to defuse a situation is so achingly relatable that it’s almost a little hard to watch. She’s clearly floundering with how she can ever make things right with Garnet, and is trying whatever she can think of.
Amethyst groans and points out there’s something they need to talk about. Amethyst actually attempting to mediate between Pearl and Garnet goes to show how much her emotional maturity has increased since the beginning of the series, where she probably would have either found it amusing that Pearl is in trouble, or stormed off to blow off her stress in other ways, or both.
Unfortunately for Amethyst’s valiant effort, they’re interrupted by a signal lighting up the escape pod. Pearl summons a screen, sticking her hand into it and producing the same static effect in her eyes as she had when steering the green hand ship in Jail Break. She projects a map showing where Peridot has warped to, then goes to the warp, a clearly angry Garnet following behind.
Steven, lagging behind with Amethyst, comments that at least Pearl’s optimistic about catching Peridot. In another show of increased emotional intelligence, Amethyst recognizes that even if Pearl successfully catches Peridot, it won’t make up for what happened with Sardonyx.
The warp leads them to a new location, where an ancient Gem ship lies in ruins. “She’s desperate! Look at this! She’s cornered herself in there!” says Pearl.
“Hm,” Garnet says.
As we know by now, Pearl has a tendency to project, and not just from her gemstone — she’s pretty obviously getting desperate herself. As for Garnet, her noncommittal response to Pearl likely means that she can tell by her future vision that catching Peridot is not a foregone conclusion.
“We’ve got her just where we want her!” Pearl declares, something that will shortly be turned on its head.
This location will later show up in Monster Reunion. It’s the ship once crewed by the Centipeedle, formerly Nephrite, before she and her crew were corrupted.
Steven starts asking a question, but before he can even finish, Pearl launches into an explanation about the abandoned ship. These were interplanetary ships that Gems used to reach the Earth before the warp pads were built. Pearl points out that there’s no way they can be functional, making the mistake of thinking that Peridot’s only goal is to try to use the ship to get off-world. Garnet, irritated, comments that they’re wasting time.
The ship is completely overgrown with plant life.
Steven: It’s more like a greenhouse than a spaceship.
Amethyst: Looks like Earth won this battle.
Likely a coincidence, but much later on, when Earth does effectively win the battle against Homeworld, Peridot will indeed come to occupy a greenhouse.
There’s a communication device in the middle of the room, and it projects a screen with Peridot on it. She laughs at them, calling them “dull as dirt,” and Pearl says that she’s the dull one if she thinks she can fly the ship. She reveals that her goal was never to fly the ship, but to trap the Crystal Gems in it, so that they’ll no longer mess with her plans or destroy her things. “Looks like I’ve got you just where I want you!” she taunts as the door slides shut. Pearl is surprised and upset to have the tables turned.
This is easily the most aggressive Peridot has been against the Crystal Gems, as up until now she’s mostly acted in self defense and tried to escape when confronted. It’s likely this was brought about by Steven telling her the CGs now have a way to track her — from her point of view, forcing her hand to do something about these Gems that she reasonably believes are out to harm her.
“How does it feel to be so easily outsmarted, you clods?!” says Peridot, cementing this as her insult of choice from here on out.
Amethyst takes the communicator from Steven: “Hey, uh, this is Amethyst. I don’t appreciate being called a clod, you –“
Peridot interrupts her by dramatically pressing a button that does… nothing. Her second attempt, however, activates a defense mechanism in the ship, raining lasers down on the Gems as she yells “DIE DIE DIE” in full-on Saturday morning cartoon villain mode. It’s a marked departure from her earliest behavior, but it can be chalked up to the fact that she really is getting desperate and going somewhat crazy from being trapped on Earth.
It’s also the last time we get to see Peridot in a true antagonist role, so it’s fun that she gets to ham it up a bit before her face turn starts.
Steven rescues the Gems by summoning a huge shield that they can duck under as they run out of the room. As soon as they’re out, Steven collapses on the ground, pointing out that he’s summoned three shields in one day. Before Amethyst can finish praising him, spikes protrude from all directions, Peridot laughing at the Gems as they dodge.
Pearl spots Peridot at the end of the hallway and rushes for her over Garnet’s protestations. It’s just a hologram, but Pearl continues to swipe at it desperately even when she realizes the truth. Garnet is getting increasingly angry with her reckless antics.
Garnet sternly tells her to stop. Pearl is incredibly upset with the fact that she walked them into this trap, yelling that it’s all her fault. It’s obvious that having made yet another mistake is not something she can psychologically handle right now.
Before they can regroup, a trap door opens up underneath them. Episode MVP Amethyst manages to save herself and Steven with her whip, but Garnet and Pearl plummet into a small room underneath, which closes up behind them. Steven and Amethyst look up at nearby machinery, wondering what to do, when…
Pearl apologizes, saying she didn’t mean for things to turn out this way. Garnet says they’ll escape, but Pearl clarifies that’s not what she means: “I really wanted to catch Peridot to make up for what I did. I wanted to prove to you that everything could go back to normal.”
“Catching Peridot won’t make things go back to normal. This isn’t about Peridot,” says Garnet, having the conversation they should have had earlier in the episode.
Steven and Amethyst are happy that they’re finally talking — until the walls start closing in on the two trapped Gems.
“Please! Tell me! How can I make you forgive me?” This line is so indicative of Pearl’s mindset. Note the choice of words: make Garnet forgive her. She wants a magic formula, some list of tasks she can do that will make things right. Once again, I find Pearl deeply relatable here. If you’re anxious and not always great with people, it’s understandable to wish there were some list of foolproof things to do and say to solve your interpersonal problems.
“You can’t! You lied to me! You need to learn that there are consequences to your actions!” Garnet’s rejection here is definitely Ruby taking the wheel. Honestly, though, I don’t think Pearl’s problem is that she doesn’t understand that there are consequences to her actions. This is less about that, and more about Pearl’s inability to honestly discuss her emotions and needs.
Pearl says she couldn’t help herself, and Garnet is furious at her excuses. “But it’s true! No matter how hard I try to be strong like you… I’m just a Pearl. I’m useless on my own. I need someone to tell me what to do.”
This is the second indication we’ve had in the series that Pearl is just one of many Pearls, and our Pearl is an anomaly: Jasper called her “a defective Pearl” back in Jail Break.
In Back to the Barn, we learn that this is indeed true, and that Pearls are a servant class for elite Gems. Pearl was literally made to be told what to do and have no autonomy of their own. Our Pearl is different, but up until now we haven’t seen what a struggle it is for her every day.
Of course, she was Rose Quartz / Pink Diamond’s Pearl. She’s lived for probably ten thousand years, but she’s only been without her owner for fourteen of those years. Yes, Rose “freed” her, but as she admits later, she never left her side, and continued to largely act as a subservient Pearl for all those years. Rose’s death left her truly on her own, a situation that goes against her very programming. It’s no wonder she’s having such difficulty adjusting.
Steven and Amethyst manage to temporarily stop the gears with her whip, as Pearl continues to talk. “When we fuse, I can feel what it’s like to be you. Confident and secure and complete. You’re perfect. You’re the perfect relationship. You’re always together. I just… wanted to be a part of that.”
As we know, Pearl lost the love of her life fourteen years ago — to her, a very short time indeed. Is it any wonder she craves this sort of connection and intimacy? With the small number of Gems on Earth and Pearl’s disdain for humans, she likely believes she’ll never experience this kind of bond again, except for her brief moments of fusing with Garnet. While that doesn’t excuse what she did, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic to her here.
Garnet stops her, saying that she’s wrong. She isn’t a perfect relationship — Ruby and Sapphire fell apart over this turmoil. Amethyst looks to Steven, who nods, confirming that he never told anyone else about what happened on the road trip.
“It’s not easy being in control. I have weaknesses too. But I choose not to let them consume me. I struggle to stay strong because I know the impact I have on everyone. Please understand, Pearl. You have an impact too. There are times when I look up to you for strength. You are your own Gem. You control your destiny. Not me, not Rose, not Steven. But you must choose to be strong, so we can move forward. So I can trust you again.”
Just as Cry for Help referenced Coach Steven, we have a similar reference here. In that episode, Pearl was upset that Steven didn’t consider her strong, and sang about what it’s like to be “strong in the real way.” This is a theme that we’ll come back to again and again for Pearl. It echoes through Rose’s Scabbard, where she fled from Steven in her grief and pain, and in Sworn to the Sword, where she attempts to teach Connie that the way to be strong is to be willing to sacrifice herself. None of these are the strength Pearl needs, and one of her series-long arcs is her finding out what it is she wants to live for.
Still, I didn’t find this entirely satisfying when I watched the episode. I think part of it is that it elides over a big reason why the Sardonyx incident happened. Being strong doesn’t just mean “choosing” to deny your weaknesses. It also means asking for help when things get to be too much. This is one of the meanings of the title Cry for Help — in many ways, what happened was really a cry for help from Pearl, showing that she’s become so needy and lonely that she would break a friend’s trust. Pearl’s arc isn’t just about learning to be strong and finding her own destiny, but about recognizing and articulating her own emotional needs.
Of course, the biggest turning point of Pearl’s arc is when she’s finally able to speak the secret she’s been holding onto for thousands of years. It’s symbolic of the fact that Pearl eventually, finally learns to open up about herself, and as a consequence she becomes much more content with her life in Future.
“I understand. I can’t give up any more,” says Pearl.
Just then, Amethyst’s whip snaps and the walls start to close in again. “There’s only one way out of this,” says Garnet.
“Only if you’re okay with it,” says Pearl, and it’s important that she obtains explicit consent here, given what’s happened. Garnet nods in agreement.
As Steven and Amethyst panic on the upper floor, Sardonyx busts out of the room, immediately unfusing into a solemn Pearl and Garnet. This pretty much proves Gems don’t need to perform an elaborate dance to fuse, especially under duress. Although they don’t stay fused for a moment longer than is needed, their completely smooth exit from the fusion indicates that they’re still in sync.
Meanwhile, intensely relatable engineer Peridot complains that none of the archaic technology on the ship is working. I feel that way about legacy code too, Peridot.
The Crystal Gems bust through the wall, posing as a team, signifying their newly forged unity. Garnet and Steven deliver lines without Pearl stepping all over them, now that she’s no longer desperate to prove herself.
“You really think this is the end?” says Peridot, pointing her blaster at them. “This is only the beginning! …Of my escape!” She shoots a hole in the ceiling and starts to fly out with her helicopter hand, laughing maniacally and taunting them. For some reason, rather than chase her or use one of their many projectile weapons, the Crystal Gems just kind of stand there and watch as Peridot slowly lifts off.
All except for Steven, who runs and grabs onto her foot. Seriously, if he was able to do that, then Garnet could have just walked over and grabbed her, or Amethyst could have used her whip or something, but, y’know, the plot isn’t ready for Peridot to be captured yet.
“Get your touch stumps off me, you Steven!” says Peridot, still apparently believing that Steven is the name of his species (or Gem).
Peridot’s unusual nomenclature for body parts will turn up again in Too Far, where Amethyst teases her about it.
The Gems form a chain with Steven, while Peridot begins to flick Steven in the face. In desperation, Peridot hits a button on her foot, disconnecting it from the rest of her and allowing her to fly away. This proves that at least part of her limbs are mechanical.
In the next episode where Peridot features, we learn that she wears mechanical limb enhancers that make her taller and give her abilities she naturally lacks.
Peridot’s foot will also factor into that episode. After she loses her limb enhancers, Steven offers her the foot in a bid to gain her trust and get access to the bathroom.
As the Crystal Gems watch Peridot escape again, Steven apprehensively approaches Pearl. She isn’t upset this time, though, saying that next time they’ll get the rest of her.
“It’s a good step forward,” says Garnet, smiling.
“Foot jokes!” Steven grins with stars in his eyes to see Garnet joking with Pearl.
Amethyst flops onto the ground in sheer relief. “Finally!” And so ends the Sardonyx arc.
I really enjoy this episode, of course. It has two of my favorite Steven Universe things: Peridot being adorkable, and heavy Pearl emotions. I think my main criticism of it is that it’s attempting to pack a lot into its runtime, between the Sardonyx resolution and Peridot’s antics, and both halves feel a bit shortchanged. Like many good SU episodes, it’s a little too much for eleven minutes, but probably too little for twenty-two.
That being said, it’s great to see a resolution to the Sardonyx arc, and I find it fairly satisfying even if it is a bit short. We get a lot more insight into Pearl and her mindset here, and a bit of development for Garnet as well.
It’s also the last full episode with Peridot in antagonist mode with her limb enhancers, before she becomes a hostage and a reluctant ally in my favorite episode of the entire series, Catch and Release. You can tell the crew is having a lot of fun with her in goofy villain mode before her big arc. Steven’s playfulness towards her also sets up his drive to redeem her in the upcoming Peridemption arc.
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Connie just wants to be understood in Nightmare Hospital.