Steven Universe Rewind – Nightmare Hospital

Episode Description: Steven and Connie sneak into a hospital to recover Rose’s sword.

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 Steven dropping Connie off at her house on Lion, after Connie finishes her swordfighting. “Time to resume my secret identity,” she says, putting on her empty glasses frames. They’ve been empty since Steven healed her eyes in An Indirect Kiss, nearly a year ago, and she still hasn’t told her parents about it, fearing that they won’t accept her.

This is a conflict that Steven isn’t really all that equipped to grasp. He hides things from people, sure, but they’re almost always feelings he’s hiding. He rarely covers up who he is or what he’s doing.

Connie laments that she can’t practice more at home. Steven pulls Rose’s sword from Lion’s mane and offers it to her for practice — Steven on his knees, a reversal of their positions in Sworn to the Sword where Connie was trying to become his knight.

They banter back and forth in fake Old English until Steven convinces her to take the sword. “We gotta be ready to if we have to fight Malachite or Peridot or those creepy Gem fusion experiments.” These are the first time the fusion experiments have been brought up since Keeping It Together, so Steven’s providing this helpful exposition in case you forgot about them.

Connie’s mom unexpectedly arrives, and the kids have to quickly hide the sword, since Connie knows she won’t be allowed to keep it. Unfortunately for them, Lion has walked off, as cats do.

When Dr. Maheswaran enters the room, Connie is calmly playing Jam Song on her violin, as she did in Sworn to the Sword. It’s obvious which of the two has experience lying to parental figures. Connie’s behavior here is unfortunately deeply relatable if you grew up having very controlling parents — the way she quickly hides what she’s up to and lies to her mom.

Dr. Maheswaran tells Connie she should have already finished her violin practice five minutes ago and that she’s late to her study hour. Poor Connie hardly ever gets an unregimented minute to herself. No wonder she loves spending time at Steven’s house so much.

Future Vision

In Future, we learn that Steven himself longed for a little more structure in his life as a kid, which indicates that this may have gone both ways.

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Dr. Maheswaran apparently had to deal with a patient “straight out of a nightmare” on her last shift. She absentmindedly puts her coat on the coat rack before realizing they don’t actually have one. It’s Rose’s sword, and she absolutely flips out. “Do you know how many children I see every day who’ve cut their faces off playing with swords?!” she asks, giving you an idea of how she might have reacted when Garnet told her the kids were playing with swords in Fusion Cuisine. She forbids Connie from ever using a sword, and says that when she gets back from her next shift she’ll determine just how grounded Connie is, using an abacus. Unfortunately for the kids, she takes the sword with her to the hospital.

Steven thinks maybe they can get her to change her mind, but Connie insists that it isn’t possible. They decide that they have to go to the hospital themselves.

Future Vision

In Jungle Moon, Connie has a dream that conflates Dr. Maheswaran with the also seemingly inflexible Yellow Diamond. Like Connie’s mother, Yellow also ends up eventually changing her mind out of love for her family.

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They take Lion to the hospital. Connie wants to leave him outside so her mom doesn’t confiscate him, too, although it’s very unclear how she could possibly do that. Steven bribes him to stay outside with Lion Lickers, the ice cream treat that replaced Cookie Cats. Although Steven hates them, Lion was shown to like them back in Lion 3.

They enter the hospital, where they’ve turned the lights down for night, making it look extra spooky. In high school I volunteered at a hospital at night and the eerieness of the hallway here brings back some memories. The kids cutely hold hands and run down the hallway, hiding from Dr. Maheswaran under a cart as she passes by.

Dr. Maheswaran’s patient is hidden under a sheet. She looks under the sheet and comments that it doesn’t look like a car accident victim. She tries to take a pulse and gets nothing, but since the patient is clearly moving, she decides it must be a problem with her stethoscope and she goes to fetch a new one.

I know that humans living near Beach City must have some weirdness censoring going on to deal with Gem stuff, but it’s a little ridiculous that Dr. Maheswaran could ever think these cluster mutants are actually human! A car accident doesn’t give you six limbs and a gemstone instead of a face.

Steven doesn’t recognize what Dr. Maheswaran is doing. Connie asks him if he’s ever been to a hospital, and Steven says he hasn’t.

Future Vision

In Future, we learn that Steven hasn’t ever even been to a doctor before. Because of his healing factor, he was able to quickly recover from injuries that would have required medical care if he were an ordinary human. Even with his healing powers, his many injuries still do end up taking a significant toll on him.

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When Dr. Maheswaran leaves the room, the kids take the opportunity to run in and grab the sword. The “patient” begins to thrash about. The Cluster mutant was fairly docile before Steven entered the room, but it’s likely that they react to the presence of a whole Gem, wishing to be made whole themselves.

Dr. Maheswaran catches them before they can leave the room, furious that Connie is trying to take back the sword. Connie tries to explain why she needs it, but they’re startled by a noise in the hallway. We’re treated to this creepy shot of the biggest cluster Gem we’ve seen yet, dragging its misshapen hand down the hallway. Steven sees the twinkling Gem on its “face” and recognizes what it is.

They hide inside the room as the “patient” continues to thrash. Connie tries to get the sword back from her mom, who doesn’t understand why. “I never go back on a rule, young lady!” she says.

“There have to be some exceptions! I’m not some rule driven robot!” Connie yells.

Future Vision

As mentioned earlier, this episode has some parallels to Steven’s situation with the Diamonds. “Rule driven robot” is an apt description of what many of the Gems are like under Homeworld’s strict fascist rule.

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The cluster mutant hidden under the sheet emerges and grabs Connie. Steven leaps to the rescue with his shield: “Keep your hands off my Connie!”

Dr. Maheswaran briefly looks doubtful as Connie asks again for the sword to help Steven fight, but instead slams the hospital bed through the door. The cluster mutant outside chases after it, and she attempts to escape with Connie.

They’re chased by the mutant from the room, creepily hanging from the ceiling as though it’s monkey bars. The other mutant corners them from the other side. Steven puts up his bubble just in time.

Connie insists she knows how to do this, and when Dr. Maheswaran denies this, Steven backs his friend up. He tells Dr. Maheswaran that Connie has been taking sword fighting classes to learn how to be an excellent sword fighter.

Dr. Maheswaran rejects this, saying that she knows what she’s doing every second of every day — “all her activities, all her internets, I know she’s definitely not some sword fighting hooligan!”

Connie has had enough: “You don’t know me at all! You still haven’t even noticed my glasses!” Connie shows her mother that her glasses have had no lenses for a year because her eyesight was healed. “I’ve been dealing with magic and monsters and things like these since I met Steven! That’s why I need you to believe I know what to do here!” Dr. Maheswaran is stunned.

As with many things in Steven Universe, it’s easy to read this as a queer narrative as well: Connie hiding her true identity and desires from her mother, who she is sure won’t understand. It’s a shame we never get Dr. Maheswaran’s reaction to Stevonnie. More broadly, it could apply to any kid whose parents impose crushing restrictions on them.

Connie pulls the sword from its scabbard and tells Steven to drop the bubble. He pushes the bubble outwards before popping it, putting space between them and the cluster mutants. Connie easily poofs one. The other is held back by Steven’s shield until Connie flies through the air and defeats it too.

The mutants are defeated, but Connie and her mother look at each other sadly.

Out in the parking lot, Dr. Maheswaran is trying to process everything — the new facts about her daughter, the Gem experiments, the pink lion she nearly walks into. Connie apologizes for lying, saying that she never intended to hide so much, and that she was scared that she wouldn’t be allowed to see Steven again, much like her fears in Fusion Cuisine.

Dr. Maheswaran wonders if she’s been too controlling, and says that she just wanted to be a good mother and protect Connie. She agrees to relax her rules and try to keep an open mind about Steven, because she’s scared that Connie can’t talk to her. It’s a heartwarming if often unrealistic narrative. So many parents tell their children they can talk to them about anything, but when their child actually opens up about something important, they deflect and punish, ensuring that they’ll never have a close relationship with their children. Steven Universe is a fundamentally optimistic story, of course, and so we see one of the best possible outcomes.

Future Vision

This also foreshadows the fact that Steven will eventually be able to get through to the Diamonds, convincing them that being too controlling is what led Pink to flee.

Dr. Maheswaran hardly shows up again until Growing Pains, where she helps diagnose Steven’s trauma and is empathetic to his problems.

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Connie and Dr. Maheswaran tell each other they love them. Steven’s joy at the reconciliation turns bittersweet as he looks down at his mother’s sword, thinking about the relationship he’ll never know.

This is a solid episode. I think it’s important to the characters, as Connie sneaking around behind her parents’ back is a plot point that would have become increasingly implausible the more she gets involved in Gem affairs. We get a lot of suitably creepy moments with the darkened hospital and the cluster mutants, and the conclusion is sweet.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Steven has no use for your gender expectations in Sadie’s Song.