Episode Description: Steven helps Sadie put together an act for Beach-a-Palooza.
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It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had a townie-focused episode. If you don’t count Onion Friend, which was partially focused on Amethyst, you’d have to go back to Rising Tides / Crashing Skies. And after this, we won’t have any more townie-focused episodes until well into Season 3.
Steven’s distributing fliers for Beach-a-Palooza. This is the same event where he appeared in a band with the other Crystal Gems after having cloned himself and killed his own clones, in Steven and the Stevens. You’d think maybe he’d have some trauma from that and not want to participate this year, but it’s Steven.
He goes into the Big Donut to post a flyer there, but Lars is leaving and Sadie is not at the counter. He peeks into the break room to find Sadie dancing and singing along to a catchy pop tune as she stocks the shelves. (The TV/VCR combo from Joking Victim and Lion 3 is still here.) The song, “Haven’t You Noticed (I’m a Star)” is sung by Olivia Olson, who voiced Marceline in Adventure Time.
The wiki makes a case that the lyrics are referencing Pink Diamond, but it seems mostly coincidental to me.
Steven is dazzled by her singing, and starts cheering her on. Sadie is mortified and immediately stops. Steven urges her to sign up to sing in Beach-a-Palooza. She’s skeptical, not believing anyone would want to hear her sing, but warms up to it and tentatively agrees. Sadie has been shown to have self-esteem issues before, such as when she allows Lars to walk all over her in Joking Victim.
Although Sadie’s first foray into singing doesn’t go so well here, it’s the beginning of one of my favorite townie sub-plots, where she forms a band and finds success.
Sadie invites Steven into her basement room. There’s a poster here for Evil Bear 2, the movie she watched with Ronaldo and Lars in Horror Club. Near the stairs is a large pile of plush toys. When Steven asks about them, she says they’re not really her thing, and tells him he can have one if he wants. There’s a small visual gag where one of the teddy bears is clearly animated separately from the rest of the pile as though it’s going to be picked up, but Steven says he “won’t break up a family” and doesn’t take it.
Sadie wants to start practicing singing, but Steven’s more interested in what she’s going to wear. “Ever since my act two years ago, there’s been a rule that you gotta wear clothes.”
Steven proposes that Sadie wear something flashy and asks her what her gimmick would be. She doesn’t want a gimmick and wants to wear simple clothes, pulling out a few sample outfits. The blue dress here is the same one she wore in Watermelon Steven.
Sadie immediately rejects the idea of a gimmick here, but eventually she’ll be fronting a band with a heavy Halloween / horror gimmick. She’s clearly okay with a gimmick when it’s one that appeals to her — as opposed to the things Steven and Barb try to force on her in this episode.
They’re interrupted by Sadie’s mom, Barb, coming down the stairs. She has a new teddy bear for Sadie, a pink one with a heart that says “I Wuv U Woads,” which shows why Sadie has a big pile of cutesy plush toys that she doesn’t have much interest in. We got an inkling of Barb and Sadie’s dynamic back in Lion 3, where we see that Barb makes Sadie a lunch every day even though she often doesn’t even eat them. Just as Sadie never told Barb to stop making lunches, she accepts the bear even though she clearly doesn’t really want it.
Barb is surprised to see “Greg’s boy” there. “I knew you delivered the mail but I didn’t know you delivered Sadie!” says Steven.
Steven tells Barb that they’re planning a performance for Beach-a-Palooza, even as Sadie tries to stop him. She makes this absolutely crazy face before getting incredibly excited over the prospect of Sadie singing. She immediately wants to get involved, to Steven’s delight and Sadie’s horror.
This episode forms an obvious contrast from the last episode, Nightmare Hospital, which also involved a mother-daughter relationship. There, Connie was trying her hardest to hide her Gem-related activities from her mother, for fear that her mother would not understand and would put an immediate stop to it. Here, Sadie is trying to hide her plans to sing in Beach-a-Palooza from her mother, not because she’ll disapprove, but because she’ll be far too excited about it to the point of being overbearing.
As Barb pulls potential outfits out of Sadie’s closet, we learn about failed activities of the past, that Barb hasn’t yet let go of — she was into ballet when she was ten, and did competitive swimming for about a month when she was eleven, and played softball until Barb punched the umpire and got her kicked from the team. Sadie slumps into her beanbag chair, no longer having any fun.
We get a montage set to “Haven’t You Noticed (I’m a Star)” as Barb and Steven take over Sadie’s performance. At first she tries to participate, but her ideas are ignored, and eventually she even tries to escape, only to be pulled back in by Steven. Her inability to walk in heels resonates with me, a person who was forced by her mom to attempt to wear heels back in the day.
Steven’s being incredibly oblivious to Sadie’s feelings here. Part of it is probably because it’s easy for Steven to get swept up in enthusiasm, but I think a lot of it is that the issue with Sadie and her mom is a relationship problem that he has no experience with. Greg’s incredibly laid back and the Gems mostly leave Steven to his own devices — up until recently, he had to plead to be included in anything. The closest thing he’s ever had to a mother figure getting too involved in his ideas was probably Space Race, and he was thrilled to be a part of that — until he had to bail. He isn’t equipped to see how destructive Barb’s behavior can be, he just sees a mom taking interest in her daughter’s life, something he deeply wants for himself.
Once Barb and Steven are through with Sadie’s hair and makeup, she’s completely unrecognizable. When Steven comments that they need to get her name added to the flyer, Sadie asks that they don’t — which Barb takes to mean that Sadie will be a surprise special guest.
The night of Beach-a-Palooza arrives, the flyers advertising “Special Mystery Guest!” Mr. Smiley is emceeing, and introduces the first act: Kiki Pizza, with her grandmother Nanefua pretending to be a ventriloquist dummy.
The next act is Ronaldo, giving “A Lecture on Rock People: Identification and Defense.” He has the Diamond Authority symbol drawn behind him on the chalkboard, and the “rock person” has a diamond-shaped head like Peridot. Ronaldo’s Keep Beach City Weird blog had an entry where he saw Peridot’s broadcast in Cry for Help, so it’s entirely possible that that’s what he intended. He doesn’t seem to recognize that “rock people” and Gems could be the same thing.
Steven is thrilled that the whole town is there. “Oh, my Sadie, such a big star! Never even went to the prom, and look at you now!” Barb gushes. This confirms that Sadie is post-high-school, which isn’t entirely clear. Sadie looks absolutely miserable in her garish makeup, her hair and outfit not at all something she would have chosen herself.
Mr. Smiley spots Sadie backstage. He thinks her obvious distress is just stage fright, and tries to get her to smile. She manages an incredibly pained smile, surrounded by Steven and Barb. She can barely hold it long enough for Mr. Smiley to leave, and then flinches as Barb throws glitter all over her.
Jamie, of course, can’t resist a stage performance, and is doing a mime routine for his act. When Barb runs off to get more glitter, Sadie peeks out at the crowd, and sees Lars with the Cool Kids, speculating about what the mystery act could be.
Sadie hyperventilates and chugs a cup of water, washing away her lipstick. Steven tries to “correct” it, and she finally loses it, pulling the top off of the water cooler and dunking her entire head inside. She accuses Steven of being “just as bad as [her] mom,” just as her mom returns.
Sadie begs her mom to not make her do this. “You said you wanted to sing!” says Barb. Sadie goes off on a tear about other times she’s wanted to try a new activity, and how her mom has ruined them for her. She wanted to swim, and Barb signed her up for a competitive swimming team; she wanted to play softball, and Barb still gives her softball equipment for her birthday even though she hasn’t played in years. She did want to sing, but she wanted to do it on her own terms. “This is not your daughter!” she says.
Much later, we’ll see what singing on Sadie’s terms looks like when she fronts her own band in Sadie Killer. Her choice of music and outfit couldn’t be any different than what she has here, as she dresses up as “Sadie Killer” and sings horror-themed songs.
Mr. Smiley announces the Mystery Guest. Sadie freaks out because she doesn’t want to do this. Steven realizes that he’s the one who really wanted to do it, and he was pushing his wishes onto Sadie.
Steven ends up going out in Sadie’s place, outfit and makeup and all. He isn’t the slightest bit embarrassed about it and the crowd is encouraging, which is really nice — a lesser show probably would have gone with Steven being humiliated by wearing a feminine outfit, or the situation being treated as a joke. Half-Gem Steven doesn’t care even slightly about the Earth’s gender norms. Nanefua comments that she’s not surprised the Mystery Guest was Steven, because it sounds like something he would do.
Steven’s outfit here reminds me a lot of his Pink Diamond outfit later on. Of course, that one was worn less by choice and more out of necessity.
As Steven sings, Sadie and Barb talk backstage. We don’t hear what they say, but it looks as though they’re making up. It’s also notable that Sadie was not forced to do the performance — in many stories of this type, the reluctant performer is forced to go on stage to “get over her stage fright” or “get out of her comfort zone.” Here, Sadie recognized that it was not something she wanted to do, it was respected, and no one shames her for it.
Some time later, Sadie is singing the song in the break room quietly, with Steven accompanying on the ukelele, showing that she still enjoys singing and has made up with Steven. Steven, as usual, was very much well meaning here, but as is also common with him, he did not fully understand the human relationships at play and inadvertently made things worse.
I enjoy this episode overall. Sadie is one of my favorite townies, and her problem with her mother is common and relatable. The song, and Steven’s performance at the end, are very fun. This episode continues the theme about mothers we’ve had running through quite a few episodes this season, and like Nightmare Hospital, it touches on Steven’s own feelings about his absent mother without directly referencing it.
Next Week on Steven Universe Rewind! Oh my stars, we’ve finally made it to my very favorite story arc. That’s right, we finally see the inside of Steven’s bathroom. It’s Catch and Release ft. Best Gem.