Episode Description: Steven helps a friend who is afraid of thunderstorms.
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.
Because the episode descriptions were released well before airing date, they had to be fairly cagey about upcoming events, which is why none of the descriptions in this arc directly mention Peridot. Of course, if you watched last week’s episode, it should be fairly obvious that she’s going to be the friend who is afraid of thunderstorms.
This episode starts close to the point where the last one left off. Peridot is in the bathroom, refusing to open the door, as the Crystal Gems try to get information about the cluster. Amethyst unhelpfully speculates that it could be a big hunk of granola. Pearl offers Peridot a trade, and Peridot points out that they threw out the only thing she wants, her limb enhancers with their screens and logs. Pearl shoots a pointed glance at Amethyst as she says this. Even if giving the limb enhancers back to Peridot would probably be a bad idea at this point, tossing them away really did limit some of their options.
It turns out Steven is actually in the bathroom with Peridot while they interrogate her, and he leaves with no fuss. I enjoy how Steven’s truce with Peridot to use the bathroom is holding even as things are heating up between her and the Crystal Gems.
Pearl’s getting frustrated, so Garnet suggests they leave to conduct an investigation of their own. She tells Steven to stay behind to keep an eye on Peridot. “Don’t worry, she’s harmless without her limb enhancers,” says Pearl.
“I’m not HARMLESS!” Peridot screams from the bathroom.
Before she leaves, Garnet makes heart hands and tells Steven she loves him.
Here’s the thing: Peridot is actually kind of right here. She lacks limb enhancers, and maybe it would be hard for her to actually harm Steven, but she could easily escape from him, and has done it before, in the Burning Room. Leaving Steven alone with Peridot actually is a risk. This isn’t really spelled out in the episode, but it would make a lot of sense if Garnet had used her future vision to see that the best way to get information out of Peridot is to leave her alone with Steven, the only Gem she trusts. She could also see that it is unlikely that she harms Steven or escapes. Perhaps that’s why she abruptly decides that the Gems except for Steven should leave, giving him some encouragement on her way out.
Steven invites Peridot to come out of the bathroom once the other Gems have left, but she refuses. He stirs a pot of soup as a mild thunderstorm starts up outside. He looks out the window, enjoying the rain. Part of why I really like this episode is the cozy feel of the rain outside.
Thunder cracks and Peridot comes barreling out of the bathroom at top speed, crashing into the wall. She runs to Steven, screaming that the sound must be the Cluster, “pounding on the Earth from the inside,” giving a hint as to its nature. She cries that it’s the end of the world while she clings tightly to Steven. It’s adorable that she’s grown to trust Steven enough that she latches onto him for comfort when she thinks the world is ending.
Cuteness aside, Peridot’s been on Earth for at least a couple of months by now. It doesn’t make much sense that she wouldn’t have encountered a storm or at least rain, but whatever, it’s worth it for this cute episode.
Steven is surprised that Peridot doesn’t know what rain is. “I don’t know anything without my screen,” she says. Same, Peridot. Same. The way she says this really drives home how lost she is. Not only does she no longer have her limb enhancers, but she’s also lost her primary source of information about the world.
Steven gives a simple explanation of the water cycle using his pot of soup, which leads Peridot to misunderstand that the rain is scalding hot. He decides to show her the rain is safe by going out in it, as Peridot panics in the house.
Steven runs out and plays in a puddle, yelling at Peridot to come out. She very slowly holds her hand out, testing the feel of the water. Finally, she steps out slowly into the rain. The water running down her face almost looks like tears.
A lovely, calm song using Peridot’s synth plays during this scene, one of my favorite backing instrumentals on the show. I love how peaceful this scene is. Peridot has decided to give Steven a bit more trust, and it turns out fine. She also discovers that a scary, unknown Earth phenomena is not only harmless, but actually pleasant. It’s a big turning point for her.
As Steven dries off his hair, Peridot is pacing back and forth, deep in thought. Finally, she stops, and with apparently great effort, she thanks Steven for explaining rain to her. As we saw in the last episode, where Steven explained the various bathroom items to her, one way to win curious Peridot’s trust is to be willing to explain things.
Peridot being thankful becomes something of a theme in her character development. Steven will teach her to say “wow, thanks” when receiving a gift, and it becomes a catchphrase for her.
Also, remember back in The Return: “Maybe when Peridot gets to Earth, she’ll see how nice all the people are and she won’t want to hurt anyone.” We can see in this stretch of episodes how right Steven is, and how Peridot mostly just needs a little kindness.
Of course, she immediately undercuts this nice moment by telling Steven he’s “a much more intelligent creature than [she] initially thought” and that he can be useful to her.
She dramatically announces she has some information to share with Steven. “Aw, I know you use my toothbrush,” says Steven.
Peridot stealing human things to use will also become a theme with her, as in Too Short to Ride where she confesses to stealing Steven’s laundry.
Anyway, Peridot wants to tell Steven the information about the Cluster. Steven gets up to go get the Gems, but she only trusts Steven. If you look at this from her point of view, the information on the Cluster is the only reason the Gems are keeping her around, as opposed to indefinitely poofed in a bubble. She has every reason to think that once the other Crystal Gems know what she knows, they’ll simply poof her again, possibly forever. Steven is the one who went against their wishes to free her, so it’s no wonder she thinks he’s the only one she can tell.
Peridot tells Steven that the only way she can show him is by retrieving her backup logs from the Kindergarten. She makes this hilarious face with big watery frying-egg eyes. The log she references as her last backup is the one she made in Keeping It Together, presumably the last time she visited the Kindergarten.
Steven reluctantly agrees to go the Kindergarten, but he establishes one rule: Peridot must hold his hand the entire time.
This entire situation seems set up for Peridot to betray him and try to escape, or get some weapon from the Kindergarten, or backup limb enhancers — something like that. In hindsight, I appreciate that Peridot actually was more or less sincere in her intentions. She never tries to run away, and she does indeed show Steven the information she said she would. Again, it makes sense from her point of view. Before Catch and Release, she was desperate and completely out of options. Steven has proven himself trustworthy, is willing to help, and may be useful. There’s no reason for her to betray him here.
They arrive at the Kindergarten. Peridot once more forgets that she doesn’t have limb enhancers and tries to run down the cliff in front of the warp pad, causing them both to plummet to the ground. As they lie on the ground, Steven once more grabs her hand.
As they walk along, Peridot comments that the Kindergarten has been horribly mismanaged, and that it must have been in better shape when Steven “emerged”. This is one of our first indications of what Peridot’s job is when she’s not checking up on the Cluster — managing Kindergartens.
Peridot has assumed that Steven is “some kind of Quartz” and that he must have been made in this Kindergarten. We know that this Kindergarten did indeed make Quartzes, as Amethyst was born here.
Peridot’s very astute when it comes to gem types, but she doesn’t notice that Steven’s gem is not a Rose Quartz, but a Pink Diamond. Of course, the idea that Steven is a Diamond is so outlandish that it’s nothing she would have ever considered at this point. The idea that he’s simply an unusual Quartz is far more likely and sensible. She’s also probably never seen a Rose Quartz, since they were all bubbled before her emergence, so having no frame of reference for either that or Pink Diamond, it’s easy enough for her to accept the cover story.
Steven says that he didn’t emerge from the Kindergarten, but came from his mom and dad. “You’re some sort of hybrid? How is that possible?” asks Peridot. Steven offers to tell her the whole story, but Peridot says she doesn’t care and wants to hurry to the control room.
Steven is nervous about the potential presence of the “fusion monsters.” Peridot explains them as they slide down into the control room, an echo of when Steven and Garnet went to the control room in Keeping It Together. “When it became clear that the Earth was no longer a viable colony, Homeworld decided to use it for something else: a series of experiments. A gem geo-weapon.”
First of all, nice clinical language on the Earth no longer being a “viable colony.” Considering Peridot didn’t know who the Crystal Gems were, it’s possible she doesn’t even know about the Rebellion and the reason why the Earth was abandoned as a colony.
Secondly, why, exactly, did the Gems need a geo-weapon? Some fans have speculated that the Gempire was fighting an unseen war, and that’s why they need the weapon and so much military buildup. I think the answer might be simpler: they’re effectively a fascist police state, and the military is mostly intended to keep the Empire itself in line. It’s clear that the Diamonds were very much concerned with making sure nothing like the Rebellion would ever happen again, and turning the “failed colony” into a planet-shattering weapon is certainly one way to make a statement.
Steven asks if she helped, but Peridot says she wasn’t “lucky enough to be around for that,” confirming that Peridot didn’t actually make the fusion experiments. She was just tasked with monitoring them.
It’s an important point to clarify, because if Peridot had actually made the horrifying forced fusions instead of merely being a cog in the wheel, her impending redemption would be more difficult to swallow. It’s the same reason some fans are uncomfortable with the Diamonds — although that situation is more complicated and I’d argue that they were never truly redeemed, just reformed into a more tolerable presence. That’s even after Future states that Yellow is working on reversing the Cluster.
Down in the control room, we see the remnants of the earthen columns once housing the fusion experiments. Peridot attempts to pry off a panel, but is unable to do it without her limb enhancers. Steven is able to take the panel off easily, showing that, despite being half-human, he is far stronger than Peridot is in her natural state.
Peridot hits another obstacle — she’s too short to reach the control panel. Steven immediately scoops her onto his shoulders, saying, “It’s okay to ask for help, you know.” Steven, of course, is hoping that he can convince Peridot that she can trust the Crystal Gems with her information.
I definitely have the impression that it is not okay to ask for help in Gem society, as it would likely be seen as a sign of weakness and inferiority. In turn, this can lead to a society that is much less productive and more fragile than it should be.
Peridot pulls up a display of the “early attempts at artificial fusion.” There’s a lot of cluster Gems potentially running around. These were just prototypes for the real thing…
…the Cluster. “A singular, giant, artificial fusion, comprised of millions of Gem shards.”
Where did they get all of these Gem shards? From the war — which means that the Cluster is mainly comprised of Crystal Gems. Of course, since Homeworld has no qualms about collateral damage, there are likely quite a few Homeworld Gems in there as well.
Peridot explains that the Cluster is incubating below the Earth’s surface. When it takes form, it will be much larger than the Earth itself, shattering the entire planet.
Note that the map here has quite a few differences from the real Earth. I won’t catalogue them all here, but you can go looking them up if you’re curious.
Also, Ronaldo previously had a wild conspiracy theory about the Earth being hollowed out by “polymorphic sentient rocks.”
Since the prototypes have already emerged, the Cluster can’t be far behind. “If we can’t get off this planet, we have to stop the Cluster!” And thus, the main plotline of the rest of the season is established.
Given everything we know about Gem society, it’s interesting that Peridot apparently has no inclination to simply sacrifice herself to allow the Cluster to emerge. Other Gems seem more than willing to perform this kind of sacrifice in the service of the Gempire. It’s possible that because she is more of a civilian and not military, she was programmed with a greater sense of self-preservation.
Despite the dire situation, Peridot now has a new hope — that Steven can help her stop the Cluster.
Peridot seems convinced that Steven knows everything important about the Earth, and that since she has extensive knowledge of the Cluster, together they’ll have everything they need to come up with a plan. Steven tries to explain that just because he knows about rain, it doesn’t mean he knows everything about the Earth, and that even his knowledge of rain actually came from his dad. He insists on getting the help of the other Crystal Gems. Peridot is undeterred, believing that if the problem proves too difficult, then they can simply call in Steven’s dad, since he’s the apparent source of Steven’s knowledge.
Peridot does eventually meet Greg. It doesn’t go all that well.
Their conversation is interrupted by a loud roaring sound. Gem mutants have gathered near the warp pad. This group seems a lot goofier in their designs than those in Keeping It Together or Nightmare Hospital, probably because this episode is not meant to be unsettling. Once again, when Peridot believes she’s in danger, she clings onto Steven.
Steven puts a bubble around himself and Peridot. They run from the mutants. This scene is a bit reminiscent of Bubble Buddies, where Steven also bubbled a new friend to save her from danger.
“Let’s run into this corner!” says Steven.
“Oh no, we’re cornered!” says Peridot.
They end up trapped by the largest cluster mutant, pressing on the bubble walls.
Just at that moment, the Gems show up and easily take care of the Cluster Gems. Steven points out once again that they need the Crystal Gems, and that there’s only so much they can do on their own. The convenient timing of this is part of why I think Garnet used her future vision to figure out how to get Peridot to talk.
The Gems scold Steven for having taken Peridot to the Kindergarten, but Peridot immediately stands up for him, saying that he was doing what he was told. This is a pretty significant moment for her. Knowing what we know about Homeworld, it’s likely that mistakes and disobeying orders were met with significant retribution. The fact that she takes the blame for this, in front of Gems that she fears will harm her, is really quite brave, and shows that she’s actually come to value Steven.
Finally, Peridot decides to tell the Crystal Gems about the Cluster. We’ll pick up shortly after this for next week’s episode.
Unsurprisingly, I really love this episode. The growing friendship between Steven and Peridot is beautifully done, particularly the scene in the rain. We also learn the true nature of the Cluster, which impressively raises the stakes on the season. Peridot’s progression here feels very natural, and Steven’s empathy and compassion is rewarded.
Next week on Steven Universe Rewind! Let’s go build some giant robots in one of the funniest episodes of the series, Back to the Barn.