Official Description: Garnet finally tells Steven the story of how she became a Crystal Gem.
So Rebecca Sugar demanded.
We open on Steven sleeping on a mattress in the back of a pickup truck parked in the barn, which I guess explains where he’s been sleeping this whole time since the Gems have basically moved in.
Later, Lapis and Peridot will somehow jam the truck through the front of the barn to make a kind of balcony for watching Camp Pining Hearts.
Garnet wakes Steven up at midnight to wish him a happy birthday. He’s fourteen now. Back in Jail Break, Garnet said she wanted to tell Steven that she was a fusion on his birthday. That plan clearly didn’t happen, so instead she’s going to tell Steven the story of how Ruby and Sapphire met.
We flash back to 5,750 years ago, which gives us a good idea of when the Rebellion was taking place and how old some of our key Gems are. This Cloud Arena bears a strong resemblance to the place where Steven, Pearl, and Connie train, but isn’t quite the same. At this time, a “small but persistent” group of rebellious Gems was stopping progress on the colony. A small group of “diplomatic Gems” was sent from Homeworld to look into the problem.
This is very early in the Rebellion, obviously after Pink Diamond takes on the mantle of Rose Quartz but before she faked her own shattering.
Among those Gems was Sapphire, “a rare, aristocratic Homeworld Gem with the power to see into the future.” So we now know Sapphire’s role and caste — she seems to be the highest ranking of the known Crystal Gems. Considering Peridot thought Amethyst was the highest ranking, it means she either doesn’t recognize Sapphire as part of the fusion, or, more likely, believes her fusion status negates her rank.
Sapphire, in her original form, wears a blue diamond on her outfit, signifying her court, much like Lapis does.
Of course, Steven, as Pink Diamond, is truly the most highly ranked Gem of the group. Sapphire is probably second highest, although Lapis may be on the same level or close to it.
“Assigned to her were three Rubies, common soldiers with a mission to protect her.” That’s our Ruby on the left, with the gemstone on her palm.
In this episode, we learn that Rubies are one of the lowest castes in Gem society, likely even below Peridot, but above Pearl (who is considered an object more than anything else). Rubies are clearly below Quartzes, who are larger soldiers with more formidable weapons. We see that Rubies tend to be put on guard duty and usually are assigned in groups of three or more. One thing we’ll see in this episode is that Rubies are considered expendable and are expected to throw themselves into danger to protect higher caste Gems.
Most of the other Gems in this flashback are rendered in silhouette, and are not recognizable, but that gem to the right is either Lapis or another Lapis Lazuli who looks extremely similar.
Considering Lapis was once an elite gem and a part of Blue Diamond’s court, this could very well be her, before her disastrous mission to terraform the Earth.
The Rubies banter about how much they want to fight the Rebels. Our Ruby says they’ll just punch them all when they fuse. “That’s why they sent… uh… three of us?”
Rubies having difficulty counting is a running joke in the series that we’ll see again in Hit the Diamond.
While I wouldn’t call Ruby stupid by any means — she can be quite resourceful when she needs to be — it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t meant to be one of the intellectual castes the way that Pearl, Peridot, and Sapphire are. Our Ruby sometimes struggles to find her words and express herself, and has a very straightforward view of things.
One of the Rubies accidentally knocks our Ruby into Sapphire. Our Ruby apologizes profusely and seems to expect some punishment — it’s likely that not all elites treat lower Gems like Rubies with any care. Sapphire shrugs it off, saying it was “bound to happen,” and goes to perform her duty.
Ruby watches Sapphire as she goes, clearly a little taken with her.
The colors in this episode are just gorgeous, aren’t they?
Sapphire approaches Blue Diamond’s palanquin. This is the first clear confirmation of a Blue Diamond we’ve had in the series. She’s enormous, even larger than most of the fusions we’ve seen. Since Garnet is narrating the voices, she does not have her voice actress yet. The palanquin is guarded by two Gems that appear to be Quartzes, and we can see her Pearl by her side.
This palanquin will play an important role later, when it’s brought out as evidence in Steven’s trial, and he and Lars manage to escape inside it.
Sapphire reports that the Rebels will arrive and destroy the physical forms of seven Gems including two of her Rubies and herself. After that, they will be captured, and the Rebellion would end.
If Sapphire’s vision was correct, that means the events of the entire series occur because Ruby impulsively jumped to save her. Without that, Pearl and Rose would have been captured, the Earth would have been turned into a colony, and Gem society would have gone on as before.
If they had captured Rose, would they figure out that she’s Pink? She likely would have revealed herself to try and protect Pearl, who certainly would have been shattered without a second thought. While Pink would likely not have been shattered, she probably would have been punished severely and kept far away from any happenings on the colonies for a very long time.
Just a few episodes ago, we learned that Pearls are status symbols, meant to be pretty ornaments or to hold your things. Here, we see an example of what that looks like. Blue Diamond’s Pearl stands still by her side without speaking, and her outfit and the hair over her eyes make it clear that she isn’t doing any fighting or engineering like our Pearl.
I actually really love Blue Pearl. Her quiet manner of speaking is adorable, and her drawings during Steven’s trial are great.
Sapphire is completely calm about the Rebels destroying her physical form, saying that she looks forward to speaking to Blue Diamond again on Homeworld. Of course, she has the reassurance from her future vision that if she is poofed she will end up in a safe place.
Sapphire rejoins her Ruby guard. “Sapphire knew she would be a casualty, but it did not faze her. She saw her whole life laid out before her, and she had already accepted all of it.”
Of course, “casualty” in this way is much less serious than we would normally think of it.
Sapphire comments to Ruby on how the planet is beautiful and she wished she could see more of it.
“There’s still time,” says Ruby.
“That’s a nice thought, but no,” says Sapphire.
She could choose to tell the Rubies about the impending attack that will result in two of them being poofed, but does not do so, because she has already accepted what is going to happen. Of course, if she told the Rubies, then the events likely wouldn’t play out as they did — which is part of why Sapphires are naturally passive, because their future vision does not work as well if they actively intervene.
While Sapphire in the present has gotten better about being this passive, this kind of behavior still shows up. In Keystone Motel, because she sees that Garnet and Pearl will eventually reconcile, she dismisses Ruby’s feelings in the interim.
Just then, Rose Quartz and Pearl attack. “We are the Crystal Gems!” they announce, showing that they’ve already taken it as their group name. It’s unclear how many Gems are in the Rebellion at this point. Garnet’s narration implies there are more, but only Rose and Pearl are part of this ambush.
It’s pretty gutsy of them to attack a gathering including Blue Diamond by themselves, knowing what Blue is capable of. In this instance, she immediately flees in her palanquin, but if she didn’t, Rose and Pearl might be hard-pressed to take down all the Homeworld Gems and a Diamond. Then again, considering Rose is Pink, we never learn what she was fully capable of in combat, although we get a taste with Steven.
In an extremely anime sequence, Pearl cuts down all of the Gems in her way with her dual swords. The three Rubies fuse into one Mega Ruby, and now we know what Jasper was talking about when she said that “fusion is a cheap tactic to make weak Gems stronger.” This is what Homeworld normally uses fusion for. It doesn’t do them any good against Rose, who punches through the Mega Ruby, poofing two of its components, just as Sapphire predicted.
Rose doesn’t have her sword at this point. Presumably, Garnet was one of the earliest recruits, and Bismuth joined the Crystal Gems later.
Pearl stands in front of Sapphire, ready to cut her down. Considering Sapphire is not posing any threat, this seems harsh and unnecessary, but then again, they aren’t causing permanent harm to these Gems, just dissipating their forms.
“Ruby suddenly realized what Sapphire meant. She had known the Ruby would fail. Sapphire had accepted it. But Ruby… Ruby could not.”
Ruby doesn’t know that the Rebellion will fall after this event and that Sapphire will be safe. As far as she’s concerned, the Rebels might win here and do something horrible with them both. It’s a similar dynamic to Keystone Motel: Sapphire sees that things will be fine in the long run, but Ruby feels she needs to take action now. Not to mention that it’s entirely possible that Ruby would have been punished for her failure to protect Sapphire.
Ruby leaps in front of the swords and knocks Sapphire out of the way. They spin in the air, and Garnet is born. She’s a mishmash of patchy clothes and colors. Not only have neither of them performed a cross-Gem fusion, they’ve never even seen one, and so don’t have any idea how to compose themselves.
All of the Gems in the Arena are shocked and staring at Garnet. Pearl is shocked too, but raises her sword again. Rose holds her back, and they both quickly leave.
In Now We’re Only Falling Apart, we see these events from Pearl’s point of view. After leaving the Arena, they discuss fusion, and Pearl fantasizes about fusing with Rose. Rose realizes that they can fight not just for the Earth but for the freedom of Gems like Garnet, changing the mission of the Crystal Gems. Presumably, it’s far easier to get Gems on board with the Rebellion when they’re not just fighting to preserve organic life but to free Gems from their oppressive society.
The Gems have never seen a fusion of two different types of Gems, and they denounce it as disgusting. Blue Diamond scolds Sapphire, saying this is not the vision she reported. Ruby jumps in front of her, saying that it was her fault — and she must know that this will likely cost her life.
Needless to say, the LGBTQ themes in this episode are not in the least subtle, although it is a bit of an inverse that same-Gem fusions are allowed and different-Gem fusions are not. As someone who has recently come out later in life, the idea that you have your whole life laid out for you by society, only to have it all derailed by being non-heteronormative, is pretty relatable!
Why are cross-Gem fusions forbidden in Gem society? The most likely reason is that it’s a necessity to keep the rigid class structure in place. If a Sapphire and a Ruby can fuse, then what does that mean for their prescribed positions and roles? Garnet has no place in Gem society, and Ruby and Sapphire would be leaving theirs behind. Cross-Gem fusion would also allow Gems of different castes to socialize and have relationships with each other, which could lead to them banding together against oppression, as the Rebels do. Finally, we’ve seen that Cross-Gem fusions can be extremely powerful and form a challenge to even the Diamonds. In fact, given the Rebellion’s smaller numbers, cross-Gem fusions were likely one of the main advantages they had in battle.
Blue Diamond declares that Ruby will be “broken,” which is interesting terminology, considering they usually refer to it as shattering. This also confirms that the punishment for cross-Gem fusion is — or at least can be — immediate execution.
This is further confirmed when two members of the Off Colors, Rhodonite and Fluorite, are on the lam because they are unsanctioned fusions, and are pursued by Robonoids that will shatter them on the spot if found.
Performing her own sudden, impulsive gesture, Sapphire grabs Ruby by the wrist, sprints away from Blue Diamond, and leaps off the edge of the Cloud Arena. The way she does this closely mirrors the way she pulls Steven along when searching for Ruby in Jail Break.
It’s interesting that Sapphire does this literally moments after her future has been thrown off its axis. It’s probably that Sapphire did not actually like the future that was set out before her, but literally saw no other way for it to be until Ruby disrupted it. This is almost certainly the very first action she’s done of her own free will in her life.
Sapphire floats down with Ruby in her arms as rain starts to fall. Ruby is incredibly distraught, not by the fact that she was sentenced to die, but because Sapphire escaped with her. It’s worth noting that, although Ruby’s action was impulsive, she was actually fulfilling her role — she hasn’t broken with it in the same way Sapphire just did.
Ruby wants to return Sapphire, even though they will break her. “Who cares? There’s tons of me!” she says, confirming how common Rubies are, and their self-sacrificial nature that Homeworld has built into them. We see how lower Gems are expected to not even really consider themselves individuals. This exchange also closely mirrors a scene in Jail Break: “Who cares?” “I do!”
As Ruby frets about their next action, Sapphire, realizing that she’s “jumped the track of fate,” becomes literally frozen with indecision. “She couldn’t see, she couldn’t move.” One thing that we’ve seen with Garnet is that her future vision requires some knowledge of likely outcomes and behaviors in order to be effective. Sapphire’s future vision has, up until now, been perfect, because all of the Gems around her have acted according to their assigned roles and Sapphire herself did not interfere. Now that she’s in a completely new, unprecedented situation, she can’t see anything at all.
Ruby carries Sapphire to a cave to get her out of the rain, and we get this Ruby-vision shot of Sapphire’s one enormous eye, complete with anime sparklies. The sight is enough to make Ruby set the ground on fire.
A little while later, Sapphire and Ruby sit by a fire. It’s unclear why they really need a fire, since Gems normally don’t seem all that susceptible to cold or weather in general, but it does make the scene cozy. Ruby is wondering how she’s going to save Sapphire now. “You already saved me,” says Sapphire, which Ruby doesn’t really seem to understand yet.
Images of Garnet flash by, as they’re both clearly thinking about their fusion experience. Sapphire says that she’s seen Gems fuse, but she never realized that you “disappear.” Ruby says it hasn’t been like that for her before — when she fuses with other Rubies, it’s “just me, but bigger.” Presumably, the Rubies are alike enough in personality that their fusion doesn’t really make something “new” in the same way Garnet is.
Sapphire confesses that it was nice, and Ruby agrees, both smiling shyly.
The two emerge from the cave and watch a beautiful sunset as the rain stops. They sing the song “Something Entirely New”: “Where do we go? What do we do? I think we made something entirely new. And it wasn’t quite me, and it wasn’t quite you. I think it was someone entirely new.”
I love how this is a great metaphor for a new love, and how a relationship can have a character of its own, both molding and molded by the people in it. Given the overt LGBT themes of this episode, it also makes me think of starting a queer relationship when perhaps neither party has before, or maybe even considered that such a thing was possible.
Ruby and Sapphire wander the Earth a bit, admiring the creatures and being absolutely adorable. I love how this entire sequence captures a new love so well.
The two lay in the grass underneath the moon and haltingly try to talk about the fusion.
Ruby: And you hadn’t before?
Sapphire: Of course not! When would I have ever?
The metaphor for early sexual experiences is about as subtle as it was in Alone Together. It makes sense that Sapphire would have never fused before. Only same-Gem fusion has ever been allowed, and fusion is only ever used for combat. Sapphires are rare and clearly not meant for battle.
Ruby laments that Sapphire is stuck on Earth forever.
Sapphire: What about you?
Ruby: What about me?
Sapphire: Well, you’re here too. We’re here together.
Sapphire, unlike Ruby, has always had individual value in Gem society, as you could see from the fact that she knows Blue Diamond personally. She could easily just dismiss Ruby and her feelings as expendable, but she doesn’t, consistently showing that she cares about what Ruby thinks of the situation. I think that this, her complete lack of concern over being stuck on Earth forever, and her comment that Ruby saved her, demonstrate that she was probably quietly out of step from Gem society well before these events. There were likely many Gems like this — which is how Rose’s Rebellion eventually fills its ranks.
In a scene that is a fairly direct homage to Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Sapphire takes Ruby’s hand and leads her into a nearby forest to dance together. They hum a reprise of Stronger Than You, much like Sapphire did when trying to signal Ruby in Jail Break. They spin slowly, then faster, until fusing into Garnet again.
Garnet is back, and it’s cute to see her terribly confused and clumsy like she almost never is in the present day. The way she moves in this scene reminds me of the scene where Steven and Connie first fuse into Stevonnie, certainly on purpose — two who have never fused learning how to control a joint body for the first time. “I felt like I was getting the hang of my strange new form. Then I fell.” Garnet trips, rolls down a hill and lands in some flowers.
Garnet finds a sword pointed at her face. It’s Pearl, who is surprised to see the fusion again. Garnet panics and offers to unfuse, but Rose appears and tells her no.
“And there they were: Rose Quartz, the leader of the rebellion, and her terrifying renegade Pearl.”
I love this designation for Pearl. You can see in this flashback how much she represents everything terrifying to the Gempire status quo, even moreso than Rose Quartz: their own property learning to fight and rising up against them. It’s also a little amusing to see Garnet so intimidated by Pearl.
Garnet asks Rose if she upsets her, and Rose deflects the question: “Who cares about how I feel? How you feel is bound to be much more interesting.” Rose almost certainly is upset by Garnet, but you can see her trying to be open-minded and diplomatic about it. The wheels are already turning in her head. Cross-gem fusion just got a Ruby and Sapphire to abandon Homeworld and flee. This meeting leads to Rose accepting fusions and other Gems who do not fit into Gem society into the Rebellion, promising them freedom, which grows their ranks much more easily than if it were simply about preserving the Earth.
“How I feel? I feel lost… and scared… and happy. Why am I so sure I’d rather be this than everything I was supposed to be, and that I’d rather do this than anything I was supposed to do?”
So, yeah, another spot where the LGBT metaphor is pretty overt. It’s good that it is, though, to help the kids watching recognize themselves.
Rose responds to Garnet’s question: “Welcome to Earth.” You may recall this is the same thing Garnet said to Peridot in the previous episode.
Garnet has many questions: “How was Ruby able to alter fate? Why was Sapphire willing to give up everything? What am I?”
Rose responds: “No more questions. Don’t ever question this. You already are the answer.”
Back at the barn, Steven asks Garnet what the answer was. “Love.”
It’s worth noting that Garnet followed Rose’s advice to the point where she almost never asks questions during the main series. This isn’t always a good thing, as sometimes she neglects to ask questions when she really should.
Rose telling Garnet not to question anything is a sweet moment in the context of this episode, but ends up being heavily deconstructed in the fallout arc from A Single Pale Rose. Because Garnet never really examined her motivations for becoming a fusion forever, she was prone to falling apart when what she thought she knew about Rose turned out to be a lie. Additionally, Ruby and Sapphire never really had enough time apart to grow on their own, and had become too co-dependent. She ends up striking a healthier balance, and as of Future, Ruby and Sapphire do have their own interests and hobbies, even if they do still spend the bulk of their time as Garnet.
This is an absolutely gorgeous episode with a great message for everyone watching. Ruby and Sapphire’s early relationship is heartwarming. We also get some interesting Homeworld lore. It’s generally considered one of the best of Steven Universe, for good reason.
One thing I find interesting is the placement of this episode. It comes in the middle of a string of episodes that (with the exception of this and the next one) are laser-focused on Peridot’s arc. I think the reason for its placement is twofold. First, none of Garnet’s story makes sense unless you already learned the things we learned about Homeworld and its castes in immediately preceding episodes (particularly Back to the Barn). Secondly, and more critically, this episode relates to Peridot’s arc in that it presents the story of two Gems breaking from Homeworld and making a new life on Earth. The echoing of “welcome to Earth,” is clearly there to show the connection.
Next week on Steven Universe Rewind! My least favorite of the back half of S2, it’s Steven’s Birthday.