Steven Universe Rewind: Message Received

Description: Steven has doubts about believing in everyone.

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.

Well, we made it. We’re finally here.

It’s time for Peridemption.

This episode starts right where the last left off. The Gems have returned to the barn, and Peridot runs off with the Diamond-shaped object she stole from the moon base. Steven goes to confront her. We rarely see him this upset. It goes to show that betraying Steven’s trust is far more serious a transgression than simply trying to kill him.

Steven tells Peridot they need to talk, and beckons her into the old truck inside of the barn, the one Steven was sleeping in in The Answer.

Steven asks her about the Diamonds. “There’s a reason they’re in charge,” she says. “They’re objectively better than us. Every Gem has their strengths and weaknesses, but not them. They’re absolutely totally completely flawless beings! Especially my Diamond, Yellow Diamond, the most perfect, the most reasonable, rational, efficient decider ever to exist in the universe!”

Peridot’s had a lot of her beliefs challenged — that Pearls are inferior, that beauty and music are useless, that fusions exist only as weapons — but so far, she hasn’t really had this one challenged yet. However, the obvious problem with putting someone on a pedestal like this is that it’s inevitable that they’ll eventually let you down. At that point, you’ll have two choices: either live in denial and double down on your original beliefs, or have your worldview shattered. Peridot’s been here before, and so far she’s chosen the latter.

Future Vision

In several ways, this episode is like a mini test run for the finale. White Diamond has so much invested in her own perfection that she can’t bear the tiniest flaw.

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“We might have our little truce, but I’ll never forsake the Gem I was made for.”

Give it about, oh, nine minutes from here, Peri.

Steven yells that Yellow Diamond is right behind her, distracting her so that he can grab the diamond-shaped object from her and lock her into the car. “You’re up against one of the earth’s greatest trapping technologies: the child safety lock!”

“How can you do this to me, the great and lovable Peridot? I thought we were finally friends like you wanted!” she sobs. All evidence points to the fact that Peridot really did want to make friends with Steven. He’s the first person she’s met who treated her like an individual instead of a cog in the wheel, who jokes around with her and wants to show her new things.

Steven asks her what the object is. You’ll see that it has four colors on it: blue, yellow, white, and pink. Peridot explains that it’s a communicator for contacting the Diamonds, and Steven is disappointed that she’s still trying to do that.

Peridot’s explanation: “You simple clods keep trying to protect the Earth, but you can’t do anything right! I let myself get carried away too, laughing, singing, building our little machine. But don’t you see? None of that matters. All that matters is that I’m of use to Yellow Diamond! This planet can be of use to Yellow Diamond! I must contact her to reveal what I’ve discovered.”

Once again, Peridot’s failure is clear communication. She does a great job here of sounding really guilty when, as it turns out, her intentions are not that bad. Her plan to contact Yellow Diamond, explain what she’s learned, and ask her to spare the Earth, makes a certain amount of sense considering Peridot’s convinced that Yellow is the most rational being in the galaxy. It’s also another hint that she’s pretty dubious as to the likelihood of the drill working.

Steven is horrified. “But the Diamonds are bad!” he says, backing away with the communicator. While he isn’t wrong, it should be apparent to him by now that he really doesn’t know anything he should know about the Diamonds or Homeworld society. The Gems who should have taught him never did, and at this point the bulk of the information he’s gotten has been filtered through Peridot, who is still partially enmeshed in that thought.

Steven says that the Diamonds want to hollow out the Earth and blow it up with the Cluster. “Yes, that’s the point,” says Peridot, not helping her case. Steven runs to get the other Gems.

Pearl is shocked, but Amethyst is just as angry as Steven. That tracks, given that she was the closest to making friends with Peridot after the events of Too Far. She says she’ll no longer use cool nicknames for her like “Peri” and “P-dot.”

Peridot starts honking the truck horn, and Steven tightens his hoodie around his face. Way to be cute while angry, Steven.

Garnet is sympathetic, commenting that Steven offered her a lot of her trust. “Why did I think I could change her mind?” he asks. Well, this is the boy who decided the best thing to do about a Gem that stole the entire ocean was to befriend and heal her, and it actually worked, so it really isn’t so crazy. (And, of course, he has changed Peridot’s mind. He just doesn’t know yet.)

Future Vision

“Change your mind” is one of the key phrases of the entire series — it’s the name of the last episode of the series proper, as well as the last words of that episode. This is another reason why this episode is so important thematically. A failure here to convert Peridot doesn’t just mean they have to deal with the Cluster on their own — it may have made Steven lose his faith in his ability to get Gems to change their minds, which would have eventually spelled doom for the Earth. This arc is really a dry run for what will happen with the Diamonds later on.

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Amethyst comments that you can’t just shrink down and go inside someone’s head and change what they think, which is a nod to the Crewniverse talking about how all American cartoons eventually have an episode where the characters shrink.

Future Vision

And in Change Your Mind, Steven goes inside White Diamond’s spaceship, shaped like her head, to do just that.

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Steven doesn’t like that approach: “I don’t want to tell her, she should just know. Shouldn’t she?”

Well, yes and no. His heart is definitely in the right place — he wants Peridot to come by her redemption honestly. At the same time, there’s no possible way Peridot could “just know”. She’s been indoctrinated in Homeworld thinking for thousands of years, and has only been exposed to the Crystal Gems’ way of life for a few weeks. She did need to be told lots of things, and a lot of the times she screws up, like on the moon base, it’s because she wasn’t told.

Garnet tells him that he has patience with people like his mother did. Steven looks devastated at the suggestion that Peridot may not have been worth it. He just wanted to be friends with her so badly!

Future Vision

One thing we never really got to see in the series — apart from the brief scene in The Answer — was how Rose recruited Gems to her rebellion. I would’ve liked to see how her approach compares to Steven’s.

Of course, this expectation Garnet is inadvertently placing on Steven will eventually be unhealthy for him. He can’t have infinite patience for everyone.

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Looking at the last couple of episodes, you can see why Steven wanted to be friends with Peridot. She’s a Gem, but she treats him like more of an equal than Pearl and Garnet do, more like Amethyst. He can show her new things and she picks up on them quickly, surprisingly eager to give things a try.

Pearl says that at least Steven got the communicator away before any real harm was done, which is immediately undercut by Peridot bursting from the barn, using the robot she constructed in Back to the Barn. “Your invisible rotary shield was no match for me once I applied logic,” says Peridot, explaining how she flailed until she was able to roll down the window. Peridot tosses the truck in the general direction of the Gems, scattering them so she can grab the communicator and run off.

Future Vision

As was pointed out in the comments last week, the truck eventually ends up embedded in the front of the barn, providing a cozy spot for Lapis and Peridot to watch TV.

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Amethyst has apparently been waiting for an opportunity to turn into a helicopter. To be fair, it is awesome. Let’s not think too hard about how this actually works.

Pearl and Garnet hop in, but Steven’s still beating himself up for encouraging Peridot. He’s taking this harder than almost anything we’ve seen on the show. Garnet pulls him into the helicopter, telling him there’s no time to feel horrible. “That’s right, you can feel horrible all you want back at the Temple,” says Pearl, “helpfully.”

Peridot is running away, but she can’t operate the communicator with the robot arms. “What’s up, Peri-snot?!” says the Ame-copter, making good on her promise to only call Peridot by mean nicknames. Garnet knocks over the robot, and they dogpile on top of it. Peridot crawls out and grabs the communicator.

Steven grabs Peridot before she can activate it. “I trusted you! I spent all that time bonding and hoping and caring about you!” Awww, Steven.

“You don’t get it either! This is your whole problem! Your emotions rule out reason! I will do what has to be done!” Peridot’s still not explaining herself well, but she’s still not talking about betraying Steven. As we’ll see, she’s convinced that she has the solution for saving both him and the Earth from the Cluster.

Peridot finally manages to activate the device, and the Crystal Gems hide behind the remains of the Peri-bot as a yellow screen opens in mid-air.

A yellow Pearl (voice: Deedee Magno-Hall, just like our Pearl) answers Peridot’s call. Steven asks Pearl if she knows her. “Not all Pearls know each other, Steven.”

Future Vision

While I’m sure Pearl doesn’t know all Pearls, she does know this one. They are later seen together in flashbacks, as Pearl herself belonged to Pink Diamond.

I like Yellow Pearl, her snotty attitude and habit of taking things too literally are fun.

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Yellow Pearl starts to chew Peridot out for using the direct Diamond communication channel, but she’s interrupted when Yellow Diamond (voice: Patti LuPone) decides to take the call. This is our first look at Yellow Diamond (outside of the extended intro, which I do intend to cover at some point), and uh. Neck. Her neck is not quite this extreme in later appearances.

Future Vision

And why did the moon base have a direct Diamond line in it? Because it once belonged to Pink Diamond.

Yellow Diamond is my favorite of the Diamonds. She makes a great antagonist, and I like her bluntness and efficiency. Patti LuPone does a great job voicing her and she, of course, gets a great song later on. She’s also the only Diamond who is really making a meaningful effort to make up for the whole oppressive dictatorship in Future (not counting Steven, of course.)

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Peridot gives the Diamond salute. I’m not sure if we’ve seen this before, but I always thought it was very creative — it’s snappy, has a clear connection to the Diamonds, and looks appropriately dystopian. It’s also surprisingly hard to do yourself, or maybe my arms just aren’t flexible enough.

Yes, I did just attempt to do a Diamond salute to see what it looks like, why do you ask?

“Peridot, reporting in!” “Which Peridot?” asks Yellow Diamond.

Peridot’s face in response says it all. If there was any real doubt she’s sticking with the Crystal Gems, this should clear that up — she’s just so crushed at reverting to her interchangeable cog status after her time being treated as an individual. What’s more, she’s probably had to identify herself this way thousands of times in her life, but after just a few short weeks, she’s forgotten she needs to do that.

After this meaningful hesitation, she gives her identification: Facet 2F5L Cut 5XG. I believe this is the first time we’ve heard of this sort of designation.

Future Vision

You can easily guess, but later we get confirmation that these designations have to do with the kindergarten where they emerged. Some Gems have a cabochon instead of a cut, just like real life.

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Yellow Diamond pulls up her mission. When she realizes that this particular Peridot is on Earth, she seems to take a personal interest. She points out that Peridot’s behind schedule, and asks what happened to her ship and to the Jasper meant to escort her. Jasper, you may recall from Jail Break, is currently fused with Lapis in an extremely unhealthy relationship.

The Crystal Gems cringe as Peridot starts to explain what happened to the ship, and are surprised when she does not betray them — she says that the ship was destroyed in an accident.

This is similar to the moment in When It Rains where Peridot takes the blame for taking Steven to the Kindergarten, even though she does not yet trust the Crystal Gems. It says a lot that she’s willing to protect Steven even in the face of her Diamond.

“I’ll inform your manager of your incompetence,” says Yellow Diamond. Yellow Pearl slides back into view with this amazing shit-eating grin on her face, apparently enjoying the drama. Also, Peridot had a manager! This makes sense, but is never brought up again. I would’ve loved to see said manager on the series. Peridot reports that the Cluster is progressing well, and Yellow Diamond says that they’ll “finally get some use out of that miserable planet.”

Peridot is pleased as punch to be thanked for her report, but completely deflated by the next thing Yellow Diamond says: “There’ll be a ship heading to your location to take you to your next assignment.”

It’s incredibly important, thematically and from a character standpoint, that YD makes this offer. In contemporary commentary on Peridot’s arc, many assumed that she would defect to the Crystal Gems after YD refused to rescue her and left her to die. That’s one possible way they could have gone, but it makes Peridot’s defection far less significant, because she wouldn’t have had a real choice.

Here, YD is offering her what she wanted back in Catch & Release: a way off of the planet and back to her old life. The only punishment mentioned is YD reporting her poor performance on the mission to her superior. This is the best outcome she could have hoped for, but when YD says it, here’s her reaction:

Leaving now would mean leaving her new friends behind to suffer a horrible fate. She can no longer accept that possibility.

Future Vision

It becomes more clear in Log Date 7 15 2, but it isn’t just about leaving her friends to die — Peridot was beginning to genuinely enjoy her life on Earth and, despite her thoughtless comments in It Could’ve Been Great, was starting to develop a curiosity about organic life. This factors into her reaction as well.

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Peridot gathers her courage to tell YD that the real reason she called was not for a rescue, but to propose that they terminate the Cluster. YD, for her credit, seems interested enough to hear her out. “The organic ecosystem creates resources unique to this world. We can’t sacrifice all this potential just for one geo-weapon! I’d like to tell you some plans I came up with to utilize the planet without disrupting the local –“

Peridot knows that a desire to protect organic life isn’t going to work to convince Yellow Diamond, and certainly not her personal need to protect the Crystal Gems. Instead, she comes at this from a purely logical standpoint, hoping to sway the Diamond that she believes is the paragon of rationality.

Future Vision

I wonder if she eventually got to put some of her plans to use. I like to think that Peridot eventually figures out a way to run a Kindergarten without killing organic life.

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Yellow Diamond is actually surprisingly patient with Peridot, considering she’s a ruthless dictator speaking to a peon who had the audacity to call her on her private line. She’s not willing to consider any of Peridot’s ideas, though. “I don’t care about potential and resources. I want my Cluster, and I want that planet to die.

This shakes Peridot. She assumed that the reasonable, logical, efficient Yellow Diamond would be interested in a better use for the planet. Instead, it seems that YD would prefer to destroy the entire thing for a petty grudge.

Future Vision

YD not caring about the potential resources of the Earth hits harder when you learn about how Peridot was made. After the Rebellion, resources to make new Gems were in short supply, so Gems like Peridot were made with far less capabilities than the Era 1 Gems, and made up for their shortcomings with technology like limb enhancers. Because of this, Peridot cannot shapeshift or summon a weapon. She’s very self-conscious about this, too.

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Peridot refuses to let the Cluster grow. Yellow Diamond was primarily annoyed before, but now she’s angry, rising to her full height — you can see how much larger she is than her Pearl.

Future Vision

The size of the Diamonds fluctuates wildly throughout the series though. For example, in That Will Be All, she’s large enough to hold Yellow Pearl in the palm of her hand.

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Yellow Diamond asks if Peridot is questioning her authority. “I’m questioning your objectivity, my Diamond!” she responds. This exchange says a lot about Homeworld rule. The vision of Yellow Diamond as flawlessly rational is simply propaganda they use to indoctrinate the lower Gems. In reality, YD has no real interest in being perfectly rational and efficient, and wants her orders to be carried out regardless. YD rants at Peridot about the “immense satisfaction” she’ll feel when Earth is wiped out.

Future Vision

One could infer that her intense hatred of the Earth is simply because of the Rebellion, but it’s deeper and more personal than that — she wants the Earth gone because of her unhealthy methods of dealing with grief in the wake of Pink Diamond’s death. As we see in That Will Be All, Blue Diamond has been ceaselessly mourning for thousands of years, spending long hours lingering around Pink Diamond’s favorite places and neglecting her duties as a leader. Yellow Diamond, on the other hand, favors erasing all memories of Pink in an effort to move on — which includes destroying Pink’s colony, the Earth. It’s very apparent that neither approach is actually working for them.

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Peridot rejects Yellow Diamond’s command. “I can tell you with certainty that there are things on this planet worth protecting!” Behind the pile of rubble, Steven’s face lights up — she actually does understand!

“What do you know about the Earth?!”

“Apparently more than you, you CLOD!” Peridot screams.

Future Vision

Peridot has now taunted two out of four Diamonds. Stay tuned!

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Yellow Diamond’s reaction is priceless.

Future Vision

In Reunited, YD claims to not remember this exchange with Peridot. I don’t believe her, though, I think she just doesn’t want to give Peridot the satisfaction.

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The Crystal Gem reaction. They’re all shocked except for Steven, who has been vindicated for his faith in Peridot. He’s so happy!

Peridot cuts off the communicator, and the Crystal Gems gather around Peridot as she begins to have a nervous breakdown.

“I was so wrong about being so wrong about you,” says Steven, overjoyed.

Amethyst is delighted at Peridot’s outburst: “Yellow D got torn down by the Peri-dactyl!” she says, apparently back to using cool nicknames for Peridot.

“You thought you could change her mind,” says Garnet, an echo of Steven earlier, wondering why he thought he could change Peridot’s mind. This goes to show how much Peridot has picked up from Steven in this short period of time.

Peridot hands off the communicator to Pearl as she curls up into a fetal position. “Can one of you take this?”

“Why?” asks Pearl.

“Because it can be remotely detonated.”

The entire group panics, except for Peridot, who is already in full meltdown. Steven bubbles the communicator and Garnet punches it into the distances. It detonates with enough force to pop the bubble.

“I thought I could reason with her…” says Peridot, miserably.

“You really made her mad!” says Amethyst.

“And you insulted her to her face,” Pearl adds helpfully.

Steven gives her a big hug. “You’re a Crystal Gem!” he declares.

“Whether you like it or not,” says Garnet.

We now have a new member of the team! This is one of the biggest status quo shifts of the show.

Future Vision

Steven successfully recruiting Peridot to the Crystal Gems is something that will hang over his expectations for a long time. If empathy and persistence was able to convert a Gem he thought was his enemy and who tried to kill him, how can he justify giving up on any other Gem? Unfortunately for him, Peridot seems to have been fairly well poised to accept Steven’s overtures. Her curiosity and need for friendship (both unknown to her up to this point) gave Steven a perfect “in.” Other Gems, like Jasper, who profits from Homeworld’s fascist ideology, will not be so simple.

At the time of this episode’s airing, there was an expectation that Peridot might become a permanent fixture of the group, appearing in the bulk of episodes. Unfortunately — probably due to budget constraints limiting the number of voice actors per episode — this was never to be. Instead, Peridot remains behind in the barn and appears as a recurring character in a handful of episodes per season. It’s unfortunate, because she has a great dynamic with the group, and more episodes featuring her integrating into Earth life, going on missions, and so forth, would have been very welcome. Notably, after this block of episodes she rarely interacts with Garnet and Pearl again.

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Peridot’s tortured groan can be heard from space.

I think this is unquestionably one of the greatest episodes of the series. It’s astonishingly economical with character development, showing a lot of what Peridot is going through without explicitly spelling out her thought processes (especially since she does a poor job of explaining them). It ties in heavily to the themes of the show: growing as a person and changing one’s mind. The scene where Peridot insults Yellow Diamond is a classic. It also features great character expressions and humor.

Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Peridot’s nervous breakdown continues in Log Date 7 15 2.