Steven Universe Rewind: Drop Beat Dad

Official Description: Steven helps Sour Cream to put on a show, even though Sour Cream’s stepdad doesn’t approve of him being a DJ.

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.

And now that we’re back in Beach City, we’re getting the first episode of Steven Universe to focus on the townies, with no Gem stuff, since Sadie’s Song, way back when Peridot was still an enemy. Unfortunately, as far as town episodes go, this really isn’t one of the strongest.

The episode opens at Vidalia’s house, which we saw back in Onion Friend. Steven is acting as Sour Cream’s roadie for a show he’s doing that night. He eagerly lists off all of the duties of a roadie, including being moral support, and you have to imagine that his romantic view of this life probably comes from Greg.

He easily lifts a box of equipment to hand to Sour Cream, who buckles under the weight. For some reason, this episode has several reminders of Steven’s super strength in it, possibly to show how much Steven’s powers are developing.

Yellowtail arrives at the house with a briefcase full of fish. He’s Sour Cream’s stepfather, and he doesn’t approve of Sour Cream’s life choices, objecting in a foreign language. “It is too a viable career! Eighty percent of Germans make their living deejaying!” he protests.

Steven’s very uneasy about this. This kind of parental conflict isn’t really something he’s had to be exposed to, for the most part, because Greg puts no real pressure on him, and he’s always been eager to help the Gems.

Flawed parents are the major theme of the rest of the season, and the majority of episodes involve this concept, either directly or indirectly. We’re going to see this come up in a lot of episodes.

Future Vision

I could draw a parallel between Sour Cream’s rejection of Yellowtail’s lifestyle and Steven’s eventual frustration with being expected to take up Rose Quartz’s mantle, but it’s honestly pretty surface level.

[collapse]

Sour Cream conveniently has to stop to use the restroom at It’s a Wash, so we can get a moment of Greg being supportive of Steven to contrast the rest of the episode. We also get hints that the car wash has been slow and Greg has been pretty desperate for a job.

Future Vision

This episode, and others in the main series, show off Greg’s unconditional support for Steven in a positive light. However, Future shows how Steven might have benefitted from more structure and discipline than he received. For now, though, their relationship is wholesome.

[collapse]

A huge, gaudy tour bus pulls up. It contains Marty, Greg’s awful manager from his flashback in Story for Steven. Steven offers to protect Greg. I do enjoy the running theme that ordinary human villains like Marty and Kevin always earn way more ire from Steven than Gems who are actually trying to kill him.

Marty makes a snide remark about Greg’s car wash. Greg takes it in stride and says that washing the bus would help him out. Marty starts to pull an envelope out of his jacket, but gets distracted when…

Sour Cream emerges from the restroom. It turns out that Marty is Sour Cream’s biological father – something most people inferred from Story for Steven – and that he’s been gone for nine years. Sour Cream goes in for a hug, but Marty deflects it into a handshake.

Marty plays off the missing nine years as just being part of the music industry. Sour Cream is excited to have someone to talk to about music, and they start chatting. Steven interrupts to ask if he should keep hauling the equipment. The sight of the equipment sparks Marty’s interest: “What do you have going on here, my friend?” Throughout the episode, he never calls Sour Cream “son.”

Marty decides he’s going to stay in town and help promote Sour Cream’s event. He gives Sour Cream his shiny, laminated business card. “Throwing a cool semi-annual DJ rave thing is a classic father-son bonding experience… We’re gonna cram nine years of bonding into one spectacular event!” Steven is skeptical of this.

They end up at the warehouse on the outskirts of town, the same place that housed the underground wrestling events, and where Sour Cream DJed the rave that Stevonnie ended up attending. Marty is disdainful of both the venue and the Game Boy that Sour Cream is using for chiptunes.

Marty proposes moving the show to the beach. Steven, in his official capacity as roadie, objects, pointing out that Marty held one of Greg’s shows on the beach and hardly anyone showed up. Then again, Greg did end up meeting the love of his live, and Steven owes his existence to that show, so maybe it was more successful than he’s giving credit for.

Marty says that he made a lot of mistakes and was a real jerk when he was Greg’s manager, but that he’s learned about himself and the music business since, and things are going to be different now. Sour Cream buys it, but Marty’s shiny, eye-obscuring sunglasses, indicating duplicity, tell another story.

The idea of redemption and genuine change is a common one in Steven Universe. This, however, is more of a story about how simply claiming you’ve changed doesn’t mean a thing if your attitude and actions don’t back it up.

Marty arranges for a huge ad of Sour Cream to be draped over the water tower. What Marty’s deploying here is an abusive tactic known as lovebombing, where the abuser provides extravagant gifts and lavishes attention on a person, not because they truly love them, but because they want to use them for their own goals. “Nothing less for my talented, soon to be famous… DJ,” Marty says, once again avoiding the word “son.”

Case in point: Marty then provides Sour Cream with expensive equipment that he’s only dreamed about. Steven sadly notes that Marty brought roadies. Marty tosses him an “official roadie” badge, much to Steven’s delight. In another show of strength, Steven gleefully lifts one of the boxes that was taking several people to lift. “What does Greg feed that kid?!” says Marty.

Steven spots Yellowtail on his boat, watching the proceedings through binoculars. It’s a one-two punch for him, as his stepson is “reconnecting” with his long-gone father, and he’s being indulged in his DJ aspirations, which Yellowtail disapproves of.

As the sun sets, a crowd from Beach City gathers on the beach to watch the show. We see that Yellowtail is there, along with Greg, Onion, Kiki, Nanefua, Peedee, Ronaldo, Jenny, and Buck. Vidalia is not there, although we do see her in the crowd later.

Steven steps out to do a mic check. “This mic looks great!” he says, much too short to actually try speaking into it.

Sour Cream starts to go out on stage, but Marty stops him. “Let a proper hype man set the stage for you.”

“Thanks, Dad!” says Sour Cream, getting finger guns in return.

“Whoo, it’s some guy!” cheers a member of the crowd.

The mic that Steven “checked” turns out not to be on. “You know, I’ve always been someone with good tastes, so you gotta believe me. This show is special to me. It’s personal,” says Marty. Steven grins and nudges a smiling Sour Cream.

“GUAAAAACOLAAAAA!” Marty yells. It turns out that this entire show was just a setup for Marty to get some advertising for a soda made of guacamole. He throws cans of Guacola into the crowd, hitting Ronaldo in the stomach.

So, of course, we see that Marty hasn’t changed at all from the days when he only cared about money and not about Greg’s feelings or his art. But then, it was never really believable that he had.

Steven tries drinking the Guacola and is repulsed. “From concentrate?” he says with dismay. I was going to make a joke about avocado concentrate even existing, but a Google search confirms that it apparently does. Ronaldo, still doubled over on the ground, tries putting the Guacola on a convenient basket of tortilla chips, but even that doesn’t improve it. In fact, everyone in the crowd hates Guacola except for Onion, who downs a whole can.

Sour Cream calls him out for making his show about some soda advertisement when it was supposed to be making up for lost time. Marty tries to justify it, saying that the Guacola deal is providing them with the bus, the roadies, and the equipment. “I need this Guacola deal! Don’t be selfish,” says the man who abandoned his family for nine years.

Parents (and parental figures) being selfish is something that comes up with some frequency in Steven Universe. It’s common for fans to debate about whether or not Rose was selfish for sacrificing herself to make Steven in the first place: in doing so, she left behind Greg and the Crystal Gems, and Steven was left to deal with her legacy and the problems she’d caused. This tension over Rose’s intentions is something we’re going to see explored with poignancy in the very next episode.

However, for a show that’s often extremely successful in portraying these kind of flawed parental dynamics, this particular episode, to me, falls on the flat side. One of the primary reasons is that Steven Universe is not afraid to express nuance and delve into the complicated, mixed emotions that many children have about their parents. Characters like Rose, Greg, and Pearl are sympathetic, even when they haven’t always done right by Steven. Obviously, it’s unrealistic to expect a two-episode character like Marty to have that kind of depth, but he’s still the rare Steven Universe character to not show any redeeming qualities whatsoever. He never even seems slightly conflicted over using his estranged son as part of a scheme to advertise soda. We don’t really see a lot of Sour Cream’s feelings on the matter, either, partially because he’s a very understated character.

Sour Cream is furious, and he starts yelling at Marty in the same language used by Yellowtail before catching himself. He tells Marty off, saying that he doesn’t need him to do the show.

Marty turns to go, but before he does, he hands Greg an envelope that he’s “legally obligated” to give him. More proof that he never actually cared about Sour Cream: he probably would have avoided Beach City forever if he weren’t required to find Greg.

Yellowtail speeds to shore in a motorboat, yelling and honking his horn. Sour Cream assumes he’s there to deliver an I-told-you-so over his failure, and put him to work on the fishing boat. It turns out, though, that Yellowtail had gone to fetch Sour Cream’s DJ equipment and bring it to the beach so that he can continue with his show.

In a callback to Sour Cream meeting Marty earlier in the episode, he goes for a handshake, but Yellowtail pulls him into a hug.

Yellowtail sets up his small table with his usual equipment and goes on with the show. His family is in the crowd, waving glowsticks and dancing. Onion is still drinking Guacola.

Greg comments that Sour Cream is going to be just fine as long as he keeps doing something he loves, because it’s not really about the money – trailing off when he sees what’s in the envelope that Marty gave him. It’s a check for ten million dollars, thus setting us up for the next episode.

Marty must have made some serious cash off of Greg’s music if Greg’s cut is this ridiculously large. He also must have blown through a serious amount of money if, after making more than ten million dollars, he’s still reduced to having to shill for crappy soda as a job.

This episode is fine. It’s not bad, but it’s ultimately forgettable, and not one I would normally bother rewatching. It doesn’t help that it comes between one of the show’s best story arcs and one of its best episodes…

Next Week on Steven Universe Rewind! Spontaneous singing, crying, and singing while crying. It’s time to talk about Mr. Greg.

…I haven’t gotten to post vast oceans of Pearl analysis in a while. It’s about time, don’t you think?