Official Description: Steven learns the tale of how Greg came to work at the car wash.
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.
Back in Beach City Drift, we established that Greg continues to work at the car wash despite his new wealth. Here, he’s excited about a day with two customers, which makes you wonder how he ever could have afforded to raise a kid. I guess living in a van and having him wear your old band t-shirts helps cut down on costs a lot.
Greg mentions he’s been working at the car wash for over fifteen years. Steven wants to hear the story of how he got the job, but when Greg starts, he runs and gets the guitar so Greg can sing the story instead.
“Can’t I ever tell you a story without working in a song?” — Rebecca Sugar, probably
Greg starts singing “I Think I Need a Little Change.” We’re in the years after Greg gave up his music career to stay with Rose, and this song is all about how much he admires Rose – and how “admiring Rose” is sadly not an actual job that pays.
We first see him teaching Rose to dance, playing the same album he played for Steven and Connie in We Need to Talk.
“I guess I’m content to be on the arm of someone who’s as incredible as you,” Greg sings, which is a nice sentiment, but kind of throws out the possibility that he could become incredible himself.
Greg is lying around next to the warp pad waiting for Rose. There’s no house yet, so it’s just a plain cave opening. The way he’s just waiting for the Gems to arrive is reminiscent of S1 Steven – a character with a lot of maturing left to do.
We see the general dynamic of the Gems at the time. Rose is happy to see Greg, as is Amethyst. Garnet looks happy and relaxed. Pearl is not pleased. I’ve mentioned this before, but I really do love this era of the Gems’ outfits a lot.
Rose is reading “Passions of Xanxor,” the book Steven found in Greg’s storage in Maximum Capacity. Considering it appears to be about a tall, powerful alien romancing a human man, it’s not surprising this would appeal to Rose.
Greg is broke and doesn’t seem to particularly care. We see him bathing in the ocean, accidentally ripping his only jeans on a fence and shrugging it off, and leaving a slice of pizza on his chest as he naps in the sun, leaving a pizza-shaped tan.
Rose tosses Greg into the air for fun, which is not very subtle imagery given Greg’s realization later in this episode that he is a man-baby.
Lacking money for food, Greg pulls someone’s discarded fries out of the trash. I guess this is where Steven gets his taste for fry bits.
We see the Gems’ reactions to Greg waiting as they return from a mission: Amethyst grins and playfully elbows him, Pearl glares and ignores his extended hand, Garnet gives him a high five, and Rose kisses him.
Greg shows up at Vidalia’s house to mooch off of her. You might recall that Greg and Vidalia knew each other from his days as a rock star, as seen in Story for Steven.
Here’s the best part of this episode, Baby Sour Cream. The world didn’t realize that we needed Baby Sour Cream, but we totally did. The most hilarious thing about him is that they got his normal voice actor, Brian Posehn, to use his regular adult voice for Baby Sour Cream’s “mehs”.
“So have you done anything lately, besides worship everything she does?” asks Vidalia. Greg’s obsession with Rose is clearly a bit unhealthy. Greg’s comment that Rose can’t cook because she doesn’t have to eat drives the point home further. Rose can afford to obsess over Greg because she has no physical needs that require tending. Greg, on the other hand, has to eat.
Greg asks Vidalia if it’s okay to bum around the house. “No more than usual,” says Vidalia. Greg completely misses this passive-aggressive remark. This goes to show that his horrible manners as a house guest in House Guest weren’t just a one-off.
Baby Sour Cream spends this conversation imitating Vidalia’s posture, which is adorable.
Greg sits on the couch and watches TV. A commercial comes on for a new show, Li’l Butler, the same one he and Amethyst were obsessed with in Maximum Capacity. He spills cereal and milk all over himself in the couch. Vidalia makes him take his shirt off so she can throw it in the laundry.
Greg asks her what’s up with her weird shirt, and she says she now has a job at the t-shirt shop. We previously saw this t-shirt in So Many Birthdays, when Steven was thinking about what his career should be.
“You sold out, V,” says Greg.
“Gotta grow up sometime,” says Vidalia.
Vidalia gets a phone call from her scheduled babysitter, canceling on her. She asks Greg to watch Sour Cream while she goes to work.
Vidalia leaves Greg with Sour Cream for the day. “If anything bad happens to my kid, you better pray your space goddesses’ magic can bring people back from the dead, because I will destroy you.”
I missed this the first time around, but it’s some obvious foreshadowing to the fact that Rose Quartz’s powers can bring people back form the dead, as Steven does with Lars in Off Colors.
Greg takes Sour Cream to the beach. He puts sunscreen and sunglasses on him, and I can’t handle how cute this is.
Rose flies in and is immediately thrilled to see the baby. “Greg! Where did you get this mini-human from?…Did you make him?” she asks. Greg laughs and explains he’s just babysitting.
oh my gosh
Greg and Rose run down the beach to show Sour Cream how to play in the ocean, which seems mildly irresponsible, but they’re only gone for a few moments.
“You wouldn’t believe how long it took for me to figure out that this and you are the same thing,” says Rose. She didn’t realize that babies were also humans, due to the vastly different size and capabilities of a baby and an adult. This makes perfect sense from the point of view of an alien race that doesn’t actually have a concept of children at all. It also goes to show how, for example, the Gems don’t always treat Steven appropriately, either by putting him in situations that children shouldn’t be exposed to (including emotional situations) or by overprotecting and hiding things from him. This sort of thing is difficult even for human parents who were children themselves and who are surrounded by other parents and children, never mind for Gems who have no inherent concept of developmental stages.
Rose’s statement also foreshadows Greg’s realization that he is himself a little too much like a baby.
“When a Gem is made, it’s for a reason. They burst out of the ground already knowing what they’re supposed to be, and then, that’s what they are, forever. But you, you’re supposed to change. You’re never the same, even moment to moment. You’re allowed and expected to invent who you are. What an incredible power, the ability to grow up.”
This is so sweet and heartbreaking, giving a great insight into the oppression of Gem society, why it was so important for her to break away, and why she finds humans so fascinating. I love the humanist principle on display here that humans don’t exist for a reason. They just are. Inventing themselves is the only thing they’ve been put on earth for.
But sci-fi and fantasy stories don’t resonate unless there’s a strong connection to real-world human life. What Rose is saying is an ideal version of humanity, what we might like it to be. The reality is much messier, and much closer to the Gempire than many of us would like to admit. We may not be born with an explicit reason, but most people have expectations thrust upon them from an early age: expectations of school life, what careers they might pursue, what their hobbies should be, who they should love and what families are acceptable to form. So many of us don’t fit those expectations well, or they achieve what they’re “supposed” to do and find that they aren’t fulfilled. In some ways, we get the worst of both worlds: we get the uncertainty of not knowing what we’re supposed to do with our lives, coupled with the harsh consequences that can ensue if you choose wrong.
Steven Universe is also fundamentally a queer show, and the subtext here is thick if you’re looking for it. If you grew up in an unaccepting household, no doubt you have heard that you were “made” a certain way and that there’s only one way your future can look. It can be incredibly hard to break out of those expectations.
I think this is probably the clearest statement in the series for why Rose chose to give up her form to make Steven. I think a lesser show might have just had her excited about how cute Sour Cream is and give her “baby fever.” Rose’s reasoning is much more thoughtful than that.
It also implies that she doesn’t see herself that way, and that she doubts her ability to grow and change. This also makes sense. While she did give up her identity as Pink Diamond, she is still a leader of Gems, and hasn’t really shed that dynamic with Pearl as much as she might like. Her life since the Rebellion ended also seems fairly stagnant. She wasn’t able to heal the corrupted Gems, and her only companions haven’t changed much.
The irony, of course, is that in hoping to make a creation with freedom of choice, she instead doomed Steven to a lifetime of having an incredibly difficult role to play, and of feeling responsible for the choices Rose made. Steven is certainly not free to be whatever he wants when the Cluster is about to destroy the Earth, or when the Diamonds are arriving on his doorstep. He is, however, free to change – although some of his changes are deeply unhealthy.
Greg is inspired by Rose’s words… to write a song. He runs off to get his guitar only to find Rose and Sour Cream gone.
Yeah, maybe don’t leave the baby with the person who just said she didn’t even know what a baby was?
Greg runs all over Beach City looking for them. He even stops in the arcade to play Potato Bros. for some reason. The arcade hasn’t really changed at all. it even has Meat Beat Mania, which seems anachronistic given the type of games it’s riffing off of (such as the 1999 release Samba de Amigo).
Greg finally finds Rose in Funland, but Sour Cream isn’t with her. She explains that she did watch him – she watched him climb all the way to the top of the ferris wheel.
It seems like it wouldn’t be that hard for Rose to jump up, grab Sour Cream, and float down again, but instead Greg decides to climb up after the kit. There’s some shenanigans where Rose ends up smashing the controls and the ferris wheel spins out of control. “Rose, stop this crazy thing!” Greg yells. Would kids today even get a Jetsons reference? I hope not, it was never good.
Rose accidentally sends Greg and Sour Cream flying. She catches them in one of the cars from the ferris wheel, which makes her resemble a mother holding a baby in a crib.
Greg tries to explain that she can’t just let a baby do what he wants. “But you do whatever you want, and you’re fine,” says Rose, showing how little she still understands the concept of a baby.
“Yeah, but I’m not a baby. I don’t need someone to feed me or change my clothes. I don’t need someone to save me when I climb onto a ferris wheel… Oh, man. I am a baby.”
Back at Vidalia’s house, she asks Greg if he wants his clean shirt back. “Hey, we all gotta grow up sometime, right?” he says, walking off without it.
“That’s not really relevant to my question,” Vidalia says.
But it is, because that shirt was one of Greg’s shirts from his time as a musician, and he’s decided to move on.
Greg spots the Help Wanted sign at It’s a Wash, takes it out of the window, and is apparently working there the next day. “Let me drive my van into your wash,” he sings, a throwback to “Let Me Drive My Van Into Your Heart.”
In the present day, Greg says he’s been working at the car wash ever since, which slightly undermines the whole “growing and changing” theme of this episode.
“You know, people grow, whether they want to or not. But growing up is something you got to decide to do.”
I kind of think, though, that this is a little different for Greg and Steven. Steven seems to have been forced to grow up in ways Greg really never was. He doesn’t really have the luxury of bumming around Beach City until well into his 20s.
Mr. Universe kind of indicates that Greg may not have realized how much this was affecting Steven and how much Steven desired a more normal childhood.
This is a solid episode, as the flashback episodes generally are. The scene with Rose is great, and Baby Sour Cream steals the show whenever he’s on screen. It’s good setup for the rest of the season, where we’re going to see Steven grappling with his responsibilities in ways he hasn’t before.
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Connie finally gets to go on a mission in Gem Hunt.