Episode Description: Steven and Amethyst get competitive while training with Pearl.
If you watched the previous episode, you probably already know that that’s not what this one is really about. When we left off, Amethyst was feeling extremely low and unwanted, as she was poofed by Jasper, and Stevonnie ran Jasper off in her absence.
At the beginning of last week’s episode, Pearl and Garnet went to the Great North in search of Jasper. Here, they return, having had no luck finding her, because she showed up to the beach house instead. Steven fills them in on what happened.
Pearl and Garnet wholeheartedly praise Steven for driving Jasper away, and it’s adorable.
Well, except for a depressed Amethyst hanging out on the couch. Pearl is obviously concerned about her, and Garnet notes that she reformed, but neither really seem to want to follow up on this.
Pearl and Steven head off to train. “Jasper’s back, let’s work hard!” she says.
Meanwhile, Amethyst is dropping eggs one by one down the garbage disposal, and I’m going to be sorely tempted to try that when I feel like crap. Steven invites her to train with them. “Can’t. I’m busy making egg salad,” she says.
Steven says that she’ll get to see him earn Pearl Points, and apparently curiosity about this convinces Amethyst to go.
Pearl Points are adorable stickers of Pearl’s face that she awards Steven when he’s done well. You just know that Connie has a ton of these stashed somewhere. When Steven gets enough Pearl Points, he can trade them for a prize from the Pearl Prize Pouch (i.e. a fanny pack Pearl is wearing). All of this is so delightful and perfectly in character that I’m sad that the Prize Pouch doesn’t show up more.
The Pearl Points do show up at least one more time, in Pearl’s mind in A Single Pale Rose.
Check out Pearl’s pearl-fect handwriting, as though you’d expect anything less.
Pearl Points are awarded for the “three Ps”: “punctuality, perseverance, and positivity.” “We may be smaller, weaker, and less gifted than our opponents, but with these Ps, we have the key to success!” says Pearl.
I think it’s easier for Pearl to say this than for Amethyst to internalize it. Pearl is considered to be rising above her station, achieving things that most Gems would not think is possible for a Pearl. Amethyst, on the other hand, believes she is less than what she was intended to be in the first place.
Amethyst says she wants in on the training, surprising both Pearl and Steven. “For fun,” she says, although nothing about her expression suggests she’s here for fun.
To aid with the training, Pearl summons a Holo-Pearl, which we haven’t seen since Sworn to the Sword. This is the 2.000001 model, modified to be less lethal. It’s about time, Pearl. “The sharpest weapon is the mind,” says Holo-Pearl, and Pearl and Steven nod their agreement.
Pearl sets up a race where the two have to do laps and give Holo-Pearl a high five. At first, Steven and Amethyst are even, but Steven pulls ahead, winning easily. Amethyst, irritated, leaves him hanging when he goes for a high five.
Pearl comments to Amethyst that she must be going easy on him to build his confidence, and she pretends like she is.
The next challenge is to dodge the Holo-Pearls shooting at them. Amethyst dodges a shot, but then sees Steven bouncing through multiple shots and tossing his shield to take out a Holo-Pearl. “Don’t go too easy on him,” Pearl says to Amethyst, angering her.
The last challenge is to be attacked by five Holo-Pearls. Amethyst ignores everything else to go chasing down one of them. “Stop moving so I can win!” she screams, even though the Holo-Pearl is barely putting up a fight at all.
When she finally defeats it, she turns to see Steven surrounded by the other four. He suddenly enlarges his shield, knocking the Holo-Pearls away, and then throws his shield to defeat them all.
Pearl congratulates Steven on winning all three Pearl Points, and tells him to pick a prize from the Prize Pouch. Steven’s happiness deflates when he notices how defeated Amethyst looks.
Back at the house, Steven is playing Lonely Blade, a classic 2D fighter. Here we have Lonely Blade vs. Outgoing Fist. He defeats Outgoing Fist easily by cheesing Lonely Blade’s Boomerang Blade move.
We see that Steven chose a jester’s hat from the Pearl Prize Pouch. He’s playing on an Indigo Gamecube, showing that he has excellent taste in gaming consoles.
Meanwhile, Amethyst is down in the kitchen, eating an entire jar of mayonnaise, like you do. Steven offers to play games with her, and she accepts.
Steven suggests that Amethyst use Lonely Blade’s new costume, Blue Lonely Blade, so that they’re playing a mirror match. When they start, Steven blatantly misses with the Boomerang Blade move he was doing perfectly before, and barely attacks while Amethyst whales on him.
Amethyst gets mad at Steven for letting her win. Steven apologizes and says he just wanted to make her feel better.
“Great, and now you’re even more mature than me!… You’re supposed to be the rookie, but now you’re better than me in everything. Now I’m the worst Crystal Gem.”
I love Steven and Amethyst’s wholesome sibling relationship here. Amethyst was originally used to being the youngest of the Gems, back when Rose was here. After Steven was born, she’s been struggling in her new role helping to take care of Steven. Now, even that is slowly going away, as Steven is – at least in her own perception – passing her up in many ways. It feeds into her insecurities of not knowing who or what she’s supposed to be: she can’t fill the original role Homeworld had in mind for her, like Jasper does, and now she feels she can’t fulfill her role in the Crystal Gems, either.
In a rare instance of Steven getting mad at Amethyst, he’s not too happy about the “worst Crystal Gem” thing. “I thought you guys wanted me to be strong, and now I am, and you’re mad at me?”
“No! I get mad at myself! That’s the thing I do. I get mad at myself and then it makes me suck at everything I do even more.”
Considering Amethyst just complained about her own maturity, this level of self-reflection and being able to recognize a major unhealthy pattern of hers is actually fairly mature. She’s come a very long way from angrily claiming that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks in Tiger Millionaire.
Steven tries to reassure her about all the cool things she can do, but they end up arguing over who is the worst Crystal Gem. Steven cites Amethyst’s two whips and her spindash, and Amethyst cites Rose’s shield, his bubble, and his ability to float. Steven admits that he forgets that he even has the floating ability and that his powers still don’t work reliably.
In order to determine who is the worst Crystal Gem, they decide to fight, and I love these two siblings.
The two head to the Sky Arena so that they can fight about who is the worst at fighting, trash talking each other – or trash talking themselves, I suppose. I love how this is the reverse from how this conflict almost always goes, with the two insecure characters battling it out to see who is the best.
Amethyst’s ponytail hairstyle is my favorite of hers. Look how cute she is!
They “fight.” Amethyst zips around Steven in her spindash form, tying him up in her whips, and then sends fire down the whips. It’s worth noting that she’s already being more creative in her fake fight with Steven than she was in her real fight with Jasper. It seems like being around Jasper makes Amethyst subconsciously put herself into a box about what she’s supposed to be, and causes her to forget her strengths.
Steven evades the attack by bubbling himself, and then turns the bubble into a spiked bubble, a new ability. Amethyst angrily yells at him that it’s awesome, and I love her delivery here and how she’s being supportive of Steven even when they’re literally fighting.
One of the columns nearly comes crashing down on Amethyst, but Steven saves her in time by hitting it with his shield. She yells at him not to save her, but is cut off when the shield boomerangs back and beans her in the head.
This episode is closely tied to Tiger Millionaire, another episode about Amethyst’s insecurities, so fittingly, she shapeshifts into the Purple Puma. Shapeshifting is also one of Amethyst’s usual go-to moves in a fight that she conspicuously didn’t use against Jasper.
The way Amethyst relieves her emotions by fighting, even taking on a sort of heel persona against Steven here, is very much like what she did in Tiger Millionaire, except that this time she has significantly more self-awareness about it.
Steven floats away from her, smugly noting that he remembered to do it.
Steven begins to float away, out of control, and Amethyst snags him with her whip, then pulls him down roughly into the arena floor. When she goes to look at the hole formed in the arena, Steven surprises her by chucking a rock at her.
“See?! I dropped you from the sky but you almost just won using a rock! If I can’t beat you, I’m never gonna beat Jasper!”
Part of the issue here is that Amethyst is determined to fight Jasper herself, as she did in Crack the Whip. When she ultimately does beat Jasper, it’s because she fused with Steven. The solution all along was to fight her together.
Steven and Amethyst try to lift rocks to throw at each other, but they’re both too exhausted. They dramatically aim to punch each other, but then both miss and fall over.
The two fall over on the floor, laughing. Amethyst finally opens up about what’s really bothering her. “I’m not supposed to be small. And everyone’s always acting like there’s no problem. ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ No, I can’t! I can’t even be the one thing I’m supposed to be, you know?”
This is a deeply relatable feeling. Particularly when you’re a child, people will tell you that you can be anything you want, but that’s simply not realistic for a lot of kids. Most people don’t end up being exactly what they want to be, and a lot of kids face some pretty harsh limitations. Telling them they can be anything can be more cruel than kind. Here, for example, Amethyst is correct that she’ll never be as large as Jasper, and that’s simply something that cannot be changed.
To me, I think the real point is not that you can be anything you want to be. It’s that anyone, no matter what their limitations, can find something worthwhile that makes them happy. It just might not be what they expected.
I wonder if this advice, ‘you can be anything you want to be,’ was another thing that Rose told her, like ‘you’re perfect the way you are.’ Both are well-meaning on the surface, but one doesn’t really encourage personal growth, and the other has an unrealistic view of what personal growth can achieve. It makes sense that Rose, for all her admiration of humans, never fully understood the ideas of growing and changing, and so was not actually able to help Amethyst through this problem.
And the fact that Amethyst here laments that she can’t be what she’s “supposed” to be – where what she’s “supposed” to be is an arbitrary standard set by a fascist society – rings true for a lot of people who don’t fit into society’s narrow molds. I’ve felt this a lot with some of my life decisions that don’t fit the standard mold of how you’re “supposed” to live.
Steven can relate, because, as he says, “I’m not Rose Quartz.” He admits that’s why he’s been working so hard. The fact that he admits this out loud also shows growth on his part. It’s also the first time he’s called her “Rose Quartz” instead of “Mom.” Steven is right that he’s a lot like Amethyst in this sense. They both have impossible ideals to live up to, that they’re not even sure they really want.
In time, Steven will be happy that he isn’t Rose Quartz, as he learns of her many mistakes and becomes responsible for righting them.
I think Steven can be more honest with Amethyst about this than he could with Pearl or Garnet, because Amethyst doesn’t put Rose on a pedestal in quite the same way the other two do. She never saw Rose being the symbol of the rebellion and a war hero herself. For example, I don’t think Pearl is ready to hear this from Steven.
Amethyst immediately feels bad for Steven. She’s an empathetic Gem, even if she doesn’t fully realize that about herself. Out of all the Gems, she’s the one who seems most attuned to Steven’s problems, and I think hearing this from Steven is part of that.
In What’s Your Problem, Amethyst has to force Steven to discuss his feelings about Rose, for example.
Amethyst tells him his hard work has been paying off. He stands up and reaches out a hand to her, which she pretends to miss before taking it.
Just at that moment, Pearl enters, screaming about how they’ve ruined the ruins.
This is a very enjoyable episode. I love Steven and Amethyst’s wholesome sibling-like relationship, and it’s in full force here, particularly with their idea to fight about who is worst. Their fight, with its goofy “trash talking,” is also a ton of fun.
Next time on Steven Universe Rewind! Oh no, we’re already up to Bismuth? The first half-hour episode, which is also full of heavy themes and contentious discourse, along with a character I really like? Looks like I’d better get to work…