Steven Universe: Coach Steven   Rewatch 
January 26, 2015 1:32 AM - Season 1, Episode 20 - Subscribe

On a mission, Garnet and Amethyst fuse to form Sugilite, a tremendous brute with an unstable personality.
posted by JHarris (10 comments total)
  • This is a terrific episode generally, even if the ending feels a little pat (there's not a whole lot of room for subtlety in a 11 minute episode). It speaks to the strengths of the show that it can still be great even when a bit rushed in its storytelling.
  • We meet another Gem fusion, Sugilite, which is Garnet+Amethyst. The setup for their merging is kind of weird, and it's the first time we actually see a merge happen. Amethyst is shown being really excited over it. I mean, really excited, Steven-like levels of excitement. Pearl seems dejected that Garnet chooses Amethyst over her. (As of ep. 38, Pearl+Garnet is the only fusion among the elder Gems we haven't seen.) And while Garnet and Amethyst dance to prepare to merge, Pearl hides Steven's eyes for a bit, while she blushes. (Point of note: Pearl's by far the most ready Gem to blush, and its color is green-blue.) Gems seem to enjoy it, but they also seem to have taboos set up around it, to do it only in emergencies, possibly because of the danger to one's individuality. But on that "life-threatening emergency" limitation? As of E38 we've seen four fusions, and only one has been really life-threatening. One is this one, one was an accident, and one was a dinner party.
  • When they do merge, we see for a moment that three gems are involved in the process -- remember, Garnet has two. This is another hint that Garnet might be a long-lived fusion.
  • From a character standpoint, this is another good Pearl story. She might be an ancient, ageless warrior-construct of a powerful gemstone artifact, possibly originating on an alien world out among the stars, but she's also really vulnerable. One gets the sense that her bickering with Amethyst is due to deep-seated insecurity. Why have the writers focused on Pearl so much in the early episodes? My guess: she's pretty easy to write for, as she's the most relateable. Garnet has lots of story potential in her, what with all the foreshadowing they've done with her two gems and three eyes, but it seems they're saving that for later. Amethyst has story potential in how she's the Gem most interested in the human world (her "room" is filled with human junk and she's sometimes just hanging out in Beach City), but then, there's Steven for those stories, and his name's in the title.
  • Amethyst, to an unreasonably happy Pearl: "Ugh. I hate it when you're right. You get this look on your face... yeah, that's the one." It's a good face too. That's some concentrated smug right there.
  • G: "We don't need to be careful, we just need to be huge!" This brings up an interesting question: why do the Gems want to destroy this place rather than fix it? A broadcast tower seems fairly useful, but considering what we learn later about the CG's trying to lay low on Earth, it's understandable that they'd rather do without it.
  • When Sugilite starts wrecking the pillars, a huge chunk of masonry nearly hits Pearl and Steven, but Pearl knocks it away with a kick. Even the supposedly-weakest of the Gems is pretty bad ass.
  • Back to Big Donut. I think it's my favorite place in the show. I wonder who owns it? Who the manager is? We'll examine it more in the next episode. But for a couple of minutes, the show features only three normal people. Well, two normal people, and one who can usually pass for normal.
  • Where'd Steven get the glasses from? They look a bit like Garnet's.
  • Steven tells Lars and Sadie his bandage is "battle damage from his last mission." The question rises again: how much do Beach City citizens know about the Gems? How much do Lars and Sadie? There is reason to believe that Steven has a bit of a reputation as a focus of weirdness, even at this point. In the first episode Lars speaks derisively of Steven's "magic bellybutton," but Cat Fingers must have been pretty conclusive proof that something's up with him. Sadie is more positively interested. This scene establishes that the two of them know of the Gems' missions, and that Steven sometimes joins them now. They have the standard Beach City response to this kind of thing: so long as it doesn't explode, we don't mind too much. Notably, though, whenever Mayor Dewey shows up he calls Steven "the car wash kid," implying that he knows less about it.
  • Lars seems less antagonistic to Steven here than he was earlier, possibly the events of Lars and the Cool Kids warmed the waters between them a little.
  • It's hard to tell what's in the jar Lars is opening. A page of prop designs up at Steven Crewniverse reveals: it's herring. I guess Lars actually does have some Scandinavian blood in him?
  • Sadie and Lars are a great double act. "Let's work out! Sadie, you can beat up Lars, and Lars, you won't starve to death if Sadie divorces you!"
  • There is also some Greg in this episode. Pearl and Greg seem at least to know each other fairly well.
  • S: "C'mon Pearl! Let's get beefy!" P: "I'd rather not." Would it even work that way for Gems? Could one shapeshift into a stronger form? I suppose there are limits to that. If a Gem's body is illusory, maybe their physical strength has to do with the amount of force projecting power a Gem can generate?
  • Lars: "We've been working out! You've just been singing some dumb song!"
  • It seems clear in retrospect that, when we see the sun on the water, it's sunrise on the next day. A little thought confirms this: Beach City is in Delmarva, which is on the East Coast, so the sun would come up over the ocean. It had me confused the first time I saw the episode though.
  • Sugilite comes in with the sun behind her, so whatever site the Gems were at it's probably on an island off the eastern Delmarva Peninsula coast. (BTW, I do not suggest editing that Wikipedia page to add Beach City to its list of towns. No matter how tempting it is.)
  • FIGHT ON THE BEACH, again! Let me count, up to this point (E38) there's been: the Centipeedle, the Worm, the Pufferfish, Sugilite and the Watermelon Stevens. They also zapped the Red Eye there, nullified the Sand Pillow, and first encountered Lapis Lazuli. On the boardwalk there's been Frybo and the drilling Starfish parasites. In Beach City proper there was Onion's incident with the replicator wand and the "Shooty Robot Thing."
  • Sugilite inflicts some pretty serious damage on the beach house/exterior of Steven's Room: broken windows, holes in the wall, the power meter is jarred loose, the door is off its hinge, and the stairs to the door are completely busted. This kind of damage is usually mysteriously repaired by the next episode... except when it isn't. (See beginning of The Test and compare to the events of Warp Tour.)
  • P: "You've been fused for too long. You're losing yourselves!" Sugilite: "I am myself, and I'm sick of being split up! So you'd better get used to me, baby!" Generally, this is the scene that establishes the dangerous side of fusing, that the personalities of the components are at least somewhat mixed together while fused, into a composite mind, and that the longer they're fused, the more combined they become. More specifically, it seems that Pearl and Sugilite have had problems together in the past.
  • Pearl knocks off Sugilite's sunglasses/visor/thingy, revealing five eyes: Amethyst's two plus Garnet's three. The two outer ones don't have pupils.
  • My least favorite part of this episode is how quickly Pearl goes from defeated to empowered. Steven's pep talk doesn't seem like it should be enough. After it, Pearl looks back for a moment at the Temple, which I've noted might represent a fusion of all the Crystal Gems. Maybe she finds inspiration in that. But the conclusion of the fight is pretty short too. My guess is they just ran out of episode time. Eleven minutes isn't a whole lot.
  • One more established rule to fusion. Substantial injury may not disincorporate fusions, but instead cause them to separate. If Garnet is a long-lived fusion, this might mean that she hasn't been seriously hurt in a long time.
  • Lars: "Uh, what the heck just happened?" Pearl is saying something behind the black screen at the end, something potentially spoilery but, like when Steven zones out in Frybo, we can't make it out.

posted by JHarris at 2:02 AM on January 26, 2015

S: "C'mon Pearl! Let's get beefy!" P: "I'd rather not." Would it even work that way for Gems? Could one shapeshift into a stronger form? I suppose there are limits to that. If a Gem's body is illusory, maybe their physical strength has to do with the amount of force projecting power a Gem can generate?

There have been time(s) that Amethyst shapeshifted to her wrestler form to administer a beatdown, but there's no indication that makes her stronger, it could be entirely cosmetic or it might be that shes's more used to kicking butt in that form.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:19 AM on January 26, 2015

I loved Nicki Minaj's voice as Sugilite. It was perfect for a combo of Amethyst and Garnet.

The "How to Be Strong" song is definitely one of the more theatrical songs in the series so far. I hope it comes back poignantly at some point in the future.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:59 AM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

All the fusion voices have been surprisingly apt. The highlight of all of those was Stevonnie, for whom I actually thought at first they had somehow combined the character actors' voices, like electronically, especially with how she veers back and forth between Steven and Connie vocal modes.
posted by JHarris at 5:22 PM on January 26, 2015

I am a minor rock nerd, so I'd like to point out that Sugilite is named after Kenichi Sugi who described the mineral in 1944, so kind of a weird name for a timeless immortal being. That being said, it's a bad idea to look too hard at how semi-precious gemstones are named and differentiated considering a lot of them are the same substance with different impurities in them. And heck, pearls come from organic creatures, so what would THAT mean?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:04 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sure I'll spend three paragraphs addressing an issue Mr. Encyclopedia himself dismissed, heh:

I've thought that too, about Pearl's name. But once you start talking about language when it comes to things, a surprisingly large number of sci-fi series and stories break down, far from just Steven Universe. The Gems have been alive for thousands of years, so their existence predates all gemstone names. And why did Peridot speak English? And why do the Crystal Gems seem so clueless about human culture when they've been here throughout the growth of our species? This isn't the end of the questions either.

From the second episode with the cavemen, Doctor Who's companions never encounter language difficulties. They've hand-waved that away when it's brought up in episodes ("It's a Time Lord gift I allow you to share") but phooey on that, no other Time Lord ability works that way, from mere presence, it works even when separated from the Doctor, even when the Doctor leaves a companion behind. It's just a convention that allows them to tell stories.

So it is with Gem names, it's just a convention so the story has understandable and comprehensible names, names that sing better in the opening than Zazifraz, Porpulorp and Drebnar. An argument could be made that this has a subtle effect on the viewer, of making foreign cultures seem less foreign. The gulf between cultures is vast even among humans, and so reduces the even-greater cultural distance between humans and Gems, which doesn't matter so much for the CGs having been here for so long, but for Peridot might be vast. But again, MST Mantra: "Repeat to yourself 'it's just a show, and I should really just relax.'" It's ultimately a kids show, and they could address the language issue but wouldn't get many scenario possibilities out of it relative to the increased difficulty in telling stories.
posted by JHarris at 1:17 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

why do the Crystal Gems seem so clueless about human culture when they've been here throughout the growth of our species?

You know, I think it's the same as how there can be a whole other culture in the place where you grew up, but because you weren't part of it, you don't know anything about it, and may be only vaguely aware that it's there.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Someone on Tumblr (Tumblr? and Steven Universe?? noooo) amplified and transcribed what Pearl says at the end before the iris out. She calls Sadie and Lars "Donut children."
posted by JHarris at 8:02 AM on June 17, 2015

The only thing better than the Gems getting their dance on in order to fuse is Pearl protecting Steven's eyes (and innocence).

Dancing is all about butts now, Steven!
posted by comealongpole at 6:01 PM on August 22, 2016

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