Steven Universe: Joking Victim   Rewatch 
January 28, 2015 2:40 AM - Season 1, Episode 21 - Subscribe

Steven fills in for Lars at Big Donut, but when they find out he was faking injury, Sadie plans REVENGE.
posted by JHarris (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've only got one of these posts left to do and we're all caught up! It'll be nice to get back to my regular FanFare beat again.
  • These have been increasing in number, but... this is another of my favorite episodes. There's little in this episode that's essential to understanding the Gems or Steven, but I love Lars and Sadie. There's also a lot of comedy here, including the best parody of stupid service industry trainee videos I've ever seen. I really hope these little funny pieces aren't lost as the weight of backstory increases over the upcoming shows.
  • The only Gems in this episode are Steven and Amethyst; Pearl and Garnet are off doing something-or-other. Still I wouldn't call it an "Amethyst episode," except how she instigates things.
  • The source of the Fire Salt is left unsaid. Presumably it was something Amethyst had in the junkpile of her room. It's in a test tube though. Maybe it was swiped from Pearl?
  • This is a great episode for cartoony expressions. That first one from Steven after eating the fries is only the beginning.
  • Lars: "Steven! Who do you think has to clean up this mess? Sadie, clean up this mess." Sadie: "No way, it's your turn! I clean the last five Stevens!" This is part of the basis for my comment, last time, of Steven having a kind of reputation for weirdness. Anyway, Lars and Sadie seem to be of equal authority in the pecking order of Big Donut here, but later....
  • "You're the best Player Two!" As a long-time video game player, I find that a charming nickname, although I can also think it'd be nice if Sadie could learn to consider herself Player One.
  • Sadie: "I can't run this place by myself!" So it needs two to run? Does anyone else work at Big Donut? They've got to have other staffers, right? We see Sadie off-duty later in Watermelon Stevens, and she leaves the store to bring Lars doughnuts. We never see anyone else working there though.
  • Steven drops a huge pile of napkins on the spill: "I can help!" Kid, she's got a mop.
  • Look, I hate ubiquitous corporate logos and branding more than the average human, but I find something sweetly symbolic about Steven's Gem star shirt being covered up by the Big Donut logo.
  • "I hereby deputize you as Lars for the day!" But is he getting paid for this? What about child labor laws? OH OKAY ILL SHUT UP NOW.
  • "Now, it's time I showed you: the employee room." Steven's reaction is possibly my favorite line of dialog from the whole run of the show so far, even more than I CAN'T LOOK AWAY from Cat Fingers: "WOOAAHH! This is the most magical place I've ever seen!" Trap labyrinth? Crystal Gem temple? Undersea training cave? Rose's freaking Room itself? The ocean floor, little Beetle bedroom, strange wild places, Gem ruins? Naah, Steven prefers the back room of a offbrand Dunkin Donuts. That's just the kind of kid he is. I love everything about the following sequence with an unreasonable passion: the timing, the direction, the writing, Steven's enthusiasm, and especially Sadie's role as mentor passing on the wisdom of Big Donut. I'm letting you know here that, if I let myself, I'll transcript the whole employee room section, so instead I'm just going to effuse about it in this item and save some upcoming verbiage. It was written and storyboarded by Raven M. Molisse and Paul Villeco, who also did Coach Steven. Great job, guys!
  • Of note: the Tiger Millionaire poster that Steven made can be seen on the wall in the break room. Since Steven seems to have not seen this place before (I guess the simulacrum in Rose's Room doesn't count), we must assume that Lars put it up in here.
  • Sa: "Sometimes I sleep on the napkins when I get tired." St: "Is that why they're called... napkins?" Sa: "Not really, no. Good joke though." Sadie tousles Steven's hair, highlighting an odd fact: because of her cartoon stylization, she's only like a couple of inches taller than him.
  • Sa: "On breaks we chill out here. We can even watch TV!" Quietly, as if she might be overheard: "Sometimes, Lars will cover for me so I can watch Canine Court!" Steven pantomimes zipping his mouth shut. If you're wondering what Canine Court is, well, keep watching.
  • St: "You mean you don't make (the doughnuts) here?" Sa: "No, not since..." (screen scrolls over showing ominous person-shaped burn marks on the wall) "...THE ACCIDENT." OMG THAT MUST BE WHAT HAPPENED TO DUNKIN'S "TIME TO MAKE THE DOUGHNUTS" GUY! Why isn't Ronaldo investigating THIS?
  • Sa: "Now Steven, this job is a big responsibility, so you're going to have to watch--" (reveal!) "--THIS videotape!" Well there is one slightly important thing about this episode, it establishes why Steven ran to Big Donut to watch Rose's videotape in Lion 3.
  • And now, the highlight of the episode: THE BIG DONUT TRAINING TAPE. I said before it's an amazing parody, a parody of tapes like this one from Wendy's. And guess what? The voice of Harold Smiley, former actor and R&B singer? It's former Star Search winner and Arnold Schwarzenegger antagonist, Sinbad! This is by far my favorite thing he's done. We get a little more out of Sinbad later on, too.
  • The other great thing about the training tape is Sadie's expression as it runs on, and on. I said it's a great episode for cartoony faces, and she's got a good one at the end of the song.
  • And now, back to my usual obsessive deduction of the smallest detail of Steven Universe's backstory. Sa: "It started out as just a summer job, but that was two summers ago." I said in a previous geeklist that we don't know if Sadie and/or Lars attend high school. I have assumed they're in their late teens, which would fit with Lars's desire for approval from the cool kids. It seems likely that Lars still lives at home (else there wouldn't be "Lars's room"), and we're pretty sure that Sadie does too (her mom still makes her lunches, see Lion 3).
  • In the shot where Mr. Fryman walks away from the counter with Peedee on his shoulder, there was written an exchange between Peedee and Steven, which would have been great considering how little Peedee's been given to do in the first season, but had to be deleted for time constraints. Here's the sequence up on Steven Crewniverse. Peedee: "Someone gave you a job!?" I really wish they could have found a way to keep it, I think it's just as funny as the rest of the episode. The scripted bit does imply that Peedee's mother is still alive (and something about her personality, too), so that's one less single parent among the citizenry of Beach City.
  • Sa: "Maybe I should phone up Lars and tell him to stay home because I found his replacement!" St (star-eyed): "Really???" Sa: "Oh? No! That was a joke!" Steven's impulsiveness is adorable: he'd cheerfully toss out saving the world and his Magical Destiny because he loves working a part-time donut shop job!
  • St: "I know we both love Lars...." SADIE'S FACE RIGHT HERE, all because of an innocent comment from Steven. Oh no, the girl's got it bad....
  • "...but this job's the best thing that's ever happened to me and we should fire Lars!" If Sadie could do that, that means she's more like a manager than just a counter worker. It's interesting to see Steven turn against Lars here, enough that Sadie defends the big shmo, to Steven. Sadie's sure there's some good in there.
  • Sa: "There was this time when the new Army Of War game was coming out? And Lars was banned from the only place selling it!" I remember reading somewhere (it might have been Rebecca Sugar's AMA) that this is established continuity, Lars was thrown out of a game store for some reason in the past. I wonder what happened?
  • Sa: "And when I got to his house, I saw that he cleaned up his room a little!" Sadie sounds like more of a good friend to Lars at this point, from outside of work, if she's seen the inside of his room enough to tell. "He let me be his 'player two,' and we spent the whole night together." Take a moment and think if you've ever seen such a sweetly romantic moment anywhere else on the Cartoon Network.
  • On the trampoline (note for the Lars file: he has a trampoline) Lars is jumping with the "cool kids," Jenny Pizza, Sour Cream and Buck Dewey. Apparently Lars finally connected with them after the trip to Dead Man's Mouth.
  • Usually when we see Lars out of uniform he's wearing a shirt with a snake on it, but this time it's a scorpion.
  • Sour Cream is jumping pretty high on the trampoline, all the way out of frame.
  • Lars has a good face when Jenny bumps into him. But the best faces of all this episode are right when Sadie realizes Lars had been lying to her. I still can't see them without feeling a pang. That's good cartooning. The voice acting here is effective too. Sadie's voice actor is Kate Micucci.
  • Sa: "Just once I'd like to burn him back!" St: "I know how to burn people!" Audience: "Uh-oh...."
  • On Canine Court, just in case you're wondering. This episode was first aired in August 2014, and was produced many months earlier. The famous (and hilarious) "Real Animals Fake Paws" segments that the comedy news program Last Week Tonight made of dogs dressed up as Supreme Court justices was aired in October of that year. So, there's no way that Canine Court could be seen as a reference to Last Week Tonight's footage -- although it is possible that LWT is referencing Steven Universe. You never know with those guys, they're pretty sharp.
  • I guess Steven borrowed the Fire Salt from Amethyst. "Burn! Burn people!" Wow, he's really excited about that, the budding arsonist. BTW, it's a little hard to make out here, but while watching Canine Court Sadie was consoling herself with a bag of oyster crackers.
  • Sa: "But what kind of person does that make you if you try to hurt him back?" St: "A.... hero?" Steven's moral calculus seems a little off-kilter here maybe, but he's so enthusiastic about his prank.
  • St (at first in shock as Sadie piles on the Fire Salt): "Sadie!... this is going to be so funny!" A drumroll, please.
  • Watch carefully the shot where Lars says "Where you at? Are you slacking off?" Lars walks to the side to reveal Sadie already standing behind him, quietly seething, holding the boobytrapped doughnut. Interestingly though, at the beginning of that shot, there are a couple of frames you can pause on that show that Sadie was standing there throughout the shot, even though most of it Lars was blocking out sight of her. Funnily enough, she was standing right in front of where Lars was facing when he asked where she was. Amount I care about this: an absurdly large amount. Amount you care: Less than zero.
  • All of this is great too, the build up, Lars's cluelessness, Sadie's grim expression, Steven barely holding it together. We see it coming, the train is plainly visible hurtling closer and Lars is standing right there on the track....
  • A note about the following scenes. In cartoons, it's not uncommon for a character who has just eaten something extremely hot to react in all sorts of comical ways, with fire shooting out his mouth, steam coming out the nose and ears, all the usual toon signs of capsaicin distress. The problem the storyboarders of Steven Universe faced is: the viewer is already expecting a reaction like Lars's, to symbolize his pain. But it's important to the story that the viewer knows he's actually breathing fire, it's not just a funny take effect, it's real flames. The animation communicates this with: Sadie and Steven's reactions (takes don't usually provoke reactions from other characters), objects nearby actually catching fire, the color scheme of the scene changes to a red palette, Sadie runs to the fire extinguisher, the cup Steven hands Lars melts from the heat, and so on. The point: in cartoons, takes usually don't affect the character's surroundings, but this does.
  • St: "I know how to fix this! We just need to get Lars to calm down!" Do you now? Well, he does later, but there's really no sign Steven knows a way to quell Lars's burning guts before then. - And now, a moment with Mayor Dewey. "The largest bowl of ice cream in Beach County!" So, Beach City resides in Beach County. Also, Dewey is flanked by sunglasses-wearing men in suits. How does a mayor rate such protection? Where was I? Oh yes, FLAMING LARS ATTACK.
  • Oh, it's Amethyst! Hi Amethyst, hey aren't you one of those "jewel" people, or something, that this show was supposed to be about?
  • It's hard to hear what Lars is saying to Steven, since it's accompanied by gouts of flame. It's this: "YOU" "DID" "THIS" "TO ME?!"
  • Really saving the day this time? THE MUSICAL STYLINGS OF SINBAD HAROLD SMILEY.
  • The moral of the episode that we can expect an impressionable young Gem to take from all this? THE PURPLE PERSON IS NOT A ROLE MODEL.

posted by JHarris at 3:09 AM on January 28, 2015

This episode, along with Island Adventure, really makes me think Sadie can do a lot better than Lars. I can sorta see what she sees in him, but it seems like her mentality is she can fix him, which is a horrible basis for a relationship.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:02 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Maybe. I kind of like Lars, but I think he has a lot of things to work through. And Sadie's so awesome -- so far she's the only non-Gem to defeat a Gem monster pretty much entirely by herself. (FISH MURDERING 70%)
posted by JHarris at 5:35 PM on January 28, 2015

I think Sadie and Lars both have a lot of growing up to do. I think they're both still in school (or maybe community college) but work the rest of the time.

But is he getting paid for this? What about child labor laws?

My impression is that the people of Beach City don't really regard Steven as a proper kid. Like, he behaves like a kid, so they react to him as a kid, but they know that he's actually a Gem, so the same sort of hands-off, "They're Gems, we're humans" attitude applies to him, too.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:04 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

JHarris: "Usually when we see Lars out of uniform he's wearing a shirt with a snake on it, but this time it's a scorpion. "

Replies the scorpion: "It is my nature..."
posted by RobotHero at 3:39 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sadie sounds like more of a good friend to Lars at this point, from outside of work, if she's seen the inside of his room enough to tell. "He let me be his 'player two,' and we spent the whole night together."

After that, when Steven says "That must’ve been one great video game," Sadie's expression looked really evasive to me when she said, "Yeah, it was." I thought the implication was that there might have been a little more going on that night than just playing video games.
posted by webmutant at 11:16 AM on January 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been replying to most of these posts in roughly reverse chronological order (because phone), but reading/thinking about this one compelled me to fire up the laptop. This really is a "big" episode to me, unveiling not the show's mythology but the life of Steven's friends/contemporaries. Something I love about these detailed summaries is how they remind me of very specific details of what went on, however I do think that SU (so far) does an admirable job of differentiating episodes, such that a binge watch doesn't result in them all running together in the way I've found other episodic series to. Regardless, I'll give credit 50/50 writers/JHarris so as not to seem churlish!

The plot to this episode is so generic! It's a credit to the writing/characterisation/performances that it works so well. One of the nice touches alluded to above is how the different characters wear their uniform tees over their regular clothes, such that they all retain a certain individuality. That "last five Stevens" line tickled me too.

The thing that really needs unpacking (and by someone with better chops than I) is the whole Sadie-as-Player-Two concept. It neatly encapsulates how Lars seems to see her as a supporting character to his lead, but that's not what Player Two really is! On simultaneous play games like TeensStreets Of Rage, Player Two is the differentiated character, the one with the cool, unfamiliar special attack. Else they're the Luigi/Tails. Or the person who streetfights facing left. Particularly on games which you've repeatedly soloed (and loved) to death the second player experience is often the final frontier, the last place where a games' undiscovered quirks, features, depth and character lurk.

In short, Sadie is totally Player Two.
posted by comealongpole at 7:00 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

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