‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episodes 17-18: ‘Gem Hunt’ and ‘Crack the Whip’
Welcome to Together Breakfast, the feature where Elle Collins and Katie Schenkel come together to dig in and relish every last drop of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe. With the current nightly summer schedule, we’re going to be doing a couple of these a week, and two to three episodes per column. It may be hectic, but hopefully you’ll keep up with us as we dive headlong into the world of the Crystal Gems.
This time around Connie goes on her first official mission, Amethyst offers some combat advice, and a villain we guessed would return soon returns twice. Gem Hunt was written by Colin Howard and Jeff Liu, and directed by Joe Johnston and Jasmin Lai. Crack the Whip was written by Raven M. Molisee and Paul Villeco, and directed by Kat Morris and Jasmin Lai.
Due to a scheduling problem, we weren’t able to watch last night’s episode in time to discuss it today, but we’ll catch up with it in Monday’s recap.
Elle: First of all, these are some good Connie episodes. Other than Beach City Drift, which was really mostly Stevonnie, this season has been light on Connie so far. It’s great to see her back, and following up on her sword training.
Katie: I don’t know if we’ve talked yet about how much I love and relate to Connie. I’m not exactly as Type A as her, but I worked really hard in school and read fantasy novels and always worried anyone who was hanging out with me didn’t want to really hang out with me. So for Connie to not only stay around as Steven’s best non-related human friend but to come into her own as a hero (I wanted to learn swordfighting in school, too!) and more or less an honorary Crystal Gem makes me very happy. And as such any episode with Connie makes me happy for that reason.
Elle: I don’t think we have talked about that, but I can’t say it surprises me that you would identify with her. Connie is such a fully realized character, and a pitch perfect portrayal of a sort of little girl that we rarely see on television, and especially in cartoons. And her friendship with Steven is just wonderful. In short, she’s just another example of how great this show is.
I also love that, following the events of Nightmare Hospital, her parents are now fully on board with Connie taking part in missions and wielding a sword. And it’s even better that they asked for photos of her first mission.
Katie: I have the feeling that Connie’s mom, very nervous about sending her daughter off like this but not wanting to seem unsupportive after their breakthrough, says, “Take plenty of pictures, I guess,” because she’s not sure what to say. And then Steven is like, “Oh oh, I can totally do that for you, Connie’s mom! You can count on me!” That’s my headcanon anyway.
But it does show her parents loosening up, and so is Pearl apparently, since she gets into posing silly with Connie and is actually cracking jokes on a mission. Which in and of itself shows just how much Steven’s influence has helped her, how much she’s grown since the first season.
Elle: I love seeing not just how much Pearl has grown, but how good she seems to be doing emotionally. She gets a little insecure when Steven and Connie aren’t answering on their walkie talkie, but she’s doing a lot better than she was last season.
The other thing that I love in this episode is the revelation of Connie’s wilderness skills. She’s a bit of a survivalist, apparently, and has a used copy of a book called How to Survive: The Punishment of Nature, which is seriously a fantastic title.
Katie: The "Used" sticker on the book (and the scanning sticker on the spine) was such a nice touch. I’m imagining Connie starting to learn about survival skills in the last year or so as things with Steven and the Gems got more dangerous, which is a really cute image in my head.
But I will say that for someone who both read a survival guide and who watches television, for Connie to suggest they split up had me shaking my head. It’s the trope of bad mistakes when you’re out in the wild, especially when monsters are involved!
Elle: Speaking of tropes, I love the bit when Connie says, “Unless it’s just some guy in a monster suit, but that kind of thing only happens in cartoons, usually over a property dispute.” Connie has clearly been watching Scooby Doo. Which probably explains why she thinks splitting up is okay. They always split up on that show, and end up just fine, aside from Shaggy and Scooby getting scared and Velma losing her glasses for a minute.
But anyway, it’s not a guy in a monster suit. It’s Jasper again, who is apparently on her own hunt for corrupted Gems.
Katie: I can’t believe that just last Together Breakfast you pointed out how Jasper keeps coming back again and again (and I even ended with “I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her”) and here she is, in both of the episode we’re talking about today!
I was really impressed by how the writers set up the surprise, especially since it’s been so soon since Jasper showed up. But putting in Steven’s idea that the gem monsters are shifting to humanoid like Centipeedle so recently after that episode make it seem likely... but no, the footprints are Jasper's, and she’s being terrible again after Lapis’ rejection.
Elle: It was a perfect red herring and twist, and I loved how quickly Jasper enters the frame when she attacks the monster.
For a second it looks like she’s saving Connie and Steven, but of course she’s just doing her own nefarious thing. And then she walks off into the snow, which enables this episode to have a happy ending, but like you said, she’s not gone for long.
Katie: The way Jasper smirks and holds up the Gems before she leaves... sure it’s technically a happy ending, but the lack of a real resolution puts your nerves on edge.
That being said, the way Pearl reacted to the mission again showed how she’s gotten better at being a mentor. She doesn’t just focus on the negative of Jasper being back, but makes sure to praise Connie for doing exactly what she instructed. That’s huge for her.
Elle: Oh totally. But you’re right, the question of what Jasper’s up to still lingers at the end. And it definitely stays relevant throughout the next episode, Crack the Whip, which starts with Pearl and Garnet leaving to look for Jasper, which means Pearl has to call off Connie’s training session and leave her and Steven under the apathetic guardianship of Amethyst.
Katie: So I’ve been rewatching a lot of episodes thanks to Cartoon Network doing lots of mini marathons of the show during the day, and the first half of Crack the Whip felt very much like the early, early episodes of the show. Steven going out to the boardwalk and causing minor mischief, plus Amethyst encouraging him to goof off, was such a big focus in season one.
Elle: I agree, but we soon catch right back up to the previous episode, when the same monsters emerge from the ocean, accompanied by Jasper. I know a lot of fans have speculated on a connection between Amethyst and Jasper, and this episode confirms it. They’re both quartz soldiers, except that Amethyst is smaller than most, and as she says, she’s got other stuff going on besides fighting.
Katie: I feel like the animators made a point of having Amethyst’s hair look the most like Jasper’s that it’s ever been in this. The resemblance between the two when they’re right next to each other is uncanny.
This episode brings to light just another way Jasper finds “Rose’s army” detestable --- that she’d keep around a faulty quartz soldier. The exchange, “Rose said I’m perfect the way I’m am.” / “Then she had low standards.” is just brutal. And then, as she’s decimating Amethyst, she reveals that she thinks Rose deserved a soldier like herself and instead got an embarrassment.
Elle: Jasper really destroys Amethyst in two ways at once, shattering her emotionally even as she wins the fight and destroys her physically body. Even though Amethyst reforms in time for the end of the episode, she’s clearly far from okay, and I’m worried about what this means for her going forward. But still, it’s a good thing Stevonnie was there.
Katie: Jumping a bit to the end of the episode when Amethyst comes to the conclusion that Connie and Steven didn’t need her, it’s especially heartbreaking because she doesn’t even realize what an impact she has on them.
For one, she spent the whole day helping them relax and find their center, ultimately giving them what they needed to find focus in the fight. For another, the whole reason they turned into Stevonnie was to come to her aid --- they were inspired by her to go protect her. I totally get why Amethyst doesn’t see it in the moment, but I was shouting at my television as the episode ended that she didn’t understaaaand.
But that aside, oh my gosh yes, the Stevonnie scene was absolutely incredible. Getting to see her use both Connie’s sword and Steven’s shield at the same time is the stuff of fandom’s dreams. I can’t decide what I liked more - the way Lion stands side by side with them, the way Stevonnie’s hair so elegantly flutters as they stand triumphant over Jasper, or the fact that their battle taunt is, “I don’t want to hear anything you say... unless it’s sorry.”
Elle: My favorite was Stevonnie on Lion and Jasper on the monster, riding directly toward each other, almost like a joust. And considering all Steven could think to do when Jasper showed up last episode was to put a bubble around himself and Connie, it was awesome to see them beat her together this time around. Of course this just increases Jasper’s very obviously unhealthy obsession with fusion, which is definitely leading nowhere good.
So once again, Jasper escapes to come back and be terrible another day. But the much more pressing concern of the moment is Amethyst, who like you say clearly isn’t aware of how important she is, or how loved.
Katie: What also concerns me are the notable details in her reform and her new look. Her transformation into humanoid again looked almost painful, with her gripping the ground and a jagged burst of form before stabilizing. She now has frazzled hair and a torn up shirt, too. It really feels like she’s gone through some trauma this episode. And since I’ve heard through the grapevine that the next episode is another big Amethyst one, it looks like we might see her dealing with it head on sooner than later.
Elle: It’s too bad we couldn’t make it to that episode today, but I’m excited to reconvene and talk about it on Monday. I love Amethyst a lot, and I want her to be okay. But I also know that the heaviest episodes of this show are often the most rewarding.
Katie: And on top of that, next Together Breakfast we’re finally getting to Bismuth’s arrival! I’m excited. And nervous for what that means. But excited.
Elle: Amethyst drama! Bismuth’s arrival! Excitement!