‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 12: ‘Gem Heist’
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. We’ve got a whole week’s worth of new episodes happening, and as usual we’re doing our best to stay on top of is. Hopefully you can keep up with us as we keep up with the show.
In this episode, the Crystal Gems are trying to rescue Greg, and to do that they have to pretend to be who and what they were made to be, even if they’re out of the habit. "Gem Heist" was written by Hilary Florido and Lauren Zuke, and directed by Kat Morris and Ricky Cometa.
Elle: This episode picks up right where the last one left off, with the Crystal Gems approaching the Human Zoo. Their ship is admitted to the docking bay, but there are two hulking Amethyst guards in front of the door, which requires some quick thinking.
Katie: It’s fascinating seeing Amethyst gems in Jasper’s size. I mean I know we saw our Amethyst pretend to be Jasper not that long ago, but seeing variations on Amethyst herself and how she was “supposed” to come out was one of the first interesting worldbuilding details from an episode with tons of interesting worldbuilding details.
Elle: You can tell Amethyst is unnerved by them, too. She’s the only one of the Gems who’s never met another Gem like herself, and to have to immediately pass herself off as one of them can’t make it any more comfortable. And she’s not the only one who has to take on a role. Garnet separates into Ruby and Sapphire, and I absolutely love how immediately after that Ruby tells everyone to hear Sapphire out. Ruby would already know the plan, of course, because Garnet thought of it.
Katie: I also love that uneven, not convincing smile Sapphire gives at the end of her plan when she says “Let’s go change the future!”
We’ve seen bits and pieces of information about the Gemworld hierarchy over the different seasons, but this might be our biggest look into what Gemworld gems are like interacting with each other. I think we both got used to the idea of Jasper being, while not part of the elites, fairly high up in rank in terms of soldiers within the Gemworld culture, but seeing other quartz soldiers put down by Holly Blue Agate gives us a whole new frame of reference.
Elle: We also see how high-ranking Sapphire once was by the deference Agate immediately shows her. This makes sense, considering that back in "The Answer" she was reporting directly to Blue Diamond. She’s also ranked highly enough to believably have her own Pearl, which I speculated just yesterday might be only a Diamond thing, but apparently not. Meanwhile Holly Blue Agate has a lot of opinions about proper Pearl behavior, but doesn’t appear to have a Pearl of her own.
Katie: Agate praising Sapphire’s patience with her faltering Pearl said a lot. Agate also seemed to legitimately not know how to speak human (I thought at first she was just being a condescending jerk, but that second time it seemed like she didn’t really know). I’m not sure that applies to most Homeworld gems --- Peridot and Blue Diamond both spoke to one of the Universes when they first came to Earth --- but it does show that for all her praising Blue Diamond’s compassion, Agate hasn’t bothered learning earth languages in her time on the zoo.
Elle: I wasn’t sure if it was actually a language thing or just that Agate considers humans so far beneath her that she doesn’t even hear words. But either way, the effect is the same. So Sapphire is pretending to bring Steven --- Esteban Universidad --- to the human zoo, but asks for a tour along the way. Amethyst has to stay in the bay with the other Amethysts, but eventually they reach a door that leads into the zoo. By that point, Ruby is steaming with anger about Agate’s attitude and praise for Blue Diamond, so when Steven says they need a distraction, the best she can do is yell, “Explosion!” I love Ruby, by the way.
Katie: Right before Ruby shouts explosion, Agate is in the middle of explaining they had only used the door once before, but didn’t get to elaborate. Since the writers so rarely let a detail like that be mentioned without it meaning something, I’m guessing we’re going to see that come into play down the line.
In any case, Sapphire convinces Agate to go with her back to the ship to stop it from exploding, and we get a cute gag where Sapphire tries to wink a hint at the others and the rest of her team doesn’t register it as a wink because… you know, one eye.
Elle: The scene after Sapphire and Agate leave might be my favorite in the episode. With Pearl accepting defeat at the hands of the keypad, Steven calling Pearl a hacker, and Ruby banging on the door and then immediately laying face down on the floor in despair. Basically I love all these characters so much that my favorite moments are always the ones in which they’re the most themselves.
Katie: Alas, not only do they not get the door open, but Agate is thrilled to find out that Blue Diamond is turning around and coming back to the zoo, just in time for her to meet the zoo’s new guests. Since this is a would-be heist episode, it only makes sense that there’s a moment when everything starts to really go horribly around and the walls are closing in. Unfortunately we don’t get to see any more of what the gems do because Steven is tossed into the decontamination chamber.
Elle: I liked how the little sensor things that probe Steven on the conveyor belt were recognizably a related technology to the cybernetic fingers that Peridot used to have. We’re slowly building a clearer idea of Gemworld technology and aesthetics. And speaking of aesthetics, that loincloth-vest-and-earrings ensemble is a look.
Katie: You can say that again. I guess we should be relieved Pink or Blue Diamond thought to give them clothes. But did they base the uniform on whatever culture they originally kidnapped the first zoo occupants from or did they just go “Eh, this will do, right?”
Elle: I’m sure Pink Diamond had her own thoughts on Earth cultures when she started the zoo, and there is something vaguely “thousands of years ago” about the outfit. But Steven is getting increasingly worked up, until he’s literally shouting at the machinery. Which is stopped by a sudden rush of water that sweeps him into a tropical-looking environment.
Katie: And we only get a moment or two left in the episode, but not before we see a loinclothed Greg Universe. This was one of those episodes that was very much transitional in terms of storyline, but it also gave us so many details about the universe of Steven Universe that the fandom gobbles up like candy. I’m sure there will be tons of discussion about Gemworld after this episode.
Elle: Yeah, for a “moving pieces into place” episode, this one gave us plenty of interesting tidbits to mull over. Plus lots of Ruby and Sapphire, which I’m always up for.