‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 3, Episodes 12-14: ‘Restaurant Wars,’ ‘Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service,’ and ‘Monster Reunion’
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 week Fish Stew Pizza and Beach City Fries go to war, Kiki Pizza is overworked, and Steven tries his best to help Centipeetle. Restaurant Wars was written by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service was written by Colin Howard and Jeff Liu, and both were directed by Joe Johnston and Jasmin Lai. Monster Reunion was written by Raven M. Molisee and Paul Villeco, and directed by Kat Morris and Jasmin Lai.
Elle: I was just saying last time that I was enjoying spending time with the Beach City supporting cast, and that’s what our first two episodes are all about this time. Lot of Kiki Pizza this week, in particular.
I love the idea that Mr. Fryman and Kofi Pizza had to draft an actual treaty to keep their businesses from competing. And of course Steven (with Petey’s equally unwitting help) accidentally messes it all up with his desire to order “off menu.”
Katie: I have to state a correction from our last recap, actually. During Beach City Drift, I mistook Jenny Pizza for her sister Kiki! After the first two episodes of this week, I will not get them confused again. But yes, both of the Pizza sisters got lots of focus on Monday and Tuesday, which is great, because they’re great.
A lot of what sold Restaurant Wars was how Mr. Fryman and Kofi are so passionate about their bitter feud, to the point of totally betraying their own brand to try to outdo the other. But the other thing that sold the episode was how rational and smart their kids are.
Elle: I have to admit, I was pretty curious about Mr. Fryman’s deep fried pizza. That seems like a terrible and terribly unhealthy idea, and I would almost certainly eat a slice if it was offered to me.
But I agree, the contrast between the mature kid and their irrational fathers really made the episode. Interesting that neither family seems to have a mother in the picture (not counting Kofi’s own mom, who we’ve met). In fact, the only one of the whole group who seems to have romance in his life is Ronaldo. Or at least he did, until this episode completely screwed that up. Poor Jane.
Katie: It’s been a few days and I’m still really worried about Jane and Ronaldo. Will they ever come back together? Will he win her back? I’m invested in those two, dang it. But really, maybe Jenny’s best moment in the episode is her killer line at the first mention of Ronaldo’s girlfriend, “Where’s she at, though?”
Actually, right after that Jenny has another great moment where she calls her sister “the cutest girl in Beach City.” Gosh, the Pizza sisters are the best.
But can we talk about how in character it was for Steven to jump to Romeo and Juliet for his solution to these two feuding houses both alike in dignity? He’s all about that sappy stuff, and clearly nothing could possibly go wrong with this scenario.
Elle: Like Connie once said, Steven loves schmaltz. But ultimately it takes Steven starting his own restaurant to get Kofi and Fryman to reconcile. And by the way, Steven and the Gems pull off their pop-up restaurant much more successfully than I would have thought possible. I mean, you always want Garnet on your side for any project. But Amethyst eats any food you put in front of her, and Pearl thinks all food is disgusting, so they seem like the last two people you’d want on hand for even a temporary food service endeavor.
Katie: Look, Elle, the secret is clearly innovation. Because when you put pizza on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime. I may have had to pause the episode so I could giggle at them directly referencing it. This show is brilliant.
Also I saw someone call this episode a straight up food anime homage, and nowhere does it get more anime than Steven’s confident “keh” while touching his face moment.
Elle: I don’t know that I’ve ever watched a food anime (although that does sound up my alley), but it was definitely a fun episode.
And speaking of anime references and food, that brings us to the second episode of the week, Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service. I liked getting to know Kiki, since it feels like we’ve spent more time with Jenny in the past. And that makes sense after this episode, where we see Kiki working all the time, because Jenny always has some reason to be somewhere else.
Katie: Well, we do find out that she tends to say yes to working extra hours for people. We see how much work has been stressing her out when Steven once again uses his relatively new dream powers to accident jump into her nightmare. After The New Lars, it was nice to see Steven apologize immediately for it, by the way. And while it took a few nights for the characters to figure it out, it was pretty obvious to the audience from the first version of the dream what was causing it.
Elle: I’ve been having a dream the past couple of weeks where I’m being pulled into an endless sea of Steven Universe episodes, so I understand how work stress gets into your psyche. I’m just kidding of course. This job is awesome, and I’m really glad I’m doing it instead of delivering pizzas. Especially on foot.
Katie: I’m glad to hear it, pal.
Elle: It’s very Steven that he’s determined to help, but also that he initially has no plan for how to help other than saving her in each individual dream. But yeah, it wasn’t hard to know what the dream was about, and I love the scene when they go looking for the root of it. Cheese-Jenny is a perfect blend of funny and eerie. And also of mozzarella and parmesan.
Katie: Her pepperoni eyes remind me of the creepy doll people in Coraline, so that visual had an impact. I think my biggest laugh of the episode was after Kiki said no and Pizza Jenny first kept moaning and then said in a normal voice, “Okay fine.” It was a great line delivery from Reagan Gomez-Preston, and that was after three great episodes in a row of funny Jenny lines.
Elle: Her delivery is always phenomenal. The other thing I want to mention about this episode is the great bits of dream illogic sprinkled throughout, like Steven having rockets for bones, and Dog-Copter meowing like a cat and then taking off like a rocket. That kind of stuff is always fun.
Katie: My last thought on the episode is that this is yet again another good message coming from the show. Children, especially girls, need to know they’re allowed to say no to helping out when they’re being stretched to their limit, even and especially when they have to say no to someone they care about. Self care is important, kids.
So now we’re to the heavy episode of this stretch -- Monster Reunion, which features Steven and feelings and bittersweetness.
Elle: This episode, and the character of Centipeetle, make me feel both sad and uneasy. The idea that this monstrous creature used to be as much of a person as the Gems that we’ve gotten to know so well, and is now so profoundly corrupted --- that’s just rough. And that this is also true of most or all of the monsters the Crystal Gems have faced before makes it even worse. Those Diamonds, it seems, are pretty horrible.
Katie: The episode makes a point of saying that corruption and cracked are two very different things for gems, and while we only see a crude drawing of what the Diamonds do to corrupt gems, it’s clearly some mind-destroying stuff.
Kudos to the animators for making the “healed” Centipeetle’s movements and posing so distinct in this episode. She’s clearly sentient and understands to a degree, but there’s also something animal and alien in the way she moves, but without being necessarily dangerous.
Elle: There’s definitely a body horror element to the partially healed Centipeetle, especially when she starts to revert to her previous form. And you can tell from their reactions that her in-between form is a lot more disturbing to the Gems (especially Garnet and Pearl) than it is to Steven. To Steven, she just looks like an alien creature, and he’s used to alien creatures. But when the Gems look at her, they see something profoundly wrong.
Steven continues to be the Best Kid, though. His use of Earth crayons to communicate with Centipeetle turns out to be a smart move, and even more successful than he realizes at the time.
Katie: Steven is indeed the Best Kid, bless him. He’s good at bringing out the good in others, and helping them find clarity through empathy. Which is how we end up seeing Centipeetle’s story, and in doing so get a few more details about the Gem War, particularly that whatever the Diamonds did, they didn’t wait for their own troops to get safely out of the way before wreaking destruction. Which, considering what we’ve seen of Blue and Yellow Diamond, isn’t that surprising, but it’s still a chilling moment when the paper goes white.
Elle: Chilling is the word for it. This show is so good at doling out the backstory gradually without it ever getting frustrating. There’s always so much going on in the present that any little detail about the past is just an extra bit of excitement along the way.
I don’t think we know what kind of Gem Centipeetle is (something green, clearly), but I get the impression that her whole crew were essentially variations on her, not unlike that crew of Rubies we met recently. So it makes all the more sense she’d want to get back to them.
Katie: Speaking of colors, another hint at the bigger picture came with Steven opening the ship. The pink ship. Sort of like when Steven could unlock his mother’s weapon storage in Lion 2. There’s been a lot of theories about Rose’s past before she started the resistance, and methinks this is a part of it. I know one of those theories is that Rose was actually a Diamond, but regardless, if Rose was any kind of high ranking gem who caused pain and destruction, Steven is going to take it very, very badly (especially after learning Centipeetle’s story this episode).
Elle: I thought about that too. Especially since there seemed to be a moment when Centipeetle reacted to Steven being able to open the door to the ship, as though that was particularly surprising. Since she couldn’t be healed, it was nice that Centipeetle found her crew and doesn’t have to be alone. It was also great when Amethyst turns into a giant centipede and says, “Can I hang with you dudes?”
Katie: That was a very cute Amethyst moment --- I hope we get to see her hanging out with them in the future when Steven comes to visit. But yes, thank god we had a happy ending here. I don’t think my heart could have taken it if it had ended tragically. Sure, Centipeetle is still animal-like, but she still has her mind back, and she’s with her crew. And hopefully Steven will be able to pick up writing in gem language so that he can better communicate with her.
My other thought with this episode is how Steven’s powers are different from Rose’s. Assuming the Crystal Gems have been bubbling monsters since before Steven was born, we can guess that Rose had never been able to fix corrupted gems when she was alive, or she would have. So could Steven’s healing Centipeetle as far as he did be the result of his human side? And did Rose choose to have him because she suspected as much?
Elle: It’s hard to say, but whether she had any specific ideas or not, it’s clear that Rose brought Steven into the world knowing that he would be a whole new kind of being, with amazing things to offer the world. And that’s definitely turning out to be true.
So I guess that covers the first three fifths of this week. But because this is the never-ending Summer of Steven, I’ll see you back here on Monday to talk about the next two episodes. And somehow this show is so good, and I enjoy talking about it with you so much, that I’m still excited about it all.
Katie: Looking forward to it!