‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 6: ‘Last One Out of Beach City’
In this week’s episode, Pearl joins Amethyst and Steven for a trip to a rock show, and someone new catches her attention along the way. Last One Out of Beach City was written by Kat Morris and Lauren Zuke, and directed by Joe Johnston and Ricky Cometa.
Elle: We talk a lot about the queer themes on this show --- enough so that I’m confident anyone who’d be annoyed by me opening with that has already quit reading (and probably quit watching Steven Universe), and frankly, good riddance.
So maybe I’m exaggerating here because the episode is new and I’m excited… but I kind of think this might be the gayest episode to date? It’s one thing to have Pearl as a queer character whose one true love chose a man over her and then died. But this episode is literally about Pearl meeting a punk girl on a motorcycle and then hitting on her. This is a really gay episode, right? Like, even on the Steven Universe scale.
Katie: There is no exaggeration here --- this episode was so very gay. If Mr. Greg was Pearl taking a sledgehammer to the subtext of her gayness, Last One Out of Beach City was Pearl burning the smashed pieces into ash for good measure. When this show decides to have episodes about gay romance, it goes there and is 100% unapologetic about it at this point. Which is a precedent I hope brings inspiration to future kids shows, if I’m being honest.
But yeah, Pearl! So Pearl has seemed a little looser lately --- we’ve talked specifically how she seems to be learning from past mistakes when it comes to training, and she’s way more ready to praise rather than critique off the bat when it comes to Amethyst. And here Pearl asks if she (and Steven) can go to Amethyst’s rock show, even though we don’t know exactly why right away.
Elle: Totally! Even separate from the possible romance angle, it’s really exciting to see Pearl turning over a new leaf and becoming interested in trying new things. It’s nice that Amethyst has somebody to go with, since Greg and Vidalia are playing cards with Barb.
It’s got to be hard for Amethyst, now that the friends she used to rock out with are middle-aged and she’s the same age she’s always been.
Katie: Yes! I just love the idea of these adults in the background having real adult friendships. And Barb is a pretty cool adult, plus we know Vidalia is super cool, so of course they’d hang out with Greg. I hope since Greg’s a millionaire now he’s paying Vidalia back for all the cereal he ate nearly two decades ago! But as you said, it’s probably tough for Amethyst, who is more like she’s in her early 20s now compared to her old buddies.
Elle: Speaking of Amethyst, I love watching her face when the pink-haired girl comes into the Big Donut. You can totally see her catching on that Pearl is having feelings. Which is even funnier, because she genuinely doesn’t seem to catch on until later that the girl resembles Rose. So she just 100% is like, “Oh Pearl’s totally into that girl, I should make up an excuse to send her over there.” And even though Pearl looks like a badass in her highwater jeans and black jacket, the moment she tries to talk to the girl, she’s revealed as the awkward nerd she is.
Katie: I mean, Pearl has had zero recent experience talking to a pink-haired babe (also: turns out Pearl has a type, which is incredible), so of course she’d flounder. Even with the collar popped up, that is a tough way to jump into playing the field. I do love that Steven is the one to bring up that she looked like Rose, only to have the light bulb turn on over Amethyst’s head. And then Amethyst goes into full on wingwoman mode for the rest of the episode, which feels like such a great role for her to take on in her relationship with Pearl.
Elle: Oh, 100%. I love the way the pink-haired girl serves as a kind of White Rabbit in the episode, with Pearl unable to resist following her in a search for adventure and excitement. Which of course leads to running a red light and speeding until they attract a cop’s attention.
Steven seems really freaked out by this, which is a little odd, since I seem to recall Stevonnie drag racing down a mountain not too long ago. But the car chase is a fun moment, and features what at least looked to me like references to Dukes of Hazard and The Muppet Movie (two important bits of my early childhood right there).
Katie: I laughed pretty hard at the “But you’re old!” response from Steven when Pearl shouted that she doesn’t have a driver's license. It’s such a kid response. And I liked a lot that the show acknowledged there’s no way any US license branch would let Pearl have a license without a birth certificate and other identification (I just went through a grueling morning at the DMV last week where I had to juggle a bunch of documentation, so this detail felt particularly authentic to me).
Also, now that I think about it, Pearl’s face as she calmly decides to out-race the cop reminds me a bit of not The Muppet Movie, but The Great Muppet Caper, when Piggy goes badass and races to Kermit’s rescue.
In any case, Pearl gets her badass racing moment, only to have the car crap out on them.
Elle: I identify with Pearl a lot, as I’ve probably mentioned before, and the kind of meltdown she has about how this was the night she was finally going to be cool and it’s not working out is definitely something I have memories of from my own life. I love her tone of voice when she says, “I was going to wear these… pants!” Pearl’s utter disdain for the very concept of pants is also pretty relatable to be honest.
Fortunately, it turns out they’re already at the rock show. And I like that Pearl has already given up and taken off her “cool” outfit before she gets there. Because of course, the cooler-than-cool pink-haired girl has already arrived.
Katie: Before we get to the mysterious pink-haired dream girl, can we talk about this party? Because for one, it feels so real to me that it’s literally just a guy playing in his garage with people jamming on the driveway. For another, while I haven’t seen it confirmed yet, it looks like the audience is made up of Steven Universe writers and animators, at least from the photos I’ve seen of the creators online. I’m hoping I’m right about that because that idea is adorable as heck.
Anyway, yes the pink-haired dream girl! Pearl decides she’s going to go talk to her, this time without pants or a popped collar or trying to drink (juice) to look cool. It was really cute than Wingwoman Amethyst tries to convince her to practice talking to a nerd first before going to a super pretty queer lady. Again, her and Pearl’s relationship has gotten so interesting since the first season, and her being the nervous one in this situation is a sweet reversal of their starting dynamic.
Elle: I loved that too. Also the bit about “I told her ‘My appearance is just a conscious manifestation of light,’ and she said ‘I know how that is’,” was perfect and very believable. It’s a cliche in these kinds of stories that you should be yourself when you talk to someone you’re interested in, but the important thing here is that, in being herself, right down to taking credit for saving all of humanity, Pearl is going to be the most unusual and interesting person most people have ever met, even if she’s not the coolest. So naturally she gets the girl’s phone number. Despite not knowing what a phone number is.
Katie: It’s also a very adult kind of cool. While I don’t relate as directly to Pearl, I totally related to this episode and her trying out a new persona because hey, we’ve all done that at one point or another, usually as teens. And as an adult I’ve learned that, as corny as it is, being myself tends to be me at my coolest version of me.
And so while our mysterious dream girl might not know Pearl is being literal while talking to her, that authentic confidence that comes from being a thousands-of-years-old cosmic knight and the defender of a planet comes out loud and clear.
I love that both Steven and Amethyst know enough about high school movies to know that getting a girl’s phone number is a big deal. And I adored just how in awe Amethyst is of Pearl’s game. She’s so happy, so proud of her basically big sister.
That then brings us to the amazing ending with the very high school movie pseudo credit sequence. I actually saw the screenshot of “Starring Pearl as Repressed Nerd” on Twitter before I saw the episode and thought a fan had photoshopped it, but nope, that is real!
Elle: I loved the ending sequence. I do hope we see the pink-haired girl again. Even though Pearl doesn’t have a phone, she can always borrow one. Or just get Greg to buy her one --- I feel like he would. And to be honest I’m just completely fascinated by the idea of Pearl trying to date a human. What would that even look like?
But that smile she gives at the end feels like the smile of someone who’s gained the confidence to actually call the phone number they’ve been given.
Katie: And her ending credit does say “Introducing Mystery Girl as Herself.” Hopefully this introduction will lead to more adorable appearances soon, maybe even with actual dialogue next time! I think it’s a good bet that she’s coming back, because while we keep thinking the show can’t get any gayer, Steven Universe keeps on reaching new levels.
A great episode this week, and glad to have you back after your trip, Elle!
Elle: Thanks, Katie! It’s great to be back watching this show with you. And we’ve got another new episode next week, which I’ve heard is Onion-centric. So that’s exciting and totally different from this one! I can hardly wait.