‘Steven Universe’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 9: ‘Three Gems and a Baby’
In this week’s episode, snow comes to Beach City, and we learn about Steven's very first winter. Three Gems and a Baby was written by Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff, and directed by Joe Johnston and Ricky Cometa.
Elle: So two weeks ago we had the big harvest feast episode, and now we get a winter episode! I’m enjoying this seasonality from Steven Universe. And the Gems and Universes (a Venn diagram with Steven in the middle) sure look cozy all together by the fire in the middle of the biggest snowstorm to hit Beach City in 14 years, don’t they?
Katie: It was so nice! We’ll get to it when we talk about the end of the episode, but it really is great to see how well their little family gels now. Even just Pearl putting the kettle on the stovetop for tea is telling... and eventually pays off.
Elle: As much as I wish he’d buy a house of his own, I’m glad to see Greg welcomed in by the Gems. Ever since he and Pearl dealt with some of their issues in the musical episode, it feels like Greg has been a lot closer with the Gems, and that makes Steven’s family a lot more cohesive, which is nice.
But of course, the main thrust of this episode is a flashback to a time before they got along so well, as Greg tells Steven the story of that previous snowstorm that happened when Steven was a baby.
Katie: And apparently Steven has an official arrangement with Greg that he must start his stories with songs, which can only mean good things for us, the viewers. I think Greg’s sweet, sad song here about not being ready to be a single dad might be one of my all-time favorite Steven Universe songs so far. I can only imagine how parents watching the episode feel about it.
Elle: It’s a great song! So sincere and lovely and sad. And I love the scenes of Greg parenting, especially when he comes into the house and realizes he’s cradling a swaddled loaf of bread while Baby Steven’s in the grocery bag. And Baby Steven’s just as cute as he can be.
I love how this show does babies, basically as tiny versions of the older characters. But Baby Steven is less of a joke character than Baby Sour Cream, and much more like an actual baby.
Katie: They did a good job keeping his baby voice consistent with how he was in his birthday episode, too. Also we’ve learned gems (the people) like for their gems (the body part) to be able to “breathe” outside of clothing, which checks out if you think about all the character designs we’ve seen on the show --- even Amethyst has hers peaking out over her shirt.
Speaking of the gems, the Crystal Gems come in to Vidalia’s place as basically the Three Wise Men, bearing not super helpful gifts for the baby Christ figure.
Elle: Oh yeah. I wasn’t going to bring it up until we got to the part where Greg is holding Steven while wearing a blue blanket over his head, but the Nativity parallels in this episode are pretty overt. And the gifts are about as useful for a baby as gold, frankincense, and myrrh: a razor, adult diapers, and a dictionary.
Garnet’s line about how he’ll need the razor in the future was great. Also the bit where Amethyst calls Steven “Little Rose,” and then has to be reminded, as she clearly has many times before, that he’s a human baby. Although that part was also sad, it wasn’t as sad as how completely broken Pearl is throughout the flashback.
Katie: Deedee Magno-Hall got to stretch quite a bit this episode between calm, happier, present Pearl and bitter, angry/in-denial, past Pearl. It was helpful for me watching the flashback to remember that Pearl does get better and gets happy again, but knowing how little she understands about what Rose did and her trying to get around it and “fix” things was pretty rough. I also really liked how Garnet just assumes Steven is a regular fusion because that’s her personal frame of reference.
Elle: It also makes sense that after Baby Steven freaked out and cried when he saw Garnet split apart, she would decide he didn’t need to meet Ruby and Sapphire until he was much older.
Katie: Also it was a case of literal lack of object permanence, and I don’t know if the show was going for that pun specifically but I laughed like a dork when I realized it.
Elle: In general, this flashback is such a great illustration of how the Gems not only didn’t understand Steven yet, they didn’t understand humans. And they’d just lost their leader, so they are all-around in a bad place for decision-making. Hence kidnapping Baby Steven and stealing Greg’s van.
Katie: And the leader they lost was the only one among them who got why the change that came naturally to humans is so beautiful. That’s when Garnet makes the case that maybe they can’t change, but they can be okay with Steven changing.
Of course, we know that all three of them do grow and change eventually, but that takes some time. All of this is helped by Greg admitting to the gems that he also has no idea how to handle this uncharted territory, and he is human.
Elle: I loved that. Because parenting is rough for anyone, no matter how many times you’ve read Parenting, Huh? And losing a partner and having to be a single parent is obviously far more difficult still. And all of that is before you even get into the human/gem hybrid stuff. That spirit of, “We may not know what we’re doing, but together we can figure it out” is so very central to this show, and it makes sense for an episode that shows this family coming together for the first time to really drive it home like this.
Katie: And then after the Nativity visual with Virgin Mary Greg, we cut to the present, where Pearl is making Greg some tea before giving the tea bag to Amethyst to eat, and it’s sort of the perfect way to show how much 14 years can do to change people for the better. Steven, who is so thoughtful and insightful, addresses that the family around him will always miss his mom, but he knows in his heart that Rose would have loved that they spent the evening like they did.
Elle: It’s a lovely moment. And by the way, one fun thing we haven’t mentioned is that in the flashback, the Gems all look like they did when the series started, and in the present they all look different. Steven didn’t know about Gems poofing and reforming until it happened to Pearl in Season One, so it makes sense that it had never previously happened in Steven’s lifetime. And it also emphasizes how many of the important changes that the Gems have gone through have been since we started watching them.
Katie: On a lighter note, we also didn’t mention Amethyst's baby form with the little wisp of hair pulled up in a tiny ponytail, which is just the weirdest visual. Her admitting that she gets why being a baby is appealing after spending three seconds in Garnet’s arms made me laugh.
Elle: Amethyst’s favorite activities are eating and laying around, so obviously the baby lifestyle is going to appeal to her. And honestly, who wouldn’t want to be held in Garnet’s strong arms?
Katie: In any case, this episode hit the spot for me. It was really lovely and, as you said before, seasonally timely. I hope the show can keep sprinkling in seasonal appropriate episodes into 2017.
Elle: Me too! As we write this, I have no idea when the next one will come, but whenever that is, I’ll be here to talk about it with you.