STEVEN UNIVERSE Recap: “House Guest”, “Space Race”
So, I’m playing a bit of catch-up at the moment. New York Comic Con kind of threw me off a bit with Steven Universe, because with preparing for the weekend, then actually going to the con, and recovering– I missed some stuff. So, today, we’ll recap two episodes. The next two, I’ll hopefully recap as the week goes on (one has aired, one has not).
“House Guest” and “Space Race” are two episodes on either end of the Steven Universe spectrum. One follows up with whatever lingering effects were left over after the Gems’ run-in with Lapis Lazuli in “Mirror Gem/Ocean Gem” and one moves on and gives us something I have seriously been pining for since pretty much the beginning of the series: a Pearl episode!
They also might be on either end of the spectrum in terms of quality. I’ll get to that.
“House Guest” picks up after “Ocean Gem” and finds the Gems and Steven helping out Greg, Steven’s dad, who has a broken leg after the big battle with Lapis when his van was pretty much totaled after she dropped it with him inside. The Gems want to help Greg get his van all fixed up, and Greg’s glad to spend some time with his son while he recovers, wearing a makeshift cast made out of a ruler and some duct tape (which he presents to Pearl as “some kind of complex human tool,” as she puts it). It takes everyone involved a couple of minutes to realize “oh, right, Steven has healing powers now,” and he makes an attempt at fixing his dad’s leg with his healing spit– but nothing seems to happen. Perhaps the powers are gone?
So, Greg comes to live with Steven and the Gems until he recovers. We get a nice father-son sequence where Steven cooks for his father, they sing together, watch bad reality shows together, and whatnot. It’s adorable. But, soon enough, Steven is called to go help the Gems with a problem: an incredibly important geode has been cracked, and they need to fix it or a synthetic storm being contained inside of it will break out and the Gems’ bodies will all be vaporized. So, they leave Greg alone with a whistle that’ll call them through the warp pad if he needs anything– which, of course, he abuses. One call on the warp whistle to make sure it works, another to find the remote (which Steven deems “actually very important”), and a third to tell Steven he missed “the funniest commercial.” All the while, Steven and the Gems try to fix the geode, and Steven tries again to use his powers to heal it– but they don’t work.
So, everyone comes back to rethink their strategy, and Steven goes to get his dad and Amethyst some snacks from the Big Donut. He’s left the house when he realizes he never asked Greg what he wants, so he goes back, and finds his dad walking on his own two feet pretty freely. Steven’s powers did work all along, but Greg decided to tell him they didn’t just so he could live with Steven again, making Steven think they were gone. Feeling awful, Greg uses the warp pad to go to fix the geode to make up for all of the problems he’s created, and Steven tags along. He tries using his powers again, but nothing happens, so Greg has the next best idea: duct tape. The two put a big line of duct tape on the geode’s crack, and voila! Everything’s fixed. No one’s going to be vaporized.
Pearl ends up fixing Greg’s van, making it better than it ever was, and he moves out. The episode’s final shot is one with two hearts on the van and the Gems’ house to symbolize the love between father and son. Pretty adorable. Also, Steven’s powers probably still work!
The episode is overall okay. It’s hard to top what came before it, of course, but I felt like this was probably the first episode in the entire series that I wasn’t totally into. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t great– and everyone looked very odd, especially Steven and Greg who had really wonky looking limbs and proportions in a few scenes throughout (a prime example is the conversation after Steven finds out he did heal his dad but now he can’t heal anything because Greg said it didn’t work. The faces and arms and hands look bizarre). It bogs it down a little, but it’s still a really sweet episode that shows exactly how much the two Universes love one another, no matter what.
“House Guest” was followed by “Space Race” and hoooo boy, “Space Race” was good. Pearl is an amazing character. Let’s start with that: she’s amazing. She’s so goofy sometimes because of how humorless she can be and how much of a neat freak she can be, and she can bother the others because of how dead-set on rules and doing things by the book and being a teacher she can be, but she can also be so loving and she’s definitely one of the smartest characters on the show. She’s awesome. The closest we’ve had to a Pearl episode has been “Steven The Sword Fighter” and she was barely in it after her hologram training partner injures her. Most episodes that have her in a spotlight have her sharing it with Amethyst, which is awesome, because it explores the chemistry those two have together– but a Pearl episode all about her? I want it. Now, I sort of have it.
In “Space Race”, the gang is checking on warp pads that take them around the galaxy that they check from time to time. None of them work, but it’s their job to run checks periodically. Pearl explains that these pads once gave the Gems the ability to go pretty much anywhere in space when they wanted to or had to, but they haven’t worked for a long time. This is all pretty lame, and pretty sad, especially for Pearl, who longs for space– and longs for home– but now, she’s stuck on Earth forever.
Steven, feeling awful for Pearl, enlists the help of his father to build a spaceship. Greg says he probably can’t do that, instead suggesting “a bunk bed with wings,” but Steven is insistent on a spaceship because Steven is always insistent and Greg gives in, shrugging and saying “how hurt could we get?” And, so, in a barn filled with old parts from Greg’s aviation-loving aunt and uncle, Universe & Universe’s Universal Space Travel HQ is opened. Lots of duct tape, hammers, and wood later, UUU Space Travel is ready to show Pearl their ship.
It’s not so much a ship as it is some cardboard on wheels with taped-on wings, a traffic cone nose, and a sparkler on the back as the “engines”, but it’s something I’d totally would’ve loved when I was younger. Pearl, not exactly finding it as rad as I would’ve, and still longing for home, isn’t impressed, but Steven takes the “ship” for a test ride, taking into account his dad’s advice that “there isn’t any shame in bailing”. And, predictably, when it doesn’t exactly work, Steven bails. The ship is destroyed (a great exchange here between Pearl and Greg: “I think your calculations were off.” “Well, they can’t be off if you don’t do any.”).
Pearl then takes the lead on building an actual ship after showing the guys exactly how a ship should look (nothing like a cardboard box with wheels and a cheap firework) and talking about how she could show Steven the beauty of space, and for a second, maybe, see home and find out what’s been happening without her. They use tons of old spare parts to make a rocket system that actually pretty much works, and some prototypes that also do but also fall apart at the end. Greg starts getting nervous when prototypes fall into pieces and he realizes that Pearl is dead serious on making a working space craft and having Steven tag along, so he grounds his son (not so much in the “you’re in trouble” way, but in the “you’re staying on the ground” way) and forbids him and Pearl from continuing the project because it’s far too dangerous. Pearl decides she’s going ahead anyway, and works on the project on her own.
In the middle of the night, Pearl wakes Steven up to show him something “really cool” which ends up being her finished space craft. It’s huge and professional-looking outside (with the Mr. Universe logo torn off of Greg’s van and put onto the ship) and really amateurish inside (a recliner is the pilot’s chair, and some of the controls are an old Casio keyboard), but it’s done and functional. Pearl and Steven go to take the ship for an “engine check”, which she promises will be quick, but when Greg is woken up and starts asking, she says she’s going full stop and taking Steven over to the nearest star system and that she’ll have him back in “50 years”. Steven asks to get out, but Pearl gets the ship going, and they start to reach space and start going through the atmosphere. Right away, there are issues with the ship as parts start flying and alarms start buzzing, and so Steven has to take the reigns because Pearl has lost all common sense and is set on home. He pops the hatch, and brings Pearl back to her senses by recalling his dad’s advice about bailing, and she triggers the ejector seat, saving the both of them as the ship explodes in the air.
As they float back to ground, Steven promises they’ll make it to space one day, so Pearl can see her home and show him the wonders of the galaxy, but after the traumatic experience of almost killing them both, she says she thinks she’d rather be stuck on Earth. With Steven.
I love this episode. I love how much of Pearl we get to see here, and I love how much of her personality we get to see. I love how we get to know just how important space and home is to her, and how much she wants to be back and how much she’ll do to get there. Pearl isn’t human, but she’s also pretty damn human, if that makes any sense. She technically isn’t a person– but she cares so much and just misses the things any of us would miss if we were without them for a long time. She can’t be home to be with the people she loves, but her makeshift home on Earth is just as good, and she’s okay with it. I love Pearl, and I hope we see even more of her.
Also in terms of looks, this episode is great. I’m not sure what happened with the wonky-looking “House Guest”, but “Space Race” is right back on-form for this show and how amazing it looks usually week-in-week-out.
Now all we need is a proper Garnet episode! And a song with her in it.
Another episode has aired, “Secret Team”, since “Space Race” but again, I’m catching up. Another new episode airs this coming Thursday, so once I can I’ll get those recapped. For now, though, these are a combination of episodes that lie on different parts of the Steven Universe spectrum, and they’re both real good, but one is so much more so than the other.
Regardless, I can’t get enough of this show. It’s the best.