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Recap / Steven Universe: Future S1E4 "Volleyball"

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The episode begins with Steven healing the cracked gem of one of Nanefua's Ruby guards and then doing the same to a group of Quartzes. Once the Quartz gems leave to go play volleyball, Pink Pearl shows up, thinking Steven might be able to heal her cracked eye. Steven tries to use his spit on her gem, but is confused when it has no effect. He then tries to put the spit on her eye, but to no avail. Steven then asks about what happened while Pink Pearl was under White Diamond's control, but she says she doesn't remember anything and that she got this scar before White Diamond controlled her. Steven automatically assumes White Diamond was the one who scarred Pink Pearl. When she states Pink Diamond was the one who gave her the scar, Steven tenses up at the mention of his mom and briefly turns into his pink form. Steven is determined to help fix Pink Pearl's scar, and leads her out of the house so they can find Pearl.

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They find that Pearl is the referee of the volleyball game between the group of Quartzes. Steven asks Pearl if she can help Pink Pearl, to which she agrees. Steven struggles introducing the Pearls to each other due to them having similar names, and suggests a nickname for Pink Pearl. Pink Pearl states that Pink Diamond used to give her nicknames all the time, and starts to reminisce about her. When a volleyball hits Steven's face, he decides to give Pink Pearl the nickname of "Volleyball".Pearl tells Steven that whenever a Pearl was damaged, they were taken to be fixed at The Reef. Steven agrees to go there and Pearl warps the two of them to The Reef, a clam shell-shaped dome. They are greeted by an A.I. named Shell and explore the customization options for Pearls. Pearl smirks at the many weapons and tools and asks Pink Pearl if she can believe this. Pink Pearl then shows Pearl a ribbon wand that Pink Diamond gave to her. When Pink Pearl asks Pearl what Pink Diamond gave her, Pearl walks away, jealous. Once they enter the center of The Reef, Pink Pearl stands on a circle to be healed by Shell.

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However, Shell exclaims that Pink Pearl cannot be fixed, as her gem is not cracked, and that her damage must be psychological. Pink Pearl’s crack then expands further. When Pearl asks Pink Pearl what White Diamond did to her, she chuckles and says that she has it all wrong and Pink Diamond was responsible for the damage, upsetting Pearl. Pink Pearl says that after Pink Diamond grew tired of Yellow and Blue Diamond denying her requests for a colony, she went straight to White Diamond. White Diamond denied Pink Diamond's request as well, saying that she wasn't ready for the responsibility. Pink Diamond then had a tantrum and lashed out at Pink Pearl, giving her the scar.

Pearl begins to argue with Pink Pearl, claiming that Pink Diamond was nothing like the way she described her. As they continue to argue, Steven tenses up and turns pink again, saying that he doesn’t want to hear another bad thing that his mom did before inadvertently destroying most of the room. Shell then concludes the two Pearls are defective in response to their behavior and attempts to rejuvenate them. Pearl and Pink Pearl bond over their shared emotional pain from Pink Diamond's actions and fuse to form Mega Pearl. Mega Pearl and Steven escape The Reef before Shell can rejuvenate them.

The episode ends with Mega Pearl standing next to Steven on the beach. Both Pearls come to a better understanding for their Diamond before they unfuse and stare at the night sky.


Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Amethyst and Garnet are absent in this episode.
  • Adult Fear: Pink hurt one of her closest friends by accident. As Pearl tells Volleyball, that Pink didn't mean it is trivial to the fact that Volleyball was visibly injured, emotionally and physically.
  • An Aesop:
    • The people who love you can still hurt you in meaningful ways, physically or emotionally. Trying to deny that will only make your inner turmoil worse and it's better to acknowledge that they hurt you.
    • You can't help someone without dealing with your trauma first. Steven can't help Volleyball because he doesn't understand how his mother could continue to be both wonderful and terrible.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Understandable in this case, as Pearl handled her Green-Eyed Monster tendencies with Greg about Rose Quartz, and her jealousy on learning that Rose kept secrets from her. She hasn't begun to deal with her closure about knowing Rose as Pink Diamond, or how Pink changed so much with her first Pearl.
    • And Steven saying to "put the past behind us" sounds very similar to the attitude he had in the movie. But not everyone proves capable of holding strong to such goals, and this has more to do with dealing with his mom's actions than dealing with his troubled denial of happy endings (which he ultimately ends up receiving by the end).
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe, Pearl claims that Pink was a healer and too secretive and closed-up for her liking. Volleyball says that Pink was a Womanchild who had destructive powers and had trouble keeping secrets. When they later fuse, they realize that the catalyst for Pink changing was her hurting Volleyball and losing her.
  • Amusing Injuries: The episode begins with Steven curing ailments like a Ruby with her neck stretched out or a volleyball team with limbs and heads knocked off. This is all Played for Laughs, a sharp contrast to Volleyball's cracked eye, which is consistently Played for Drama.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: The Reef creates Pearls, and fittingly looks like a giant clamshell.
  • The Atoner: The Pearl Fusion implies that the reason why both Pearls' accounts of Pink Diamond were so radically different — Volleyball remembering her as a destructive Spoiled Brat who could not keep secrets, Pearl remembering her as an All-Loving Hero with too many secrets — was because Pink Diamond realized she'd hurt Volleyball and sought to become better. Seems to be confirmed by a piece of concept art, wherein Pink can be seen thinking to herself "Don't break this one" while receiving her new Pearl — tellingly, she's covering her mouth while doing so...
  • Bait-and-Switch: From the title, what starts as a volleyball game plot becomes A Day in the Limelight episode, focusing on both the Crystal Gem Pearl and the damaged one Steven decides to call "Volleyball".
  • Big "WHAT?!": Steven lets one out when Shell states it's about to rejuvenate the Pearls.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Steven's complicated feelings on his mother grow even more complicated with what he learns she did to Volleyball. In addition to that, Steven's powers are shown to have a very dangerous edge to them and he struggles to control them much like his mom did. In spite of that the Pearls are saved from being reset and Shell is shut down. Fusing together allows the Pearls to find a level of closure regarding Pink/Rose and how in spite of her flaws she actively sought to better herself. Volleyball's eye most likely remains damaged, perhaps permanently, but the final shot emphasizes that despite everything she's still going strong.
  • Blatant Lies: After Shell claims she can't heal Volleyball, implying that the scar she has is psychological trauma, Volleyball denies this and says she is fine, only for her scar to get even worse.
  • Brick Joke: A more heartwarming example. When they enter the facility, Pearl assures Volleyball that she'll be holding her hand. At the very end of the episode, they're both seen holding hands after de-fusing.
  • Call-Back:
    • Volleyball claims that one of Pink's more destructive powers was a scream so powerful it "could crack the walls". In "Change Your Mind", Pink Steven was shown to have that same power, casually let out a scream ("SHE'S GOOOOOOOOONE!!!") that made a crater beneath his feet.
    • We saw Pink Diamond throw one of the tantrums Volleyball describes and break something during her first in-person appearance, back in “Jungle Moon”.
    • When Volleyball claims that Pink/Rose was a terrible secret keeper, Pearl argues that she was too good at keeping secrets, even from her (Lion being undead, Bismuth turning traitor, Spinel left behind), referencing "Rose's Scabbard".
    • When Pearl was rejuvenated in Steven Universe: The Movie, her Gem made a hologram of a clamshell before asking for a username and customization. In this episode, we find out Pearls are made in a facility of the same shape called the Reef, which is operated by an AI (with Pearl's voice) called Shell.
    • The Shell decides to rejuvenate Pearl and Volleyball when Steven is upset over their argument, something Bismuth said that Homeworld often punished Gems with in The Movie.
  • Character Title: "Volleyball" becomes Pink Pearl's new nickname.
  • Cooldown Hug: Pearl offers Volleyball this when telling her that the pain from someone you love hurting you never goes away.
  • Crater Power: When Steven snaps, he glows pink and cracks the entire room around them from beneath his feet.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Pink Pearl has a disturbingly blasé mood to the fact that she lost 8,000 years with no memory under White Diamond's control.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Volleyball's ordeal plays out as a metaphor for Domestic Abuse, especially trying to justify or make excuses for her behavior and taking the blame.
  • Dressed to Heal: As Steven treats injured Gems, he wears a labcoat, head mirror, and rubber gloves while carrying a clipboard.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Steven goes pink with anger when he finds out that his mother — whom he had to deal with being a well-intentioned liar and hypocrite — injured Pink Pearl and shattered her eye.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that the reason why Pink could never return our Pearl's feelings was because she felt guilty about how she hurt Volleyball and wanted to never cross that line again.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Despite being over Pink, Pearl is still jealous of how Volleyball keeps talking about how she and Pink used to be close, though she tries to hide it and focus on helping Volleyball.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Pearl, who still pined for Rose/Pink for years after she gave up her form to become Steven, says that Pink Pearl's "still got it bad" for Pink.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Steven nicknames Pink Pearl "Volleyball" after said ball hits him on the head.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Like Amethyst before, Steven's cracked patients don't think much of their gem cracks despite being potentially fatal.
  • The Medic: One of Steven's new responsibilities is to be a Gem nurse for anyone who's cracked their gemstone.
  • Mental Fusion: Pearl and Volleyball both knew Pink Diamond, but at radically different parts of her life. They fuse to create Mega Pearl, who combines the memories of both to get a much clearer idea of who Pink was.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: One of the promos has Pearl covering her mouth, Steven covering his ears, and Volleyball covering her cracked eye. It symbolizes how, when it comes to Pink Diamond's misdeeds, Pearl won't say anything, Steven doesn't want to hear any more, and Volleyball doesn't see Pink as having done anything wrong.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • After he reaches his Rage Breaking Point and furiously yells that he doesn't want to hear anything about his mother anymore and just wants to fix Volleyball's scar, Steven has this reaction right after looking down on the floor and realizing he's turned pink, shattered the structure around him, and inadvertently caused Shell to attempt to rejuvenate both Pearls.
    • It's implied that Pink Diamond had this reaction to permanently scarring her first Pearl, given the artwork Rebecca Sugar posted of her receiving her second Pearl and that she apparently never used her destructive powers to the point that her second Pearl never even knew they existed. Mega Pearl implies this was what caused her to change from her destructive Spoiled Brat persona to a healing All-Loving Hero.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • What caused the Ruby to get a stretched neck in the process of defending Nanefua, and apparently other such incidents that bring the guard Rubies to Steven with mysterious injuries on a regular basis.
    • What led to Pink Diamond obtaining the current Pearl after her incident with the previous one?
  • Not Me This Time: Steven and Pearl both assumed White Diamond caused the crack in Volleyball's face, but she nonchalantly explains it was Pink Diamond's (accidental) doing.
  • One Steve Limit: Steven has a little trouble talking to both Pearl and Pink Pearl, and so suggests giving the latter a nickname, choosing "Volleyball" when one hits him on the head. Pink Pearl finds the name funny and takes it.
  • One-Word Title: "Volleyball".
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Every time Volleyball keeps talking about her positive experiences with Pink, Pearl talks down to her, viewing her as naïve while thinking she knows more about Pink. This doesn't change once Volleyball begins talking about another side of Pink.
  • Pinocchio Nose: A twisted variant; the cracks on Volleyball's face grow worse the further she denies and makes excuses for Pink Diamond's past behavior.
  • Post-Treatment Lollipop: Steven gives one to the Ruby guard, who's positively gleeful.
  • The Reveal:
    • Pink (not White, as both the characters and audience are lead to believe) was responsible for her first Pearl's crack, and said crack is actually an emotional scar.
    • Pink apparently had "destructive" powers, which seem to be manifesting in Steven in recent episodes. This comes as a surprise even for Pearl.
  • Rage Breaking Point: As Pearl and Volleyball argue over how they knew Pink Diamond, Steven gets fed up with hearing more bad things about his mom and snaps. As a result, Pink Steven takes over and does considerable damage to the Reef, triggering Volleyball's suppressed trauma of dealing with Pink.
    Steven: Stop it! I can't deal with more horrible thing she did, Okay?! I don't want to hear about it! I don't even want to think about it! I just! Want! TO FIX IT!
  • Shout-Out: The Pearl fusion's appearance seems to take inspiration from Revolutionary Girl Utena with her uniform-esque outfit and her hair (pink like Utena, styled like Anthy).
  • Sorry I Fell on Your Fist: Volleyball describes how her wound was inflicted when Pink threw one of her tantrums as her own fault for standing too close to her when it happened. The way she talks so fondly about it just makes it more uncomfortable.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Steven tries his healing spit on Volleyball's gem and her broken eye. Neither work. The Reef also can't fix Volleyball without rebooting her and wiping all of her memories. No one wants that either because erasing the trauma doesn't help.
  • Subordinate Excuse: It's heavily hinted that, like Pearl, Volleyball's feelings for her Diamond were more than platonic.
  • This Is a Drill: Mega Pearl combines Volleyball's ribbon and Pearl's spear into an enormous drill.
  • The Unreveal: The episode never truly reveals if Volleyball's eye was fixed, intentionally keeping the angle at a shot where viewers can't see her left eye during the final minute. The left eye of the fused Pearl is cracked.
  • We Are Not Going Through That Again:
    • Steven doesn't want to have another existential crisis on learning that his mother physically hurt another Gem and has broken her pedestal again.
    • The Reef tries to rejuvenate the Pearls in an attempt to "fix" them. No one wants that, after all the trouble that rejuvenation caused in the movie.
  • Wham Line: When speaking of her cracked eye, Pink Pearl cheerfully says "This was all Pink Diamond."
  • Wham Shot: Pearl and Volleyball fusing.
  • World Building: It's shown that Pearls are not made at Kindergartens like most gems, but a single facility called the Reef.
  • Younger Mentor, Older Disciple: Pearl is more experienced than Volleyball is, but the latter reminds the former that she's actually the older of the two.
    Pearl: I love your energy! It reminds me of when I was younger.
    Volleyball: I'm older than you.
  • You Never Did That for Me: Pearl gets visibly jealous when Volleyball reveals that Pink Diamond gave her a ribbon wand as a gift. She tries to grab it until Steven tells her to stop dawdling.


 
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Volleyball

Pearl is more experienced than Volleyball is, but the latter reminds the former that she's actually the older of the two.

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