It's the pilot of Steven Universe, AKA "The Time Thing," originally called "The Electric Skull."
The Gems return from a mission with a defeated "electric skull" monster and a tiny hourglass in a sphere with time-travel powers. Steven wants to see the latter but the girls won't let him. They also laugh at the idea of allowing him to come along on their missions. However Amethyst slips the sphere to him along with some money for donuts.
When he goes to buy them, Lars, a guy who works at the shop, makes fun of him. Steven leaves angry and thinks of a comeback, then wishes he'd used it. Suddenly he finds himself back in time at the moment he was insulted, transported by the sphere, and uses his comeback successfully.
He goes home and tells the girls what happened, but they tell him that the device is now "stuck" and can only be used for... making comebacks. Additionally, the disruption in space-time brings the Electric Skull back to life!
Garnet snaps at Steven, then the girls battle the skull but it beats them with its hair-tendrils. Steven cries and suddenly thinks of a comeback for his Garnet's insult, and it brings him back in time right to the start of the battle. Now knowing what the monster will do, he tells them how to defeat it (using the donut shop sign to pin it down.)
Just as he's celebrating, Steven accidentally brings himself back in time yet again, this time to the moment the Gems laughed at him. He impulsively breaks the orb, then claims that he will save their lives anyway.
Note: The designs of some characters seen here are slightly different from what are used in the actual series. Rebecca Sugar has stated the pilot is not canon to the main series.
- Alternate Continuity: According to Word of God, the pilot isn't canon to the actual series. The Gems eventually find the hourglass in the main series as well, but Steven uses it to form a band with his past selves instead of making comebacks. The in-universe origin of the theme song also differs. Here, Steven wrote it while he was waiting for the others to return from a mission. In the series, it was the first song he ever wrote as a young child, before moving in to live with the Gems.
- Armor-Piercing Question: "Why are you such a buttface?"
- Batman Gambit: It's implied that the reason Garnet calls Steven a buttface when the electric skull attacks is so he can use the hourglass, which only works to allow comebacks, to go back in time in case they lose the fight. Earlier in the episode, she stops Amethyst and Pearl from teasing Steven, so she probably wouldn't normally insult him herself. She also exclaims "You did it!" when Steven does make a comeback to her insult, implying that she realizes this means he successfully went back in time.
- Bifauxnen: This iteration of Pearl; she looks more androgynous, to the point that one might mistake her for a really pretty guy until she speaks.
- Big Stupid Doo Doo Head: Garnet calling Steven a "butt face".
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: Garnet's gauntlets are pure gold here.
- Chekhov's Gun: The hourglass seems to be useless after Steven "ruins" it, but Garnet finds a way to use it.
- Chekhov's Time Travel: After Steven's abuse of a time travel MacGuffin attracts the attention of a powerful alien, Garnet pull a rather out-of-character move by declaring "Steven, why are you such a buttface?" When the Crystal Gems are beaten, Steven remembers the insult and uses the MacGuffin (which is triggered by him coming up with the perfect comeback to an insult) to go back before the attack and save everyone. Garnet's reaction to the comeback implies she did this deliberately.
- Comeback Tomorrow: Steven's chosen purpose for the time-traveling crystal is retroactively averting this trope (depending on how you look at it). When Lars insults Steven, Steven leaves the store angrily, only to realize he could have made a comeback to him; however, the crystal allows him to go back in time and make the comeback.
- Early Installment Character-Design Difference: The designs of the characters are closer to Rebecca Sugar's normal drawing style than the more simplified versions they'd become in the series. Garnet doesn't have an afro and has a looser-fitting bodysuit. Amethyst is chubbier, has long sleeves and a fannypack, and has painted fingernails. Pearl looks like David Bowie back when he was Ziggy Stardust (even having a different skin color than the final design) and a more casual-looking outfit. Steven, like Amethyst, is fatter but also taller. Sadie is also taller (with longer, thinner legs), though still One Head Shorter than Lars. Lars has black hair and a darker complexion.
- Early Installment Weirdness: As mentioned above, the pilot is a completely different version of what the show would later become, with the differences being quite abundant.
- The art style in general is more detailed, closer to Rebeca Sugar's personal drawing style (at the time), and has a considerably darker color palette. For instance, all the gemstones have some sort of metallic lining around them.
- The characters and humor are also noticeably more cynical. Steven is perfectly aware that Lars is making fun of him and is intent on getting him back for his put-downs, unlike the series when he's convinced that they're best friends. Pearl is also more juvenile and heckles Steven along with Amethyst, rather than behaving motherly and having a strained relationship with her, with Garnet taking the definitive role of Team Mom.
- While the series proper strictly teaches against being deliberately mean or making jokes at the expense of others (to the point that they made a whole episode about why), the pilot is plotted entirely around insult humor. Even here, however, Lars is the only one who's actually trying to be mean while the Gems' insults are gentle ribbing.
- While the actors are all the same, Deedee Magno-Hall (Pearl) and Zach Callison (Steven) use deeper voices.
- The Crystal Gems' HQ is a "Crystal Palace" rather than a "Crystal Temple".
- Steven goes out to get some donuts for the Crystal Gems, and his song mentions that they'll "go out for pizzas". In the main series, all of them are ABLE to eat, but don't have to and Amethyst is the only one who chooses to do so most of the time.
- Lars acknowledges the Crystal Gems as being strange and (somewhat sarcastically) asks Steven what they are. In the main series, their presence and behavior are decidedly moot.
- The layout of both the Gems' home and the world outside is different, placing Big Donut directly on Steven's doorstep.
- Lars makes fun of Steven for hanging out with the otherwise all-female Crystal Gems, bringing the show's major topic of gender roles to the forefront. In the series proper, it's treated rather obliquely to the point of being a non-issue In-Universe.
- Both Rose and Greg are completely unmentioned, though the concept for their characters existed.
- Expository Theme Tune: Written and performed by Steven. It ended up being truncated and used as the theme song for the main series, which would later expand it for the "We Are The Crystal Gems" short.
- Mundane Utility: Steven gets his hands on an hourglass that can reverse time by accident and uses it to make witty comebacks he thought of too late. Of course, because of the way the hourglass works, it could then only be used by him, only for making comebacks.
- No, You: Steven considers to use "I know you are but what am I?" as a comeback to Garnet calling him a Butt Face but it's not good enough to activate the crystal.
- Prehensile Hair: The skull monster has this, and uses it to beat the Gems to a pulp.
- Serious Business: Comebacks. Because the gem was primed to only be used to deliver them, Steven can only travel back in time if he can think of a good enough comeback to a previous insult.
- Time Travel: Used by Steven to save the day... and use the Comeback Tomorrow trope.
- Title, Please!: Unlike episodes of the series proper, there is no Episode Title Card, instead simply reading "Steven Universe: Created by Rebecca Sugar". Steven Universe: Art & Origins reveals that the pilot is titled "The Time Thing".