Steven has become engrossed in a book; it's his only entertainment since being grounded from television. He instantly drops it to greet the Gems as they return via warp. They have collected all the deactivated Robonoids that Peridot left behind, and Amethyst playfully smashes one, splattering it everywhere. Pearl scolds her and begins explaining that the Homeworld warp cannot be allowed to become operational again. Garnet assures her that Earth is safe, prompting Steven to ask "safe from what?"
Pearl awkwardly tries to explain, in a too-careful way, that the Gems from the Homeworld had plans for Earth that some gems, like Rose, Garnet, and Pearl, disagreed with; so vehemently that they chose to protect Earth at the cost of never going home. Steven declares the Crystal Gems are just like The No Home Boys, the heroes of his books, and starts to wonder what life on the road would be like. Amethyst urges him to find out. The pair pack up two Bindle Sticks, catch a ride with the cool kids, and hop a freight train, all to the tune of a song. Amethyst's verses seem to be a bit more somber.
On the train, Steven loses his only food to a vicious raccoon and can't sleep on the itchy hay. He declares himself done pretending, but Amethyst says she's not unlike Steven, she really has no home. She takes Steven off the train to "The Kindergarten," a ruined breeding ground, and explains that she was created here, showing Steven the hole in the rock where she came out of. She giddily describes living here, essentially alone, until Rose, Garnet and Pearl found her.
Pearl arrives via warp pad, scolding Amethyst for running off and for having taken Steven to such a bad place. When she asks Amethyst how much she told Steven, the purple Gem explodes, revealing that the Gems from Homeworld made more gems here, and that the Crystal Gems protect earth from parasites like her.
Pearl tries to stop Amethyst's rant, insisting Steven is not ready to hear what she's saying, but Amethyst is too upset to listen and attacks. Pearl insists she doesn't want to fight, but defends herself. Steven tries to get between them, only to end up literally tossed aside; and for Amethyst, less gently than usual.
Steven jumps between them again, but before they can stop fighting, one of the structures damaged in the fight falls on top of them. Steven conjures his force field, but Amethyst jumps out of its boundaries and runs away.
Once the threat has passed, Steven finds Amethyst huddled with her face to the wall in the hole she described coming from. He tries to talk to her, but she brushes him off, saying she's bad and he shouldn't want anything to do with her. Steven insists Pearl talk to Amethyst. After a rough start that threatens to make things worse, Pearl gets through to Amethyst after realizing how much pain she was in.
The trio return home, Steven looking forward to sleeping in a bed. After they warp away, ominous shadows fall on the now-deserted Kindergarten.
- Adaptation Decay: In-Universe. According to Steven, the No Home Boys had a good run until an ill-fated graphic novel adaptation, which the cover suggests involved an introduction of a lot of fantastical elements. Ronaldo's review confirms this (and that the comic started three decades after the books ended because of a truly spectacular case of Author Existence Failure), but he didn't think the comic was that bad.The old series was a down to earth travelogue - a gritty portrayal of growing up during the Great Depression. The new series was full of magic demons, talking animals and ninjas. Sure it didn't have the same campfire charm, but the expanded "Hoboverse" had much more character development and backstory for readers to sink their teeth into.
- All Animals Are Domesticated: Steven and Amethyst meet a raccoon along the way. At first Steven thinks that he's met a new friend, but then it steals his food, attacks him, and follows him around looking for more food to steal. Amethyst thinks this is pretty funny.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: As the raccoon eats the food it stole from Steven, it stands on its back legs and holds food in each front paw in a strangely human way before shoving it all into its mouth.
- Badass Boast: Amethyst gives two when fighting PearlPearl: I don't want to fight you.
Amethyst: I wouldn't want to fight me neither!
Pearl: Amethyst, stop this! You can't beat me.
Amethyst: I. Don't. CARE!
- Berserker Tears: Amethyst during her battle with Pearl.
- Bilingual Bonus: "Kindergarten" is a loan word from German, which literally translates as "children garden". The Kindergarten is where new Gems are literally grown like plants.
- Bindle Stick: Steven and Amethyst carry them, and Steven refers to it by name. Steven thinks that's just how drifters are supposed to carry their things, opting to use it instead of his much more spacious backpack.
- Broken Bird: This episode reveals that for millennia Amethyst has been hiding feelings that she didn't belong with the other gems because she was a "mistake". These feelings have been fueled by the fact that Rose, the only person in her existence she felt actually liked her along with Greg, is gone forever. And this all may be due to the fact that she grew up in a abandoned canyon for millennia with no one to hang out with but rocks she talked to. Poor Gem can't have a break.
- Broken Smile: Amethyst sarcastically celebrates how great it is that the Kindergarten shut down, so "parasites" like her won't endanger the Earth, and caps it off with a huge, creepy grin that borders on a Slasher Smile.
- In "Warp Tour", Peridot mentioned checking on the Kindergarten before being interrupted by the damaged Robonoid. This episode reveals what that is.
- Back in "Steven's Lion", in response to Steven keeping Lion, Garnet jokes "We kept Amethyst." This is shown to be more than a joke here.
- The Gems have gathered the inactive Robonoids from "Warp Tour", lest they reactivate suddenly and restore the homeworld warp.
- Comically Missing the Point: After Steven complains that his bindle did not have enough food, Amethyst asks why he didn't bring his backpack. Steven responds that it couldn't fit in the bindle.
- Composite Character: The "No Home Boys" seem to be an Expy of both the Boxcar Children and Hardy Boys.
- Continuity Nod: In "Steven's Lion," when Steven asks to keep the lion, Garnet jokes, "We kept Amethyst." This turns out to be much more than a joke as it's revealed that Rose found Amethyst in the Kindergarten, likely after at least 1,000 years on her own, and took her in.note
- Contrived Coincidence: The Kindergarten just so happens to be within walking distance of the random train Steven and Amethyst were riding, and their little adventure has been less than a day long.
- Cooldown Hug: Played with. After Amethyst's Freak Out! has fully ended, she hugs Pearl. But it was Pearl's words of reassurance that really calmed Amethyst down, and the hug came afterward.
- Covered in Gunge: Amethyst crushes one of the Robonoids, splattering its fluids all over herself and Pearl, and getting some on Steven's face.
- Darker and Edgier: This episode shows the monstrous place where Amethyst was created, as well as the friction between her and Pearl coming to a climatic head.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Amethyst grew up in a canyon alone for a very long time only having rocks as friends.
- Disney Death: It briefly appears Amethyst was crushed by a falling machine when Steven wasn't able to get her in his bubble, but she managed to avoid it and hide inside of her hole.
- Dissonant Serenity: Steven clearly finds the Kindergarten an immensely creepy place, what with the weird abandoned machinery, people-shaped holes, and general absence of life. But Amethyst was born there, so she finds it very comforting.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Amethyst's insecurities about having been created in the Kindergarten, the outburst she has about it, and the type of reassurance she needs from Pearl, are all eerily similar to the dynamics one might see in an unplanned child's relationship with her mother. Amethyst fears that Pearl views her a "big mistake":Amethyst: Admit it! I'm just an embarrassment to you! [...] I never asked for it to be this way! I never asked to be made!
- Evil Is Visceral: The potentially ecosystem-destroying machines which grow gems in the Kindergarten are full of what looks like a human heart, arteries, veins, and other viscera. One even bleeds when it's damaged, although the way it's broken suggest the "tissue" is actually made of some brittle mineral. The machines are also essential gigantic Bacteriophage viruses.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The book series, The No Home Boys. It's about runaway boys that have no home.
- Fighting Your Friend: Pearl makes many comments about how awful the Kindergarten is and that no one should tell Steven about it. Amethyst takes offense, tells her to leave, and starts attacking her.
- Foreshadowing: As Pearl says the homeworld gems did "something very bad" to the Earth, she conspicuously leaves out Amethyst when telling Steven how they chose to defend the Earth. Amethyst looks away, ashamed, and steps on another Robonoid. Garnet follows up by saying "We chose Earth," and Amethyst silently stares into the corner.
- Freak Out!: Pearl's comments at the beginning of the episode remind Amethyst of her long-suppressed feelings about her origins, making her eager to get out of the house. When Pearl chastises her for taking Steven to the Kindergarten, these feelings finally come to a head and explode, causing Amethyst to display symptoms such as insane smiling, referring to herself as a parasite, flying into a rage and attacking Pearl, and finally climbing into a hole to sulk.
- Gaia's Lament: There's a stark contrast when Steven and Amethyst enter the Kindergarten. It goes from vibrant to barren, punctuated by Steven stepping on a stick which crumbles into dust. It's clear that the machines that made the Gems did so at the expense of the Earth itself. And this is hundreds or thousands of years after the machines were shut down, meaning the damage is either permanent or extremely slow to recover from.
- Genre Shift: In-universe, the "No Home Boys" graphic novel introduced fantasy elements.
- Heroic BSoD: At the end of the episode Amethyst is crouched in her hole in tears. Luckily Pearl is able to reach her.
- Hidden Depths: It is clear now that Amethyst's antics and friction with Pearl comes from her "feral" state and her shame over the original purpose of her creation.
- Hidden Eyes: Amethyst's eyes are hidden behind her hair just before she attacks Pearl. After Pearl talks Amethyst out of her hole, her eyes are hidden by hair again, but then one eye pokes out and she hugs Pearl.
- I Am a Monster: Amethyst has issues about being made in The Kindergarten.Amethyst: Oh, but don't worry, Steven. Everything's just fine now.
Amethyst: It all worked out. We won!
Amethyst: And we shut this place down—
Amethyst: —so the Earth would be safe from parasites like me!
- Innocently Insensitive: Pearl vaguely refers to the Kindergarten as "something... very bad" that she, Rose, and Garnet came to earth to stop. This ends up deeply hurting Amethyst's feelings and kicks up her inferiority complex. Even when she's trying to apologize to Amethyst she's insensitive, though this time she realizes it as she is saying it.Pearl: No, No Amethyst! You're not the mistake! You're just a by-product of... (blushes) a big mistake.
- Ironic Echo: During "On The Run" montage, Amethyst picks Steven up and throws him bodily into the boxcar, then jumps in after him. But during her fight with Pearl, Amethyst picks Steven up and throws him bodily again. Steven lands much less easily this time and it's an indication how upset she is that she wasn't as careful and gentle.
- Meaningful Name: The Kindergarten (literally "children garden") is a site from which children are grown out of the ground.
- Mood Whiplash: Starts off as a comical romp with Steven and Amethyst. Then Amethyst takes Steven to Kindergarten, an area devoid of life and strewn with sinister virus-shaped machines and person-shaped holes in the cliffs that many gems, including Amethyst, were born from. It is implied that this process would have destroyed much more or even all life in Earth if the Crystal Gems had not defected and stopped it. To top it off, the second half of the episode unexpectedly reveals Hidden Depths to Amethyst, namely that her carefree personality is partly a facade used to conceal her self-hatred about her origins and insecurity about how she thinks the other Crystal Gems feel about her. Feelings that she'd apparently been suppressing for a while, but now finally came to a head resulting in Amethyst freaking out and attacking Pearl. And all this dark, heavy stuff came with little warning from Steven's lovably silly and childish attempt to imitate something he read in a children's adventure book.
- Mundane Object Amazement: Played for Drama when Amethyst revisits the Kindergarten. She has an almost maniacal glee at the couple of rocks she spent most of her early life playing with.
- Not Helping Your Case: Pearl tries to reassure Amethyst, but doesn't do a good job the first time.Pearl: No, no. Amethyst, you're not the mistake. You're just the by-product of a... big mistake.
(Pearl is flustered, Amethyst glares back angrily)
Pearl: No, that's not—I just never thought of this as you.
- Ominous Fog: After Steven and the Gems leave, the fog slowly reveals more gem holes and other machines in the distance.
- Ominous Mundanity: The place where gems are grown, with potentially world-destroying costs, is called "the Kindergarten". The name manages to be mundane and almost sweet-sounding on its own, but still bringing to mind very dark thoughts.
- 1-Dimensional Thinking: As the tall machine falls over onto Amethyst, she runs along it's length all the way to her birth hole.
- Poor Communication Kills: Amethyst never told the other gems her true feelings about her beginnings. Pearl assumed that Amethyst had some pride in them. As a result, Pearl ends up tremendously upsetting Amethyst with everything she says about the place Amethyst was made.
- Pun: The exit sign to Beach City has "Sea you later!"
- Reality Ensues: Steven discovers that life on the road isn't as glamorous as the No Home Boys make it out to be.You know, I feel like I've been misled about hay. It always looks so soft in those illustrations. It's actually really scratchy.
- Rule of Symbolism: The machines littering the Kindergarten look a lot like models of bacteriophage. Bacteriophage are viruses that infect bacteria and alter their DNA to produce more bacteriophage until the bacteria destroys itself. The machines seem to use Earth's geology to make more gems, draining it in the process, and Amethyst calls herself a parasite for being made by one.
- Sad Battle Music: "Defective" plays during the fight between Pearl and Amethyst.
- Shout-Out: The silhouette-shaped holes in the Kindergarten cliff face, and the eerie way in which Amethyst glides backwards into her hole, are a nod to Junji Ito's The Enigma of Amigara Fault.
- Show Within a Show: Steven falls in love with a book series called "The No Home Boys", similar to the Boxcar Children books, and is inspired to live the safe life on the road.
- Smash to Black: Instead of the usual Iris Out, the episode smashes to black after a view of the decaying Kindergarten, ending with ominous percussion notes, as if the machines were being reactivated.
- Surprise Creepy: A quick example with the Kindergarten machines. Unlike other Gem technology they're angular and menacing.
- Sword Beam: Pearl fires energy blasts from her spear, and Amethyst shows a similar ability with her whips.
- Symbolic Blood: A gem machine in the Kindergarten breaks, spilling the red organic substance contained inside of it. A borderline example, because it looks almost exactly like actual blood.
- There's No Place Like Home: During the musical number, Amethyst says she wishes she could say there's no better place than home, but she's never felt at home anywhere.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Pearl describes what the other gems from the Homeworld wanted to do, despite the harm it would cause the Earth, as the reason the Crystal Gems fought against them even though it meant never going home.
- Vagabond Buddies: The No Home Boys appear to be about a pair of roaming homeless friends. Steven and Amethyst briefly try to become the same.
- Wham Episode: The Earth is revealed to have a "Kindergarten" system that was used by homeworld gems to create other gems on Earth, and Amethyst is one of them. The Crystal Gems defected and sealed off Earth so the other Gems couldn't keep exploiting it.
- Wham Line: The episode takes a sudden turn for the dramatic when Steven is talking to Amethyst in the box car.Steven: I'm sure Garnet and Pearl are worried sick about us. Wondering when we're coming home.
Amethyst: That's not my home.
Steven: But—Oh, that's right, you're from Homeworld!
Amethyst: That's not my home, either!
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Pearl asserts Amethyst as the only good that came out of the Kindergarten, a place where Homeworld Gems used to make "bad" Gems.Pearl: I hope you can forgive me. You're the one good thing that came out of this mess. I always thought you were proud of that.