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Recap / Steven Universe S1E43 "Maximum Capacity"

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It's almost New Year's Eve. Steven and Greg are looking forward to the Beach City fireworks display put on by Mayor Dewey, Steven chattering excitedly about what he likes best. But it's still a day away, and the two of them are headed for Greg's storage unit to put away his way-out-of-date Summer Wax standing sign from the car wash.

When they get there, though, the storage unit is packed to overflowing. There is literally not enough room for one more thing. Steven and Greg decide the unit needs to be cleaned out. Steven says one of the Gems should help, and takes off to go get her. He returns — with Amethyst. By Steven's logic, Amethyst has seen lots of messes and they don't freak her out, so she should be the one to help. Greg says he was expecting Steven to bring Pearl. They briefly squabble over the KEEP, SELL, BURN boxes and whether they should be burning anything at all. Greg bequeaths a box of books to Steven, pleased and surprised that "books are cool again". Steven agrees they are, especially in light of his having been grounded from watching television for 1,000 years — which Greg had not taken seriously and had pretty much forgotten altogether.

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As they dig deeper into the mess, Greg finds the picture of himself and Rose, the frame of which was broken during the hunt for Rose's laser light cannon, and is briefly melancholic — until Amethyst finds a bunch of old VHS tapes of their favorite old show, Li'l Butler — about a little kid who happens to look and behave like an elderly, seasoned, English butler. Greg cheerfully reminisces good times watching the show with Amethyst while Steven was very small. Steven, dutifully honoring his having been grounded the night of the dinner party, refuses to watch even though Greg and Amethyst are willing to let him off the hook.

Greg and Amethyst get absorbed in the show entirely, disregarding the cleaning of the storage unit. When Greg realizes how late it's become, he tells Steven to go home and they'll pick up in the morning. Steven stops off at Fryman's for a double order of hash browns. He and Peedee briefly discuss the practicalities of starting a new year on the right note. When Steven arrives at the unit, his father asks why he's come back so late. Steven points out it's morning. Greg and Amethyst blink over this for all of a second, then take the hash browns as snacks, and Greg promises to show up for the New Year's Eve fireworks.

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That evening, Steven has taught Garnet and Pearl how to dress for the weather, and how making noise with pots and pans is part of the tradition. Pearl is briefly surprised that Amethyst and Greg are hanging out together watching "that dumb show". Garnet scoffs, and for a moment they try to remember what caused Greg and Amethyst to quit hanging out, but they give up trying to recall after a short time. Midnight comes and with it a new year, as fireworks start to fill the sky, but Greg is nowhere to be seen. Pearl bangs her noisemakers very quietly in celebration. Garnet bangs hers thunderously. Steven returns to the storage unit to get his father.

Thanks to a momentary pause while the VHS rewinds, Greg realizes that he's missing the fireworks and gets up to stop watching, but Amethyst tries to cajole him into watching more, even pointing out the two-part Hawaii special is next in the lineup. Greg says he wants to be with his son and see the fireworks. Amethyst mockingly shapeshifts into Steven and imitates what his excited reaction would be to the fireworks and tries to manipulate him to stay. Greg quietly reminds her:

"You know how I feel about shapeshifting."

Amethyst and Greg's conversation escalates, Amethyst mockingly shapeshifting into Greg and sidling up to him faux-flirtatiously. Greg acknowledges that he knows Amethyst enjoys making him uncomfortable; he says he can't humor her anymore because he needs to be there for his son. Amethyst snaps that she used to have someone who was there for her all the time, until Greg stole that person from her. Greg tries to stop the discussion, saying that they already had this fight before. Amethyst taunts Greg that he would stay if she was "her"... and she shapeshifts again, this time into a purple version of Rose Quartz! Greg, expecting this, and by his expression, dreading it — turns away from her and asks her to stop. He says he wants to be friends again, but he can't let her do this to him again. As Amethyst begins to press the issue, Steven interrupts.

A little shocked but firm, Steven says that he understands their feelings: it's hard to stop clinging to the past but they both need to let it go... because the storage unit is full.

Steven: Seriously, when did you even have a cat!?

Amethyst shamefacedly returns to her normal shape and runs off. Greg and Steven don't stop her, as Greg turns off the TV, putting an end to his vice.

The next morning, Greg and Steven return to have another go at the storage unit, only to find it completely cleared out. Pearl and Garnet are just finishing up. Greg asks if it was Pearl's idea, but Pearl says it was Amethyst's. The purple gem kind of avoids Greg's gaze, before she finally explains that they put all the stuff from the storage unit in the temple, in her room, where it will go unnoticed as part of her larger mess. She has one box left marked KEEP, which she hands to Greg.

In it is the picture of him and Rose, in a new frame. The episode then ends with Greg closing the door to the now empty storage unit, now with his heart a little lighter.


Tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: While Steven usually is Wise Beyond His Years, it's entirely possible he called out both Greg and Amethyst on them clinging to the past without actually realizing their problem isn't just with the stuff, but with his mother.
  • Adopt-a-Servant: Played for Laughs with the wacky sitcom Lil' Butler, which is about a wealthy family who raise their Doorstop Baby as a butler.
  • An Aesop: You can't hang on to everything from the past.
  • Affectionate Parody: L'il Butler is a parody of cheesy live-action sitcoms from the 1980s, which one of the show's staff even described as "an unholy mix of Mr. Belvedere and Webster".
  • Ambiguously Human: It's not entirely clear what L'il Butler is supposed to be. Which is kind of the point.
  • And Starring: In-universe, the title character of L'il Butler has his actor credited last in the opening.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Steven says he knows the perfect person to organize Greg's messy storage locker. Cue him bringing back Amethyst. Greg even lampshades that he was expecting Pearl.
  • Banging Pots and Pans: Steven and Greg make noise with pots and pans during the fireworks every year, and Steven gives some for Pearl and Garnet to use. Pearl barely makes a sound and Garnet pounds two pans together so hard everyone covers their ears even though they hadn't for the fireworks.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • The TV that Greg and Amethyst watch L'il Butler on is a "SUMY."
    • What looks like an O'Reilly Media programming guide to "DNIX" is part of the mess inside Greg's storage locker.
  • Broken Bird: Like almost every episode where Amethyst has the limelight.
  • Call-Back:
    • Greg's storage locker is revisited. All that hoarding has finally filled it past capacity.
    • The photo of Rose and Greg that Steven broke the frame for when trying to find the Light Cannon makes another appearance. Greg had forgotten Steven broke it and took it hard seeing it that way.
    • Greg's discomfort with shape shifting was foreshadowed all the way back at the beginning of Cat Fingers, where Amethyst's transformations were shown to visibly unnerve him. This episode reveals the reasons for that.
    • Steven mentions, time after time, that he's grounded from TV for 1,000 years.
  • Catchphrase: Li'l Butler's is "You people have too much money!" spoken in a scolding tone. Greg and Amethyst know it well enough to say it on cue with the tape.
  • Character Development: Amethyst takes the Aesop of not hanging onto the past to heart. She doesn't quite make it to the point of apologizing out loud to Greg, but she re-frames the picture of Greg and Rose, by way of implying she's going to try not to hold it against Greg for Rose being gone.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Early in the episode, Greg assumes that Steven meant Pearl when he was talking about getting a Gem to help sort his storage locker. Pearl has demonstrated herself to be obsessed with organization and cleanliness in several episodes. She does in fact help at the end.
    • Amethyst transforms into Purple Puma.
    • Amethyst is still very upset about the loss of Rose. She refers to her as someone who used to hang out with Amethyst all the time until Greg took her away. We learned in "On The Run" that Rose was most likely the one who found feral, hole-grown Amethyst and brought her into the group.
    • Greg is wearing a sweater shown in "Winter Forecast", which is apparently not his sole "nice" shirt, as that one is a turtleneck. He also appears to have only the one holey-kneed pair of sweatpants by way of winter clothing, as the pants made their first appearance in "Winter Forecast".
    • The photo of Greg and Rose is a copy of the photo Rose left for Steven in Lion's storage.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Li'l Butler theme song is all about Li'l Butler being the littlest butler, butlering around.
    Oh littlest butler, you're the butler who butlers our hearts...
  • Dinky Drivers: The opening credits montage/theme song of Li'l Butler includes footage of Li'l Butler, who is the size of a child, driving the family car.
  • Door Closes Ending: The episode ends with a shot from the interior of Greg's now-empty storage unit as he closes it, darkening the screen as it transitions to the credits.
  • Doorstop Baby: Li'l Butler was left on a doorstep as a baby.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe, Greg realizes he's missing New Years, so Amethyst shapeshifts into Steven to "cheer him up", which doesn't help at all. Then she goes entirely too far by turning into Rose just to screw with him.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In-universe, Greg and Amethyst talk about how weird it feels to watch the Li'l Butler pilot, because the family had a cat instead of a dog.
  • Expository Theme Tune: Li'l Butler has one, about how they found him and he teaches them about themselves while keeping the house clean.
  • Easily Forgiven: Steven either decides to not make a big deal out of the fact that Amethyst shapeshifted into his dead mother in order to taunt his still-emotionally traumatized father, or is just too young to process how utterly horrible doing a thing like that is. He still yells at her, but the incident never gets mentioned again.
  • Foreshadowing: When Greg finds his copy of his photo with Rose and Steven points it out, the camera focuses on Amethyst's face so you can see she's feeling either upset or uncomfortable.
  • Growing the Beard: In-universe, Amethyst mentions that season 3 of Li'l Butler is when it really starts getting good.
  • Kick the Morality Pet: Amethyst taunts Greg with her Shapeshifting powers, escalating into turning into Rose Quartz, the deceased love of his life. And Greg's reaction indicates that this isn't even unexpected. It's the sight of Steven yelling at her, and Steven's obvious pain and shock at the sight of his own dead mother, that sends Amethyst into real remorse.
  • The Last Straw: The act of hanging a garden hose on a lawn flamingo causes Greg's storage locker to spill out.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The "2 part Hawaii special" of Lil' Butler can be heard playing in the background while Greg and Amethyst are arguing; the catch phrase and laugh track coincide with Steven interrupting them.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode starts as a father/son bonding activity with some little help from Amethyst. Then things get heartbreaking when past incidents and resentments between Greg and Amethyst are revealed, and more Rose Quartz nostalgia pops up.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Amethyst when Steven catches her taunting Greg in the form of Rose Quartz. After Steven tells them they have to let go of the past, she runs off ashamed.
  • Never Say "Die": Greg can't bring himself to actually call where Rose has gone anything, but the way he phrases himself makes it sound like he's talking about her having died, which really drives home how much he misses her. In this instance, he catches himself at the end of the sentence, and clears his throat.
  • New Year Has Come: The episode takes place on New Year's Eve.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Apparently Greg lost the deed to his uncle's mansion.
    • Amethyst has shapeshifted into Rose in front of Greg at least once before. It's implied to be the reason they stopped hanging out.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Pearl and Garnet are quite annoyed to find out Greg and Amethyst are sitting around watching Li'l Butler, mentioning it's happened before.
  • Pet the Dog: After their fight, Amethyst picks up a new frame for Greg's photo of himself and Rose and gets the other Gems to help her clear out the unit and move the stuff to the temple so Greg won't have to throw anything out.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Greg questions Steven's plan to burn the stuff they don't plan on keeping or selling.
    Amethyst: Ah come on, Greg! What are you afraid of?
    Greg: Fire?
  • Seiza Squirm: When Garnet, Pearl, and Steven sit down on the picnic blanket for the fireworks show, Pearl effortlessly sits on her heels for the whole scene.
  • Servile Snarker: Lil' Butler's got "sass and pep" and his Catchphrase is a crack at the family that took him in.
    Li'l Butler: You people have too much money!
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Steven: I can't wait for New Year's Eve tomorrow. It feels like I've waited a whole year.
    Greg: Well, you feel that way for a reason.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Amethyst tries to convince Greg to stay by first shapeshifting into Steven and imitating how he would act at the fireworks. When that doesn't work she mocks him in his form. When he asserts he has to spend time with his son she accusingly points out she used to have Rose until he came around. Finally she taunts him by taking on Rose's form, something to which he does not respond well.
  • Show Within a Show: "Li'l Butler".
  • Touch of the Monster: One of the books in Greg's collection, "Passions of Xanxor", features a gender-flipped version with a Green-Skinned Space Babe cradling a muscular pretty-boy in two of her three arms.
  • Trash of the Titans: Greg's storage unit has finally got so full that nothing else will fit in it. At the end the Gems take most of it to the Temple. It's implied that both Greg and Amethyst are reluctant to throw stuff away because of the memories they associate them with.
  • Truth in Television:
    • Hoarders tend to accumulate things because they're unable to let go of a fond memory or a tragic experience.
    • Likewise, once someone gets married they tend to let single friends fall by the wayside.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Even though he looks like an old man, Li'l Butler has a child's voice. Presumably his actor was a kid wearing a fake mustache and bald cap.
  • We Used to Be Friends: It is strongly implied that Amethyst shapeshifting into Rose to torment Greg is why they're not close friends anymore. But Amethyst tries to make amends at the end of the episode.
  • Wealth's in a Name: The title character of Li'l Butler works for the Money family. Amethyst mentions they eventually get some Cranky Neighbors named "the Richingtons".
  • Wham Shot:

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