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Recap / Steven Universe S2E17 "Historical Friction"

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Original airdate: July 16th, 2015

Production code: 1031-066

Steven joins a theater group with Jamie to produce a play about Mayor Dewey's ancestor and how he founded Beach City.


  • Acting for Two: In-universe, since Steven was the only person to show up to audition for the play, Jamie decides that Steven will be William Dewey and he'll be every other character. He makes it work.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: After the play, Steven gives his credit to Pearl for the historical accuracy. This causes Mayor Dewey to thank her for restoring his ancestor’s legacy. She replies by calling him a friend and patting his head, much to his joy.
  • An Aesop: Nobody's unconditionally perfect, and everybody makes mistakes, but the important thing is to keep trying. And on a meta level, characters who have deep flaws and struggles can also be interesting alongside characters who always succeed or are less prone to mistakes. Possible Leaning on the Fourth Wall, regarding recent arguments about Pearl's actions, though if that was the intention, Production Lead Time means it was preemptive.
  • Art Shift: The first telling of the script was told in style of a storybook.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: A giant tentacled monster versus a giant person as re-enacted in the play. In Mayor Dewey's version, his ancestor had supernatural powers that allowed him to grow, but in the version of the play Pearl helped write, it's shown that it was actually the Crystal Gems' fusion that defeated the monster and saved the ship.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: After the play, Mayor Dewey tells Jamie and Steven that he enjoyed the play's message; as in the "Vote for Mayor Dewey" banner at the end.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Pearl and the Gems were there for the events of the play, and Steven gets Pearl's help in making the play more accurate (and far better).
  • Breather Episode: Like "Onion Friend", it's a bit of a break from the drama that occurred in "Cry For Help" and "Keystone Motel", with some Worldbuilding as an added bonus.
  • Call-Back: The Gems (in the play's story) fused together into a giant woman, to save William Dewey after his ship falls under attack. This may be the same fusion as depicted on the statue at the temple.
  • Cheap Costume: The revised play had No Budget, so Jamie's Crystal Gems costumes are rather lacking: Pearl is him with his hair slicked back and a party hat on his nose. Garnet is him with a cardboard square for an afro and his old pair of sunglasses. Amethyst is a mop with a piece of costume jewelry on it.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Pearl revises Mayor Dewey's character in the play to be an accident-prone failure, which makes him more historically accurate as well as more human and relatable to the audience. Steven rolls with it quite well.
    Steven (as William Dewey): (After accidentally elbowing the sail off) Ah! I can't even turn a sail right! Why must I always struggle?!
    Buck: (Upon watching his accidental-prone great grandfather) Wow dad, what a loser.
    (Buck's father slides off the chair in embarrassment)
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Garnet's representation in the play warns William Dewey that humans "Aren't. Very. Good. Swimmers.", with the camera getting closer to her face with each line. The same effect happened in "Love Letters" when Jamie was looking at Garnet declare herself to be "A very. Good. Swimmer."
    • Pearl's still depressed about her falling out with Garnet.
    • Dewey still has a crush on Pearl, which was first seen in "Political Power".
    • The fact that the Gems have been around for thousands of years is referenced when Pearl casually mentions she knew the real William Dewey when he founded Beach City 200 years ago. Likewise, she claimed back in "Rising Tides/Crashing Skies" that they were there first, which is shown to be true here as William could never have founded the town without their help.
    • Jamie is wearing his movie star glasses from "Love Letters".
    • Jamie has taken Garnet's advice about community theater to heart.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Nanefua gives Jamie a playful slap on the butt as she leaves.
  • Disney Death: William Dewey's first mate Buddy is dragged into the ocean by what appears to be a giant octopus. Shortly before William announces that he will name Beach City in his honor, he somehow shows up alive.
  • Doing It for the Art: Jamie and Steven put on the more accurate and well-written revised version of the play instead of the one Mayor Dewey wrote, even though he was funding it and could stop funding Jamie's plays if he didn't like how this one turned out.
  • Doting Parent: Pearl behaves as almost any mom would at her child's first school play, calling up Steven's name from the audience and screaming he's "so talented". Surprisingly, it subverts the usual reaction a kid has to this, as Steven looks noticeably more at ease for the rest of the play.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: Bill Dewey sits in a chair backward while explaining the play to Steven.
  • Flat Character: Jamie complains how William Dewey as Mayor Dewey didn't have any deeper characterization other than "guy who was great at everything".
    Jamie: How can a guy have no faults? To be human is to be flawed. A real hero must struggle!
    Steven: That's so beautiful! And also totally not represented in Mayor Dewey's script.
  • Funny Background Event: Inverted. When Pearl is shouting for Steven in the audience, Mr. Smiley in the foreground disapproves (but continues smiling).
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": William Dewey as Mayor Dewey wrote him as perfect and flawless (to a ridiculous degree), and at one point he actually grows fifty feet and carries his ship to safety.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: According to Pearl, the real William Dewey sailed for new land because everyone thought he was an idiot and only managed to found "Beach City" after failing countless times. According to Mayor Dewey, he succeeded at everything the first time and could turn into a giant.
  • Impossible Shadow Puppets: Before the play started, Jamie made a dolphin and a sad face, with his hands in a way that shouldn't have been able to make them.
  • Ladies and Germs: When opening the play, Jamie addresses the audience as "boardies and gentleboardies".
  • Large Ham: Jamie is quite hammy, on and off the stage.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The episode ends right after Steven says that you should always end with a joke. (It doesn't.)
  • Marty Stu: Discussed In-Universe, regarding Mayor Dewey's draft, with Jamie noting how unbelievable William's character is
  • Perfection Is Impossible: Steven says this when discussing the Mayor's version of William Dewey with Pearl, which ends up making Pearl feel a bit better about her recent mistakes.
  • Rule of Funny: The explanation Steven gives when Pearl questions the campaign poster at the end of the play is that reality takes a back seat to making the audience happy, so it's best to end with a joke.
  • Secret Handshake: Jamie and Steven have a handshake where they high-five, pull to the side, and point at each other.
  • Sizeshifting: In the mayor's script, William Dewey grew into a 50-foot giant.
  • Verbal Backspace: When the play is about to start, Jamie is nervous, saying that the play could make or break his career. When Steven questions how it could affect his post office job, he amends "career" to "hobby".
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Steven briefly speaks with a vaguely-Italian accent while demonstrating to Jamie he can act. Jamie questions what kind of accent it's supposed to be, but Steven doesn't know either.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Pearl lampshades this trait of Steven's.
    Pearl: When did you get so smart?
  • Worldbuilding: The play gives us information on how Beach City was founded, and how the Gems were involved.
  • Written by the Winners: Mayor Dewey tries to do this with the play.