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Recap / Steven Universe S4E13 "The Zoo"

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Steven pops out of the water to see Greg being groomed by two humans who Greg introduces to be Wy-Six and Jay-Ten. Steven expresses his worry, having believed the containment area was a dystopia where the humans were all chained up to a wall doing tricks for peanuts. Greg reassures Steven, and introduces him to the inhabitants to whom he had told stories of Steven such as "the bits". Steven informs Greg that there is a door they could not open from the other side, so the two plan to find that door tonight and figure out a way to exit the Zoo.

The little voice greets the inhabitants in the containment to begin the daily routine which includes eating, playing, reaching into outer space, smelling the flowers, and cleaning up with a refreshing bath before taking a nap at night. Steven is discomforted throughout, however, because the utopia is actually a glorified prison. Greg understands why everyone else is so happy because they do not know they are trapped here since they have never been anywhere else and on top of that, the prison is a utopia.

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Night sets in and everyone goes to sleep except Greg and Steven who search for the door Steven mentioned earlier. Steven bumps into the door and tries to open it by bashing on it which attracts Wy-Six and Jay-Ten. They think it is a game Steven is playing, but Steven tells them he has to get the door open which they do not know such a thing exists. However, Jay-Ten recalls a time where the door or "opening wall" let a Gem through to help someone who was "hurt". They do not know what "hurt" is, so Steven explains. Afterward, Steven tries to get Greg to punch him in the face. Greg declines but offers Steven to punch him instead. Greg is sent flying into a tree after a dud from concern, but it does not get the door to open.

The little voice announces the "choosening" has begun. The inhabitants surround the "circle of choosening". According to Wy-Six, it is a very special event that he is glad to have Greg here with. It is seen that the choosening is a matchmaking ceremony between two random people. Being a possible candidate for anybody stresses Greg, but Jay-Ten says anybody here would be very lucky to have him. Luckily for Jay-Ten, Greg is matched with her, but Greg refuses, as back on Earth, there was no "little voice" that controlled their lives or "choosened" them for someone, but rather there existed free will. Steven backs him up by mentioning how Rose and Greg's relationship took time knowing each other to fall in love, resulting in them "choosening" each other.

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After the explanation, the human inhabitants all decide that they choose Greg. However, Greg has a say in the situation as well, so he declines being chosen and choosing anyone as well. This makes the inhabitants cry and experience the feeling of being "hurt" for the first time. They beg Greg to take the hurt away and chase him and Steven. The Amethyst guards open the door and rush into the containment to avert the crisis. This gives Greg and Steven an opportunity to exit through the door. They attempt to escape but are stopped and caught by an Amethyst, who informs them that they are in deep trouble.


Tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: The Crystal Gems don't appear in this episode.
  • Accidental Misnaming: The Zoomans call Greg "Ga-reg" and Steven "Ste-von".
  • Ambiguously Bi: Both male and female Zoomans want to Choosen Greg. It should be noted that the humans in the Zoo have a childish mindset towards love and marriage thanks to their utopia, so it’s debatable how much is actual attraction and how much is just conditioning.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The humans in the zoo are far more diverse and healthy than a small breeding population could actually be millennia after bringing in any new people from outside. There'd either need to be a lot more than what's shown (about a thousand for a stable population) or significant genetic engineering.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The Amethyst guards come barging in like riot police when the Zoomans cause a ruckus, but behave more like counselors instead.
  • Battle Strip: One of the Zoomans does this after Greg rejects them.
  • Buffy Speak: The mate-designation ceremony is called "The Choosening." You'd think Homeworld Gems could manage something more succinct, but it does fit with the childish mindset of the Zoomans... not to mention the near total creative sterility that Gems seem to have regarding names.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: The Zoo humans have a "Choosening" ritual where they're told by the Gem administrators who to hook up with. No one questions this because they've never known anything different. Hilarity Ensues when Greg inevitably ends up in the mix.
  • Celibate Hero: Although Rose is dead, Greg is too loyal to her to even want to be Choosened by someone else, creepiness of the Choosening concept aside.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Greg refuses to be part of "The Choosening", telling the other humans that back on Earth, humans are free to choose their own romantic partners. All of the Zoomans then try to "Choosen" Greg.
  • Continuity Nod: When Steven reluctantly punches Greg to stage a Deliberate Injury Gambit, none of the Amethyst soldiers come to the door. In previous episodes, Gems have remained unaware about human fragility and when they get injured.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The humans in the zoo live in a crystal spire (made by Gems no less) and wear gender-neutral vest/loincloth outfits.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: When told that the maintenance door will open if a human is hurt, Steven realizes that one of them getting injured should do the trick. Greg decides to take one for the team, but that doesn't pan out. Hurting the Zoomans' feelings, however, does.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: Discussed, and defied where Greg is concerned. The Zoomans are used to the "Choosening" and thus will pair up according to what the loudspeakers tell them, regardless of how they feel about it. Greg doesn't want to be a part of it, however, and he has to explain to the Zoomans about choice. They don't take it well when he turns them down.
  • Eternal English: The Zoomans speak English despite being five millennia removed from anyone who grew up on Earth.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Greg is apparently popular enough with the other humans in the zoo that when he tells them they should be able to choose who they want to be with, all of them choose him, including the men.
  • False Utopia: The human zoo provides everything the humans need, and its population has been there so long they want for nothing. They have free periods every day. However, freedom is severely curtailed, with the station AI telling them when to eat, play, and bathe, and their ability to handle disappointment or any unhappiness at all is nonexistent. Lampshaded by Greg:
    Greg: There's always a catch to these Utopias.
  • Foreshadowing: Rather than crush the Zoomans when they start causing trouble, the Amethysts actually try to talk down the sobbing humans and comfort them, hinting at their more benevolent nature.
  • Genre Savvy: Greg mentions that he should have realized that every utopia has its downside. He seems to be familiar with how every False Utopia has a catch, as the literature from the 1980s would note.
  • Gilded Cage: The Zoomans are trapped in a zoo with no outside contact, but are provided everything they need. Greg points this out when Steven mentions how the zoo gives him the creeps.
  • Glomp: Steven and Greg give each other a huge hug when they reunite.
  • Good Parents: Greg won't hit Steven even if they need to escape.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Steven tries to get Greg to hit him so some Homeworld Gems will open the door and check on him, giving them an opportunity to escape. Greg offers to "take one for the team" instead, but he regrets it when he realizes he forgot how strong Steven is. It doesn't work, anyway.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: When the entire Zoo breaks down crying, they sob like this, drooling and with their noses running like faucets.
  • Language Equals Thought: The Zoomans knowledge of the word "hurt" is almost mythical, and are lost at Steven's explanation of feelings that are "bad".
  • Manchild: The "Zoomans" have led a pampered existence all their lives and so are very naïve and childlike. They react to being rejected by Greg by essentially throwing sobbing temper tantrums.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: Even when the zoo people are supposed to be bathing, they keep all their clothes on.
  • Not Good with Rejection: The entire zoo. Since everything is decided for them, they don't have any concept of free choice, and by extension, no concept of rejection. When Greg explains the concept and exercises his right to refuse the Zoomans’ decision for the "Choosening", they become a crying, heartbroken mob and chase after him and Steven, begging Greg to take back his choice.
  • People Zoo: The Zoomans' habitat.
  • Perpetual Frowner: There’s one Zooman who keeps his deadpan face while the rest excitedly chant "The bits, the bits!" Then again, he smiles while greeting Steven and when the Little Voice speaks up. Maybe he just doesn't like memes.
  • Pet the Dog: The Amethyst guards, when coming into the zoo, try to comfort the Zoomans over their sadness from Greg rejecting them.
  • Police Brutality: Subverted. When the Amethyst soldiers bust in to control the crying Zoomans, a lot of them are shown just trying to get them to calm down, with some even trying to get them to talk about what happened.
  • Punched Across the Room: When Steven finally does grant Greg's decision to to be the one to pull off their Deliberate Injury Gambit, Steven ends up sending him flying across the clearing they're in and into a tree in one punch.
  • The Reveal: Humans in the zoo don't know sadness, and they are assigned mates via a ritual called "The Choosening".
  • Shout Out:
    • The whole episode is a reference to Brave New World with a False Utopia presented in Gilded Cage form, loudspeaker calming panicking masses (albeit without the drugs in that novel), and a riot ensuing when a newcomer refuses to conform.
    • While Steven is fleeing from the Zoo humans while carrying Greg, Greg spots a tree and shouts, "Watch out for that-" before colliding with it.
  • Stock Object Colors: Averted. The coconuts hanging from the tree in the zoo are green, which is the realistic color of coconuts. This is in contrast to the coconuts in "Super Watermelon Island", which are colored brown like in most cartoons.
  • Tempting Fate: Steven believes Greg won't be chosen for the Choosening since he's a new addition to the zoo. He gets chosen the second after Steven says it.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "The Choosening" is Homeworld's Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage of humans that's all but stated to be a breeding program.
  • Unwanted Harem: When Greg explains that humans on Earth choose who they want to be with, the entire population chooses him. Greg is then forced to explain that the other party also gets a say in it, and rejects them.
  • Waterfall Shower: The zoo has a waterfall which serves as a bath area for the humans.
  • What Is This Feeling?: The Zoomans have never felt sadness or pain before, and they are left in shambles when Greg rejects them during the Choosening ceremony.
  • You Are Number 6: Played with. Every Zooman seems to have a serial number for a name, the two we see the most of being called J10 and Y6. However, the credits spell these names "Jay-Ten" and "Wy-Six", while Greg and Steven are called "Ga-Reg" and "Ste-Van", making their naming convention a bit more fuzzy.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Right when Steven assumes Greg can't get Choosened due to being new, he's then immediately called up.

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