ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Mar. 17th, 2014
SYNOPSIS: Steven and Onion trade collectibles with terrible results.
Steven’s in a bind. He’s missing his Ranger Guy, a figurine that is part of a collectible series known as GUYS: Guys Under your Supervision. This is a crisis because Ranger Guy is his favorite. Amethyst and Pearl are no help though, neither one has any clue what the heck GUYS are and they eventually end up arguing over Amethyst’s messy room, leaving Steven to venture off on his self-imposed quest.
Steven checks up with his father to break the bad news that he lost Ranger Guy. While Greg sees it as a toy he simply got for Steven during their special day on the beach, Steven views it as a symbol of their time together. Greg realizes how upset his son is, so he hands him a bag of quarters to try and score another Ranger Guy.
An excited Steven races to Funland Arcade, dumping quarter after quarter in the GUYS machine to win his coveted prize. The darn thing must be rigged though, all he keeps getting are Dave Guys. Luck shines for Steven when he spots Onion passing by with a Ranger Guy. Oh, Onion, Onion, Onion. Where do I even start with this kid? For example, this episode gives us a keen glance at what Onion does to pass the time. Steven follows Onion with intent to trade his GUYS, but finds the kid in a suitcase store of all places where he somehow managed to haggle the owner for his lunch! Then Onion goes to the docks where he witnesses an abomination: Onion throwing away the burger piece by piece into the ocean! He’s a weird one, that Onion.
Onion’s father, Yellowtail, arrives via boat and the two bond. Yellowtail’s stay is short though as he has to go back to work. Steven figures out that Onion stays out on the docks all day waiting for his father, but he doesn’t feel too sorry before he’s distracted by Ranger Guy. Steven tries to trade all his Dave Guys, but it’s not enough of a bargain for Onion.
Steven returns home, upset. He relays the story to Amethyst who assumes that Onion might want more than just thirty Dave Guys. She whips out Pearl’s Replicator Wand and informs Steven that it has the ability to duplicate an object. Steven is amazed that she just happened to carry that around, though she found it while forced to clean up her mess. Still a coincidence. Amethyst just hands it over to Steven without the severe consequences this could carry, but that’s Amethyst for you.
Steven meets up with Onion again who just finished throwing ketchup to the ground before running them over with his moped, then straight up chucking the vehicle until it hits something and explodes. What is wrong with this kid? Steven offers more Dave Guys, duplicating them in front of him. It’s not enough for Onion. The kid creepily – and I mean creepily – approaches Steven and finally bargains with him. What he wants is the Replicator Wand. Onion’s face during this part is horrifying. This is further emphasized by the trail of flame left behind by the destroyed moped. Steven hesitates, but the lure of Ranger Guy is too great, he trades the wand for the Guy.
Steven quickly bores of Ranger Guy though, but it’s too late for backsies now, Onion has mastered the Replicator Wand and has amassed millions of Dave Guys. They quickly flood Beach City, alerting the Crystal Gems to the ongoing crisis. Steven confesses that he gave the wand to Onion for Ranger Guy. Pearl brings up an excellent question: why didn’t he just replicate Ranger Guy? Good job, Steven, you really blew it up. The Crystal Gems try to get to Onion and stop him from covering Beach City, but he replicates cars to keep them at bay. Steven manages to wade through the Dave Guys efficiently by “thinking like a rich duck” (one of the best lines in the show, by the way) and tackling Onion from behind. To his shock, he finds out the Ranger Guy Onion had was Steven’s all along! Onion had stolen it at some point and kept it for himself. Garnet destroys the Replicator Wand, causing all the Dave Guys to vanish and restore Beach City back to normal.
Steven gets why Onion caused all that chaos: he’s very lonely and often waits for his father to arrive home. He took Ranger Guy as a symbol of Steven’s relationship with his father. Wait, no, the last one isn’t true, but it was a good guess from Steven. Feeling sympathy for Onion’s ploy, Steven hands Ranger Guy for him to keep. Greg praises his son for doing a good thing, even if he’s shocked that this happened all for the sake of a simple toy. Steven says Ranger Guy was about the memories he and Greg shared that day than anything, but now he has new memories, “horrible, horrible memories.”
Even compared to Steven’s half-gem existence and unique lifestyle, Onion is a weird kid in comparison. Unwilling to say a peep, Onion goes by his own self-internal logic. His hobbies are unexplainable and unpredictable. He comes and goes as he pleases and does whatever he wants without any fear of judgment from others or any concern for consequences. Though Steven routinely bonds with everyone one way or another, there is a real sense of disconnect that he has with both humans and Crystal Gems at the same time, so what does it say when even Steven can’t understand Onion?
Much of Onion’s antics aren’t harmful and his unusual methods is his way of explaining how he feels, even if it doesn’t make sense within context at first glance. What Onion did was not cool. It doesn’t matter if he misses his father and that he seemingly has no friends to play with, stealing what is Steven’s and raining havoc to avoid boredom and distract himself from Yellowtail’s absence is a jerk move. “Onion Trade” is essentially a “Cool Motive; Still Murder” plot and uniquely of all, he gets away with it, too. Steven, by default, is a very forgiving person. It doesn’t matter what Onion did and how much it could have damaged the city, the boy just wanted his father and Steven understands him enough to fish over his prized Ranger Guy. Steven learns it was never about Ranger Guy. He was quick to replace the figurine with another, but soon grows bored of it because it’s a mere trinket. The real heart is what he and his father shaped that summer. Were I in Steven’s shoes, Onion’s parents would have been informed and appropriate punishment been delivered, but Steven is a better person than I ever will be. His willingness to easily forgive Onion is both a blessing and a consistent theme in the show.