ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Aug. 21st, 2014
SONG: Yes, “Strong in the Real Way”
SYNOPSIS: Inspired by Sugilite’s strength, Steven opens up an exercising program.
The Crystal Gems’ latest mission takes them to an old Gem communications hub. Pearl explains that it’s been bursting out electromagnetic interference lately, ruining nearby televisions. Steven takes this as a criminal offense and tries to punch out the pillars. Amethyst follows suit, but Pearl knocks her down a peg and states it’d take great planning to destroy them all. Garnet backs up Steven and Amethyst though, they need to hit hard and the only Gem who can do that with ease is Sugilite, the Gem Fusion between her and Amethyst.
Amethyst is beyond thrilled, but Pearl knows this will lead to bad things. Garnet can be exceedingly confident while Amethyst is often always brash; combining the two may overwhelm the both of them. Garnet ensures Pearl that everything will be hunky dory. Spoilers, it won’t. We weren’t privy to a fusion dance-off in “Giant Woman”, so “Coach Steven” more than makes up for it and it’s fairly suggestive. We saw hints of this with Amethyst’s sultry movements in “Giant Woman.” Fusion isn’t just a standard of Gem biology, but an allegory on love, friendship, lust, teamwork, and importantly, consent. The dance-off between Garnet and Amethyst can easily be seen as foreplay (Pearl even covers Steven’s eyes so he won’t see something risqué) with the fusion itself as the main act. Pearl later expresses jealously at Sugilite and while the reason is something else, it’s also not hard to view it as Pearl wishing she was fused with Garnet instead.
The fusion creates Sugilite, an absolutely towering beast of a Gem. Sugilite is an aggressive character; she smashes into the pillars without a care. Debris flies everywhere, with a small one hitting Steven on the head, much to Pearl’s consternation. Angrily, Pearl takes Steven back home via a warp pad for his own safety, but the sheer might of Sugilite already left a big impression on him.
Steven heads to the Big Donut the next day to show off his battle scar from yesterday’s debacle. It’s just a tiny wound though, causing Lars to tell Steven to toughen up. This gives the kid a great idea: working out! Steven convinces Lars and Sadie to join in on his exercise program. His father also volunteers to gain some of the ol’ muscles back after years of slack. Pearl is very concerned about this behavior. Steven means well, he wants to be physically strong so he can help out during missions, but she informs him pure strength isn’t everything. Too late, Steven has Sugilite on the brain and the exercise training begins.
Pearl sings to herself, bemused that Steven would rather look up to Sugilite instead of her. She’s both concerned and jealous because rarely does brain win out against brutality in many situations. It’s a feeling Pearl has likely experienced many times before, especially with a preteen. On the plus side, Steven does a pretty good job as a coach, motivating the three to pump those muscles! Course, he only lasts a day before he gets tired of it. Not that it matters, Sugilite returns after smashing up the hub and she is not happy.
Sugilite is peeved Pearl (and Steven) walked out on them. Pearl tries to calm her down, telling Sugilite to unfuse, but when the latter starts wrecking the beach, Pearl has no choice but to fight back. She takes Steven to safety before engaging Sugilite in battle. Pearl is easily outmatched and is brutally pummel by Sugilite, causing her to lose faith, knowing she isn’t strong enough to beat Sugilite. She’s doomed Beach City.
Fortunately she has the best cheerleader in the world: Steven uses his motivational skills to coach Pearl and tell her she can be strong in her own ways. Pearl gets the leg up she needs and tricks Sugilite up a cliff. She jumps off and tosses her spear at the edge of the cliff, causing the giant to fall. Sugilite’s flail lands on her head, finally separating Amethyst and Garnet. The two are drained, but admit their mistake. Pearl feels more confident than ever and boasts her abilities, much to Amethyst’s annoyance. Garnet tells her to suck it up.
Giant Woman showed that fusion is a temporary, but powerful gateway for Gems to utilize when time calls for it, but it’s a difficult skill to master. Differing personalities played a huge factor on why Pearl and Amethyst could not form Opal that often since it affected their synchronization and ability to maintain form for long. A fusion requires perfection of mind and body and very few in the show has ever come close to maintaining that level.
“Coach Steven” ups the Fusion Game by exploring what happens when two figures with outward personality traits get together to form one person and as always, there are consequences. I still love that fusion this big, powerful skill is not treated with kid gloves. It’s cliché, but great power comes with great responsibility. Sugilite is great in theory, not so in practice and Garnet’s unflappable confidence mixed with Amethyst’s casual Id is enough to create a mega powerhouse of pure rage. Sugilite is huge and scary; a good demonstration of fusion overwhelming you. It is proof that such a matter should be treated with great caution.
It’s also about the subject of brain vs. brawn. An age-old classic to be sure, but it’s a significant study into Pearl’s character as the intelligent, strategic Gem that she is. Pearl values education and smart planning first, but she lives in a world where action rules. Her structure for orderly conduct immediately pegs her as the boring ol’ Gem who stiffens everyone around her. By contrast, Amethyst has a lively, fun personality that makes it easy for a kid like Steven to bond with while Garnet perfects the role of a stoic warrior that preteens find cool. The simple matter is, action talks more and it’s exactly that kind of perception that often devalues smart folks. Sometimes action is required when words and planning fails, but a good balance and the right context to use them is the best way to handle a situation. The Crystal Gems work as a team because each of the three and Steven bring something different to the table, a combined might that has helped them numerous times over the years. Even Pearl needs a reminder of that here and there.