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“Pool Hopping” Has Garnet Cope with the Unknown

Garnet has always been the calm, collected member of the Crystal Gems. Um, relatively. We all know she’s a big gay mess created by two gay nerds who are always freaking out, but she’s always buried that mess more effectively than Pearl, Amethyst, or Steven. As a result we’ve always thought she came off as the biggest “mom” of the Crystal Gems (despite Pearl’s whole Bird Mom designation from the fandom). Sometimes even Square Mom has her shaky moments, though. Let’s see how she handled this latest one in “Pool Hopping”.

Spoiler; Garnet ends up covered in adorable kittens. Best panic attack ever.

Recap

Steven starts off the episode reflecting on the changes to Beach City since the Homeworld abductions, including the closing of the Big Donut. But wait! It’s open again! And serving customers behind the counter is…Garnet! Turns out she took the job just to be random. She explains about the unlikely possibilities of life that you arrive at through unexpected actions, and how she wants to try and understand them. She wants to explore the futures her future vision can’t see.

Then she quits her job in the most muscular way possible.

This is intimidatingly arousing.

It’s Adventure Time with Steven and Garnet! Best AU ever.

They order a bunch of pizza from Fish Stew Pizza and start delivering them to random people throughout town. They bring the last pizza to Vidalia’s house and find her painting in her garage. Sparked again by random inspiration, Garnet strikes a pose and asks Vidalia to “paint me like one of your Amethysts.” Together she and Steven strike a pose for Vidalia to capture their essence.

Eventually they’re distracted when Garnet spots a one-eyed kitten going through the trash outside. She and Steven chase it into the woods, where they find a litter of kittens. Steven insists that they have to help them. He asks Garnet to use her future vision to determine how.

Overwhelmed, Garnet panics. Turns out she has been acting so randomly because her future vision has failed her a lot lately. Steven keeps making unexpected decisions leading to outcomes Garnet couldn’t predict. She has no idea where this timeline is headed and is trying to figure it out because everyone relies on her to know how to act.

Steven says that rather than focus on what might happen, she should focus on what she wants to happen. She wants to get the cats out of the rain that has sprung up. They use Steven’s shield to protect the cats from the falling rain and bring them back to Vidalia’s, where they arrange for a shelter to take the cats in. Garnet realizes the reason she’s failing to see the future is because she still thinks of Steven as a child. All her predictions have relied on him acting like a child. To be more accurate and stable, she’s ready to accept that he’s making adult decisions now.

Garnet also decides to take the one-eyed kitten home for herself. And name her “Cat Steven.” The episode ends with them bringing it and Vidalia’s finished painting—which she managed to finish despite them running off to chase a one-eyed kitten—home.

Delightful Little Gems

  • Cat Stevens. Get it.
  • As far as we’re concerned “Paint me like one of your Amethysts” basically confirmed Vidalia/Amethyst.
  • The Big Donut logo looks like Garnet when flipped sideways.
  • Mayor Nanefua is amazing and perfect.
  • Onion definitely destroyed Homeworld already in the timeline where he was abducted instead of Lars.
  • This episode had way too many perfect still frames. How can you decide a winner between muscle Garnet, their pose for the painting, Garnet covered in cats, Vidalia’s painting, or the baby cat sleeping on Lion’s mane?

Lingering Thoughts

  • Anyone else think Garnet wanted that particular kitten because it had one big blue eye, just like Sapphire?
  • Does this mean Garnet has visions of every abducted Boardie playing the Lars role? We’d love to see an episode centered on these possibilities.
  • How often does Amethyst pose for Vidalia paintings?

This is the peak of SU cuteness. It’s all downhill from here.

Closing Thoughts

Ever since Steven gave himself up to Aquamarine and Topaz, we’ve waited for the ramifications of his decision to hit the other Crystal Gems. Connie was understandably the first to confront him about his decision given how close they are, but the Crystal Gems have been more close-lipped. In typical fashion, they tried to bury it when he first returned. We suppose it’s fitting that Garnet was the first to freak out like this. After all, she’s the leader. She sets the example everyone else aspires to.

Think of how often Pearl, Amethyst, or Steven have turned to her in their moments of vulnerability. It has always been up to Garnet to act strong for them. Pearl was too haunted by Rose’s death to take the leadership role, and Amethyst felt too much self-loathing and wasn’t mature enough emotionally otherwise. Steven, of course, was a baby. Garnet was the only option to take over the Crystal Gems. It’s a burden she has always struggled with, and an unfair pedestal to place her on.

And as we mentioned earlier, this makes her the biggest mom of the bunch. This was an episode about a mom having to come to grips with her baby growing up. Garnet already spends so much time delving into potential futures as a result of her future vision. Throughout the early episodes of Steven Universe, she was often well ahead of the dangers threatening Steven. She and the Crystal Gems have spent his entire life focused on raising and protecting him. Even if it meant not letting him deal with real challenges at times.

Increasingly, they find themselves completely out of control where he’s concerned. He makes his own choices and does things they neither expect or even want at times. As the leader, and especially with her predictive abilities, Garnet has felt this loss of control more keenly than anyone else.

She all but says in “Pool Hopping” that she has enough trouble living in the present in normal circumstances. It’s implied she delved even deeper into her future vision after the abduction and thus has lost her understanding of both her present and future. This is perfectly understandable for a parent to experience as a child matures into adulthood and begins living their own life. It is a huge change from seeing someone as dependent on you to someone living an independent life. It’s a huge responsibility you are suddenly freed from. We saw the same thing in “The Big Show” with Sadie and Barb. Barb must adjust to a new reality where her daughter doesn’t need her as much anymore, and Garnet must make the same adjustment.

Garnet adopting the one-eyed kitten was a sign of her willingness to accept less than perfect “vision” in her life. Hopefully it was also a sign of her willingness to step off the unfair pedestal the Crystal Gems placed her on so many years ago.

This episode also served as a pretty strong metaphor for how anxiety can paralyze a person. Just as depression is living too much in the past and mulling over old hurts, anxiety is living in the future and stressing over what could possibly go wrong. Garnet’s abilities, channeled through Sapphire, allow her to see not just positive outcomes, but negative ones as well. We’ve seen before in Keystone Motel that, on her own, Sapphire’s ability to see what might happen can cause her to freeze—literally and metaphorically—when she’s feeling emotionally vulnerable. That’s precisely what anxiety is. It’s most often described in psychological circles as an overactive fight or flight reflex combined with highly developed intuition. Put simply, it’s the ability to intuitively foresee possible outcomes coupled with an inability to not fixate on negative potential outcomes.

Because they are so highly intuitive, people with anxiety have even more trouble when something happens they were unable to account for. It feels like a failure because of how adept they are naturally at predicting what could happen, especially if that prediction involved negative consequences. For people with anxiety (or at least the kind of anxiety Gretchen lives with), it’s a lot easier to think of all the ways something can go wrong. If something goes wrong they can’t predict? Well, you just got to see what happens.

Garnet showcases the aftermath of ‘failed’ intuitive anxiety so well. She’s so used to being able to foresee what could happen that when she can’t do so, she overcompensates. She feels like she’s broken. She wasn’t to see Steven’s behavior, and in true anxious fashion, she first attributes it to a failure in herself, not the ‘data’ she had available to her. Something must be wrong with her. And she has to fix it because everyone is relying on her and if she can’t help them then ohmygodwhathappensifhomeworldcomesbackorsomethingelseunexpectedwe’reprobablyallgoingtodieanditwillbemyfault.

Yeah. Anxiety sucks.

On a more meta level, it also gives us another look at just how Garnet’s future vision works. How aware of the present is Garnet? How much of her life is spent in her future vision? Maybe more than usual lately since she so desperately wanted to understand the possible futures with Steven’s unpredictability.

Yet we know that Garnet has worked really hard to develop the calm she normally exhibits. Given how emotionally volatile Ruby can be and Sapphire’s tendency to freeze, Garnet’s strong mindfulness practice speaks to a lot of work on her part. She may live a lot in the future, but she’s developed the ability to cope when she’s feeling overwhelmed, which she then teaches to Stevonnie. This just happened to be one of those time where she couldn’t cope on her own. In fact, there’s an interesting and beautiful inversion of “Here Comes a Thought,” in “Pool Hopping” when Steven protects Garnet from the rain and helps her talk through what the next step should be. Where before, Steven and Connie had each been caught in an emotional spiral and unable to cope with their feelings, now Garnet is. Steven must take up the role of supporting Garnet through her vulnerability.

More and more recently we’ve seen Steven taking on the mantle of leadership from Garnet when it comes to the Crystal Gems. He’s becoming an adult and is ready to take the torch from Garnet and lead the fight against Homeworld in his own way. Episodes like “Pool Hopping” show us not only Steven taking on a leadership role but Garnet willingly permitting herself to be vulnerable with Steven.

As a friend recently suggested to Gretchen, this could be setting up a Steven/Garnet fusion.  Steven Universe did something similar with Steven and Amethyst leading up to Smokey Quartz. Steven supported Amethyst as she worked through her insecurities with Jasper, and the final act of her accepting herself was to fuse with Steven. Healthy fusion, as we know, relies on seeing the other as a peer. Garnet opening up to Steven and being willing to see him as an adult could very well be just the kind of equalization they need in order to form a healthy fusion. (Fingers crossed! We cannot wait to see that fusion!)

Anyway, back to Garnet. Fans have always complained about the deus ex machina nature of her ability to see the future. Questions often come up about why Garnet didn’t see something coming. We’ve never felt quite the same. We feel the imperfection of her future vision has always been made clear. It relies greatly on Garnet choosing among innumerable paths, something made clear with Garnet’s explanation in the Big Donut.

You can see yet again here how her future vision relies on Garnet understanding the people around her. It’s an ability based on intuition, instinctual comprehension and pattern finding on steroids, if you will. When Garnet doesn’t factor in changes in other people’s personalities or behavior, her future visions won’t be accurate. She didn’t see Pearl sabotaging the tower as an excuse to form Sardonyx because she couldn’t imagine Pearl acting that way. The same principle applies here with Steven. Future vision has never been this hidden superpower that works unreliably solely for plot reasons. It only works as well as Garnet does.

pool hopping garnet and cats

Let’s just say she isn’t functioning too well right here.

By factoring in how others have grown and giving up complete control over ‘knowing’ what will happen, her future vision will probably work better now. That’s how anxiety can be. Unsurprisingly, a brain that isn’t entirely fixated on how things can go wrong is more likely to be able to see what the most likely outcome is, not just the most frightening.

Here’s hoping she doesn’t end up relying too much on it like she seemingly has up until now, though. Hopefully “Pool Hopping” was a transition moment for her like so much of season 5 has been for the characters of Steven Universe. Season 4’s finale broke the status quo of Beach City and its residents. Everyone has to react to it now. We’ll dig deeper into that tomorrow with “Letters to Lars.”

“Your Mother and Mine” and “Pool Hopping” have been lovely, much-appreciated episodes for our Square Mom. It’s been a while since Steven Universe gave her this kind of focus. They are a wonderful reminder of what a beautiful, loving dork she is, and we’re looking forward to the next time Garnet takes center stage. Plus, Square Mom covered in cats beats “Cat Fingers” any day.


Images Courtesy of Cartoon Network
Bo
Written By

Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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