Garnet’s future vision has long been one of my favorite science fiction elements of Steven Universe, and that’s not just because it’s cool that Garnet can see the future. Rather than merely using her ability as a way of solving plot problems, Steven Universe has spent time exploring what it means for Garnet to be able to see possible futures—how it contributes to her generally emotionally stoic appearance, and how it influences Steven’s understanding of probability and his own free will. In “Pool Hopping,” Garnet comes up against the limits of her future vision, and has the brief, distinctly unpleasant experience of being just as in the dark as the rest of us.
Steven discovers Garnet working at The Big Donut, which turns out to be something she’s doing as a way to explore improbable, unlikely future pools—something that Garnet, and the storyboard team of Katie Mitroff, Paul Villeco, and Joe Johnston artfully visualize using a spilled cup of coffee. Random drops that don’t appear connected to the main splash pattern represent possibilities that are, in theory, more interesting and exciting for Garnet than the things she would normally expect to happen, so she’s trying to behave unnaturally to explore those elements of the time stream. Or, as Garnet puts it, “This is about being random.”
Estelle is fantastic as always here, bringing a sort of grounded enthusiasm to Garnet’s quest for randomness while slowly revealing the cracks in her put-together facade. At first, “Pool Hopping” is pure fun, as Steven and Garnet order 20 pizzas from Fish Stew Pizza to be delivered to the most unlikely place: Fish Stew Pizza. (Like a tech company trying so hard to “innovate” it accidentally invents a public utility, Steven and Garnet have inadvertently placed a pickup order.) Then, they drop by Vidalia’s house and serve as models for her painting, until a cute, one-eyed kitten catches both Steven and Garnet’s attention.
Eventually, that kitten leads Steven and Garnet to an entire litter, and, confronted with an actual problem, Garnet almost falls apart. As it begins to rain, mirroring the ending of “Future Vision,” Garnet admits that Steven’s decision to sacrifice himself by going to Home World has totally confused her future vision, which didn’t foresee him acting so selflessly. (At least, if you’re not Connie.) The ensuing events have, then, placed Garnet permanently into a stray drop of coffee, or so she thinks. After a brief conversation, Garnet realizes that her future vision—which, remember, she has to actively try to use to explore different possible futures—has been focused solely on timelines where Steven continues to act like his season one self.
Garnet has seemingly trusted Steven for a while now, and “Pool Hopping” definitely raises a few more questions about how, exactly, her future vision works. So the emotional resolution here is not exactly on the firmest of grounds. But her conversation with Steven is very sweet and an effective thematic mirror for the end of “Future Vision,” when Garnet confronts a confused, scared Steven in the rain. Here, Steven manages to be maternal towards Garnet, suggesting that she ignore her future vision momentarily and focus on what she wants to do, rather than what she thinks will happen—in this case, getting the kittens out of the rain and safely to Vidalia’s house.
More than anything, “Pool Hopping” is one of the cutest episodes of Steven Universe in a while. Beyond the adorable cats (including the one-eyed kitten, which Garnet adopts and names Cat Steven, which is to say basically Cat Stevens), there’s also the quick shot of Garnet quitting by puffing herself up until the Big Donut uniform explodes off of her body, Hulk-style, the shot where the camera holds on Garnet as she line drives a pizza directly into some guy’s stomach, and the image of Steven using his shield as an umbrella for Garnet and the kittens. (All of these are exceedingly well done by the storyboard team.) By the end of the episode, Garnet even admits: “I’ve missed having someone cute and vulnerable to take care of.” Honestly, same.
- Apparently, there’s a timeline where Onion gets taken to space instead of Lars—or there’s even more drama hiding in Onion and Lars’ parentage.
- Vidalia’s final Renaissance-style painting of Steven as a cherub with a divine Garnet is very cute, and would fit well with her self-portrait in the style of “The Scream.”
- Jenny hesitates when Steven asks if she can bring a pizza to the moon: “I don’t think that’s within our delivery radius.”
- Probably my favorite Garnet line from this episode: “Paint me like one of your Amethysts.”
- At the beginning of the episode, Nanefua is using charts to educate the town about the Gem-related evacuation route, which we’ll learn more about next week when we read “Letters To Lars.”