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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

“Greg The Babysitter” learns responsibility in a flashback Steven Universe

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Who is Greg Universe? He’s a rock star, a loving father to Steven, a goofy paramour for Rose, a car wash attendant… and also a bum. Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff deal with these last two elements of Greg in a very fun episode that manages to be relatively low-stakes while still including some really interesting Gem information, fantastic voice work from Tom Scharpling, and provides some all-time classic Sour Cream jokes.

In the frame device, Steven asks how Greg started working at the car wash. Cut to “I Think I Need A Little (Change),” a song about the stagnation that’s crept into Greg’s life since he met Rose over a zippy montage of them hanging out. That’s not a criticism of Rose. But Gems are immortal (probably?), and are capable of spending long, long periods of time engaged in essentially unchanging interests without developing new hobbies or aspirations. Greg, on the other hand, is human and he’s spending way too much time waiting around for Rose to come back from missions. Their relationship needs to emerge from the infatuation stage (or the second infatuation stage, since this episode presumably takes place after “We Need To Talk”), but for that to happen, Greg needs to emerge from his own extended childhood.

Hungry and bored, he drifts into Vidalia’s house, eating her cereal and drinking her milk, because he can’t afford to feed himself. Greg might be comfortable with living in a van for more spiritual reasons in the show’s present, but he’s also been functionally homeless his entire adult life, and is putting off doing anything. Vidalia, already developing lines under her eyes, has to deal with the real responsibility of having a child and taking care of it all the time. Even in her limited appearances, Jackie Buscarino is funny, steely, and generally reminds me of why I wanted a Vidalia spinoff after “Onion Friend.” (This is especially true when she threatens Greg if anything happens to her baby, which is a well-worn comic trope that still manages to be funny in Buscarino’s mouth.) With Vidalia out a babysitter and forced to run to her first day of work, Greg winds up taking care of baby Sour Cream, even though he just spilled milk on himself laughing while watching Li’l Butler.

Greg takes Sour Cream to the beach, where he introduces the baby to two of the most important things in life: sunglasses and to Rose Quartz. Even more than “We Need To Talk,” this flashback gives us a picture of what Rose was like as a person, from her reading choices (Passions Of Xanxor) to her confusion at the thought that Sour Cream and Greg are both humans: “How was I supposed to know you were the same species?” Susan Egan makes the most of Rose’s otherworldly empathy, continuing to deliver a performance that captures her larger-than-life character while also seeming to hide a sense of menace, and of melancholy. Gems “burst out of the ground already knowing what they’re supposed to be,” which means not only do they have a purpose, they have no period where they lack full sentience or a grasp of language the way, say, baby Sour Cream does. “What an incredible power… the ability to grow up.”

Rose’s words wow Greg, but he clearly hasn’t really heard them, because he immediately decides to go get pen and paper so he can turn her speech into lyrics, which means leaving Sour Cream alone with Rose. Gems, obviously should not be trusted with babies—maybe this is why Greg raised Steven for a few years before handing him over to Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl? After a hurried montage of running through Beach City, Greg discovers that Rose’s approach to human growth has its limitations: She’s let Sour Cream climb up a Ferris wheel, simply because it was what he wanted to do. (She forgets that humans are fragile.) Rose sends the wheel moving faster and faster, until she has to save Greg and Sour Cream by catching them in a cart. The symbolism is not lost on even Greg: “Aw man, I am a baby.” (This is a really fabulous line delivery from Tom Scharpling, funny and pathetic and resigned all at the same time.)

So Greg goes to the car wash and gets himself a real job… sort of. The weird thing about this episode is that Greg doesn’t appear to have really taken the lesson to heart—he still lives in a van and does almost nothing, and hasn’t released new music, as far as I can tell. It’s not like Greg needed to do something with his life other than work at the car wash (and besides, that’s definitely tertiary to his music and raising Steven), but the “Everyone’s gotta grow up some time” message feels a little thin when it’s being delivered by a guy who pretty much embodies extended childhood. A life spent sleeping outside in the sun and walking around shirtless is not necessarily a bad life, but it doesn’t feel like it quite fits with the “everybody has to grow up” message of “Greg The Babysitter.” Still, this episode is a lot of fun, and it’s not like every episode of Steven Universe needs to have an aggressively pressing, important message (especially after yesterday). As baby Sour Cream would say, “Meh.”


Stray observations:

  • Two customers at once is crazy busy for the car wash, which, combined with our look at Kofi and Mr. Fryman’s business, can only mean that rents in Beach City are unbelievably low and we should all start looking for apartments there.
  • Greg, to Vidalia. “You sold out, V.” She has a job at a store that sells T-shirts! Remember when “selling out” was a serious insult?
  • Everyone’s favorite band The Philosophy Majors make their triumphant return to the show.
  • Steven: “What happened to baby Sour Cream?” Greg: “No one knows.” Teen Sour Cream in the background: “Meh.”
  • I really like the shot of Greg washing the Supremo.
  • I am also now extremely interested in Greg’s upbringing and parents. I don’t know if we’ll ever do deeper flashbacks beyond what I’m calling “Beach City ’80s Night,” but it would be cool to see his roots (if he has them).