In the past few weeks, Steven Universe has gone out of its way to have more fun with the Gem outfits and settings, from Pearl’s tuxedo in “Mr. Greg” to their waiter outfits in “Restaurant Wars” to Peridot’s bow tie in “Beta.” This is a good trend, especially for people who are into fan art or just imagining what the Gems would look like if they were a roller derby team (just thinking out loud here). Here, Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff get to have a blast with vaguely Revolutionary War-era Gems, as Steven and Connie take a trip through history with “Buddy’s Book.”
The book in question is, of course, former first mate Buddy Buddwick’s journal, which Steven finds in the library and eagerly peruses with Connie. They both imagine Buddy as having looked and sounded identical to sad, dramatic Jamie, allowing “Buddy’s Book” to serve as a sequel of sorts to “Historical Friction.”
Jamie is one of the only human characters who hasn’t gotten any screen time during the show’s most recent stretch in Beach City, and this kind of one-off is a good for him—he doesn’t actually have to show up to have Steven and Connie exaggerate all of his already-hyperbolic, theatrical tendencies. There’s nothing quite on a par with the drama zone, but it’s still fun to watch him, and listen to Eugene Cordero—who, as always, has a blast doing Jamie’s (Buddy’s) voice.
Buddy journal recounts his travels, spurred on by a desire to be remembered and make his mark on the world—and a few encounters with the Gems. He leaves Beach City and, after some travel, winds up in Steven Universe’s version of Norway (just north of Bergen, I think), where he stumbles upon the Gem Battlefield. He’s given a map by slickly-imagined Revolutionary-era Pearl and Garnet (who basically dares him to check out all of the big Gem sites before riding off on a penny farthing bicycle), which leads him to the Sea and Sky Spires, the Communication Hub, the Pyramid Temple. This stuff is helpful to give a sense of perspective—these are all locations Steven and the Gems can go at essentially any point, but for a human it’s pretty serious business.
The bulk of “Buddy’s Book,” which follows these travels, is roughly split between broadly goofy jokes like the penny farthing bicycle and little details that functionally serve as teasers for the next round of Gem mythology revelations, from the sight of Rose surrounded by seven (apparently living, non-pink) lions to a mural that appears to show Rose protecting several Gems (and injectors) from a Gem who resembles the images we’ve seen of Pink Diamond, but has her Gem in a slightly different shape and positioned higher. Combined with Buddy’s loaded description of Rose as a “giant woman,” that’s a point for the “Pink Diamond was a fusion” crowd. (Unless there’s something I’m missing? That’s definitely not a Diamond.)
My favorite joke in the episode is probably the moment that Buddy appears to pass out and die of thirst in the middle of the desert, only teasing at the appearance of Rose and the lions before the climactic ending of his journal. But, as Steven points out, “There’s a bunch more,” mocking the trope of having this kind of second-hand account end in media res. Rose, hanging around the desert (where Steven found Lion, remember) gives Buddy a piece of advice that strongly echoes Garnet’s advice to Jamie back in “Love Letters”—his singular, vaguely ridiculous purpose has been vested in finding somewhere no one has been before to “claim,” but that doesn’t matter if he can describe the places he’s been with strong, moving language to others. Because “Buddy’s Book” is, of course, about the power of words and the perils of firsties.
The rush to be first has a way of corrupting a lot of things, from internet comments (sup, guys) to internet journalism, denying the space to take a step back and choose the right words for something, rather than simply the ones that spring to mind. (There are so, so many examples of this, but for fun, imagine the hasty Buddy as a reporter who broadcasts a Twitter death hoax.) Taking the time to deploy his verbosity in the service of describing the Kindergarten and all of the other locations he’d seen helps Buddy establish the Buddy Buddwick Public Library, gives Steven and Connie access to the historical record (and their imagined version of Jamie as Buddy, rather than the stodgy man depicted in the portrait), and allows us to speculate about what might have actually transpired where we might otherwise have to wait for a (slightly different) extended flashback. That’s pretty cool. Because if there’s one thing Steven loves, it’s “Books!” (Sorry, should’ve whispered: “Books.”)
- Steven parking Lion: a solid Lion gag.
- It looks like the Summer Of Steven really is about to end, even in the world of the show—Connie takes Steven to the library so she can get started on her school reading for seventh grade.
- Two great touches in the library: a Mayor Dewey sign telling kids to read (but also vote for Mayor Dewey, somehow) and Nanefua silently reading a romance novel called Brigand.
- Steven: “I’m picturing Buddy as Jamie being all sad.” Connie: “Oh, yeah. Drama zone.”
- Amethyst, explaining why she’s at the Kindergarten: “Nowadays, I just come back every so often to see how the fam’s doing.”
- Buddy also draws another place Steven is unfamiliar with called “The Palanquin,” which is either the inspiration for a Decemberists song or, maybe, the resting place of Pink Diamond?
- We’re back to a semi-regular schedule, after the exhausting last month. I believe we’ve got new episodes for a few weeks, then who knows.