Steven Universe Review: “Say Uncle” (Season 1B, Episode 22)

steven-universe-uncle-grandpa
On one hand, it’s less creepy than it looks. On the other hand, it’s even more insane than it looks.

Amethyst, have you seen Steven this morning?” “Yeah – he’s hanging out with some weirdo. I think he’s trying to vaporize Steven!” – Pearl and Amethyst. I’m not going any further.

Airdate: April 2nd, 2015.

Written By: Joe Johnston and Jeff Liu… apparently.

Plot: Steven is still fretting about how he can’t get his shield to generate. He wishes that someone will help him find a way. That someone happens to be Uncle Grandpa, a strange… thing that tries to help people, only to make them wonder if the water supply has been poisoned. Naturally, the Crystal Gems decide to kick his ass.

Review:

This past May, Time Magazine wrote up a piece relating to President Trump’s new and thus-far eccentric term in office. One aspect of the essay that got attention related to the President’s dining habits. Time not only noted that the President takes Diet Coke with his food and has various other alterations to his dinner, but that instead of the customary one scoop of vanilla ice cream with his pie, he takes two. This scoop encouraged a full-blown report on sister news source CNN, led some to question whether the president was mentally fit for his role as commander in chief, and led others to further despair about the state of American news media.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking… what does this have to do with Steven Universe?

The answer might surprise you…88d76-screen2bshot2b2016-04-292bat2b7-08-252bam

NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! In fact, it bears no impact on anything whatsoever, outside of Coca-Cola stock!

Now, here’s my review of “Say Uncle”, an episode that makes about as much sense.

Yes, the writers of Steven Universe decided to write a crossover with Uncle Grandpa for April Fools Day, albeit a somewhat belated one. For the uninitiated, Uncle Grandpa is a show about a reality-bending being who tries to assist everybody and everything possible, despite being too eccentric for his own good. The show, from what I can gather, is practically a bunch of vignettes tied together, with a rather loose continuity, and comedy relying on the absurdity of it all. In effect, the opposite execution of Steven Universe.

Full disclosure – I’ve only watched a couple of episodes of Uncle Grandpa. So… yeah. Make of that what you will.

It’s clear from moment one that this episode isn’t to be taken an iota seriously.  So, why should I review this? I could be analyzing Irish politics right now. Twenty-two years after Ireland legalized divorce, they now have a Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who happens to be openly gay. Personally speaking, I find the relatively short timeframe between the two events to be a sign of rapid social liberalization for such a notoriously conservative nation. The question, though, remains – how will Varadkar rescue Fine Gael’s sinking poll numbers?

But you didn’t come to this blog to see me put down Irish Water or call Brian Cowen an incompetent idiot. You came here to read an analysis of a Cartoon Network show – which, honestly, is even less productive. Still, the review must go on.

Anyway, Uncle Grandpa is weird. Weird, weird, weird, weird, weird. He comes in as Steven contemplates why he can’t summon his shield on command… all while UG is dressed as Rose Quartz, poofy hair and all, summoned from the sea like the Venus de Milo. If that ain’t a sign of where this episode is going, you need to cut back on your dosage of The Young Ones. Emotions? Screw em – just multiply the nut many many times over and have him attempt to fix Steven’s gem by firing several missiles at him.

Of course, the Crystal Gems come down and come to a stunning conclusion about Uncle Grandpa.

“So, he’s Greg’s brother… and father?” “That would explain a lot.” Uh, I’m not going to explain one of the weirdest pieces of dialogue in the show’s history, so…

screen-shot-2017-06-04-at-8-57-00-am.png
“…Mindy has a motorcycle!”

At least the writers seem to recognize that this whole scenario is strange as all hell… and make it even more strange by having UG and Steven run away from an understandably freaked out Crystal Gem trio, all while we get the visual pun to end all visual puns. Amethyst trips on the “Y” in “Run Away”. Take a lucky guess what the hell she says. Go on. Guess. Here’s a hint – half of the Eurythmics titled a song this word and got to #5 in the UK and Ireland.

A brief stop in the Uncle Grandpa universe is done, because we need to get the characters from UG into this crossover. And to be fair, we get introduced to them in intriguing ways – Pizza Steve, for one, crashes his motorcycle and declares himself “the coolest and tastiest Steve that ever lived”. Gus is heavily invested in the “multiverse”, has his own Gemsona, and even exposits (somewhat) why Steven can’t summon his shield normally. I’m assuming that he’s the brains of UG’s main cast, but he does work (somewhat) as a fan.

Still, at this point… it’s largely just stuff that needs to wrap this episode up. Steven, Uncle Grandpa, and co. wind up sucked inside Uncle Grandpa’s pouch, which then burps after consuming the characters…

…say, how about them Three Lions? I mean, really, England? You assemble a squad worth £600M and combine it with an inept, uninspiring manager, and give him a shot after you failed harder in 2014 than Brazil? “Spirit of 66”, my behind – at least the New York Yankees and Man Utd deserve their reputation. You needed to lose to a team managed by a dentist – never has a faux legacy been exposed so thoroughly. How you morons got out of the group stages is beyond me. Even America has had better luck on the pitch than you guys! It’s a shame Sam Allardyce, the savior of teams through the UK, managed to cheat himself out of a job by acting like a jackass – but who else would want it? Just hire David Moyes and disqualify yourself from 2020 already. Your legacy? They thought it was all over – it is now!

Now about the Mets… oh, wait, this ain’t a sports blog.

Have I mentioned yet that the Crystal Gems are exaggerated to their purest forms? Amethyst doesn’t give a damn about what is going on and just following whatever the hell people are saying or doing, even going as far as to eat Pizza Steve. Garnet, in contrast, is about as emotionally open and warm as Vladimir Putin. Not that she was ever the most expressive gem, but here, her stoicism and snarker tendencies are cranked up to 11. And Pearl, well, I’ll just leave this montage here…

…you’re welcome.

To be fair, if your son was hanging around and having tea with some old guy with a strange mustache who claims that he can help everybody, I bet your first reaction would be to call the cops, too. If not beat the stuffing out of him.

So, yeah. This is a bizarre, bizarre episode that makes no logical sense. But, surprisingly… I actually sort of like it. I mean, it doesn’t swing the plot in any way, but (with the possible exception of UG taking on the form of Steven’s dead mother) it doesn’t try and insult either show. It’s silly, yes, but it seems like the writers were having as much fun making this episode as insane as humanly possible.

And genuine praise where genuine praise is due – this episode does give some insight into how Steven’s shield generates, in contrast to the bubble. The shield, it seems, occurs in extreme cases of self-defense and when Steven is emotionally invested in said self-defense. It didn’t generate in “Bubble Buddies” because Connie was effectively a random citizen and Steven was just acting like a dork at the time. By “Ocean Gem”, Steven was not only getting on with Connie like a house on fire, but he suddenly had become more invested in his status as a Gem.

That, and have you met some Steven Universe fans? Some of the fans are militant. I swear, they’re only second to hardline Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders fans in their strict allegiance to the dismissal of many others. And a few of those fans have proven themselves to be downright insane. Now, I personally do think Steven Universe is the best show to air on Cartoon Network right now, but there was an unnecessary amount of vitriol being thrown at Uncle Grandpa for not being like SU. What this episode is telling us is simple… “it’s just a show, we should really just relax.”

So at least this episode counted for something. Even though it’s so not canon that Uncle Grandpa fired his head into Lars and Sadie’s ship, sinking it and damning the duo.

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“And when we meet, which I’m sure we will
All that was there will be there still
I’ll let it pass and hold my tongue
And you will think that I’ve moved on….”

Also, I’ll admit that after I first saw this episode, I did sit through a couple of episodes of Uncle Grandpa. And it was actually rather alright. I mean, it isn’t my cup of tea, but it certainly works as a silly time sink. I mean, the writers of that show eventually showcased the SU characters in another of their episodes. That’s gotta count for something.

But, this is a review of “Say Uncle” as a Steven Universe episode, not as an Uncle Grandpa episode.

Do you need to watch “Say Uncle”? No, absolutely not. Should you watch “Say Uncle”? I would argue… hell yes!

This is the “Spock’s Brain” of Steven Universe episodes – an outing so deliciously silly that it’s hard not to pass it up. It crosses the line of insanity an indeterminate amount of times, but it definitely lands on an even number. I laughed at the sheer lunacy of it all. If you’re looking to sink away 11 minutes, “Say Uncle” is the way to do it.

In short, close us out with your infinite wisdom, Mr. President!

Tidbits:

  • It’s worth noting that Uncle Grandpa has since been canceled and has all but disappeared from the schedule. Well, this promotional worked.
  • According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.
  • The Knicks need to get fired. All of them. Up to and including Phil Jackson.
  • Dear New York Mets – get a new team doctor.
  • When will they finally fix the LIRR?

Wrap-Up:

Favorite Scene: Theresa May trying to look normal while eating chips and drinking tea.

Best Character: The Wendys Twitter account.

Memorable Quote: “He’s Arnold, Arnold, Arnold Rimmer./Without him, life would be much grimmer./He’s handsome, tall, and no one slimmer./He will never need a zimmer!” – Arnold Rimmer, Red Dwarf.

Verdict: Tony Abbott. Was he real? Is he fake? Did he actually exist? Do we exist in his world? Was his eating of an onion foreshadowing of where the human experience will lead us? What about ousting two Labor PMs before failing to outlast either of them – what does that say about the food we get at Taco Bell?

And no, I am not ranking it. As far as I can see, this episode is so unlike Steven Universe that I personally don’t think it should count amongst the rankings. There is nothing that impacts the canon, nothing that impacts character development… it is a curiosity that has to be seen to be believed.

Next review should be more coherent unless the Long Island aquifer winds up tainted. In the meantime, let us all remember Pizza Steve, who needlessly died in the line of comic duty.

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