ORIGINAL AIR DATE: Feb. 5th, 2015
SONG: Yes, “On the Run”
SYNOPSIS: Amethyst takes Steven to her old home, the cryptically named Kindergarten.
The Crystal Gems return from a mission, having collected all the Robotnoids that Peridot left behind. That way, no one else from beyond can reactivate them so they can fix the Galaxy Warp Pad again. Amethyst tries to lighten the mood by popping one like a cherry, but no one really finds it amusing. In fact, Pearl emphasizes just how serious this matter is. "On the Run" gives us our first onscreen terminology of the Crystal Gem's home planet, Homeworld. Importantly, she tells Steven the true reason (however simplificed) behind the Crystal Gems' rebellion: Homeworld Gems had a plan to use Earth for something that would have destroyed the planet in the process. The Crystal Gems fought back to protect its lifeforms, even if it meant losing contact with their own kind. The possible threat of it happening again is something none of them can afford. During Pearl's exposition, Amethyst silently wanders off with a look of pure annoyance, as if whatever her companion is saying personally offends her.
Steven likens the Crystal Gems' scenario to the No Home Boys, a book series he was reading. He compares both its protagonists and the Crystal Gems as people without homes, forever wandering. Pearl points out a big flaw, correcting Steven by saying they do have a home here in Beach City. Really, it's just Steven wishing to project himself with the No Home Boys: no past, no future; always running on the open road. Amethyst agrees and tells Steven they should totally run away. Unaware of the larger implications of her plans, Steven happily accepts. The two sing as they pack up, leave Beach City, and hop aboard a train. Amethyst gets a solo at one point (with Steven as a naive backup), singing about how she doesn't care what others think about her, but then adds that she knows something "that will never go away" and how "home's a place that I have never known." Amethyst has been acting weird and it is not coincidence.
The journey slowly unravels and Steven finds out the No Home Boys lifestyle is not the fantastical adventure he expected. The straw he tries to sleep on is too scratchy, a raccoon keeps following and attacking him, and he already lost all his food in the tiny bindle he carried. Steven wants to go home, but Amethyst refuses because she wants to go to her home. Steven assumes Amethyst misses Homeworld, but she drops a whopper: she was never born in there. In fact, she's going to take Steven to her true origin, right here on Earth.
Amethyst takes Steven to Kindergarten. Peridot mentioned a Kindergarten back in "Warp Tour", specifically a mission to reactivate it. Without context, it was a confusing term. Now we get to see what Kindergarten is. The entire place is located in a barren part of Earth surrounded by old bacteriophage-shaped drills gathering dust. Amethyst giddily approaches her old haunts, having lived there for quite some time after she was born. She hung around playing with rocks until Rose and the others found her. Creepily of all are the hundreds of human-shaped (Gem-shaped, in this case) holes adorning the cliff walls. Amethyst finds the hole she personally came from, but Steven - clearly spooked out of his wits - wonders about the other holes. Where are the Gems that came from those?
Pearl arrives via a warp pad, confirming both her and Garnet's suspicion on Amethyst and Steven's whereabouts. There Amethyst reveals the real reason she came here: spite, anger, and humiliation. Turns out Homeworld intended to use Earth as a resource center for their Kindergarten program so they could produce more Gems at the cost of Earth's existence (this is why Kindergarten is barren, it literally sucked the life out of the planet during.) This is why Amethyst was behaving weirdly since Pearl's exposition: the latter treated Kindergarten as this very awful thing, prompting Amethyst to see herself as a parasite made to assist Homeworld and ruin an innocent planet in the process.
Amethyst's personality lended herself to slack around with very little concern. She's crass and loud and proud of it. She's prone to rebellious and apathetic misbehavior, essentially acting out like a teenager. This is best shown in "Tiger Millionaire" where Amethyst took up wrestling in secret as a way of validating herself from the nagging nonsense Pearl (and sometimes Garnet) often puts her through. In fact, a lot of what she does is a means to justify her actions because that who she is and no one can stop her from being herself. This takes on a much bigger light now: Amethyst is utterly, degradingly ashamed of herself. All those talks about the Crystal Gems heroically saving the Earth from the nasty Homeworld Gems must have been torture for Amethyst, she being a direct product of what the Crystal Gems were fighting against. Does Pearl (and Garnet) feel that way towards Amethyst? Do they still see her as a terrible reminder of the callous actions of Homeworld? How many times has Amethyst mentally beat herself up after hearing yet another story of Rose's triumphs during the war?
Insultingly, Pearl is more concerned that Steven knows about Kindergarten, thinking he isn't ready to learn about such a "horrible place." Amethyst takes out her whip and attacks Pearl, thinking she's nothing but a black mark to her. Amethyst is too upset to back down, but she eventually breaks down, telling Pearl how much she hates herself because of who she is - what she is. She never asked to be made. And that's why it stings: her life is not her fault and to be treated like it is, even if it was unintended, is a powerful attack on her very existence.
Steven steps in between the two because he can't stand the thought of them fighting. One of the machines break, causing it to descend and nearly crush the trio. Amethyst runs off before Steven could safely bubble them both, but luckily made it out before she could be hurt. She hides back in her hole and tells Steven to leave her alone. After all, she's a "bad" person and therefore, he shouldn't be hanging around with a "bad" person. Steven, ever the voice of reason when it comes to emotional situations, demands Pearl speak with Amethyst. "On the Run" doesn't attempt to side with Pearl just because she made an unfortunate mistake. She tells Amethyst that she never thought of her that way and that none of Kindergarten or the war caused in its wake is remotely her fault. Pearl tells Amethyst she was the one good thing that came out of it and figured she knew that. But ultimately, Pearl apologizes because mistake or not, her actions were ill-defined and ended up hurting a member of her family. It doesn't matter if Pearl didn't know or any other lame excuses, Amethyst is the victim here and she matters right now. Amethyst retreats out of her hole and hugs Pearl. The crisis over (for now), the three of them go home.
I didn't really think much of Amethyst before "On the Run." She was there and did her thing, but she doesn't have a character archetype I was really geared for. Once I saw this episode, she started to endear to me. Now we see a reason for her behavior and it's painful. Before Steven, she truly was the odd one out and it must have stung to be reminded of that in the most hurtful way imaginable. This also explains why Garnet and Pearl seem to have a level of familiarity that neither of them have with Amethyst. It's subtle, but there are times where I feel Garnet and Pearl have a better understanding or a sync that they don't with Amethyst. Regardless, this doesn't negate their love and bond for each other. The issue is far from resolved, but there is a reconciliation here and a validation that Amethyst matters and is loved for who she is. That's what she needs the most right now.