First Thanksgiving, now Christmas. Even without these holidays existing within the Steven Universe universe, the show manages to capture the spirit of both holidays fairly well.
If “Gem Harvest” was all about establishing a connection between family of old and new, then “Three Gems and a Baby” was all about coping with loss and strengthening relationships for the benefit of youths. At least in terms of encapsulating the holidays the episodes are representing, those are essentially the core value of the episode but that’s not really the interesting element here. While the previous episode took place in the present, “Three Gems and a Baby” is yet again another flashback, focusing on Steven’s first winter on the surface but is really about how the Gems are dealing with the loss of Rose and the birth of Steven. This is the least removed we’ve seen from the transition to Steven, and considering the sequential order of Greg’s flashback it’ll hold that distinction for quite some time, which makes this episode interesting on that level alone.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect in this episode was how Garnet and Amethyst both perceived Steven’s true nature through their own personal attachments. Almost as if they were viewing Rose’s decision as some form of connection to themselves, whether it be Amethyst misinterpreting Steven as a shape-shift or Garnet, equally misguided but frankly more plausible, theory of it being some sort of fusion. This even leads to one of the better jokes in the episode, with Amethyst trying out being a baby while also noting that she spent a considerable amount of time as a toilet. But humor aside, I enjoyed seeing the two come to terms with their misunderstandings, particular the more stoic, and Steven supporter, Garnet’s reaction to Steven crying when she un-fused. Pearl herself has a much better grasp on the situation (though the exact nature of Steven is still somewhat a mystery), and interestingly frames Rose’s decision as a disconnect. While Amethyst and Garnet believe it’s some form of personal association, Pearl can only reflect it as Rose’s true desire, the nature of change and growth of humans. Like a further rejection of Pearl, as she still feels that she’s incapable of changing in said manner. Thankfully, as Steven eagerly points out in the episodes conclusion, she was mistaken there.
Ignoring the Three Wise Gems perspective, there’s also Greg’s, the human component. He gets a lot less focus than the Gems do but the episode still communicates his own struggles adroitly through the flashback’s quota musical number. “I Could Never Be Ready” is hardly Greg’s best song, either in its lyrics or it’s melody, but the sweet simplicity of the track and the visuals convey the nature of his situation in an entertaining fashion. The weight of the responsibility of raising an infant mixed with Tom Scharpling’s sensitive vocals portray the worth of such a feat. The kindness beneath the struggle. And while it’s mostly presented throughout the episode in humorous ways, like the title of Vidalia’s baby book, I feel the episode’s strongest emotional punch comes from the aforementioned opening number. I’m of course referring to the end of the musical piece, where the song transitions to the winding down soft guitar strings as Greg catches a glimpse of Vidalia’s family photo. His expression in response says everything, the pain of losing Rose in the process. Everything from his eyesight shifting to the blizzard outside followed by his nap with the family he has now is one of my favorite moments of the season. Beautifully representing a family drama about overcoming personal loss of your partner through your love for the child left behind that I could get lost in. And all without a single line of dialogue to outline this, just simple, effective visual storytelling.
The other aspects of the episodes functions on par with the material you’d expect from Steven Universe. There are some funny lines here and there, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of Garnet’s future vision jokes, and Deede Magno-Hall’s “Baby, please” is perhaps the line reading of the season. The score is absolutely brilliant as well, I love the little tweaks in the track that plays during the scene where the Gems finally come to terms with Steven. How any time Garnet signals that importance of Steven, the track itself reflects that. Some chord progression is briefly added after Garnet’s statement that change will be natural for Steven and there’s a little ‘ding’ to conclude the piece after Garnet asserts that it’s not about Rose, but Steven. There’s even another striking visual moment too. As Pearl goes to separate Rose from Steven, the background goes pitch black, hearkening back to “Crack the Whip”, illustrating the issue with this idea through employing familiar visual techniques. And to return it to the main theme of the episode, this is time the darkness is dissipated through a child’s laughter. For series that in-universe doesn’t celebrate Christmas, they sure did produce one of the finest Christmas episodes in animation.