It might as well be your birthday
So why don’t we have a party?
This episode is all spurred by that picture, which only raises more questions the more you think about it (the main one being, who was holding the camera?).
Steven: What’s this? It kinda looks like you guys and my mom.
Pearl: Oh Steven, that is us!
Garnet: The hard part was getting the shark to pose.
Steven: Why’s everyone dressed like old-timey people?
Pearl: They are old-timey people!
Steven: Wait, but that would mean…how old are you guys?
Pearl: Much older than any human.
The Gems seem to have elf-immortality: They don’t age or get sick, and can essentially only be killed in battle.
Steven latches onto the most important revelation: They’ve never had a birthday party in all their years!
Steven: Well I can’t just ignore this tramesty of unjustice! I pledge that you will have your birthdays! With all the candy, cake, and ice cream you’ve been denied!
Thus begins a series of (un)birthday parties, filled with cake and piñatas and balloons and seemingly all the trappings that Steven ever had on such occasions. Also Lion being adorably cat-like.
Pearl: Steven, I know you put a lot of effort into…putting faces on things, but could it be we’re a tad mature for this ritual?
Much like the Arcade, the Gems don’t get the point of these tacky human traditions, but at the end of the day, it’s just Steven sharing something he enjoys with his friends.
Garnet: Steven, thank you for the birthday parties, but I don’t think we’ll need anymore.
Steven: Why not?
Garnet: Our age is an illusion, and Pearl’s pretty sure this ritual is more for human children.
Steven is blindsided by the idea that birthdays might be for little kids. Of course, the previous birthdays he spent with his dad would have involved a lot of kid-oriented activities, but he doesn’t seem to consider that. All he notices is how he’s too big to fit in his “kazoo racers” anymore and his friends don’t seem to be enjoying themselves as much as he intended.
Steven: I never realized birthdays meant leaving things behind…
Thus he comes face to face with his own mortality as he unconsciously starts aging his body.
This is basically all Steven’s shapeshifting powers amount to, by the way – he occasionally (mostly accidentally) ages or de-ages his body. But things start to get out of hand when he visits the Big Donut as a middle-aged man, and Sadie and Lars don’t recognize him.
Steven: I’m old!
Lars: Yeah, and nuts.
Steven: I’m gonna have to eat fiber cereal, all my teeth are gonna fall out, and then I’ll have to eat oatmeal, and it’ll be sugar free! Sugar free!
Amethyst: He’s okay, he’s just really, really, really old.
The Gems are seriously concerned he might die of old age, but playing all the games he wanted to before only makes him feel older.
Then Garnet loses it and just starts shaking Old Man Steven, with predictably unhelpful results.
Garnet: I thought…violence would be the answer.
Turns out she’s not always as stoic and composed as those sunglasses make her seem…and she’s surprisingly quick to resort to violence when she doesn’t know what to do.
But the Gems start arguing, which finally prompts Steven to do something besides feeling old.
Pearl: Your age is fluctuating! I think your gem is reacting to your state of mind!
Amethyst: Steven! Stop feeling old!
Steven: But I wasted your time…we all have such little time…
Pearl: Steven! You have to feel like yourself: Sweet and considerate and only occasionally obnoxious!
Steven: You really think I’m all those things?
Amethyst: Why else would you throw us all those parties?
This is the first time they’ve realized that Steven’s powers are tied to his emotional state, but that’s basically the case for all his powers – so in order to master his power, he has to learn how to regulate his emotions.
Until next time…