Ever wondered how SU episodes are made? What exactly goes into the process? Check out a look at what an episode looks like, as written by five different Crewniverse members! I wonder if all episode outlines are as collaborative?
The Steven Universe Birthday Bomb is almost over, so I thought I’d post an outline from the climactic episode: “Message Received”. My job as a writer on a board driven show is to help write outlines, which give a basic skeleton for the storyboard teams to work off of. This outline was a collaboration between Rebecca Sugar, Ian Jones-Quartey, Kat Morris, Matt Burnett and myself.
Although the Yellow Diamond conversation was the climax of the episode, the car scene was something we talked about a lot, too. Steven almost always believes the best of everyone, but every once in a while he gets a little dark. In this episode, Peridot makes him question his own never-ending optimism, so in turn we get to see him be a little underhanded. I remember Rebecca really wanting this foreboding moment of Steven confronting Peridot in the barn. I like how this scene turned out, and how a dramatic confrontation for Steven is him using a child safety lock on a space alien.
The episode was boarded by Raven Molisee & Paul Villeco. And if you read this outline, you can see how it evolved. For example, Raven added the super fun Amethyst helicopter sequence, and Paul totally brought Yellow Diamond to life. Check out the boards for from the sequence where Yellow Diamond picks up the communication screen - showing off her massive, imposing figure.
Anyway, here’s the outline:
Steven Universe - Outline
Steven, the Gems and Peridot are back at the barn. Steven is eyeing Peridot suspiciously. She’s concealing a STRANGE DEVICE. She heads into the barn. The Gems begin to discuss tactics for the drilling operation, but Steven follows Peridot.
Peridot is examining the device alone in the barn. “Hey Peridot.” Steven stands in the doorway of the barn; his face silhouetted by the setting sun. Peridot quickly hides the device and nervously greets Steven. Steven asks Peridot if they could sit and talk about something. “Of course.” Steven opens the door of a broken down car and motions for Peridot to sit in the front seat. Peridot obliges and climbs inside. In a flash, Steven snatches the device out of Peridot’s hands and slams the car door - closing Peridot inside.
Peridot goes for the door, but it’s locked! Steven: “Save your strength. They’re child-safety locks!” He holds up the device, “I saw you take this from the Moon Base. What is it?” Peridot: “It’s a communicator - a direct line to the Diamonds.” Steven is shocked: “You’re still trying to get in touch with Homeworld?!” Steven is super disappointed - the Diamonds are the ones trying to essentially blow up Earth. “You’re never going to be on our side! You were always just thinking about yourself! Why do I keep sticking my neck out for you?!” Steven runs away as Peridot honks the horn: “You don’t understand!”
Moments later, the Crystal Gems huddle around inspecting the device. They’re horrified that Peridot was going to try to contact a Diamond. She’s still loyal to the Diamonds. The Crystal Gems have been quietly protecting the Earth since the war because the planet has been off the radar, but Peridot could blow everything by ratting them out to the Diamonds. They never should have trusted her, now she knows everything about them, she can tell them everything. Steven winces. Garnet notices Steven is very distraught. She kneels down next to him. Steven: “Why did I think I could change her mind? I thought if I just showed her how great Earth is - and how great all of you are - that she would just understand.” Garnet tells him it’s beautiful that he believes in everyone, but some just don’t deserve it. Amethyst tries to look on the bright side: “Well, at least we got the Diamond thingy away from her!”
Just then, the side of the barn explodes into splinters and Peridot burst out piloting her robot from the Robolympics competition with Pearl! Steven and the Gems are stunned: “How’d she get out of the caaaAARRR!” They all dive out of the way as Peridot throws the car she was locked in at them. The Diamond Communicator falls free and Peridot snatches it up, charging past the Gems and off into the fields. Peridot: “I’m going to do what I set out to do whether you like it or not!” Steven groans - this is all his fault! The Gems scramble to their feet and take off, with Garnet grabbing Steven and sitting him on her shoulders. There’s no time to feel horrible, they have to catch Peridot before she contacts Yellow Diamond!
Steven and the Gems chase after Peridot in her robot through the fields. Peridot fumbles to work the Communicator with her bulky robot hands. Suddenly one of Pearl’s spears flies in and knocks the Communicator into the air. Amethyst snags it with her whip and yanks it towards her, but Peridot’s robot drops down from the sky and lands right on top of Amethyst. Before Peridot can complete the interception, Garnet slams into her like a linebacker.
They all continue to scramble for control of the Communicator until the Gems eventually just dog pile Peridot’s robot. The Communicator pops out and Steven runs to catch it, but Peridot sneaks out of her robot, which the Gems continue to pummel. She leaps in front of Steven and snags the Communicator. Steven calls out to the Gems but it’s too late - Peridot has activated the Communicator! A holographic projection shoots out of the device!
The Crystal Gems to step back, afraid of being seen, pulling Steven with them. The projection shows an empty room with A PEARL inside, going about her mundane business. The Pearl suddenly realizes she’s on screen. Alarmed, she rushes out of the room. A voice off screen yells in disbelief: “It activated?! That’s impossible! You probably made it go off!”
A Gem storms into the room - it’s YELLOW DIAMOND. She looks into the projection and is surprised to see Peridot. This is a Direct Diamond Communication Channel. How did a low ranking technician get access to it? Peridot asked to be excused for her intrusion, but it’s regarding the Cluster! Yellow Diamond is eager to hear: “What about the Cluster?”
The Gems brace themselves for Peridot to sell them out, but Peridot reports that the Cluster is progressing according to plan. Yellow Diamond offers a transport to pick her up, but instead Peridot tells Yellow Diamond that she recommends terminating the Cluster experiment! “I’m already here, and would be able to, hypothetically, drill into the earth and neutralize the cluster myself.”
Yellow Diamond stops Peridot, “How dare you! You are out of line!” Peridot shrinks, “I thought–” Yellow Diamond continues: “You’re asking me to shut down a program that’s been 6,000 years in the making?! Who do you think you are!”
Yellow Diamond orders her Pearl to pull up Peridot’s file. The Pearl projects a screen with Peridot’s face and stats. Yellow Diamond: “You were assigned a ship and a Jasper escort to check on the Cluster! What happened?” Peridot reluctantly admits the ship was destroyed and Jasper is MIA. Yellow Diamond asks how in the world this happened. Peridot pauses. Steven and the Gems look on, expecting her to sell them out. Peridot: “It was… an accident?”
Yellow Diamond is outraged - she never seen this level of incompetence from a Peridot. “You have one task left to perform - make sure the Cluster emerges.” Peridot: “No!” Yellow Diamond is shocked. Peridot is scared: “I– I won’t do it! It’s an inefficient use of this planet! And… there are things here worth protecting!”
Yellow Diamond is furious. “Are you insane?! What do you know about the Earth?!!”
Peridot blurts out “More than you you CLOD!” Peridot panics and ends the call. “I mean — thank you goodbye!!!”
Peridot can’t believe what she just did. Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst and Steven delight in Peridot’s brash act of rebellion. Then the Communicator lights up. Peridot tosses it and it explodes! The Gems react with delight again, but Peridot is shell shocked. Steven approaches her. Peridot: “Why did I think I could change her mind? I thought if I just explained she would understand…” Peridot explains she thought she could do what Rose never could. She thought the Crystal Gem’s rebellion must have been incompetent and that she could use intelligent compromise to accomplish their mission. But she was so wrong and she failed. Steven gives her a hug. Peridot is confused and breaks down. “Why are you happy now? It didn’t work!” Steven says she did really good. He realizes now this was all a big misunderstanding. She wasn’t being selfish, she was trying to help them out.
The Gems join them. They’re completely shocked. They were wrong about her. As far as rebellious acts go, they don’t get much more direct than that. Pearl points out that because Peridot disobeyed the Diamonds she’s officially a Crystal Gem.