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‘Steven Universe’ Recap: ‘Onion Trade’

“Onion Trade”
Written and storyboard by Lamar Abrams.

There’s something about Steven’s dad Greg that doesn’t add up. Will we ever really know why Greg distances himself from his son? This week in “Onion Trade,” we explored a dad’s horrible ability to remember things, witnessed Steven’s lack of male role models, and learned a lot more about Onion, a character who revealed quite a few new layers.

While Steven went out of his comfort zone last week to hang with Lars and the cool kids, this week saw him fixating on memories he’d built with his dad a year ago on a special day at the beach. The trip resulted in Greg getting Steven some G.U.Y.S (Guys Under Your Supervision), little vending machine figurines that’d usually find their way to the bottom of one’s toy box. Steven cherishes them more for what they represent than what they do. 

At first I thought that he was just like me. I, too, have hung on to the tiniest of trinkets just because of who’d given them to me over the years. Then as the episode rolled on, and the personalities of the G.U.Y.S. started to take shape, I noticed the toys represented Greg. It’s no surprise to hear that Steven lacks male role models in his life. The closest thing he has to a real father is Garnet, and we’ve seen before how much he idolizes her in “Arcade Mania.”

So, you had the Ranger G.U.Y., who was the most revered one, and then Dave G.U.Y. whose figure comes with tax paperwork that he can carry around. No one wants the regular Dave. The two varying G.U.Y.S. seemed to symbolize who Steven subconsciously wished his dad was (Ranger) and who he really is (Dave); one being the top dog and the other being a lame nobody. 

Speaking of Greg, we haven’t seen him since “Cat Fingers.” If you’re keeping track, that’s eight episodes ago. What really stuck out about the distant dad this week other than his oddly tanned feet was the fact that he didn’t remember a day that obviously meant the world to his son. What kid wouldn’t feel like crap if their parent dismissed their special day like that? It made me wonder about what Greg’s deal was. Why does he continuously choose to be out of Steven’s life? Yeah, the Gems need to train him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pop in to say, “Hi,” every once in awhile.

That leads to the idea that there is something we don’t yet know about the history of Steven’s parents. We know Greg the mortal was with Rose the Gem, and they made Steven, and she’s no more – but was there some big rule about a Gem being raised by a human? Maybe there’s something bigger keeping Steven and Greg apart, or maybe he’s just a deadbeat dad.

Then you had Onion, the itty bitty kid who never makes a sound. However, we did learn he can talk, just not English. We also found out his dad is a fisherman who looks like a piece of cauliflower. Their interaction in that other language trumped my theory last week that the cool kid, Sour Cream, was Onion’s brother. Unless they’re step siblings…?

Anyway, Onion proved that he’s not as cute and innocent as he appears on the surface. The layers unraveled to reveal that he was a thief. Not only did he pick pocket Steven’s G.U.Y., but he also stole from the vending machine. How he managed to actually get inside the machine is beyond me, but nevertheless, Onion could be classified as a delinquent. The only thing to blame for that is because he, too, lacks a male role model. His dad’s always out to sea, leaving him to wait endlessly. That would make even the best kid crack. 

If you had to sum up “Onion Trade” in two words you’d have to go with “daddy issues.” Greg continued to prove he’s not the best, although there could be something bigger keeping that father and son apart, while Onion’s dad kept him waiting on a daily basis.

  • AmidAmidi

    The running Scrooge McDuck gag in this episode was quite good.

  • GreenKazoo

    I didn’t think of the G.U.Y.S. interpretation that you did here, with each G.U.Y. representing an aspect of Steven’s relationship with his father, but I like that theory!
    Watching Greg dismiss Steven’s feelings about Ranger Guy really stood out to me in this episode. I really want to keep learning more about their relationship in the episodes to come.

  • TheFlyingDachshund

    What I’ve noticed is that Greg Universe seems to be weirded out by magic in general from the other appearances he has. I think he keeps his distance from his son when he is doing his “crystal gem” stuff. Not because he doesn’t love his son, but more because he doesn’t understand magic, and maybe even dislikes magic for taking Rose Quartz away?

    • Ness

      I believe it was stated in the episode of his first appearance that the Gems told him not to interfere with magic-related stuff. They seem not to trust him for reasons we can speculate about…

      • Keen Bean

        I have a feeling that his dad had something to do with his mother’s death. Probably something to do with her sacrificing herself to save him because he decided to meddle in gem affairs.

        Or didn’t she die in childbirth? I can’t remember

        • Rose Quartz had to give up her physical form to have Steven. The details about how or why aren’t known yet, but I think it’s simply that only one Crystal Gem of a specific type can exist at a time, so for Steven to come into being, Rose Quartz would have to cease to exist.

          You can imagine why this would make Pearl, Garnet and Amethyst wary of the man she decided to conceive with, probably among other reasons.

  • Ben

    This makes me think. So far, all the evil monsters have been the only legitimate antagonists. All the characters that Steven interacts with are flawed, causing issues by getting the wrong idea about Gem stuff like the duplication wand. Why do the Gems need these things if having them leads to half of the disasters?

  • David Fisher

    One possibility is that Rose left sometime after becoming pregnant/whatever the Crystal Gem equivalent is (maybe they lay moonstone eggs?). It’s possible Greg didn’t know he had a son until the last couple years (what if the Ranger Guy is from one of their first outings together?

    At any rate, it seems like Greg doesn’t have the wherewithal to meaningfully provide for Steven (he lives in a van down by the river, I mean, car wash), so it makes sense for him to live with the gems (relatives? of his mom). Why we don’t see them together much could just be selection bias, as more TV-worthy adventures happen with the gems than with Greg; and it could also be feelings of shame on Greg’s part: maybe he loves Stephen, but in addition to the unusual circumstances, both magical and mundane, of the relationship, he might feel emasculated by his inability to provide…

  • Chirp

    Greg’s relationship with Steven is kinda sad on paper. They live in the same town but Greg isn’t the one raising him, or is even his guardian anymore (he probably never really was anyways); he’s completely out of his hands. So it’s always Steven who goes out of his way to say hi when he can.

    It’s really awkward because it goes beyond “Oh hi there young boy how are you” because it’s “hello there my offspring who I should have raised but didn’t how are you”. The best they can ever be is friends and you I don’t think anyone really wants to be only friends with their parents.

    Everyone sometimes pretends they want a best friend in their parent but what you’re left with is a guy like Greg in place of a dad.

    i like this show

  • pocong

    I figure that Greg isn’t raising Steven because he can’t. As much as Greg would like to be there for his son the fact is that Steven’s emerging powers are dangerous. We’ve seen Steven’s abilities almost kill him on three separate occasions. He probably lives with the Gems so that they’re nearby if something goes horribly wrong. Greg’s discomfort with magic is actually pretty understandable, it killed his wife and regularly comes close to killing his son.

  • The Most Amazing Waffle

    In the second picture, next to the door of the truck, there’s an empty bottle of who knows what. Could Greg Universe possibly have a drinking problem? It would explain how in one episode he slept until Steven woke him up that afternoon. He also seems to have quite a few issues judging by his appearance and the fact he lives in a truck.