We didn’t get as much plot advancement as we expected from Back to the Barn (though we did get confirmation on one form the Cluster won’t take :-P), but in trade we got even more lore than we had hoped for. Rather than one brief remark, the episode was centered around the issue and its retort. That means more to talk about for us.
You’re just a Pearl
People had suspected that Pearls were servants on the homeworld – especially after Pearl’s statement that she enjoyed domestic work in Keeping it Together, then even more after her “I’m just a Pearl” line in Friend Ship – and after the preview for Back to the Barn we were pretty sure we’d get at least something that basically confirmed the theory. We got a lot more than that though, so we can finally say that the Pearl Servant Theory (which replaced the Peridot = Pearl 2.0 Theory) has been 100% confirmed.
So we learned a lot about Pearls. Based on how Peridot described them as being “flaunted” they appear to be status symbols. The kind of work she describes them as doing (standing around, looking nice, holding things) backs this up, as does the fact that her owning one would be considered strange.
When she gets angry Peridot starts to bring out the serious prejudice against Pearls. She demands too know why Pearl feels like she is allowed to act like her own Gem; this makes it sound like a Pearl’s subservience, not just to her betters but to the social system, is supposed to be total. No ambition, no stepping out of line, no being the perfect renaissance Gem with numerous different skills.
It doesn’t sound like Pearls have it very well on the homeworld, which is why it’s quite remarkable that Pearl still holds the homeworld in as high esteem as she does. Remember, though, that she followed Rose Quartz into the rebellion; she didn’t join the Crystal Gems because she felt she was being mistreated, she joined because that’s what Rose was doing. She knows she can’t go back, but there’s a lot she still misses.
I was made for this
As has long been suspected, Gems on the homeworld appear to be expected to fit a single role and not deviate from it. A Pearl is meant to serve, a Peridot is meant to handle technology, and Rubies, Amethysts, and Jaspers all appear to be meant to fight.
Peridot certainly didn’t expect Pearl to be a skilled combatant. Pearl’s “you weren’t built for fighting” line from “Do It For Her” comes to mind, maybe even her “what they don’t know is your real advantage”. She was likely discounted on the battlefield by enemies as a mere accessory, just as Peridot did; only too late would they learn what Pearl’s devotion to Rose meant she was capable of.
That’s not common, that’s amazing!
Even more than being surprised by her fighting prowess, Peridot could hardly conceive of a Pearl that could competently use technology. Obviously Pearl had the ability to learn to fight and to build, so the question is whether all Pearls have untapped potential.
Peridot referred to Pearls as being “made-to-order”, so it’s possible that Rose Quartz – assuming Pearl always served her – asked for an exceptional specimen. It’s true that our Pearl is pretty great, but it’s just not a satisfying explanation considering the other signs we’ve seen.
Rose Quartz saw the beauty and worth in everything: Earth, humans, and even a lowly servant Gem. It would make sense for her to try to bring the best out of Pearl—not because Pearl was unique among Pearls but because all Gems had the capability to be so much more than was expected of them. Without Rose around Pearl feels like just another Pearl, so she certainly doesn’t seem to feel abnormal despite the skills she has developed.
If Pearl was only exceptional in that she was allowed and encouraged to develop a skill set, then that makes the homeworld’s insistence on rigid social structure seem strange. Clearly warrior Gems could be optimized for fighting simply by having more power, but how would Peridot be specialized for working with technology? We’ll have to watch in the future to see where the Gem castes fall on the nature-nurture spectrum.
Pearl isn’t the only one who faces prejudice from homeworld Gems though: Jasper and Peridot both react negatively to Garnet, which would be strange considering how much they seem to respect strength (Peridot also appearing to believe that being stronger than Pearl means she’s in charge). Her status as a fusion would upset a strength-based social order imposed by naturally strong Gems, so their rejection of a formidable fighter with such powerful precognitive abilities could be considered evidence that we got that particular assumption about the homeworld right.
In Catch and Release Peridot referred to Garnet as a war machine, reinforcing the assumption that the homeworld only uses fusion for battle. Garnet doesn’t see herself that way, however, seeing herself as a fusion made out of love. We know that the homeworld doesn’t accept her because of her lyrics in the extended theme: “I will fight for the place where I’m free to live together and exist as me.”
Remember that this isn’t the modern homeworld: the Crystal Gems only know the ancient homeworld, which taught Pearl that she was worthless and Garnet that she was only good for battle. We never expected that homeworld would be populated with nice Gems, and while these attitudes don’t conflict at all with a utopian aesthetic (Rome was never a particularly nice place either) it’s still quite another thing to imagine beloved characters being treated like this by their own kind.
Learning about the Cluster and how it has been influencing homeworld actions towards Earth already had us reconsidering the homeworld’s current strength (learning that they held on to Earth for hundreds of years until they finished their work then left is a big piece of the puzzle we lacked after Jailbreak), but considering their extremely rigid social structure and the Cluster experiments we’re reconsidering whether the homeworld changed in personality at all either. If they’re not suffering from the extreme pressure of a nasty war, and they’ve always expected everyone to toe the line, all we’re left with is thousands of years of technological progress.