While it was eventually a win for following the clues, the path to figuring out the purpose of Pearls wasn’t without its red herrings.
The first idea was that Pearls were technicians and were eventually replaced by Peridots. Considering how good Pearl is with technology, especially how she was able to make the Universe Mach 3 so quickly in Space Race, but also how she was the go-to gearhead in Political Power, this wasn’t even an unreasonable assumption to make.
However, Keeping it Together gave a big bit of information: Pearl likes doing chores. By itself that wouldn’t mean much, since she’s established to be fastidious bordering on neat freak, but it seemed to make sense:
- Pearl was always the one doing the cleaning (such as in Steven the Sword Fighter and Coach Steven).
- While her technological capabilities were impressive, she had very significant failures. The Universe Mach 3 was damaged while exiting the atmosphere, and her prototype robonoid disruptor didn’t work. (She’d later get a big win technologically in Friend Ship though, and was always good at fixing Greg’s van.)
After that, when Friend Ship aired, it seemed to seal the deal: “I’m just a Pearl.” Pearl needed someone to tell her what to do, she was useless on her own. When taken with the line “you weren’t built for fighting” from “Do It For Her”, Pearls being considered lowly by other Gems was pretty clear. As we would later find out, when the theory was confirmed in Back to the Barn, technicians aren’t super high-ranking on the Gem homeworld either, but at least they can hold their heads high around the servants.
So that was an interesting case, with a new episode coming in and supplanting old assumptions with a compelling new piece of evidence about Pearl that fit into a pattern that had been established well before in the show. It would see a bit more strengthening before finally being confirmed, but the mystery was correctly “solved” based on strong hints rather than an explicit statement.