Here it is, the long-rumored and awaited “Tiger Philanthropist”. And when I say long-rumored I mean it; this episode was talked about back during season 2 and expected in season 3. “Tiger Millionaire” was one of the best early episodes of Steven Universe (and one of the first to flesh out Amethyst), so expectations for the return of Purple Puma and her wealthy feline partner are high.
Can Steven Universe bring the pain again? I’ll shut my mouth and know my role. We’ll see if “Tiger Philanthropist” delivers another stunner. Can you tell I used to love pro wrestling? Sorry everyone, the references will come faster than John Cena winning a world title for the gazillionth time.
Spoilers for 4×19 “Tiger Philanthropist” below
We open with Amethyst and Steven laying the smackdown on a shark to retain their tag team belts. I love Steven Universe for letting me type a sentence like that. They’re still huge fan favorites and Lars hopes they never stop wrestling. Then Amethyst retires the Purple Puma, much to the surprise and disappointment of the crowd and Steven.
Outside the arena, Amethyst is happy to be done. Wrestling has become boring and she doesn’t need it to have fun anymore. Sweet, sweet character development. Steven reluctantly agrees with her but looks forlornly at one of the tag team belts.
Come on, guys, that’s not how you go out! You didn’t even have a “loser retires” cage match!
The next day Steven finds an upset Lars at the Big Donut. As Tiger Millionaire’s biggest fan he is upset about his abrupt retirement. Sadie tells him he should ask Steven why Tiger quit, and Lars dismisses the idea that Steven is Tiger. Sounds like they’ve had this discussion a few times. Steven says he “heard” that Purple Puma didn’t want to wrestle anymore. Lars points out that Tiger doesn’t have to retire just because of Purple Puma, which Steven ponders as he leaves.
We return on another wrestling night, where Mr. Smiley talks about the depression since our cat bros retired. He introduces a new team, the Wolves of Wall Street (the names of the wrestlers and moves in this episode are incredible). But bah gawd, that’s Tiger Millionaire’s music! He makes his surprise return to introduce his new gimmick.
Turns out Tiger Millionaire found retirement with his piles of money unsatisfying, so he’s back as Tiger Philanthropist! He freely tosses jungle bucks to the fans and destroys the Wolves of Wall Street. By the way, the Business Loan Elbow is WAY better than the People’s Elbow. Afterwards he tosses out more jungle bucks “to cover their medical bills.”
Sharkomania runs to the ring with a new partner, the Sea Wasp, and Tiger instinctively turns to Amethyst for help, who isn’t there. Like he needs the Purple Puma. He delivers a double lariat that Stan Hansen could only dream of (the Charitable Takedonation) and a couple suplexes to finish them off before tossing out more money for their medical bills as well.
Everyone in the crowd loves him. Well, everyone but Lars.
When Steven goes to the Big Donut to ask Lars about his night, Lars vents about Tiger’s new persona. He doesn’t like Tiger just giving his money away as if he doesn’t care, either about his money or wrestling. Steven tries to figure out what Lars wants but can’t get an answer. Lars doesn’t know and tells Steven to stop taking such an interest in his happiness.
Back at the temple, Steven sits with Amethyst and wonders why he’s still wrestling. He liked doing it for Amethyst but not so much for Lars. Amethyst says they don’t need wrestling anymore. She needed it when she didn’t feel good enough, but she doesn’t feel that way anymore.
I’m so happy for her. Our trash baby has come so far.
When she asks Steven if he feels that way about himself, he says it was never about that with him. He just liked wrestling since it was their thing to do together. He decides to give it up as well after one more match.
When he wrestles next, Tiger Philanthropist decides to give the tag team belts away. He hangs them above the ring and invites whoever wants them to come get them. The crowd boos him, with Lars screaming that philanthropy sucks. He’s a self-involved teenager, I‘ll cut him some slack.
Tiger says he doesn’t care about boos or the belts, and never did. Come on, Steven, we all remember how upset the booing made you after your debut. You’re less convincing than Steve Austin teaming with Vince McMahon.
The Brothers Construction come for the belts, as do the Good-Looking Guys. These two teams ready to fight, but here comes the Purple Puma! She says that their time as a team meant everything, and she refuses to let Tiger give away their belts and memories.
As the crowd cheers, Amethyst apologizes for bailing on Steven. Wrestling was their thing. Steven says it’s okay, because they don’t need it anymore, so Amethyst asks how he wants to end their careers. Steven wants to go out with a bang.
Time for Hell in a Cell!
Not really. The other tag teams start beating Puma and Tiger up, including the return of Sharkomania. They get punched, headbutted, bodyslammed, and eventually kicked into the ground. I’m with Lars, somebody stop the damn match! Those gems have a family! I haven’t seen such brutal destruction since The Undertaker sent Mankind flying off the top of a cell!
Again, not really. Steven and Amethyst aren’t about to be hurt by any human beings. Not physically, anyway. The Good-Looking Gang take the belts and the former champs can now walk away. Security carries a distraught Lars out of the building while Steven and Amethyst smile and wink at each other.
Delightful Little Gems
- The Crewniverse definitely has some wrestling fans. The gimmicks and names were top notch. I LOVE the move names; the Business Loan Elbow, the Charitable Takedonation, the Star-Crossed Lovers, it was fantastic.
- You know who Steven was in this episode? A face-turn Ted Dibiase. And it was GLORIOUS.
- Mr. Smiley is the best commentator in wrestling history.
- I like how Lars called Steven out for yet again taking such personal interest in his personal affairs. Steven Universe may be a good kid, but he gets a bit too closely involved sometimes.
- And so ends the longest title reign since the days of the New Age Outlaws.
- So, has Steven been practicing his fighting during these matches? And speaking of which, this was a small 14-year-old beating the hell out of particularly large grown men.
- How does Lars not know? Steven all but shouted it.
- Does the fact the Good-Looking Gang have a finisher called “Star-Crossed Lovers” imply they are the star-crossed lovers?
- Does Beach City Underground need more funding? Every big match ends in a ladder match. I’m sure the Crystal Gems could fashion a cage fairly quickly.
So, fun episode. Your typical “Steven cares more about making others happy than making himself happy” episode of Steven Universe. Blaming Lars’s dislike for Tiger Philanthropist on him being a jerk is easy, but he was right. He recognized how Steven’s heart was not into wrestling when his reason for beginning was lost.
(Plus Tiger’s newfound unselfishness was probably a little too close to Steven for him.)
Steven has a habit of putting his own desires on the backburner to please others. Any Steven Universe fan knows this. He does so again here to please Lars and the other wrestling fans. He desperately tries to figure out how he can please Lars. Whatever enjoyment he feels (or more accurately doesn’t feel) from wrestling comes second. The kid’s desire to make people happy defines him.
We knew that well before now. “Tiger Philanthropist” only proved a well-known lesson and does not stand out for Steven alone. No, where Steven Universe stood out this week was its cementing of the Steven/Amethyst bond and Amethyst’s growth since the first time we saw her in a wrestling ring.
As she says here, she wrestled because of low self-worth. She adopted the Purple Puma persona to release her frustrations over Garnet and Pearl’s criticisms of her behavior. Amethyst did not feel like a Crystal Gem and questioned her very existence. She questioned her very identity. And even worse, the stigma against the Prime Kindergarten made her feel wrong. Amethyst always thought of herself as the outsider, the bad gem the Crystal Gems babysit to make sure she doesn’t cause the damage she is “supposed” to.
She buried these feelings for thousands of years, unknown to Pearl, Garnet, and Rose (seriously how). Our trash baby has come a long way since those days.
Over time that feeling of being “bad” has vanished, but we never saw her finally reach a peace with who she is until the Jasper arc during the final stages of season 3. Facing a “correct” quartz for the first time hammered home her feelings of inadequacy. Seeing Stevonnie defeat Jasper alone once again questioned her identity and worth to the Crystal Gems. What little she felt she had left as stronger than Steven was suddenly in danger.
Finding common ground with Steven and the formation of Smoky Quartz went a long way in helping her accept her limitations and pride about Earth. It also developed a bond between the two unlike any they could find elsewhere. They were both small and weak, both less than Pearl and Garnet, and due to their dual natures (Steven as a half-gem half-human, Amethyst as a gem and someone with no experience outside of Earth), always felt inadequate for both halves of their identities. Steven did a lot to help Amethyst begin overcoming her feelings of inadequacy.
She still felt weak and wrong, but at least she had someone she could finally relate these feelings to, someone who understood and could reciprocate.
Then we saw her finally face the fears of her place and worth among other Amethysts during the Zoo arc. Meeting the Famethyst gave her a place among gems like her. The worth of her existence, the fear which defined her entire existence, was answered. She was immediately accepted by “her kind” and fit in perfectly. She found out her fellow Amethysts waited for her to emerge from the prime Kindergarten.
And then she found out her gem identity, which solidified her place among them. It was everything she ever hoped for. Amethyst has now established a confidence in her identity both on Earth and among other gems. Her place in the Crystal Gems is secure, as is her relationship with each member. She can take pride in her Earth origins while knowing she has a place among other Amethysts. She is a happier, stronger person who has overcome many of the personal demons which haunt her.
Steven did a great deal to start this process without doing the same for himself. “Tiger Philanthropist” saw Amethyst begin to return the favor.
Think about how far she has come to willingly throw a match for Steven. Season 1 Amethyst would never have allowed that. Now, though, she’s a happier, stronger, more secure person who is willing to appear weak in order to help a friend. It also reinforced the unique and strong bond she and Steven have. Amethyst appreciates how Steven helped and supported her and is readily willing to return the favor.
Basically, she serves a similar role at the end of the episode that Steven did for her when this whole wrestling adventure began. Back then, she needed Steven. This time around Steven needed her. It warmed my heart to see how happy she was to help him exit the way Steven wanted, rather than the way Amethyst nearly forced on him to start the episode.
Anyone who has read our many gushing reviews and analyses of Steven Universe knows how much we love and want to protect these two. How can anyone resist? Steven and Amethyst are so vulnerable and loveable. They both search so badly for validation and reconciliation between the two sides of their identities and can sympathize so closely with the inadequacies of the other. Smoky made us squeal because we knew how much they can help each other, and how much that moment specifically meant to each of them.
We’ve seen them grow so much since the Purple Puma and Tiger Millionaire first teamed up. Both stand tall among the best developed characters of a show that develops almost every character amazingly. Steven has changed from the pudgy little kid who could not even control his shield or participate in missions to the leader of the Crystal Gems. He has begun to outgrow even the legacy of his mother and instead forge a legacy of his own.
Amethyst is no longer the outlandish outcast with no confidence in her place or identity. She knows her place, has bonded with her Famethyst, and feels pride for her birth on Earth. Even her rivalries with the other gems have generally vanished. Just look at last episode’s super sweet moment with Pearl. Could you have imagined an interaction like that back when Steven Universe first aired “Tiger Millionaire?”
Of course, I fully expect they will have their newfound confidences shaken in the future. Amethyst still worries about her usefulness in a fight, and any defeat can send her spiraling into depression and doubt again. Steven is still in the midst of a maternal crisis, though “Storm in the Room” at least offered a step towards peace. The time will come where both fall back into familiar doubts.
For now our Shorty Squad is in a good place. Certainly in a better place than they were before. “Tiger Philanthropist” was a satisfying episode for many reasons. The former pro wrestling fan in me loved the showmanship. It was very entertaining, the feel was reminiscent of Steven Universe’s best season 1 episodes. Mr. Smiley was incredible.
Most of all, though, “Tiger Philanthropist” served as a beautiful wrap-up to the bonding arc of two of my favorite Steven Universe characters. Such has been the pattern throughout season 4. The Crewniverse has taken great care to wrap up many of the character arcs that defined its characters throughout the beginning of Steven Universe.
Steven is moving past the specter of his mother. Pearl has begun to do the same. Amethyst has found peace and confidence. Greg has found a stable place in his son’s life and reconciled with Pearl. Garnet has stepped back to allow Steven to take leadership of the Crystal Gems. Connie has earned her place on the team. Peridot and Lapis grow more comfortable in their new lives and ability to help each other heal.
It was the only right way to do things before moving them into Steven Universe’s next phase. I happily look forward to watching these amazing characters face the challenges of this next phase together. And if you think they can’t, they’ll always find a way!