After an episode of dramatic, intense issues with his mom, Steven blissfully gets to hang out with a goofy dad—who isn’t his own goofy dad. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with Greg, who is one of the best dads to ever dad. But it’s cool to get to spend this time with Doug Maheswaran, a new silly paternal figure who adds a lot of fun and flavor to “Doug Out.”

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In past episodes, Doug has been painted as a bit of a disciplinarian—especially in the alternate timeline from “Winter Forecast” where he sternly reprimands Steven and Greg—but he also hasn’t been as fully developed as his wife. Here’s what we learn about Doug during this episode: He works for a private security company. He’s much more comfortable with Steven and Connie’s relationship than Dr. Maheswaran—or, at least, the family has had enough time to get used to it that he now accepts Gem stuff as a part of Connie’s life. He’s kind of a goofball. And he likes his work fine, except that he’s worried it’s a little too boring for his daughter.

Doug, essentially, has a version of the same problem Greg had before “The Message”: He thinks that just being a normal human is inadequate, and that he can’t keep up with all the alien craziness surrounding his child. But where Greg felt like he couldn’t help out the team, Doug doesn’t really see himself as a part of the extended Crystal Gems. Instead, he feels unfulfilled in comparison to his wife the doctor and his daughter the monster-fighting sword fighter. The best thing about “Doug Out” is that Doug’s insecurities don’t drive him to make any mistakes—he just expresses his concern to his daughter, and they have a healthy, productive conversation.

In fact, Doug is rather competent at his job, minus a brief incident when he’s trapped in a Gravitron with Connie and Steven, and he throws his trusty flashlight at the off switch. (The flashlight floats for a moment before zipping back and hitting Doug in the face, prompting Connie to exclaim, “Oh no, the laws of physics!”) Crispin Freeman ably sells Doug’s charm, adding all sorts of cheese to moments like a prank where he pretends to arrest Steven, or when the kids ask if he wants to go undercover and he pulls off his glasses before saying, “How do you know I’m not undercover… right now?” He even gives Connie a piece of good advice—he doesn’t have weapons because he doesn’t want to escalate a situation, which is a very adult (and very Steven) way of thinking.

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The bulk of “Doug Out” is spent on a stakeout of the boardwalk, which Doug’s company has been contracted to observe to fend off trespassers. (Connie is astonished they’re allowed to join, “even though we’re not officially sanctioned security personnel.”) Even without the thread of fighting, it’s still fun and exciting for the kids. And Doug has a cool box of stuff from a costume shop that Connie and Steven use to formulate their undercover identities: Veronica Cucamonga the Carmen Sandiego-like femme fatale and Peter Pizzapopolous, a guy with a mustache and a Greek last name who looks and sounds exactly like Steven doing a Mario impression.

Zach Callison’s hilarious Peter Pizzapopolous voice is just one of several adorable, amusing, loving stylistic pieces around the fringes of the episode. Most of these are done to highlight Doug’s silliness, including a music sting and a shot of Doug’s eyes narrowing as he says the word “stakeout.” (Even if he doesn’t have to leave the car, stakeouts are still cool!) Storyboard artists Lamar Abrams and Katie Mitroff add all sorts of fun flourishes to the late-night boardwalk, from the star pattern of Doug’s flashlight illuminating the frame to the whirling of the Gravitron. And, of course, Onion is there too—with some fabric torn from his pants.

Though Steven and Connie briefly worry about the possibility of Gem mutants or Home World Gems being behind the break-ins, Onion is, inevitably, the one at the end of the chase. And while Doug eventually agrees to let him go with a stern warning, Onion isn’t out of the woods. His non-verbal communication could have indicated his abdication of responsibility, but in light of the episode’s end it really suggests that he was afraid of someone. When Onion leaves to go home, he’s trailed by a pair of mysterious silhouettes. One is an enormous, hulking figure, the other a floating girl—with Lapis-like water wings. It looks like there are some new Home World Gems on Earth after all.

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Stray observations:

  • “Tell Ronaldo I hope his weird rash clears up soon!” is an incredible line of Steven dialogue.
  • Steven, pranked by Doug: “All the years of ordering off-menu have finally come back to taunt me!”
  • Doug literally says “Y’all ready for this,” presumably foreshadowing an episode in which he and the Gems have to play basketball against a bunch of monstrous aliens to save Beach City. (This episode would be called “Space Gem” and it would be perfect.)
  • “Hey Steven, you wanna help ruin some teen’s night?” “Always.”
  • Doug and Greg have to hang out now, right? Their past interactions have been a little strained, but I love this version of Doug.

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