Alright, post-episode, I spent about three hours putting in the plot of the episode and uploading all the screenshots to the Pearl/Gallery so I had this thought made early and was stuck with me for a while. I've also heard in chat all the Pearl hate, though I still hold great sympathy for her (I mean, you could kind of see my avatar is still there). So, here are my thoughts on everything in Cry For Help.
It is obvious that Pearl made a mistake. She had desired fusion with Garnet for her own selfish needs, and Garnet did say that she distracted the gems from the main issue at hand just to satisfy herself. However, there are two key points I'd like to make. First, I don't blame her. And second, she isn't the only one who made a mistake. In fact, everyone had their hand in making the situation worse, most notably Garnet.
About the first point now. It's possible that you can make the point that Pearl was desperate to fuse with someone, but we saw that last time in The Return as Opal. We all know that it is difficult to maintain stability for Opal, and it only worked because both Amethyst and Pearl had one goal in mind - to protect Steven and take down the giant bird the first time and the Gem Warship the second time. However, during the latter case, when Steven returned, they unfused because Amethyst was glad Steven had their backs, and Pearl was deeply concerned for his safety. The fusion is unstable - it can be easily toppled if they have different emotions. That means they don't love fusing with each other. It isn't love. Pearl wanted to fuse with Garnet because she even said so herself, it's a lot of fun fusing into Sardonyx.
Essentially it boils down to Pearl wanting a bit of love again. She deeply loved Rose on a romantic level and made that clearly visible multiple times. She admitted that Rose trusted her as her personal confidant (although strangely never revealed that Rose presumably had a pet lion), she loves Steven for who he is but also because he is a partial manifestation of Rose herself, had fused with Rose to form Rainbow Quartz whose sole purpose was to tell Greg, "She's MINE," then gloats about the fusion connection to Greg, and finally that dream in Chille Tid. Pearl didn't just love Rose as a gem, like Rose loved everything - she loved Rose on a romantic level. The problem is that we never saw Rose return the romantic feelings. Maybe she loved Pearl as a friend, comrade, and fellow gem, and never romantically, even before falling in love with Greg. Pearl never got to be in a relationship that she tried at for literally thousands of years, and that's just sad. And then Rose disappeared, so Pearl couldn't even spend time with her, only with Steven. Imagine that.
With everything considered, would you really think Pearl is doing it for the lolz, or because she actually misses having any form of remotely romantic feelings given and returned to her? She wanted to fuse with Garnet not just because it's fun being Sardonyx, but because she missed the sensation of love. She says so herself: "It's been such a long time." It might not be just about Sardonyx, but her own feelings. Again, yes, Pearl was being selfish, but there was a very good and specific reason for that. That is why I don't see the reason for all the hate and am sympathetic to her and love her still.
The other point I would like to discuss is the fact that she's not the only one who made mistakes. Garnet, Amethyst and Steven all made a mistake each. Granted it was started by Pearl because she desired fusion with Garnet, but everything became much worse in the last few minutes of the episode because of what everyone else did.
Amethyst should not have stopped the fusion right then and there. She could have talked to Pearl about why she was rebuilding the hub before they found out the hub was disrupting TV signals, but perhaps better yet after they destroyed the hub again, after Amethyst already knew Pearl's motives for doing so. Pearl might not have denied it at that point if that were the case, because she was smart enough to confess on the spot when Steven pointed out what Pearl has been doing because she knows that there's no way to lie out of it. Amethyst could have at least convinced her later to stop doing it, because even Pearl would understand that it's not helping anyone else.
Steven should not have completely spilled the entire story in front of Garnet when Amethyst stopped them from fusing. Remember, she only said, "You... you shouldn't [fuse]." She hesitated for a moment because she was thinking whether or not she should reveal everything, but decided not to. Steven could have at least saved the whole fuss if he tried diverging from the main problem, or just saying that let them fuse again for just this instant (without revealing that this is the last time they're doing it). Granted, it would have been quite difficult to shift the focus, but at least he could have tried. He could let the fusion happen and then talk to Pearl with Amethyst about what is really going on. Garnet would most likely not have known, because we do see that there is some kind of limit to her future vision. She mentioned Peridot evaded her future vision, but she also claims to see every instance of the future. Apparently, there is truly a limit, because she could have spotted the possibility of Pearl doing it, and perhaps question her about it. If that were to happen, Pearl would need to admit, because that's really the only other possibility of the future and lying to Garnet would just get her backhanded.
That is a lot of Garnet fussing on a Steven paragraph, but there's more. She completely lost herself. She does say that she can be brash sometimes, despite her default stoic manner on everything, but she just absolutely lost herself. She wasn't annoyed or angry, she was absolutely infuriated. She threw Pearl down, approached her very aggressively, and yelled at Amethyst who tried to defend her. Granted, I do think that Garnet snapping at her was justified, since Pearl did, after all, deceive her team just to satisfy herself, but Garnet went too far. That was not the usual Garnet. It is possible that Ruby's emotions had taken over Garnet that made her act so aggressively. If she maintained her feelings half between Ruby and Sapphire, Garnet might not have made a huge deal out of it. Obviously, maybe she would have some form of resentment for Pearl because she was being selfish during an important mission, but not to the extent Garnet is right now.
However, arguably the biggest Garnet problem about this one minute is the fact that Ruby is in control now. Technically we're seeing Garnet, but I don't see Sapphire in her. It is possible that even Sapphire got so disgusted by Pearl's actions that she is in agreement with Ruby, but that seems unlikely. In Stronger Than You, Garnet says that she is their fury and patience. We know who they are - Ruby is her fury and Sapphire is her patience. If you don't know why, it's because Ruby was very hasty and panicked to find Sapphire and seemed careless when Jasper and Peridot were roaming around the ship in Jailbreak. However, Sapphire simply thanked Steven for freeing her and set off to find Ruby in a calm manner. Sapphire hating Pearl? That just wouldn't happen, at least that's what I believe. Since Garnet was very aggressive with Pearl, and gave her the silent treatment at the end of the episode, she didn't forgive Pearl, and probably won't in a while. Garnet was furious with Pearl - it's Ruby acting on emotion.
What makes Garnet strong is her balance between Ruby and Sapphire. That's why she is always so calm, and yet able to demonstrate raw physical power and, to a certain extent, lead the group. With one of those components gone, she is weak. With Ruby gone, it may as well be a very temperate person who most likely wouldn't show power often. With Sapphire gone, we have a loose cannon like Sugilite.
But why didn't Garnet defuse if they have different feelings towards Pearl? Ruby is extremely furious at her, but Sapphire might be holding the fusion together and try to help Ruby calm down. Obviously, it might be difficult, but as long as Garnet exists, Pearl and Sapphire have hope. However, until Pearl and Garnet make peace, I suspect the one-sided fusion issue to bring problems in the future.
In short: Pearl had a good reason for her selfishness, but still made a mistake. Amethyst and Steven should have confronted Pearl later. Garnet is now Ruby-dominated, which is arguably the worst mistake made here out of the entire situation even existing.
Jeez this took me an hour to write. I guess I worked today for four hours.
Thanks for reading (at least I hope you did). Let me know what you think.