Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 15: Secret of My Excess + Hearth’s Warming Eve + Family Appreciation Day

Introduction

< Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 >

Season 2, Episodes 10-12

I didn’t get this post done in time a week ago, so I decided to push it back a week (plus a few hours), making this the first time my MLP posts skipped a week. This may happen sometimes as I prioritize finishing my Homestuck posts (only twelve left!) over making my MLP posts. The good news is, once I finish my Homestuck post series, I never have to think about Homestuck again!!!

Posts about a different work of media aside, we’re now at the first of several points where the episode numbering of my MLP review posts might get a little confusing, because the release order differs from the production order. In this case, Hearth’s Warming Eve was moved ahead a few slots to be released around Christmas. I’ve decided to do these posts in release order, because that’s what most unofficial mirrors of the show do, and I must admit I’ve been using those to watch the show. An advantage of this order is that the season 3 episodes “Just for Sidekicks” and “Games Ponies Play”, which take place at the same time, are side by side.

With those little clarifications out of the way, let’s begin!


Season 2 Episode 10: Secret of My Excess

In five words: Spike’s dragon greed causes havoc.

Premise: As he gets lots of birthday presents, Spike gets carried away with greed and turns into a ferocious, gigantic dragon. (Er, not to imply he wasn’t previously a dragon.)

Detailed run-through:

As previously promised, I’m going to compare Spike’s and Rainbow Dash’s episodes before I start this run-through. Both these characters have personality traits in common, specifically high self-image and tendency to embarrass themselves. Rainbow Dash’s episodes are a frequent source of second-hand embarrassment for me, but when Spike gets up to antics with questionable morality, I more often think, “come on, you’re better than this”. I’m not sure where that difference comes from; both characters in their episodes tend to have personality traits exaggerated or contrived. Maybe it’s because Spike’s personality isn’t portrayed quite as consistently as Rainbow Dash’s? It takes quite a long time—until season 6, I’d say—for the show to start being kinder to Spike, making his episodes before then a bit of a mess. This is easily one of the more tolerable ones, but then you have “uh, what?” episodes like Spike at Your Service. Although I’m generally defendant of Spike’s character, I won’t deny that his episodes tend to be weird.

This beginning of this episode tells us that this is going to be another one of those episodes focused on Spike’s self-admiration. Spike walks in on Twilight Sparkle reshelving her books and holds a fire ruby gem that is supposedly his birthday present to himself. Spike’s self-image is either endearing or obnoxious depending on the circumstances, and in this episode it’s the pivot of the friendship lesson, so it’s naturally going to be a little obnoxious.

With a heavy heart, Spike gives his gem to Rarity when she stops by. Rarity is jovial and kisses him on the cheek, which Spike decides he never wants to wash, and Twilight Sparkle praises him for his generosity. This scene sets the stage for the resolution of this episode’s conflict, as well as the episode’s moral. I suppose it’s fitting to see Spike begrudgingly do something kind before getting carried away with greed.

As Twilight Sparkle and Spike finish preparing the latter’s birthday party, Spike is the brunt of Twilight’s magic spells yet again as she teleports him in an infinite loop* and then manages to wipe the kiss off his cheek when Pinkie Pie appears by surprise. It’s rather daunting to think how easily Twilight Sparkle could create situations that resemble repeating time loops, or maybe not so much daunting as mildly humorous.

* Not a real infinite loop, of course. Just a loop where Spike runs for a second and Twilight Sparkle teleports him back where he started.

Rainbow Dash: Don’t you know you get presents on your birthday?
Spike: Well, actually, this is my first birthday in Ponyville.
Spike: I usually just get one present… from Twilight. A book.

It’s never occurred to me before that the cause of Spike’s increasing greed may partly be how new he is to the concept of receiving birthday presents from others, not just his self-absorbed personality. This seems like an obvious way to think of the episode’s plot now that I think of it; maybe it didn’t occur to me until now because this episode never stuck out to me much? Twilight Sparkle and Spike don’t demonstrate that they grew up antisocial as often as one may think; mostly a few times in the first two seasons.

Rarity then reminds us that generosity pays off when she reveals that she will be making fancy cape outfits for each of her friends, inspired by Spike’s gift to her. The payoffs of generosity are a common theme in Rarity episodes, and I’ll surely have a lot more to say about that topic in later reviews.

Does Spike even like hats? It seems more like he’s more thrilled about getting gifts then about the gifts themselves.

After being abnormally excited to receive so many gifts from his friends, Spike goes to the Cakes and picks up a special cupcake made just for him. He then gets the idea to tell other citizens of Ponyville that it’s his birthday, and the tricky thing about talking to strangers becomes abundantly clear. All the citizens of Ponyville who Spike gets gifts from are far too nice to tell him he’s being greedy; the difference between strangers and friends is that unlike friends, they won’t tell you if you’re going too far or being annoying. At least, that’s the way I’ve come to perceive interactions with strangers.

As if squeezing toothpaste out of a near empty tube, Spike requests a gift from a background pony named Junebug until Twilight Sparkle comes and intercepts him.

Twilight Sparkle: What are you doing? You’re out here demanding gifts now?
Spike: (shakes himself) Wow, you’re right, Twilight. I don’t know what got into me!
Spike: Thanks for snapping me out of it. I better go give Cheerilee her hat back.
Twilight Sparkle: No problem. See you at home later?
Spike: Sounds good! Bye!

When Twilight Sparkle is out of his sight, Spike resumes his mischief. That’s the irritating thing about him in many of his episodes: when friends try to talk sense into him, he lies and resumes his antics. He easily forgets that part of the point of friends is that they look out for you and tell you when what you’re doing isn’t a good idea.

The next day, Spike has grown bigger and far more greedy, much to Twilight Sparkle’s shock. Now if you don’t mind, let’s talk about dragons, or specifically how dragons other than Spike are portrayed in MLP.

In the first two seasons, we see a few gigantic and fierce dragons who hoard tons of treasure that they store in treacherous caves. Spike’s hoarding habits in the image above are strongly reminiscent of those dragons, and this episode raises quite a few implications about the typical ways of dragons. But later in this season, in the episode Dragon Quest, Spike dips his feet (or claws?) into dragon culture, and that’s the portrayal of dragons that the show sticks to from there on (though we don’t see other dragons again until season 6). The later portrayal of dragons makes this episode’s depiction of Spike growing due to greed feel rather strange. Are there two types of dragons in this show, normal dragons and humongous greedy hoarder dragons? That may be logical, but it’s still strange that the show changes its mind on how to portray dragons other than Spike. I’m not saying that the portrayal of dragons with their own culture is strange; it’s far more logical than the initial portrayal of dragons, and I believe it’s even inspired by one of the old My Little Pony shows.

That was quite a tangent there. I think I’ll revisit the topic of dragons’ portrayal in MLP when I get to Dragon Quest, which should be only a few posts from now. For now, let’s continue this episode!

Twilight Sparkle takes Spike to a doctor and then to a vet, but neither know much about dragons. The doctor thinks this growth is typical of dragons and assumes a vet would solve the problem, and the vet supposedly hasn’t even seen dragons before, raising strong implications that Ponyville doesn’t have good relations (or any relations) with dragon society. Although I doubt those implications were intentional at the time, from season 5 onward Ponyville gradually gets more connected with other races as the show evolves and its themes transition more and more to respecting other cultures, and the non-pony cast expands enormously.

Ah, that’s just what I needed. A reminder that in Equestria Girls, Spike is forced to be a DOG.

The vet treats Spike like a dog and provides him a toy bone. Instead of eating the bone, Spike adds it to his collection of items to hoard, along with the doctor’s candy which he also hasn’t eaten. He has no intention of doing anything with these items, or any of his gifts for that matter, other than hoarding them. Considering later episodes, it’s becoming evident to me that dragons can take two paths in life: the normal path and the hoarder path. Spike nearly goes down the hoarder path in this episode, and only his feelings for Rarity prevent him from being stuck that way.

Twilight Sparkle and Spike visit Zecora, who explains that Spike is physically maturing due to his greed, which can only be reverted if he’s prevented from being greedy. Zecora knowing a thing or two about dragons is admirable compared to the clueless residents of Ponyville, and it provides some helpful exposition about what I’m choosing to interpret as one of two paths a dragon’s life can take.

Twilight Sparkle tries to stop Spike’s growth by taunting him with a broom, but it backfires and Spike grows even bigger. She foolishly thinks that she can stop him from being so greedy by presenting him another item to be greedy about. Spike has his friends cornered with his greed; there are just objects all around for him to collect, and he no longer has any standards or filter for what he wants to hoard.

Next comes a sequence where Twilight Sparkle and her friends struggle to stop Spike from growing and hoarding. They all fail, and he eventually turns into a full-blown rampaging monster. He’s even caught Rarity in his tail, making her seem much like a stereotypical damsel in distress trapped in the monstrous villain’s clutches, which is interesting because she’s the one who later saves the day.

Not shown: the Wonderbolts slicing some of Spike’s scales.

Spike finds a cave to store all the items that he’s been hoarding, which I can only imagine is how it typically goes for dragons who have gone down the hoarder’s path. The Wonderbolts struggle to stop all his madness, and their only role is to demonstrate through comparison how mighty Spike has become.

And then comes the confrontation between Rarity and the monstrous Spike. Rarity rants at this horrible monster, not knowing that he is Spike. While Spike at first waves off her complaints, he then notices the heart-shaped gem that Rarity has been wearing…

… and remembers a scene from earlier in the episode, a little differently from how it happened. This change in memories is believable and realistic; Spike mostly remembers the part where Rarity kissed him on the cheek, not how excited she was when she was given the gem, showing that he’s the same old smitten Spike.

And with that, Spike shrinks back to normal, and Rarity is shocked to realize that the gigantic dragon was Spike all along. They promptly start following, and Spike provides a humorously stereotypical last-minute love confession as they fall, but Rarity shushes him and smiles with tears in her eyes—this is more of Rarity subverting Spike’s attempts to enact manly heroic roles. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy rescue the two with a piece of fabric torn from Rarity’s dress, and the day is saved.

As Spike looks down from the bridge and stares at his gigantic claw print, comparing it to his own claw, I can only imagine what sort of crisis he may be going through about his identity of a dragon. Perhaps this is a natural lead-up to Dragon Quest later this season, the first time we truly learn about other dragons. And perhaps it makes sense for Spike not to want to go near other dragons until Gauntlet of Fire rolls around in season 6, after which he finally starts making dragon friends. In any case, Rarity tells how proud she is of him and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

Were these outtake dress designs for the Grand Galloping Gala?
(I mean this both from the show’s staff’s perspective and Rarity’s perspective.)

Spike narrates his letter to Celestia about how it (usually) feels better to give than to receive, which is demonstrated as Rarity presents her new line of dresses to her friends; a live example of the spirit of generosity. The episode ends with a humorous reveal that Spike framed the portion of his cheek that Rarity kissed, reminding us that he’s the same old Spike once more.

Overall thoughts:

This is an episode that I’ve come to appreciate and understand on a deeper level after analyzing it in depth; this description holds for most episodes of the show, but this one is still a good example. This episode provides lore on the ways of dragons while also providing a lesson about greed through the metaphor of Spike becoming a monstrous hoarder, and it works reasonably well. Perhaps the metaphor for the moral is impeded a bit by the statement that this is how dragons in the show operate, but fantasy metaphors for real-life morals are still something that the show excels at.

In terms of Spike’s character arc, where he gradually starts accomplishing heroic feats and befriends dragons and other species, I’m not sure where this episode stands. It’s the first one where Spike learns something new about his species, and he doesn’t seem very comfortable with this revelation. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for Spike to start making friends of his own species, which is an effect of the show taking a long time to figure out how to treat Spike.

Grade: C

This is easily one of the more enjoyable early Spike episodes, and it once again gets the neutral grade. I’ll have far more to say about Spike’s episodes when I get to Dragon Quest.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Near the start of this episode, Twilight Sparkle doesn’t react at all to her horn piercing the spine of a book. I’ll leave you to imagine what sorts of wacky circumstances caused her to have so little reaction to this.
  • After Spike gets a hat from Cheerilee, we get a lapse of fanservice with Lyra and Bon Bon standing side by side, and Derpy popping out of a well to their surprise. We’re rapidly approaching the unfortunate initial culmination of all this fanservice in The Last Roundup, which fans will forever know as “the controversial Derpy episode”.
  • About dragons’ portrayal, if you’re wondering about the so-called “dragon code” featured in Spike at Your Service… we do not talk about Spike at Your Service.

After an episode focused on giving gifts, why not learn how those gift-giving traditions came to be?


Season 2 Episode 11: Hearth’s Warming Eve

In five words: Christmas special detailing Equestria’s history.

Premise: In celebration of the Equestrian equivalent of Christmas, the Mane 6 put on a play about the founding of Equestria.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with the Mane 6 on a train to Canterlot, and it features the level of detail and fandom nods that you’d expect from season 2. Derpy is at the top of one of train train’s cars just like in the theme song, Fluttershy provides a callback to her famous “yay” scene, and the citizens of Canterlot have the same designs that they do in Sweet and Elite, an episode that gave Canterlot a great deal of worldbuilding.

After the theme song, the scenes go back and forth in attention to detail. In the shot shown above, we’ve gone back to the generic background pony designs in season 1, but then we get a cute scene with Derpy waving a hoof from behind the curtain and then being stopped by another background pony much to her disappointment. It’s a shame that Derpy’s first speaking scene caused gigantic controversy, because she’s such a fun and lovable character.

While preparing for the play, the Mane 6 quickly break into arguments. Fluttershy has stage fright (surprise surprise), and Rainbow Dash thinks the play will be all about herself, leading them all to get into a bit of a fight. Perhaps their argument is meant to correspond with the events of the play they put on, where the unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi bicker until they agree to move past their differences and create a united Equestria.

How weird to use paper held by sticks to imitate fire when there’s a dragon right by it who can breathe fire.

Spike narrates the start of the play while putting on a fancy-sounding accent, occasionally breaking character to make snarky remarks. He narrates that the three types of ponies—earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi, each played by background ponies—gradually broke into rivalry until a fateful snowstorm, which is where the scene switches from the play to a flashback depicting historical events in Equestria. The snowstorm, unlike almost all weather in the MLP universe, was not the doing of pegasi, making it a mystery where the storm comes from until near the end of the episode. I’d like to point out that this fairy tale could well be a beautified and simplified version of historical events, which is somewhat interesting to think about. There was probably a lot more brutality and violence involved that isn’t being depicted here, and it takes until seasons 5-7 for the show to start portraying historical figures more consistently.

“Ooh! Ooh! Can I be Chancellor Puddinghead??? I love pudding!”
“I’ll take Commander Hurricane! Only somepony as awesome as me can do him justice.”
“I think we all can agree that nopony comprehends the charm and glamour of Princess Platinum quite like I do. I would suit this role perfectly!”

I bet that’s what Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity respectively said when choosing their roles.

And here’s where we meet the rulers of the pony races, portrayed by members of the Mane 6: from left to right, Commander Hurricane, Chancellor Puddinghead, and Princess Platinum, whose forms of aggressive leadership should be obvious from their respective names. Each of the Mane 6 plays the role of a different historical figure, and it’s logical given the episode but a little bizarre to see those figures not in their real forms, but as portrayals by the Mane 6. It almost makes the episode feel like one where we learn about characters’ historical counterparts who are suspiciously similar to the characters we know today, which MLP does much more strongly in A Hearth’s Warming Tail from season 6. Another weird thing is that the genders of the historical figures from this episode are ambiguous and inconsistently portrayed between the show and external media, except for Princess Platinum who is obviously female.

Aside from this, the three leaders get into a bitter argument about who’s been causing all this trouble, and the feud escalates from there.

We then see which historical figures the other three Mane 6 members are playing. Fluttershy plays the role of Private Pansy, a victim of Commander Hurricane’s brutality; Twilight Sparkle plays Clover the Clever, a subject of Princess Platinum’s haughtiness; and Applejack plays Smart Cookie, a witness of Chancellor Puddinghead’s absent-mindedness. Now that I think of it, Chancellor Puddinghead is basically an exaggeration of Pinkie Pie, and the same goes for the other two rulers with the characters who play them. Hurricane is a complete brute, Platinum is a total snob, and Puddinghead is an absolute klutz.

Technically, Princess Platinum isn’t the ruler of the unicorns.
She’s the daughter of the unicorns’ king, who is never seen.

When exaggerated Rarity… er, I mean Princess Platinum, notices a stream that she mistakes for an enormous river, this exchange occurs:

Clover the Clever: Your Highness, it’s just a stream. We can cross it easily!
Princess Platinum: I refuse to get my gown wet. I have no intention of arriving at my new land looking like a bedraggled earth pony, or worse yet, a rough-and-tumble pegasus. I, for one, have no intention of stooping down to their level!
Princess Platinum: On the other hand, I have no trouble watching you stoop down.
Clover the Clever: (groans)
Princess Platinum: And do watch the gown, darling. It’s worth more than all the books in your library.

Among the three leaders of the pony races, Princess Platinum is easily the biggest racist. Given that the show is far from the point where it focuses on respecting and getting to know non-pony cultures, it’s interesting to see an early example of characters demonstrating racism. Also, Rarity (rather, a character being portrayed by Rarity) being extremely racist is far funnier than it should be. The other two leaders are just an aggressive warrior and a complete idiot respectively.

Look at this image if you want a reminder of how painfully stupid Chancellor Puddinghead is. All Smart Cookie can do is snark about how braindead Puddinghead is being. Weirdly enough, I think Commander Hurricane is the most level-headed of the three leaders, or at least the only one to possibly have some semblance of a brain.

And so, the three rulers of the pony races and their respective assistants find a new land to claim as theirs and name after their race, except it turns out they’ve all arrived at the same land. The fact that they all found the same place to claim as their new home shows that these three races of ponies may not be so different after all, but they refuse to acknowledge as much just yet and keep on fighting.

As the leaders get into a fight once more, Princess Platinum refuses to engage in fisticuffs and instead tries to get Clover to do it for her. This usage of another pony as a shield of sorts reminds me of Prince Blueblood, a notoriously haughty member of royalty who Rarity had at one point looked up to. An interesting (probably unintentional, but who cares if it was unintentional) parallel, I must say.

The snowstorm returns as the leaders start throwing snowballs at one another, and that’s when it becomes clear that storm is what happens when the races refuse to get along. Or at least, that’s how it works in this retelling of historical events.

The six ponies all are forced to find shelter in the same cave, and they aren’t happy about it. The leaders get their assistants to draw lines to mark territory, and they even squabble over a tiny rock. The rock turns out to be one that Puddinghead was looking everywhere for, and this extremely sharp memory suggests that Puddinghead may not be quite as brainless as we thought. It reminds me of Pinkie Pie’s sharp memory and extensive knowledge of everyone in Ponyville.

The storm closes in on the cave, and the leaders are slowly frozen as they continue squabbling, but the other three come together in the center so they last a little longer.

Private Pansy: (stuttering) What is that thing?
Clover the Clever: They must be Windigoes!
Private Pansy and Smart Cookie: Windigoes?
Clover the Clever: My mentor Star Swirl the Bearded taught me about them. They’re winter spirits that feed off fighting and hatred. The more hate the spirit feels, the colder things become.

Star Swirl the Bearded being Clover’s mentor is the only connection in this episode between the six historical figures shown here and any other historical figures of Equestria. From the perspective of the play, I imagine Twilight Sparkle is flexing her knowledge of everything related to Star Swirl. I bet that when she learned which characters would be in this play, she immediately recognized the name of Clover, and thus she jumped at the opportunity to play the part and got very excited about it. She might have even inserted the line about Star Swirl herself, so she can educate the audience about this legendary wizard.

The three assistants start to freeze too, but then Private Pansy uses her signature kindness… er, Fluttershy’s signature kindness, to stop the ice. The three come to realize they hold no ill will against each other, and then they all break into laughter as the Windigoes whinny in fear. They almost get frozen together, but then the magic of friendship awakens, and Clover uses a magic spell to destroy the ice surrounding them and generate a magic purple heart. The three continue laughing and singing together, and the warmth of their friendship thaws the ice surrounding their leaders. How’s that for a tale of the power of friendship? If this fairy tale is anything to go by, these powers existed long before the Mane 6 came about.

The flag of Equestria depicts Celestia and Luna, but I have no idea if they were even born yet at the time.
It’s probably not what Equestria’s original flag looked like anyway.

And that’s how friendship saved the day and led to the founding of Equestria. This is a pretty cool story if you ask me, and it’s the first time the show gives us a direct look into Equestria’s history. We’ll get plenty more of that in later seasons as the lore gets fleshed out with proper new characters who aren’t just portrayed by the Mane 6.

The Mane 6 and the audience go on to sing a Hearth’s Warming Eve carol, which Spike had earlier narrated originated from Clover, Pansy, and Smart Cookie singing and laughing together while their leaders were frozen. It’s easy to imagine the songs being passed down through generations, but I’m willing to bet the songs gradually became unrecognizable from their original versions like a telephone game.

In a lighthearted parallel to the historical tale that the Mane 6 just reenacted, a snowstorm blows into their space as they descend into arguing… except this time, the solution is as mundane as closing the window. Rainbow Dash closes the window after complaining that she always has to do high-up tasks, which is what led to the arguing in the first place.

As the ponies break into laughter, the episode ends with revealing that the heart that Clover the Clever generated is still shining bright above Canterlot. Given that we don’t see the heart often in Canterlot, I presume the heart only shows up every Hearth’s Warming Eve. Maybe some residents of Equestria felt that the heart’s constant bright shine was annoying, so a friendly and peaceful compromise was made for the heart to only appear once a year?

Overall thoughts:

Ah, Christmas specials. What is there to say about Christmas specials? They’re all but obligatory in any long-running TV series, especially if it’s aimed at children. And if the show has the same magic to it that MLP has, then it knows how to make a good Christmas special. Hearth’s Warming Eve is one of MLP’s several Christmas specials, but it isn’t the MLP Christmas special—that would be Best Gift Ever, which is a long way from now. Regardless, this episode does a good job expanding upon the history of Equestria with a tie-in to the holiday spirit and the show’s common motif of the power of friendship. The concept of Christmas specials suits itself naturally to a show about friendship, and this show does a variety of fun things with its in-universe Christmas equivalent.

Grade: B

Another episode that I can’t find significant flaws in.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The word “hand” is said three times in this episode (one of them as “unhand”), all by historical figures in the play. Although ponies referring to human body parts is usually a writing oversight not worth noting, I can easily imagine “hand” being an archaic word for “hoof” in pony speak, so at least this usage of the word “hand” might be excusable.
  • Both Homestuck and MLP have a character named Clover. I never realized that until I wrote this post, probably because they’re both very minor characters.

Now that we’ve learned about the founding of Equestria, let’s fast forward a little and learn about the founding of Ponyville.


Season 2 Episode 12: Family Appreciation Day

In five words: Episode about respecting the elderly.

Premise: After getting picked on by Diamond Tiara for having a grandma who behaves like, well, a grandma, Apple Bloom worries that Granny Smith will embarrass her on her class’s [insert episode’s title here].

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with a scene where the Apple siblings are awoken in the middle of the night by Granny Smith running outside making loud metal noises, claiming the Timberwolves are howling. Although this may seem like Granny Smith being a crazy old lady, this really only means that the zap apples (Zapapples?) are coming, which all the siblings are excited about because it means new apples. This subversion of expectations shows that the status quo is Apple Bloom respecting and admiring her grandma; Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are the ones who disrupt that status quo, which is how Apple Bloom learns this episode’s lesson.

Apple Bloom and Granny Smith are as happy as can be making zap apple jam while dressed in bunny suits until Diamond Tiara and her father Filthy Rich come in. Diamond Tiara convinces Apple Bloom to rethink her positive perception of her grandma. The fact that Apple Bloom’s embarrassment over her grandma wasn’t in place at the start of the episode, but rather brought about by the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ recurring antagonist, gives this episode a second moral: don’t let others talk you into having negative opinions on loved ones.

And here’s where Granny Smith starts increasingly embarrassing Apple Bloom. It’s interesting that although this embarrassment was put in place by Diamond Tiara, these scenes are clearly meant to be relatable for viewers who are frequently embarrassed by their grandparents. Therefore, it’s easy to forget that Apple Bloom wasn’t even originally embarrassed by her grandma.

After Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon come in and laugh at Apple Bloom some more, this exchange occurs:

Granny Smith: What dolls. Why, when I was little, ponies didn’t come that purdy.
Apple Bloom: Are we done shopping, Granny? ‘Cause I’d like to get back to the farm, fast.

Here’s where Granny Smith hints at this episode’s moral, specifically what it’s meant to tell viewers about elderly relatives. Granny Smith’s “when I was little” line perhaps was meant to be continued before Apple Bloom cut her short, and it hints that old people who may seem clumsy and forgetful have a lot of interesting stories to tell from their past and knowledge to pass on to younger generations.

I love how Scootaloo stuffed her face into a book because of her boredom.
For reasons I can’t explain, that’s an extremely Scootaloo thing to do.

Next comes a scene introducing the Crusaders’ school’s weekly Family Appreciation Day, where students take turns bringing a family member to give a presentation. I find this scene interesting because it gives an endearing side to Diamond Tiara’s character. As Filthy Rich gives a presentation on economics, most of the class is bored or asleep, and yet Diamond Tiara pays attention the whole time and eagerly applauds her father at the end. Even her best friend Silver Spoon is snoring and drooling on her desk and only wakes up at the end. Could it be that Diamond Tiara is secretly knowledgeable about the technical workings of economics, and that she refuses to even let Silver Spoon know about this? Say what you will about Diamond Tiara, but you can’t deny that she sometimes knows how to appreciate her family.

Apple Bloom’s turn to bring a family member is next week, and she sidesteps the existence of Granny Smith by saying her siblings will both be busy harvesting zap apples until Diamond Tiara suggests to bring Granny Smith. From there, Apple Bloom is worried she’ll become the laughing stock of Ponyville.

This formation of birds is one of several stages of the complex process of making zap apple jam.

Apple Bloom goes to her siblings to see if they can present instead of Granny Smith, but Applejack tells her that there’s no way she or Big Macintosh can take a break from their farming that day. This scene has some visual effects that demonstrate to us that zap apple farming is not an activity for the weak-willed. Together with Applejack saying Granny Smith has no shortage of stories to tell, this sets the stage for the story about zap apple jam that Granny Smith tells at the end of the episode.

The moral of his scene: faking being sick won’t fool anyone.

Apple Bloom turns to her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders for help, and they construct a scheme where Apple Bloom pretends to be sick. They set it up in their usual goofy and adorable Cutie Mark Crusaders fashion, with Sweetie Belle using grapes to paint Apple Bloom’s face (a rudimentary attempt at artistic skills, perhaps?), and Scootaloo grabbing a thermometer out of a hot cup of tea. Creative as this scheme may be, it doesn’t fool Granny Smith one bit. The Crusaders go through lots of character development in this show, both as a group and individually, and in this episode they still haven’t gone through much of it. The very fact that they’re doing mischievous things to try to stop Granny Smith from showing up on Family Appreciation Day shows how undeveloped they still are at this point. Sweetie Belle especially hasn’t quite become the group’s voice of reason yet… no wait, she was that in Stare Master, this episode just forgets that. Whatever, this is a pointless tangent.

After failing to harvest the fruits ahead of schedule so Applejack and Big Macintosh would be free the next morning, the Cutie Mark Crusaders do a humorous puppet scheme with a sleeping Granny Smith. Cheerilee apparently falls for “Granny Smith’s” statement that she can’t make it to the presentation, which makes me wonder, is Cheerilee extremely gullible or extremely willing to give her students the benefit of the doubt? She does have a bit of a playful side, but it’s still weird that her character never truly gets fleshed out. Granny Smith wakes from her nap and tells Cheerilee that she can make it after all, much to the latter’s confusion.

Disguised as a mail pony, Scootaloo sends Granny Smith a telegram supposedly from a faraway relative named Apple Strudel asking for her to pay him a visit. Unlike all the other schemes, this distraction seems to work as intended…

… until Granny Smith arrives at class only about a minute late. By lucky coincidence, it turns out that Apple Strudel was on the very train she boarded, allowing them to catch up far sooner than expected. Talk about a happy accident on multiple levels! The Crusaders really did get Granny Smith to visit a long-lost relative, only without preventing her from attending Family Appreciation Day.

And so, Granny Smith tells a story about how her family’s discovery and farming of zap apples led to the founding of Ponyville. I must say, this episode does an excellent job making this story engaging, making the viewer feel the same wow factor that the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ class is feeling. It also perfectly shows Granny Smith’s hidden depths not just as a living source of history, but as an adventurous farmer who carefully studied all the factors that go into zap apple farming so she can make the most delicious jam possible. It turns out all the weird crazy things that Granny Smith was doing were part of the process for making the perfect zap apple jam, which was a cool way to build up to this story.

And then comes the punchline: Granny Smith’s zap apple jam is how the city of Ponyville was founded. So many customers bought the jam and moved to the farm’s location that a new city was birthed, which is a pretty cool bragging right. One of those customers was Diamond Tiara’s great-grandfather Stinkin’ Rich, whose wealth played a big part in allowing Ponyville to flourish; more on that in a bit.

I’m not sure whether Apple Bloom or Diamond Tiara is the most surprised at this story.

The entire audience is floored at Granny Smith’s story, including Apple Bloom, who especially didn’t expect this. Silver Spoon is notably the first to applaud, giving a subtle sweet side to Diamond Tiara’s sidekick.

Scootaloo: So if it weren’t for you and the zap apples, Ponyville wouldn’t even exist?
Granny Smith: Darn tootin’, little filly!
Apple Bloom: (to Diamond Tiara) If it weren’t for my Granny Smith, your daddy wouldn’t have barnyard bargains!

It’s quite tragic to think that Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara have a unique bond—both of their ancestors played a part in founding Ponyville—and yet they remain bitter rivals, at least until season 5. Neither of them realizes how cool it is that they have something in common, and Apple Bloom instead uses this reveal merely to one-up Diamond Tiara, who struggles to say any retaliation. Friendship really is magic, am I right?

… OK, that was a little harsh. Season 5 is basically the season of redemption arcs anyway. Apple Bloom proceeds to stand up for her grandma, leading to this episode’s moral.

This is an early example of an episode whose moral is conveyed without needing a friendship letter. This eventually becomes the norm as it becomes evident that there’s no need for those letters to make morals clear. In this case, the moral is to respect and appreciate the elderly. All of Apple Bloom’s class joins in on making zap apple jam, begrudgingly including Diamond Tiara. It seems like at least Filthy Rich knows that his family owes a lot to zap apple jam, and his daughter refuses to admit it. And with that, the episode ends.

Overall thoughts:

This episode has one of the best conveyed morals of season 2. Granny Smith acts like a typical forgetful grandma, which Apple Bloom is OK with until Diamond Tiara tells her otherwise. After a bunch of futile attempts to stop Granny Smith from attending Family Appreciation Day, she ends up telling an exciting story that greatly fleshes out the show’s lore. The story perfectly demonstrates the value of learning from the elderly, and I can easily imagine it encouraged viewers to learn from their grandparents and other elderly relatives.

Grade: B

The high grade is mostly for how well the moral is conveyed. A perfect example of showing instead of telling.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • “What are you, a dictionary?” is used once again in this episode, again from Scootaloo but this time directed to Apple Bloom. Although this is a fun callback, it would have been funnier if Sweetie Belle said it to Scootaloo, inverting the original scene.
  • Below is an animation error that I’m pointing out because I somehow noticed it on my own, namely that Cheerilee has the wrong cutie mark.

I’m not going to point out every animation error I come across.
I just thought it was remarkable that I noticed this one.

  • Apple Bloom claims that Granny Smith normally never wakes up from her naps, which makes no sense and is clearly a childish way of thinking. Either you eventually wake up from your nap, or you die during the nap. That’s just how naps work.

It’s only natural to follow an episode about respecting the old with an episode about taking care of the young. But that’ll be next post, of course.


See you next time (may or may not be next week, depending on how things go) for another batch of probably three episodes, including… uh… the one where Applejack refuses to admit that she lost a contest. Yep, that’s totally what that episode is best known for.

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