Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 16: Baby Cakes + The Last Roundup + The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000


< Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 >

Season 2, Episodes 13-15

Now that my Homestuck blog post series has been finished (final post, if you’re curious) for almost a month as of this writing, I figured now’s a great time to resume my MLP blog post series after a four-month break! I’m continuing once again with the schedule of posts every Friday at 9:00 AM EST, and I hope to do a steady stream of MLP posts in the downtime as my first full-time job progresses. This is probably going to be my main therapeutic hobby project for the rest of the year, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is a much less intensive and head-screwing thing to do than writing progressively longer-winded blog posts analyzing a webcomic written by an insane person.

Alright, now let’s get this running again!

Season 2 Episode 13: Baby Cakes

In five words: Pinkie Pie struggles with babysitting.

Premise: Pinkie Pie babysits Mr. and Mrs. Cake’s newborn twins, and they turn out much more of a handful, er, hoofful, than she had anticipated.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with the Mane 6 in a hospital, in awe at Mr. and Mrs. Cake’s newborn twins: Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake. Naturally enough, Pinkie Pie gets extremely excited about the birth of the babies, and she almost blows her party horn extra loudly until the nurse pony tells her to quiet down. This scene already sets the premise of the episode quite well, showing that Pinkie Pie has no idea how to properly deal with babies.

It turns out Pound Cake is a pegasus, and Pumpkin Cake is a unicorn, which is very anomalous for babies birthed by two earth ponies. Mr. Cake explains that he and his wife have absurdly distant relatives who were a unicorn and a pegasus respectively, which raises some interesting implications about the Cake family line. Were these ponies really that stuck up on being purely a group of earth ponies? Maybe it’s fair to assume that in Equestria, only in recent times have ponies of different races been more open to marrying, considering the married couples we see in later seasons.

… What, don’t give me that look!!! If you can’t handle me analyzing one-off comedic lines in far more detail than anyone asked for, then maybe you should read someone else’s reviews of every single MLP episode.

A month after their birth, Pinkie Pie’s excitement about spending time with these babies hasn’t gone down one bit. The Cakes know how to take care of babies, whereas Pinkie Pie… doesn’t really.

You know what, I’ll just go ahead and say it. I have absolutely no idea what to say about pretty much anything in this episode so far, and I think my difficulty figuring out things to say is part of what caused my motivation for these posts to plummet. But I guess I can get through this episode and comment on what I can.

The Cakes then realize they need someone to watch over their babies today, so they ask each of the Mane 6 one by one while ignoring Pinkie Pie’s eager requests to do it, and each of the other ponies has a different thing they’re busy with. It comes off to me like the Cakes are procrastinating on something that they’re going to have to teach their exuberant housemate at some point: how to take care of babies. They fear that teaching Pinkie how to babysit will be a monumental task, so they decide to contact the rest of the Mane 6 and… seemingly no one else, I guess.

Rarity: Moi? Babysit? Oh, no no no no no no no no no.
(Cakes leave)
Rarity: I’m flattered that you would think about me, though.

I like how Rarity doesn’t even have a real excuse not to watch over the babies: she just demonstrates her ability to sweet-talk others out of things she doesn’t want to do. My guess is that she’s in one of her creative spells and would prefer not to be yanked out of it, but she knows less artistic types wouldn’t consider that a fair excuse.

Perhaps the reason the Cakes didn’t ask anyone outside of the Mane 6 was because they were already short on time?

With the rest of the Mane 6 busy, the Cakes are resigned to letting Pinkie Pie watch over the babies. She’s excited and confident at first, but as soon as their parents leave, the babies start crying, because that’s how babies roll. They always randomly start crying, and it’s no easy task to take care of. Parents will see their babies as bursting with infinite potential, incentivizing them to properly take care of them; any other adults aren’t likely to see babies quite the same way.

And so, Pinkie Pie tries doing what she does best: playing her usual goofy games and doing a stand-up comedy skit, thinking that will take care of the babies. These actions reek of desperation on Pinkie’s part, especially with her nonsensical puns in the scene shown above. She’s trying to cover up her panic and uncertainty, causing her to forget the less than fun responsibilities that come with babysitting.

You know when a cartoon series has a new baby character join the cast something like five seasons in, and the baby suddenly hogs up all the screen time in a blatant attempt to grab kids’ interest? Well, the more Pinkie Pie struggles with babysitting, the more I feel this episode is meant to teach viewers what babies are actually like (with a bit of exaggeration, of course). They always cry for no apparent reason and chew on things they aren’t supposed to, and someone always has to teach them how to behave properly.

After some diaper shenanigans, Twilight Sparkle comes in, offering to help Pinkie Pie with babysitting. While Pinkie is initially thankful and desperate for help, this exchange seems to change her mind:

Twilight Sparkle: I figured you would need some help. That’s why I stopped by!
Pinkie Pie: Excuse me?!
Twilight Sparkle: Babies take a lot of work. And some ponies are just not cut out to handle the responsibility!
Pinkie Pie: Is that so?

I guess something about the idea of getting help to do something she was excited to do really sets Pinkie Pie off, huh? I’m not sure why she’s acting this way; that seems more like the sort of thing Applejack would do, especially in the early seasons. Maybe she just wants to prove herself to the Cakes and doesn’t want to come off as weak by needing help, because she’s just that excited about watching over the babies. That sounds like a logical explanation, and it took me a while to come up with it.

The babies’ portrayal considerably deviates from realism when they seemingly obey Pinkie Pie’s spoken commands, but then disappear and start causing mischief the moment she turns her back. For some reason, it puts me off a lot that the babies are portrayed this unrealistically. Like, who actually enjoys watching animated babies cause crazy frustration and trouble for all the adults who are just trying to do their jobs? Maybe kids with their inscrutable minds do, but I sure don’t.

In all fairness, Rarity and Rainbow Dash warned her about all this baby mischief, and it’s pretty fun seeing these babies get such good command of flight and magic at such a young age. It makes me wonder what the deal is with Sweetie Belle, and how much slower she was to learn magic. Maybe she’s just a “late bloomer” so to speak? Back in the early seasons, fans thought Sweetie Belle was unable to learn magic like Scootaloo was unable to learn flight…


Why on earth am I talking about Sweetie Belle here? What does Sweetie Belle have to do with any of this???? I really need to get back on topic here. The babies’ antics get more fun to watch right around here, with them quickly getting a hold of flight and magic respectively. Pound Cake is flying strongly enough to lift up the full-grown Pinkie Pie, while Pumpkin Cake uses a magic spell to phase through the cage trap that Pinkie Pie made. This again makes me wonder about Sweetie Belle, who I really should not be talking about right now.

When Pinkie is driven to tears by all this frustration, the babies suddenly get apologetic and behave themselves, even returning the jape earlier in the episode of covering yourself in flour, and then they calmly go to bed. I guess the babies started off behaving like regular babies, then abruptly switched to causing annoying mischief, then abruptly switched to being obedient and calm. Is it typical of babies to abruptly shift personality like this? Who knows, really.

Similarly abrupt is the shift in the way Pinkie talks as she narrates the letter to Celestia.

Pinkie Pie: Dear Princess Celestia, I’ve always had fun playing with little kids, and I thought babysitting meant just more playtime, right? Wrong!
Pinkie Pie: Being a caregiver is way more responsibility than just being a playmate. And today I learned that sometimes, our desire for responsibility can outrun our actual ability to handle it.

This letter, especially that last sentence, doesn’t sound like Pinkie Pie at all! What if Pinkie Pie was about to send the letter to Spike to send to Celestia, but Twilight Sparkle stopped her and made a few revisions to the letter, so as to formalize the phrasing a bit more? Did she do so out of fear that Celestia would see her friends as too spacey and informal? Maybe the letter is narrated in Pinkie Pie’s voice to keep up the illusion, as if Celestia is reading this letter in Pinkie’s voice? This is undoubtedly the strongest and firmest theory I have ever devised thus far.

Anyway, the Cakes come home to see the house spotless, and are very pleased with Pinkie Pie. They offer for Pinkie to be their permanent go-to babysitter, and while she’s reluctant at first, she has a change of heart when the babies calmly mutter her name. And with that, the episode’s over.

Overall thoughts:

I’m trying to think about the intent of this episode in terms of friendship lessons. It’s another babysitting episode like Stare Master, except this time it involves actual babies, so it seems like the intent for this episode was to teach viewers how to treat babies. It’s a moral quite a bit more applicable to adult viewers than child viewers, so many the intention for child viewers was more just funny baby shenanigans.

As for the episode itself… honestly, this wasn’t a very fun one to analyze. Most of the time, I pretty much went, “OK, what exactly do I say about this?” I feel like this is part of what caused the four-month break between the last MLP post and this one. I had started a review of Baby Cakes and didn’t get very far in it, then trashed it and WordPress automatically deleted the trashed post after 30 days. I was OK with rewriting the review from scratch, since there wasn’t really anything before.

Grade: D

As much as I adore Pinkie Pie’s slapstick shenanigans, they sadly don’t save this episode for me. Let’s just say I’m glad babies didn’t end up stealing the show in later seasons.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • According to Wikipedia, a party horn is also called a “party blower, party pipe, party elephant, party blowout, party noisemaker, party whistle, ta-doo-dah, noise popper, birthday kazoo, or blow tickler”. I never stopped to think about what those things were called, just sort of assuming it was a birthday kazoo (which is one of the names listed!) until I did some Internet research. This huge list of names sounds exactly like the sort of long list that Pinkie Pie would recite off the top of her head with her signature spacey enthusiasm.
  • When saying that her full name is supposedly Pinkie Responsibility Pie, Pinkie Pie gestures the shape of the letter R with her hoof, which is one of few times the show properly references the script of the Latin alphabet.

An episode about babies throwing tantrums naturally leads us to an episode that caused fans to throw tantrums.

Season 2 Episode 14: The Last Roundup

In five words: Derpy tragically tramples Applejack’s episode.

Premise: This episode is supposed to be about Applejack mysteriously leaving Ponyville after attending a competition… but fans instead remember it for a controversial scene near the beginning featuring Derpy Hooves.

Detailed run-through:

The intro cleverly misleads viewers into thinking this will be an Applejack episode.

We start off with Applejack practicing for the Equestria rodeo competition, with Apple Bloom cheering her big sister on, confident that she’ll continue to shine bright and win all the blue ribbons. Apple Bloom’s confidence in her sister sets up this episode’s premise well: how would Applejack react to breaking her streak of victory? Not well, as we’ll see.

The title of the episode is right by Derpy, foreshadowing what this episode would be best known for.

And then right after the theme song, we have Derpy Hooves’ first voiced appearance! Derpy is a wonderful and lovable klutz who serves as a symbol of the show’s hefty fanbase outside its target audience, so it’s an ENORMOUS shame her first speaking appearance didn’t go over well. Most fans were jovial about hearing her speak for the first time; Rainbow Dash even called her “Derpy”! But other fans, especially parents of young viewers, weren’t quite as pleased because they felt Derpy’s portrayal came off as disparaging to those with mental disabilities. And honestly, with her slurred-sounding voice plus her extreme clumsiness, I can really see why Derpy’s portrayal would come off that way. Mental disabilities are a difficult topic to handle in media, especially if it’s aimed at children, and MLP:FiM was by no means prepared to handle this topic.

Due to all these complaints from viewers, Derpy’s scene was retconned to remove her name, change her voice to sound more feminine, and tone down those iconic googly eyes, and you probably know that this caused a GIGANTIC outbreak among fans. Now don’t get me wrong, I hate censorship as much as the next person, but I actually think Derpy’s new voice suits her a lot better. I feel that part of the charm of Derpy is that she’s an ordinary-looking pony with an ordinary build who happens to be absurdly clumsy, and the retconned voice matches that pretty well; the new delivery of the line “Nice work, Rainbow Dash!” still sounds pretty klutzy if you ask me. This makes it all the more irritating that pretty much every unofficial mirror of the show I could find only has the original version of The Last Roundup, as it played upon its initial release, and the retconned scene I could only find uploaded by itself on YouTube. As for removing Derpy’s name, it’s a big shame but I’m pretty sure there were also some copyright issues wrangled up with that name, and the toning down of the googly eyes is barely noticeable anyway.

What’s far more unfortunate is that after this episode, Derpy got shafted for the rest of season 2 and all of season 3. The people working on the show gave this episode a scene paying homage to the fans and all they’ve done for the show, and it tragically blew up in their faces. It took them a year or two to get back on their feet and return Derpy to the spotlight about halfway through season 4. In the next season, she got a voiced role once again in Slice of Life, an entire episode serving as an homage to the fans. I think the fact that Derpy got a second chance after this catastrophe symbolizes the tenacity and passion of the show’s fandom—they wouldn’t let their beloved klutzy pegasus be gone for good, and the show’s staff eventually got the go-ahead to bring Derpy back. The only thing about her that didn’t resurface was the name Derpy, but again I think there were legal issues preventing that, so it’s no big deal.

EDIT (1/8/2023): I should have also mentioned that Derpy’s original voice sounded so “dumb” because her voice actress mistakenly thought she was voicing a boy, which explains a LOT. If it weren’t for this miscommunication, I am sure this whole fiasco would have been avoided.

The magic of Derpy Hooves is that even in this controversial scene, her klutzy antics make me laugh WAY too hard. Rainbow Dash asks her to sit down and do nothing, but she still messes something up, making cracks in the floor just by sitting a little too hard. I’ll dearly miss gushing over Derpy’s antics until I get to season 4, which won’t be until sometime next year.

Even though this episode isn’t supposed to center on Derpy, she does play a pivotal role in setting up its premise. Applejack promises to donate her prize money to repair the town hall that Derpy damaged, and that generous offer seems to make all of Ponyville firmly convinced that Applejack won’t let them down. There’s quite a few more episodes where Derpy unwittingly plays a crucial role in the plot (even in the movie!), and her impacts on the plot later on are much less negative than, uh, this.

Alright, I think I’m done with talking about Derpy. Let’s go on and analyze the rest of this episode for what it is.

Rainbow Dash: See you in a week!
Apple Bloom: With lots of new blue ribbons!
Mayor Mare: And lots of money!
Applejack: Darn tootin’!

As Applejack departs for the train, Mayor Mare is especially convinced that she will bring home the prize money. Could it be that the mayor is repressing her extreme panic as to whether Ponyville will be able to afford repairing the town hall by convincing herself that Applejack will 100% certainly win the prize? I bet that deep down beneath her smiling, she’s incredibly panicked and has to hold back her eye twitching, and for the next week will loudly laugh whenever she’s asked if something’s wrong. This is exactly what’s happening with her and you can’t convince me otherwise.


Everyone remembers the Derpy scene, but no one remembers this heartwarming little moment. Applejack’s friends and family got done setting up a surprise party for her, and a mail pony comes in and is delighted by the surprise because it turns out today is his birthday. He looks disappointed when he realizes the surprise was meant for someone else, so Pinkie Pie gives him a slice of cake. This is a great demonstration of Pinkie Pie’s skill in making others happy, and the measures she will take to do so.

Apple Bloom: Who’s it from, Twilight? What’s it say?
Twilight Sparkle: It’s from Applejack!
Twilight Sparkle: “Family and friends, not coming back to Ponyville. Don’t worry, will send money soon.” That’s all there is.

Applejack’s curt note is shocking to everyone in the room. While Apple Bloom is heartbroken about her sister not coming back, the rest of the Mane 6 sense that something fishy is going on. The interesting thing about Applejack’s letter is that it sort of matches with being the element of honesty: she’s saying true statements, just not telling the full story, so it only half counts. It’s (in most episodes) in her nature not to lie, but that doesn’t mean it’s in her nature to tell the whole truth. Applejack says she will send the money, but doesn’t say whether she won the competition, which is a clever lie of omission.

Out of the Apple siblings, this poor guy remembers the most about their parents.

After the Mane 6 set off to find Applejack, the scene momentarily gets REALLY somber in retrospect. Granny Smith says “our little bushel just lost one apple”, and Big Macintosh starts crying. It’s quite evident given what we now know about the Apple family that Big Mac is thinking about his departed parents, and this comes off as foreshadowing that those two aren’t around anymore.

The Mane 6 search Canterlot for Applejack and don’t find her, then they’re given a lead to a place called Dodge Junction. On the train, the pattern of gags giving a genuine impact on the episode’s plot continues with Pinkie Pie badly having to go to the bathroom. It turns out the bathroom in Dodge Junction is where they find Applejack, which solves the problem of where she is, but not the quest to get the whole truth out of her.

There’s so many great gags with Pinkie Pie in this episode that I’m skipping over to stay focused.

And then the Mane 6 meet Cherry Jubilee, who Applejack has decided to work for supposedly because she wanted a “change of scenery”. Cherry Jubilee doesn’t confirm whether Applejack won the prize, and I think there may be some truth to the “change of scenery” part: Applejack didn’t want to face breaking the news to Ponyville, and she felt being far away from Ponyville would help her take her mind off all these worries as she makes the money that she will send. But then the bogus factor kicks into high gear when Applejack says she thought cherries would be a nice change from apples: now this is her kind of poorly contrived lie.

Applejack: What are you five up to?
Rarity: Well, uh… you made working on a cherry orchard sound so delightful!
Applejack: Uh-huh. Well, just remember: no talking about Ponyville!

Rarity is giving Applejack a taste of her own medicine with this blatant lie as to why they’re joining her with this cherry job. Applejack doesn’t buy it but still doesn’t have it in her to tell the truth, which means this attempt to get her to be honest didn’t work. The next thing the ponies try is to get Applejack to talk about the rodeo, which took place in Canterlot, not Ponyville, taking advantage of her exact words. Applejack is so wrapped up in shame that she ignores any attempts to get her to realize how wrong it is to deceive others and continues with her brief statements that aren’t technically lies.

While the others are pressing Applejack for the truth, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy stay behind and struggle to keep up with sorting the cherries, especially as Applejack runs faster and faster. I can see why these two would stick to their task: Fluttershy is too nice to press Applejack, and Pinkie Pie is dutifully doing what she was asked. I especially feel bad for Fluttershy because she’s precious and can do no wrong.

The ponies cause a gigantic mess of cherry juice and don’t give up just yet. Rainbow Dash says it’s time to bring out the big guns, and the camera zooms in on Pinkie Pie, which matches with this episode’s noticeably lighthearted tone.

The big guns are brought out as follows: Pinkie Pie blabbers at Applejack about words that she finds funny, and Rainbow Dash says that the only way for her to stop is for Applejack to tell the truth. Going against her element of harmony, Applejack insists on waiting till breakfast the next day to tell the truth, putting off something that should come naturally to her. She and Pinkie Pie do a Pinkie Promise…

… and the very next morning, Applejack has disappeared once more, and Pinkie Pie is furious. As goofy and exuberant as she is, you do not want to get on her bad side, and that includes breaking her Pinkie Promise. This rage helps fuel the ponies’ surprisingly monumental quest of squeezing the truth out of Applejack.

And it’s not just Pinkie Pie who’s bursting with rage. As we’ve seen before, when Fluttershy is enraged or determined enough, she can keep up with Rainbow Dash’s speed, and she shows it again by teaming up with Rainbow Dash to keep up with a team of ponies who I can only guess pull carriages for a living. The chase is interrupted by a cute little bunny that causes Fluttershy to skid in fear, but the ponies get back on their hooves soon enough.

Pinkie Pie: Applejack, you broke your Pinkie Promise. Apologize!
Applejack: Pinkie, I did not break my promise.
Pinkie Pie: What?
Applejack: If y’all reckon back, I told you that I would tell you everything at breakfast. But I didn’t come for breakfast. I couldn’t come to that breakfast! Not if it meant telling y’all what happened.

Applejack has been taking advantage of exact words throughout this episode, including right here when she clarifies that she didn’t technically break the promise. It really seems like she’s overworking herself by stretching the definition of honesty, and it won’t take much longer for her lies of omission to catch up with her.

Applejack isn’t the only pony who forgets her element of harmony in this episode. Despite being the element of loyalty, Rainbow Dash leaves Pinkie Pie and Rarity behind after they’re knocked off the carriage. I imagine this could have been quite a controversial scene, but as with everything else in this episode, it’s completely overshadowed by dear sweet Derpy.

I’m really rationalizing Applejack and Rainbow Dash breaking their elements of harmony, huh?

In all fairness, though… maybe Rainbow Dash felt that Rarity and Pinkie Pie were a necessary sacrifice, because if they were on the wagon, there probably would have been too much weight for Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy to fly over the train and catch Applejack. Maybe Rainbow Dash felt that loyalty to Applejack was the priority and the other two could find their own way home… or maybe the show just forgot that loyalty is Rainbow Dash’s element of harmony, but come on, that would be ridiculous.

And thanks to Rainbow Dash pouncing on Applejack, the ponies discover the truth. Applejack didn’t win the prize money after all because she didn’t win first place in any of the competitions, so she decided to earn the same amount of money and then send it to Ponyville. While her shame feels understandable at first, this passage puts into light how ridiculous she was being:

Twilight Sparkle: Applejack, you’re not a failure.
Rainbow Dash: And we’re your friends! We don’t care if you came in 50th place! You’re still number one in our books.

This is where it really sinks in that you can’t let a silly old competition ruin your perception of yourself, and that losing such a competition will never get in the way of friendship. Applejack is learning a lesson about honesty here, which shows that all the ponies still have plenty of lessons to learn about all their elements of harmony. Rainbow Dash sheds tears from up above, but quickly shakes them off and complains about acting sappy—exactly the sort of performative denial about being sappy that you’d expect from bronies.

And so, Applejack narrates her letter to Celestia about how you shouldn’t run away from your problems. This is a great moral that has an unintended dual meaning with this episode. Both Applejack running away from her problems, and the show’s staff running away from their problems by shafting Derpy Hooves, which was thankfully resolved in a demonstration of the tenacity of the show’s fanbase. It’s sort of poetic, don’t you think? Poetic in an accidental way, just as Derpy is prone to accidents.

The deserted ponies find their own way home, with Rarity mad at Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie distracting herself with some more funny words. I think I’d rather appreciate this final gag scene for what it is than think about its ramifications regarding Rainbow Dash’s character, because the last thing this episode needs is two scenes that distract from its actual premise.

Overall thoughts:

Even putting aside the Derpy scene, this episode is a tough one to judge. It has a really good and valuable moral that’s demonstrated nicely, but it also heavily contradicts Applejack’s element of harmony (and briefly, Rainbow Dash’s). And regardless of these contradictions, I quite enjoy this episode’s sense of humor, especially in Pinkie Pie’s scenes. I also appreciate how the various jokes don’t get in the way of the surprisingly moving ending with Applejack realizing how silly it is to abandon her friends over a competition.

But let’s face the facts: for better or for worse, this episode’s main significance to the show is the Derpy scene. I might be biased as a fan of the show outside its target audience, but Derpy is the symbol of the show’s fans, and if it weren’t for them there is no way it would have lasted for nine seasons. It’s unfortunate that Derpy’s scene overshadows the rest of the episode like this, but at the same time, I just love Derpy so much, and I’m already antsy to get to her grand return.

Grade: C

Despite all these criticisms, I’d say I like this episode for what it is, Derpy scene or not. It’s a borderline case between a B and a C.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I like how a tangent about Derpy Hooves is the first time I had any reason to mention the show’s 2017 movie. I haven’t decided yet how I will handle the movie in this post series.
  • Can you do me a favor and imagine giving Derpy a big, long hug? She’ll be waiting for us all when we get to season 4.
  • Uh… pretend I said something about Applejack here as well. There’s so much more to this episode than just the Derpy scene, and I don’t want you to forget that!

Applejack’s bad luck with the spotlight continues with an episode best known for introducing the Flim Flam brothers.

Season 2 Episode 15: The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000

In five words: The Flim Flam brothers’ introduction.

Premise: At their annual cider season, the Apple family faces against a newfound pair of seemingly unbeatable rivals: the Flim Flam brothers.

Detailed run-through:

Poor Fluttershy is too nice to demand for her comfy sleep to be resumed.

This episode starts with introducing a side plot that I’d argue leads to its main friendship lesson. The side plot centers around Rainbow Dash’s one-sided rivalry with Pinkie Pie. She’s jealous of Pinkie Pie always being the first in line to get the Apple family’s cider every year, and this year Pinkie is way ahead of the game by setting up a tent to sleep in overnight while she tries to hold in her excitement and encouraging the rest of Ponyville to do the same. It can’t feel good for Rainbow Dash to have missed the memo, and she’s convinced Pinkie Pie deliberately didn’t tell her, which fuels their one-sided rivalry.

Yep, this is one of those episodes where Rainbow Dash experiences Charlie Brown levels of bad luck. In such situations as this, I can never blame her for being this frustrated. In this case, the cider runs out right before Rainbow Dash can get her serving (and right after Fluttershy gets hers), which is absurdly unlucky. In some episodes, Rainbow Dash makes me go “come on, what are you even doing”; in ones like this, however, I wholeheartedly sympathize with her gripes.

The background ponies also complain at the Apple family for running out of cider, but unlike Rainbow Dash, I don’t get why they’re complaining. Aren’t they already familiar with how this annual tradition works, and didn’t Applejack promise there will be more tomorrow? Talk about weirdly ungrateful. Pinkie Pie rubs salt in Rainbow Dash’s wound by talking about how amazing the cider was, and I insist you bow down to Fluttershy for saying Pinkie Pie’s name in a vain attempt to get her to stop Rainbow Dash from feeling bad. Everyone, please give a moment of honor for this absolute saint of a yellow horse.

Speaking of yellow horses, the Flim Flam brothers introduce themselves and their cider-making machine (which shares its name with this episode) in a musical number that lasts a hefty three and a half minutes, a length comparable to the song Winter Wrap Up. As with Winter Wrap Up, I feel like the song was probably made this long because there’s not a lot going on in this episode and nobody making the episode had any ideas for how to make it longer. But that said, this song is quite a fun one, with a cheerful tone and some light bits of dissonance that hint at the brothers’ skeevy side.

Granny Smith chimes into the musical number, arguing that the Flim Flam brothers don’t have the same quality assurance that the Apple family does, but the brothers prove them wrong by demonstrating an automatic quality control mechanism in their contraption. This brings to light the tragic thing about the Flim Flam brothers: they’re totally capable of using their technological skills for great good, but they always get carried away with greed and let that come above all else, as we see in this episode and all others featuring them.

The Flim Flam brothers try making a deal with the Apple family, offering to work together on making cider and taking 75% of the pay for themselves, and when Applejack doesn’t agree, they set out to become competitors instead. I feel like the Flim Flam brothers are to Applejack as Trixie is to Twilight Sparkle. Something about these two brothers REALLY sets Applejack off, and she views them as a fundamental opposition to everything she stands for (in this case, her trademark honesty). Except in this case, Applejack has a legitimate reason to hate them.

Rainbow Dash is the real tragic figure of this episode.

Day two of cider season: the Apple family runs out of cider long before Rainbow Dash gets her turn, so the Flim Flam brothers step in and provide a whole bunch more. Rainbow Dash almost gets to try some cider, but it’s rudely yanked out of her hooves by a barrel and spilled on the ground, as seen above.

Applejack: You can’t sell that cider!
(Rainbow Dash does, uh… look at the picture above)
Applejack: That’s made from Apple family apples!
Rainbow Dash: Is this some kind of cruel joke?

Yes, Rainbow Dash. It is an extraordinarily cruel joke. You are the brunt of this episode’s humor, and while others may find it funny, I know you don’t deserve any of this. I’d give you all the cider you want, OK?

Rainbow Dash: Who cares how good the cider is if I never get to drink any?

Think about how lucky we are that Rainbow Dash’s frustration is a side plot in the episode. If the entire episode were focused on this frustration, she would probably go all overboard with being obnoxious, but here her frustration is portrayed lightly enough to come off as sympathetic.

Hehe, how fitting for Dr. Whooves to be the contest’s timekeeper.

Granny Smith’s pride in her family business and Apple Bloom’s childish ideas of standing up to rivals cause the Flim Flam Brothers and the Apple family to hold a competition for who can make the most cider, and the winner gets to be in charge of Ponyville’s cider production. This means that if the Apple family loses, Sweet Apple Acres will be no more, and they don’t want that, so… why even agree to the competition as it is? I guess both groups are too proud of their own work to consider striking a deal, or maybe Applejack just thinks the Flim Flam brothers are that fishy. She’s nervous about the competition, even with her friends’ encouragement.

Yet again, Spike is there and doesn’t do anything.
It’ll take many seasons to resolve this gaping, recurring problem. Season 8 gives him a major buff.

The Apple family with their physical labor fails to keep up with the Flim Flam brothers’ high-end machinery, so Twilight Sparkle asks the mayor if honorary family members can compete. When you think about it, it’s heartwarming that only two seasons into the show, the Mane 6 already see each other like family. The brothers agree to it, thinking that there’s no way they can be beaten anyway in typical smug villain fashion. Twilight Sparkle proceeds to use her leadership skills to pair each of her other four pony friends with an Apple family member to help with cider making. I’m especially fond of the choice of pairing Rarity with Granny Smith due to her sharp eye for quality control.

The Mane 6 and Apple Family’s teamwork in making cider is quite a joy to watch, and the most fun part yet again involves Rarity. While Granny Smith labels the apples as “good” or “bad”, Rarity opts for more fanciful terminology, classifying them as “lovely” or “horrid”. Even in an episode where she plays a minor role, she brings us the most delightful subtle details.

The Flim Flam Brothers have been using their unicorn magic to power the machine, which is pretty neat.

The Flim Flam brothers are now the ones struggling to keep up. They speed up their machine and then disable the quality control mechanism, which is a fitting demonstration of these two’s fatal flaw: letting greed get the better of them.

OK, at this point Bon Bon’s voices are comically absurd.

The Flim Flam brothers win the competition, much to the Apple family’s dismay at first… at least until some ponies try the brothers’ cider. That’s when it becomes clear how foolish these two really are: they were willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of quick easy gain, just as Granny Smith had forewarned. The residents of Ponyville hate their cider and refuse to spend the slightest bit of money on it, which causes the brothers to storm off and try another town.

Applejack: Dear Princess Celestia, I wanted to share my thoughts with you. (clears throat)
Applejack: I didn’t learn anything. I was right all along! If you take your time to do things the right way, your work will speak for itself.
Applejack: Sure, I could tell you I learned something about how my friends are always there to help me, and I can count on them no matter what, but truth is, I knew that already too.

How’s this for a subversion of the pattern of ending each episode with a letter to Celestia? The scoring of this letter matches with the pattern, switching from the usual music that plays when a friendship letter is narrated to lighthearted country music. It’s fun to see the show play with the friendship letter pattern here and there before abandoning it entirely. This moral especially feels like a victory lap for Applejack, showing that there are some friendship lessons she already knew and is merely reminded of here.

As Applejack finishes narrating her friendship letter, Pinkie Pie does something incredibly sweet: after yet another instance of bad luck, she lets Rainbow Dash have her cup of cider. This pink goofball has a surprisingly warm heart, and her giving Rainbow Dash her cider teaches a secondary moral about giving things up for an unlucky friend.

Overall thoughts:

As I said earlier, the main point of this episode is to introduce the Flim Flam brothers, and they are such a fun villain duo. These two get a major appearance every other season, and each time the show’s viewers are taught something valuable about scams. This isn’t just applicable to child viewers: while adults know in theory what a scam is, that doesn’t mean they can’t fall for them, especially if they’re the type that doesn’t know how to use computers. These brothers also provide a great contrast against Applejack and her integrity and familial pride, adding a layer of depth to her character.

The side plot of Rainbow Dash never getting a chance to try cider sticks out a lot to me now, but I think I’ve said all that needs to be said about it already.

Grade: C

Another neutral grade for an episode I don’t have strong feelings about. It’s a fun episode in itself, but it honestly was a little boring to analyze. Though this may have something to do with the fact that this whole time, I was waiting to get to the absolute bombshell of an episode that follows.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Towards the start of the episode, Fluttershy complimenting Pinkie Pie’s apparent hairstyle shown above reminds me of how I had imagined she would react to Pinkie Pie’s mental breakdown in Party of One. Is this just a lucky coincidence, or is it proof that I have a thorough understanding of all the vivid nuances of MLP’s characters that rivals, or even surpasses, that of any of the show’s writers??? (It’s obviously the latter.)
  • During the Flim Flam Brothers’ musical number, you can see Derpy flying in the background with her trademark googly eyes!!!!! I must cherish these rare moments between The Last Roundup and Rainbow Falls where we can so much as glimpse at her.
    • Wait, am I supposed to call them the Flim Flam Brothers or the Flim Flam brothers? I’m suddenly torn on this matter.
  • How on earth does spell check not recognize “skeevy” as a word? I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty skeevy.

With this episode done, I can now finally get to the good stuff!!! Next up is an episode that I absolutely love: Read It and Weep.

… but that’ll be next week, of course. Or maybe two weeks from now? I’m trying to resume doing MLP posts every Friday morning, but given how my real life work has been going, I may be busy enough that I’ll end up skipping weeks here and there. I had already missed two prior Friday mornings as I was working on this post.

See you on… a certain Friday morning as I gush about Read It and Weep, probably with only one episode after that.

>> Part 17: Read It and Weep + Hearts and Hooves Day

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