Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 18: A Friend in Deed + Putting Your Hoof Down

Introduction

< Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 >

Season 2, Episodes 18-19

I didn’t get this post done last Friday, so I decided to push it back a week. Given how busy I have been with work, don’t expect this to be an uncommon occurrence.


Season 2 Episode 18: A Friend in Deed

In five words: Pinkie luckily resolves romantic tragedy.

Premise: On her mission to be friends with everyone in Ponyville, Pinkie Pie hits a brick wall in the form of Cranky Doodle Donkey.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with an 80’s exercise montage with 80’s sounding synth music—you know, the kind of music that seemed to only exist in the 80’s and vanished into thin air the moment that decade ended. The montage features Pinkie Pie, as you can see above, and it shows her getting the hang of taking care of the Cakes’ babies, a refreshing contrast against her struggles in Baby Cakes. Somehow, the very existence of this scene was erased from my head before I wrote this post! While I definitely don’t know every MLP episode like the back of my hand, you’d think I would remember the intro scene of this memorable episode, but nope, apparently I forgot its entire existence.

I guess talking farm animals in this show are phased out more gradually than I had thought.

That said, me forgetting about this episode’s intro scene may have something to do with how it’s unrelated to the rest of the episode, especially with the part following the theme song where Pinkie Pie greets numerous inhabitants of Ponyville and shows how universally beloved she is. This scene doesn’t come off as unbearably sugary, at least not to me because Pinkie Pie is such a laugh riot.

It’s a clever move to show Matilda early in this episode. Makes her appearance at the end much less out of the blue.

Pinkie Pie: And Miss Matilda, happy birthday to you.
Pinkie Pie: In 132 days!
Matilda: Pinkie Pie, how do you remember everything about everypony?
Pinkie Pie: ‘Cause everypony’s my friend, and I love to see my friends smile!

Pinkie Pie says this is the reason she has such an extensive knowledge of everyone’s (everypony’s!!!) details, but we all know the real reason is because she’s Pinkie Pie. I feel like that’s part of the charm of Pinkie Pie: she regularly defies logical sense and that only helps make her lovable and fun. This naturally leads to a cheerful musical number called the Smile Song.

Now, are you ready for me to analyze the absolute most random and pointless thing possible about this musical number? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Pinkie Pie: ♫ It doesn’t matter now ♫ (What’s up?)
♪ If you are sad or blue ♪ (Howdy!)
♫ ‘Cause cheering up my friends is just what Pinkie’s here to do ♫

Pay special attention to the word “blue” in the lyrics. When Pinkie Pie sings that word, she points her hooves at the blue filly shown above, making for a fun double entendre. From Pinkie’s perspective, I’m willing to bet she isn’t even intentionally using that word as a synonym for “sad”. Instead, I think she just picked out a random word that rhymes with “you” and conveniently matches her surroundings. Pinkie Pie has always been very literal-minded, often comedically failing to understand idioms and metaphors, so it’s a lucky coincidence that her usage of “blue” seamlessly ties into the song’s theme and doesn’t come off as a non sequitur.

(I know the show’s writers probably weren’t thinking about any of this when writing this lyric, and guess what? I don’t care. I love this show, but I can interpret it how I want to.)

OK, I’ll admit it. I really don’t have much to say about this musical number. It’s got some cute gags here and there, and it does a good job showing how nothing makes Pinkie Pie happier than seeing others be happy, but its main purpose is to provide contrast against Pinkie Pie’s extreme difficulty befriending Cranky Doodle Donkey.

Hey look, Lyra and Bon Bon are side by side!
Then again, they’re mainstay background ponies and this is still just season 2, so I’m unsure if this is deliberate.

I have one more small inconsequential thing to say about this musical number. In the song’s chorus, Pinkie Pie bounces on the roofs of Ponyville’s houses, and the background ponies following her join in on her. It would appear that Pinkie Pie’s improbable cartoony antics are just as contagious as her smiling, or at least they are in this one specific scene. And speaking of background ponies, it’s weird that they’re all female here, but again maybe that’s because we’re still only on season 2.

The very moment the Smile Song ends, Pinkie Pie’s eyes meet those of a donkey who isn’t too keen on smiling. She enormously gets on this guy’s nerves, especially after she figures out his name is Cranky Doodle Donkey and sings a parody of Yankee Doodle in celebration. She figures out his name from the acronym “C.D.D.”, “Donkey” by herself and the other two words through pressing him. He’s especially reluctant to spit out the name “Doodle”, angrily saying that “nopony calls [him] Doodle”, an early hint at the love of his life who he so dearly misses. She says “what just happened?” after realizing she failed to befriend this donkey, indicating that she’s so used to being everyone’s friend that it takes quite a while to sink in that someone simply refuses to be her friend.

I love these rare moments where MLP changes its animation style; in this case, to stop-motion felt animation.

Pinkie Pie: Meet somepony new, check. Introduce myself, check. Sing random song out of nowhere, check. Become instant best friends! … Uncheck.

Let’s think about Pinkie Pie’s bewilderment for a moment. I don’t think her line “sing random song out of nowhere” was said with a sense of humor on her part; she genuinely thinks that introducing herself and randomly singing a song are all it takes to make a new friend no matter the circumstance. Maybe it works this way in Ponyville, and if that’s the case, maybe this is an indicator that she’s seldom left Ponyville ever since she first moved there. I would say she was scared to go out of Ponyville after her childhood on a rock farm, but it’s clear that she holds no ill will against her family. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that she’s never felt a need to leave Ponyville and learn how life works in other areas? Of course, this will massively change as the show’s seasons progress.

Cranky Doodle Donkey: Look, kid. You–
Pinkie Pie: Oh, Cranky, you can call me Pinkie! All of my friends do.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Look. Kid. I came to Ponyville for some peace and quiet and privacy. To be alone with my memories. All I want is to get to my new home and unpack my stuff.

Rewatching this episode knowing its ending, it’s clear what Cranky Doodle Donkey is saying here. He’s given up on the search for Matilda and is ready to live the rest of his life respecting her memory. He probably thinks the love of his life is dead and wants to be alone in absorbing this tragic loss.

I like how these scenes are scored with variants of the melody of Yankee Doodle.

Taking advantage of the public domain, am I right?
(MLP does this sparingly.)

And yet, Pinkie Pie still won’t leave this poor guy alone. She gets cheese on Cranky due to a mishap in her welcome machine, exposes his bald head, and stomps on his toupee mistaking it for a spider. Pinkie Pie’s insistence on becoming friends with Cranky led to quite a lot of contention among fans, and many think she’s in the wrong for refusing to leave him alone. But if you don’t mind me trying to rationalize a character’s controversial actions yet again, maybe Pinkie can sense that there’s a gaping hole in the donkey’s life and is trying to figure out how to fill that hole. One thing’s for certain: she’s incredibly lucky that the solution to this problem is right here in Ponyville, and this episode’s resolution hinges on that fortunate coincidence.

After taking Cranky to the spa, Pinkie Pie gives him a wig Rarity made as a gift, thinking that will make it up to him and make him finally be her friend, even though she was the one who ruined his wig in the first place. This comes off as incredibly desperate on Pinkie Pie’s part and shows how much of an impasse she’s on; she wants to do anything she can to be this donkey’s friend, and it isn’t working out. It won’t be long until she realizes that she’ll have to do things very differently with him.

Cranky thanks Pinkie Pie for the wig but still doesn’t smile. Pinkie takes this to mean she’s getting closer but can’t leave him alone just yet.

Pinkie Pie: This [snowglobe] is so pretty! Where’d you get it?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Manehattan. Now put it down. Gently.
Pinkie Pie: Really? What were you doing there?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Trying to find a friend.
Pinkie Pie: Ooh! I’m always trying to find friends, and today I found you. See how good I am?

Here Pinkie Pie is again, thinking everyone else’s brain works the same way she does. Cranky Doodle Donkey says he was trying to find a friend, and Pinkie Pie thinks he meant he was simply looking for new friends to make like she always does. She doesn’t realize that he’s far more introverted than she is and was instead trying to find a specific friend.

Cranky Doodle Donkey: This was a special friend.
Pinkie Pie: Like me?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: No. You’re extra-special, kid.

Cranky Doodle Donkey keeps to himself a lot, so when Pinkie Pie presses him hard enough, all he can do is respond with sarcasm. However, Pinkie Pie isn’t quite as clueless as she appears. I bet this is when it starts to dawn on her that Cranky has spent his whole life looking for—if you don’t mind me reusing a phrase from the last episode—his very special somepony.

Pinkie Pie almost gets to the bottom of this mystery as Cranky lets a tiny bit more about this special friend of his slip, but then she accidentally burns his scrapbook of memories and then gets it soggy, much to his frustration. Now, she knows for real that she must make it up to him; she’s gone too far and won’t let Cranky simply see her as a horrific nuisance.

Pinkie Pie and sarcasm mix like oil and water.

Pinkie Pie: I’m sorry, Cranky.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Oh, you’re sorry. Well, then everything is fine.
Pinkie Pie: It is?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: No! Listen to me, kid. I will never be your friend.
Pinkie Pie: Never, or never ever?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Never ever ever ever ever!!!

This scene teaches an important message to viewers, especially young ones: if you royally screw something up, you can’t just say “I’m sorry” immediately after and expect everything to be fine. Pinkie Pie is absorbing this message right now, and while this encounter ended up a disaster, she learned something big about Cranky that eventually gives her an idea of how to make it up to him.

Aw, look at Rainbow Dash reading another Daring Do book.

Pinkie Pie stops at Twilight Sparkle’s place, asking what to do about Cranky not wanting to be her friend. Twilight and Rainbow Dash both say that she should accept having to leave Cranky alone, and Pinkie completely misses the point, saying that she will leave the donkey alone after he accepts her apology. Well, maybe she only mostly misses the point.

Then comes an over-the-top cartoony chase sequence where Cranky Doodle Donkey tries in vain to run from a desperately apologetic Pinkie Pie. His extreme panic and irritation cause him to zoom by at lightning speeds, but he’s still no match for Pinkie Pie’s slapstick antics. He runs to the top of a mountain, but she manages to pop out of the mountain somehow, and it continues from there until Cranky locks himself at home.

Pinkie Pie: I’d do anything to make it up to you!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: But there’s nothing you can do! You ruined my book. You destroyed all I have to remember her by.
Pinkie Pie: Her? Her who? The special friend?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Go away, Pinkie!

And here’s where the clues finally fall into place. This whole time while Pinkie Pie was pestering Cranky Doodle Donkey to be her friend, there was a lingering mystery about something big and important missing from his life, and Pinkie Pie just had a eureka moment. She then proves she’s much smarter than she lets on with this bombshell:

Cranky Doodle Donkey and his long-lost love Matilda are reunited at last, and it’s all thanks to Pinkie Pie putting two and two and two [sic] together! She wasn’t kidding about knowing everyone in Ponyville; Matilda is a longtime resident of Ponyville after all, and we saw her early in this episode. This heartwarming reunion gets some flack from viewers since it comes off to many as a deus ex machina; a character who solves the episode’s problem appearing out of the blue. I think some fans also feel Pinkie Pie got unfairly rewarded for meddling in Cranky Doodle Donkey’s life so much? These are understandable criticisms, but I find that they’re outweighed by the heartwarming factor of the story that follows.

It turns out that several of Cranky’s pictures and memories, including a ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala, match those in Matilda’s scrapbook, which Pinkie Pie is already familiar with. This makes for a nice parallel between the reunited donkeys, and the heartwarming factor expands with the flashback that follows:

For Cranky Doodle Donkey, the Grand Galloping Gala really WAS the best night ever!

Cranky Doodle Donkey: Oh, Matilda. The night we met at the gala was the most magical night of my life.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: I couldn’t wait to see you again. But when I came to your room the next day, you were gone.
Matilda: Didn’t you get my note?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: No! I never got it. Ever since that day, I’ve gone from town… to town… to town… searching all over Equestria for you.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Until finally, I gave up! I came to Ponyville to retire from my search.
Matilda: I was living in Ponyville the whole time! I always hoped that someday you would come and find me, Doodle.

Let me think about what this story says about Cranky Doodle Donkey’s character. His extreme dedication and drive to search everywhere he could for Matilda suggests to me that he always felt out of place, like a loner who didn’t quite belong. He probably viewed Matilda as the first and only person he met in his life who truly gets him, and it says a lot that he spent so much of his life searching for Matilda rather than simply finding a new love interest. Specifically, it says that he knows that he’s a difficult guy to be friends with and would love to live a quiet life with someone who understands and accepts him for who he is. He got extremely caught up in the idea that there was only one person who could ever fulfill that role, and it took the appearance of a persistently exuberant pink pony for this mindset to finally pay off. Cranky Doodle Donkey even reveals that Matilda is the only person who he’s OK with calling him Doodle—perhaps he couldn’t bear being called Doodle by others because it makes him think of his lost love.

And that’s when Cranky Doodle Donkey finally smiles! He also finally accepts calling Pinkie Pie his friend—he owes something HUGE to this goofy pony after all. Pinkie Pie is overjoyed at this and at first misses the point, thinking this means she and Cranky can finally hang out and party together…

… but then she realizes Cranky isn’t in the mood for that. He tells Pinkie Pie that he and Matilda want some time together in peace, then thanks her for going so much out of her way to make him happy, confirming that they’re friends now. This leads Pinkie Pie to narrate her letter to Celestia, set to an instrumental reprise of the Smile Song—a nice change of pace from the usual variant of the theme song that plays during friendship letters. Pinkie Pie tells us that while some friends like to laugh and play and have fun, others prefer to be left alone, and the best thing about having friends is making them smile. This is a moral well suited to a Pinkie Pie episode, and she ends this episode by singing one last song to Cranky and Matilda before she remembers to respect their privacy.

Finally, this episode is the second oddball in terms of credits music. Instead of the usual theme song instrumental, this one plays a piano cover of Yankee Doodle in the credits, cementing it as a particularly memorable season 2 episode.

Overall thoughts:

As annoying as it may be to see Pinkie Pie hassle Cranky Doodle Donkey so much, and as unnaturally fortunate as it is for her to reunite him with Matilda, I can’t bring myself to be too hard on this episode. I already gave plenty of thoughts on this episode’s premise and resolution in the run-through, so instead I’ll use this section to make an observation about Cranky Doodle Donkey.

In terms of how the show presents him, Cranky Doodle Donkey is an interesting reverse of a common pattern in recurring characters. MLP has plenty of recurring characters who mostly play small supporting roles or serve as comic relief until they get an episode that massively fleshes them out and gives them a sympathetic side. Cranky Doodle Donkey is the opposite: his introductory episode gives him a sympathetic side right off the bat, while in later episodes he mostly just plays comical background roles. On a meta level, perhaps this could be seen as the show giving him some peace and quiet, keeping him in the background while his life with Matilda is generally left for viewers to imagine. The show gracefully lets him stay uninvolved in the Mane 6’s antics and adventures as he lives this quiet life.

It’s a very good thing for Cranky Doodle Donkey to be portrayed in a sympathetic light, providing an important lesson to outgoing and social viewers while telling more introverted viewers that it’s OK to want to keep to themselves. In that sense, I’m glad Cranky Doodle Donkey’s first appearance wasn’t comic relief.

Grade: B

I like this episode overall, and I’d say the heartwarming ending makes up for how overbearing Pinkie Pie might be.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • When guessing the first word of Cranky Doodle Donkey’s name, Pinkie Pie lists a bunch of human names that start with C, which is weird because in MLP human names are the exception and not the rule. But I guess we can chalk that up to Pinkie Pie being zany. Now that I think of it, you can chalk up a lot of things to Pinkie Pie being zany.
    • Actually, I don’t want to chalk up too many things to Pinkie Pie being zany. That would just be like what I always did with a certain juggalo character from a certain webcomic.
  • Cranky Doodle Donkey mentions that he’s made plenty of friends in his life traveling through Equestria, but we don’t know who any of those friends are, making this feel sort of like an empty claim. This issue is finally redeemed in Slice of Life, where we learn Cranky is longtime friends with Steven Magnet, whose name is also revealed in that episode. Slice of Life is all about tying loose ends that only the nerdiest of fans care about, and I long for the day I finally get to analyze that episode.
  • I’m obligated to mention that Derpy Hooves appears inside Cranky Doodle Donkey’s snowglobe… somehow. Could it be due to a mishap with one of Dr. Whooves’ technological devices? Yes, let’s say it’s that.
  • This episode is a record-breaker for the number of songs sang in an episode. It has four songs total: the Smile Song, and three short songs Pinkie Pie sings to Cranky Doodle Donkey. If I remember right, the next episode to break the record is Magical Mystery Cure.

I don’t think I’ll have quite an easy of a time defending the next episode, especially considering what it does to dear, sweet Fluttershy. But who knows? Maybe I’ll see some good in it… maybe.


Season 2 Episode 19: Putting Your Hoof Down

In five words: Fluttershy undergoes inexplicable personality upheaval.

Premise: A minotaur named Iron Will teaches Fluttershy to be more assertive, and his lessons end up working a little too well—which is to say, they somehow overwrite Fluttershy’s entire character.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Fluttershy feeding her animals in her house and troubled by an especially picky Angel who demands a very specific dish. I don’t have much to say about this scene, other than that Fluttershy says that the bowl above contains carrots, lettuce, and apples, even though the bowl quite clearly has no apples and instead has cucumbers. I don’t think Fluttershy would confuse apples with cucumbers when one of her best friends is an apple farmer, so this error gives an early hint that this episode is going to be sloppy and contrived.

As Fluttershy goes outside and buys food for Angel’s recipe, a whole bunch of other ponies cut in front of her, and she is too quiet and meek to do anything about it. I feel like her pushover trait is severely exaggerated for the sake of this episode, and MLP normally does a good job not exaggerating characters’ traits for the sake of an episode.

Well, maybe it’s not so much Fluttershy being exaggerated as the other inhabitants of Ponyville having traits downright fabricated! They’re being mean to Fluttershy by constantly cutting her off and making things harder for her, acting as though she doesn’t exist. As such, maybe Fluttershy appears exaggerated by comparison? I’m only two minutes in and I’m already having a headache trying to understand this episode.

After a pair of ponies with valley girl accents rudely tell her to get a life instead of fussing about asparagus, Fluttershy backs off and encounters not one, but two of her best friends. You’d think Rarity and Pinkie Pie would stand up for their friend and tell those two girls off for being so mean to Fluttershy, right? Nope, instead they tell Fluttershy off for letting them walk on her so easily, and Pinkie Pie even tells Fluttershy that she has a problem. How does this even remotely match with the Mane 6’s tight-knit friendships?! Are Rarity and Pinkie Pie trying to teach Fluttershy a lesson by not making things easy for her? If so, that just comes off as smug and haughty.

Rarity’s flavor of sweet talking is normally fun and satisfying to watch, but here she comes off as a jerk by manipulating this nerdy-looking guy into selling her the last of the store’s asparagus which he just bought. It can’t always be like this when Fluttershy is shopping for food—if it was, then how would she ever get anything done? Did Ponyville get afflicted with a curse that turns everyone besides Fluttershy into brutal jerks? Is there a tie-in with some other episode that could explain why everyone in Ponyville is acting like this? It’s so much more fun to come up with ridiculous justifications for this episode’s events than to acknowledge that they make no sense.

Fluttershy buys three tomatoes for one bit, but it turns out they cost two bits now, which she obliges to. There’s no reason for Pinkie Pie to scold her for doing so: typically, there are genuine economic motives behind increasing the price of a commodity, like a shortage or a desperate need for funding. How is it at all unfair for the price of three tomatoes to be temporarily increased?

This pony’s cutie mark implies that she knows everything about tomatoes and has a genuine reason for increasing their price.

And yet, Pinkie Pie uses a back-and-forth argument to trick the tomato vendor into only charging one bit for three tomatoes. Is this really a good message to be telling kids, to scam others out of their money?! Fluttershy is doing nothing wrong here; she’s just an awkward bystander, unsure what to make of this newfound behavior in her two friends. Perhaps she desperately hopes the other three Mane 6 members are still their normal selves.

Be glad these scenes don’t feature any fan favorite background ponies turned into jerks.
That’s not something you can say about the even more controversial Fame and Misfortune.

Upon her friends’ suggestion, Fluttershy tries being assertive as she buys the last cherry, and she fails miserably at it. The guy selling the cherries somehow decides to charge ten bits for the very last one, which just plain isn’t fair. Some might find it funny to see Fluttershy struggle to be manipulative I mean assertive, but I just feel bad for her. Trying to bargain others out of their money is so absurdly far outside her comfort zone, and since she’s never done it before, is it any wonder she’s so bad at it? The problem is compounded because her whole reason for buying this much food is because she let Angel walk over her, and it still bites her in the face. The cherry vendor ends up charging 20 bits, but then some other pony walks by and pays only two bits. What is it with this guy? What is it with everyone in Ponyville today?! Did Fluttershy get transported to an alternate dimension due to a mishap with a time machine???? I think that just might be it.

And so, Angel refuses to eat the dish Fluttershy made because there’s no cherry on top. She has the following amusing line to say after Angel kicks her out:

Fluttershy: Look at me. I really am a doormat.

Look at Fluttershy in the image above: she is in the exact same place and position where a physical doormat would normally lie. This visual pun is a tiny bright spot in this absolute mess of an episode.

Fluttershy then reads a letter advertising an assertiveness seminar hosted by Iron Will, and so begins her descent into insanity. She’s now determined to never be a pushover again. Maybe she thinks that since everyone in Ponyville is now suddenly a bunch of brutes, she must also become a brute to fit in?

You know what? With my massive headache trying to make sense of this episode, let’s talk about Iron Will. This poor guy is a fun character trapped in a nonsensical episode. He’s a hammy motivational speaker playing homage to Greek mythology, being a minotaur and all, and he has a fun gimmick where he provides aggressive words of advice phrased as rhymes. And while the show portrays him as a villain in both his major appearances, he does have some positive traits, most notably that he always sticks to his promises. In this episode, he promises that if anyone attending his seminars is somehow not 100% satisfied with his lessons, they get to pay nothing—keep that in mind.

The weird thing about Iron Will’s assertiveness seminar is that it’s supposedly his first such seminar, attended by a large crowd of ponies who are tired of being pushovers, and yet everyone in Ponyville already seems to be incredibly assertive today. Maybe Iron Will also secretly teaches lessons in time travel, and ponies who received his lessons traveled back in time so they could be all brutal and walk all over the innocent and oblivious Fluttershy? Oh man, I’m really sorry for all these stupid crackpot theories. I know it probably sounds like I’m dancing around the truth that this episode’s events make no sense, and that it absurdly flattens just about every character involved.

Iron Will selects Fluttershy from the back of the audience to demonstrate his assertiveness lessons and prove that they can work on anyone.

This episode loves to forget Fluttershy can fly.

Iron Will: Whoa, he’s blocking your path! What are you gonna do about it?
Fluttershy: Um, politely walk around him?
Iron Will: No.
Fluttershy: Gingerly tiptoe around him?
Iron Will: No.
Fluttershy: Go back home and try again tomorrow?
Iron Will: No! When somepony tries to block, show them that you rock!

This exchange leads Fluttershy to slowly figure out how to be assertive when others are in her way. She tells the goat off in a way that’s somewhat faltering, but much less so than when she clumsily tried to get a hold of the last cherry earlier. This is where a light bulb seems to go off in Fluttershy’s head: from here on out, she’s figured out how to be assertive. Maybe it wasn’t too hard for her because we had already seen the fearless, intimidating hero deep inside her in season 1 (Dragonshy, Stare Master)? Maybe she just forgot how to assert herself because she hadn’t done so in a while? Or maybe, just maybe, this episode’s events are all a hallucination.

OK, on second thought… maybe I don’t have to take this episode too seriously? I mean, Fluttershy’s smug face when she looks in the mirror is pretty funny, right? Yes, it is funny, and it’s weirdly adorable how enthusiastic and happy Fluttershy is about being assertive.

To demonstrate her newfound assertiveness, she sees a familiar face excessively watering her flowers, and what does she do in response? She at first politely tries to tell him to stop, but then remembers Iron Will’s lessons and goes an extra step further than even he probably would. She steps on the hose and then lets go so that a bunch of water is sprayed in this guy’s face. We’ve known since season 1’s Dragonshy that Fluttershy had an inner assertive side, but now she’s gone unhinged and is going WAY overboard with this aspect of her personality.

“When somepony won’t let you pass by, remember you can fly!”
(Not a real Iron Will line, I made it up.)

When Fluttershy sees two ponies carrying garbage and blocking her path on a bridge, she asserts herself by dumping the garbage on them, causing them not to get mad at Fluttershy for doing that, but simply to get out of the way. I can’t help but notice a big contrast between evil Fluttershy here and evil Fluttershy in The Best Night Ever. In The Best Night Ever, Fluttershy’s mental breakdown works because she’s hilariously bad at trying to trap animals and even once falls into her own trap. But in this episode, she’s somehow become good at intimidating others out of her way, and her schemes never seem to backfire. What could that possibly be about??? Just between you and me, maybe this episode just isn’t all that good.

When Fluttershy is cut in front of yet again, she not only makes the pony who cut in front of her go to the back, but makes everyone else in line do the same, leaving her to be first in line at Sugarcube Corner. And guess what happens next? Pinkie Pie and Rarity are proud of Fluttershy for being such a scary jerk! What has gotten into those two? Do you think they could possibly be changelings impersonating Rarity and Pinkie Pie??? Nah, I’m not pulling out the changeling excuse this time. Still, these two are weirdly incredibly flat in this episode.

When Pinkie Pie so much as laughs, not even at Fluttershy’s expense or anything, Fluttershy responds by dumping a bowl of punch onto Pinkie Pie. I can’t help but laugh at how bizarre and sudden this is, as well as the fact that only now do Pinkie Pie and Rarity realize the problem with being excessively assertive. But the sad truth is that often in life, you don’t realize how messed up something is until you experience it firsthand, and Pinkie Pie falling victim to Fluttershy’s assertiveness is a good example. Pinkie Pie getting trashed on leads Rarity to have the same realization about the so-called “New Fluttershy”, which is an admirable instance of caring about her friends.

After a few more acts of cruelty from New Fluttershy that straddle the line between humorous and discomforting to me, she confronts Rarity and Pinkie Pie head-on. Rarity criticizes Fluttershy for having turned into such a monster, saying that she wants the old Fluttershy back. Pinkie Pie has a similar reaction, but she’s also humorously overwhelmed about how there’s so many different versions of Fluttershy to keep track of.

… And then comes the infamous part.

Fluttershy: Things getting too complicated for your simple little brain, Pinkie Pie?
Rarity: Now, stop right there. Let’s not let things descend into petty insults.
Fluttershy: Why not? I thought petty was what you’re all about, Rarity, with your petty concerns about fashion.
Rarity: (gasps)
Pinkie Pie: Hey, leave her alone! Fashion is her passion.
Fluttershy: Oh, and what are you passionate about? Birthday cake? Party hats? I can’t believe that the two most frivolous ponies in Ponyville are trying to tell new Fluttershy how to live her life when they are throwing their lives away on pointless pursuits that nopony else gives a flying feather about!

Yep, that’s right: Fluttershy has gone off the deep end, and I can’t blame Rarity and Pinkie Pie for being so shocked. Where did this aggressive rant even come from?! Was Fluttershy holding in negative thoughts about two of her best friends this whole time, and only now did she have it in her to let them out? Was she so frustrated by Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s newly aggressive ways that all she could do in response was chew them out aggressively? Has she been driven crazy by the strangely hostile mannerisms that have been inflicted on her since she went shopping for Angel? Or are we really supposed to believe the excuse her friends provide her, namely that Iron Will made her this way??? This episode doesn’t seem to know what message it wants to give viewers, especially when it comes to blaming someone being a jerk on someone else.

Oh yeah, the phrase “flying feather” is an blatant allusion to actual profanity, and I find it amusing that the show got away with doing so. Perhaps that phrase was put in to give this rant some extra punch for viewers old enough to know profanity.

I’m going to pretend it makes sense for the plants around Fluttershy’s house to suddenly be dead after only one night.

That certainly wouldn’t be the weirdest thing about this episode.

After staring into a puddle and realizing she’s become a monster, Fluttershy secludes herself at home, scared that she will unleash her inner vile self again. But Rarity and Pinkie Pie beg to differ.

Rarity: Sweetie, Pinkie Pie doesn’t blame you, nor do I. You just received some bad advice from that Iron Will character.
Pinkie Pie: Yeah! He’s the one that made you act super-duper nasty!
(Rarity bumps Pinkie Pie disapprovingly)
Rarity: What I mean is, there are other ways to assert yourself besides yelling at everypony!

Now that I think of it, maybe on an in-universe level it makes sense for Rarity and Pinkie Pie to blame Iron Will for Fluttershy’s rude deeds. Maybe those two simply cannot believe that Fluttershy would ever be this nasty, so they decide to blame it on someone else. I’m not sure how good of a message this is for viewers, but this does lead Fluttershy to finally stand up to Iron Will, who is conveniently right around the corner, waiting for Fluttershy to pay his fee.

Fluttershy’s faint “choo!” is adorable. Another bright spot in this episode.

Rarity tries to sweet talk Iron Will out of his money again, but this guy is too committed to his promises to let that slide. After claiming Fluttershy might not be home, Pinkie Pie uses her back-and-forth argument trick to get Iron Will to wait a full day instead of a half day, and he almost falls for it until he hears Fluttershy faintly sneezing. Don’t you think it’s admirable on some level for Iron Will not to fall for cheap tricks like this? Maybe Pinkie Pie and Rarity have a lesson to learn about scamming others out of their money.

And here’s where Fluttershy finally stands up to Iron Will. She refuses to pay for his seminar and gives a genuine reason why: she was not satisfied with his lessons in assertiveness and thus does not have any reason to pay, which is in line with Iron Will’s promise at the start of the seminar. It’s sort of a paradox that Fluttershy expresses dissatisfaction in assertiveness lessons while being assertive, but I guess the idea here is that she didn’t need those lessons in the first place? We’ve known since season 1 that Fluttershy has an assertive side that comes out in dire circumstances, and it seems like two of her friends just needed to remind her of the right way to be assertive. At least, that’s the best explanation I can think of.

Iron Will: Are you sure you’re not just a little bit satisfied? Uh, because maybe we could… cut a deal. I mean… we’re both reasonable creatures, aren’t we?
Fluttershy: I’m sorry, but no means no.
Iron Will: No means no, huh? Nobody’s ever said that to me before. Huh…
Iron Will: I gotta remember that one. That’s a good catchphrase for my next workshop.

Man, this passage is making me think about how cool it would be if from here on out, Fluttershy and Iron Will became friends and worked together in their assertiveness seminars, but I guess it was not meant to be. Rarity and Pinkie Pie simply congratulate Fluttershy for this act of assertiveness, which naturally leads to the episode’s letter to Celestia.

In her letter, Fluttershy says she learned that you don’t need to change who you are to stand up for others, which feels like something she already knew and thus comes off as a redundant moral. She demonstrates this moral in action by using her signature stare on Angel to get him to eat his bowl with cucumbers, and despite initial reluctance, Angel ends up loving cucumbers. This nicely parallels the moral of Read It and Weep, and it’s weird that this episode has another bright spot at the very end.

Overall thoughts:

Compared to other Fluttershy episodes where she stands up against dangerous threats, this one doesn’t really work. We see a whole bunch of severely exaggerated instances of others rolling over Fluttershy, then exaggerated instances of the new Fluttershy rolling over others, and finally a somewhat satisfying but paradoxical instance of Fluttershy standing up to Iron Will. I feel that the background citizens of Ponyville are portrayed as far too rude and flat for this episode to run feel fluid, and Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s manipulative tricks do not help matters. Other Fluttershy episodes do what this one does except better, meaning there’s little merit to be found in this one. And as for Fluttershy’s nasty speech to Rarity and Pinkie Pie, what on earth WAS that? Why did it need to be a thing?! Maybe you have an answer to that question, but I sure don’t.

If there’s something I can praise about this episode… I guess it serves this episode well to only feature three of the Mane 6 instead of all of them. It helps make this episode more focused, but that’s not so much of a compliment as a statement of relief that it didn’t portray all the Mane 6 as smug and haughty.

Grade: F

What’s the point of having an F grade in your grading system if you’re never going to use it? This episode, like any episode, has its good moments, but as a whole it sadly falls flat.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Yes, I know this episode has some clearly deliberate cameos of fan favorite background ponies, but this time I didn’t feel like pointing out any of them. You should pretty much know the drill with those cameos anyway.
  • The guy excessively watering Fluttershy’s flowers had previously appeared in The Best Night Ever as the pony whose whistling she mistook for a bird. As of this episode, he now has a name: Mr. Greenhooves.
  • After Fluttershy claims she’s not satisfied with Iron Will’s lesson, he communicates with his goats who only speak in bleating. In a different timeline, this ability to talk to animals would be a nice thing for Fluttershy and Iron Will to bond over, but she eventually becomes friends with Discord who was a much more significant villain anyway.
  • I’m going to guess that during the events of this episode, Twilight Sparkle, Spike, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash went on a pleasant and fun trip that didn’t get an episode because it went by without any mishaps whatsoever.

In this episode, I semi-jokingly speculated that Fluttershy went through a time travel mishap. The next one, on the other hand, really does involve time travel.


See you next week (as usual, may or may not actually be next week) for another pair of episodes, the first of which I’ve always found to be one of the funniest.

>> Part 19: It’s About Time + Dragon Quest

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