Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 23: Too Many Pinkie Pies + One Bad Apple


< Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 >

Season 3, Episodes 3-4

Season 3 Episode 3: Too Many Pinkie Pies

In five words: Pinkie’s cloning attempt wreaks havoc.

Premise: Faced with the problem that she can’t spend time with all her friends at once, Pinkie Pie finds a way to make more of herself. This very quickly gets out of hand.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle practicing magic, only to be interrupted by a surprise hug from Pinkie Pie. This is yet another scene that I feel indicates these two have a somewhat lopsided friendship. Plenty of times, Pinkie gets on Twilight’s nerves with her zany antics, and their testy dynamic prevails all the way to season 9 in A Trivial Pursuit, but I’m getting way ahead of myself.

Pinkie Pie is bubbling up with her extreme hyperactive energy and didn’t let much of it out in her hug with Twilight. She’s like a bottle of soda that has been shaken up, ready to explode with carbonation when opened, and as such her behavior is more insane than usual. When she sees Rarity made a new fancy dress without having Pinkie Pie around, she panics like crazy about missing out on all her friends’ fun times.

Pinkie Pie hurries around and checks in on all her friends, and when she gets to Fluttershy, she’s short on breath and eventually faints. She normally doesn’t show it, but she has a desperate and insecure side beneath her humor. She internally doubts whether her friends truly care about her, and save for extremely rare moments, she can only express these doubts through cartoony humor. But none of this is new information; don’t you remember what went down in Party of One? I mean, it’s pretty hard not to.

I must say, Pinkie Pie is a fun character to analyze in-depth because when I analyze her, I consistently blur the line between absurd jokes and genuine analysis. Such is the magic of her character; her goofy nature tells you a lot about her deep insecurities if you think hard enough. But this is just the beginning!

After the theme song…

Fluttershy: Feeling better, Pinkie?
Pinkie Pie: Abso-tutely-lutely! Thanks for letting me rest in your butterfly grove while I get my Pinkie Strength back!
Fluttershy: What are friends for.
Pinkie Pie: That’s just the thing! I’ve got so many wonderful friends having fun in every last corner of Ponyville, I can’t figure out how to keep up with it all. It’s driving me even more coco-loco than usual!

While it’s abundantly clear by now that Pinkie Pie has an unusual brain, this passage tells us something interesting: she is fully, completely aware that she has an unusual brain, as indicated by the phrase “even more coco-loco than usual”. She knows that her brain works differently from that of other ponies, and while she normally revels in her weirdness, here she’s faced with a predicament caused by something she somehow didn’t learn until now. Namely, she learned that her friends have tons of fun times without necessarily having Pinkie around, and she doesn’t know what to do with this information. She had a full-out mental breakdown when her friends planned a secret birthday party without her in Party of One, and it’s clear here that she is terrified about being left out of the fun. At least this time, she’s willing to have an honest discussion with her friend about this predicament instead of replacing them with bags of flour and dust mites.

Fluttershy: I can promise to not do anything fun at all, if that would help.
Pinkie Pie: You are such a good friend.

I love Fluttershy’s offer to not do anything fun at all: it’s something that only she could say with a straight face. From any other character, this would come off as sarcasm, but Fluttershy truly wants to prevent her friends from freaking out. Instead of trying to talk sense into Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy goes along with her worries and amusingly offers to relinquish any fun plans of her own. Fluttershy’s sincere kindness is a good match with Pinkie Pie’s literal-mindedness.

When Rainbow Dash and Applejack enter the scene, Pinkie Pie is presented with a dilemma. Should she choose to have fun times with Rainbow Dash, or with Applejack? Both of them have separate plans, and they’re both OK with whatever choice Pinkie Pie makes, but she’s incapable of choosing. Not because she loves all her friends equally, but because she can’t stand the thought of missing out on any fun times at all. She’s unknowingly selfish in her desire (and initial presumption) for all the fun times to be taken to her.

Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie both tend to bounce like crazy when they’re excited.

Pinkie Pie interrupts Twilight Sparkle’s magic practice yet again, and then she presents a complicated plan for how to efficiently alternate between Rainbow Dash and Applejack’s events without missing out on the slightest moment of fun. It’s times like this where you realize that Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie aren’t so different after all: both of them tend to make extremely cumbersome plans to get around problems instead of facing them head-on. When Twilight Sparkle sees someone other than her getting all antsy and panicky about a friendship problem, she laughs and knows how ridiculous it is, which is believable because you often don’t know how ridiculous you are being unless you see someone else do the same thing you’re doing. It’s like seeing a reflection of yourself.

And speaking of reflections, when Twilight Sparkle jokingly brings up the far-fetched idea of multiple Pinkie Pies, Pinkie remembers the legend of the Mirror Pool, which is something Twilight has never heard of, and storms off in glee. It sounds to me like the Mirror Pool (I’ll assume it’s capitalized and stick to it) is a tale of Equestrian mythology whose meaning flew over Pinkie Pie’s head. And you know what they say about those who don’t learn history, right? They’re doomed to repeat it. It’s much like how the Cutie Mark Crusaders unknowingly replicated a disastrous tale of Equestrian folklore in Hearts and Hooves Day.

As she goes through Everfree Forest, Pinkie Pie nervously tries to remember the rhymes from the legend of the Mirror Pool, but then she falls into a hole that leads her to the room she’s looking for. I like to imagine this is exactly what happened in that old myth: whichever pony wanted to make clones of themself accidentally fell into the very same hole. It fits with the theme of repeating history.

Pinkie Pie recites the rhyme she learned from the legend, and voila! Now there’s two of her! In a trippy illusion scene, the clone of Pinkie Pie walks out of the lake in a way that makes it seem like the original Pinkie Pie walked into the lake. Naturally enough, Pinkie Pie had no idea that there’s a catch. She did not create a clone of herself with all the same thoughts and motives as her. Rather, the lake provided her with an exaggerated copy of herself who follows the reason Pinkie Pie cloned herself down to the letter. All that’s on her clone’s mind is one word: fun. She repeats the word “fun” so much that it doesn’t seem like a word anymore, and she doesn’t have any of the depths or insecurities of the real Pinkie Pie.

Hmm… how do I transcribe dialogue between these two copies of Pinkie Pie? I think I’ll take some inspiration from Homestuck and surround the alternate Pinkie Pie’s name with parentheses. In the image above, on the left is Pinkie Pie, and on the right is (Pinkie Pie).

Pinkie Pie: Excuse me, me! Can I have a word with you? Uh, I mean, me?
Pinkie Pie: Listen, I can see you’re having lots of fun, but…
(Pinkie Pie): Fun? Did somebody say fun??? Where?!
Pinkie Pie: I did, over here!
(Pinkie Pie): I thought someone said something about fun!!! Where is it? Over here? Over here? I don’t see it. Where is it, where is it???
Pinkie Pie: Oh, calm yourself, me. There’s loads of fun to be had in Ponyville with my girls!

Let me stop and think about the sharp contrast between Pinkie Pie and (Pinkie Pie). I think it’s quite clear that the legend of the Mirror Pool isn’t an instruction guide on how to clone yourself; rather, it’s a fable on why you shouldn’t clone yourself. In the MLP universe, true self-cloning is impossible,* so the lake instead provides those who attempt to use its power with an exaggerated copy of them who reflects their worst qualities and gives them a lot of thoughts to chew on. It’s very common in fiction for two copies of the same character to get into bitter arguments and have their worst qualities reflected on each other, and (Pinkie Pie) plays off this trope by being nothing but Pinkie Pie’s worst qualities.

* Unless maybe your name is Discord. Maybe.

Pinkie Pie is walking, (Pinkie Pie) is bouncing.
A suitable representation of how one exaggerates the other.

Pinkie Pie tells (Pinkie Pie) all about her friends and then about what they’re doing today. It’s pretty funny that the only pony who makes Pinkie Pie seem calm and level-headed in comparison is, well, (Pinkie Pie). You can learn a lot about a character by putting them next to someone who exaggerates their traits. In this case, (Pinkie Pie) being a one-note hydrogen bomb of nonstop excitement shows us that Pinkie Pie loves her friends more than anything else.

I hope the whole Pinkie Pie/(Pinkie Pie) thing isn’t too confusing.

Pinkie Pie’s initial plan is to stop by Rainbow Dash while (Pinkie Pie) visits Applejack. Rainbow Dash is exhausted after a hard day’s work and has chosen to chill out by the pool, wearing her signature sunglasses.

Rainbow Dash: Glad you made it, Pinkie. I thought you maybe went to Applejack’s instead.
Pinkie Pie: I did.
Rainbow Dash: Oh. The barn up yet?
Pinkie Pie: I have no idea.
Rainbow Dash: But, I thought you said you were just at Applejack’s.
Pinkie Pie: Actually, I’m probably still on my way there now! Whee!!!

Though Pinkie Pie seems level-headed next to (Pinkie Pie), she’s still incredibly whimsical and zany, as she proves here. She often doesn’t know when the stuff she explains makes sense to others and not just her, and Rainbow Dash scratches her head in confusion at Pinkie Pie’s statements.

While Pinkie Pie follows her promises, (Pinkie Pie) is distracted from her initial goal when she stumbles upon Fluttershy, who couldn’t resist having a picnic with her animals despite her initial promise not to have any fun. I find it interesting that (Pinkie Pie) refers to Applejack as Applejohn; it shows that her brain is so clogged up with “FUN! FUN! FUN! FUN! FUN!” that she has basically no room to remember the names of the real Pinkie Pie’s friends. The real Pinkie Pie knows every detail of everything about not just the Mane 6, but the entire population of Ponyville, which is another major difference.

It’s also worth noting that (Pinkie Pie) panics about walls closing in as the camera zooms in on her, much to Fluttershy’s confusion. I like to think (Pinkie Pie’s) remark about walls is an exaggeration of another Pinkie Pie trait, namely her fourth wall awareness.

Pinkie Pie finishes explaining how she can be in two places at once, but Rainbow Dash doesn’t buy it, probably because she’s so drowsy and exhausted. This shows that the real Pinkie Pie will kindly explain herself if needed, unlike her insanely airheaded clones. Pinkie Pie further demonstrates her consideration for her friends’ feelings by slowing herself down while gently diving into the pool. Rainbow Dash asks Pinkie Pie how she did that, and I know the answer. It’s time powers. Pinkie Pie is a time lord, I’m telling you.

Pinkie Pie left, (Pinkie Pie) right.

It’s pretty tricky to convey which Pinkie Pie is the real one, and it’s even gotten me confused a few times, as I’ve had to rewrite parts of this post a few times already. This episode distinguishes the two by having (Pinkie Pie) constantly get her friends’ names wrong, which is a clever way to differentiate them while also showing that (Pinkie Pie’s) brain is occupied entirely by FUN. Anyway, (Pinkie Pie) is disappointed that she didn’t get to have fun because she was sidetracked by Fluttershy and got panicky, so Pinkie Pie decides the solution is another round of cloning! She still has the best interests at heart, and she hasn’t seen the worst her clones can do.

Now we have four Pinkie Pies! I think I’ll call the two new ones [Pinkie Pie] and {Pinkie Pie}, bottom left and bottom right on the image above respectively.

… Just kidding, there’s really no need to distinguish all those clones from here on out. Besides, how would I be able to keep track of which is which? Not any better than Pinkie Pie herself would. And if I were to keep going, at some point I’d have to resort to foreign punctuation and make ridiculous names like «Pinkie Pie» or 「Pinkie Pie」.

Pinkie Pie tells her new clones which of her friends each one should hang out with, but they don’t listen. Instead, they clone themselves, making there be seven Pinkie Pies total. Then, Pinkie turns her back one moment too long, and she’s met with the scene shown above. She’s freaked out at first, but she decides to take advantage of this situation by strategically placing her clones across every corner of Ponyville so they don’t miss out on a thing. But the clones are too simple-minded to listen to these instructions: they just dash off at the first chance they get and cause a storm of trouble.

There’s way too many hilarious background shenanigans for me to even begin to list.

… And also a storm of hilarity. At first Rainbow Dash didn’t believe the duplicates were real, but now she sees them firsthand and is blown away. While most of her clones are making a noisy ruckus, the real Pinkie Pie demonstrates her caring side through contrast yet again. She brings a “floaty thing” for Rainbow Dash with the idea that it would be both fun and relaxing, and when she sees her clones chanting “fun” over and over, she doesn’t freak out, but instead decides to check on Applejack’s place.

Pinkie Pie’s clones ruin Applejack’s barn raising, and Applejack isn’t happy about it:

Pinkie Pie: Oh, phew! Looks like I haven’t missed a thing.
Applejack: I want to know right now where all you Pinkies came from so I can find out who’s responsible for y’all ruining our barn raising!
Pinkie Pie: Uh… you look pretty busy right now, so uh… (nervously laughs) maybe we should talk a little later?

When Pinkie Pie gets herself into a bad situation, she doesn’t tend to acknowledge it, and instead tries to laugh it off and convince herself everything is fine. This is a common pattern with Pinkie Pie, and she’s been demonstrating it throughout this episode.

When Twilight Sparkle’s magic show is interrupted by more Pinkie Pie clones, she finds a book describing the legend of the Mirror Pond (I thought it was called the Mirror Pool, but I guess Pinkie remembered it wrong). She finds a magic spell that can send Pinkie Pie’s clones back where they came from, but it comes at the risk of sending away the real Pinkie Pie. This presents a new challenge for the Mane 6: figuring out which is the real Pinkie Pie so that she’s spared. Given her success in telling the real Cadance apart from her impostor in the last season finale, it makes sense for Twilight to think there should be an easy way to tell apart the real Pinkie Pie.

With a storm of Pinkie Pies comes a storm of slapstick humor.

But the problem is much more difficult here because there’s a whole crowd of Pinkie Pies to weed out, and the fakes all claim to be the real one due to their empty, airheaded nature. A Pinkie Pie who is evidently the real one breaks into tears about the difficulty of figuring out which is real. She’s past her breaking point now, no longer able to convince herself that this was even remotely a good idea.

Spike: So, let me guess. You’re the real Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie: Heck if I know! Could be any one of us if you ask me.
Pinkie Pie: And if I said I was the real Pinkie, you wouldn’t even believe me anyway. So just leave me alone. I’ve got some important poking the ground with my hoof to do.

Pinkie Pie has lost track of what’s real and isn’t real anymore, and she internally doubts that she’s the real one. But it’s obvious to the audience that she’s the real one because none of her clones have anywhere near as much depth and emotion inside them. We’ve seen Pinkie Pie go past her breaking point before; this isn’t as extreme as Party of One, but it’s still a good example of her melancholy side. Even though it’s easy for the audience to tell that this is the real Pinkie, Twilight Sparkle insists on being absolutely sure they don’t spare the wrong one, which conveniently allows the climax of the episode to happen.

It doesn’t take long for Pinkie Pie to have an idea: she suggests for Twilight Sparkle to gather all the Pinkie Pies and force them to do something extremely boring, and whichever stays the longest is spared. It’s very easy to forget that Pinkie Pie herself had the idea for this test, and it shows how desperate she is to be with her friends again. It also shows that she’s a more nuanced character than you might realize.

Rainbow Dash would never leave her buddy Tank hanging.

Several of the Mane 6 and their animals are taking shelter inside a tree, as if hiding from a hurricane. This is a fitting comparison because Rarity had previously described the situation as a “Pinkie hurricane”, making for an interesting equivalent to natural disasters.

The Apple family rounds up most of the Pinkie Pies inside Ponyville’s town hall, and Twilight Sparkle gets them all to sit down not through any sort of magic spell, but simply by yelling at them to. Putting aside her swath of magic powers, it’s easy to forget that Twilight has quite a strong command over leadership.

Rainbow Dash brings one more Pinkie Pie to the scene, and she’s so obviously the real one, but I guess Twilight Sparkle has a policy of “better safe than sorry”. It’s probably a fair point that as Pinkie Pie brought up earlier, all the Pinkie Pies look identical and talk identical, so maybe that’s why she’s still hosting this test.

Twilight Sparkle subjects the Pinkie Pies to the most stereotypical boring activity imaginable: watching paint dry. It’s a common idiom for doing something boring, but taken literally. Spike excitedly eats popcorn as he watches, but when he runs out, the competition has still barely begun, much like how when you’re watching a movie in a theater, you’ll probably finish the popcorn only about ten minutes in.

All the Pinkie Pies are staring at the paint quite intently. While the real one badly wants to be with her friends again, the fake ones want to do anything it takes to go back to having FUN. The first one to go is distracted by a bird, and from here on out, the clones dwindle quickly. This turns into a chain reaction of the Pinkie Pies getting distracted, which fits the hydrogen bomb comparison I made earlier.

Early in this episode when making magic spells, Twilight Sparkle accidentally turned a frog into an orange-frog hybrid when Pinkie Pie distracted her. That turns out to come in handy, because the orange frog ends up distracting not one, but three Pinkie Pie clones, helping Twilight Sparkle whittle down on them.

Could this scene be foreshadowing Equestria Girls?
(I mean this half as a joke.)

In the third episode of the third season, we have a callback to the third generation of MLP!
An unsettling juxtaposition of art styles if I say so myself. But also an interesting one, showing that the complete overhaul of the animation style did wonders to the MLP franchise.

I like to think the last Pinkie Pie clone remaining is the first one she made, who I called (Pinkie Pie).

Most of the Pinkie Pies quickly lose their patience after this, and before we know it, we’re down to two left. Rainbow Dash has also lost her patience, so she distracts the last clone by saying that “somepony is making balloon animals”. With only two Pinkie Pies left, one of which is the original one, there aren’t a lot of distractions left for them, so it’s clever for Rainbow Dash to distract the last one herself.

And with that, Pinkie Pie has passed the test. When I first watched this episode years ago, I thought it was contrived that the real Pinkie Pie would just so happen to stare at the drying paint for long enough to survive the test, but now I think it says a lot about her character that she survived the grueling wait. Her life was at stake here, and she was desperate not only to be with her friends, but to regain her sense of self, as indicated by her exuberant “I’m me!” It sounds like she had been going through quite the identity crisis with all these clones. Her clones were only like Pinkie Pie on a surface level.

Now, I think the real contrivance of this episode is that the Mane 6 weren’t immediately able to tell which is the real Pinkie Pie when they saw her regretting what she did. Maybe they didn’t know Pinkie Pie quite as well as they had thought? That’s probably the main hole in this episode, now that I think of it.

Pinkie Pie narrates her letter to Celestia about how sometimes in life, you will have to choose which of your friends to spend time with, and that’s perfectly fine because your friends will still love you the same. She had tried getting around this problem, but all she did was replicate the events of an old Equestrian myth, at least if my speculation is correct. Either way, this episode is styled much like a fairy tale or myth: an everyday commoner stumbles upon a magical solution to one of life’s problems, except it backfires horribly and they learn that they simply need to live with that inconvenience.

The rest of the Mane 6 come by and offer to bring Pinkie Pie for various activities, but instead of choosing between any of them, Pinkie Pie chooses to take a nap by herself; a fitting thing to do after an exhausting day of dealing with her clones, and a fitting end for this episode.

Overall thoughts:

I expected this episode’s review to be a quick and short one, but it ended up the opposite! As with most episodes of the show, my appreciation of it increased enormously after analyzing it in depth, except for one issue: the Mane 6 somehow not being able to tell right away that the Pinkie Pie who gloomily regrets making all those clones is the real one. But I’m not the kind of person who would insist that the entire episode falls apart because of this issue. This episode gives us a great look into Pinkie Pie’s insecure side through her clone shenanigans, in a much more subtle way than in Party of One—subtle enough that only by intricately picking apart this episode have I come to see it.

Grade: B

Aside from the one major flaw I talked about, everything else about this episode is great.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • When traversing the Everfree Forest, Pinkie Pie mentions her Nanna Pinkie, a relative of hers who we never see onscreen. Could it be that she’s the same clone of Pinkie Pie who briefly appears in The Saddle Row Review, and she traveled back in time to become Nanna Pinkie and fulfill a stable time loop? If that’s the case, I hope Nanna Pinkie isn’t a genetic ancestor of Pinkie Pie, because that would have, let’s just say… uncomfortable implications. If you’ve seen the Futurama episode Roswell That Ends Well, then you know what I mean.
    • I just realized Futurama and MLP both have an episode whose title is a pun on “all’s well that ends well”, but that probably isn’t all that special.
  • When relaxing at the pool, Rainbow Dash isn’t reading a new Daring Do book, but rather rereading the first in the series. I think the fact that she’s eagerly reading the same books over and over again is an adorable demonstration of how obsessed she’s become with the book series.
  • What you are reading now is the first words I ever typed in 2022. Working on this post is the very first thing I did in 2022, as a matter of fact.

While this episode’s review ended up much longer than I expected, I already know that my review of the next one will be a doozy.

Season 3 Episode 4: One Bad Apple

In five words: Catchy song belies questionable moral.

Premise: Babs Seed, Apple Bloom’s cousin from Manehattan, comes to visit Ponyville, but instead of befriending the Cutie Mark Crusaders, she starts bullying them.

Detailed run-through:

To start this episode, Apple Bloom nervously tries on a bunch of different outfits in preparation to meet her cousin Babs Seed for the first time. Applejack tries getting her to hurry up, and she fails until she reveals that Babs Seed doesn’t have her cutie mark yet, which gets Apple Bloom extremely excited. I presume Apple Bloom’s initial nervousness comes from her experience with other kids her age, especially Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. But once she knows that Babs Seed is a blank flank, she thinks nothing can possibly go wrong.

Before I get to the important stuff, I’m obligated to mention Sweetie Belle showing some slight sparks of magic. This is our first hint that she will eventually successfully learn magic in season 4, which isn’t that far away! It does feel a little far away though, since it’s the only season of the show that I followed as it was happening, making it distinct from the other seasons in my mind.

The moment Babs Seed steps out of the train, the Cutie Mark Crusaders overwhelm her with excitement and barely let her say a word. Babs Seed is very nervous and keeps hiding her lack of a cutie mark, even though the Crusaders don’t have theirs either. Knowing what we learn at the end of this episode, could it be that Babs has been so traumatized by bullies that she doesn’t even trust her fellow blank flanks not to pick on her? So far, this episode is proving not to be the easiest to make sense of.

The Crusaders don’t know much about Babs Seed, and working with the little they do know, they decide that since she’s from Manehattan, they would be able to win her over by presenting something fanciful. So the three of them proudly present a pumpkin float they built for an upcoming parade…

… but when Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon come in and mock the Crusaders, Babs Seed decides to join them. This makes no sense, but, well, it’s not supposed to make sense. The episode gives us an explanation for Babs’ behavior at the end, but I really don’t know if it’s a fair one.

But what does make sense is the Crusaders’ reaction after Babs Seed knocks their float down.

Apple Bloom: What… just… happened?
Scootaloo: I think Babs just went to the dark side.
Sweetie Belle: We have to tell Applejack!
Apple Bloom: No. We are not snitches!
Scootaloo: Yeah. And we’re not babies!
Sweetie Belle: Then… why do I feel like crying?

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo try to fight back Babs Seed’s accusations that they are snitches and crybabies, and at this point they’re probably already thinking of one-upping Babs Seed. Well, I doubt Apple Bloom would already go this far on her own cousin, but Scootaloo doesn’t have any connection to Babs Seed. Meanwhile, Sweetie Belle makes an earnest effort to handle this situation in a mature way. Even though Sweetie Belle knows almost nothing about Babs Seed, I can tell she’s downright heartbroken. She knows that sometimes in life, you can’t help but cry and there’s no two ways about it.

Come to think of it, I think it was this episode that made me realize that Sweetie Belle is my favorite of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. In all the years since I first watched MLP, that stance hasn’t changed one bit. She’s just so precious and lovable.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders resolve to avoid Babs Seed at all costs. But Scootaloo just HAD to tempt fate by saying “how hard can that be?” Thanks a lot, Scootaloo.

On the bright side, this line leads to the best part of the entire episode: the song Babs Seed, possibly the best song in the entire show thus far. It’s a fun and catchy song that I may possibly have hummed along to while working on this review. I don’t have it in me to dissect this musical number in depth, or pause the song to take a bunch of screenshots (I only took one, shown above). All I can do at this part is sit back and enjoy the cool song and the cool animation that goes with it, and then rewind it and watch the song over and over again. This episode stuck out to me through all the years where I was in denial about liking MLP solely because of the musical number.

The Crusaders find out that Babs Seed, Diamond Tiara, and Silver Spoon have taken over their clubhouse, and Babs Seed blocks them from entering. Here’s Sweetie Belle’s response:

Sweetie Belle knows it’s not right to give Babs Seed a taste of her own medicine, and she loves being part of the Cutie Mark Crusaders just as much as the other two do. And since the others don’t want her to tell Applejack what’s been going on, all she can do is cry. Her burst into tears has a tinge of humor with Apple Bloom and Scootaloo getting out an umbrella, but she’s still genuinely devastated.

The Crusaders meeting in Sweetie Belle’s bedroom probably fueled theories that Scootaloo is an orphan, much like that scene early in Ponyville Confidential.

It turns out Babs Seed also kicked Apple Bloom out of her own bed, which is a whole new level of nasty.

Sweetie Belle: We need to talk to Applejack!
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo: NO!
Sweetie Belle: Rarity?
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo: NO!
Sweetie Belle: Twilight?
Apple Bloom: No, no, no! We need to fight back!

It’s pretty endearing that after Sweetie Belle’s proposal to talk to Applejack is rejected again, the next two adult ponies to come to mind are her own big sister and Twilight Sparkle. I’m guessing the reason Twilight came to mind is because she’s been solving friendship problems left and right ever since she came to Ponyville. It’s much like how Sweetie Belle leans on the fourth wall with remarks about the Mane 6 constantly solving friendship problems in Slice of Life.

Sweetie Belle is excited about being covered by golden glitter, much like Rarity was excited about being a sparkly crystal pony.

Winning two against one, the Crusaders built a float to fight back against Babs Seed and embarrass her using supplies from Carousel Boutique and Sugarcube Corner. Sweetie Belle feels conflicted about participating in her best friends’ scheme, and this exchange suggests that the other two didn’t tell her all the details:

Scootaloo: Did you bring the… thing? From the place?
(Apple Bloom gets out a timer)
Sweetie Belle: What’s that?
Apple Bloom: Granny Smith’s kitchen timer.
Sweetie Belle: What’s that for?
Scootaloo: You’ll see. (laughs)

While Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are mischievous and excited about avenging Babs Seed, Sweetie Belle’s participation in building the float extends only to making it look nice and pretty, not the rigged time bomb mechanism inside.

In the montage of the Crusaders building the float, Scootaloo is briefly excited to get a wrench-shaped cutie mark, but it’s merely a stain of oil. She doesn’t look extremely excited to get her cutie mark, only moderately excited, which surely indicates that she’s far more eager to get revenge on Babs, and earning her cutie mark (or so she thinks) is just a nice bonus.

The next day, the Crusaders present their golden apple float to Babs Seed. Sweetie Belle advertises how cool it looks, obviously proud of their work, but her friends stop her and Scootaloo uses reverse psychology on Babs instead. This again shows that Sweetie Belle isn’t quite as in on this plan as the other two are. However, she does set the timer off with a mischievous look on her face, showing that she isn’t perfectly innocent here either. She’s only mostly perfectly innocent.

Babs Seed boards the float as expected, and then comes the shocking reveal.

Applejack: Y’all are letting Babs ride in your golden apple float?
Apple Bloom: Yeah. We thought she deserved to be the… “center of attention”.
(Cutie Mark Crusaders laugh)
Applejack: Well, that’s just super sweet of y’all. Making Babs feel so special. You know, after all the heartache she’s been having in Manehattan.
Apple Bloom: Heartache?
Applejack: Well, I didn’t say nothing ’cause I didn’t want her to feel singled out… but there’s been some bullies back in Manehattan just been teasing her to pieces for her blank flank.
Apple Bloom: … Teased?
Sweetie Belle: B- b- bullies?
Applejack: Yep. She came out to the farm to get away from all her problems back home.
Applejack: I’m so proud of y’all. You done a good deed!

So, uh, let me get this straight. Applejack says near the end of this episode that the Crusaders should have told her how Babs Seed was behaving, but in this scene, she somehow can’t read the Crusaders’ expressions and deduce that they’ve been bullying Babs Seed back. This episode portrays adults as wise and understanding… while also portraying them as gullible and unable to read kids’ expressions.

The Crusaders realize that Babs Seed became a bully because she didn’t want to be bullied in Ponyville, and that they themselves have become bullies in return. Babs Seed must have been ENORMOUSLY traumatized in Manehattan if that’s a justifiable reason for her to be so nasty to the Crusaders. I can only imagine that Manehattan’s bullies make Diamond Tiara seem as kind and gentle as Fluttershy in comparison.

The Crusaders tell Applejack that they booby trapped the float once they’re not interrupted by instruments, but they don’t have time to explain the whole story. All they can do is hop inside Pinkie Pie’s float and tell Babs Seed to get out of theirs, but she doesn’t listen. The lettuce float then tumbles down, and the Crusaders chase Babs Seed and get her out right before the float rolls down a hill. But for some reason, they don’t get themselves out of the float immediately afterwards, and they fall into the river. Did they think they should disarm the booby trap and keep the float safe in case it could be used in the future? It was foolish of them not to get out, but at least it’s possible to come up with a silly explanation.

And this is where Babs Seed has a change of heart. She realizes that the Cutie Mark Crusaders saved her, and she and the Crusaders apologize to each other. This also leads Sweetie Belle to utter the line that sold me on her character, and it needs some context.

Babs Seed: I don’t get it! I saw it all happen!
Babs Seed: You pushed me out just when the float was about to head into the lake.
Scootaloo: Except… we were the reason it was headed into the lake.
Sweetie Belle: We booby trapped the float.
Apple Bloom: You see, Babs, we were trying to get you back for being a big bully.
Scootaloo: But then Applejack told us about how you were being bullied back in Manehattan.
Sweetie Belle: And we figured out you were just doing it to avoid getting picked on in Ponyville.
Sweetie Belle: But by then… we were the ones being bullies, and… Oh, why does life have to be so ironic?!

See the text I bolded above? The bolded text that isn’t the name of a character, I mean. It’s the very line that permanently sold me on Sweetie Belle’s character and made me realize she is the best Cutie Mark Crusader. She’s adorable and precious, but she also makes tons of on-point observations about life and the ways of Ponyville.

Then comes the controversial moral: as Applejack states, all this trouble could have been avoided if the Cutie Mark Crusaders told her about it. To many viewers, this comes off as saying that telling an adult is a universal solution to stopping bullying, even though in real life that doesn’t always work. As I had said a little earlier, this episode portrays adults as all-knowing and oblivious at the same time. Well, not at the same time, I really mean in different parts of the episode, but it’s the same adult portrayed in these conflicting ways. Normally, the show doesn’t portray adults as supreme authority figures who know everything, especially since the show itself has a large adult audience, and that’s the weirdest thing about the moral to me. But maybe you could interpret the moral as saying that it doesn’t hurt to at least try telling an adult?

Aw, this is a cute image.

With a humorously cumbersome introduction speech, Babs Seed is invited to join the Cutie Mark Crusaders, upgrading them from a trio to a quartet… except after Babs Seed appears again a few episodes later, she’s shafted for the entire rest of the show, so the Cutie Mark Crusaders are effectively still just a trio. It’s unfortunate that Babs is put to the sidelines like this after her grandiose introduction. I guess the show’s staff had other characters to focus on, especially after Starlight Glimmer happened.* When an established group of characters in a show gets a new addition (TV Tropes calls it the “sixth ranger”), the new character tends to be controversial, but Babs Seed ended up being a fan favorite character!

* Don’t get me wrong, I love Starlight Glimmer.

And the next scene shows why that is. Babs Seed promises to start a Manehattan branch of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and to tell her big sister about the bullying back home. This bit of dialogue provides tons of ideas for fans to extrapolate upon and make their own elaborate fanworks starring Babs Seed, either about her future adventures with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, or her backstory in Manehattan.

Silver Spoon: So you’re leaving, huh?
Diamond Tiara: Great! Now we’re stuck here with these lame blank flanks.
Babs Seed: Hey! That’s not how you talk to my friends.
Silver Spoon: Friends?!
Babs Seed: Yeah! You got a problem with that?
Diamond Tiara: Well, what if I do? What are you gonna do about it?
Babs Seed: Tell your mothers about your bad attitudes.

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon nervously shake and fall backwards into the mud in response. Babs Seed standing up to them serves as a moment of awesome and no doubt helped her status as a fan favorite character. And I suppose the type of fans who write fanfiction about Babs Seed probably have strong intersection with those who care enough about Babs to follow the show’s external media featuring her; I’m pretty sure she appears a lot in the show’s comics, if my browsing of TV Tropes is anything to go by. So it’s not all bad.

Babs Seed heads onto the train, and Sweetie Belle calls her a “bad seed” but in a good way, which Applejack doesn’t understand, and that ends the episode.

Overall thoughts:

I have mixed feelings about this episode, and I’d probably have a higher opinion on it if Babs Seed wasn’t shafted shortly afterwards. The episode’s inconsistent portrayal of the wisdom of adults weighs it down a lot, and the excuse that Babs Seed bullied the Crusaders because she herself was bullied is either a haphazard excuse or suggests that the bullying inflicted on Babs was downright abusive. And as I said, it doesn’t help that Babs’ addition to the Cutie Mark Crusaders isn’t followed through with much.

But this episode has its good parts too! I have to give it credit for making me love Sweetie Belle through her characterization, and I love the scene where Sweetie Belle reads a needlessly cumbersome speech written by Scootaloo to invite Babs Seed to the club. And this episode is a fun way to introduce a new addition to the show’s cast; a very successful one, given Babs Seed’s prominence in fanworks.

In contrast to Too Many Pinkie Pies, my review of this episode ended up much shorter than I expected. I expected One Bad Apple to take up most of this post, but the opposite happened! Why indeed does life have to be so ironic?

Grade: C

Despite everything, I can’t be too hard on an episode with such an awesome musical number.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I’m obligated to mention that we get a glimpse of Rarity’s dad fishing with burnt food by his side. The only purpose of his presence is to clear up that Sweetie Belle normally lives with her parents. Rarity’s parents sadly only have minimal characterization, and one of their few known traits is having comically low standards for food.
  • I’m also obligated to mention that this episode has hints of Scootaloo learning to fly, but unlike the hints of Sweetie Belle’s magic, those never blossom into full-out flight.
  • I’m arguably obligated to mention the whole “veggie salad” thing, I guess? Normally the show’s jokes consistently make me laugh or smile, but this one just makes me weirdly roll my eyes. If the song is the high point of the episode (which is is!), veggie salad is the low point. At least Apple Bloom’s deadpan “seriously?” is on point.
  • One last thing I’m obligated to mention is that Babs Seed standing up to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon is a lot harsher in retrospect after we learn what Diamond Tiara’s mother is like.

In the next episode, we reencounter another fan favorite character: none other than the great and powerful Trixie.

See you next week for another pair of episodes: another with a fan favorite character, and another focused on the Cutie Mark Crusaders. I hope you’re ready for a bunch of walls of text about Trixie!

>> Part 24: Magic Duel + Sleepless in Ponyville

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