Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 33: Pinkie Apple Pie + Rainbow Falls


< Part 32 | Part 33 | Part 34 >

Season 4, Episodes 9-10

I may as well say here that since writing my review of Rarity Takes Manehattan which came out last week, I have kind of maybe gotten obsessed with Coco Pommel and how adorable she is. She hits a sweet spot of character cuteness by being meek and cutesy but not a full-out exaggerated smushy baby. After so many years, I finally know what it’s like to fixate on a minor character in MLP, like so many fans are prone to do. Maybe it’s weird for me to say, but I think part of the charm of this show is that every character, no matter how minor or trivial, has some set of fans out there who think they’re the coolest thing ever. Slice of Life a season from now is a celebration of that fact, and I plan on going as hard as I possibly can when reviewing it.

Season 4 Episode 9: Pinkie Apple Pie

In five words: Genetic relationship cemented as ambiguous.

Premise: Pinkie Pie discovers evidence that she may be distantly related to Applejack, and she sets out on a journey with Applejack’s family to discover if she really is.

Detailed run-through:

You know what I find incredibly satisfying? When the very first scene of a MLP episode has something I can pick apart in depth, so that I don’t need to start with some empty fluff. This episode is a good example thereof.

Pinkie Pie: Whatcha doin’?
Twilight Sparkle: AAA!
Pinkie Pie: “AAA!” yourself! But that doesn’t answer my question, silly.
Twilight Sparkle: Just some genealogical research.
Pinkie Pie: Ohhhhh. (falls out of bookcase)
Pinkie Pie: (whispers to Spike) I don’t know what that is.
Spike: Genealogy is the study of family history! You know, where ponies come from, and who they’re related to.

While Rarity Takes Manehattan is one of the most adult-oriented episodes so far, by which I mean one more easily digestible for adults than for children, this one feels like a blast from the past with the strong amounts of slapstick humor and Pinkie Pie not knowing what a complex word means, leading Spike to explain it as though this were an educational TV series. By which I mean a show that was always unambiguously educational and didn’t just have an educational mandate of some sorts marked by an “e/i” symbol that was dropped after season 1. Not that this is a bad thing at all—it’s nice for MLP to vary the pace with its episodes.

It’s worth noting that Jenga is a Hasbro product, which means this episode could get away with dropping its name if desired.
(That’s probably how this episode got away with including this scene.)

Pinkie Pie takes a scroll from near the bottom of Twilight Sparkle’s stack, and even though Twilight panics that it would collapse and suggests that Pinkie take one from the top, the tower of scrolls remains intact. I can’t decide if this is an example of Pinkie Pie’s reality bending powers, or if she is simply very skilled at pony Jenga.

Accompanied by her characteristic cartoon physics and hyperactive enthusiasm, Pinkie Pie reads near the bottom of the surprisingly long scroll that her family is distantly related to the Apple family, and gets extremely excited about it. The first thing she does after finding the news is go to Applejack’s place and give her a hug, addressing her as “cousin”. Compared to Rarity Takes Manehattan, this one has a distinctly lighthearted tone that feels like a throwback to the early seasons.

The next few minutes of this episode give us even more slapstick humor as Pinkie Pie expresses extreme excitement about being an Apple family member. Applejack and her immediate family are happy about this revelation too, and Apple Bloom is overjoyed in her own childlike manner. It seems like a good question what conflict could possibly occur here…

… and the question is answered when Applejack takes a closer look at the scroll and finds something fishy.

Applejack: I see the part about our great-great-auntie Applesauce and fourth cousin twice removed part, but… that last bit’s awful smudged. Are you sure it says “Pie”?
Pinkie Pie: I guess it is a little smudged, but I see most of it there. And when I read it, I knew in my heart it was true!

Look at that hyper-cartoony expression of pure dreamy wonder.

Think about this for a second. It’s clear Pinkie Pie already sees her friends as family, and she gets delighted to hear any evidence that remotely suggests they really are family. She’s quick to jump to conclusions, which clashes against the more realistic-minded Applejack who wants to get to the bottom of the mystery before getting too excited.

To solve this mystery, Granny Smith suggests to visit her cousin Goldie Delicious, who is the Apple family’s historian. Applejack and the others decide to go on a family road trip and bring Pinkie Pie along, and this leads Applejack to do something she’s done before: obsess over making everything seem as perfect as possible. The last time she did that was in Apple Family Reunion, and this time it’s much closer to home and focused on her immediate family. She’s trying to get her siblings and Granny Smith to stay on their best behavior so that they don’t drive Pinkie Pie away from this possible family, underestimating how much Pinkie Pie already sees them as family.

Just like Big Macintosh, I am the oldest sibling of three, so there are times when I can strongly relate to him.

It’s worth noting that season 4 is where Big Macintosh’s character starts getting fleshed out without compromising his nearly wordless nature. This is done largely through his facial expressions and tone of voice. For instance, the tone in which he says “eyup” when Applejack asks him if he’s sure carrying all this luggage will be a good idea conveys that as the oldest sibling, he tends to think he’s the authority figure and doesn’t like it when his younger siblings question his ideas. It also shows an unexpected trait he has in common with Rarity, who we saw carrying huge piles of luggage in the last episode.

Hey, three episodes in a row with musical numbers!

Next up is the episode’s musical number, Apples to the Core. Before the song begins, we hear rhythmic beats from pans on the cart clanging together and the wheels running over small rocks. I like to think these shaky sound effects hint that this episode focuses on the Apple family embracing their flaws and imperfections, and how that’s a natural part of being in a family. Even though this episode makes the most sense to classify as a Pinkie Pie episode considering all its slapstick humor, I think Applejack learns a moral more than anyone else, specifically about embracing flaws.

The song itself is a fun and catchy piece where the Apple siblings and Granny Smith take turns singing, and their voices harmonize in the chorus. Pinkie Pie joins the song and sings some lyrics of her own when it changes key. The song basically serves as a quirky, upbeat prelude to the family’s arguments getting more heated.

And then, just like that, the cart collapses.

Applejack: Big Mac?! I thought you said… uh…
Applejack: I.. thought… I mean… not that I’m blaming you because… we don’t blame in this family, but… I thought you said all this stuff wasn’t gonna be too heavy.

Applejack lashes out at Big Macintosh for insisting on carrying so much stuff in the cart, but then she remembers to keep a perfect, friendly image for Pinkie Pie’s sake and tones it down. I feel like Pinkie Pie is already catching on to the Apple family’s silly quirks, once of which is Applejack’s tendency to clumsily put up the best image she can. Perhaps this is an example of Applejack struggling with honesty, because it takes a while for her to admit that her family has flaws. I’m starting to think that Applejack is a bit of a perfectionist, and that can get in the way of telling the truth. Just because honesty is her element of harmony doesn’t mean she can’t struggle with it.

(Actually, this episode is probably more of a dual Pinkie Pie/Applejack episode. Plenty of episodes pair up Mane 6 members to put them on the spotlight, especially in seasons 5-6.)

Oldest siblings do indeed tend to think they’re the wisest of the bunch.

As for Big Macintosh, his expressions and reactions to Applejack questioning him show that he doesn’t like being criticized. He does the same thing shown above when Applejack points out that a raft, which would come in handy for Pinkie Pie’s proposed river trip to continue the journey, is one of few things he didn’t pack. I think this is a trace of how haughty and full of himself he was in the flashback scenes in Where the Apple Lies, an episode I haven’t gotten to yet. It’s another episode that fleshes out Big Macintosh’s character, in this case by revealing he was much more talkative in the past.

Granny Smith suggests to build a boat by holding together the wooden planks from the cart with sugar pine sap. Though Applejack thinks this is a ridiculous idea, to Pinkie Pie this demonstrates something she likes about the Apple family: they’re crafty and swift-thinking, with extensive knowledge on the workings of nature.

I have two things to say about this picture Pinkie Pie takes as the Apples start the river trip. One obvious thing and one subtle detail that I never noticed. The obvious thing is that this image demonstrates the quirks and flaws of the Apple family. The subtle detail is that Applejack and Big Mac’s eyes have a trace of red, referencing how cameras have a strange tendency to color eyes as red. Though I think cameras these days (like the kind built into modern smartphones) fix that problem through fanciful technology, this image is a fun little reference to an annoyance in photography that kids these days probably don’t know anything about. I probably sound like a haughty old man using the phrase “kids these days”, but you should know by now that I love fixating on tiny details no one cares about.

Pinkie Pie then reveals she’s been keeping a scrapbook of their journey so far, including scenes from the song they sang.

Applejack: Pinkie Pie… when did you have time to make this?
Pinkie Pie: Applejack, when you’re family, you make the time.

Pinkie Pie looks stone cold when answering Applejack’s question, indicating how seriously she’s taken this ambiguous family revelation. For once, I feel it wouldn’t be right to wave this off as her bending reality. By her standards, secretly taking pictures and putting them in a fancy scrapbook along the way is very mundane.

Pinkie Pie tells the Apples to say “soaked”, then takes a picture right as a huge wave hits them; presumably she knew this through her Pinkie Sense. At this point, it’s clear that she’s doing this deliberately—capturing all the flaws of the Apple family in photo form, because that’s what it means to be part of a family. Pinkie Pie already knows this episode’s moral, whereas Applejack is the one who learns it.

Yep, that’s pretty much exactly what it’s like when three siblings argue with each other.

Apple Bloom gets out a map upon request, but then drops it so that it lands in the river and is eaten by a fish, who is itself eaten by an eagle. Applejack and Big Macintosh scold her for it, the former feigning a smile with her teeth. As usual, the element of honesty is a bad liar, and Pinkie Pie sees right through her act but doesn’t mind it at all.

Look at how unfazed Pinkie Pie is.

Granny Smith adds on to the stew of mishaps in a fit of spacey old ladyness. She steers the boat towards a dark cave, absent-mindedly telling scary stories along the way, and Applejack is understandably frustrated. The Apples and Pinkie Pie’s time in the cave is shown only through audio, as the camera pans through the cave’s exterior. Pinkie Pie excitedly takes pictures, while the other four are incredibly scared. This is in line with Pinkie Pie’s nature: ever since the beginning of the show, she’s been known to laugh away anything that might come off as scary.

The siblings and Granny Smith reach a breaking point in their argument, all blaming each other for the catastrophes that went down. In their fighting, they end up yanking the steering wheel off the boat. The boat falls apart after they land down a waterfall, and they have to walk the rest of the way to Goldie Delicious’s place. But this whole time, Pinkie Pie remains completely unfazed, showing how truly she sees the Apples as her family. She knows it’s normal for a family to get into arguments, helped by her sunny, optimistic attitude towards everything in the world.

Turns out Goldie Delicious isn’t home yet, which is convenient for the narrative.

The Apple family reconciles with each other as Pinkie Pie gets more scrapbook paper, each taking the blame for a certain portion of the mishaps. Even Big Macintosh admits to having done something wrong, though Granny Smith interrupts him and finishes his sentence—perhaps she’s worried Big Mac’s old blabbermouth self from Where the Apple Lies would resurface? I must say, this was a very believable portrayal of a family getting into arguments. The oldest sibling who thinks he’s so much wiser than everyone else, the middle sibling who tries to hold everyone together, the youngest sibling who’s naive and clumsy, and the grandma who gets arbitrarily stubborn.

Applejack: Everypony, I think we have to let Pinkie Pie know that even if she does discover that she’s an Apple, she does not have to feel obliged to consider herself one.
Granny Smith: Sure as applesauce.
Pinkie Pie: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! You guys are the best family ever.
Applejack: How can you say that? We started out as one big unit, and now look at us.
Pinkie Pie: Yeah! Now look at you. You’re all here still in one big unit. Loving each other and owning up to what went wrong? You never gave up, even when things got tough.
Apple Bloom: She does make a pretty good point.
Pinkie Pie: You aren’t just family… you’re best friends!

Pinkie Pie is telling us that arguments are an inevitable part of being a family, and a good family won’t let arguments get to a point where they’re viciously torn apart. She’s pretty much telling us the moral of the episode right here: it’s valuable to know that there is no such thing as a family that never gets into conflicts. What’s left now is Goldie Delicious’s introduction and the (un)reveal.

And then Goldie Delicious arrives home. She has a fun little introduction scene, showing that she’s a crazy cat lady who hoards a lot but also happens to know a ton of family history. This is a nice way to introduce a new member of the Apple family, even if she is easily confused with Golden Delicious.

Next to the books is a cat-shaped pile of dust that Goldie Delicious just blew away.

Are you ready for me to analyze something inconsequential yet again? To bring this episode full circle, Goldie Delicious removes a book from near the bottom of the stack, matching with the Jenga comparison near the start of this episode. Considering that Pinkie Pie similarly retrieved a scroll from the bottom of the stack without toppling it, perhaps this is a point in favor of her having Apple genes inside her.

And it turns out that the page that would determine for sure whether Pinkie Pie is related to the Apple family is smudged. Pinkie Pie is at first disappointed to learn that she may never know for sure, shown in her characteristic flavor of disillusionment. But Applejack tells her it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re truly related, since Pinkie Pie proved that she was willing to not just put up with, but embrace the imperfections and flaws inherent to any family.

Pinkie Pie is only pretending to participate in the argument.

Pinkie Pie and the Apples go back home with a wagon Goldie Delicious gave them, singing a reprise of Apples to the Core. Then, as one last demonstration of what it means to be a family, the Apples argue over who should get to write today’s friendship journal entry. This scene conveys that the power of a good family is not to never get into arguments, but to get through disputes and rough patches successfully.

Overall thoughts:

To bronies who are interested in gathering as much factual information about the show’s lore, it may be disappointing that the question of whether Pinkie Pie and Applejack are related remains unanswered. But I’d say everything else about this episode makes up for that problem. The episode nicely demonstrates that disagreements are an inevitable part of being in a family while fleshing out the dynamics between the main Apple family members. It especially does a good job characterizing Big Macintosh beyond being the guy who only says “eyup” and “nope”, giving him some new character traits without replacing his existing ones.

I would be much more annoyed about the ambiguous relationship unreveal if the possible familial bond between the Pies and the Apples wasn’t revisited in Hearthbreakers next season. It’s always nice for something from a prior episode to be expanded upon so that it’s not just a one-off, and that’s part of what I like about the show: it continuously builds and expands from its prior developments, fleshing out its lore and regularly revisiting prior points.

(Also, Apples to the Core is super catchy.)

Grade: B

I’ve mentioned this plenty of times before, but with the vast majority of MLP episodes, my appreciation of it greatly increases after analyzing it in depth.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I must say, it’s incredibly strange talking about Jenga simply as a game that you play with wooden blocks, rather than a metaphor for a convoluted situation that would collapse if you dare to tamper with even one of its parts.
  • I’m obligated to mention that Apples to the Core features a brief appearance of the kitchen sink from Suited for Success, when Pinkie Pie sings “swim, not sink”. The kitchen sink is an incredibly silly running gag that I tend to forget even exists.
  • If you look closely at this image, on the top left there’s a small look at the scary creatures in the cave that was passed through offscreen:

While this episode ended with introducing a new character, the next episode reintroduces us to an old character, thought to be permanently lost to controversy.

Season 4 Episode 10: Rainbow Falls

In five words: Rainbow Dash faces contrived trial.

Premise: While various teams are competing to get into the Equestria Games, Soarin’ suffers a wing injury, and Rainbow Dash must choose whether to team up with the Wonderbolts or stick with her friends. Also, Derpy Hooves is back!

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Rainbow Dash preparing Ponyville’s aerial relay team for the Equestria Games’ tryouts. The team consists of herself, Fluttershy, and Bulk Biceps, who first appeared back in season 2 but didn’t have a canon name until now. I remember my first-time reaction to hearing this name: I immediately felt it was a much more fitting name for him than Snowflake, his most popular fan name before then. It’s nice to see Fluttershy expand her comfort zone and get more into athletic activities, which she does more of in later episodes like Buckball Season.

Pinkie Pie joins the scene as a cheerleader, and Applejack joins to provide food. After a few gags where Pinkie Pie comes up with “P is for…” phrases and Bulk Biceps proves a less than competent flyer, we move on to the theme song.

The train ride to a place called Rainbow Falls brings me to my biggest criticism with this episode: the whole theme of Rainbow Dash staying loyal to her Ponyville team is extremely obvious. It was obvious to 14-year-old me when I first watched this episode, and it’s just as obvious to me today. Rainbow Dash chose to carry her own team rather than joining obviously much more skilled flyers, and the rest of the episode I remember being similarly predictable.

Nice to see a few non-pony background characters for a change. Griffons to be specific.

I don’t have much to say about anything here so far, so I may as well say here that Rainbow Falls (the place) has quite a fun design. It’s a little strange that the location shares its name with this episode, but there are weirder things like the episode “Maud Pie” later in this season sharing its name with the character it introduces. Perhaps this episode’s name indicates that this location wasn’t planned to be revisited much, which does indeed hold true.

Three of the Wonderbolts reveal that they have teamed up to represent Cloudsdale: Spitfire, Soarin’, and the one with a lisp whose name it took me a moment to remember is Fleetfoot. When practicing for the trials, the Wonderbolts are so much more competent and on top of things than Ponyville’s team is, which we see with things like launching food so that it lands right in the Wonderbolts’ mouths, or keeping a good grip on the horseshoes that need to be passed. Other Mane 6 members are clumsily trying to do those same things, and something tells me they aren’t that invested in Rainbow Dash’s team getting into the games. If they were invested, they would have practiced to much greater degrees than this and not gotten constantly spacey and distracted. Even Twilight Sparkle, who has a natural knack for leadership, doesn’t seem to be doing that much to help.

In his practice, Soarin’ gets his wing hurt and almost crashes into the ground before Rainbow Dash saves him. But he still has to be taken to the hospital for his wing injury, and the following exchange is weird to me:

Soarin’: You’re the best, Rainbow Dash. (yawns)
Rainbow Dash: Aw, it was nothing. But if you feel like talking about how great I am, don’t let me stop you.

We all know Rainbow Dash has a very large ego. But normally, she doesn’t hesitate to drop it if someone she cares about is in peril. It really seems like no one in this episode can get themselves together, and none of the Mane 6 besides Rainbow Dash are even taking the games that seriously. This is where it’s starting to hit me that I’m on one of those Rainbow Dash episodes: the ones that weirdly exaggerate her character through a mess of contrivances.

Rainbow Dash: Tough break to lose a teammate before the tryouts.
Fleetfoot: You know… you grew up in Cloudsdale.
Spitfire: So that means you could fly with us.
Rainbow Dash: Fly?
Fleetfoot: We mean practice. You could practice with us until Soarin’s better.
Spitfire: What do you say? Want to be our third?

Rainbow Dash follows this temptation with being predictably indecisive. The weird thing is that the only reason this temptation would make any sort of sense is due to two contrived factors: (1) Rainbow Dash’s team being strangely incompetent and (2) Soarin’ having a conveniently timed injury. It’s been a while since I analyzed an episode this full of contrivances. But you have to believe me, I do want to like this episode, especially because it’s the one where Derpy Hooves makes her long-awaited return.

Rainbow Dash decides to practice with the Wonderbolts, but only in secret and in alternation with practicing with her own team. Fluttershy is trying her best and slowly improving her athletic skills, but Bulk Biceps is only there as the comic relief. The music alternates between confident-sounding training music in the Wonderbolts’ scenes and simple, goofy music in the Ponyville team’s scenes, which is a nice way to convey differences through music scoring.

Twilight Sparkle is the only pony who notices that Rainbow Dash has been secretly practicing for a different team, or at least the only one who calls her out for it. While many Rainbow Dash episodes focus on her struggling with loyalty, this one does it in possibly the most uninteresting, predictable manner yet. It’s like Rainbow Dash’s simple little loyalty trial in Friendship Is Magic, Part 2, but extended to a whole episode with tons of padding. (I hope I come off like I’m giving this episode honest criticisms and not just petty complaints.)

What happened to the Wonderbolts’ sense of honor and dignity in this episode? Spitfire and Fleetfoot claim that Soarin’s injury won’t heal in time, and they heavily push Rainbow Dash into joining their team full-time. I can’t decide if this is a secret test of loyalty on their part, or if they’re genuinely trampling all over their usual values.

I imagine Rainbow Dash picked up on how to act overdramatic and panicked from Rarity.

Why is Twilight Sparkle the only character in this episode with a brain?

Faced with severe indecision, Rainbow Dash pulls out the good old “fake injury” card from Read It and Weep, and this time it’s a fair bit more convincing—at least to the characters in the scene. Twilight Sparkle’s expression shows that she knows Rainbow Dash’s injury is bogus, but she probably wants Rainbow Dash to learn a lesson the hard way.

You know what’s weird about certain MLP episodes? When one character acts like their regular self and all the others feel like they’re replaced with weird zombie versions. OK, maybe “zombie” is going a little far, but I hope you know what I mean. The one character in this episode who seems like her regular self is Twilight Sparkle, who doesn’t fall for Rainbow Dash’s injury and tells her to no avail to drop the act.

… And then comes the highlight of the episode.

Fluttershy: And how is our patient doing?
Rainbow Dash: I’ve been better.
Fluttershy: We just wanted to let you know that we’re so sorry you’re hurt, but you shouldn’t worry a bit about not being able to be in the tryouts. You’ll be alright. We even have a replacement.

SHE’S BACK!!!!!!

I will never forget how loudly I screamed when I watched this scene for the first time. I was starting to worry that Derpy Hooves was gone from the show for good after her almost negligible screen time in season 3. Having her make a surprise reappearance after a good amount of time without her was the best possible way to bring her back, and it was fully intentional to hold off her return to surprise fans extra hard. Derpy Hooves is a symbol of the show’s fanbase, and it is such an enormous delight to have her return. Come to think of it, it’s quite hilarious to imagine Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps scouting out replacements for Rainbow Dash and ultimately settling on this cross-eyed klutz. It shows how incompetent these two are in athletic matters if this was the best replacement they could come up with. But when it comes to Derpy Hooves, it’s silly to care too much about logic. Derpy Hooves is hilarious, and that’s all there is to say on the matter.

As much as I adore Derpy Hooves, I don’t think it’s a good sign when the biggest highlight of an episode by far involves her. Compare this to No Second Prances, which has a HILARIOUS slapstick scene where Derpy crashes into a sign, but the rest of the episode is very striking too and by no means does Derpy steal the show. I could give more examples, but I’d rather not get too sidetracked here and instead just say that I mostly just remember this episode as the one where Derpy returns, whereas I remember The Last Roundup as the episode where Derpy first speaks and the episode where Applejack refuses to admit to losing a competition.

Right before this scene, Twilight Sparkle tells Rainbow Dash that choosing not to choose isn’t really a decision.

Let me get this next scene straight. No one has come to visit Soarin’ during his injury, unlike Rainbow Dash. If I’m getting this right, the Wonderbolts exaggerated Soarin’s injury because they really wanted Rainbow Dash on their team? Unlike in Wonderbolts Academy, where Rainbow Dash nearly abandons her dreams because the Wonderbolts seemed to go against her values, Rainbow Dash isn’t put off by the Wonderbolts abandoning one of their own teammates here. And then, I guess she’s inspired to do the decision that we all knew she was going to make anyway when a rainbow shines onto Ponyville’s flag, which Derpy had just dropped.

… Wait just a minute. I think I just realized that Rainbow Dash deciding to join Ponyville’s team after all hinges on Derpy carelessly dropping the flag. Well OK, it was probably going to happen somehow anyway, but it’s fun to talk about Derpy like she’s the big important glue holding this episode’s plot together.

While Rainbow Dash makes the unsurprising choice of sticking with Ponyville’s team, I’m going to fixate entirely on Derpy Hooves’ presence. I find it very sweet that Derpy is shown right next to most of the Mane 6 (plus Bulk Biceps I guess). It demonstrates that the fanbase is just as important to this show as the show is to them. This episode is paying an homage to fans by having Derpy stand alongside the show’s usual main cast as Rainbow Dash makes her important decision—to many fans, Derpy is part of the show’s main cast.

Though Spitfire is initially thrown off at Rainbow Dash’s decision, she’s ultimately impressed at how strongly Rainbow Dash sticks to her friends, saying that she could learn a lot from her. I’m not sure if it makes more sense to interpret this scene as the Wonderbolts having flaws just as much as anyone else, or as them deliberately putting Rainbow Dash up to a test.

This burst of motivation allows Bulk Biceps, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash to beat the time limit to qualify for the Equestria Games at the very last second, which is kind of a cliche but whatever. It’s nice to see Bulk Biceps position his huge body in the right way so that he passes right through a hoop, Fluttershy fly as fast as she can due to her motivation, and Rainbow Dash blast her way to the finish line.

I have no shame in admitting Derpy is the best part of this episode.

Spitfire gives Rainbow Dash her Wonderbolt pin as a gift, and a photo taken transitions Rainbow Dash to write a snappy entry in the friendship journal about how as much as she loves winning, she loves her friends way more. To be honest, this feels like a complete rehash of what Rainbow Dash learned in prior episodes, but maybe that’s why the friendship journal scene is so short.

Much like Rarity Takes Manehattan, this episode ends by showing the gift Rainbow Dash was given, flashing with a rainbow. This serves as setup for season 4’s overarching plot meant for sharp-eyed fans to pick up on, of course.

Overall thoughts:

In terms of bringing back Derpy, this episode is a massive success! In terms of everything else, though, this episode feels way too simplistic and predictable. It’s like a rehash of Wonderbolts Academy mixed with a rehash of Rainbow Dash’s loyalty trial in the season 1 premiere. Rainbow Dash is given a choice to join a team that seems incredibly cool or stick with her friends, and that’s pretty much the entire episode’s plot, I guess with a fake injury subplot tacked on. The Wonderbolts’ portrayal doesn’t make sense to me, nor does most of Rainbow Dash’s friends completely falling for her fake injury. And as I said earlier, none of the Mane 6 besides Rainbow Dash seem that excited to partake in the Equestria Games, because otherwise this episode’s plot couldn’t happen. The thing about the show’s weaker episodes, like this one, is that they allow me to appreciate what I normally love about the show even more. Normally, MLP throws tons of curveballs and surprises in its episodes, subverting expectations in the coolest ways, and this one doesn’t really.

Grade: D

I hate to give such a low grade to the episode that brought back Derpy, but this is definitely the weakest episode of season 4 so far.

The next episode features, uh… another fan favorite character whose name starts with D! There, transition secured.

See you next week for a memorable episode involving Discord and an even more memorable episode involving “Weird Al” Yankovic. I would have followed that sentence with “Seriously.” but I think most fans of the show probably already know Weird Al was in it.

>> Part 34: Three’s a Crowd + Pinkie Pride

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