Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 34: Three’s a Crowd + Pinkie Pride


< Part 33 | Part 34 | Part 35 >

Season 4, Episodes 11-12

Season 4 Episode 11: Three’s a Crowd

In five words: Discord’s trickery leads to irony.

Premise: Twilight Sparkle and Cadance plan on spending an ordinary day together without Equestria’s fate in the balance, but Discord gets in the way of their times by purporting to be ill.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with Twilight Sparkle getting exciting news: a letter from Cadance confirming that the two will get to spend some quality time together as sisters-in-law this weekend. Then Fluttershy barges in sharing some exciting news: she’s been given a chance to observe these tiny creatures called Breezies, which serves both as leadup to It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies a few episodes later and as a reason for her to be absent from most of this episode, since Fluttershy is normally the one who keeps Discord’s eccentric ways in check. It’s interesting that the Breezies are being teased ahead of time, but it also makes sense since those creatures originated from one of the older MLP cartoons, and some fans would no doubt be excited to see them return. And finally, Pinkie Pie barges in sharing some exciting news: she got a flyer for a sale for used, broken patio furniture. This is nothing more than her being comically zany, breaking up the pace a little before this episode’s plot begins.

After Fluttershy leaves for her trip, Twilight Sparkle explains her plan to make the most of her time with Cadance:

Twilight Sparkle: I’m a bit nervous about Cadance’s visit.
Applejack: What could you be nervous about, Twilight? Cadance just loves you to pieces.
Twilight Sparkle: I know. But I really want her visit to go without a hitch!
Pinkie Pie: Why wouldn’t it?
Twilight Sparkle: Well, the last few times we’ve seen each other haven’t exactly been worry-free.
Rarity: The fate of Equestria has hung in the balance during most of your visits with her.
Twilight Sparkle: Exactly. Cadance and I haven’t really had a chance to just enjoy being friends again. Which is why it’s so important that this visit be about the two of us having some real quality time together.

Twilight Sparkle has always been good at picking up on patterns, in this case something narrative-related: that she and Cadance have only gotten to spend time together in dire circumstances. She’s come prepared for this and took advantage of a lucky opportunity: a museum focused on Star Swirl the Bearded is coming to Ponyville this weekend only, and she’s planned for herself and Cadance to explore the museum. On a meta level, it sounds like she’s trying to prevent mishaps from happening even though every episode has at least some form of mishaps, and while she’s not going to quite as obsessive lengths to prevent mishaps as she usually would, Discord’s presence will certainly make things more interesting.

Sorry Flash Sentry, but any discussion on you will be relegated to the miscellaneous notes.

After Cadance arrives from a fancy Crystal Empire train, she and Twilight head off to their geeky convention, and then Discord makes a surprise entrance. The way his entrance occurs matches with how he’s a fan favorite character: first we see a strange blue disc flying towards the Mane 6 members in the scene, then the disc crashes into a tree and we hear Discord’s voice, making fans excited to hear from him again. And finally, Discord sneezes and burns the tree’s leaves, which is a convincing act of pseudo-sickness. While Fluttershy at this point views Discord as a friend, the rest of the Mane 6 still view him as a nasty troublemaker, and Fluttershy isn’t around to ask them to give Discord a chance.

Discord: I came to find the one pony who truly understands me and could nurse me back to health.
Discord: Where is dear, sweet Fluttershy? I need attention! I need some care! I need—
Rainbow Dash: You need to chill. Fluttershy’s out.
Discord: Oh, of course. Her trip. To see the Breezies. Ah yes. I have forgotten that that was today.
Applejack: How do you know about her trip?
Discord: Well, she told me about it in her last letter.
Pinkie Pie: You and Fluttershy write each other letters?
Discord: Well, of course we do. We’re friends.

It says a lot about Fluttershy that she keeps her friendship with Discord on the downlow from the rest of her friends, not to mention that she’s maintained this friendship in the first place. Surprisingly to most of her friends, she doesn’t just feel a need to look after this mischievous figure, but she also sees him as a nice friend. And the rest of the Mane 6 still don’t know much about Fluttershy and Discord’s friendship, showing that there’s this whole other side to Fluttershy that the other five aren’t much aware of. I don’t think anyone would contest that seeing only the best in Discord suits Fluttershy very well. And here Discord is now, secretly taking advantage of Fluttershy’s absence from Ponyville and seizing the opportunity to play some mind games with the rest of her friends.

Discord asks the four ponies in the scene to take care of him today, and Rainbow Dash storms off the moment she gets to. This arguably contradicts her element of harmony, but since she still sees Discord as a villain and probably had her own things she wanted to do today, I can see why she chose to leave the scene. The speed at which she dashes off suggests that she may be running late to an event… a practice session for the Equestria Games, perhaps?

With Rainbow Dash gone, Discord decides to put Applejack and Rarity in charge of looking after him. Pinkie Pie questions why she wasn’t invited, and Discord cleverly distracts her using a balloon, which she promptly chases. Does Discord feel that Pinkie Pie is too goofy and chipper to be worth toying with, or is he secretly scared of Pinkie Pie’s swath of reality-bending powers that rival his own?

Applejack saying “maybe” instead of “no” may relate to her being the element of honesty.

Discord: Did I hear you two talking about Princess Cadance’s visit with Princess Twilight?
Applejack: Maybe.
Discord: Fluttershy had mentioned that those two were getting together today. Mmm. How wonderful for them both. It is so rare that those two get to see one another.
Discord: I don’t know about you, but I sometimes wonder how close they could actually be. All those years apart before being reunited?

Discord makes a very good criticism of Twilight Sparkle’s supposed closeness with Cadance. It’s the kind of criticism that I’m sure many fans have made. This is a common pattern in this show: a new addition is imposed by executives (which in this case was Cadance’s existence two seasons ago), and the show’s staff is left to smooth out any weirdnesses that may arise. The fact that Cadance wasn’t mentioned once before her debut implies that she and Twilight drifted apart and may not have been that close, and Discord is devising a plan to bring them closer together in a roundabout, cumbersome way as is characteristic of him. Discord is very good at picking up on oddities in the Mane 6’s behavior, which often leads him to get under their skin.

Discord secretly uses his magic to infect Applejack and Rarity with his “disease”, showing his tendency to use the Mane 6 as pawns and trick them one by one. Fluttershy was out on a trip, which allowed Discord to start using the Mane 6 like chess pieces again. Rainbow Dash stormed off on her own will, and Pinkie Pie was lured away by a balloon, leaving Applejack and Rarity as the only ones who needed to be eliminated by Discord’s magic. With that done, he asks who else he can turn to in his time of need, then starts laughing.

Discord loves to emphasize that Twilight Sparkle is a princess, which is another way he gets under her skin.

It doesn’t take long before Discord interrupts Twilight Sparkle and Cadance exploring Star Swirl’s museum. This brings me to something I really like about this episode: it fleshes out Cadance’s character by putting her in a more casual setting, or at least more casual than season premieres and finales. While Discord had his doubts about how close these two princesses are, we see here that Cadance is an obsessive fan of Star Swirl the Bearded just like Twilight is. In addition, Cadance demonstrates her versatility in magic when she generates an invisible shield that is impenetrable to Discord’s magic, a feat that Twilight praises. This whole episode makes Cadance feel closer to home than she was before.

Rainbow Falls unfortunately broke the streak of episodes having musical numbers.

Twilight Sparkle agrees to let Discord stay at her place and take care of him, which leads to this show’s most whimsical musical number yet, a song called “Glass of Water”. The song consists of Discord giving Twilight and Cadance an absurdly long list of requests, starting and ending with a little glass of water.

I won’t lie, when I think of Harry Potter, the first thing that comes to mind is how the author retroactively pretends characters are gay.
(Man, I feel bad for Harry Potter fans.)

The song is filled with bizarre big lipped alligator moments taking place at a variety of locations with a variety of gags, even including a Harry Potter reference as shown above. The whole song goes to show how heavily Discord is derailing the princesses’ original plans, because he feels it is more interesting and fulfilling for them to go on a crazy adventure with uncertainties than to simply have a relaxing time going “ooh” and “aah” while staring at Star Swirl artifacts.

Twilight Sparkle: There must be some way to just cure you. There has to be a spell or a remedy in one of my books!
Discord: There is one way.
Cadance: And you didn’t think to mention it earlier?
Discord: Slipped my mind.

Cadance is quick to notice something fishy about Discord’s illness, specifically that he didn’t mention how to cure it right at the start. Perhaps she knows on some level that he’s playing the princesses like a fiddle.* But since they still have each other at their side, Twilight Sparkle and Cadance’s friendship outweighs their annoyance at Discord. This is just as well, because Discord wants to confirm that Twilight will do what he tells her to until he finally goes away.

* Specifically a fiddle with 20 strings that makes many sounds a musical instrument should not be able to make.

This image has a misleading sense of scale for the flower’s size.

Discord tells Twilight and Cadance to find the remedy for his illness, Twilight and Cadance must travel to the edge of Equestria, find a unique flower, and brew an elixir out of its petals. His motive behind doing this is clear knowing this episode’s twist: the idea of the princesses who may not be as close as they thought spending their day looking at a boring old history museum doesn’t sit well with him, and he feels that they would have a much stronger bonding experience if they went on an exciting adventure to someplace far away. But even though he’s reformed, Discord has retained his love of japes and misleading others, and I wouldn’t doubt that he’s getting a ton of amusement from this prank.

Cadance also mentions here that her flying skills are a little rusty.

Discord at first gives the princesses a map to the place they need to go, but then he has a better idea: he gets Twilight and Cadance to fly them over there, since he supposedly is too sick to travel by himself. I can imagine what went through his mind when he proposed that. He probably said something like, “Why, Twilight. You’ve been a princess for quite some time now, and yet I don’t often see you flap those wings of yours. Wouldn’t this serve as a good opportunity to brush up on your flying skills? To be the powerful princess you were always meant to be? You wouldn’t want your precious alicorn wings to go to waste now, would you?” And then Twilight begrudgingly agreed.

(That was my earnest attempt at writing Discord. It probably sucked.)

Twilight and Cadance climb up the hill to retrieve the surprisingly huge flower on top. This is where the action begins: first, they team up to pull the flower out of the ground, and then a huge worm comes out of the ground and attacks them. It’s wonderful seeing Cadance go on an adventure with one of the Mane 6 for a change, instead of just being a regular dutiful princess who shows up when characters visit the Crystal Empire.

And the fight against the giant worm is where Twilight Sparkle and Cadance truly demonstrate their special bond. Each rescues the other from the worm’s tentacles using magic laser beams, then the two team up to seal the worm back underground, and Cadance covers the hole with some rocks. It’s awesome seeing these two take on a huge monster together, and we had never seen such strong fighting prowess out of Cadance before.

Twilight and Cadance deliver the flower to Discord, only to find out that he was healthy all along.

Twilight Sparkle: You. Were. FAKING?!
Discord: I was! But I had a very good reason.
Twilight Sparkle: We’re listening.
Discord: Well, I was in my thinking tree… That’s where I do most of my really deep thinking.
Discord: I was there, and I said to myself I said… Discord, your friend Twilight says that she’s your pal, but she never writes. And she never pops in for a visit.
Twilight Sparkle: I don’t even know where you li—

Fortunately, in season 5 we’ll get to see where Discord lives.

This scene gives us a useful indirect moral that’s by no means the central focus of this episode: if you want to be friends with someone, it will help to provide some basic facts about yourself, like where you live. Discord doesn’t know this and doesn’t think it’s important, given that he interrupts Twilight Sparkle when she points that fact out, which shows that he still has a lot to learn about friendship.

Discord says that his motive for pretending to be sick is to test if Twilight is really friends with him by seeing how far she will go for his sake, then proudly says she passed his test. However, I feel like it would also align with his character to assume he also wanted to spice up Twilight and Cadance’s fun times so as to see if they’re really friends, so that is indeed what I assume. He doesn’t sound at all worried that Twilight may not be friends with him; he only sounds smug. This is what Discord loves to do: give the Mane 6 convoluted friendship lessons that tend to blow up in his face because he didn’t think it all the way through.

Discord then gloats about putting a damper on Twilight’s visit with Cadance, interrupting Twilight a few more times in the process, and Cadance responds:

Cadance: You didn’t put a damper on our visit at all!
Discord and Twilight Sparkle: (I/He) didn’t?
Cadance: Spending the day at the Star Swirl the Bearded exhibit would have been more relaxing, but to be honest, relaxation is the last thing I need.
Twilight Sparkle: (excitedly) It is?
Cadance: Don’t get me wrong. Life in the Crystal Empire is wonderful, but it’s become a little… predictable. I enjoy a little excitement now and then.
Cadance: Getting to face all these challenges today was just what I needed. And facing them with you just made me realize even more how lucky I am to have somepony like you as a friend.

As the main cast of MLP matures, we start learning about how things are from their authority figures’ point of view, and Cadance is a good early example. It turns out that beneath her polite demeanor and princessy tasks, there’s an adventurer inside her just like the Mane 6, and she’s gotten to demonstrate that side of her. Whether he intended to test Twilight and Cadance’s friendship or not, Discord clearly considers it his duty to add some surprises and uncertainty in life—add some discord, if you will. And he succeeded more than he thought he did…

Cadance used the protective shield again, but not on Discord.

… as proven when the worm ends up infecting him for real, bringing a surprise into his own life. It’s fascinating to learn that the outer reaches of Equestria have hazards strong enough to rival Discord’s powers, which opens up a lot of speculation about the limits of his abilities. It also shows how Discord’s carelessness can get him trapped in tough situations like this.

Note Rarity sticking out her tongue.

At Fluttershy’s place, Twilight Sparkle writes a friendship journal entry about how tough, unexpected experiences can become a good time when you do them with a dear friend, a moral that this episode conveys very well. Rarity and Applejack are mad at Discord and think he got what he deserved, but Fluttershy treats him gently once more. I really doubt Discord is faking his sickness this time. While he easily laughed off Twilight and Cadance being mad at him, this guy is terrified of getting on Fluttershy’s bad side. Fluttershy is very forgiving to Discord here and tells her other friends to cut the guy some slack, and then Discord asks for a glass of water, ending this episode with a callback to its song.

Overall thoughts:

Discord’s episodes tend to be a lot of fun to analyze, and this one is no exception. We have him trying to teach Twilight Sparkle a friendship lesson through a whole bunch of trickery that bites him back in the end and ultimately proves how tight-knit she and Cadance are. This episode does a wonderful job fleshing out Cadance’s character and dispels any doubt about her tight bond with Twilight Sparkle. We learn that Cadance has both a nerdy side and an action-oriented side, showing some interests and traits she has in common with Twilight, and by extension with Shining Armor since they’re siblings and all. As much as I enjoy Discord’s character, the coolest thing about this episode is definitely how much it expands on Cadance’s character. It’s fun in general to see an episode put a supporting character in the spotlight, and this one does it very well.

Grade: B

This episode is close to getting an A, but I still insist on reserving that grade for the absolute most memorable episodes.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I already showed the pony version of Flash Sentry from Equestria Girls appearing when Cadance exits the train, and now I’ll discuss it in more depth. From what I remember, this appearance sparked quite a bit of controversy among fans, especially since his character is a rather divisive one. It looks like after this episode, the show decided to tone it down with the Equestria Girls tie-ins, since there’s plenty of fans who love this show dearly but don’t care much about the spin-off media where the ponies become humans in high school. It turns out that tie-ins to Equestria Girls only serve to distract fans from the parts of the episode that really matter. That’s why I chose to discuss Flash Sentry only in the miscellaneous notes, so that I don’t get sidetracked when running through the episode.
    • Equestria Girls isn’t bad or anything, but MLP:FiM itself is so much cooler and more fun to watch, it’s not even funny. When you turn all the varied ponies and other such characters into humans attending high schools, the whole thing becomes so much less interesting!
  • Pinkie Pie mentions she was born on a Tuesday, and I find it amusing to imagine some fans pausing the episode and immediately editing their extensive databases of all the information they have gleaned about the show’s cast to account for this new revelation. Maybe they had previously narrowed down Pinkie Pie’s birthdate to a select number of possibilities, and now that number has been cut seven-fold. Fourteen possibilities could have easily been reduced to two.
  • After the virus that ravaged all of humanity’s plans starting in March 2020, Discord mentioning that he got his flu from “inadequate hoof and claw washing” feels like an urgent reminder for viewers to regularly wash their hands rather than a silly gag.

The almost uninterrupted sequence of episodes with musical numbers finishes off with what is perhaps season 4’s most memorable episode.

Season 4 Episode 12: Pinkie Pride

This review contains spoilers for the series finale, but mostly only spoilers in the same sense that “Snape kills Dumbledore” is a spoiler. Which is to say, a spoiler that everyone probably already knows about, but it’s technically a spoiler no less.

In five words: “Weird Al” Yankovic’s special episode.

Premise: While preparing for Rainbow Dash’s birthday, Pinkie Pie meets someone whose party-planning skills seem to outdo hers: Cheese Sandwich. Rivalry ensues. Musical numbers ensue. And most of all, Weird Al references ensue.

Detailed run-through:

This episode starts with some familiar faces in Appleoosa having a party hosted by a much less familiar face. What’s weird about this opening shot is that while many locations in this show now use custom background pony designs befitting the place’s theme, like Canterlot or Manehattan, the background ponies in Appleoosa are just regular old background ponies with hats just like in Over a Barrel. It’s an oddity, but it does generally match the last time we were in Appleoosa.

Cheese Sandwich has a fun introduction scene. It’s done in the style of a wild west movie, and he alternates between sounding dead serious about party planning while talking to his toy chicken named Boneless, and being a total goofball like Pinkie Pie, ending with saying that his next party will be in Ponyville. The very fact that Weird Al got to be in this show is still completely insane to me after all those years. Not just that, but he played a character who is pretty much a pony version of himself. I feel like Cheese Sandwich’s existence made a lot of fans feel less weird about the idea of giving themselves pony personas. “Ponification” as many fans call it was quite a solidified thing by the time this episode aired, and here the show is fully embracing that fact.

Now, I must admit that the craziness factor of Weird Al being in MLP has worn down a little bit after I have been constantly bombarded with people talking about the fact that his character had a kid with Pinkie Pie in The Last Problem, the final episode of the show which is also the only episode of any show that outright made me cry. In fact, I have seen far more discussion on Weird Al having a kid with Pinkie Pie than anything else about the final episode—certainly not as much discussion on the rest of that episode’s events, or how incredibly emotional it was for the show to be sent off. It certainly goes to show how much of an impact Weird Al’s presence on this show left, not to mention how many fans dropped the show several seasons in and eventually heard second-hand that he and Pinkie Pie had a kid. Like me, for instance. I heard about that not long after the final episode came out, around a year before I finally got back into this show and stopped pretending that I don’t love it to pieces.

I wonder how it’s going to feel when I eventually write my review of The Last Problem in 2024 or so? Maybe I shouldn’t be worried about that yet. I’ll get there when I get there.

The balloons in the background are BEGGING for Mario to jump on them one by one.

After the theme song, it’s time for this episode’s first of six musical numbers! As with Magical Mystery Cure, I’ll take some time to comment on the tone of each song. The first song here is called “Pinkie the Party Planner”, and it’s a light and simple song that shows how proud Pinkie Pie is of her skills in planning parties that make others smile.

This song also comes with a nifty reminder that Pinkie Pie can bend the fabric of spacetime to her will. She shows this by stuffing a big streamer into her saddlebags, which either have a special property of shrinking items inside them or lead to a pocket dimension that would burn the eyes of any outsider if peeked at.

One way this episode’s musical numbers improve from those of Magical Mystery Cure is that we get some sung lines from characters who don’t normally get to sing. In this case, the Cakes sing about how Pinkie Pie hosted their first baby shower…

While Diamond Tiara is in a grumpy mood here, Silver Spoon at least is having a pleasant day.

… and then Diamond Tiara, of all characters, sings about how Pinkie Pie planned her cute-ceañera while complaining that her father made her do it. Her section of the song briefly lapses into a more minor key as she sternly claims Pinkie Pie passed the test. I get the feeling Diamond Tiara loves Pinkie Pie’s parties just as much as anyone else does, but she downplays it as extra-serious business. Silver Spoon probably finds it a little funny that her best friend took her party THIS seriously—she probably knows cute-ceañeras are meant in good fun.

The first musical number ends with revealing the banner made for Rainbow Dash’s birthday party; a party that also happens to celebrate the anniversary of her moving to Ponyville, as she says later. Everyone in Ponyville is excited for this event, and Pinkie talks about how for her, party planning is extra serious business. Then, she meets face-to-face with Cheese Sandwich.

If any character should be allowed to say the phrase “my little pony”, it’s Cheese Sandwich.

Cheese Sandwich introduces himself the Ponyville the same way he introduced himself to the audience: first in a serious wild west style, sternly talking about his party planning skills and his Cheesy Sense to parallel Pinkie Sense…

Lyra and Bon Bon are seen together a lot in this episode.

If I were to screenshot every little reference to Weird Al’s works, I’d be stuck here all day, so here’s just a few of them.

… and then he takes his outfit off and starts a goofy musical number called “The Super Duper Party Pony”. It’s the second song of the episode, and it’s rife with accordions as one would expect from a pony played by Weird Al. Pinkie Pie chimes in to the song quite a few times. At first, she’s excited to have so much in common with Cheese Sandwich, but then she starts feeling left out. Take this passage, for instance:

Cheese Sandwich: ♫ The super duper party pony, that pony is me ♫
Pinkie Pie: And me!
Cheese Sandwich: ♪ You’ll never meet another party pony quite like Cheese! ♪
Pinkie Pie: Uh, Pinkie?
Cheese Sandwich: Hey, good-looking! Want some mayonnaise?

We’ve had quite a few episodes by now where a Mane 6 member meets a pony who seems to have a ton of skills in common with them, maybe even with skills that top theirs. In many such cases, the character turns out to be the episode’s villain, like the Flim Flam brothers or Lightning Dust. But with Pinkie Pie, things are a little different. When she notices that Cheese Sandwich seems to be a far more experienced and beloved party planner than her, her chipper mood vanishes and she goes into depressed, insecure mode.

Cheese Sandwich: ♫ The super duper party pony, that pony is meeeeee ♫
(song slows down)
Pinkie Pie: ♪ But what about the super party pony named Pinkie? ♪

The last line of this song is a great way to convey how Pinkie Pie feels about Cheese Sandwich’s presence: instead of seeing him as a rival to one-up, she goes melancholy and feels resigned to accept that Cheese Sandwich has stolen her job. After the song ends, Rainbow Dash talks about how excited she is that Cheese Sandwich will host her party and even high-hoofs the guy, then talks about how his parties are going to be a whole new level of epic from Pinkie’s. Pinkie Pie pretends not to be heartbroken by that statement.

The thing with Pinkie Pie is that her goofy, upbeat demeanor is near impossible to break, but if you do manage to break it, it breaks hard. We’ve gotten a variety of interesting looks at Pinkie Pie’s melancholy side, where she turns into a nihilist who either shakily laughs or doesn’t laugh at all. Here, she’s seen mindlessly pouring water down the drain as Twilight Sparkle approaches her in confusion, then walks away shrugging it off.

The third song is called “Pinkie’s Lament”, and it’s in an uneasy mix of major and minor key that indicates confused despair and mixed with hope Pinkie Pie is more cut out for a different profession. She tries various other jobs, like delivering mail as shown above, and they don’t work out since she keeps trying to mix them with balloons and confetti and other things she likes.

Hey, here’s a sneak peek at Maud Pie! We’ll meet her a few episodes from now.

At home, Pinkie Pie reevaluates her life, deflates all her balloons, and puts away her party cannon. Then she reflects on all the parties she’s thrown over the years, including various ones we saw onscreen like Twilight Sparkle’s welcome to Ponyville party in the first episode. This is how she remembers her love of making other ponies smile; reflecting on past happy experiences is all it takes for her to be filled with new drive to outclass Cheese Sandwich and assert herself as Ponyville’s number one party pony.

And so, the song becomes more upbeat and transitions to a proud continuation of the episode’s first song. While she initially didn’t see Cheese Sandwich as a rival, now she’s ready to face the guy head-on. This episode has done a great job using music to convey tone, as any musical episode should.

Note Rainbow Dash hugging Tank in the background.
She’s having the time of her life today!

This episode has been generous with appearances of Derpy Hooves so far. Here, we see her sipping straight out of a chocolate fountain; could it be that she’s desperate to find even a single muffin in this huge birthday party and doesn’t like cupcakes anywhere near as much as muffins? Maybe her reason for sticking her head into the fountain is in the hopes that a delectable muffin is found inside. Maybe she resents that cupcakes are far more common in parties than muffins are, and she feels that muffins deserve some love too. She’s totally not being clumsy and goofy; that is not something Derpy is ever known to do.

Pinkie Pie joins the scene and challenges Cheese Sandwich to a “goof-off”, a competition to determine who gets to host Rainbow Dash’s birthday party. Twilight Sparkle gets out a goof-off rulebook (which Rainbow Dash is surprised she has) and reads the guidelines.

Twilight Sparkle: Rainbow Dash, since the winner will be headlining your party, you are the judge.
Rainbow Dash: Heh. Big, tense competition on my birthiversary. What could be better? (nervously smiles)

As much as Rainbow Dash loves competitions, she would rather have her party be an ordinary joyful celebration without anyone having to battle each other. She’s willing to drop her too-cool-for-school attitude in this party, which is why she gets nervous about her friend being pitted against the cool new party planner guy.

The episode’s fourth musical number, called “The Goof Off”, is by far the most iconic. It’s sung in alternation between Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich, and instead of picking it apart, I’m going to take a moment to appreciate how just plain fun it is. It’s full of pumping energy, callbacks to Pinkie Pie’s prior scenes, and references to Weird Al’s works, and it’s a real treat all around. The polka medley structure and the lyrics of Cheese Sandwich’s sections truly feel like Weird Al is taking a moment to guest star on the show and bring his sense of humor with him, adding some variety to the show’s usual music.

MLP is taking an extremely rare moment here to be live action here…

… and here, showing that Boneless is Cheese Sandwich’s equivalent to Gummy.

Cheese Sandwich: ♫ ‘Cause I like to make you smile, smile, smile, yes I do ♫
♪ It fills my heart with sunshine all the while, yes it does ♪
♫ ‘Cause all I really need’s a smile, smile, smile from these happy friends of mine ♫
Pinkie Pie: That’s my song!
Cheese Sandwich: What do you mean? I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Pinkie Pie: THAT’S IT!

I love this reference to Weird Al’s legions of song parodies. Cheese Sandwich pulled out a powerful card with this one, nabbing Pinkie Pie’s song and putting some of his own pizzazz on it. This only hardens Pinkie’s desire to beat him once and for all.

Pinkie Pie ends the song by singing in a bit of Spanish, then squishing Rainbow Dash under a huge cake-shaped piñata. She then realizes that Rainbow Dash isn’t having the best time of her life and forfeits the Goof-Off, declaring Cheese Sandwich the winner. She’s slipped back into her melancholy side, much to Cheese Sandwich’s shock.

In a surprisingly heavy scene, Pinkie Pie packs up and lets Rainbow Dash have her birthday party without her, admitting she got carried away with her pride. But then Rainbow Dash says that while Cheese Sandwich is a great guest party planner, her friend could never be replaced. It’s interesting that Pinkie Pie got so absorbed in her pride in partying that she forgot the reason people hold parties, which is having a good time with their friends.

Cheese Sandwich then appears and gives Pinkie Pie an apology, saying that the real reason he came to Ponyville was to show Pinkie Pie how good of a party planner he has become. This leads to the episode’s fifth song, “Cheese Confesses”, where Cheese Sandwich reveals his surprising backstory.

I’m at a point now where background ponies usually aren’t relegated to miscellaneous notes.
They’re a proper part of the show’s cast now!

Cheese Sandwich reveals that he was very shy and lonely as a kid until one day, he stumbled upon a party that made him find his true calling. The image above shows quite a few well-known background ponies (and Cheerilee) as fillies, and it gives a nice picture of which background ponies at this point are still just generic background ponies, and which are considered proper parts of the show’s cast. As the number one most popular background pony, young Derpy Hooves’ presence is no surprise. Lyra and Bon Bon are shown to have been an inseparable duo since they were fillies, which is rather sweet. Minuette is shown as a filly too, and her popularity among fans is largely because her hair looks like toothpaste. There’s probably other popular background ponies seen as fillies here whose names I can’t remember. But then you still have some background ponies who seem to be the same age no matter the flashback, showing that season 4 still uses some generic background pony designs to fill space.

Background ponies aside, Cheese Sandwich’s backstory surely hits home for many bronies, who felt lonely for many years and only through getting into this show felt a sense of belonging. He got Boneless and was given a physical cheese sandwich at the party, and from then on, he knew that a party pony is who he was meant to be.

Could it be that Twinkleshine (the leftmost pony here) is secretly a time traveler?
(OK, by that logic, most background ponies would be time travelers. Like Dr. Whooves!)

Cheese Sandwich: ♫ But that never would have happened on my own, I’ll tell you why ♫
♪ For the one who threw that party, it was you, Pinkie Pie ♪

And here’s the big reveal. It turns out that this whole time, Pinkie Pie was the one who inspired Cheese Sandwich to be a party pony. These two have connected backstories, and only now did they realize it! Pinkie Pie never knew happiness or smiled until she saw a rainbow and hosted her first party, and a little later she ended up passing the joy to another pony who felt lost and confused in life. Pinkie Pie is a huge inspirational figure to Cheese Sandwich, and given that it took him until now to show Pinkie Pie his partying skills, he may well have retained some of his childhood shyness. Maybe he was intimidated by Pinkie Pie for the longest time and only now felt confident to show himself to her.

When Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich realize how much they have in common, Rainbow Dash interrupts and reminds them that they need to finish her birthiversary party. And so, Cheese Confesses ends with Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich singing a reprise of the first song, showing that they are now finally working as the team they were always meant to be.

The episode’s final song is “Make a Wish”, an upbeat dance song with similar vibes and purpose to Love Is in Bloom: both take place in the evening once the conflict of the episode has been resolved, and they’re the payoff for all that the characters went through. At the end of the song’s instrumental, Rainbow Dash thanks Cheese Sandwich for giving her such an awesome birthday party.

Something unusual happens towards the end of the episode. Pinkie Pie starts writing in the friendship journal. but Cheese Sandwich interrupts her and gives her Boneless as a gift, and we don’t see Pinkie Pie narrate her journal entry. This represents the show’s gradual transition away from morals that are narrated explicitly at the end. In this episode’s case, the viewer is left to infer morals, but this one is far more remembered as Weird Al’s episode than for whatever morals it may have.

Boneless flashes with a rainbow, just like the gifts Rarity and Rainbow Dash got a few episodes prior. Cheese Sandwich then reveals that he has multiple copies of Boneless and goes off adventuring with Boneless number 2. Presumably, those are the same chicken dolls we saw Pinkie Pie juggling in the flashback.

And to end this episode:

Pinkie Pie: I never did get that pony’s name.
The rest of the Mane 6: Cheese Sandwich!
Pinkie Pie: (laughs) Oh yeah.

This exchange is such a funny way to finish this episode: with Pinkie Pie being regular old Pinkie Pie. Weirdly clueless but pretty much impossible to upset.

I find it visually pleasing that the six songs’ credits are arranged in a grid.

As one last reference to Weird Al’s work, the instrumental reprise of “The Goof Off” played in the credits ends with a riff from the tune “Shave and a Haircut” like his polka medleys tend to do. As always, custom credits music is a badge of honor to particularly memorable episodes, though there is a stretch of season 6 where custom credits music is the norm.

Overall thoughts:

Having “Weird Al” Yankovic star in an episode is one of the most memorable things this show has ever done. His appearance was a smash hit, and Pinkie Pride became one of this show’s most acclaimed episodes. And the coolest part is that his appearance is most certainly not a one-off that’s never spoken of again. Boneless turns into one of the keys used to open the chest in Twilight’s Kingdom, meaning that his guest episode served as part of the season’s overarching plot. Cheese Sandwich is brought up a few times after this episode, and then he reappears in season 9’s The Last Laugh which is basically a sequel to this episode. And in the series finale, Pinkie Pie ends up marrying him as I discussed earlier, which became the most memorable thing about the finale. Even though I regret dropping this show before season 5 started, I’m lucky to have witnessed the hype of Weird Al being in MLP when this episode first aired.

Grade: A

This episode has every reason to be as iconic as it is. It’s probably the number one highlight of season 4.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • If you’re wondering, I’ve never made a pony persona for myself, but I won’t deny that it sounds like it would be fun to try. If I were to make one, the real challenge would be working up the courage to admit that I did.
  • Pinkie Pie sticking a cupcake in her eye as part of her Pinkie Promise may seem completely random, but it’s actually a callback to Green Isn’t Your Color. Surely you remember the passage, “cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye”? Pinkie Pie is doing that second part literally.
  • Cheese Sandwich mentions Hawaiian shirts, an article of clothing Weird Al is known for wearing, in The Super Duper Party Pony. I’ll leave it to you to decide if there’s such a thing as Hawaii in the MLP universe.
  • I’ve noticed that I tend to use two jocular excuses for inconsistencies in the show’s events above all else: characters secretly being changelings, and time travel. But what if I combined both? What if the background ponies in the flashbacks are secretly changelings, and they traveled back in time? That would probably line up with the reformation changelings go through in the season 6 finale.

While this episode introduced us to Pinkie Pie’s future love interest, the next one gives Rarity a love interest to less fortunate results.

See you next time as Rarity bends herself backwards to please a love interest, and Fluttershy takes some time to deal with stage fright. As of this post’s release, my review of Simple Ways is finished, but since it’s only one of two episodes the next post will go through, it may have to wait a while due to burnout.

EDIT: Nope, it was still the next week as usual. Oh, the benefits of a weekly queue schedule.

>> Part 35: Simple Ways + Filli Vanilli

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