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Season 5, Episode 9
I’ve finally made it to a very special episode of the show: Slice of Life, which is an episode I had heard about during my six-year break from watching this show. You probably know that to celebrate its 100th episode, MLP:FiM did an episode focusing on the background ponies. But that episode also has an insane amount of callbacks and details and fandom references meant for fans like me to pick up on, and in this review, I’ll go over them all in as much detail as I can.
Are you ready for my number one longest MLP episode review so far? It’s over 7400 words long—don’t say I didn’t warn you! (Most of my episode reviews are less than half this long.)
Season 5 Episode 9: Slice of Life
In five words: 22 minutes of pure fanservice.
Premise: The 100th episode of the show, intended as an homage to its fans. Cranky Doodle Donkey and Matilda are getting married, and the show’s most popular background ponies go through a variety of mishaps to ensure their wedding goes as planned.
Detailed run-through that puts all previous detailed run-throughs to shame:
*takes a deep breath*
If you thought my reviews of Magical Mystery Cure, Rarity Takes Manehattan, and Make New Friends but Keep Discord were way too detailed, then just you wait. For I am going to analyze this episode in the most thorough level of detail I possibly can, starting with Cranky Doodle Donkey and Matilda’s scrapbook.
This episode starts with Matilda opening a scrapbook with pictures of herself and Cranky Doodle Donkey, showing that although we’ve barely seen them since their debut, they’ve gone on plenty of offscreen adventures like a trip to Manehattan and a Hearth’s Warming Eve celebration. As I said at the end of A Friend In Deed, the show graciously gives these two donkeys some privacy after Pinkie Pie reunites them, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t gone on their own escapades. We just didn’t get to see them because Cranky Doodle Donkey is a very private guy. Though he and Matilda aren’t background ponies, I find it fitting for the episode to start with them since its overarching focus is looking into the lives of characters who normally stay in the background.
This glue stick looks an awful lot like Elmer’s Glue, a brand that I vividly remember playing with as a kid.
Matilda turns a page in the scrapbook and glues on a copy of her wedding invitation. I have something extremely important to wonder about: why are some photos in the scrapbook taped on while others are glued? Maybe Cranky Doodle Donkey always uses tape in the scrapbook, while Matilda prefers to use glue. This is clearly an important detail with all sorts of subtle implications and not a result of me pausing this episode every five seconds so I can examine the scenes for trivial things to pick apart. You should feel lucky that I didn’t write a gigantic paragraph about how the shape of the glue markings almost looks like an equal sign. Believe me, I was tempted!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: I’ll never understand the ponies in this town. Everywhere I went, they were all gussied up and looking at me funny. Kept asking if I was nervous.
Matilda: Did they forget the wedding is tomorrow?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Ah, maybe they’re just as excited for us to be married as I am.
This scene sums up all you need to know about Cranky Doodle Donkey. While he regularly gets frustrated with the ways of most ponies, he switches to a smile when he talks about the wedding, which shows the special place in his heart for Matilda. He’s grateful for the few people who understand him for who he is, and we’re going to meet another one of them later in this episode.
Matilda: Well, they’re going to feel awfully silly when they realize they’ve got the wrong date.
Matilda: (gasps) The invitations are wrong! This says the wedding is today!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: But I got such a good deal on them.
Do you think this passage could be snarky social commentary on how people tend to blow exuberant amounts of money on weddings? Or that some companies have convinced people that to truly tell someone you love them, you must give them an overpriced wedding or an ultra-expensive jewel that they sell? Whatever the case, this line tells us that Cranky doesn’t want to spend tons of money for the sake of his soon-to-be wife; his love for her goes beyond any need for that.
Matilda: Everyone in town got these. The princesses even RSVP’d!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: I told you we should have eloped.
Pay attention to Cranky Doodle Donkey’s usage of the word “eloped”. How many six-year-old girls do you think know what that word means? I’ve said it before, but usage of words that kids aren’t likely to know shows how much the show’s audience has expanded since it started. This especially holds true for this episode, which some people have criticized for focusing too much on appealing to its adult fans. But since I’m exactly the sort of fan this episode is meant to appeal to, I can’t complain at all.
Matilda: Oh dear. The caterer. The flowers. The musicians. We’ve got to move it all to today!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: What?
Matilda: (runs outside) Where’s my wedding planner?
Matilda mentioned a lot of points that are sure to entice adult fans watching the show, especially the caterer and musicians and what have you—which characters could possibly be in charge of those roles? Perhaps some fans guessed that they’d be specific background ponies, and they were very much right.
While Matilda storms off to get everything ready, Cranky Doodle Donkey goes to the pony in charge of sending invitations and gives her a piece of his mind. Who could it possibly be?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: You told me you could do it for half what the others charge. And then, you sent the invitations to everypony in town with the wrong date! (snorts)
IT’S HER, IT’S HER, IT’S HER, IT’S HER, IT’S HER!!!!!!!!!
Here is Derpy Hooves’ first line in the show since that whole controversy back in season 2, and what a wonderful return it is. This time, the show’s staff were very careful to give Derpy a voice that suits her personality without coming off as excessively dumb-sounding, and it shows. Derpy’s new voice sounds much better than either of her previous ones in The Last Roundup, and her first line with this new voice is the only thing it could ever logically be: a reference to the now canon fandom meme that she loves muffins.
But wait, I can’t go on without analyzing Cranky Doodle Donkey’s choice to have Derpy deliver his invitations. Given how Cranky was just talking about how he doesn’t understand the ponies of Ponyville, it makes sense that he wouldn’t know that Derpy brings about so many clumsy accidents. And as for Derpy offering a muffin, it’s clear that she thinks anyone can be cheered up if they just have a muffin. Maybe she resorts to eating a muffin whenever she’s in a downer mood? Maybe she regularly eats muffins with her fellow mail delivery ponies? Regardless of this, the show consistently portrays Derpy’s occupation as a delivery pony from here on out, and I think that’s pretty nice. Derpy’s first line in this episode is a perfect point to cut to the theme song, because she is the background pony and sets the stage for more background pony shenanigans to come.
I am making a point of quoting every spoken word in this episode to say something about it.
Well, unless you count the lyrics of the theme song.
After the theme song, Twilight Sparkle runs with a determined expression getting ready to cast some magic spell, but the camera quickly focuses away from her in favor of the background ponies. This is one of many clever things about this episode: unlike most other episodes, in Slice of Life the Mane 6 are the background ponies. This is an incredibly fun role swap that wonderfully messes with the viewers’ expectations and shows us how the Mane 6’s adventures come across to the everyday residents of Ponyville.
Derpy’s voice in this episode is so adorable, I don’t even know what to say.
Derpy: I really messed up on those invitations. I feel just awful, Doc.
Waiter: Hm! I guess that explains why I never got mine.
Hm… who could this “Doc” be? While some viewers of this episode may be confused, those familiar with the background ponies will immediately know who Derpy is talking about. I believe Dr. Whooves and Derpy were always a popular pairing among fans, but I have no idea why. The two most likely reasons I can think of are because they were the first memorable male and female background ponies respectively, and because the idea of a spacey klutz being friends with a time-traveling scientist is amusing. I’m not sure how true those reasons are, but this episode proves the second one by having Derpy and Dr. Whooves play off each other to glorious effect.
Derpy: I told Cranky I could get them printed for cheap, but that meant hiring somepony with no experience using a printing press.
M.A. Larson saw fans criticize something about one of his episodes, so he went ahead and redeemed it in this episode.
What a champ.
Remember when Featherweight got away with taking all those private photos of ponies back in Ponyville Confidential? That was a common criticism of that episode, and this episode makes up for it by spraying him with ink just like Diamond Tiara slipped on it. This episode resolves many criticisms with prior episodes, even tiny ones like this one, demonstrating all the thought and care put into making this episode the best tribute to fans it could possibly be.
Derpy: Oh, I wish there was a way I could go back in time and fix all this.
While we had previously seen Dr. Whooves do a few background gags loosely related to time and otherwise be a regular background pony, from this episode onwards he becomes the homage to Doctor Who he was always meant to be. I only have a surface-level knowledge of that show, so I’m probably going to miss a ton of references to it.
Derpy and Dr. Whooves have a special connection: both of them caught the eyes of fans from the very beginning.
One with memetic googly eyes, one with a cutie mark that suggested knowledge of time travel.
Dr. Whooves: Going back in time is old thinking, my friend. I was working off a cutting-edge theory of making time come forward to you.
These two have an odd friendship, but aren’t those the sweetest kind of friendships?
Dr. Whooves: My life’s work, decades, hm, centuries really, of research and experimentation, and I nearly had it cracked.
Dr. Whooves: Turns out there’s a magic spell for it. Who knew?
Being an earth pony scientist is hard, and no one understands. You spend unmeasurable amounts of time researching how to do the wildest possible things, only to find out that it’s something unicorns could do all along. Dr. Whooves must feel overshadowed by unicorns, his scientific work constantly trampled upon by the arcane study of magic spells.
Maybe Derpy’s aimless fooling around regularly helps Dr. Whooves come up with groundbreaking ideas, and that’s why their friendship works.
She does just that at the end of this episode.
Dr. Whooves: But! There are so many things that magic can’t explain, where science and mathematics are the real magic!
Derpy: Like these? They’re pretty.
Dr. Whooves: Ah. Yes, my flameless fireworks. Never could quite figure out how to get them to ignite.
Derpy: How did you learn to make all this stuff anyway?
Dr. Whooves: I’ve been studying science my whole life. Ever since a particularly traumatic experience as a foal, I’ve been looking for ways to make sense of the world around me. Science provides explanations of things we never thought possible!
And yet, Dr. Whooves persists in his studies, determined to solve the mysteries of life through science. In the universe of MLP, the meanings of science and magic may well be reversed, and Dr. Whooves doesn’t have much company in his scientific studies. But at least he has Derpy.
Dr. Whooves: Now, uh, why did we come here again?
Derpy: (shakes her head, but like SHAKES it, not just shaking as in the gesture for saying no) Yeah. Oh! Because I accidentally sent out invitations for Cranky and Matilda’s wedding with today’s date instead of tomorrow’s.
Dr. Whooves: Great whickering stallions! I completely forgot. And I still need to get my suit tailored!
Thinking about it, I can see another thing Derpy and Dr. Whooves have in common. Both space out and get distracted easily, they just get distracted by different things. They often need each other to remember what they were focusing on.
Dr. Whooves: Rarity? (knocks) Rarity? (grunts and tries to push the door)
Even though we just got done learning about Dr. Whooves’ wacky time travel research, his problem in this episode is much more mundane: needing to get his suit tailored. Such everyday, ordinary problems are befitting of an episode called “Slice of Life”. Dr. Whooves knocks on the door of Carousel Boutique, but Rarity isn’t there. I get the feeling that this sort of thing happens to background ponies a lot: needing help from a Mane 6 member while they’re busy going on yet another one of their crazy adventures.
And this scene is a good point to bring the next popular background pony to the table: DJ PON-3, also known as Vinyl Scratch.
Dr. Whooves: Please.
Dr. Whooves: You’ve got to help me.
Dr. Whooves: I lost track of time, unbelievably, and forgot that the wedding is this afternoon!
Since it’s commonly theorized Vinyl Scratch is mute, it seems logical that she communicates with others in hoof gestures.
Dr. Whooves: (unintelligible)
Dr. Whooves: Have you seen Rarity? She’s got to alter the sleeves of my suit and she’s got to do it now!
(Vinyl Scratch nods)
Dr. Whooves: Thank goodness. Lead on, my friend.
What happens when you put the DJ pony with thick shades and headphones into a context where everyone’s going about their regular days? This happens. She’s blasting her music so hard that she can’t hear a word Dr. Whooves is saying. She does, however, see him make a gesture in the shape of a circle…
I’m willing to bet Vinyl Scratch accidentally leads ponies to the wrong places all the time.
What sorts of hilarious offscreen mishaps has she subjected others to? Fans are left to imagine.
… and thus she leads Dr. Whooves right into a bowling alley. I never realized the circle gesture connection before, actually.
Dr. Whooves: Eh… why have you brought me here? Rarity would never set hoof in…
(Dr. Whooves sees the bowling trio approach)
Dr. Whooves: Great whickering stallions, they’ve got style!
The credits call the front guy of the trio “Lebowski Pony”, so I’ll go with that.
This bowling alley was seen in the opening of the Cutie Pox, as was the trio of ponies referencing The Big Lebowski, but this episode takes the Lebowski references to a MUCH greater extent. Not just that, it mixes them with some Doctor Who references creating a truly unprecedented collision of worlds. Maybe not entirely unprecedented, since both works of media were referenced in the show before.
Dr. Whooves: Gentlecolts! I’m facing… a certain calamity and I… couldn’t help noticing your remarkable fashion sense! Could I get the name of your incredible tailor?
Lebowski Pony: Well yeah, man. His name is me.
Dr. Whooves: “Me.” What an unfortunate name.
Lebowski Pony: No man, like, I manufacture my own garments. We all do, man.
Dr. Whooves: Then you’ve got to help me. I need this suit tailored. It’s an emergency.
Lebowski Pony: (laughs) Sorry, man. We’re just about to start the finals.
Dr. Whooves: What’s this word you keep using? “Man”?
This episode has some of the wildest character combinations we’ve seen yet, leading to a lot of hilarious interactions. I actually like the idea that the word “man” in MLP is a piece of slang that those like Dr. Whooves are unfamiliar with. Considering his time travel history, it’s plausible that he grew up in a time where no one said that.
If you put the ’s outside quotation marks, then that is objectively wrong and you should be ashamed of yourself.
Wait a minute!!! I don’t remember the plot of The Big Lebowski that well, but looking at “Lebowski Pony’s” cutie mark made me remember one thing: the plot involved a rug that someone peed on. That is a clever bonus for those who have seen this movie, and I love those allusions to media that isn’t aimed at kids.
Lebowski Pony: I don’t know, man, but guess what? Our fourth didn’t show, so if you roll with us, we’ll alter your suit for you.
This scene has a bunch of genuine math formulas, because at this point the show has no other choice.
Dr. Whooves: I’m sorry, gentlecolts, but I will not bowl. The splits, the spares… there’s simply too many variables.
Lebowski Pony: Variables? What are you talking about, man? Just throw the ball straight.
Dr. Whooves: Hold on. Straight?
Dr. Whooves: Very well. I’ll try your straight technique. It just might be crazy enough to work.
I can only imagine all the crazy conundrums Dr. Whooves got through with an esoteric solution that arose from clever usage of mathematical formulas. He’s so used to solving problems in complicated ways that throwing a bowling ball in a completely straight direction sounds unthinkable to him. At this point, the usual has become the unusual, and this strangely straightforward solution thus feels convincing.
And while Dr. Whooves bowls, we get to hear another background pony talk!
Applejack being a background pony? That’s nothing unusual, honestly.
(This is an extremely good joke that has totally not long become tired and outdated through Applejack getting more screen time.)
Octavia Melody: Do you know what they’re on about?
Apple Bloom: The way they’re huddled up like that, I’d say it’s either a friendship problem or a monster attack.
I love how accustomed the Cutie Mark Crusaders are to the Mane 6’s way of solving friendship problems and facing against monsters. This is one of the salient traits of season 5: the pattern of the Mane 6 solving a friendship problem or facing a monster has become a regular routine, so this season finds ways to throw a wrench in that pattern. In this episode, the pattern is toyed with by having the monster fight take place in the background, which is such a fun way to twist up the formula.
“Salient” is such a good word.
(Also, say hi to our old friend Twist!)
Octavia Melody: A monster attack? Blast! I’m performing at the ceremony this afternoon, and I still haven’t sorted out what to play. How am I meant to practice with a monster invading Ponyville?
Sweetie Belle: Maybe it’s just a friendship problem, and it’ll all be cleared up in a half an hour or so.
Octavia Melody: (sigh) I hope so.
Ah, of course. Leave it to Sweetie Belle to make a surprisingly genre-savvy meta comment that leans on the fourth wall. For some reason, this strikes me as an extremely Sweetie Belle thing to do. It’s quite hilarious to see these regular supporting characters comment on the friendship problem routine. While the Mane 6 face off against monsters invading Ponyville, they so easily forget that the town’s regular residents have their own lives to worry about. Yet again, I find myself wondering if this sort of thing has happened before. Surely there are other times where Octavia had her musical practice rudely interrupted by the Mane 6’s adventures. I mean, there was the time Rarity zapped her into a filly’s party, but Octavia didn’t seem to mind that.
Look, Big Mac and Cheerilee are standing together! Don’t you just love it when characters stand together?
Matilda: Where’s Pinkie Pie? I need my wedding planner!!!
Once again, the main cast of this episode are understandably trying to get Mane 6 to help with the wedding, since they all have various skills that would come in handy. But since the Mane 6 are busy going on another one of their adventures, the background ponies have to scramble to get the wedding done.
Note that Fluttershy looks nervous unlike the other five.
The Bugbear reveals itself, and the Mane 6 immediately step up like brave superheroes and start fighting it. We don’t know yet that he’s called the Bugbear; this will come from another character. We also don’t know yet what his deal is or where he came from, which I imagine is the norm for the residents of Ponyville. They’re just like, yep, Twilight and her friends are fighting another monster for whatever reason, what else is new.
Matilda: Oh no! On my wedding day? Somepony’s got to help me!
Hehe, look at Featherweight. He’s still covered in ink.
Amethyst Star: Me?
Matilda: I need to move an entire wedding from tomorrow to today!
Amethyst Star: But nopony’s asked me to organize anything since Twilight came to town.
Now THIS is an incredibly obscure callback. There are many background ponies who got enormous fan followings by the time this episode aired… and then there are some that didn’t, like Amethyst Star. She was one of the least notable common background ponies, known only for a silly little scene where she struggles to open a jar of peanut butter. But this scene calls back to Winter Wrap Up, where she was the leader of the unicorn team while Applejack and Rainbow Dash led the earth ponies and pegasi respectively. Perhaps when this episode aired, there was some fan out there who was obsessed with Amethyst Star and memorized every detail about her, and squealed in glee when this scene happened.
It’s sort of poignant that Amethyst Star has basically been swindled out of her specialty by Twilight Sparkle. By this point, the show has quite a few characters who feel they can never live up to her. How well do you think she would hit it off with Trixie? Amethyst Star seems to be the mature and level-headed type, so she’d probably find Trixie annoyingly egotistical. But you never know! Maybe from here on out, with Twilight’s increasing royal responsibilities, Amethyst Star will get to organize more events in Ponyville again.
Look how proud Amethyst Star is, getting to organize something once more.
Matilda: So you’ll do it?
Amethyst Star: I used to be the best organizer in Ponyville. You bet I’ll—
This post has way too many pictures already. I think I can afford not to show the Bugbear crushing a house.
Matilda: Come on. We’d better get to the salon before that monster flattens it.
And just like that, this show has finally thrown Amethyst Star a bone. I don’t know whether she had previously been named in merch or not, but she’s given this name in the episode’s credits.
It’s such a bizarre sight for Derpy to fly in the foreground of a monster fight instead of the background.
Derpy: What am I gonna do?
Derpy: (gasp) Matilda! I feel so bad about the invitations. Is there anything I can do?
Oh boy. Derpy is trying her best to redeem herself after her embarrassing slip-up, and she misinterprets Matilda screaming “flowers” as an instruction for her to do. This is all setting Derpy up to spectacularly mess something up. The viewer keeps going “no, no, no, Derpy don’t do that”, which makes the end result of her foolery a pleasant surprise.
I’m pretty sure all three members of the flower trio have inconsistent names.
I’m just going to go with the credits’ names for them.
Lily: You want Matilda’s arrangements today?
(all three flower ponies faint)
Daisy: This is awful!
Rose: The horror, the horror!
Derpy: So, there’s no way you can do it?
Lily: We don’t even have Matilda’s flowers in yet, much less arranged. Ugh, this is a disaster!
Here we have everyone’s favorite trio of flower ponies, once more freaking out about the most inconsequential things. I love that they made a return in this episode, and Derpy seems reasonable and level-headed next to them. She may be a klutz, but she’s well-meaning at heart and just wants everything to work out.
Derpy: Okay. Thanks anyway.
(Bugbear and Rainbow Dash zoom by)
Lily: (gasp) Look, girls! A broken stem on one of the zinnias!
(all three faint)
Rose: Oh, the horror, the horror!
Is it logical for these three to care more about a broken flower stem than a big monster zooming by? Not really. But is it hilarious anyway? You bet. But… hmm. Maybe the three of them never worry about whatever creatures the Mane 6 are facing because they know that these six win each time? It doesn’t really matter. I love the bait-and-switch where the flower ponies turn out to be freaking out about something inconsequential.
Next up is the part that probably made fans scream the loudest of all.
I can hear the Lyra/Bon Bon shippers squealing at this scene.
To be honest, it’s a little unfair that many cartoons in the past decade have been lauded for featuring lesbian couples while male gay couples barely ever get more than a small background scene for five seconds. Like, it’s a great thing to show girls that it’s OK if they want to date other girls, but boys should get the same messages conveyed about dating other boys instead of internally thinking it’s weird and wrong for them to be gay, or else we’re back to gender double standards that society has struggled for so long to overcome. I think the common Western ideals of masculinity have always made it seem more normal for women to do things like compliment each other’s looks than for men to, and while being gay is seen as more acceptable today than ever before, gay men still get the short end of the stick in media representation compared to lesbians.
Now with all that said, Lyra and Bon Bon are an adorable couple, and if you think their interactions in this episode are not shippy then you are wrong.
Bon Bon: I have to admit, when Matilda said we needed this place ready by today, I was a little nervous.
Lyra: With you by my side, (bumps flanks with Bon Bon) I knew we’d get it done in time.
Bon Bon: There is nothing like a best friend, is there.
Lyra: Anything’s possible when you know somepony as well as we know each other.
Lyra and Bon Bon may refer to each other as “best friends” now, but it’s silly to think that precludes any possibility of them being in a romantic relationship. Maybe they aren’t officially in a relationship at this moment, but the romantic undertones are very much there. And who says it isn’t possible for best friends to become lovers? It’s a natural leadup to their more explicit shippy moments in later seasons.
Bon Bon: What was that?
Lyra: There’s some monster attacking Ponyville or something.
Bon Bon: What is it this time? A creature from the Everfree Forest?
Lyra: I think it’s some sort of bug bear. (laughs)
I love how we’re now at a point where monsters attacking Ponyville has become a regular routine where the background ponies simply continue going about their days. It provides a lot of explanation for why they often don’t come and help face against the monster. They have their own lives to worry about and things they need to get done: in this case, decorating a room for a wedding.
In the transcripts, I’m still calling her Bon Bon because it’s faster to type.
Bon Bon: (eyes go wide) Did you say bug bear?
Bon Bon: It found me!
Lyra: What are you talking about, Bon Bon?
Bon Bon: My name isn’t Bon Bon. It’s Special Agent Sweetie Drops. I work for a super-secret anti-monster agency in Canterlot. Or at least I did until the Bugbear went missing from Tartarus a few years back.
Before this episode aired, there were two conflicting names for the earth pony shown in the picture above: Bon Bon and Sweetie Drops. Fans have always disagreed on what to call her, and instead of picking one name to make canon, this episode cleverly finds a way to canonize both! Better yet, this solution to her name issue gives her a whole new surprising backstory and puts some emotional tension on her relationship with Lyra.
Lyra: What… are you… talking about?
Bon Bon: When it escaped, we had to shutter the whole agency. Every last shred of evidence of the organization’s existence was destroyed. Celestia demanded complete deniability.
Lyra: … What?
Bon Bon: It was me who captured the Bugbear. I had to go deep cover in Ponyville and assume the name Bon Bon. I never thought it’d be able to track me. But now, it has.
Lyra: Are you saying our whole friendship was based on a lie?!
Bon Bon: I’m sorry, Lyra. I couldn’t tell you for your own protection!
Lyra: B-b-but the lunches. The, the long talks. The benches we sat on. None of that was real?
The way Lyra and Bon Bon talk to each other is much like an old married couple, as is the way Lyra takes Bon Bon’s reveal. She’s crushed that her best friend withheld this from her, which is a lot like someone finding out their romantic partner cheated on them. While this is quite a tense scene, Lyra’s mention of sitting on benches is a lapse of humor that recalls the longtime fandom meme of her sitting like a human.
Bon Bon: It was all real. You’re my very best friend.
Bon Bon: I’ve got to go find a crowd to blend into before I put you in danger. I’ll see you at the wedding.
Lyra: Fine. But we’re going to talk about this later!
Can you stop an appreciate how much of a retroactive badass Bon Bon is? Given her numerous background appearances since the show started, we know that she’s highly skilled at blending into crowds so that she looks unassuming. And as for her inconsistent voices, we can justify that as her being able to change her voice to cover her tracks. It’s true that from this episode onwards, her voice remains consistent, but we can chalk that up as a character’s voice permanently becoming their true one once their secret identity is revealed. Think Thomas from Regular Show, for instance.
I love how the Mane 6 are having funny background events in this episode like background ponies usually would. An example is Pinkie Pie riding a unicycle and spinning discs on her hooves shown above, presumably to distract the Bugbear? The crowd is distracted by this too, which is convenient for Bon Bon because it allows her to seamlessly blend in.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: I need my ring today, no matter the cost!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: As long as it doesn’t cost any extra.
I don’t have anything to say about this line, but I wanted to stick to my promise of quoting every spoken word from the episode. This will probably be the only episode where I do this, OK?
Just looked it up; this is indeed what a seven-ten split looks like.
At first I thought, “wait, shouldn’t it be an eight-ten split since eight pins have been knocked down?”
But then I realized the name comes from the numbering of the pins.
Seven-ten split is a catchy phrase anyway.
Pony Lebowski: Seven-ten split, man. Harshest of the harsh. But if you pick this up, we win the whole shebang.
Dr. Whooves: (breathes in and out, then trembles in panic)
Derpy: Doc! I finally figured out how I can help!
Derpy: Your flameless fireworks look just like flowers. I’ll use them for the wedding!
Dr. Whooves: Great whickering stallions. Wait!
Derpy’s ditzy nature, normally conveyed through visual gags, is equally apparent when she says she will use fireworks in place of flowers. It’s the exact same hilarity Derpy usually brings us visually, and it’s more setup for her to seemingly do something disastrous.
He was that close.
In this fight, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash have been doing most of the work.
Rainbow Dash even punches the bugbear a few times, which is rare in this show!
Dr. Whooves: Wait! The flameless fireworks are extremely volatile. Without knowing what the trigger is, they could go off at any moment.
Dr. Whooves: My word, is that a Bugbear?
That makes two background ponies who recognize the Bugbear! We don’t know how Dr. Whooves recognizes this creature, but it’s most likely through his time travel adventures. This guy knows so much more than he could ever let on, and yet he couldn’t pick up a seven-ten split in bowling.
In case you forgot, this spa pony is Lotus Blossom and the other one is Aloe.
Matilda: Oh, there are so many things I’m forgetting! I hope Cranky remembers to tell the musicians. Oh, oh! I’ll never get my mane done in time!
Lotus Blossom: You must relax, my dear. We can handle anything. We once did a pony’s hair during their ceremony.
Adding on to the smorgasbord of background characters, this scene is set up as a fun little scene with the spa pony duo that’s often seen in the background…
I wonder if all sea serpents in this show have a naming format that goes “human name + metallic object”?
… but it leads to a FAR more surprising character: the purple sea serpent we met in Friendship Is Magic, Part 2. Between his charming personality and his memetic name that came from inaccurate YouTube captions, Steven Magnet made quite a splash to fans when he debuted, and now the name Steven Magnet is canon! It may seem surprising that the spa has such a gigantic tub for him, but I believe this is the same tub that the Mane 6 washed away their curses in back in Bridle Gossip.
Steven Magnet: Oh, it’s true, it’s true! They really are the best. Matilda, I’ve just got to say, I already feel like we’re family.
Matilda: You do?
Steven Magnet: Of course! I’m Steven Magnet, Cranky’s best beast.
Matilda: You’re Steven Magnet?
Steven Magnet: Well, what’d you expect, a Bugbear?
I wonder how many fans had heard of a character named “Steven Magnet” but had no idea it was him until watching this episode? If there are, then Matilda’s shock at this name reveal mirrors theirs perfectly.
Steven Magnet: I’ve known Cranky for EVER! Surely he must have told you about the time he saved me from Flash Freeze Lake?
Matilda: You’re Steven Magnet.
Steven Magnet: Oh, I know, I know! Typical Cranky, to leave out minor details, like the fact that I’m, you know, a sea monster, right?
Steven Magnet: (laughs) I just love that old burro.
The crazy thing about Cranky Doodle Donkey being friends with Steven Magnet is that it makes perfect sense knowing Cranky’s backstory. He never got along well with most ponies or understood their ways, but he has mentioned that he made many friends in his travels across Equestria. His brief appearance in Dragon Quest (which takes place before A Friend in Deed because otherwise it wouldn’t make sense) shows him riding over a river, and Steven Magnet lives inside a river in the Everfree Forest. I think it makes sense that Cranky Doodle Donkey would get along better with a giant sea monster who’s surely similarly introverted than he would with most ponies. It’s not like we see any other sea serpents (or I guess river serpents) around in the Everfree Forest. Maybe Steven Magnet is always off doing his own thing away from others of his kind, which would be exactly like Cranky.
Matilda: I’m sorry, Steven. I guess I assumed you were a pony. And I had no idea you had such adventures together.
Steven Magnet: Oh, funny! You don’t know the half of it. But let me tell you something. In all that we’ve been through together, the only thing he ever cared about was finding you.
Matilda: (wipes off a tear) Really?
Steven Magnet: Well, that and a baldness cure. (laughs)
Matilda: He is the sweetest thing, isn’t he? All the stress I’ve put myself through. All the stress I’ve put him through. The only thing that matters is that we’re together.
Matilda: The wedding isn’t the important thing, the marriage is.
Steven Magnet: (laughs) Oh, goodness gracious. If you believe that, I have got a bridge to sell you!
Steven Magnet: All these ponies traveling to Ponyville, putting on uncomfortable clothes, sitting through a long ceremony, you think any of them care about “the marriage”? (laughs) Funny.
Steven Magnet: The wedding is everything.
(Matilda trembles in fear)
Steven Magnet and Matilda’s conversation leads to a surprisingly sweet note, where we remember the great lengths Cranky Doodle Donkey went through to find his love. But this episode’s heartfelt moments keep leading back to panic as everyone scrambles to get the wedding ready, until the grand conclusion where the tribute to fans is realized. In his last line here, Steven Magnet is telling Matilda to stop fooling around and get the wedding under control, since he knows the clock is ticking.
Love that bush trimmed in the shape of an eighth note.
This episode now has two pairs of popularly shipped background ponies confirmed to live together: the second is everyone’s favorite duo of contrasting musicians. This scene starts out with Octavia Melody playing the classic Wedding March that everyone knows, but then she says:
Octavia Melody: (scoffs) All those wedding songs are so… standard. I want Matilda and Cranky’s wedding to be special!
I love that this line alone made Octavia a MUCH more interesting character! We always knew her as an elegant and uptight classical musician, but now we see that she’s willing to have some fun and experiment, and has a distaste for music being too cut and dry.
Octavia and Vinyl start playing an improvised duet with their cello and turntables respectively, which is so fun and fanservicey I don’t even know what to say. Octavia says at first:
Octavia Melody: Thanks, but I’m not sure that’s appropriate for a wedding, is it.
This may seem like shooting down her roommate’s idea, but through further improvisation their duet kicks into high gear and becomes an excellent homage to the music fans of the show are known for making.
Octavia Melody: That’s more like it!
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “brony music”? For me, it’s synth-filled electronic music with lyrics that loosely relate to the show. While I don’t actually know that much about brony music, this scene is still so much fun and clearly meant to pay tribute to a side of the show’s fanbase that no one expected to be so prominent. It starts to look like a flashy special effect-filled music video that resembles the popular image of brony music, but then Octavia says:
Octavia Melody: Stop! I’m going to be late for the wedding!
These two both initially appeared for only a few seconds each in season 1. Look how far they’ve come!
Not shown: Featherweight getting his ink washed off through the power of music.
Also not shown: Cranky Doodle Donkey’s wig getting knocked off again.
And so, she and Vinyl Scratch perform an increasingly wild dubstep/cello duet on the way to the wedding. The two have become entranced in the joy of music, with nothing else in the world mattering to them. They bring more and more ponies along with them on their wheeled DJ set, making the fanservice get more and more insane until this climactic moment:
We’re going to learn more about Lemon Hearts three episodes from now.
As it turns out, horses in real life do not have huge anime eyes. Always easy to forget.
What good is a fanservice episode without a return of the disproportionately memetic Twilight Scepter? It looks like since Twilight Sparkle tossed it in the season 4 premiere, this thing has been sitting around in Ponyville the whole time. Lemon Hearts throws it at the critical moment, the scenes zoom by faster and faster until we see some of the show’s staff members dressed as horses for just one frame, and then we get the iconic scene where a huge crowd of ponies trips over the scepter. These aren’t generic background ponies… well, OK, some are, but every single one of them who’s been riding the DJ set has their own unique story behind them and following, whether within the show or in fanworks.
For a few examples, Berry Punch (who probably has like ten other names in merch) is commonly memed for being an alcoholic. Button Mash has been sitting by Vinyl Scratch, and he’s a small fan favorite who got wrapped up in some controversy involving whether he counts as an original character. What’s-his-name with the sharp horn who popped balloons in season 1 is a fairly memetic character, though his cutie mark in the shot above strangely switches to an hourglass. Do you think he could be the changeling who we later see in the wedding? No, seriously. I genuinely think this is a fair excuse for his cutie mark being inconsistent. Changelings still have a bad rap among ponies at this point, so it makes perfect sense that the changeling would be in disguise here.
As this scene plays out in slow motion, Gummy watches and has an iconic internal monologue:
Gummy: What is life? Is it nothing more than an endless search for a cutie mark? And what is a cutie mark, but a constant reminder that we’re all only one Bugbear attack away from oblivion? And what of the poor gator? Flank forever blank, destined to an existential swim down the river of life to… an unknowable destiny?
Gummy licking his eye after having a dreary, existential monologue that raises tons of questions about his nature is pure comedic genius. It always makes me laugh WAY too hard, and it’s a perfect lapse of absurd humor before the wedding begins.
I like how Berry Punch’s barrel gets a seat to itself.
The figures of the soon-to-be-wed donkeys land on the cake last.
(Also, this would make a nice family photo!)
Thanks to the Twilight Scepter, all the guests miraculously land in their seats one by one. The cake that the Cakes baked makes it intact too, and I’m going to guess they scrambled to make the cake since Pinkie Pie got wrapped up in the Bugbear fight. Maybe Pinkie Pie originally was going to bake the cake, since she has her own connection with Cranky Doodle Donkey and Matilda, being the one who reunited them. That would make sense, don’t you think?
Octavia Melody: Something like that might work.
(Vinyl Scratch adjusts her shades)
I love how Octavia and Vinyl did their entire music rehearsal on their way to the wedding completely undeterred. This is yet more excellent timing that leads up to this episode’s thrilling conclusion.
Both of Celestia’s appearances so far in season 5 have shown her as not so above it all, and I love that.
Celestia: What do you mean, you left it on the counter?
Luna: I thought you were bringing it.
Celestia: (sigh) Well, this is just wonderful.
Celestia and Luna arguing like sisters is hilarious and wonderful and I love it so much. I find it very believable for them to do this because it shows that no pair of siblings, no matter how royal they are, is immune to getting into petty, sarcastic arguments.
This episode refreshingly treats Spike with some respect. He gets to attend the wedding while the Mane 6 don’t!
I also love that Celestia and Luna briefly switch to forced smiles as Spike puts his wedding gift on the table. They’re like, no no no, we can’t let the kid see that we’re arguing, even though they know Spike personally. Once Spike gets seated, they resume their argument.
Luna: I handled the gift for Cadance and Shining Armor. You were supposed to do this one, remember?
Celestia: Well, we can’t just come to this wedding empty-hooved!
Anyone who has siblings has surely been in a situation like this—disagreeing on who’s supposed to do what and thus getting into embarrassing mishaps. These arguments make Celestia and Luna much more believable characters, and we get to see more conflicts between them in some fan favorite episodes in later seasons.
Shining Armor: (cries)
Cadance: It’s alright. He always cries at weddings.
Shining Armor: (cries even more)
Cadance: Usually, it’s not until the wedding starts.
I love this, I love this, I love this. I love seeing not-so-above-it-all sides of Equestrian royalty, like Shining Armor’s habit of crying at weddings. While some fans suggest this relates to the tough experiences Shining Armor and Cadance faced at their wedding, I like to imagine that Shining Armor cried at weddings since he was a foal, and he never grew out of his habit. It shows a dorky side to this guy, matching him up with his incredibly dorky and lovable sister.
Derpy: These flameless fireworks look even better than flowers! (laughs)
Watch out, Derpy. Before you know it, you’re going to accidentally create a stunning fireworks display that your doctor buddy could never figure out how to make. Please don’t mess with anything further, Derpy, please! Next up, you’re probably going to save Twilight Sparkle’s life or something horrific like that!
Bon Bon: Attention, everypony. Our friends have done it. They’ve defeated the Bugbear!
It’s very fitting that the Mane 6 defeated the Bugbear offscreen, for reasons I already explained in this post. But given that Bon Bon just took off her shades after entering the door, could it be that she secretly dealt the final blow on that creature? Given that it happened offscreen, it’s entirely possible that she killed the Bugbear. There was probably tons of blood.
I’m guessing Lyra sitting like a human is an odd habit she developed as a filly that gave her funny looks until it became clear she refused to change it.
Bon Bon: Hey.
Lyra: (deadpan) Hello.
Bon Bon: So, uh, you didn’t happen to mention our earlier conversation about my… (whispered) secret identity… to anypony, did you?
Lyra: No. I did not.
Lyra: And you’re not the only one with a secret, you know. You know those expensive imported oats you were saving for a special occasion? I cooked them up and ate them. All of them.
Obligatory mention that Lyra saying she cooked up the oats and ate them is a reference to a fan video involving her and Bon Bon which I’m pretty sure involves dealing with a human corpse. This is another one of this episode’s insane references, and I’m sure there’s many that I missed.
Lyra: (laughs) It’s sort of thrilling to reveal your deepest, darkest secrets.
Bon Bon: (also laughs) That’s what best friends are for.
Though these two address each other as “best friends”, they’re behaving so much like a married couple who just went through a conflict it’s unreal. Maybe they don’t think of each other as more than friends now, but it’s clear to me that there’s something greater going on with them. Lyra even mentions how thrilling it is to reveal her secrets, which sounds an awful lot like romantic feelings.
I love how bitter these two look in contrast to all the other guests.
Celestia: Next time, you can just bring your own gift, and I’ll bring mine.
If you have siblings, or especially if you regularly see two siblings argue from an external perspective, this scene is hilariously relatable. It’s exactly how all arguments between siblings go in my experience.
Dr. Whooves: There you are.
Dr. Whooves: My suit has vanished, and this is the only thing left in my closet.
Dr. Whooves: How do I look?
Derpy: Like a million bits.
Dr. Whooves: Great whickering stallions, look at the time! We’d… better get inside. Allons-y!
Derpy and Dr. Whooves have something of an odd friendship, but I can see why it works. A time-traveling science nerd and a simple-minded delivery pony probably need each other to remember things and provide new perspectives on life, and it’s often contrast that makes friendships work so well.
I transcribed the word as “moustache” instead of “mustache” because he’s pronouncing it as /mus’tæʃ/, not /’mʌstæʃ/.
(I hope you can read the IPA. I don’t think stress marks are exactly apostrophes, but they’re a close enough substitute.)
Cranky Doodle Donkey: I can’t believe I lost my hair! I look ridiculous. The love of my life deserves better than this.
Steven Magnet: Have no fear, Cranky my dear. It’s Steven Magnet’s moustache to the rescue!
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Aw, thanks, buddy.
Steven Magnet: No problem. Now you get in there, and marry that donkey!
This is a sweet scene for multiple reasons. It’s not just a demonstration of Cranky Doodle Donkey and Steven Magnet’s friendship, but it also shows that Steven has taken Rarity’s lesson about generosity to heart. Way back in the show’s second episode, Rarity used one of Steven Magnet’s scales to slice off her tail and give it to him, and now Steven sliced off part of his own mustache for Cranky, which is an excellent callback that shows what he’ll do for his friend. The Mane 6’s ways of teaching friendship have spread to many, even enormous purple sea monsters.
The Perfect Pear shows us that this isn’t Mayor Mare’s first time officiating a wedding.
Mayor Mare: Well, is everypony here?
Twilight Sparkle forgets she can fly again!
Not shown: the door’s lock falling into place.
Derpy: All set, Mayor!
Nice job, Derpy. Real nice job. Aside from being hilarious, Derpy accidentally locking the Mane 6 out of the wedding makes sense to me because she never interacted with them much. For her, the main figures in her life are an entirely different set: Dr. Whooves, the other mainstay background ponies, and presumably her fellow mail-delivering ponies. This ties in with the episode’s moral that Mayor Mare is about to share with us.
But really though, Derpy did nothing wrong. It’s honestly the Mane 6’s fault. After defeating the Bugbear, they probably spent way too long doing silly, frivolous things like “celebrating victory” and “exchanging hugs”. Please give Derpy a gentle pat on the head and tell her that she’s completely innocent.
This is quite an assortment of characters! This post is way too long already, so I won’t discuss them here.
Now for my personal favorite part of the episode: Mayor Mare’s wedding speech.
Mayor Mare: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join these two in mare-trimony. As I look around this room, I can only imagine how uncomfortable Cranky must be.
Cranky Doodle Donkey: Uh… yeah…
The speech starts as a completely standard wedding speech, but then Mayor Mare shows a surprisingly good sense of humor in it. I imagine she’s officiated so many weddings in Ponyville by now, her trained speech has gotten tiring enough that she can’t help but crack some jokes in it. She’s right, though: we know Cranky Doodle Donkey doesn’t fare well being surrounded by so many people.
Aw, look at how happy and excited Spike is here.
The Mane 6 don’t get to attend this wedding, but he does!
Mayor Mare: But I also see so many ponies from all trots of life, brought together by love.
Mayor Mare: Cranky searched all across this great land of ours to find Matilda, and no matter what obstacles kept them apart, love would finally bring them together, just as it has brought all of us together now.
This is a stirring speech so far, and it causes Celestia and Luna to finally stop looking bitter with each other and remember their sisterly relationship. Who knew Mayor Mare was this good at giving wedding speeches?
Mayor Mare: It’s remarkable to me, how a story like Cranky’s search for Matilda could fill this room with such a unique collection of ponies! It makes you realize that everypony is the star of their own story. And it’s not just the main characters in our stories that make life so rich!
Mayor Mare: It’s everypony. Those who play big parts and those who play small.
This right here is my favorite thing about this entire episode: that all the fanservice involving those popular background ponies still leads to a friendship lesson in the end. And it’s a moral that suits this episode perfectly: realizing that everyone has a unique story to tell and a vibrant life of their own, even if they only played a small part in your own life. It’s so easy to wave off strangers you walk by day-to-day as empty blank slates, and I admit I do that a LOT, so when I first watched this episode it genuinely got me thinking about everyone around me is the star of their own story, no matter how samey they may all seem. The fact that the fanservice episode still has a genuine friendship lesson in it (and a good one, at that) leaves me with a feeling that’s hard to put in words. I’d best describe it as a mix of awe and respect for this show and what it does.
Look at this guy, sitting a few seats away from everyone else. A bunch of foals are huddled up in fear from him.
He probably wants to be disguised as a pony, but there is so much love in this room that he can’t easily do so.
Oh yeah, I can’t go on without mentioning the changeling cameo. It caught fans by HUGE surprise when this episode came out, and I can only begin to imagine all the theories and fanfictions that sprang up. It’s a subtle leadup to the later, more sympathetic portrayal of changelings that we get starting in season 6.
Mayor Mare: If it weren’t for everypony in this room, and many more who couldn’t be here today, Cranky and Matilda’s lives wouldn’t be as full and vibrant as they are.
(Steven Magnet starts crying and grabs Bulk Biceps as a cushion)
Note that Mayor Mare says that there are many more ponies who couldn’t be here today. This clearly shows that she agrees it’s the Mane 6’s fault that they couldn’t be at the wedding and knows Derpy is an innocent angel. There are plenty of contexts where six would be “many”, and Mayor Mare says that they couldn’t be here today. So who else would the “many more” be referring to other than the Mane 6?
OK, yeah. I know not every single supporting or background character is in the audience, and Mayor Mare wasn’t exclusively referring to the Mane 6. But come on, I wanted to have a little fun. This whole episode review is about having fun, really.
“Jack” and “Jenny” are old-timey words for male and female donkeys. Such good attention to detail!
Mayor Mare: And so, in front of all these loved ones… Cranky, do you take this donkey to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Cranky Doodle Donkey: You bet I do.
Mayor Mare: And do you, Matilda, take this donkey to be your lawfully wedded husband?
Matilda: (sniff) I do.
Mayor Mare: Then I’m proud to say, I know pronounce you jack and jenny.
With Cranky Doodle Donkey and Matilda officially becoming married, the flameless fireworks go off at last. It turns out that instead of horribly messing something up, Derpy accidentally created a beautiful firework show. One may have thought bringing fireworks in was a foolish idea, but if you remember that they are flameless, that means they can safely go off indoors! This is such a lovely way to redeem her controversy back in season 2 and conclude this episode with style.
I’m pretty sure Dr. Whooves holding a pony affiliated with roses is a Doctor Who reference.
Dr. Whooves: Ah, ha ha ha! Of course! They need love to ignite! How could I have missed it?
Everyone, give a round of applause to Derpy Hooves for making this happen. I imagine that this is far from the only time she’s unwittingly solved one of Dr. Whooves’ problems. He thinks of everything in obtuse, technical terms, so it never occurs to him to think of straightforward solutions. That’s what Derpy is here for.
Twilight Sparkle: You know something, girls? We are so lucky to live in this town.
Twilight Sparkle: I love you all.
Rainbow Dash: Ow! That’s where the Bugbear bit me!
Twilight Sparkle: Sorry.
I love that it’s not until the very end of the episode where the Mane 6 have their own heartfelt moment. They went almost the entire episode without speaking, and their hug is interrupted with some humor to end this episode on a lighthearted but still sweet note.
One more thing I’m obligated to mention is that the credits call her “Muffins” instead of “Derpy”. While this may be disappointing for some fans, it’s clear that either legal issues or the prior controversy prevented her from being listed as Derpy. As such, calling her Muffins is the next best thing, and it still serves as an homage to fans. So it’s all good in my book.
This episode is a bunch of fanservice, and I love every last second of it. The end.
For real, with all the off-the-wall humor, surprising callbacks, fandom nods, media references, and attention to detail, this episode earns its grade through and through. It’s a heartwarming tribute to the fans who make this show what it is.
Even in an episode whose entire point is having fun background details, there are still some details that are so tangential that they belong down in the miscellaneous notes section. I put details here if I felt they would interrupt the pace of the run-through too much.
- The bowling alley has quite a few of the same faces we saw in The Cutie Pox, including the very same colt who got a bowling cutie mark in that episode—look on the right. There’s also Thunderlane from the Wonderbolts, whose name I keep mistyping as Thunderland. How would a girl named Alice fare in a place called Thunderland anyway? We may never know.
- Starting when Amethyst Star guides all the ponies to each do a task, we see Hayseed Turnip Truck in the background too. Does he live in Canterlot or Ponyville, or somewhere totally different? Maybe he secretly knows Cranky Doodle Donkey and traveled all the way from wherever he lives for this wedding.
- On the topic of Bon Bon/Sweetie Drops’ name, while Sweetie Drops is technically her legal name, you could argue that during her time living with Lyra, Bon Bon also became her name. A phrase referring to you that when uttered snaps your attention and makes you immediately know you’re being addressed: wouldn’t you say that’s the definition of a name?
- I wonder what Lemon Hearts’ initial reaction to seeing the Twilight Scepter was, given that she was one of Twilight Sparkle’s childhood friends from Canterlot. Maybe she saw it one day and genuinely thought her childhood friend has been walking with this thing around? Or did she think Twilight was bequeathed this scepter and chose not to use it much?
While this episode throws a bone to Spike, the next episode does, um… whatever the opposite of throwing a bone to Spike is. Snatching a bone away from Spike?
I’ve written some huge MLP episode reviews before, but nothing like this! As fun as it was to pick apart this episode in ultra-intricate detail, I felt very exhausted at the end because that’s what happens when I finish an especially ambitious installment of one of my projects. But because of my weekly queue schedule, I had plenty of time to recuperate before prodding on with season 5, and thus my next post will come out next week.
See you next week for two of season 5’s weaker episodes before I analyze yet another bombshell.