Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 51: Rarity Investigates!


< Part 50 | Part 51 | Part 52 >

Season 5, Episode 15

Season 5 Episode 15: Rarity Investigates!

In five words: Mystery reveals celebrity’s nasty truth.

Premise: At a Wonderbolts event, Rainbow Dash is accused of tricking Spitfire into not attending so that she can fly in it instead. Putting on a charming film noir shtick, Rarity gets to the bottom of this mystery.

Detailed run-through:

In the last review, I forgot to mention Sassy Saddles’ fun little shtick of using two fashion terms at a time as interjections.

This episode begins at the same boutique Rarity had set up in the last episode, which is a bit unusual—perhaps a result of the broadcast order being different from production order?

Rarity: Oh, Sassy Saddles, don’t you just love my new Femme Mystique Chic line of gowns?
Sassy Saddles: (gasps) Sequins and sashes, Rarity, they’re exquisite. Where in Equestria did you find the inspiration?
Rarity: Oh, I modeled them after the adventures of Shadow Spade. Her stories are always full of mystery and suspense, and best of all… Fabulous costumes!

I find it admirable that Rarity owns up to what her real favorite thing about these mystery novels is. A lot of fans of this show struggle to admit what they like most about it and throw together complicated reasons to make themselves seem more cultured. While there are certainly tons of subtle things I like about this show, the main draw factors are the good sense of humor and the cute character designs. Simple as that.

Rarity makes a few adjustments to the dresses while talking about Shadow Spade’s attention to detail, then Rainbow Dash ruins the moment with a hasty entrance. While the Mane 6 are a tight-knit group of friends, not all two-way relationships between them are equal. Season 5 has quite a few episodes that pair up Mane 6 members who hadn’t shown up together much, and this scene establishes that we’re going to explore the dynamic between Rarity and Rainbow Dash. There are a total of fifteen pairings between Mane 6 members, which jumps to 21 if you add Spike, making for a succulent variety of untapped character relationships—untapped for now, at least.

I like how this episode has circumstances naturally bring Rarity and Rainbow Dash together, rather than pairing them up through cutie map instructions. Rarity is setting up a new fashion line in Canterlot Carousel, while Rainbow Dash is staying in Canterlot for Celestia’s royal garden opening where she’s been selected as a backup flier in case one of the Wonderbolts doesn’t show up. The two of them play off each other like longtime friends who get psyched about each other’s accomplishments, because at this point that’s what they are. Not every paired-character episode feels as natural and fluid as this one has so far.

I had said this episode feels like a Rainbow Dash episode despite its title, but I’m probably going to have more to say about Rarity anyway.
She’s by far the most fun Mane 6 member to analyze.

Rarity KNOWS how attractive she is, and she’s putting that to excellent use.

When a mail pony delivers Rarity some gems that aren’t quite the right ones, she demonstrates two skills she’s going to heavily use throughout this episode: enormous attention to detail and sweet-talking others into doing what she wants. Both are well-established traits that this episode reminds us of in a way that doesn’t feel forced or exaggerated. She gets the mail pony to deliver her the correct box all through a few compliments and flirty looks, which is quite a fun scene.

This is our third time inside this convention center in season 5.
It’s becoming a familiar location both to us and the Mane 6.

Remember how elusive the Wonderbolts seemed back in season 1, when Rainbow Dash barely got to say a word to them at the Grand Galloping Gala? Now we’re at the same building, and they’re all much more familiar. Rarity and Rainbow Dash are both quick to make conversation with them, and they even stumble into a famed old guest.

This show has gotten very good at replicating human archetypes through ponies: in this case, the selfish retired athlete.

That guest is Wind Rider, an old Wonderbolt who holds a long-distance speed record and is coming out of retirement for the show at Canterlot. Rainbow Dash unsurprisingly idolizes the guy… for now, at least.

Spitfire: Wind Rider! I see you met Rainbow Dash. She’s one of our most promising reserves. She just might beat your record!
Wind Rider: Really, now?
Rainbow Dash: Oh, (laughs) I’m nowhere near as good as you. I mean, I’m fast, but I don’t have the endurance to go long distances.
Spitfire: Ah, don’t be modest. A little practice and you’ll be beating records in no time.

Spitfire displays the brash Wonderbolt attitude of threatening to surpass others’ records, but Wind Rider takes it as a genuine threat to his name. He hides it well now, but at the end of this episode it’s clear how much he went against the spirit of the group. All this talk about beating records leads me to a thought I’ve had ever since I first watched this episode. I wonder if Wind Rider’s character was inspired by Lance Armstrong, an athlete who similarly did skeevy things to earn his records? There’s tons of real-world celebrities who have done scandalous things that they think they’ll get away with, and I’m sure Wind Rider was inspired by at least some of these stories. Maybe I should have saved this remark for the end of the episode, but I wanted to get it out now.

After a hug from Rainbow Dash gets a drink spilled on Rarity’s dress, she pulls a chest out of nowhere to change into a new outfit. She did something similar with a couch in Lesson Zero, and I wonder if this is an ability she learned from Pinkie Pie? Do you think Rarity and Pinkie Pie secretly have lengthy conversations about reality-bending abilities that they keep under wraps? We haven’t seen Rarity and Pinkie Pie together in the show much so far—perhaps the least out of any Mane 6 pair—and this just might be why. (But don’t worry, they get paired up twice in season 6.)

I think this is our first time ever seeing sunscreen in this show. Does it even make sense when ponies have a thin coat of fur?
Maybe Rarity nabbed some from the Equestria Girls universe, somehow.

Watching at a practice session, Rainbow Dash admits that she’d feel awkward and lonely without Rarity by her side. Now that her initial excitement at meeting the Wonderbolts has cooled off, she probably doesn’t know what to talk to them about besides wanting to be a Wonderbolt, and she’s more comfortable around her regular group of friends.

Soarin’ says that Spitfire got a letter from her mother saying she’s sick, meaning that Rainbow Dash is going to fill in for her. Like in Rainbow Falls, we have a situation where a lie gives Rainbow Dash an opportunity to fly with the Wonderbolts. Except this time, the lie is from a character who it actually makes sense to mislead others, and there’s no painfully predictable “my team or their team” dilemma to drag the episode down.

It’s perfectly possible to make Rainbow Dash childish without being obnoxious, like in this scene.

Because of how awkward and bored she was until now, I can’t exactly blame Rainbow Dash for doing a dorky childish victory dance up in the sky when she learns she’ll be filling in for Spitfire. It’s on-brand for Rainbow Dash to forget about any unfortunate circumstances, like Spitfire’s mother’s purported illness, when she gets such a cool special opportunity.

Soarin’: Uh… Rainbow Dash?
Rarity: Sh, sh. Let her have this, darling.

It’s rather sweet of Rarity not to interrupt Rainbow Dash rapping about how awesome she is. She looks genuinely happy for her friend regardless of how weird she’s being. Though these two don’t hang out nearly as often as other pairs of Mane 6 members, Rarity knows her friend well enough to understand that Rainbow Dash needs to let out all her excitement so she can go back to normal behavior. Besides, Rarity herself has moments like this too: think about all the times she’s squeed in delight at getting an opportunity to showcase her dresses. If she called Rainbow Dash out for this burst of excitement, she’d be a hypocrite.

Spitfire’s mother Stormy Flare joins the audience of the practice sessions, and the others are confused because they thought she was sick. I find it rather charming that we get to meet the mother of one of the show’s supporting characters, complete with a unique design and name. Something interesting about the characters’ parents is that the later into the show we first meet them, the more distinct and varied their designs get. This means that (for example) while Twilight Sparkle’s parents have standard and generic designs, Rainbow Dash’s parents are heavily designed around the “embarrassing but loving parent” archetype, and that feels a little strange. But it’s still quite fun to gradually meet more family members of the show’s cast.

What’s not quite as pleasant, however, is that Spitfire has just been sent on a goose chase. She’s probably been looking everywhere for Stormy Flare, and she might even think her mother is dead. All because Wind Rider didn’t want to lose his record (though we don’t know that yet).

Soarin’: Stormy Flare? Aren’t you supposed to be sick?
Soarin’: OK, what’s happening?
Stormy Flare: I don’t know. But I do know I didn’t send my daughter a note.
Rarity: Could somepony have sent Spitfire a fake note?
Misty Fly: Who would do such a thing?
Soarin’: Somepony who wanted her out of the show, I suppose.
Rainbow Dash: Why would anypony want that?
Wind Rider: Maybe… so they could take her spot.

Oh boy, here Wind Rider is framing Rainbow Dash for his own crime. This is another common occurrence in celebrities having a secret nasty side: they know what they’re doing is wrong, but since they’re rich and famous, they think they can get away with it. But eventually, their lies will catch up to them and they’ll pay the price.

The remaining Wonderbolts are convinced Rainbow Dash sent Spitfire the fake letter, backed by her earlier statement that she’d do anything to fly with Wind Rider. She digs herself deeper when she talks about a dream she had where she flew with him, but I have a question. Do the Wonderbolts think Rainbow Dash happens to know Stormy Flare’s name and address, which presumably would be on the letter? It’s more plausible that one of the other Wonderbolts or Wind Rider would know that information. The thing with mystery-oriented episodes is that if you think hard enough, you’re sure to find a few points the characters didn’t consider. But you can also chalk it up to none of the characters considering these points because they didn’t think hard enough.

The Wonderbolts threaten to kick Rainbow Dash out of the group for good unless she can prove she didn’t send the letter, which is Rarity’s cue to begin her detective shtick and find out who sent the fake letter. And let me tell you, Detective Rarity is so insanely cute that I’m not sure my heart can take it.

OK, fine. Rarity in general is super cute. But especially when she’s a detective.

An example of the brief switches to full color.

Rarity narrates a fun film noir sequence where she discovers evidence for the crime, scored with jazzy music and occasionally interrupted by gags like Rainbow Dash pointing out she’s muttering to herself—those gags are indicated by a switch back to color. The first piece of evidence Rarity finds is a lock of Rainbow Dash’s hair, highlighted by making an exception to the monochrome theme. This episode plays with all sorts of fun tropes from detective movies, and the genre shifts really make it stand out.

Rainbow Dash takes a turn to interrogate the royal guards, leading to a smaller genre shift reminiscent of a courtroom drama. She wants to get the case solved as fast as possible and doesn’t see the benefit of taking time, so she presses the guards about what they were doing at midnight. She fails to get information out of them this way, since they insist they remained on duty and no one passed by except Rainbow Dash.

While Rainbow Dash wasn’t looking, Rarity has summoned a fancy sofa out of thin air much like she did in Lesson Zero—this time, it’s to make an attractive pose to charm the guards. I wonder if sofas and chests are the only items she knows how to magically summon? She may not be as versatile as Pinkie Pie, but she gets some effective use out of both objects.

Rarity: You castle guards have such a difficult job. I’m guessing that at times it can be rather… boring.
Royal guard 1: It is. I’ve counted all 345 bolts in the ceiling tiles 293 times.
Rarity: And of course, being a castle guard can be thankless work. I’m not saying you did, but if you took a break, you more than deserved it.
Royal guard 2: You’re right. We don’t get a lot of recognition for what we do. Except for last night, when somepony was nice enough to leave a cake for us. So we did take one little break when we ate that cake.

Now this is how you properly get information out of others. The pieces have been silently falling together in Rarity’s head, and she has a burning suspicion that the culprit may have distracted the royal guards. She’s gotten out of plenty of situations by distracting others, so she knows that others might use this tactic for more nefarious purposes. Once she’s flirted with the guards enough, they freely answer all the details about what the cake was like. It helps that there are three of them, since I’m not sure one royal guard would remember so many details about a cake he ate last night. Rainbow Dash thinks Rarity is wasting her time with these details, and she’s starting to think she might have sent the note in her sleep. She knows all too well what she’s capable of when driven by greed, and she has no way of knowing what crazy things she does while sleeping.

We’re now at Rarity’s fourth outfit in this episode.

Rarity narrows down the cake to a type that only one bakery in Canterlot sells, and I want to know: how did she know which bakery sells this cake off the top of her head? The best explanation I can think of is that Rarity secretly has long conversations with Pinkie Pie about where to get the best cakes, and the chocolate cherry cake with custard filling and butter cream frosting rosettes just happens to be one of Pinkie’s favorites. Or do you think Rarity has secret telepathic communication powers with Pinkie Pie? Maybe I should stop thinking of ridiculous theories involving Pinkie Pie, since she isn’t even in this episode.

Cinnamon Chai, the owner of the bakery, wrongly describes the mysterious pony who bought the cake using female pronouns and says that “she” had a deep, raspy voice. I wonder what led her to make that assumption? Does Cinnamon Chai normally only get mares as guests? Or is her mindset to assume by default someone is female, like the still common presumption that everyone on the Internet is male? In any case, the mysterious pony supposedly threw a fit after getting a chocolate stain on their ivory-colored scarf, which brings another clue to the table.

Not shown: Soarin’ eating some pie, a food he’s been known to love since The Best Night Ever.

When Rarity reconvenes with the Wonderbolts, it’s raining outside so that dramatic thunder effects can play while she accuses Wind Rider of framing Rainbow Dash. But why would it be raining so shortly before a big pegasus flight show? Pegasi control the weather, remember? What if Rarity sweet-talked a few pegasi earlier to make it rain by the time she arrives, because she knew the reveal would be more dramatic if accompanied by lightning? Rainbow Dash’s initial reaction to the accusation isn’t a surprised gasp like the others, but an embarrassed facehoof.

Rainbow Dash: Rarity! I can’t believe you would accuse Wind Rider of framing me. He’s a living legend, for pony’s sake!
Rarity: All the evidence points to him.
Rainbow Dash: (scoffs) What evidence could you possibly have? All you did was ask about cakes, admire decor, and change outfits a gazillion times.

This is another common occurrence when a celebrity turns out to do something nasty: the celebrity’s biggest fans go all “no, no, he would NEVER do that” and think it’s either made-up or a massive misunderstanding. Unfortunately, not all celebrities follow the morals that they preach. It’s especially on-brand for Rainbow Dash to angrily deny these allegations, since she LOVES to deny things she doesn’t want to be true. A good example is all the crazy stuff she did to try to stop Tank from hibernating earlier this season.

Rarity has a similar “no, no, she would NEVER do that” mindset about Rainbow Dash secretly throwing Spitfire out of the event, but she has a much better reason to think so: trusting her longtime friend who she knows for who she is. She says she never believed Rainbow Dash would do such a thing, then showcases all the evidence: first, a rigid cut of Rainbow Dash’s hair that couldn’t have fallen out naturally.

OK, but can I stop to appreciate how endearing it is for Rainbow Dash to wiggle her legs impatiently in the flashback scene where Rarity collects clues? Rainbow Dash has never been good at standing still and always needs something to focus on, since she’s a very on-the-move pony.

The next pieces of evidence are the envelope smelling like Wind Rider’s brand of cologne, and the curtains having been suspiciously moved. I love the reveal that Rarity wasn’t just admiring these fancy curtains for the sake of it; it was her sly way of finding details, something she’s always had a sharp eye for. In these posts (and in a lot of other content I make), I take pride in picking apart details and can only hope to be half as good at it as this lovely fictional horse.

After describing the part about the cake, Rarity notices that Wind Rider’s scarf has been knotted differently from before, and she unties it to reveal a chocolate stain that proves he framed Rainbow Dash. All of Rarity’s attention to detail is pretty mind-boggling, but also perfectly believable knowing her. And while you could argue Wind Rider could’ve done a better job covering his tracks, the fact that he didn’t shows how impulsive and desperate he truly is.

Man, look at this face of pure disappointment.

Wind Rider: Ugh, fine. You caught me. I did it!
Rainbow Dash: But… why, Wind Rider? Is it because I took the last broccoli at the dinner, and you really, really wanted it?

Rainbow Dash’s first guess as to why Wind Rider framed her shows that she knows what sorts of petty actions she’s capable of, but also knows what lines she won’t cross. While she might go ballistic at someone for snatching a piece of food she badly wanted, she would never try to ruin someone else’s dreams to keep her own flight record intact. Wind Rider completely brought this upon himself: if he hadn’t so desperately intervened, he would have flown with the Wonderbolts and kept his integrity.

Rarity: No, it was because he was afraid that you would break his long-distance Wonderbolt record.
Rarity: I heard him when Spitfire said you were close to breaking his record. He said, and I quote, “heh heh”. That’s the polite but disingenuous laugh you make when you want to seem happy but really, you’re not.

Man, Rarity is so incredibly observant of her friends. I feel like that’s how she saw through the tone of Wind Rider’s “heh heh”—she’s seen her friends do the same thing to suppress insecurity.

Wind Rider: I thought if I could get Rainbow Dash kicked out of the Wonderbolts forever, my record would be preserved.
Rainbow Dash: Really? That is so not cool. And I thought you were the coolest Wonderbolt ever, until now.
Wind Rider: I did what I had to do to protect my record. Sometimes, you got to play dirty to be the best.
Rainbow Dash: That’s not what being a Wonderbolt is all about.
Soarin’: She’s right. Wonderbolts look out for each other, which reminds me. Where is Spitfire?

Now this is how the Wonderbolts were always meant to be characterized. Not as a weird double-talking crew that pretends one of their members is injured, but as a team that looks out for each other no matter what. The Wonderbolts’ portrayal has been bumpy so far in this show, but this episode does it perhaps the best yet.

Wind Rider doesn’t look like he regrets what he did.
He’s probably earned more than enough money for the rest of his retirement anyway.

Wind Rider reveals he sent Spitfire over to a faraway place called the Crystal Mountains to find a cure for her mother’s supposed disease. The fact that Spitfire fell for the ruse shows her extreme degree of Wonderbolt loyalty—a principle that Wind Rider is well aware of but chose to exploit rather than follow. Soarin’ asks Rainbow Dash to fly in Spitfire’s place, but Rainbow Dash instead shows the loyalty that the Wonderbolts are supposed to be about. She flies off to go find Spitfire, knowing that there’s no time to lose and that she might not make it in time. Rainbow Dash and Wind Rider both like to take enormous risks, but that’s where the similarity ends—Rainbow Dash’s risk is for the sake of someone else, not her selfish interest.

Rainbow Dash arriving with Spitfire is a major moment of awesome that shows Wind Rider was right to fear his speed record could be broken—just that he shouldn’t have been such a bad sport about it. Rainbow Dash apologizes to Rarity for doubting her detective skills, leading to a good dual lesson about looking out for your friends even when they doubt you. Both Mane 6 members featured in this episode demonstrated this moral through their actions, and it’s nice that the show got so much out of an uncommon pairing. Just because two Mane 6 members don’t hang out very often doesn’t mean they don’t have a resounding friendship, unlike what The End in Friend from season 8 may have you believe.

Spitfire is admirably no-nonsense with those who go against the Wonderbolts’ values. Much like she did with Lightning Dust, she strips Wind Rider of his Wonderbolt status and escorts him out without another word. She lets Rainbow Dash fly in Wind Rider’s place, which is a suitable reward for her and punishment for him. Out with the old and in with the new, as you might say. And while Wind Rider seemed to view Rainbow Dash as a worthy rival, he viewed Spitfire as a mere pawn in his schemes as shown by that insane goose chase.

The Wonderbolts’ flight performance is shown in grayscale as Rarity monologues some narration… except she forgets she’s doing it out loud, as indicated by Stormy Flare saying “that’s nice, dear”. After all the dramatic mystery events in this episode, it’s nice to end this episode on a lapse of humor. The credits play some more detective jazz music for a change, starting a phase where the show uses custom credits music a lot more liberally.

Overall thoughts:

This episode is a lot of fun. It pairs up a little-seen combination of Mane 6 members—Rainbow Dash and Rarity—and uses them to make a mystery story where they both show their best selves: Rarity with extreme attentiveness, Rainbow Dash with extreme degrees of looking after others. While Rarity episodes have a consistent quality to them, Rainbow Dash episodes don’t always portray her in an enjoyable and sympathetic manner, and I highly respect that this one does. There’s a secondary moral in this episode that I feel sticks out more than its supposed main one: not all celebrities are good role models, which is an incredibly valuable thing for both child and adult viewers to know. Wind Rider ultimately became the opposite of a role model for Rainbow Dash, someone who she does not want to be like, and her initial denial that the guy would ever do what he did feels believable.

(Also, Rarity’s detective outfits are cute.)

Grade: B

With a mystery-oriented episode, it’s almost inevitable that there are some points that might not make complete sense if you think hard enough. That’s the main thing stopping this episode from getting an A.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I wonder if the mystery novel character Shadow Spade is the leader of a quartet, with subordinates themed upon diamonds, hearts, and clubs? This thought totally was not inspired by Homestuck, I say as I scratch the back of my head like a flustered anime boy.
  • Rarity pronounced “couture” the English way in Canterlot Boutique, but the French way in this episode. Her pronunciation of the word is inconsistent throughout the show, and I wonder if Rarity simply sometimes forgets to say words the proper fancy way? It certainly seems like her accent, which contrasts against the rest of her family, is something she had cultivated on her own, so maybe it makes sense she’d have some slip-ups.
  • I have to wonder if the royal guard who supposedly counted all 345 bolts in the ceiling tiles 293 times might have fallen into the wrong line of work. If he was able to get the exact same number of bolts every time without miscounts, then perhaps he would be better off organizing numerical data than guarding a fancy castle. He has to have spaced out a great deal while counting all those bolts.

The final entry in this trio of sort-of Rarity episodes brings us face-to-face with the unbeatable pure cuteness of Coco Pommel.

See you next week as I try not to make the entire episode review solely about Coco Pommel, tempting as it is.

>> Part 52: Made in Manehattan

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