Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 71: Buckball Season + The Fault in Our Cutie Marks

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Season 6, Episodes 18-19

It’s a little annoying that I’ve generally had more to say about odd-numbered episodes of season 6 than even-numbered episodes, because it makes it hard to decide which episodes to give their own posts and which to pair up. We’ve been on a streak of relatively short reviews since The Cart Before the Ponies, and I think I’ll give Top Bolt (S6E24) a post of its own and pair up the rest.

Season 6 Episode 18: Buckball Season

In five words: Pinkie and Fluttershy play sports.

Premise: Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are interested in playing a sport called buckball against Appleoosa, but when Applejack and Rainbow Dash try to coach them, they become pushy and ruin the fun.

Detailed run-through:

Every time Rainbow Dash says “buck”, I have to remind myself that she’s not swearing.

This episode starts with a throwback in tone to the cartoony slice of life scenes that are everywhere in season 1. We get a dramatized portrayal of Applejack about to buck an apple onto a target, but then Rainbow Dash interrupts her and they have a comically serious discussion about the upcoming buckball match against Appleoosa. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are the most well-established pairing of Mane 6 members, and this episode will explore their dynamic with new characters in the mix. Rainbow Dash acts as her classic doofy self when she sternly agrees that Appleoosa could never beat Ponyville at buckball, then asks what buckball is.

Fluttershy, on the other hand, is deliberately emphasizing the B in “buckball”.
She doesn’t want to repeat the incident where she cussed about her brother in front of a foal.

Fluttershy: Wow, Rainbow Dash. You sure seem to know a lot about this game. I’ve never even heard of… buckball.
Rainbow Dash: Yeah, I’m kind of an expert.
Applejack: An expert who hadn’t heard of the game either until I told you.
Rainbow Dash: Well, it’s a new game. I probably know more than most ponies, so that makes me an expert.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s banter is hilarious and endearing, and it truly brings me back to season 1. It’s not exactly outright shippy… but the fact that I had to say it’s not exactly outright shippy shows that it can totally be interpreted as shippy. I also love how serious Applejack gets that Braeburn challenges her to a match. This is Applejack at her finest: getting stone cold serious about silly family traditions that don’t mean much.

This episode has so much hilarious and well-written dialogue. I’m surprised its writer wrote no other episodes of the show.

Rainbow Dash: Well, between Applejack and me, we’ve got two thirds of a team. All we need is a unicorn. That’s where you two come in.
Pinkie Pie: Uh… (They know we’re not unicorns, right?)
Rainbow Dash: Uh, obviously.
Rainbow Dash: You’re gonna be on my team, and Fluttershy is gonna be on Applejack’s team.

It’s easy to see why Applejack and Rainbow Dash don’t want to team up, even though they’d obviously be a strong pairing. They prefer competing against each other than teaming up, which is a natural part of their rivalrous friendship. Also, Pinkie Pie’s literal-mindedness will always be hilarious.

Applejack: We’ll play against each other, along with whatever unicorns want to try out, until we find the best one.
Pinkie Pie: Ohhhhh! Phew. That’s a relief, because I left my unicorn costume at home.

This line makes me wonder, is Pinkie Pie really an earth pony? Some fans propose with varying degrees of facetiousness that Pinkie Pie is her own category of ponies that has a little bit of all three types’ powers plus some good old cartoon physics, and I think I buy this completely.

Rarity could have been put in the running for unicorns to compete, but she almost certainly declined.
Either because she hates getting her hooves dirty, or to make way for someone without the prestigious status of being in the Mane 6.

Applejack, with the help of some of her family, demonstrates how buckball works. It’s a cleverly designed sport that combines the abilities of earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns without creating bias to one specific type. The game is supposedly an Apple family favorite, but since her family consists mostly of earth ponies, I imagine they have to get tons of guests on board.

How exactly can Fluttershy swing her tail like this?
My best guess is that she has a rare gene that lets her consciously control her tail.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy learn this sport surprisingly quickly, and I find that easy to believe. Some people are very fast learners and can pick up a skill that no one would have guessed they had in them, simply because they focus on the fun and thrill.

After progressing through a whole bunch of incompetent candidates, Applejack and Rainbow Dash accidentally discover the perfect unicorn for the Ponyville buckball team. Yes, this episode does something that seemed impossible: making Snails likable! He and Snips were among the most hated characters since their first appearance, when they summoned an Ursa Minor and ruined Trixie’s image in Ponyville, but now Snails gets to do something cool while still being Snails.

And so, we have an unexpected trio to represent Ponyville in the buckball competition: Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Snails. I quite like this trio since it’s a pair of Mane 6 members with a curveball thrown in, representing the whimsical nature of this buckball team.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash show us a common motif in season 6’s episodes: characters will try to force a specific method of doing something upon their friends, and they have to learn to trust others to do things their own way. Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s method of training works well for them since their dynamic is about outdoing each other, and they have no way of knowing it doesn’t work as well on others. While this part of the episode uses the training montage style of music, it subverts the training montage trope because Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy find this style of training to be demotivating. Applejack keeps reminding Pinkie Pie of what would happen if their team fails, and Rainbow Dash yells and pushes Fluttershy to her limits.

This guy just unlocked his secret superpower, simply by thinking about nothing.

Snails peacefully spacing out while levitating all his baskets like a wise religious monk is hilarious, and provides some great lapses of humor amidst the training montage.

Applejack: What in the apple happened to those two?
Rainbow Dash: I don’t know! They mopped the field with us before.
Applejack: Alright! That’s it for today, y’all.
Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy: Phew.
Pinkie Pie: I thought practice was supposed to make us better.
Fluttershy: Maybe we just need a little rest.
Rainbow Dash: Or a whole lot of it.
Applejack: Just be sure to get your heads in the game before tomorrow. All of Ponyville is counting on a win.

I know exactly what happened to Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. For many people, when you’re focused on making something as perfect as possible, your brain will get filled with panics like “what if it’s not perfect enough” or “what if I let everybody down”, and your confidence will decrease. In competitions, Applejack is motivated by the desire to make Ponyville proud, and Rainbow Dash is motivated by the thrill of victory, so focusing on perfection works well for them.

This episode is the closest the show gets to having a dual Pinkie Pie/Fluttershy episode.
All other Mane 6 pairings have at least one episode that clearly, unambiguously counts.

Fluttershy: I really don’t want to let Applejack and Rainbow Dash down. Or anypony else, but… after that practice, I’m not feeling very confident.
Pinkie Pie: Maybe we weren’t that bad!
Fluttershy: Oh…
Pinkie Pie: I guess I was hoping you saw something I didn’t.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, on the other hand, share a strong fear of letting their friends down and frequently worry that they aren’t good enough. Like many pairs of Mane 6 members, their dynamic combines contrast on the surface with strong internal similarities. The contrast is that one is loud and the other is quiet; the main similarity is that they’re strongly averse to conflict and want everyone to peacefully get along. I’m a little surprised they aren’t paired up more often, because they have quite a lot in common. They’re also the most conventionally cute of the Mane 6, though cuteness is of course subjective.

Fluttershy: I know our friends want us to win, but… how can the whole town be counting on us if most ponies have never even heard of buckball?
Pinkie Pie: I know! How can we disappoint a pony who doesn’t even know we have a team?
Fluttershy: Or that we’re gonna play Appleoosa?
Pinkie Pie: Yeah, I don’t think we need to worry. I’d be surprised if anypony in this town cares about this game at all.

These two girls also have the common trait of underestimating their own popularity. Fluttershy feels constantly nervous in the spotlight, while Pinkie Pie feels neutral about it—to her, having fun is most important.

You just had to tempt fate, Pinkie Pie.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are proven wrong when a crowd of ponies cheers the new buckball team on. If there’s any doubt that Derpy is the smartest character in the show, note the way her face is painted. Instead of wasting hours meticulously applying face paint, Derpy seems to have dumped her head into a bucket of paint to get it done as quickly as possible, then went back to what really matters: being our favorite lovable derp who makes any scene better just from her presence.

While Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy drop their jaws in shock, Snails is unfazed and says:

Snails: Whoa. The whole town really seems to care about this game a lot.

Putting aside his special skill in thinking about nothing, I think Snails noticed something his teammates didn’t: the presence of Derpy. That’s how he knows everything is going to be OK, because Derpy is wonderful and can do no wrong.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash reveal that they hyped up the buckball team to the rest of Ponyville and took quite a lot of other steps to motivate Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to win the game of buckball.

Rainbow Dash: I bet Princess Celestia even comes to congratulate you! If that doesn’t get you in the zone, I don’t know what will.
Fluttershy: I don’t know what zone Rainbow Dash is talking about, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be in it. Do you?

Fluttershy doesn’t realize it, but she and Pinkie Pie were in the zone when they first practiced buckball. They just have a different method of getting into the zone from the other two, which is focusing on the fun and excitement. That’s probably my one criticism with this episode: it doesn’t quite understand what being in the zone means.

After Fluttershy tells Applejack and Rainbow Dash off with some uncharacteristically angry expressions, she and Pinkie Pie hide in the back of the train, and the traditionally athletic ponies realize what they did wrong.

Rainbow Dash: I don’t get it. They’re naturals. Why wouldn’t they want to play anymore?
Applejack: Maybe us telling them how much everypony was counting on them messed them up somehow.
Rainbow Dash: What? That’s crazy talk. Having ponies depend on you is exactly what you need to focus! And…
Applejack: Get serious and play hard and…
Rainbow Dash: Get ready to totally smash the competition, and… and… none of that sounds like Pinkie or Fluttershy, does it.

The “explain, explain, oh crap” trope—a phrase that shows that despite myself, I often pass time with absurd TV Tropes spirals—is common in this show because it just works. It’s natural to realize how much you messed up after explaining on your own what you did. The instances of this trope show the value of thinking things through before acting, especially considering how frequently this show does it.

Are Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy huddling together out of fear, or because it’s cold in the back of the train?

Applejack and Rainbow Dash find the other two in the back of the train behind a bunch of luggage, then Applejack tells them that she and Rainbow Dash will be playing against Appleoosa after all… but they need a practice round first.

After some initial nervousness, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are the stars once again! I wonder this says about Applejack and Rainbow Dash’s athletic skills? In terms of familiarity with buckball, both of the pegasi are on equal footing; Rainbow Dash didn’t know what the sport was until the episode began. Fluttershy’s easygoing spirit when entering her version of the zone makes her beat Rainbow Dash. As for Pinkie Pie, the best justification I can give is that she’s naturally powerful. For a pony who can bend reality to her whims, kicking a ball really hard is trivial.

Pinkie Pie has a powerful mane, and Fluttershy has a powerful tail.
(But both have the power of keeping them tidy during buckball matches.)

It might look like Snails was sleeping through most of the practice session as Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy scored a streak of points, but when a ball comes near him, he wakes up just fine and catches it. I think Snails has the rare superpower of deciding when to fall asleep and wake up. This is a result of his ability to think about nothing, because when you’re tired enough and stop thinking about anything, you fall asleep. Perhaps when Snails is older, he could work as a doctor treating insomnia.

Applejack: You must have noticed how you aren’t bad anymore.
Pinkie Pie: Oh yeah! Weird.
Fluttershy: But, um, why were we so terrible before?
Rainbow Dash: I guess some ponies thrive on pressure, and some ponies don’t. And even though we weren’t playing, we treated you like us, which totally stressed you out.

Treating others the way you want to be treated sounds like a good rule on paper, but it doesn’t always work. It’s more of a rule of thumb than a mantra to universally follow, and knowing your friends well knowing how to best treat them without assuming they should be treated like you. OK, who am I kidding, this is an incredibly dorky train of thought. I may as well be Twilight Sparkle writing friendship letters to Celestia right now. It feels weird to remember that each episode used to end with a letter, rather than presenting the moral naturally.

Applejack: I’m sure folks want you to win, but not if worrying about it makes you miserable. Winning’s never worth that.
Fluttershy: But… how do we keep from worrying about it?
Snails: You can do what I do and not think about it.
Snails: Seriously. I don’t think about anything. Ever.

Snails is the only character in the show who could respond to “what are you thinking about?” with “nothing” and actually mean it. Thinking about nothing sounds like an incredible ability, and I suddenly wish I had it.

I like how even though Fluttershy only started playing buckball at most a day ago, her tail spin move is described as “patented”.

The final match against Braeburn’s team happens, and in typical sports episode fashion, the Ponyville team wins by one point… or do they? You might think the scoreboard represents five and six apples, but it’s clearly meant to be Roman numerals for 10 and 2 (X and II). This tells us that buckball has an esoteric scoring system where the goal is to earn as few points as possible, and scoring a goal with the help of a tail spin reduces your team’s points to 2. If you can’t see that these are Roman numerals, there must be something wrong with you.

After the Ponyville team wins, Pinkie Pie reveals the secret to winning buckball is just having fun, leading to an ending where everyone laughs. This tells us that sports in general are meant to be about having fun, and this is conveyed without resorting to cheesy cliches.

Overall thoughts:

This episode could have easily been forgettable and bland, but instead it’s memorable and lots of fun to watch. It’s like a throwback to the kind of plot season 1 would have, but with the middle seasons’ pattern of giving characters an interest you wouldn’t expect. It works incredibly well and does a good job exploring dynamics between Mane 6 members—specifically, the two pairs who share a voice actress. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy’s athletic side is established as a part of the show, and there are a few later episodes featuring their buckball team, so I’m very glad this side of their characters isn’t just a one-off.

Grade: B

Everyone feels in-character, there are lots of good jokes, and it ends with a satisfying moral. What more could you want?

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Look at the cookie cutie mark girl, who gets hypnotized spinning the basket then nearly pukes. I think she’s my new favorite background pony, and I also want to say the background ponies of the middle seasons are SO underrated. Most websites seem to list her name as Sweet Biscuit, but I’m calling her Cookie Girl.
  • About halfway through this episode, there is a scene where Snails walks by without his horn, and obviously my mind went to the changeling excuse. But if there’s any part of the show where undercover changeling theories are justified, it’s the second half of season 6.
  • When Braeburn says his cousin’s Ponyville team did a good job, he could be referring to Pinkie Pie assuming he knows about the Apples and Pies’ ambiguous genetic relationship. But Applejack just has to make it all about herself and presume Braeburn is talking about her, not the earth pony who played in the game.

While Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie discovered a special skill in this episode, in the next one, the Cutie Mark Crusaders are faced with the question of a griffon’s special skill.

Season 6 Episode 19: The Fault in Our Cutie Marks

In five words: Crusaders face seemingly impossible dilemma.

Premise: The Cutie Mark Crusaders meet a hyperactive griffon named Gabby who wants a cutie mark, and they’re faced with a difficult question: can a griffon earn a cutie mark?

Detailed run-through:

The discovery of the “ponisaurus” gives fans interested in cartoon horse biology plenty more to work with.

This episode begins with a scene that portrays the Cutie Mark Crusaders as child prodigies, which furthers my theory that Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon stopped talking to them because they now think they’re beneath the Crusaders. Normally, if a married couple wants to consult someone about their child’s strange behavior, they’d go to a professional adult, but the Cutie Mark Crusaders are so renowned in Ponyville that the parents will happily discuss their problem with these three foals. Their child Petunia has a concerning skull and crossbones as a cutie mark—funny coming from a father whose cutie mark is two swords—but it turns out that her specialty is archaeology. If the Crusaders understand more about cutie marks than most adults do, then I can only imagine what ambitious things they’ll accomplish as adults.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders walk around Ponyville and see various ponies they’ve helped with their cutie marks, some familiar, some new like Blue Note. I love the little music theory reference on his cutie mark: a blue note in jazz music is a note played at a slightly lower pitch than standard, indicated by the flat sign. It was probably Sweetie Belle who realized this, since she knows how sheet music works, but she’s polite enough to let the other two piggyback on her accomplishment.

After discussing the possibility of a problem that even they can’t solve, the Crusaders notice a griffon on top of their clubhouse and hide.

Sweetie Belle: Is that really a griffon?
Apple Bloom: You’re darn tootin’ it is. What do you think that griffon wants?
Sweetie Belle: I guess we’ve got to ask her, but… aren’t griffons supposed to be kind of mean and cranky?

Sweetie Belle is being a little racist, just like Rarity was all those times she shuddered at the ways of dragons (and then said “not you, Spike”). But when you’ve only gotten to know a group of people on a surface level, how are you supposed to know any better? That’s simply how stereotypes work. Every species in this show has an in-universe stereotype, and ponies have one too: being frilly and girly and thinking they’re smarter than everyone else because they solve problems with “friendship”.

The griffon reveals her name is Gabby and is overwhelmingly excited to meet the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Actually, she’s overwhelmingly excited about everything, most of all the prospect that the Crusaders could give her a cutie mark.

Out of all the characters introduced in season 6, none made a bigger splash to fans than Gabby. I never found her quite as memorable as others introduced in this season like Thorax or Ember, but I can see why she’s such a fan favorite. She’s extremely excited about ponies and is good at lots of things, but is always left with a desire for more, even if it may not be possible, and there’s a specific type of fan that can strongly relate to that. The kind that obsessively makes formulaic original characters with tons of personality bullet points, and who likes to imagine being a fictional species.

Meanwhile, I find the Crusaders easy to sympathize with in this scene. They’re met with someone who worships them and is extremely eager to be their friend, and they’re flattered but very overwhelmed.

I think it symbolizes Gabby’s endless fountain of excitement that she can drink an entire glass of orange juice in one sip.

Scootaloo: Gabriella!
Gabby: Gabby, kay?
Scootaloo: Gabby, why do you even want a cutie mark? It doesn’t seem like a very griffony thing to want.
Gabby: Right? Right? RIGHT? You’re telling me! I don’t know if you’ve heard, but… griffons can be a little bit… unfriendly.

In season 6, the pattern with non-pony characters is to go against their species’ established stereotypes. Ember isn’t as brash and into gross-out humor as most dragons, Thorax isn’t vicious like the stereotypical changeling, and Gabby is upbeat and energetic unlike everything we’ve seen about griffons. However, in season 8, the pattern is to introduce non-pony characters who match the stereotypes of their species and don’t have much depth beyond that. For instance, Gallus, the resident griffon of that season, is brash and snooty in a teenage boy way, and the others are pretty one-note too. It’s possible to make interesting characters that match what their race is typically seen as, but it’s much easier to do so when the character subverts something about that stereotype, as season 6 does.

Gabby: It wasn’t until your friends came to Griffonstone that I realized some creatures actually like helping each other. And I saw something so awesomely awesome! How helping spreads from pony to pony and griffon to griffon!
Gabby: I knew then that I had to find out why I was so different from the other griffons, and I knew the answer had to do something with those wonderful, amazing marks on ponies’ flanks.

Gabby feeling out of place and neglected in her hometown is another thing that some fans can relate to, and another reason why fans love her so much. When she saw that the creatures who want to help others have marks that flash when they complete a mission, she jumped to conclusions because she’s that desperate to be like a pony. It’s just like humans being enamored by a fictional species that can fly, or a real species that can fly.

Gabby: That’s why I flew all the way here! I want to find my own place in the world, and I know you can help me. By giving me a cutie mark!

If I’m getting this right, Gabby thinks that the Cutie Mark Crusaders give ponies their cutie marks, and then they instantly understand what their purpose in life is. Perhaps she even thinks the Crusaders decide for other ponies which cutie mark they get. She’s much like a fan of the show who totally misunderstands its lore, or like a character who misunderstands how cutie marks work such as Trouble Shoes.

The Crusaders break the news that they can’t instantly give someone a cutie mark, and they’ve never heard of a griffon getting one. Gabby is bummed out at first, but then her brain resumes this far-fetched hope by saying this sounds like a challenge.

Twilight Sparkle: I’ve read every book on the subject, and I’ve never read a thing about any creature other than a pony getting a cutie mark.
Scootaloo: But Twilight, Gabby flew all the way here so we could help her. There’s got to be something we can do.
Sweetie Belle: Say… is there some kind of spell you can whip up to make her mark appear?
Twilight Sparkle: Um, I don’t know if any of you remember, but using magic to get a cutie mark never really works all that well.
Cutie Mark Crusaders: Oh. Right.
Twilight Sparkle: Crusaders, I’m sorry. While I can’t say for certain that it’s utterly impossible, the chances of Gabby getting an actual mark are… pretty slim. Everything I’ve ever learned tells me. It’s just not gonna happen.

I wonder how many viewers watching this episode thought it was possible for Gabby to earn a cutie mark? When I first watched this episode, I felt it was a foregone conclusion that she wouldn’t, but child viewers who don’t obsessively memorize everything about the show might feel differently. I can easily see why the Crusaders want to try anyway; after such a long streak of successfully helping ponies, they’d hate to let down their first non-pony customer.

Don’t you just love recycled animations?

The Crusaders agree that they should try to help find Gabby’s destiny while making the bad news clear, but when Scootaloo is the slightest bit indirect, Gabby screams in excitement that she will get her mark. When the Crusaders get more direct with her, Gabby at first is horrified but resumes being chipper when she learns no one said it was impossible. Scootaloo promises that the Crusaders will do everything they can to give Gabby a cutie mark.

I love Sweetie Belle’s remarks about Gabby never getting tired. They’re exactly the kind of observations she would make.

Apple Bloom: Why in tarnation would you promise something that just can’t be done?
Scootaloo: I know what it’s like to want something that’s out of reach. (flaps her wings) And just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it can’t! Maybe trying for the impossible isn’t so bad.

From what I’ve seen, Scootaloo is the biggest fan favorite of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and I think her popularity is similar to Gabby’s. It’s easy for fans to sympathize with characters who want something that might be impossible, especially if they have a disability or a real life circumstance that withholds their dreams. It makes perfect sense that Scootaloo would sympathize the most with Gabby. She knows that if you even fail at getting something you doubt is possible, you’ll still learn something from the experience.

This is yet another season 6 episode that I keep forgetting has a song.

Next up, we get a song called Find the Purpose in Your Life, which starts with the Crusaders tapping their hooves to the beat. I have seen way too many edits of this scene where the foals tap their hooves and the song never starts.

This song is well-composed and has lots of key changes, going the extra mile when it doesn’t need to.
(I love when this show does that.)

The song consists mostly of Gabby trying various activities on the Crusaders’ request and excelling at all of them. I’m not sure whether this is because she’s a natural polymath, or because griffons have powers that let them easily do things that are hard for ponies—perhaps a mix of both.

Funny that we see ponies play plain old baseball after the last episode invented its own sport.

This episode could have put all these scenes into a montage, but instead it made a full-out song, and I admire that.

Gabby can fly and has lion-like strength, but she has one absolutely amazing power that not even the mightiest alicorns have. It’s called “hands”. She can do things as varied as play sports and quickly write music partly because of her hands, and partly because she’s the type of character who is good at tons of things but still has a craving desire for more. This is something that many bronies can empathize with, especially those that create tons of fan content.

After they finally tell Gabby they can’t help her get a cutie mark, the Crusaders are seemingly proven wrong when Gabby returns with a cauldron cutie mark, representing the first activity she did in the song. The Crusaders say that they will tell Twilight about this discovery, and it makes sense that they don’t notice when Gabby sweats and darts her eyes back and forth, nor are they suspicious when Gabby makes an excuse to leave and says she’ll come back later. They’re kids after all.

The Crusaders find it odd that Gabby left them a letter about her cutie mark without showing it to Twilight Sparkle firsthand, and I find it odd that Twilight doesn’t find it odd. Maybe she isn’t thinking too hard because she’s so excited to start a griffon research project. Her fascination with griffons is an interesting quirk, and it’s equivalent to a person who’s obsessed with Japanese culture but doesn’t know anyone from Japan. She takes delight in how exotic griffon culture seems, and she seems more interested in getting as much information as she can out of griffons than getting to know them as people. She then bursts out of the door in excitement, screaming like a child.

The Crusaders conveniently happen to find Gabby in a place that can reveal her cutie mark is a fake: a puddle of mud. If I were to criticize this scene, I’d have to criticize The Cutie Map for Starlight Glimmer slipping on a barrel of water at a convenient time. Sometimes, convenient timing is necessary to drive the plot.

Scootaloo: Wow, Gabby. Painting on a fake cutie mark to make yourself feel better? You must have been REALLY upset.
Gabby: Sure I was disappointed, but I didn’t do it to make myself feel better. I wanted to make you feel better.

This is very sweet of Gabby, and it shows her opinion on the Cutie Mark Crusaders is more than just ludicrous idolization. She genuinely admires how much they go out of their way to help others, and it’s inspired her to do the same. She made the sacrifice of leaving the Crusaders’ lives so that they don’t feel let down by her, or at least trying to leave, because the Crusaders had just discovered her.

The Crusaders noticed a pattern in all the activities they had Gabby try: she feels at her best when helping others, and that’s her special purpose in life, cutie mark or not. I really like that the Crusaders’ role has now been expanded beyond helping ponies get their cutie marks. They’ve realized that they can help anyone find a purpose in life, even if they can’t get a cutie mark. They also realized that your purpose in life is what makes you feel good, not necessarily what you’re good at, which is a good and valuable moral. The next time the Crusaders will help out a non-pony is Surf and/or Turf in season 8.

Gabby is given an honorary cutie mark, and she’s dubbed the first griffon member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Yet again, the Crusaders get a new addition to the group, and yet again, the show doesn’t really do anything with that addition and the Crusaders remain functionally a trio. Just like with Babs Seed, that’s not this episode’s fault—just the show’s fault for forgetting about Gabby until season 9. The show has such a huge variety of characters that we’re lucky Gabby got to return at all.

At the end, Gabby gets a cute-ceañera hosted, which we don’t see inside because we know how these events go. Whenever an episode of the show ends with the new character being told to come back soon, it’s basically a gamble whether they actually return. Luckily, Dragon Dropped will tie this loose end, as season 9 episodes tend to do.

Overall thoughts:

I like that this episode expands the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ role even further than when they earned their cutie marks. They’ve realized that helping others find their special purpose applies to everyone, not just ponies. This in turn tells viewers that it’s normal to look for a purpose in life, even though cutie marks are fictional. This episode avoids the problem of the Crusaders’ episodes making the adult ponies clueless by only minimally featuring them, and instead focusing on the Crusaders and their relationship with Gabby, which I think is smart. It’s quite an accomplishment that Gabby turned out such a fan favorite—while I’m not the kind of fan to become obsessed with her, I can easily see why so many fans are.

Grade: B

As far as Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes go, this is one of my favorites.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Apple Bloom uses “apples” as a stand-in for swear words in this episode twice, just like Applejack did in The Cart Before the Ponies. This only happens in episodes Ed Valentine wrote. Using “apples” as an interjection sounds so goofy that I almost kind of love it.
  • When Apple Bloom says “something in this here applesauce smells kinda fishy”, I’m almost certain she’s recounting an experience where fish got in her applesauce—why else would she use such a specific idiom? It must have been a horrifying memory of hers that she’ll never forget.
  • I have done it. I have made multiple miscellaneous notes sections dedicated entirely to Derpy, a miscellaneous notes section dedicated to Rarity, and now a miscellaneous notes section entirely about Apple Bloom. Who will I devote the entirety of the miscellaneous notes to next? My bet is on Trixie.

The next episode introduces another character who seems to be friends with everyone, but his intentions aren’t nearly as noble.

See you in two weeks for season 6’s last friendship mission episode, then a Starlight Glimmer episode I’m VERY excited to analyze.

>> Part 72: Viva Las Pegasus + Every Little Thing She Does

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