Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 72: Viva Las Pegasus + Every Little Thing She Does

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Season 6, Episodes 20-21

We’re almost done with season 6! My plan is to split the last five episodes into three posts: episodes 22-23, 24, and 25-26 (the finale). If I release the next three posts every week, I’ll be finished with season 6 on May 5.

Season 6 Episode 20: Viva Las Pegasus

In five words: Selfish hotel owner gets overthrown.

Premise: The Cutie Map sends another odd pair (Applejack and Fluttershy) to another odd place (Las Pegasus) to deal with another pesky two-faced celebrity (Gladmane).

Detailed run-through:

Before I begin, I’d like to say that this episode has me at an awkward position. I’m so close to an episode that I am extremely excited to analyze, in no small part because it’s a Starlight Glimmer episode, but I first have to pick apart an episode that I feel neutral about analyzing. That’s why I procrastinated on starting this post for about a week.

If the Cutie Map sent her to Appleoosa, I could already hear Applejack’s delighted “hoo-wee!”

The cold opening of this episode is short and effective, only 48 seconds long, since we know the map episode formula. Applejack and Fluttershy both aren’t very thrilled to enter the noisy party town of Las Pegasus. I find it amusing that Applejack has the worst luck when it comes to cutie map missions: seasons 5 and 6 both sent her to a big city that she’d rather not be in. It’s the exact opposite of Rarity’s level of luck—she got sent to both the cities she adores the most.

The efficient storytelling is continued through what TV Tropes calls a Gilligan cut. Applejack says that Las Pegasus probably isn’t as bad as they think; take a wild guess what happens next.

You guessed it! It’s even worse!

There’s no need to show Applejack and Fluttershy riding a hot air balloon here. We can infer it just fine.

True to its name, Las Pegasus is located on a bunch of clouds, with accommodations for flightless ponies. That makes it less of a straight ponification of real-life cities than other places we’ve visited—rather, a pegasusification, or a pegasification? Pegasization? Or you could call it an aerial ponification.

Despite being our first time in Las Pegasus, the whole episode after the theme song takes place in just one building: Gladmane’s hotel. Thankfully, we’ll see more inside this city two seasons from now.

Fluttershy: Do you think the map could be on the fritz again? I mean, this place seems a lot more suited to Pinkie Pie. Or even Rainbow Dash.

Pinkie Pie is the absolute last pony who the map should send to Las Pegasus. She would see a bunch of bright colors and party games and immediately forget why she came here unless someone kept a VERY close eye on her. As for Rainbow Dash, it’s not very polite of Fluttershy to spoil the premise of Grannies Gone Wild.

Having a golden statue goes hand in hand with having a personality cult.

We meet Gladmane in person soon enough, and despite his humble exterior and claims that he thinks of everyone in the hotel as his friends, he already shows red flags of being the episode’s villain. His appearance is plastered onto the doors, he has a huge statue in the center, and he plans to make the hotel even bigger. The statue in particular is a massive sign of egotism. Compare the example of a benevolent leader, like Celestia—she has a stone statue in Ponyville, but none in Canterlot to my recollection.

Gladmane recognizes Applejack and Fluttershy as cohorts of the Princess of Friendship, much to the latter’s surprise. Perhaps he’s like an adult version of Cozy Glow in that he studies these ponies’ friendship tactics so he can exploit them for his own gain.

Gladmane: Now, don’t make a fuss for old me. I’m just gonna keep on giving a tour to my new friends, Applejack and Fluttershy.
Applejack: Howdy!
Fluttershy: (softly) Hi.

Fluttershy greeting others in her soft, breathy voice will never not be adorable. That is one of two reasons I’m pointing out this passage—the other reason is because I don’t have much to say about this stretch of the episode, where Gladmane introduces us to a bunch of performing artists.

Like the last time Fluttershy was sent on a friendship mission, this episode has a lot of cute Fluttershy moments, and she frequently gets distracted by animals. And like the last time Applejack was sent on a mission, she has to keep the other pony she came with from getting too sidetracked. Both times, Fluttershy’s interest in animals turns out to be why she was called, as we’ll soon find out.

Fluttershy: There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong around here at all!
Applejack: I figured looking for a friendship problem in Las Pegasus would be like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles. But everypony seems to be getting along just fine.

Once again, Applejack stereotypes a place as a rowdy land of chaos, and thus assumes that place has no concept of friendship. Maybe she gets this idea from all the crazy stories Big Macintosh has told her about the times he took Granny Smith and friends to Las Pegasus.

The Flim Flam brothers are a red herring, distracting us from this episode’s true villain.

Just then, Applejack rediscovers her old enemies: the Flim Flam brothers! Their third voiced appearance subverts the pattern of them presenting a complicated fanciful product; this time, they’ve become rivals in a heated dispute. Something cool about this scene is that it shows the brothers have different areas of specialty: Flim is good at putting on a show, and Flam knows all the business practices. If they shared all the same skills, they wouldn’t need to work together.

Gladmane is great at pretending to look upset as the Flim Flam brothers argue.

Fluttershy: I know you and the rest of the Apple family have had your issues with Flim and Flam in the past, but they’re definitely having trouble. And solving a friendship problem is important! No matter who’s having it.
Applejack: Well, of course that’s true… for anypony but them!

Applejack doesn’t just hate the Flim Flam brothers for their manipulative business practices. She’s also naturally competitive, and having a rival apple family motivates her to succeed. We similarly saw that she’s motivated by rivalry two episodes ago, when she sternly said she can’t let the Appleoosa team beat her.

Gladmane: I’m sorry you had to see that. I don’t know why, but those two have been fighting ever since they got here. I thought giving them these jobs might help, but I… I guess it just made matters worse.
Applejack: Trust me. I know these ponies, and you’re better off with them apart. The two of them together will cheat the hooves right out from under you.
Gladmane: Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Flim’s such a showpony, and Flam has such a head for business. Why, if they ever did work with each other, they’d be running this place in two shakes.
Gladmane: Ah, speaking of which, I better get back to work. Y’all enjoy your stay now, you hear?

Gladmane foreshadows his own downfall, and he just barely stops himself from saying “and I cannot let that happen”. He almost let his true motives slip, which is why he leaves the scene before unveiling anything more. He’s scared that Flim and Flam could take his place, and as a corrupt businessman, his goal is to squash all competition instead of letting anyone help him run the show.

I like how the arcade games make an effort to not have the technology TOO modern.
For instance, the dance pad game has the arrows on a scrolling sheet of paper, not a computer screen.

Fluttershy interviews Flim and Flam in the hopes of reconciling them and fails, and Applejack searches the building for a friendship problem. Both of their attempts may seem fruitless, but exploration is always how they find the real friendship problem.

Applejack discovers the previously seen magic performer ponies getting into a nasty argument, and another guy says that if these two stopped arguing, they could to go on tour beyond just Gladmane’s hotel. Applejack remarks that this sounds like a real friendship problem, which is a humorous double standard. To her, a petty dispute is a bad thing if it’s between ponies she doesn’t know, but not if they’re her arch-nemesis. (Can two people be one person’s arch-nemesis? Since this is my blog, I will say yes.)

The other pair of ponies reveals the same thing to Applejack. They used to perform together, but since they started working at Gladmane’s hotel, they’ve argued over everything, and it’s halted their career. Applejack is picking up on a pattern now.

Applejack and Fluttershy start to put pieces together. They notice that the Flim Flam brothers and the other pairs of performers have been stuck in cyclical arguments since working at the hotel, which isn’t good for them but great for Gladmane. Applejack gets information out of the performers at the hotel, but they all insist Gladmane is their good friend and get angry that anyone would insinuate otherwise. That sounds an awful lot like Starlight Glimmer’s cult, doesn’t it?

By talking to the animals during the interrogations, Fluttershy learns that Gladmane tells each performer lies about their partner to get them fighting. Gladmane’s top concern doesn’t seem to be making money, but remaining the owner of the resort.

Applejack: So all his talk about friendship is just a load of applesauce. He’s getting them all to fight with each other on purpose!
Fluttershy: But how can we get everypony to believe that’s what he is doing?
Applejack: There must be a way to trick him into telling the truth.
Fluttershy: Gee, if only there was a pony who knew how to trick a trickster.
(Flim Flam brothers squabble)
Fluttershy: Or maybe a pair of ponies?
Applejack: (sigh) Fine. Guess bringing Flim and Flam back together might be why we’re here. Maybe.

The Flim Flam brothers aren’t so much evil as they’re just greedy tricksters, and this episode shows they can be used for good. In a show where the main cast is less sympathetic and likable, I could see a character with this personality being one of the good guys. A sleazy manipulator who causes a lot of episodes’ conflicts, but comes through for his friends and can use his trickery for good.

Applejack reunites the Flim Flam brothers without much difficulty. All she has to say is that Gladmane has been telling them fake stories about each other, and then the brothers remember that Applejack never lies. We all know this isn’t true—of course Applejack has lied before. You may even remember that the brothers got Applejack to lie in their last episode. As I’ve said before, Applejack’s element of harmony doesn’t mean that it’s physically impossible for her to lie. It just means that she’s bad at lying and hates doing it, so it’s easy to tell when she is.

The Flim Flam brothers disguise Fluttershy as the grand-matriarch* of the Rich family, Impossibly Rich. It’s not clear whether there is a real Impossibly Rich, but given that the brothers made up everything about her story, I think they made up her existence too. And yes, this would mean she’s the Flim Flam brother’s OC. Flim tells Gladmane that Impossibly Rich wants to purchase the hotel while keeping up the act that he and Flam are rivals. Flam explains “Impossibly Rich’s” whispering to him by saying she wants a tour of the hotel in an hour, and Gladmane accepts it.

* Not sure how that’s different from a regular matriarch.

Gladmane is cornered into confessing into the secrets behind his business, and his confession ends as follows:

Gladmane: (laughs) Well, you see, I have a trick for that, I must confess. And it all has to do with how I handle my employees.
Flam: And how is that?
Gladmane: (through the microphone) Well, like friends, of course! And I treat every one of my employees with the kindness they deserve.
Flam: (stuttering) That’s it? That’s your secret? There’s… nothing else?
Gladmane: Nope. Just friendship. But you know all about friendship, don’t you… Fluttershy!

We know the Flim Flam brothers are good at pretending to be fooled, but props to Fluttershy for also appearing deceived.

Flim: You knew the whole time?
Gladmane: Never try to con a con pony, uh huh huh. (smug laughter)

Gladmane should really listen to his own words. He tried to con a pair of con ponies, and hiring the Flim Flam brothers was his biggest mistake. I presume that when they were hired, the brothers posed as honest, humble businessmen, and Gladmane believed them and then split them up. His supreme ego means he thinks it’s impossible to overthrow him, and that any attempts would be laughably bad. As with any villain of this type, his ego leads to his downfall.

Gladmane’s first line when the girls enter his office is interesting:

Gladmane: I’d have thought you’d hit the road by now.

He’s saying that he thinks that if anyone tried to take him down, they’d walk away after failing their first attempt. Perhaps he thinks this because he would walk away from a problem after making one mistake, as he soon demonstrates. The Flim Flam brothers know that Applejack never backs down, a piece of wisdom that Gladmane lacks.

Fluttershy: Whether we were able to fool you or not, you can’t just go on keeping ponies from getting along. It’s just… mean!
Gladmane: Now, maybe it is. But it’s the meanness that works. Unlike your pathetic little ploy.
Gladmane: I practically invented the “high roller hustle”. But I suppose I should be impressed. You’re the only ponies to ever figure out the secret to my success. Takes a lot of work keeping everypony fighting. But as long as I keep them convinced that I’m their only friend, all of Las Pegasus will be mine.

Gladmane may seem like a professional businessman on the surface, and a devious businessman a bit beneath the surface, but on the inside he’s a full-on cartoon villain. Well, OK, every villain in this show is technically a cartoon villain, but from the golden statue to his inflated ego to his desire to take over a city, he has all the traits people typically think of when they hear “cartoon villain”.

What benefit is there to the button being so tiny?
I mean for Gladmane. Obviously the button’s small size let Fluttershy press it without being noticed.

Gladmane: Oh, you can’t trick a confession out of a pony like me! I am always one step ahead.
Applejack: Well, you better check your hooves. Because you just stepped in a confession.

This is Fluttershy at her finest: doing something awesome right when she seems the most unassuming. I think it fits with his selfish nature that Gladmane didn’t see her pressing the button the entire time. To him, everyone and everything else is an insignificant pawn, and he only cares about his own gain. Even if he saw Fluttershy pressing the button early on, he would have forced Fluttershy’s hoof off, and the guests at the hotel would have seen them fight and identified that Gladmane is hiding something. The moment Fluttershy pressed the button, Gladmane’s fate became sealed.

While Gladmane desperately tries to save his reputation, the guests of the hotel quickly turn on him, which is believable. If someone’s true nasty side is revealed to the world, it’s impossible for them to save face and difficult for them to get a second chance. We even learn that one of the performing pairs he turned against each other was a married couple, the two on the bottom above. Yes, that’s right: Gladmane nearly broke up a marriage because it would make him money. I can’t think of even one other villain who’s done that. Gladmane proves how much of a coward he is when he runs out of the building, never to be seen or mentioned again for the rest of the show.

You thought they’d be reformed, didn’t you?

Now for the most interesting thing about this episode: the way it ends.

Applejack: Must have felt pretty nice to finally put all your conniving and cheating skills to good use.
Flam: In fact, we like to think of it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Flim: Emphasis on the “once”.
Fluttershy: What do you mean?

After so many villain reformations, it’s almost refreshing not to have one.

And just like that, Flim and Flam announce they’ve taken over the hotel and have returned to their sleazy schemes, much to Applejack’s chagrin. This makes for the show’s first ever episode where a villain wins in the end—the only other ones I can think of are in season 9 with its villain team. Despite this, Applejack and Fluttershy’s cutie marks flash before this scene, showing that the Cutie Map considers it far preferable for Flim and Flam to own the hotel than for Gladmane to. It’s kind of awesome that the Flim Flam brothers ended their third episode successfully tricking Applejack. It was their plan all along to take over the hotel, and Applejack and Fluttershy merely helped with that. Luckily, the other pairs of performers, whose lives were affected the worst, have moved on to perform elsewhere.

Overall thoughts:

As the fifth friendship mission episode of seasons 5-6, it makes sense that this one is all about toying with expectations. It has an uncommon pair of main characters, an odd location, and a surprising return of villains who almost become reformed. Applejack and Fluttershy are an interesting oddball pairing, and I think they aren’t paired up often because their most prominent dynamics with other Mane 6 members are both with Rainbow Dash. They’re also an unusual pair because honesty and kindness tend to be at odds—you’ll often have to sacrifice one in favor of the other. But this episode makes their pairing work, getting a lot of mileage out of their skills and history.

As far as one-time villains go, Gladmane is one of the nastiest we’ve seen. He puts on a humble, jolly front to disguise his selfish schemes and stay at the top, and he does this by secretly ruining others’ friendships. His actions are so vile that the Flim Flam brothers don’t just seem harmless in comparison—they seem like good guys put next to him, so much that the map considers them taking over the hotel a victory. After getting humiliated in their first two episodes, it’s strangely satisfying for them to be thrown a bone.

Grade: B

Fluttershy and Applejack may not share episodes much, but when they do, they hit quite hard.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The temporary rivalry between the Flim Flam brothers reminds me of the real-life story behind the Aldi grocery store chain. It originally was one company owned by two brothers, but when they had a dispute, it split into two companies: Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd. The Flim Flam brothers are very lucky they got their conflict reconciled unlike the founders of Aldi.
    • Everyone says Aldi Süd is the superior version of Aldi, which is great for me because that’s what the US got. Many other countries aren’t as lucky.
  • When the statue of Gladmane is removed at the end, the hotel still has doors with Gladmane drawn on them. They’ll have to be replaced with doors depicting Flim and Flam soon enough.

While this episode had a seemingly nice guy turn out to be a villain, the next one has a reformed pony bring back her villainous side.

Season 6 Episode 21: Every Little Thing She Does

In five words: Starlight Glimmer’s villainous side relapses.

Premise: Starlight Glimmer has been putting off friendship lessons where she’s supposed to do an activity with the five Mane 6 members she doesn’t live with. She tries to finish them all at once by mind controlling her friends.

Detailed run-through:

Don’t let Starlight’s nervous expression fool you. She’s having fun practicing teleportation.

To start the episode, Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer wake up early for some magic practice. These scenes serve two purposes: cool fanservicey action, and to show that Starlight and Twilight have become close friends. No other friend of Twilight’s has quite the same magic expertise, so in that sense, she and Starlight are birds of a feather. Although Moondancer shares Twilight’s interest in magic, they fell out of touch long enough that their interactions focus more on catching up and reminiscing on childhood.

Starlight Glimmer is just… she’s just so well-written and cool and cute and fun to analyze. I love her so much.

Next up, they practice transfiguration spells where they, among other things, turn an apple into a nest of eggs (from which a chick hatches) and a book into a watermelon. Did Twilight really create life out of thin air? Or did she swap the location of an existing nest with the apple? I like the location swap theory because it’s less messed up to think about, and because it’s funny to imagine an apple appearing in place of a nest and hitting Applejack on the head. If the book swapped locations with a watermelon, I imagine Twilight would find it a thrilling activity to search for the book.

Finally, Twilight and Starlight practice shields, and Starlight gets carried away and makes a huge explosion. She’s oblivious to the damage she caused, saying she is on fire today. This is exactly the right way to portray reformed Starlight: usually well-meaning, but oblivious to social norms, and it sets the stage for the rest of this glorious Starlight Glimmer episode.

After the theme song, Starlight Glimmer showcases a super speed spell to clean up the books, then a brief spell that lets her be in two places at once, which is fanfic fuel if I’ve ever seen any. Though Starlight’s excitement to showcase her spells is adorable, it’s clear that she’s distracting herself from… something else.

Twilight Sparkle: I have to admit, your skills with magic really are nothing short of amazing. I’m very impressed.
Starlight Glimmer: (chuckles) I’ve always been something of a natural.
Twilight Sparkle: However, it doesn’t look like you’ve tackled any friendship lessons since you met Trixie.
Starlight Glimmer: Are you sure? I could have sworn there were a couple in there somewhere.
Twilight Sparkle. I’m sure.
Starlight Glimmer: I see.

You might think Twilight still is a little mad at Starlight for spending so much time with Trixie, but I don’t think that’s the source of her frustration. She would love for Starlight to get to know the rest of her friend group better, and she wishes Starlight wasn’t so hesitant about it. This draws tension between what Twilight thinks is best for Starlight and what Starlight wants for herself, somewhat like a mother and daughter.

Starlight Glimmer: Well, I’m really quite busy this week. So many commitments. I’ll try and find some time in my—
Twilight Sparkle: No time like the present!
Twilight Sparkle: Spike and I are headed to Canterlot. Princess Celestia wanted me to give her students a quick overview on the history of enchanted objects in Equestria. We’ll be back after the presentation, which should be…
Spike: 20 moons from now?
Twilight Sparkle: Tonight.

Hey, wait a minute. Through Spike’s snarky line, I think I figured out the mystery behind the vaguely defined unit of time, moons.

I think that in ancient Equestria, moons were a widely used unit based on astronomy, but they’re now superseded by days, weeks, months, and years, and moons are relegated to metaphorical or poetic use. There is no clear definition of moons because ponies don’t use them to measure time anymore. I think when ponies say things like “once in a moon” or “thousands of moons ago”, they either mean it as a metaphor (like Spike did), want to sound antiquated, or are reciting an old story.

Tangents aside, either Twilight doesn’t notice Starlight’s nervousness about doing a friendship lesson today, or she thinks Starlight will quit being nervous soon enough.

I suddenly wish I could float wooden shapes in front of me.
That would be such a mesmerizing way to zone out.

The photo on the top right is strange.
What does Starlight Glimmer have against the number 11, and why did she rotate it sideways?
Maybe some mysteries of this show were never meant to be elaborated.

Spike has tons of experience watching nerdy purple unicorns suppress their panic, so he immediately sees through Starlight Glimmer’s “haha, everything’s totally fine, I’m not nervous at all” shtick. Starlight Glimmer pulls five cards listing friendship lessons, each involving an activity with a Mane 6 member, out of the trash, and I can see why she’s so much more nervous to hang out with Twilight’s friends than with Trixie. These are the same ponies who she brainwashed into her cult, and it’s hard for her to turn a new page with all except Twilight, whereas Trixie was never exposed to the worst of her. This may also be part of why she feels easier opening up to Spike: he stayed behind while the Mane 6 visited her village, and he only saw the second half of her villainy.

Rainbow Dash’s activity is chillaxing, and Starlight doesn’t even know what that is. I think this shows how restless and on the move she is, always ready to try out the next cool thing with magic. Spike also doesn’t know what chillaxing is, a result of his influence by the similarly restless Twilight Sparkle.

Spike briefly blew on these cards, and he’s lucky they didn’t catch fire.

Spike: You know, uh… if you’re nervous about your friendship lessons, it’s totally OK to say so.
Starlight Glimmer: Nervous, me?! Ha ha, ha ha! Oh, Spike. You really are hilarious.
Starlight Glimmer: You think I’m nervous that I’m going to fail something as simple as baking a cake?
Spike: Well, if you were, it would be—
Starlight Glimmer: Silly! Twilight just said how impressed she was that I combined a speed spell and a duplication spell. That was a challenge.
Starlight Glimmer: These? Pff, ha. I could combine all five of these at the same time without breaking a sweat.

The reason reforming Starlight Glimmer worked so well is because the show makes sure to still give her some significant flaws. Her biggest flaw is her lack of impulse control: once she has an idea for how to do something, she NEEDS to do it, immediately. It’s a commonality between evil Starlight and reformed Starlight, and it bridges the gap between her old and new roles. I’ve noticed a pattern with reformed villains: if there isn’t a clear idea for how to retain some of their old selves, they’re shafted out of the show, like Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, or Chancellor Neighsay who doesn’t exist yet. Most villains stop getting screen time after reformation, and Starlight and Discord are the two big exceptions. Maybe you could count Trixie, but she was never that villainous to begin with.

Spike: I think maybe you’re missing—
Starlight Glimmer: An opportunity to really impress Twilight? Great idea, Spike! I’m gonna get right on that. Good talk.
Spike: And I thought Twilight was the master of the freakout.

When a really good idea pops into your head that you’re excited to make reality, you tune out everything around you as you rush to get it started. At least, that’s how it works for me, and it works the same way for Starlight. Her brain has entered a frenzy where it’s focused solely on putting this magic spell into action.

Starlight Glimmer: So, with your help, I figure these should be done in no time.
Applejack: Are you sure this is what Twilight would want? Seems like you might want to take all your time with each of these.
Starlight Glimmer: But, by working as a team, we can get them done faster. And isn’t teamwork a key factor in friendship?
Applejack: I… guess.

Starlight Glimmer is using similar phrasing to when she convinced others to follow her cult ideology. It’s a method of carefully picking words to seem like her views are obvious facts and opposing views are complete nonsense, very typical of cult leaders. She decides one by one who should work where, but it gets out of control as the others suggest alternatives that make her task less efficient.

Rainbow Dash: Uh, I don’t know if we can chillax properly in the castle. We need very specific conditions for optimal chillaxing.
Starlight Glimmer: Oh. I just assumed chillaxing could happen anywhere.
Rainbow Dash: Heh. Shows what you know about chillaxing. Let me do some location scouting.

I love the little pattern where Rainbow Dash takes a vaguely defined topic like measuring coolness or chillaxing extremely seriously, and instead of explaining her reasoning, she just goes “haha, of course YOU wouldn’t understand”. She has no logic behind this stuff other than what her gut likes, but she wants to seem intelligent about it anyway.

Starlight Glimmer: Fine. We can start with the dresses, and then—
Applejack: While y’all figure that out, I’m gonna start laying out the pictures for scrapbooking. We got a whole lot of time to cover.
Starlight Glimmer: How much is a whole lot?
Applejack: We’ve got at least 80 moons worth of memories to go through.

As far as the viewer is concerned, “80 moons” is no more meaningful than “a whole lot”. Yet again, I’m scratching my head about this unit of time. I think Granny Smith routinely uses moons as a unit because she’s old, and whenever Applejack uses it, she’s just reciting something her grandma told her without thinking about how the numbers add up.

Starlight Glimmer can see that bringing all five ponies over isn’t working well, but she doesn’t want to turn back on this plan. So instead, she heads to the library to do exactly what a sensible person would: prepare magic spells to cast on them!

Jokes aside, I love that to Starlight Glimmer, mixing in a magic spell or two is a completely reasonable solution. When she set up her cult, I imagine she had to calibrate a precise combination of spells to keep it running, and the same goes for her rampage through time. Why wouldn’t the same hold for keeping her friends’ activities under control?

Starlight digs through a few books to think up the right combination of spells that would make her friends more persuasive, and she gets ready to apply it. I love how smug she gets when preparing to cast that spell—it reminds me of how Discord still loves to torment others with chaos magic.

Now that her friends are mind controlled, Starlight Glimmer returns to her original plan of who should work where. Pinkie Pie in the kitchen, Applejack and Rarity in the library, Fluttershy in the foyer, and Rainbow Dash will find a place in the castle to chillax. They all immediately follow her orders, just like Starlight wanted. She has a lot of experience commanding brainwashed ponies to do what she says, so this is second nature for her.

Starlight Glimmer: Let’s get to work, Pinkie!
Pinkie Pie: Okie-dokie! What would you like to do first?
Starlight Glimmer: Uh, what are we supposed to do first?
Pinkie Pie: Whatever you want to do first, Starlight Glimmer!

This episode is basically Starlight Glimmer’s equivalent of Lesson Zero. A purple unicorn desperately wants to complete an assignment she’s procrastinating on so that her mentor will be pleased, but things aren’t going as she hopes, so she brainwashes a bunch of ponies with a magic spell, leading to hilarity and chaos. While Lesson Zero portrays Twilight with an off-the-wall mental breakdown, Starlight’s portrayal is more nuanced which causes just as much hilarity. That’s a good example of the contrast between the early seasons and the middle to late ones.

Pinkie Pie follows Starlight Glimmer’s baking instructions to the letter with freakish speed. I think she’s normally capable of baking cakes at lightning speed, but she chooses to take her time because it’s more fun, unless it’s an urgent cake emergency.

Starlight Glimmer: I think you can take it from here.
Pinkie Pie: Take what from where?
Starlight Glimmer: The baking.
Starlight Glimmer: Just keep following the instructions in the book until I get back.
Pinkie Pie: Abso-tively! Instruction following starting… now!

The fun part about Starlight’s brainwashing spell is that the ponies under it still retain some of their usual selves. Pinkie Pie is even more literal-minded under this spell, as shown by her oblivious “take what from where?” and, as we’ll soon see, her interpretation of “follow the instructions in the book”.

I’m not sure whether to be more surprised that Twilight Sparkle has a fashion magazine hidden in her bookshelf, or that Starlight Glimmer found it so quickly. Maybe Twilight kept it in her shelf because it’s one of the first magazines with Rarity’s name in it. Starlight Glimmer uses this as a template of a dress for Rarity to design, and we’re soon to see the results.

Starlight Glimmer: That’s a whole lot of photos. How do you usually organize them?
Applejack: However you want me to organize them, Starlight.

It’s weird that Applejack extensively recounts a whole bunch of different stories from each photo but doesn’t remember how she usually organizes her photos. You could infer that Applejack doesn’t have her own organization system and merely follows what others suggest, and if you assume she’s never organized photos on her own, that’s not hard to believe. Perhaps she usually organizes photos with Granny Smith, and she wants to do it with someone else for a change. She knows that Starlight Glimmer shares Twilight’s knack for organization, so perhaps she was hoping Starlight could help organize these photos in a logical way. Meanwhile, Applejack could share stories from the photos that would help Starlight get to know her better. Unfortunately, Starlight had her own idea.

Fluttershy’s blank smile when she says the animals ran away is just as hilarious as Rainbow Dash’s servitude when she sets up a place to chillax. Rainbow Dash’s signature loyalty has been exaggerated so much that she behaves like a butler, sort of like Snow Dash in the Hearth’s Warming story earlier this season.

Starlight Glimmer told Applejack to put these pictures in chronological order and THEN tell more stories, but here Applejack is telling stories anyway.
Maybe Applejack arranged the stories in order, but didn’t put them in the book because she wasn’t told to.

Amidst Applejack’s photos, we get a brand new monster out of nowhere that surely serves as speculation fuel. Though it would probably help if that monster had a name. If it did, it would probably have far more fan art, and maybe we’d eventually get to see it in person.

(Should this above paragraph have gone in the miscellaneous notes? Should it have been swapped with the image caption above? These are the weird decisions I face all the time when writing these posts, and to save me some trouble I just go with my gut and don’t think about it too hard.)

Rarity also has a tiny bit of her usual self while brainwashed. With hollow, dead eyes, she presents a drawing of the dress in the book, then sounds slightly bummed out and stomps on the drawing when Starlight tells her to make a real dress, and again when Starlight tells her to make it bigger. This is the sort of reaction she always has when someone forces her to overhaul her work.

Starlight Glimmer turned off Pinkie Pie’s mouth, but she forgot to turn off the oven.

After learning that Pinkie Pie has been making every recipe in the book, Starlight Glimmer asks for an explanation and gets a detailed description of every recipe, and then she mutes Pinkie Pie much like Trixie did in Magic Duel. Some parallels between Starlight Glimmer and Trixie are huge, while others are minor like this.

Fluttershy is completely unfazed when she gathers all the bugs and snakes from the dark corners of the castle. Regular Fluttershy would be the same way, wouldn’t she? Well, maybe without as many bugs crawling all over her.

Rainbow Dash responds to the smoke by gathering storm clouds, somehow with several other loyal pegasi who aren’t brainwashed as far as we know. Did Starlight’s magic spell accidentally extend to a few ponies outside the Mane 6? I think that’s the most likely explanation.

Applejack’s stories have evolved to reciting various cliched phrases from literature.

Starlight Glimmer says that this can’t get any worse, which makes us expect another one of the Mane 6 to mess something up. The “it can’t get any worse” trope is subverted when Twilight Sparkle comes in and asks what’s going on, allowing the viewer to feel Starlight’s panic.

Starlight Glimmer: Maybe if I had reversed Fiducia Compellus and Cogeria. Or maybe I added too much Persuadere.
Starlight Glimmer: What?
Spike: You’re really missing the point here.

Is there anything more Starlight Glimmer than a magic spell causing an insane disaster, then thinking she should have used a different combination of spells? I don’t think there is. She has a lingering villain inside her who sees her friends as game pieces, much like Twilight Sparkle’s mindset when she’s having a freakout. She has to be really good friends with someone to know she can’t just make them do what she wants, and so far she follows this rule with Twilight Sparkle, Spike, and Trixie.

After realizing that casting a spell on her friends was a terrible idea, Starlight reveals that she’s been avoiding the friendship lessons, and she explains why.

Starlight Glimmer: I can cast complex spells, but baking a cake with Pinkie Pie freaks me out! And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds. That’s why I didn’t say anything.
Starlight Glimmer: I thought if I just kept wowing you with my magical abilities, you might just… not notice?
Twilight Sparkle: Baking a cake freaks you out?
Starlight Glimmer: Yes? Baking a cake, sewing, all of it. What if I was bad at it?
Starlight Glimmer: I didn’t want to be a disappointment to anypony, and I ended up being a disappointment to everypony.
Twilight Sparkle: Starlight, do you think anypony cares if you can bake a cake?
Starlight Glimmer: But… the lesson…
Twilight Sparkle: Was to get to know Pinkie Pie better by doing something she loves. It was a friendship lesson, not a baking lesson.

Twilight Sparkle knows that the best friendships happen organically—like Starlight and Trixie, as much as it would pain Twilight to admit—but she still really wanted Starlight to get know all her other cool friends, which is sweet of her. She tried to give Starlight a nudge by listing ideas for activities, just like Celestia did with Twilight in the first episode, but she didn’t consider how intimidated her pupil could be.

Again paralleling Lesson Zero, after Starlight Glimmer realizes she messed up, she prepares to learn a friendship lesson far greater than any she intended to complete: apologizing.

The next day, the rest of the Mane 6 all have terrible headaches and can’t remember what happened last night, almost as if they’re having a hangover. In fact, it is scarily accurate to the experience of a hangover. Ah… and you thought this show was for kids, didn’t you?

Rarity: If everypony could speak in a whisper for the next few days, that would be delightful. My head is thumping!
Fluttershy: I was up all night calming the animals down.
Rarity: Fluttershy, please? Not so loud.

Haha, of course Rarity would be the most overdramatic about having a hangover. I love the gag where she asks Fluttershy of all ponies to quiet down, and there’s a lot of realism here. If you want others to stop speaking so loudly, they’ll typically ignore you and keep their normal volume, which is a torturous experience—it’s happened to me before. Pinkie Pie is the worst offender, loudly ranting about how all the cakes were burnt as if her head barely hurts at all. It makes sense since her hyperactivity is more resilient than any of the other main characters.

Starlight comes in to apologize to her friends, who are understandably mad at what she did.

Starlight Glimmer: I really messed up. I cast a spell because I was nervous about working with you on the friendship lesson.
Rainbow Dash: Well, here’s a friendship lesson for you: DON’T CAST SPELLS ON YOUR FRIENDS!
Starlight Glimmer: Believe me, I know.
Starlight Glimmer: What I did was wrong, and I can’t take it back. You’re right to be upset, and I hope one day, I can make it up to you. But… all I can say is, I’m sorry.
Starlight Glimmer: Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go clean a castle covered in wet cake batter and spiders.

This scene teaches something valuable to viewers: the importance of consent. This is not an easy topic to convey in a kid-friendly way, and the episode has a clever solution: Starlight does something non-consensual that has no real-world equivalent. That way, it remains acceptable on a kids’ show, but it still tells viewers what consent is. It smoothly ties into an apology and friendship lesson.

After accepting Starlight’s apology, all the others offer to help her out with cleaning up the house. While Rarity at first didn’t want to sew in the library, here she says it’s the perfect place for her to fix up the fabrics away from all the noise. I find that a funny parallel, showing that Rarity can forgo her insistence on perfection when her head hurts. Pinkie Pie dramatically asks to bake a fresh new batch of cakes in honor of the ones lost in the fire, then smiles in excitement.

Sharing a laugh over memories is exactly what Twilight hoped would happen.

And so, we get a montage where Starlight Glimmer helps Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy fix up the mess they caused, and gets her mane dirty making redemption cakes with Pinkie Pie. Some montages in this show may feel lazy, but this one works really well because it’s followed by a recap where Starlight realizes she’s completed most of the friendship lessons that Twilight wanted her to do—sewing with Rarity, scrapbooking with Applejack, helping animals with Fluttershy, and baking cakes with Pinkie Pie. Again like Lesson Zero, Starlight Glimmer learns friendship lessons from her disastrous attempt at completing a friendship lesson without realizing it at first.

Starlight Glimmer used magic for less nefarious purposes here: to make the fountain on top of the castle.

There’s one friendship lesson left: chillaxing with Rainbow Dash. It ends with a hilarious line:

Starlight Glimmer: So… how long do we sit quietly?
(everyone laughs)

I have asked questions like this so many times, it’s frankly embarrassing. I’ve always felt a need to know how long any activity or event will take, but true relaxing means not worrying about that. Rainbow Dash is more qualified than anyone else to decide when Starlight has learned to chillax. It may sound silly, but the moment I first heard this line, I knew for sure Starlight Glimmer was a great addition to this show.

Overall thoughts:

As I’ve said earlier, I consider this episode to be Starlight Glimmer’s counterpart to Lesson Zero—she tries desperately to complete a friendship lesson and causes chaos in the process, then learns a lesson from her mistakes. It has a similar off-the-wall sense of humor with a similar look into the pupil’s fear of letting her mentor down. It does a great job showing how Starlight Glimmer becomes better friends with the Mane 6, and it tells us that Starlight can still be devious after reformation—nowhere near as much as Discord, but there’s still a little edge in her that you don’t see in the main cast. It’s also why she gets along with Trixie so well. Her mind-controlled friends’ antics are hilarious, and her perpetually missing the point cracks me up too. All in all, this is a pivotal episode in establishing Starlight Glimmer’s reformed character.

I think this episode would have fit better early in season 6 than near the end, just like Lesson Zero was right after the season premiere. If it was earlier in the season, maybe Starlight Glimmer would have been less controversial, and fans would have had a better idea of what her role after reformation is. Maybe it would have made sense to swap this episode’s position with No Second Prances—first she gets to know the Mane 6 better, and her next task is to make a new friend. But the episode itself is great either way.

Grade: A

I just love Starlight Glimmer too much.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • If the transfiguration spell really does change objects instead of swapping them out, I imagine Twilight would be in quite a moral dilemma if she accidentally replaced a rare limited-edition book with a nest of chicks. It’s all messy to think about, which is why I prefer the other theory.
  • I’m obligated to mention that the presence of kites in Starlight Glimmer’s bedroom is a hint at a secret interest of hers that she’ll reveal in Rock Solid Friendship.
  • I’m also obligated to mention that the song Pinkie Pie briefly starts singing is a reference to the song “Cooking by the Book” from LazyTown, a kids’ show that has quite a bit in common with MLP: songs that go unreasonably hard, a sizable adult audience, and tons of Internet memes.
  • When Applejack says she feels like she’s been shoved through the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, I wonder if there are any fans who despise that episode and jokingly think Applejack was talking about the experience of the episode itself. I’ve never seen anyone hate on that, of all episodes—it’s really just known as the introduction of the Flim Flam brothers.

Poor Twilight Sparkle has to see not one, but three of her friends go off the deep end in the next episode.

See you next time for a tale of conflicting stories and the most simultaneously off-the-wall and believable flashback episode I’ve ever seen.

>> Part 73: P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View) + Where the Apple Lies

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