Cookie Fonster Reviews Every MLP Episode Part 73: P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View) + Where the Apple Lies


< Part 72 | Part 73 | Part 74 >

Season 6, Episodes 22-23

Season 6 Episode 22: P.P.O.V. (Pony Point of View)

In five words: Mystery solved through conflicting tales.

Premise: Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie have come back from a boating trip with their friendship in shambles, and Twilight Sparkle tries to piece together their contradicting stories.

Detailed run-through:

To start the episode, Twilight Sparkle is excited to hear how three of her friends’ boating trip went. We get an excuse for why Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy didn’t go on the trip: they were at a Cloudsdale flight school reunion. This leads me to wonder, why did the show choose Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack, out of all character combinations, to go on the trip? I’ll discuss this peculiarity in the overall thoughts, so that I don’t get ahead of myself.

I refuse to believe Rarity didn’t bring at least ten spare outfits to wear in case her current one got dirty.

The three ponies depart the train in separate directions, refusing to talk to each other. If they’re so mad at each other, why did they go home in the same car of the train? My best guess is that the rest of the train was full of excited ponies who had a delightful trip.

Opal rubs herself around Twilight and Spike while delivering the letter, because that’s just what cats do.

Twilight Sparkle sets up a tea party for her friends, but instead each of their pets come in and deliver them a letter—Rarity and Applejack’s written on paper, Pinkie Pie’s written on Gummy himself. When Twilight reads the letters, you can tell she’s trying not to imitate her friends’ voices but slips into them anyway, which I find endearing.

Poor Rarity just had to get a crab out of her mane.

As she’s done in prior episodes, Rarity pulled this couch out of nowhere.

The first friend who Twilight and Spike go to about this mystery is Rarity, even though they should logically trust Applejack to tell the truest, least biased story. My guess is that Spike wanted to visit Rarity first, since he had just polished his scales.

I’m guessing most of Pinkie Pie’s board games are references to Hasbro products.

Now for the fun part of the review: guessing how accurate each story is to reality! She starts with the arc words: wanting her friends to get out of their elements, specifically with a luxury cruise. Rarity claimed that she packed a small bag with a few essentials, and the animation takes this statement at face value as shown by the small bag on the right. Then she pulls out a platter of food much bigger than the bag itself, suggesting that she was downplaying how lightly she packed. My best guess is that she brought over a bag with about three suitcases inside, which is her idea of “a few essentials”.

I can proudly say I did NOT confuse macarons with macaroons when writing this post.

Why did Rarity insist on making Pinkie Pie try a cucumber sandwich when she also brought cupcakes and macarons, which are more to Pinkie Pie’s liking? This could be part of getting her friends out of their elements, but you’d think Rarity would have the generosity to bring snacks that match each of her friends’ tastes. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t drive this episode’s plot if Rarity did something nice for her friends on the trip.

In Rarity’s story, she behaves like a sensible adult, Pinkie Pie like a childish airhead, and Applejack like a maniacal pirate who throws cucumber sandwiches into the ocean for no reason. As funny as the over-the-top pirate portrayal is, I find it hard to justify based on the rivalrous but tight friendship we’ve seen between Rarity and Applejack. The best idea I can give is that they were really bad at planning the trip.

Applejack’s muscle, Rarity’s magic, and Pinkie Pie’s reality warping seem to be evenly matched.

From Rarity’s account, the weather became nasty and Applejack steered the ship right into a gigantic wave while laughing. The abruptness of the thunderstorm shows that Rarity wasn’t paying attention to the weather until lightning struck, which is believable for her. But everything else about her presumptions seems far-fetched.

Rarity filing her hooves suggests that she wasn’t thinking too hard about logic or cohesion during the story.

Spike: Then what happened?
Rarity: Oh, the boat sank. Obviously.
(commercial break)
Twilight Sparkle: So, Applejack got some sort of sea madness, and caused the boat to capsize?
Rarity: After all the effort I put in to provide her and Pinkie with the exact luxury cruise they needed to get them out of their elements, that is how Applejack thanked me!

Here’s the problem: Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie wanted to get the other two out of their elements, instead of something that would be a new experience for all three of them. Rarity saw nothing wrong with her current set of interests and only wanted the others to try something new, and the other two thought the same. That’s how it all blew up in their faces.

Spike: So, you were stuck out in the middle of the ocean? How in Equestria did you get back?
Rarity: (girly gasp) Spike, darling. You have to forgive me. I am far too emotionally drained to discuss the matter any further!

I am convinced that Rarity is emotionally drained only because her detective outfit was ruined, and she’d merely be annoyed otherwise. If I have to justify Rarity doing something strange, my favorite way is to think of something that only she would be upset about.

Upon Rarity’s suggestion, Twilight and Spike go to Pinkie Pie to hear her story. She at first seems to confirm Twilight’s skepticism, but then she blames all the trouble on Rarity.

Pinkie Pie claims that Rarity hired a huge team of ponies to put all her packages on the ship, and it’s fair to assume the truth is between Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s claims. Rarity packed a small amount of luggage by her standards, but still a lot more than Pinkie Pie was expecting. All three ponies’ stories exaggerate what they found unexpected.

Applejack says “ahoy, mateys” in this story, which is an explanation for her pirate act in Rarity’s story. Rarity heard Applejack using pirate words once or twice, so she went down a slippery slope and assumed Applejack got sea madness.

In the previous story, Rarity put a cucumber sandwich on Pinkie Pie’s plate, but in this story, she forced it right into Pinkie Pie’s mouth. This little difference shows that a polite suggestion can come off to its recipient as a forceful demand.

From Pinkie Pie’s perspective, Rarity threw her platter into the ocean because cucumber sandwiches are “so ten seconds ago”. Both Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s claims of who tossed out the sandwiches seem to result from the process of elimination, since neither of them saw who did it. It also shows how much people’s brains unconsciously fill gaps in memory by making something up.

This is just the previous tug of war scene with different outfits.

After a piñata incident repeated from Rarity’s story, we see some truth to her portrayal of Pinkie Pie as an airhead. She sees Applejack and Rarity fighting over a map, and she thinks they’re playing tug of war and joins in. Maybe she finds it hard to imagine her friends could fight over something as simple as a map, or she’s unconsciously desperate to keep them happy with some party games.

Pinkie Pie keeps saying Rarity sank the ship, but we don’t see anyone steering the wheel—it’s yet another gap in knowledge that Pinkie filled on her own. We do see Applejack desperately trying to maneuver away from the wave, hinting that only she steered the ship.

Pinkie Pie said she never burns cakes in the last episode.
This scene proves that she doesn’t count muffins as cakes.

Pinkie Pie insists that her story was 100% true and says Applejack can provide further confirmation, then she almost reveals the part Spike was waiting for:

Spike: Okay, but if the boat sank, how did you all get rescued?
Pinkie Pie: Ah, that’s easy. We just— AAH! MY MUFFINS!

This is an extremely contrived coincidence to cut off the reveal. However, as I’ve said in prior Pinkie Pie episodes, contrived coincidences fit naturally with her character, so I am OK with this.

Now it’s Applejack’s turn to tell her story of the trip, and she subverts the pattern by blaming it on two ponies: Pinkie Pie and Rarity. It’s hard to imagine Applejack being mad at her maybe-cousin but leaving Rarity off the hook, so I suppose that’s why the episode did this. It’s all a result of the strange combination of main characters.

Rarity wears a different outfit in each of her friends’ stories, and a different one after returning from the trip.
I think in reality, Rarity wore all of these outfits at various points, and her friends each only remember one of them.

Applejack portrays Rarity as an extremely exaggerated snob, and Pinkie Pie as an extremely exaggerated ditz, very much like the historical figures they portrayed in Hearth’s Warming Eve. As amusing as these exaggerations are, they don’t feel like specifically the kind of misconceptions Applejack would have about her friends. That’s the recurring problem with this episode.

Applejack: Unfortunately, they seemed less interested in a treasure hunting adventure, and more interested in snacks.

This is something Applejack got right in the story—Rarity and Pinkie Pie made no mention of Applejack’s plans for a high seas adventure, which disappointed her greatly. Applejack is the most rational of the ponies telling their stories, since she recognizes that two of her friends were acting like clowns.

Applejack has the decency to blame one accident on herself. In her story, she tripped on a ball and knocked the cucumber sandwiches into the ocean, and Rarity’s story partly got that right. Pinkie Pie seemed to be spacing out at that moment, shown when she claimed Rarity threw them out in the second story.

An alternate moral of this episode is that when planning a trip with friends, you should make sure you’re all on the same page.

If you don’t, this will happen.

Applejack was blindfolded when the ship entered a stormy sea, and she doesn’t blame anyone else for steering it there. This is just proof that Twilight and Spike should have gone to Applejack first; her story jumps the fewest conclusions, despite exaggerating two of her friends.

Pulling on a map with only one of her hooves is one of the least far-fetched things Pinkie Pie has done.

Applejack said “hold on, everypony” as she tried to steer the boat away from the wave, but she didn’t have enough time and the boat sank anyway. From Rarity’s perspective, Applejack may as well have purposely steered it into the wave.

Twilight Sparkle: Wait. So it was Rarity and Pinkie’s fault?
Applejack: Yep. And maybe if they ever apologized, I’ll consider talking to them again.

Despite all the weird characterization in this episode, this passage feels very much like Applejack. She holds honestly high in regard, and if she thinks something is the truth, she won’t let others distort it.

While Applejack and Rarity ran to the dock, Pinkie Pie burst out of the ground because she’s Pinkie Pie.

Back at the castle, Twilight Sparkle reviews the stories and discovers a striking commonality: they all have the same incident involving cucumber sandwiches. This leads her to bring her friends over so they can repair their friendship before it’s too late. She sent messages to each of their pets saying they need to come for a friendship emergency, an admirably honest reason to bring three friends who just had a feud to the same place.

The answer to how the ponies made it to shore is disappointingly simple: they never made it off the shore to begin with. It’s also a realistic answer, because each story was short and had no time skips. The one confusing part is… why didn’t they arrive back in Ponyville far earlier than they planned? Maybe Twilight Sparkle underestimated how long they’d be gone, and her underestimate turned out perfectly accurate.

Rarity is the only pony in Equestria who would call a simple cucumber sandwich an hors d’oeuvre.

The real moral of this episode is that when you’re going on a boating trip, you should bring a friend with strong enough magic powers to lift a boat in case of emergency.
(Well, OK. The boat that they rode on might have been too big for Twilight to lift.)

The four ponies and Spike board a boat, and Twilight Sparkle demonstrates what really happened by dunking a cucumber sandwich in the ocean. This summons the creature who accidentally sank the ship, a well-meaning three-horned bunyip. A little contrived without much buildup, but sure, I’ll take it. This leads to the main takeaway of the episode: even longtime friends can have severe miscommunications. Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie realize they each had a different idea for how to get their friends out of their element, leading to their reconciliation. They each say the others must have gone through a lot of trouble planning the trip, but it all seemed pretty hasty to me.

In the end, the five friends and the bunyip each do a little bit of what they intended for this trip to be, showing that a luxurious adventure boat party isn’t such a bad combination after all. It just needed a little more planning.

Overall thoughts:

This episode has a great premise, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. While I enjoy the concept of a MLP episode where multiple characters each recount an event with their own bias (known as Rashomon style), this episode misses the point that these stories are supposed to show us how each character perceives the world. Instead, each story portrays its narrator as level-headed and makes up a ridiculous exaggeration of the others. I’m really not sure why this episode chose to focus on Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack; it would have worked better if these stories were told by characters who like to embellish themselves or exaggerate others, like Rainbow Dash or even supporting characters like Trixie or Discord. In fact, Trixie would have been absolutely PERFECT for an episode like this, but it was sadly not meant to be. Or maybe the Cutie Mark Crusaders could have told wacky, exaggerated stories about each other? The Rashomon style premise has so much potential in this show, and this episode doesn’t use much of it.

While the resolution is a bit anticlimactic, the moral is done well and fits this show. It’s realistic that the disastrous trip stemmed from a simple misunderstanding that could have been easily avoided, and it teaches viewers that they should think about their friends’ perspectives before jumping to conclusions.

Grade: C

Add this to the “great premise but could have been a lot better” pile.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • You know all those “be careful who you call ugly in middle school” memes that have an attractive or successful person on the right side? I bet that’s how the bullies from flight school felt seeing Fluttershy at the reunion.
  • When the boat sank in Applejack’s story, her hat flew off her head, but we saw Applejack with her hat on when exiting the train. Clearly, she learned from her last trip to Manehattan, where she accidentally shredded her hat and Rarity got her a new one, to never leave home without a spare hat again.

Season 6’s love of framing devices continues with an episode where Applejack tells a far more fabricated story.

Season 6 Episode 23: Where the Apple Lies

In five words: Applejack surprisingly wasn’t always honest.

Premise: When Apple Bloom thinks it’s OK that she almost lied about a shipment of zap apple jam, her family tells her a story where a younger Applejack got so carried away with lying that she almost destroyed the Apple family’s business.

Detailed run-through:

To start, Applejack and Big Macintosh deliver a box of zap apple jam to Filthy Rich… or so they think. It turns out that Apple Bloom made a little mix-up.

Applejack: You kept track of what went into which crate, right?
Apple Bloom: Oh! Um… Yep. I totally kept track of everything.
Applejack: Good. Because we wouldn’t want Filthy Rich to get a shipment of cider when he’s supposed to get zap apple jam. You know how Granny feels about selling cider anywhere but on the farm.
Applejack: Are you sure we got the right crates?
Apple Bloom: Sure I’m sure! Now, why don’t you and Big Mac head on out to the house and let me finish up here.
Applejack: (pulls out a jar) If you gave Rich the zap apple jam, then what’s this here?
Apple Bloom: Um… extra?
Big Macintosh: Nnnnope.

If this scene was in a Cutie Mark Crusaders episode, Applejack would have immediately believed her sister’s faltering lie and happily walked away. But instead, this scene portrays their relationship intelligently, getting this episode off to a solid start. Apple Bloom wants to prove she can do things on her own, so she thinks that if she admitted to a mistake, she would lose that trust, which is a common situation that kids of her age go through.

Apple Bloom’s voice is now about as high as Applejack’s was in season 1.
(In terms of how much the Crusaders’ voices changed over the seasons, Apple Bloom is the middle ground.)

After clearing up the mistake, Applejack has quite a bit to tell her sister.

Applejack: Now why in tarnation would you lie to me, Apple Bloom?
Apple Bloom: I was kind of hoping I could fix it before anypony found out.
Applejack: Telling lies won’t fix anything. Trust me. I know.
Apple Bloom: What could you possibly know about it? You’ve never told a lie in your whole life.
(Big Macintosh and Granny Smith start laughing)

Another admirably realistic thing about this episode is that children like to think their older relatives have a perfectly spotless past and would never make any foolish mistakes. I’ve had this misconception a lot about family members, and I always get surprised to learn about the more misguided things they did in their youth. Apple Bloom is right about to learn this exact type of story.

No Granny Smith story is complete without her rocking chair.

Apple Bloom: What’s so funny?
Granny Smith: Oh, sugarcube. Your big sister lied so much when she was a filly, the whole family ended up in the hospital.
Apple Bloom: What?!
Big Macintosh: (laughs) Eyup.
Applejack: (sigh) You might as well tell her the whole story. It might even do her some good.

Despite improving her track record with honesty over the show’s course, Applejack still isn’t the best at the other side of honesty: owning up to her past mistakes. That’s the whole reason the plot of The Last Roundup happened, and I view her desire to keep a perfect image as a core trait of Applejack’s. Sometimes it can work in sync with her honesty, but other times the two traits can clash.

Granny Smith’s story begins with Applejack and Big Macintosh arguing over who would run the farm better. Before I forget, I’d like to note a few ambiguities: Applejack’s parents don’t appear at all in this story, and neither does Apple Bloom. Is it before Apple Bloom’s birth, after their parents’ death,* or between these two events? I’ll explore this mystery as I progress.

* Most people implicitly assume that Applejack’s parents died together. It feels wrong to think they didn’t.

Applejack: All I’m saying, is that you may have plenty of brawn, but I’m the one with the ideas on how to run things better around here.
Big Macintosh: Applejack, Applejack, Applejack. Ideas are all well and good, but you can’t plow a field with them. I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that.
Applejack: Too many!

Teenage Big Macintosh hits home for me personally, because I know what it’s like to try all I can to be a wise older sibling who’s smarter than everyone else, even if I keep repeating myself ad nauseam. He thinks he’s so smart for constantly saying that you can’t go far with only ideas, all because he wants to prove he’s the superior sibling.

Maybe one thing this engaged couple bonded over was that their names both have embarrassing first words. Filthy and Spoiled.

Applejack and Big Macintosh run into Filthy Rich, and his fiancée who has a hilariously embarrassing maiden name: Spoiled Milk. The most common solution to someone in real life having an embarrassing name is to call them by a shortened nickname, so I’m guessing Spoiled Rich normally went by “Milk” in her youth. Spoiled Milk’s presence seems intended to imply that this flashback was a little before Apple Bloom’s birth, assuming she’s about the same age as Diamond Tiara. However, there are several flashbacks and lines that suggest Apple Bloom was born when Applejack was much younger, so as a compromise, I’ll assume this flashback happened shortly after Apple Bloom’s birth.

Filthy Rich: Honey, this is Applejack and Big Mac. The two hardest-working ponies at Sweet Apple Acres.
Spoiled Milk: You work on a farm? How… quaint.
Filthy Rich: Oh now, dear, be nice. Sweet Apple Acres makes Zap Apple Jam! It’s one of Dad’s best sellers.
Spoiled Milk: You mean one of your best sellers. My amazing husband-to-be is running the Rich family business now. Did you know that? Well, now you do.
Filthy Rich: Don’t mind Spoiled Milk. She’s just proud of me. But she’s right. I’m in charge of the store now, and I’m just bursting with ideas I want to try.

Look, I know Word of God is that Applejack’s parents were on vacation in this episode. But with her and Big Mac debating over who should inherit the farm, and Filthy Rich’s statement that he just inherited the Rich family business from his father, that sounds to me like Applejack’s parents were already dead. However, Applejack is hatless in this entire flashback, and fan consensus is that she started wearing a hat in memory of her father, so maybe her parents were still alive. If you’re confused right now, then don’t worry. So am I.

Applejack: Like what?
Filthy Rich: Well, how about this? Cider season’s around the corner. Why not let me sell it for you?
Applejack: That is an interesting idea.
Big Macintosh: Well, maybe it’s interesting and maybe it ain’t. But, it’s definitely not a new idea. Granny Smith told us your grandpa Stinkin’ Rich used to ask her every year if he could sell our cider in your store, and Granny told him every year about the tradition of everypony in Ponyville lining up out at Sweet Apple Acres.
Filthy Rich: So, start a new tradition! Someday, one of y’all will take over the farm just like I’ve taken over the store. I’m guessing it’ll be the one with the best ideas.
Big Macintosh: Well now, as I’ve said many a time before, ideas are all well and good, but you can’t plow a field—

Teenage Big Macintosh has to say the same thing whenever Applejack has an idea, doesn’t he? He likes to remind everyone of his wise advice at every opportunity, even if no one asked. It may be hilariously unexpected that he was a know-it-all motor mouth, but it also has precedence. We’ve had episodes where Big Mac shows traces of the smug older sibling he used to be, which all tie into his childish side. I love this aspect of Big Mac’s personality, and it makes him so much more interesting (and relatable) of a character than if he was always modest and laconic.

Applejack: You know what? How about we give you three barrels of cider early, and if it sells well, we’ll make a deal for the rest.
Filthy Rich: Oh hey now, perfect! Come on, honey, I got to get everything ready.

Aside from dishonesty, teen Applejack’s biggest problem is that she acts on impulse—something we see from time to time in grown-up Applejack. We saw Apple Bloom act just as impulsive at the start of this episode, showing that the Apple siblings share this problem.

The attention to detail has increased since the prior flashbacks with Apples. Now, Granny Smith looks noticeably younger.

Big Macintosh: Applejack here had another one of her “big ideas”, and I think you all know my position on ideas. You can’t—
Applejack and Granny Smith: Can’t plow a field with them.
Big Macintosh: Eeeee…right.

Thanks to the rule of three, it’s clear that Big Macintosh has repeated his phrase about ideas so many times that it no longer means anything. It’s supposed to mean that if you come up with an idea, no matter how good it is, you shouldn’t sit back and expect others to do all the work for you. But Big Mac has turned it into a kneejerk response whenever anyone says the word “idea”, like a broken record.

Granny Smith: Big idea, huh?
Applejack: Actually, more of an opportunity! You see, we ran into Filthy Rich in town. Did you know he’s running the family store now?
Granny Smith: And what does this here “opportunity” mean for Sweet Apple Acres?
Applejack: Well… since cider season is almost here, he, or, I mean, I, thought it’d be a good idea to give him a few barrels of cider to sell at the store before the season starts.
Granny Smith: Oh, is that all?

By refusing the idea to sell apple cider before the season begins, Granny Smith shows a trait common to all four main Apples: a stubborn refusal to back down from her views. Big Mac was obstinate about carrying all those suitcases in Pinkie Apple Pie, Applejack’s episodes are about her stubbornness when they aren’t about her honesty, and Apple Bloom spent half of the show refusing to give up on finding her cutie mark. Granny Smith goes on to explain that cider starts spoiling right when it comes out the press, which is why her family hosts a cider event once a year.

I absolutely love the little detail that before he rubs Applejack’s mistake in her face, Big Mac takes a glance at a girl walking nearby—none other than Cheerilee. It’s two callbacks in one, both to Hearts and Hooves Day and Call of the Cutie. Remember when Cheerilee showed her class a picture of herself as a teenager and claimed that everyone had this type of mane style back in the day? That was a fucking lie. She only said it so that her students wouldn’t laugh at her, perhaps because she’s scared that she would lose her job.

Also, Cheerilee is about the same age as the Mane 6. If you think otherwise, you are wrong. She’s appeared as a filly in multiple flashbacks where the Mane 6 are fillies, even as early as The Cutie Mark Chronicles. This cameo doubles down on this clear, solid fact, but some fans still think it’s uncertain just because the scene where she reveals her old hairstyle vaguely implies otherwise.

Big Macintosh: I hate to say I told you so, Applejack, but…
Applejack: You and I both know you don’t hate to say anything!
Big Macintosh: Well, I’ve always thought that the most important thing a pony can do is say exactly what’s on his mind at anypony who listens, so everypony everywhere always knows everything you’re thinking. And…
Applejack: And you don’t ever have to listen to anypony else.
Big Macintosh: What?
Applejack: Exactly.

While Big Macintosh sometimes makes good points in his monologues, like the value of speaking his mind, they’re meaningless when he refuses to listen to others. I’ve been in his situation a lot of times and wondered why people didn’t take me seriously.

The Apple siblings try to back down from their deal, but with Applejack fumbling around the truth and Big Mac using more words than needed, Filthy Rich doesn’t take it well.

Filthy Rich: Sounds to me like you’re trying to make excuses! Whenever Grand Dad dealt with Granny Smith, she kept her word! If you can’t do that, then maybe our families should stop doing business together. Altogether!
Big Macintosh: Now, now. The thing is, Rich, it ain’t really up to us. You see, Granny’s—
Applejack: Sick!

Is Big Macintosh more interested in saving his family business, or proving to Applejack that he’s the superior sibling? Maybe he wants to accomplish both at once, which prevents him from achieving either goal. Just like Apple Bloom wanted to keep her family’s trust at the start of the episode, Applejack wants to keep Filthy Rich’s trust and improvises an insane series of lies.

Filthy Rich: Wait, Granny’s sick? I had no idea.
Big Macintosh: Eee…yeah. Nopony did.
Applejack: (hits Big Mac’s hoof) What Big Mac means is, uh, we’ve been trying to keep it quiet. Don’t want people to make rash decisions about doing business with Sweet Apple Acres just because we’re, uh… a little short-hooved at the moment.

Big Mac snarks to Applejack about her lie instead of correcting her, which suggests that he wants his sister to learn a lesson so he can rub in her face that he was right about everything. Their old sibling rivalry is really funny because they’re so much more mature in the present day.

Big Macintosh: You were supposed to tell Rich the simple truth, but instead you made things worse with a giant lie!
Applejack: Well, what was I supposed to do? You heard Rich. If I told him the truth, he was gonna stop doing business with us altogether!
(Granny Smith enters)
Big Macintosh: Yeah, but that’s only because Iiiiii… forgot to ask if we had any old crumbles for this delicious-looking salad, Granny.

I love how hypocritical Big Mac is in this scene. He’s mad at his sister for lying to Filthy Rich, but he lies to Granny Smith because he knows she won’t approve of the sickness charade. He already knows not to get on Granny Smith’s bad side, and Applejack will soon learn the same.

Spoiled Milk doesn’t look like she wants to be here.

Actually, she never looks like she wants to be anywhere.

Filthy Rich comes in presenting flowers for Granny Smith, but right when she’s about to enter the room, Applejack slams the door and pounces on her, then claims she didn’t look where she was going and sends Granny to the barn. If this doesn’t show how annoyingly hard it is to uphold a lie, then the rest of the episode will. Evidence keeps sprouting from every corner, and you need to work extra hard to suppress it.

Big Macintosh: So from that moment on, I took to referring to myself as Big, or Large, or—
Filthy Rich: Ah, Applejack! Your brother was just explaining why he always wears his yoke.
Spoiled Milk: Even though we asked him how your grand-mare is doing!

A running gag in this episode, and with Big Macintosh’s character in general, is that he tells long, enthralling stories offscreen. I love how this running gag carries on to an episode where he’s a total blabbermouth. These aspects of Big Mac’s backstory are one of those things left for fans to make elaborate stories about, rather than explained in the show.

Applejack claims that Big Mac is blabbering because he’s upset about how their grandma is doing, then she takes the engaged couple outside and shoves Granny Smith into the barn. Granny Smith is at first angry, but Applejack finds a way to distract her.

Applejack: Uh… say, Granny, when did you first fight the apple blight again?
Granny Smith: It was my second year here in Ponyville, and that was before I had the rick on the one knee…

I think we know where Big Macintosh got his habit of telling long-winded stories when no one’s listening. Yes, you could argue it’s an old lady thing, but it’s much funnier to imagine that Granny Smith did it even before she was senile.

For a few moments, Big Mac and Granny Smith told long-winded stories at the same time.
Like grandmother, like grandson!

Big Macintosh: And others say that’s how the trees got to growing so tall. But to me, it’s just how I got my cutie mark!
Spoiled Milk: But we asked when we could come back to see Granny.

And so, Big Mac’s offscreen story running gag continues. It wouldn’t fit his character if we got a lengthy flashback showing his cutie mark acquisition, or if we got to hear the entire story out of his mouth. No, an orphaned punchline is the only acceptable answer. He’s enough of a supporting character that we don’t need to see how he earned his. The only other thing we know is that he was the last in his class to earn his mark, just like his sister and grandma.

Applejack: Big Mac didn’t want to be rude, but… you just can’t see Granny right now because she’s… got apple blight!
Filthy Rich: (gasp) I thought only trees got the blight.
Applejack: Yeah, that’s usually the case. … The doctors think it’s from working in the orchard for so many years.

I like to think that as a foal, Filthy Rich’s dad and grandpa always told him that he was easily fooled, and he’s still pretty gullible in this flashback. As usual, instead of criticizing characters for not being very smart, I prefer to consider what their lack of logical deduction says about them.

Applejack: You see, we had to take Granny to Ponyville General. We just got back right before you showed up.
Filthy Rich: Oh, my. That is terrible.
Spoiled Milk: Ew. It’s not contagious, is it?

This is the secret bonus moral of the episode: if someone else is sick, the polite thing to do is give them your best regards, not ask if it’s contagious. This is conveyed without Spoiled Milk having to learn a lesson, because we’ve already seen that she’s a rude parent who viewers shouldn’t sympathize with.

Granny Smith: Dropped my second-best teeth right in the pig pen, and that was the worst case of apple blight I have ever seen!
Applejack: I’d love to hear more, Granny, but we got to get to the hospital right away.

I think Granny Smith had her eyes closed the entire time she told this story. I don’t know why she would close her eyes throughout this story, but her eyes were shut at the end of it, and it’s the simplest explanation for why she would keep telling it after Applejack left.

Applejack then tells her grandma they need to go to the hospital because apple blight has supposedly been spreading to ponies. Big Mac almost says something in response, but Applejack shoves an apple in his mouth. It’s the only way she could shut him up.

The more lies Applejack tells, the more frantically she has to keep telling them. She goes back and forth between her family and the Rich couple, leading them each through a complex made-up maze hoping they don’t encounter each other.

Have I mentioned that younger Applejack’s pigtails are adorable?

Applejack: Fancy meeting you two here!
Spoiled Milk: Well, we told you we were coming.
Filthy Rich: Oh, I’m glad we found you. Because I can’t seem to find Granny’s room. Or any nurses who have even heard about a pony with apple blight.
Applejack: Granny’s room. Sure! Just go down here, take a left, then a right, go down some stairs, up a bunch more stairs, through the cafeteria, left three more times, and then you’re there. Easy as Granny’s apple pie. (nervous laughter)
Filthy Rich: Uh, aren’t you coming with us?
Applejack: I’ll catch up. I gotta find Big Mac.

I think I cracked the mystery of Filthy Rich. Between his trust of Applejack’s cobbled lies and his marriage to Spoiled Rich, his fatal flaw is that he’s excessively trusting, unceasingly willing to give the benefit of the doubt—especially to his constantly grouchy wife. It’s not explored too heavily in his character, but the pieces line up and it would explain his relationships with his wife and daughter. He’s an amicable guy, but he doesn’t know when to stop trusting someone.

Applejack: Alright, climb up here and I’ll cover you up. Then I’ll bring Rich in, tell him you’re Granny, but you’re not allowed to take the sheets off. You moan a few times, he leaves, and this whole thing is over.
Big Macintosh: This is spinning way out of control, Applejack! I know you thought selling cider to Filthy’s store was a good idea, but it ain’t worth lying to him about Granny being sick and needing to go to the hospital, or fibbing to Granny about them wanting her to come here to talk about the blight, or—
Applejack: Big Macintosh, please just listen to me for once!
Applejack: This ain’t about my ideas. If Rich finds out about all the lies, he’ll cut off ties with us and the farm will go under! Now do you want that to happen, or do you want to help?
Big Macintosh: Why can’t you be Granny? You’re her size, and this is all your fault in the first place.
Applejack: I would, but if I let you do the talking, you’d just ramble on and on until we all got caught.
Big Macintosh: (groans)

I can say firsthand that this is completely accurate to what explosive sibling arguments are like. You don’t get this much petty rivalry between the first characters’ siblings to be introduced—the Cutie Mark Crusaders and the calmer Big Macintosh we know today. As I said in Flutter Brutter, the later seasons show a lot of rivalry between siblings with smaller age gaps, which is a valuable addition to the show.

Applejack covers Big Macintosh in the hospital bed and asks him to say nothing. After two subversions earlier in the episode, Big Mac finally says his iconic “eyup”.

I would talk about Derpy Hooves’ cameo in the miscellaneous notes, but since I don’t have much to say about the next few minutes of Applejack trying to keep Granny Smith and the Rich couple away from each other, I’ll talk about her here instead. She’s simply too powerful for those pitiful little bullet points.

We’ve seen Derpy have wall eyes in previous flashbacks, even when she was as young as the Cutie Mark Crusaders are today. There’s even a flashback next season where her eyes gradually got more skewed over the years. This scene shows that Derpy tried to get corrective eye surgery as a teenager, and it’s a foregone conclusion that it didn’t work. My theory is that Derpy’s eyes went back to normal for a few weeks, but then they were derped again. Some viewers take Derpy’s character as a moral that you should embrace your disabilities, and she’s loved especially among fans with disabilities for that reason. After the unfortunate misstep that was her first speaking scene, Derpy came back stronger than ever and is now the true queen of the show.

Granny Smith arrives in the center room, thinking she’s supposed to give a presentation on apple blight infecting ponies. As the head of a family business and a longtime expert in apples, it somewhat makes sense that the crowd would believe all her words. This episode has told us a lot about the importance of Sweet Apple Acres and what happens if you try to mess with them. Granny Smith thinks Big Macintosh’s leg is the branch of a pony infected with apple blight, so she almost cuts it off…

I love the absurdity of Granny Smith almost cutting off Big Mac’s leg.
It’s the kind of near horror you’d never get in the early seasons.

… until Applejack confesses.

Applejack: Everypony, just stop! This is all a big misunderstanding! Actually, it’s a big lie.
Granny Smith: Big Mac?
Filthy Rich: Granny Smith? What is going on here, Applejack?
Granny Smith: That is a darn good question.

Filthy Rich is so gullible in this episode that he doesn’t recognize Granny Smith until she takes off her mask, perhaps because he still thought she was the huge pony under the sheets. I don’t know if it’s an intentional trait that he’s so easily fooled, but it fits with everything else we know about him.

Applejack and Big Mac both apologize for the crazy series of lies, and they provide two morals for this episode. Applejack learned that you shouldn’t lie to get yourself out of a tough situation, and Big Mac learned to talk less and listen more, because repeating your own points is pointless if you don’t stop to listen to others’ views. While many episodes can have multiple takeaways, this is one of the most explicitly two-in-one.

Granny Smith: Well that’s nice, but I don’t know what in blazes you two are talking about. I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon! (blows raspberry) Running the farm? Not after this display. Not likely!
Granny Smith: And don’t you go getting any ideas about cutting ties with Sweet Apple Acres, or I’m going right to your grand pappy. Get me?
Filthy Rich: (biting his hooves) Uh, um, yes, ma’am.

To end the flashback, Granny Smith proves she’s the champ of the episode by telling her grandkids off, then bailing them out of trouble by refusing to let their most valuable business partner, Filthy Rich, cut ties with her. Filthy Rich has a lot to learn about trusting others too easily, and I wonder what his grandpa will tell him this time. Then she gives an actual presentation on apple blight, meaning something good happened from this mess of lies.

Looks like Apple Bloom spent the entire evening hearing this story.

Apple Bloom: I can’t believe you told all those lies!
Applejack: It’s not a story I’m proud of, but it taught me a lifelong lesson about being honest. I hope you learned something too.
Apple Bloom: I sure did! I learned that nopony starts out perfect, and sometimes you got to make a few mistakes to figure out who you are.
Big Macintosh: Eyup.

Let me correct myself. This episode doesn’t have two morals in one, but three morals in one. Apple Bloom’s takeaway from this story is my favorite of all, because it reminds you that everyone has made embarrassing mistakes as kids, even your authority figures. It doesn’t feel unrealistic or exaggerated that Applejack and Big Mac were so different as teenagers—it’s exactly like the stories I’ve learned about my parents and grandparents when they were young.

Apple Bloom: But I think the most important thing I learned is who really runs Sweet Apple Acres.
All three Apple siblings: Granny!
Granny Smith: You’re darn tootin’. Now everypony, quit your lollygaggery and get back to work! Right after we have a glass of cider.
(everyone laughs)

And so, the last takeaway from this episode is that it’s OK to share a laugh over your past mistakes. It’s a nice way to end this predominantly flashback episode.

Overall thoughts:

Out of all the episodes that focus heavily on flashbacks or framing devices, this is my favorite so far—wait no, The Saddle Row Review exists, so this is my second favorite. It fully commits to the flashback and gives tons of new characterization to Applejack, Big Macintosh, and several supporting characters. The clumsily lying teenage version of Applejack proves she can be just as cutesy as her friends if she tries hard enough. The talkative broken record version of Big Macintosh is hilarious and adds tons of depth to his character, and he and Applejack have a believable sibling rivalry. There are so many delightful details in the flashback, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from season 6. All in all, this episode is an excellent way to demonstrate that people you look up to weren’t born with the traits you admire about them, but had to learn them after mishaps and failures.

Grade: A

Episodes like this are why I think season 6 is when this show really started growing the beard. I’ll elaborate on this in the season’s recap.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • I’m obligated to mention that in some releases of this episode, all instances of the word “cider” are replaced with “juice” or “juicing”, which is weird because other episodes went by with the word just fine. I’ve seen clips of the edited version, and the fact that the lip syncing was edited for the new words arguably makes up for this annoyance.
  • I’m perfectly aware that the flashback in Going to Seed contradicts my interpretation that this episode’s flashback was shortly after Apple Bloom’s birth. If you want to know an alternate interpretation where Diamond Tiara isn’t significantly younger than Apple Bloom, watch this excellent video. You won’t regret it.
  • Big Mac’s running gag of telling long stories offscreen reminds me of a certain catgirl shipper character from some webcomic or something. She’s a character who I regret not analyzing in more depth, but then again, there are plenty of early episodes of this show that I also regret not analyzing in more depth.

In the next episode, Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash are sent to debunk some heartwrenchingly well-intentioned lies.

See you next week for one last friendship mission episode before the epic season finale. We’re almost done with season 6!!!

>> Part 74: Top Bolt

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