Episode [1.25] – “Party of One”
This week, on My Little Pony…
“W-what do you want to hear?! Tell me what to say, and I’ll say it!”
“Tell me that my friends are all lying to me and avoiding me because they don’t like my parties and they DON’T WANT TO BE MY FRIENDS ANYMORE!”
“Your friends are all lying to you and avoiding you ’cause they don’t like your parties and they don’t want to be your friends anymore!”
“AH-HA! I KNEW IT!
…oh no, my friends don’t like my parties and they don’t want to be my friends anymore…”
This is my favorite episode of the season.
Heck, it’s my favorite episode of the series until season 4 comes along.
Right up front, I have to admit that this is pretty much going to be my major feels dump for my favorite character, and I’ll be throwing forward a lot more than I really should, but it’s basically impossible for me not to without this whole thing feeling fractured.
It’s not any secret that Pinkie is by far my favorite character out of the Mane Six, and that out of them all, she’s the one I relate to the most. Her bountiful energy, eternal optimism, and desire to have fun and share that fun with everyone she comes across has always kind of been a mirror of my idealized self, and even if I’m not always that person, that’s usually the person I’m aspiring to be. She’s a big part of why I fell in love with the series in general, and up to this point I always saw in her a version of me with all of the insecurities removed.
This episode showed off that Pinkie herself isn’t without her own insecurities. She has them in spades (there’s a very strong argument between this episode and others down the road like it that she might be among the most insecure of the bunch). And they’re a lot of the same ones I have. I’m going to try really hard to keep my own personal baggage out of this write-up, but it’s going to be difficult because I’ve had four years now to project all over this episode and tie myself tighter and tighter to it. But in any case, suffice to say that a fear of outright rejection by friends and the concept that they’re only really putting up with you and don’t actually want you around that much is one that I very much have struggled with in the past, and it is exactly what Pinkie is dealing with here.
Also hey there’s that part where she completely loses her freaking marbles that’s totally a thing too.
So yeah, there’s the other reason that this episode has it’s staying power for me. As someone who’s guilty pleasures include both incarnations of the When They Cry series, I really, really enjoy watching total mental breakdowns of characters happen onscreen (for anyone who may have followed us here from the Farscape rewatch, one of my favorite episodes from that was for similar reasons). This is one of those kinds of episodes that could only happen this late in the season, because we’ve had enough time to get to know all of these characters to be able to tell when things are amiss, and also to get to see one sent to the breaking point.
This episode also comes on the heels of getting Pinkie’s backstory (or at least, her version of the events thereof), and seeing just where it was she came from. I mentioned that episode that I wasn’t certain whether or not Pinkie was being entirely truthful in recounting those events, and this episode is the first major piece of evidence towards the idea that there was more to her story than she was telling. Pinkie has major abandonment issues and is terrified of other ponies not liking her for who she is, and that kind of stuff doesn’t materialize out of nowhere. While most of her backstory was up in the air (and eventually by and large proved true), the missing piece of it is the explanation of exactly why she wound up so far away from her family on her own, and the implied answer is that once that first party was over and packed away, Pinkie’s family expected her to go right back to her old life like nothing had happened, which was something she wasn’t going to be able to do, and the two portions of her life suddenly weren’t compatible and she had to leave (one of the chapter books eventually all but confirms this, and another episode will show her in Ponyville as a filly, suggesting that she made the move very quickly after getting her cutie mark when she was still basically a child). We don’t know how traumatic this break wound up being, but the fact that she seems to jump to the conclusion that others don’t actually like her or that they’ll forget about her or leave her (this episode isn’t the last time she’ll rush to this conclusion, and she seems to almost expect it) would suggest that it wasn’t exactly the most pleasant parting of ways.
This kind of thing makes for a great blank canvas for really anyone who’s had to deal with the potential of family and friends rejecting them for their lifestyle or inherent traits to project their own experiences upon, and out of it, Pinkie kind of unexpectedly becomes someone that a pretty varied set of people can relate to. As someone who’s very much experienced that familial split and the anxiety of losing friends over my own life’s quirks, I have my own issues tied up in there (which again, I won’t get into), but I’ve also heard from other people relating their own experiences to Pinkie, everything from the LGBTQ span to various people on the autistic spectrum, to people who’s interests and lifestyles just clash in general with either their family’s expectations or that of society at large.
I don’t know if any of this was intentional when the character was conceived, or if it was the result of the writers picking up a quirk of hers and following the thread back and building her as they went, but Pinkie runs much deeper than she tends to appear at first glance.
But hey there’s an actual episode in this whole thing to talk about too, so I’ll shut up about this now and get on to that already.
I love Singing Telegram as a catchy little Pinkie Pie ditty, but it’s one that has an actual contextual reason for being there aside from Pinkie just wanting to sing something for the situation (well, okay, it is kind of that too, but still). It’s literally a singing telegram of her inviting her friends to Gummy’s party that she apparently repeats five times over with costume changes in between (my favorite out of them being the one with the streamer shooters coming out the back that she fires off mid song to one of the beats). I almost kind of want to see a version where we get to see each one of the songs in their entirety, seeing how she alters things with each costume and watching the energy plummet downward more and more each time she does it.
I love that during the actual party itself, Gummy seems to be able to get into everything despite barely moving. He goes from being clamped onto Rainbow Dash’s face after laying about in the apple bobbing tub to almost immediately getting into the punch bowl and bathing about in that, much to Rarity’s horror.
The party also brings up a concept that is mostly only hinted at, namely the specialty of Earth Ponies being physical strength. It’s never really stated outright, but it does kind of fit in and make sense that the segment of pony culture that has a tendency to do a lot of the physical labor has that sort of thing as a trait, either by their own nature, or just as a result from not having wings or magic to rely on for their daily tasks.
Or it could just be that Pinkie is freakishly strong and doesn’t quite realize it, given that she winds up nearly tossing two other ponies through a wall just by accidentally hitting them while dancing.
Also a nice touch – Applejack, element of honesty, is the worst liar in the world.
And then Pinkie goes from suspicious that her friends aren’t being truthful to convinced that they’re hiding something from her, and things just snowball. Apparently her insistence on the importance of secret-keeping goes out the window once it’s her that the secret’s being kept from, although I do kind of wonder how she’d have reacted had one of them actually thought to tell her that they can’t say what they’re doing or why because of a secret that they can’t tell. Would it have made any difference at all? Would Pinkie have just shrugged and decided that it’s just one of the friendship rules and she has to go with it, or would her insecurities have made it a moot point and not have affected the outcome at all? I suspect the latter, but since they never bothered to try that (granted, that might have been tipping their hand for what they were actually trying to do), we’ll never know.
There’s a really great call-back to Griffon the Brush Off that happens once Pinkie basically knows her friends are lying to her. We basically get a repeat of her chase sequence with Rainbow Dash, albeit a much more sinister incarnation of it. Where that chase was silly and relatively harmless, this one (while similarly somewhat silly) actually plays a little more creepy. No, Rainbow Dash, you really can’t get away from Pinkie if she’s determined to catch you. A while back one of us mentioned that Pinkie can be really terrifying when she wants to be. This episode shows that to be almost something of an understatement.
The whole thing leads to another stare down between Pinkie and Applejack, who fares even worse with trying to lie herself out of the encounter than before, and leaving Pinkie utterly convinced that not only are all of her friends lying to her about not wanting to go to her party, but that they’re doing it together and trying to hide it from her, and that she can’t go to any of them for the truth. Which leads her to trying to force the answers out of Spike, which goes about as well as you might expect. The baby dragon is utterly clueless about what it is she’s trying to get out of him (which likely means Twilight managed to keep the surprise party a secret from him too, probably because she was worried he might blab about it), leading to a rather amusing interrogation. Ironically, the kinds of answers he gives that frustrates Pinkie so much are the exact same kind of literal-minded sideways nonsense that Pinkie’s been known to spout when under the same kind of questioning, and apparently she can’t take it as well as she can dish it out (I love the completely bewildered “what?” expression when she gets Spike’s “confession”). Spike just has no idea what it is she wants out of him, and eventually just parrots back her suspicions in an effort to end the whole thing.
As a sideways note, while she’s obviously at the lowest point she’ll ever be at during it, I completely adore her straightened hairstyle. It’s exceedingly rare that we get to see it, but I really, really like it, and kind of wish we got to see her sport it at some point without it necessarily being tied to her emotional state (which it pretty much is as a rule, the straighter her hair, the lower she’s feeling). This “mode” of hers was latched onto hard by the fandom (nicknaming it “Pinkamena”, although she never actually re-identifies as that at any point, but it does work to differentiate her from her “normal” attitude), and there’s an awful lot of fandom works that make use of it, and it’s pretty much synonymous with Pinkie’s dark side.
One of the things I love is the fact that Pinkie’s own color scheme has been muted down from her normally very bright pinks, and remains that way while she’s in straight-haired mode, except for the few brief moments when she seems to snap rather hard either into or out of reality. Her transition into her deranged fantasy party isn’t entirely smooth, and we get a brief glimpse of her paint-splatter background of her fantasy before she’s properly entered it, and later a quick snap out of it as she thrashes about as her brain hits road bumps along her descent. I want to overanalyze this really really badly, but it’s likely just a visual gag and wasn’t intended for any of the things I want to attribute to it as meaning.
And then Rainbow Dash shows up right smack in the middle of Pinkie’s breakdown, dragging her back to reality (figuratively and then eventually literally), but having to dive into “creepytown” to do it. The amount of “what” going through Rainbow’s head during this entire scene has to be huge, as she’s basically walking on her friend doing, well, this :
Oh right, that was the other thing. It turns out all this time it was Pinkie’s own birthday, and she was so caught up both in wanting to have another party immediately for Gummy and then in convincing herself that her friends were avoiding her that she forgot all about it. It’s a very, very silly premise, but one I actually buy because if any of the six would get so caught up in both excitement and anxiety over unrelated things that they would forget something like that, it’s Pinkie.
And then everything comes to a head, with Pinkie angrily accusing her friends of wanting to kick her out of the group and throwing a party over her being gone, and it’s not until she’s actually shown the cake that it sinks in exactly what has been going on the whole time, slingshotting her back a complete 180 degrees as she rapidly re-enters party mode. It’s almost a little too clean a snap back to herself, except for the fact that she seems genuinely really scared and embarrassed when Rainbow Dash makes reference to what just happened back at her house. She very quickly tries to bury things deep back inside, and while Twilight reports on learning Pinkie’s lesson, it’s not particularly clear whether or not Pinkie herself did. She does seem to realize that she was wrong for making the assumptions that she did, but the core issues within her are still very much there, waiting to bubble back up again when things turn sour.
Heh, I was wondering how Tessa would react to this episode being hers to lead off. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. 😛
So, full disclosure: I wasn’t a fan of this episode the first time I saw it. Pinkie had not yet made it onto my “like” list at that time, so seeing a character for whom I had few warm feelings go through such a catastrophic mental breakdown really did not register on my “cares given”-o-meter. As a result, I didn’t really see what was the whole hoopla over this episode other than the dinner party scene with all of its demented gags (which are delightfully amusing in said demented way). It wasn’t until much later when I finally “got” Pinkie Pie (we’re talking well into Season 2) and after much reflection thereafter did I recognize this episode to be such a pivotal Pinkie-sode, one that is very well-placed in the series and one that deserves every piece of praise it has so rightfully received.
We’ve seen our pony friends get angry at each other before, but never to this level. Sure, Twilight got so aggravated at Pinkie that she literally burst into flames back in Feeling Pinkie Keen, Fluttershy got so frustrated to the point of screaming back in Green Isn’t Your Color, and Rainbow Dash became fed up with her friends that she bucked a dragon in the face back in Dragonshy. But that face above… that’s something else. That’s the face of a pony who is dead-set on extracting the truth from her friends by any means necessary, be it spying or stalking or screaming or screws-putting-to, and that this rage is coming from such a perpetually cheery, carefree character quickly pushes things from “Oh look, the cute ponies are mad” to “Dear Luna, I need an adult.” That she gets this aggressive and menacing even before going completely off the rails into “Pinkamena mode” is all the more frightening.
The physical changes that occur when slipping into said Pinkamena mode provide a very interesting and telltale method by which Pinkie’s mood can be ascertained, much like a dog’s wagging tail. While we don’t see her this way too often, when we do it’s a warning sign that something is seriously wrong and that the joy has gone out of her life. That this mechanism is so sparingly used is a good thing: if this were to show up all the time, it would paint Pinkie as a much more moody character than she (likely) really is and thus its impact would be greatly diluted.
I also agree with Tessa that Pinkie Pie looks great with straight hair: I too would love to see her let it down sometime without it being tied to her grip on sanity. (For that matter, Rarity also looks great with straight hair, though sadly we only get to see that as the result of her being unceremoniously splashed by water!)
Now, as Tessa mentioned above, fan-works with Pinkie in Pinkamena mode are almost always on the darker side, usually involving creepy, deranged psychopathic stuff that makes one want to consider Pinkamena as a completely separate character altogether so as to distance her from the normal Pinkie Pie we know and love (insofar as anything about Pinkie could be considered “normal”). That said, there are some decent works out there that explore this “dark side” to her character minus the disturbing psychosis. One such story is Seeing the Pattern by Aegis Shield, which makes clever use of the Pinkie Sense and the Pinkie-Pinkamena dichotomy to turn Pinkie Pie into a force that is able to interfere with the effects of death itself. It’s a dark story to be sure (if it were a movie I’d put it in the PG-13 category), but I enjoyed it because it made intelligent use of this personality quirk rather than the low-hanging fruit of “OH LOOK SHE’S COMPLETELY LOST HER MIND.”
Of course there’s a lot more to this episode than Pinkie losing her brain. I won’t enumerate everything here, but suffice it to say without some comedic relief this episode could have been pretty tough to swallow given its deep dive into Pinkie’s psyche. Quite amusingly, nearly all of said comic relief comes from everypony besides Pinkie, who alone normally provides enough comic relief for an entire army.
And then there’s Gummy, who wins “Best Pet” award yet again. This guy’s unstoppable.
So, at the end of the day, the episode I initially didn’t care for all that much has since climbed pretty high up on my list of favorite episodes in the series. My blasé attitude toward Pinkie at the time I first saw the episode all but prevented me from appreciating the deep character development and clever writing this episode had to offer, but now that those blinders have been removed the greatness of this episode can finally shine through. And how bright it is!
As a parting song, try out Eurobeat Telegram, a collaboration between Not A Clever Pony and Eurobeat Brony. Amusing anecdote: I once sang Pinkie’s Singing Telegram song (with appropriately adjusted lyrics) to my mother for her birthday; she thought it was great!
I seriously don’t have much to add to this post as I’m still reeling from Tessa’s amazing and heartfelt analysis of it. Watching the episode, I wasn’t all that into it at first. The opening of Pinkie being Pinkie as she invites everyone to a party she’s the life of is perfectly fine and entertaining, but also pretty typical and expected. Delightful invite costumes aside. But then things change, and yeah, we see Pinkie get mad, lashing out at what she fears is a betrayal from her friends, then popping all the air out of her party hair after falling so far in her suspicions that she’s planting all the evidence she needs to see them as real. Tessa get into this far more than I ever could and I again applaud her piece this week.
I was shocked by this episode, in a good way, as, amidst all the screwball shenanigans, we get a complex look at a severe emotional breakdown as Pinkie falls so far into her anxieties and sense of worth and acceptance that even when her friends yank her back from it, she’s still suspicious and doubting. Having some anxiety is good and expected, but wow, do they crank it to an extreme, to the point where the Party Scene, while hilarious and bizarre, is also quite painful, and I was wincing with each jolt of her psyche more than I was laughing. Again, though, in a good way. And as for Tessa’s theory about how Pinkie left her home on the rock farm, note that Pinkie instantly goes to the party being a “farewell” party, as though she knows what it’s like to be shipped away when she no longer fits in. You two obviously have the knowledge of stories told after this, but from the context of the point we’re currently at in the series, I’m getting the impression it wasn’t she who decided on her leaving home.
Pinkie has been a tough character to warm to, not that I find her aggravating or anything, but because she’s been so hard to get a handle on. The glimpse at her backstory was the first glimmer I had at what may actually be going on beneath the surface glee, and this episode is basically a cement truck upending a few tons of concrete over the show to cement that character in place. She does not have a happy past, and a lot of her present happiness covers a lot of fear she buries deep inside. This is an incredible character, and I have nothing but the deepest fascination with seeing what little glimmers we may get from this point on. Knowing this series, they will be very few and miles in between. But this being an episode written by the woman who will largely take over the show, I’d be shocked if this is the last we ever hear of any of it.
As for the rest of the episode, love the devolving quality of the lies everyone tells, love the interrogation of Spike, love Gummy and all his inappropriate pools of choice, love Rainbow’s failed flight from the inescapable Pinkie. What don’t I love? Rarity continuing to take advantage of Spike, and even insulting him for how he winds up as a direct result of doing her bidding. But she then shoves her head in garbage, so karma gets the last laugh.
Overall, a marvelous episode.