My Little Pony Rewatch Project

Deconstruction is Magic

Episode [2.14] – “The Last Roundup”

This week, on My Little Pony

“I’m sorry, Pinkie, but I can’t tell y’all the truth. I just can’t!”

“Well I heard a ‘sorry’ in there, so that’ll have to do for now. I’ll get a real apology later. RARITYCATCHME”

“What Pinkie–!”

I feel the NEED... the need for STEED. No I'm not even sorry.
Applejack heads off to Canterlot to compete in the Equestria Rodeo Competition and bring home some prize money to repair some damage to the town caused by a certain grey pegasus. But when she doesn’t return home after the competition and intimates that she may never come back to Ponyville, her friends set off to round her up and drag her back home, kicking and screaming if need be. But AJ ain’t goin’ down without a fight: it’s going to take the Big Guns, the full force of a broken Pinkie Promise, and a high-speed chase through the desert to extract the truth from the Element of Honesty!


Gerf

It’s not every day you see Applejack without her hat. Or being Neo, for that matter. Though since we’ve already established that Rainbow Dash is Neo, I guess that means Applejack is Trinity, what with the kicks and the flips and the kicks and the more kicks. The only way we could have gotten a more obvious Matrix shout-out would be if the camera rotated around the fence as AJ zoomed over it… but what would of course be a bit much.

Of /course/ I ate the red apple, sugarcube. Y'think I'd ever eat a /blue/ apple? That would just be silly.

All of this, of course, is to demonstrate how much of a boss AJ is when it comes to kicking flank and taking names at rodeos and other competitions of brute strength (that and I really liked The Matrix). Having all but run Ponyville out of blue fabric by account of the sheer number of First Place ribbons she’s won in the local competitions (including a suspiciously equal-looking one that was obviously sent back in time from three seasons in the future), she’s pretty much a horseshoe-in to be the champion of the upcoming Equestria Rodeo Competition being held in Canterlot. So, in a show of support that seems awfully reminiscent of another certain Applejack appreciation party, all of Ponyville gathers in the town center to throw Applejack a good luck party for the upcoming rodeo. And by “rodeo” everypony actually means “flank-whippin’,” since there’s nopony out there what can beat AJ at her own sport.

And then, in real life, Earth tilted off its axis ever so slightly as an untold number of show fans jumped in unison when their favorite grey pegasus was called out by name… Derpy!

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra... or Shaka, when the walls fell?

Well, maybe: it depends when and where you happened to watch the episode. If you saw it on its original air date, on an Internet stream, or on The Friendship Express DVD, then you heard Rainbow Dash admonishing Derpy, the walleyed mare that started as an animation error but quickly became the beloved hallmark of the entire brony community. If you saw the episode in reruns or via a commercial online media distributor, however, then you heard Rainbow Dash admonishing a nameless grey pegasus who was clumsy but otherwise unremarkable. Thus did the Earth tilt off its axis again as an untold number of show fans roared in outraged unison. For the uninitiated, this single scene (specifically, the modification thereof) sparked a nuclear war of real-life protest campaigns, petitions, and (sadly) death threats, and very nearly broke the fledgling bonds between the brony fandom and the show staff. But that’s a discussion best saved for later… because there’s an episode that still needs to be deconstructed!

So anyway, despite her best intentions, Derpy (who will forever hold that name in my heart, no matter what the official merchandise doesn’t say) does more harm than good during the party preparations and ends up causing considerable damage to Ponyville town hall due to her errant lightning strikes and backward-flying bubblebutt. Applejack generously offers to donate the prize money she and the rest of Ponyville is sure she will win to the town to fix up the building (thereby securing herself Rarity’s Element of Generosity to place alongside the Element of Loyalty she already took from Dashie). Her friends see her to the train station where she then heads off to Canterlot to, we can only assume, clean that city out of all its blue fabric as well.

A scene-change later that spans much more time than the quick fade transition would otherwise let on, everypony is setting up for AJ’s grand welcome home party to celebrate her assumed victory at the rodeo. But instead of Applejack coming into her barn and being surprised, it’s a telegram pony bearing a cryptic message from AJ stating that she is not coming back to Ponyville but that the money will be coming soon. The rest of the Mane Six don’t buy that for a second and immediately hop on the next train to Canterlot to find her. However, nopony still hanging around the rodeo area seems to have any idea where she went. In fact, the dialogue-less montage might lead one to believe nopony even knew who Applejack was, but I think it’s a safe assumption that the unspoken question was “Did you see where Applejack went?” rather than “Pop quiz: who is this silly pony?” Anyway, one mare recognizes her and points our heroes to Dodge Junction, a western-style settlement on the outskirts of Canterlot that seems like just the place somepony like AJ would head after a tough competition to cool off, right?

Sure enough, the heroes run into Applejack (by means of an outhouse door to Pinkie’s face) and learn that she now works for Cherry Jubilee in her cherry orchard and that she does not want to talk about Ponyville one bit for suspiciously vague reasons. Thinking it would be the perfect way to pull the truth out of AJ, her friends all volunteer to help her with some cherry sorting. While Twilight, Rarity, and Dashie all try to get AJ to talk, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie get stuck trying to sort cherries at an ever-increasing rate in a scene directly out of I Love Lucy. Here I want to pause for a moment to say I find this amusing because that reference is sure to sail right over the heads of the target demographic as well as the majority of the brony demographic (average age: 21), heck maybe even the parents of the target demographic as well. It was definitely meant for older parents or those of us who grew up watching I Love Lucy reruns (present company included), which just goes to show you the extent to which the writers actively pursue inclusion of adults into this wonderful show. But despite the throwback reference, the interrogation ends up going horribly awry so they have no choice but to bring in THE BIG GUNS.

Exhibit A: The Big Guns

Pinkie’s incessant rambling is enough to get Applejack to spill the beans… tomorrow at breakfast, Pinkie Promise. Sounds reasonable, except that Applejack then uses a trick of boolean implication to wiggle her way out of having to explain her actions at breakfast by simply not showing up to breakfast at all! This transforms Pinkie Pie into a homing missile that leads everypony straight to Applejack who is trying to escape Dodge Junction on the next train. What ensues is a wild west chase scene of epic proportions, which includes the equally epic line “RARITYCATCHME!” (perhaps the best three seconds of the entire season thus far!). While the chase scene was more or less predictable, I still found myself enjoying it quite a bit, particularly how when they finally stop, Fluttershy is visibly and audibly winded while Rainbow Dash is rock solid, a reminder that Fluttershy is very much not cut out for this kind of stuff while Rainbow lives and breathes it. Put another way, it would be a bit odd to not see Fluttershy exhausted after an ordeal like that; the attention paid to that little detail is not going unappreciated.

In any case, at the end of the chase we see what was eating Applejack: she won every prize but first place at the rodeo, and as such didn’t have any appreciable amount of money to send home to fix up town hall. Ever the silly dependable pony, she had decided it would be better to keep her shameful flank away from Ponyville and instead work to make up for the prize winnings she had promised but failed to deliver. Of course, her friends reassure her that she’s not a failure and that their friendship is always more important than always being first place. Yet as extreme of a portrayal as it was, I think the moral is a good one, especially for those who tend to excel more often than not. When you expect and/or are expected to always succeed and come out on top of something, the fear of failure (or realization thereof) can make you do some very strange things and think some very strange thoughts. Failure is part of being human (or whatever species you are), and while it’s rarely desirable it’s also rarely the end of the world. More often than not, failure helps to build character and makes you wiser and stronger; running from failure creates self-inflicted rifts that only get wider the harder you try to escape from it, and before you know it, your friends will get caught up in that rift. Fortunately for Applejack, her friends were able to help pull her out of that rift… though it did require them all to dive down into it in the first place.

It’s odd to see Applejack make such a strange and left-field decision to stay out and earn money she expected to win and shutting her friends out in the process, as she’s by far the most level-headed and sensible of the group (with Twilight coming in a close second, but only when she’s not totally flipping out). This level-headedness is quite a defining feature of her character, one that fans tend to either find either endearing or utterly boring (I happen to fall into the former camp: sensibility and practicality are virtues I respect greatly). Why did she jump ship so hard? We’ve seen plenty of instances where Rainbow Dash’s insecurities leak out through her armored facade, but I think this is the first time we even get the notion that Applejack could have insecurities of her own that might leak out as well. Sure, there was Applebuck Season, but I chalk that one up to stubbornness: this was just fear of failure and rejection, through and through, and some much-needed character development to our silly beloved Applejack.

As odd as AJ’s thought processes were (they tend to be bonkers when they’re odd), I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. The whole Derpy incident, while an important part of the show and fandom’s history, tends to steal most of the spotlight away from this otherwise fun episode, but I’m glad that hasn’t soured my opinion of the episode after seeing it again for the first time in several years. And were it not for this episode, we wouldn’t have the excellent/classic/amazing song Fruits Of Her Labour by WoodenToaster and StormWolf (as well as Fruits Of Her Starlight, SimGretina’s mix of the song), a tribute to Cherry Jubilee and what we can only assume is a love for her cherry crop rivaled only by the Apple Family’s love of their apple crop at Sweet Apple Acres. Catchy songs with catchy melodies for the win!

And speaking of tribute songs, this seems like the right place to slide in my tribute songs to the beautiful Derpy Hooves. While she is often portrayed as a clueless klutz who can’t see straight, she is also often portrayed as a loving mother and a genuinely caring soul who, through no fault of her own, has had a few life curveballs thrown her way yet still manages to carry on day by day. That’s the Derpy I see when I think of her, and that’s the Derpy I hope ultimately wins out when the history books are written. So with no further ado: Griffin Village – Autumn (Derpy Hooves) by JackleApp, Otherwise by 4everfreebrony, and Great to be Different by Forest Rain. The first two songs (released toward the end of 2011 and 2014, respectively) really capture the “caring soul” fanon side of Derpy, while the third song truly serves as one of a small handful of “brony anthems” that has very deep meaning to the community. Finally, I’d like to also recommend the fanfic Ditzy Doo’s Dismally Derpy Day by CLAVDIVS CAESAR (as well as the audiobook version read by the same Forest Rain as above), a Derpy story that, despite what the title may suggest, is actually very much a “caring soul” story that warmed my heart so much; I hope it can warm yours as well.

Weston

Oh, this is the Derpy episode? I heard about the joy in the fandom when she was addressed by her fan name, and the backdraft after the producers edited it to remove the reference. Unfortunately (or luckily), I only heard about it second-hand, and have no specific attachment to the character or the fans who named her. That said? Looking at it from my lofty perch three years after the fact, it was a good intention that spawned a bad idea that referenced a terrible meme. We’ll get into that in the comments.

Moving on.

Applejack is the best in Ponyville at all things rodeo: Runnin’, jumpin’, ropin’, as long as the other competitors don’t use wings, she’s number one. That does not equate to being the best in Equestria, however, and I’m pretty sure she knows that. The opening action sequence shows her give one hurdle the lightest tap, and you can bet your best bridle she felt it.

No pressure or anything.

“And bring back all that money!” “You betcha, Mayor.”

 

I’m super surprised that the rest of the Mane 6 didn’t go to Canterlot with her, especially after everyone went to Cloudsdale to support Rainbow Dash. But that would ruin the mystery that drives the dramatic tension. It could have led to a different way to acknowledge that no one is the best at everything, and coming second or third among hundreds or thousands is still fantastically good. Also, it wouldn’t have led to Applejack bailing on Sweet Apple Acres, which seems ridiculously out of character for her after how she described getting her cutie mark.

But Applejack did bail to raise the money that she didn’t win at the rodeo. There’s no mention of how long it would take bucking cherries to earn the equivalent, but I sure hope it’s more than Sweet Apple Acres loses by not having her around. And why are they in a desert? Don’t cherry trees need exposure to cold to germin- you know, I’m thinking about this way too hard.

The reference to I Love Lucy is magnificent. If it points more kids to watching old episodes of… what’s running on Nick at Nite these days? Wow. Full House and Fresh Prince. When I was- hang on. I need my Granny Smith voice and walker. Ahem. When I was a young whippersnapper, late night reruns showed Get Smart and Bewitched! Not them highfalutin Olson twins or Will Smith! Them was prime-time! But getting back to the point, if references to classic gags get kids interested in classic shows, I’m entirely in favor.

As Pinkie Pie gags go, this episode has them all in order. Birthday cake for the messenger, bathroom humor, infinite chatterbox, Pinkie Promise, completely random leap onto Rarity, and riding a handcar off into the sunset.

I 100% do not get the use of pony-drawn carriages in a setting where literally most of the characters are ponies. I could understand if it were drawn by Pegasi, and the passengers were not. Gives new meaning to “flying coach”.

wait what

“I’ll pay you quadruple to leave them in the dust!”

 

All told? Decent episode. No crying this time, but I did laugh.

Tessa

When we knew that this episode was coming up for the project, I was a little bit worried that the first few minutes of it would wind up dominating the conversation and that the bulk of the episode would go uncovered (it’s already something of a joke within the fandom to not include this as an “Applejack-centric” episode for the same reason), since it’s impossible to talk about this one without the controversy over its opening getting at least a nod. It deserves much more than that, though, and regardless which side you take over it, the story behind it is at least somewhat interesting (if only in the same way that a train wreck is “interesting”.

As Gerf mentioned, there are two versions of this episode out there. If you came to the series or this episode after its original air date, you more than likely saw the later edited version (the original isn’t exactly impossible to find, but you do have to specifically seek it out to find it while any official and easily accessed sources for the show carry the edit). The opening scene following the theme song is the only change, although it’s worth going into exactly what changed and why, because it’s a little more complicated than just having removed the reference to Derpy’s name.

The original scene is slightly longer, but the most notable difference aside from Rainbow Dash referencing her by name is her voice. She was originally voiced by Tabitha St Germain, and the vocal choice was… interesting, to say the least. She had a slightly deeper voice than people would have expected (prior to now the only line we may have heard her say was the cry of “muffins!” in Applebuck season, which is what most of the fan-done voices have run with for reference), combined with a vocal inflection that, well, there’s not really any getting around it, made it sound like she was intentionally being made to sound mentally disabled. This on its own wouldn’t necessarily be an automatic problem, but the fact that she’s clearly the butt of the joke of that scene is what made the voice over so troubling.

It is very much worth mentioning (as over time the narrative from both sides in hindsight have somewhat troublingly morphed into depicting either a portion of the fandom or the fandom overall as being in lock-step over support of the original scene) that people were very mixed on the original vocal choice. Some did genuinely like it, but quite a few discussions immediately following the episode’s airing involved people being confused over the choice, and more than a few people wishing they’d chosen something different.

Of course, the actual reason behind TSG’s vocal choice was something of a goof up. She wasn’t familiar with Derpy as a background character or a fandom meme, and on top of that, wasn’t actually aware that the character she was providing a voice for was female. All she knew was that she was voicing a goofy and clumsy pegasus, and patterned the voice after one of her neighbor’s sons. That said, while that does provide the explanation for how the voice came into being, the fact still remains that nobody really questioned the choice or gave much thought towards how the result could very easily come across.

On top of all of that, Rainbow Dash’s part in the scene is also pretty awful. While it isn’t a major departure from the way she’s been written in the rest of the season (which I think says something about how I feel about the character overall this season), in the original version of the scene especially she treats Derpy with a level of disdain that just magnifies the other problems. Yes, the point of the scene is for Rainbow to have the fallout of the accidents land on her, and her frustration and sarcasm is supposed to highlight the joke, and in a vacuum or with a completely unknown background character this could have worked fine, but with the character in question and all of the other issues the scene has it just becomes another questionable decision on top of the pile, as it sets Derpy up as a problem that the others have to put up with.

And I think that stabs at the heart of how I feel about the scene overall. Just to throw my own feelings out there, I don’t particularly like either of the versions put out. That’s absolutely not to say that I don’t love the character, because those things don’t have to be tied together at the hip. Straight up – I love that the show writers decided to give what was originally a background character that was born from an animation error the spotlight in an episode, and the fandom name for her being used as a tip of the hat to the fans was, in a way, really cool (I’ve never been crazy over the name myself, but I think I’ve mentioned that over time I’ve gotten so used to the character being named it that I can’t really see her being called anything else). But it could have been so, so much better than this. It didn’t have to be written this way. We talk a lot about what the fandom produces, and when it comes to Derpy we’ve produced an awful lot. Some of it is utter garbage, but there’s a lot out there that is really, really great and portrays her as a much better character. But that’s irrelevant when talking about this scene. The writers didn’t go with those interpretations. They didn’t write those scenes. They wrote this one.

Amy Keating Rogers wrote this episode, but to avoid entirely throwing her under the bus for this scene, she had nothing to do with the vocal choice, the scene was originally quite a bit longer with more context for Derpy’s side, and Derpy wasn’t even named Derpy in her original script (she threw back to the character as Ditzy Doo from Winter Wrap Up). She changed the name to Derpy on Lauren Faust’s request as a nod to the fandom, and the scene was trimmed down significantly for time and focus, as it was decided that it distracting from what was supposed to be an Applejack-centric episode (ironic, considering attention was eaten away almost entirely from the rest of the episode over the scene anyways). It’s not a total out, as I don’t really like the scene from a conceptual standpoint anyways, but considering the flak she took for the scene immediately following the episode’s airing, it’s worth giving that extra bit of context.

I’m split on whether or not to talk about the fallout that came after the airing of the episode, as it actually frustrates me significantly more than the scene itself does. It’s effectively an issue that people have moved on from, although two significantly twisted and dishonest versions of the narrative over what happened do repeatedly keep coming up. The entire thing leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, and it ranks as the only time since getting involved with the fandom beyond “I just watch the episodes” that I’ve backed out completely and temporarily disassociated myself with it. I could write a long and detailed rant over my feelings about what happened and the things I saw both sides say that upset me (despite what portions of the internet will tell you, the pro-scene/brony side of things were not the only people being completely awful during the course of this mess), but in the interest of length and my own mood, I’ll settle for a very brief synopsis. This was very much not the black-and-white issue that both sides have since tried to make it out to be. Most people involved had mixed feelings over the scene, and the extremes of both sides put a lot of pressure on those in the middle to either take a side or keep their mouths shut. Accusations of ableism, death threats, and generic internet nastiness were thrown about from both sides of the aisle at each other, and a lot of feelings got hurt.

I haven’t even talked about the rest of the episode, and that really frustrates me, because overall I really like this episode. It’s got some great moments that I really wish I could laugh about, and gush over, and I want that to be my writeup. I hate that I feel like I can’t because the opening scene and the mess that resulted from it in response overshadows the rest of the episode to such an extent that it can’t just be skipped over. It may not be the biggest fandom split and disagreement (the split over the Equestria Girls movies may rival it), but it is definitely the most embarrassing, and was easily the most damaging.

Noel

So. Yeah. I’m back. Hi.

Before we get to the reason why we all know I’m here, I’d like to extend thanks to Tessa, Gerf, and Weston for having me back, and three cheers to Weston for having so graciously and magnificently filled the site’s vacant slot.

Despite leaving the blog, as you can see from comments, I have been sticking with the show, and have been enjoying this season quite a bit so far. The stories are even more standalone, but they’re richer and crafted with a stronger footing. The direction has really been amped up a nice degree, leaving many episodes absolutely gorgeous. I don’t love every episode, continue to not think much of Rarity, and am saddened by how far up her own much of a butt Rainbow has become, but it’s been a fun run so far, and more consistently strong than Season 1. And unlike Season 1, which shocked me at how deeply offensive of pits they somehow unknowingly tripped into, this one has been largely positive and agreeable. Until now.

I was going to watch the entire episode before writing anything, but I’ve made it 4 minutes in and found myself so swirling in thought about The Scene that I wasn’t giving Applejack’s plot my fullest attention, so let’s pause there, get this out of the way, then see how everything else turns out. And yes, I have seen both cuts of the scene.

Out of the four episodes of this series so far (including this) which I’ve found offensive and disturbingly obtuse in how anyone thought the things done in them were a good idea to do, three were written by Amy Keating Rogers. The one that made slapstick gags out of the symptoms of a concussion, which was itself never treated. The one exploring racism in ways which themselves came off racist. No, not that one, the other one. Then there was this one. Even beyond these episodes, there’s a nastiness to the way Rogers occasionally writes her characters, with scathing taunts and prolonged bouts of bullying, often from heroic characters and portrayed in a way which is supposed to ennoble them. As I’ve said, I find her a very skilled writer, but I also find her an unpleasant one, especially in properties like this aimed at the audience they are.

Shockingly, I’m not pinning all of my problems with this episode on her. I have read her response to the episode, going into her original drafts and impressions of things. I disagree with her on a few points, but just pulling everything back to the scene itself, I don’t take issue with it on paper. Rainbow is on the job and stuck with an overly exuberant and under talented co-worker who’s just making the situation worse without realizing it. It’s constructed in a way that’s fine. The dialogue is fine. I’m fine with it. Swap these characters with Mickey and Goofy, or Laurel and Hardy, or Abbott and Costello. Heck, swap Scootaloo in there as Rainbow’s foil. The way this scene is written would play perfectly fine, as is, with any of them.

Derpy is a goofball klutz. That’s fine. That’s ok. That’s a perfectly valid approach for a character, for humor, even to have other characters be annoyed with them when they’re bungling their jobs. That is not the problem. The problem is that she isn’t just a goofball, or a klutz, or ditzy, or any of that. It’s that she’s also disabled.

And no, just stop. I can see some of you wanting to raise the question of whether or not she actually is. Yes, she’s disabled. The way she’s drawn and animated, she has a physical, visible, constant impairment. Again, this by itself is not a problem. Disabled ponies should absolutely exist and be portrayed and be explored. They absolutely should be a part of this world and these communities. Heck, they need to be, because representation is so incredibly important when your show is all about a community like this one is.

No, her being a klutz is not the problem. No, her being disabled is not the problem. The problem is that she’s both. She’s the disabled klutz, the disabled person who always bungles, the disabled person getting in everyone’s way, the disabled person receiving the scorn of others because her impairment prevents her from performing simple tasks. This isn’t a new thing with Derpy. First, we had her drop a bunch of stuff from a moving company in the sky, receiving glares from her co-workers. In another cameo just a couple of episodes ago, she peeked through the pageant curtain and received scorn for doing so.

This is a problem, where your one visibly disabled person has had a string of appearances where people get peeved at her for either getting in the way or failing to perform basic tasks. Again, we go to representation. What does this say about how we look at disabled people? What does this teach children viewers about how to look at disabled people? That they’re annoyances. That they get in the way. That they can’t do anything. That wouldn’t everything go so much smoother if they just weren’t there.

Isn’t the point of shows like this to challenge these views? To enlighten? To show that no matter the disability, that all people have dreams and aspirations, and through perseverance and support, they can still do awesome things? Where is that in ANY of this? Where is it in the scorn, in the failure, in the complete literal lack of ability? Why are they doing this and what are they intending to say about it? It’s not teaching, it’s not exploring, it’s just going for cheap laughs that punch far lower than the creators even seem to realize. It’s not cute, it’s not adorable, and to those who think it is, guess what, you’re a patronizing butt belittling the plight of a disabled character for your own amusement, and emotionally fetishizing her the way you would a puppy. That’s not cool. I know why those of you who do don’t think you’re wrong in doing so, but you are, and it’s really, really not cool. You are not being supportive by lovingly chuckling at how cute the disabled pony is as she’s scorned for bungling everything she attempts.

And yet, on paper, with a character who’s merely just a klutz, the scene is still fine, to the point where I’m mostly ok with the re-edit. In the context of Derpy as a broader character, yeah, the scene is still disappointing. In terms of being Ditzy Doo, with less of a direct connection to what’s come before and the roots of the fandom, and a lessening of the portrayal to the point where the presence of any actual disability has been faded into ambiguity, I think it’s not awful. It’s not a great scene and doesn’t really add a thing to the episode, and should have been just plain cut on that basis, but it’s not the offensive monster it was in the original cut.

And no, that was not just a “boy’s voice” in the original cut. There was a struggle to its heaviness, an impairment to the way it was delivered. They don’t get to duck out of responsibility for that one.

I don’t care what the fandom has done with Derpy Hooves. Good or bad, the fandom is not the ones making the show. I care about what the creators of the show are doing. Season 1 had multiple episodes which left me dumbstruck that they made it through every single stage of the production without anyone questioning why they were doing what they were doing. Season 2, the year in which Lauren Faust left, has only had one episode which did that so far, and said moment still came at her suggestion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: thank you for giving us this show, Lauren Faust, and for not continuing to be a part of it.

As for the remainder of the episode…

*clicks play*

*returns 16 minutes later*

I think it’s wonderful and a ton of fun. The prep for the big return which goes sour when all that comes home is a cryptic postcard. The desperate and bladder-swelling search for a missing friend. The hectic play on the classic I Love Lucy sketch at the cherry factory. The flaring betrayal of the Pinkie Promise. The friends in such desperate pursuit of the truth that it becomes a literal pursuit. It’s fun, it’s layered with a nice evolution to how it unfolds, it keeps everyone involved in enjoyable ways and builds some great setpieces for them to play in.

I love the central struggle of Applejack’s plot because I can see it from both sides. For her, it’s been a major blow to her pride which she’s embarrassed to own up to, so she’s shut herself away into an increasingly elaborate Plan B because of just how unwilling she is to face disappointment in those who were depending on her. For the others, it’s a friend who’s shut them out and won’t let them in, and they just want to know what happened and how they can help, and are confused because the constant dodging feels like a lack of trust from someone they’ve always been there for. It’s an exaggerated exploration of all this, but not a bad one at all, and the resolution it builds to is heartwarming and well-deserved. Again, Amy Keating Rogers is a very skilled writer, and this is a near-excellent display of her at her best.

If only the whole thing weren’t nailed to the ground by the Derpy Hooves scene. Again, there’s no reason for that scene being there. You already have a cutaway shot to the decrepit roof during the mayor’s speech, so establishing that as a plot point does not require a further sequence being built around it. It very much feels like it was put in because someone wanted it put in, not because it’s a natural part of the story. So yes, I am disappointed, but as with many of the low points of Season 1, I’m mostly just confused. About why they intentionally went there, how every stage of the process went by without them questioning why they were intentionally going there, and why it took them until after the episode’s release to actually realize how widely they’d misstepped. It’s a severe lack of oversight, of guidance, and I’m hopeful the show ultimately gravitating into the hands of Meghan McCarthy by the end of the season will change this for the better.

Now then, I quit this blog because of how hard I found it to write over 500 words a week about this series, and after the over 1600 I just expelled here, I think I need another break. Tessa, Gerf, Weston, thank you for having me back, and I greatly look forward to continuing to follow along.

And how sweet was Pinkie giving the postman cake. Seriously, isn’t she at her best when she’s making sure everyone else gets cake instead of just diving on one and gobbling it all down herself? I’m still boggled by that take on her character.

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