Hey, it's Applejack and Rarity...again. And they're on a wacky adventure...again. So, um...wasn't this series supposed to be about non-standard pairings and more secondary characters getting a chance to shine?
Nevertheless, this is what they went with, so let's look at Applejack and Rarity's escapade in “Reins, Trains, and Carts with Wheels.”
Derpy shows up for her obligatory mailpony cameo to drop off a letter from the Apple Family's off-branch, the Oranges. It seems that the Orange family all the way in Applewood want to make a business deal with Sweet Apple Acres, which is perfect because they needed some money after Big Mac destroyed the barn. Again. Unfortunately, Apple Bloom also destroyed Applejack's saddlebags, so she's forced to pick up a bag from Rarity...which ends with the fashionista inviting herself along to take in all the sights. So between AJ's no-nonsense attitude, Rarity flipping out over visiting tourist traps and possibly Whinnyland, and the countless missed trains, freak accidents, and big brawls, can the duo survive with their friendship intact?
The title is an obvious riff on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, a classic comedy that you should all have watched by now because it is that good. The starting dynamic is even roughly similar, with AJ being the serious one who just wants to reach their destination and has no patience for screw-ups and Rarity as the happy-go-lucky companion who never lets any of the disasters get her down. Fortunately, that's about all they share, so we don't have any soul-crushingly bittersweet reveals and epic speeches that Family Guy will rip off word-for-word because creativity is a four-letter word on that show.
For the most part, it is exactly what you would expect from an AJ and Rarity story. Applejack is sensible, Rarity is dramatic, and they get on each others' nerves. They miss trains, jump on the wrong ones, steal pedal-powered aircraft, deface historical monuments, and take in tourist traps. The humor, of course, is genuinely solid. It's a Price/Cooke issue, so naturally the art is very animated and expressive. Applejack reveals a liking for goats (although she doesn't know if petting them is offensive), Rarity gets them delayed because she was embroiled in a debate between knitting and crocheting, and they get in a fight against a gang of bandit steers while arguing about professionalism and business proposals.
Indeed, that's the biggest twist on the pairing this issue presents. We've seen them go at each other over fashion and rural living before, and that's usually the topic writers will focus on. But much like how “Trade Ya” turned their dispute into proving which one was the “better friend,” this one focuses on how the two approach their professional and personal lives. Applejack never leaves her work mode; she's always thinking about selling those apples, all the chores she'll do once she gets home, and how important this meeting is. She views all of these tourist traps and roadside attractions as an obstacle to be overcome. Rarity, on the other hand, is very much “off the clock” during the trip, and just wants to have fun with her friend.
All of this gets turned around with a subplot involving Applejack's formal business proposal. AJ claims that she's constantly working on it, and refuses Rarity's offers to help. When she finally gets to see the proposal (during the aforementioned fight with the steers), she discovers that the farm pony's plan consists of selling apples...and that's it. She promptly explodes over how criminally unprepared Applejack is, going over all of the other charts and graphs she needs to bring to sell her product, and finally offers to help her once they have a place to sit.
For all of Rarity's silliness this issue, she is very much a businesspony; in fact, it could be argued that she's a better one than Applejack herself. Sweet Apple Acres has belonged to the Apples for generations, and Applejack and her siblings are just the most recent inheritors. Her family is one of the most important in Ponyville, and her farm is absolutely massive. Rarity is a dressmaker who essentially runs her own shop, doesn't seem to have inherited everything she needed to start, and is constantly working herself ragged to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for her dresses. AJ is old money, and while she's a hard worker, she's explained that she's not too good with math and the farm seems to be in constant threat of going under. Rarity is more of a self-made mare; she started making dresses as a filly, rose to her current position with hard work and social graces, and has become the go-to designer for one of the biggest pop stars in Equestria.
It's telling that, for once, it's Applejack that goes ballistic.
The ending is...eh. It's an obvious joke and leaves some of the business stuff hanging, but the montage at the end was a nice touch. Particularly the part about the Stranger (the Sam Elliot look-alike that pulls the stagecoach) – Celestia probably shouldn't have taken his father's sword.
Overall, the issue has a safe pairing, but makes wonderful use of it by changing the focus. There are some good laughs and wonderful art, a decent amount of worldbuilding, and of course, WHINNYLAND! (Yes, it is a Disneyland parody. Right down to the cartoon mascots, the Oat (Dole) Whips, and the park taking every bit you have ever earned for admission.) So yes, it didn't bring us anything especially new, but it delivered an entertaining issue, and I can't say that it did anything it wasn't supposed to do.
Next time, Granny Smith has to bring the Flim-Flam Brothers back together. Why? Because the Kool-Aid man is red.