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Impossible Numbers


"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying."

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Mar
28th
2024

The S4 Slice: Breezies, Rocktorates, and Placebo Tonics · 9:31pm March 28th

Blog Number 252: Production Codes 416-420 Edition

Ten years ago (2014), in the month of March, we were in the third quarter of Season Four, specifically the run from "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies" to "Leap of Faith". I find it very... nostalgic.


Random weird fact: during the year on either side, there was no pony episode being released at all in March. In 2013, Season Three had already finished by late February, and everyone was left wondering what Twilight's wingification would mean for the series going forward. In 2015, Season Five wouldn't start till April, and everyone was left wondering what Twilight's library's kill-and-replace-ification would mean for the series going forward.

List_of_My_Little_Pony:_Friendship_Is_Magic_episodes#Season_4

Anyway! Random associated thoughts, ep by step:


416: "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies"

Only just noticed this, but: ladybug at the start...

...ladybug at the end.

  • Seriously, does anyone remember the Breezies? Their migration is never really explained, nor why they gather stuff from PonyWorld for their own BreezieWorld beyond "we needed to motivate the plot". They had so little impact on the worldbuilding, to the point of being shunted off into their own dimension as fragile flowers. Maybe this is why they receive so little fandom attention.
  • I actually did write a fic expanding on their corner of the multiverse (Hive Versus Hive, if I may toot my own horn), but seriously, I find they're otherwise too inaccessible without just going all A.U. and giving them an adaptational strength upgrade so they don't e.g. die every time it rains.
  • Also, a reminder that Fluttershy is a member of the Equestrian Society for the Preservation of Rare Creatures (ESPORC?). Which leads to a rare bit of very specific inter-episodic side continuity, between Fluttershy being out of town in "Three's a Crowd" and the introduction of Treehugger (Tree Hugger?) in "Make New Friends But Keep Discord". Hands up everyone who can even remember the name, let alone that tidbit.

    I know this is a lazy dig, but... do you reckon Treehugger "takes" magic Breezie pollen?

  • Why the heck does Pinkie want used patio furniture? Sugarcube Corner doesn't have a patio.

  • Inverted callback to the beginning of "Sonic Rainboom" with the "cheer quietly" cold open. That is a cute touch.
  • Mr. Cake is totally being a Watson for exposition purposes here, but it's always nice to see Fluttershy interact with community members outside the Main Six.
  • Here and only here will Rarity wear a dress that glows like the sun. Should be renamed the Element of Suspiciously Specific Timing...
  • I am really curious as to whether Breezie language (Breezese?) can actually be translated, or if it's just vaguely foreign nonsense.
  • Always found it weird that Cloudchaser was replaced here by a stallion called Cloud Chaser. Vaguely remember Ghost Mike explaining to me once that it was a voice actor confusion thing (both Cloudchaser and Flitter - the other pegasus helping with the breeze here - were voiced by Cathy Weseluck) and they did it deliberately to differentiate them better. Still, I thought the distinction worked fine enough back in "Hurricane Fluttershy", so it still comes across as arbitrary to me.

    "I'm a guy now."

  • Poor Spike. Fluttershy forgives him for the whole mess, but he really was the writer's punching bag back in the day, wasn't he?
  • Never found out why Seabreeze alone can speak Equestrian. Then again, he seems to be the only competent member of his troupe, so if anyone was going to learn the language of the realm they visit regularly...
  • A lot of Breezie colour schemes echo those of established ponies such as Twilight Velvet and Lightning Dust. Not sure if that's just copy-paste logic, or if there really are only so many combos you can do before you end up repeating yourself.
  • As much as I like the idea of Fluttershy learning that she sometimes has to be cruel to be kind, I feel like that's a lesson she's already internalized before now. The red dragon and the cockatrice back in Season One sure learned that the hard way, and arguably "Putting Your Hoof Down" was devoted to the assertive case. Might be one reason why this particular friendship test never stuck with me as much as the others did, since it doesn't feel especially new or interesting.
  • Also, it does force the middle act to repeat itself structurally as Fluttershy keeps caving in to the Breezies' indulgences.

  • Roseluck and Doc sighting! I paired them up in one fic, but I'm curious as to whether there's ever been a dominant fandom consensus on who Doc gets as a romantic partner. The other candidates I remember are Derpy and Minuette (who, just to drive home the Doctor Who reference, was sometimes called Romana).
  • Given Fluttershy "waggling" her "abdomen" to communicate to the bees, I'm going to grind this bullet-pointing to a screeching halt and briefly wave a flag for the original Nobel Prize-winning ethological discovery about bee dances:

    Karl von Frisch is known mainly for his research on the “language” of bees. By means of a comprehensive series of experiments he elucidated the ways bees use to communicate information to each other. A bee that has found a source of honey in the vicinity of the hive performs a “round dance” when returning. Other bees participate and thus become stimulated to circulate around the hive searching for the honey. If the source of honey is situated at a distance more than about 50 m from the hive, the returning bee performs a “waggle dance” instead. She runs straight forward for a short distance, wagging her abdomen, then turns to one side and runs back to the original position, repeats the waggle along the same straight route but turns to the other side to return to the point of origin, and so on. Normally, the dance is performed in darkness on a vertical honeycomb. The direction of the straight distance informs the hive bees about the direction of the honey source relative to the position of the sun, but the direction “to the sun” is translated “upwards”. Even when the sun is not visible the bees are able to indicate the direction of the honey source by means of analysing polarized, ultraviolet light. The intensity of wagging etc informs about the distance according to the principle: the more intense, the closer. This complicated mode of communication is evidently genetically programmed and not learnt.

  • So basically, Fluttershy might be distracting them with a food bribe. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  • Twilight knows a trans-species spell, provided there's a member of the target species nearby. That has some MASSIVE implications for her magical arsenal, so why the hell was this spell never used again!? Just keep Spike around and think of all the dangers Twilight could have beaten off or flamed away in future seasons. For one example, Starlight in Season Five would've been ****ed.
  • Feels very "insert gimmick here", though.

  • Fluttershy's voice at Breezie pitch is beyond adorable.
  • In that fic I mentioned earlier, I dubbed the Breezie wife and child "Zephyrine" and "Saltshaker". Even the wiki never gave them names, and since no one else has ever taken a stab at it as far as I'm aware, is it OK if I trademark them? :rainbowwild:

  • Rainbow wondering what it'd be like to be a griffon, just in case you wanted a reminder that Gilda was a thing. Of course, it might just have been a "cool species" craze, considering she next asks for dragonhood, and as far as I'm aware, they never enrolled one at Junior Speedsters.
  • What is the title referring to? Possibilities range from "It Ain't Easy Being Green" (Kermit's song) to "It's Not Easy Being Cheesy" (Chester Cheetah in an ad) to "It's Ain't Easy Being Easy" (Janie Fricke single), and I still haven't narrowed it down.


    417: "Somepony to Watch Over Me"

  • I feel bad for this episode, because there's a coming-of-age concept buried deep under the zany nonsense. As the CMCs start to grow older (to the extent that the show allows them to do so), the concept of Apple Bloom getting her first home alone trust exercise feels like a solid foundation upon which to challenge Applejack's outdated babying and Apple Bloom's own tendency to rush the life cycle (hint: her whole cutie mark obsession). The problem is that a nuanced premise requires a nuanced execution, and this... is not that.
  • So. "Somepony To Watch Over Me" can best be summarized as "Applejack's big sister instinct is caricatured, and then the chimera livens up a dull ep". I want to like it more than that, because Apple Bloom wanting to hold the fort and being entrusted enough to stay there (nominally) feels like a nice reminder that these kids are going to take on new responsibilities. But yeah, an exasperating ep for the most part, especially it deploying pretzel logic to make the good ending work.
  • "Like, I didn't write down that if she wants to get a spoon out of the drawer, she needs to open the drawer first." Like, Applejack is being straight-up flanderized for most of the runtime, and not being Pinkie Pie or Rarity, it doesn't suit her at all. "Bridle Gossip" three seasons back handled it far better. It's telling that her worries don't feel remotely believable till the chimera issue comes up, but that's another way of saying mortal peril (or belief in such) makes adult fears look really damn justified.

    It really is...

    ...like night and day.

  • Great Aunt Pine Apple. I really hope someone has mapped out the Apple family genealogy beyond the name-dropping "wastepaper basket" approach of the show.
  • "Stop! No time for a song!" Fuel for my hypothesis that songs are recognized as reality-warping moments in-universe. Although the one Apple Bloom starts doesn't sound like it'd be a good one, so Scootaloo does well to interrupt it.
  • All three chimera heads were voiced by the same actor, Ellen Kennedy. Impressive considering the tiger head especially sounds far more guttural and echoey. Also great is how the chimera is an openly talkative killer animal, almost like a child-targeting serial killer. There aren't many in the series, though plenty of monsters display nonverbal personalities.
  • Also, still like the Princess Bride reference with the flaming swamp, especially since it lends itself well to dramatic lighting and extra threat level. Now all we need are the Rodents Of Unusual Size and a Dread Pirate _______.
  • Yeah, don't teach kids that objects are more important than their own safety. Abandoning those pies to save herself would've been a better emergency response in a real crisis, and Apple Bloom's just lucky the chimera be chatty enough to inflict stalling tactics on itself (herself? themself?).

    Judging from this angle, I swear the chimera should've figured out where the cart went anyway.

  • Of all three items, that lion tamer's chair sure seemed the most useless. It fell apart after one use, and at best worked as a temporary distraction. Was a whip too hardcore for the censors?
  • I'm almost certain the tiger head would've dislocated its fangs after that experience.
  • Ricotta is nice, yes. Also like that it's made from goat's cheese, which explains why the goat head enjoyed it so much.
  • What bugs me about the ending is that Apple Bloom's foolish stunt should have ended (at least for the foreseeable future) any notion of the older family members leaving her on her own again, but because Applejack was such a blatant fool (and Apple Bloom is perversely rewarded for prioritizing the cart's safety over her own), the story gives her a free pass. You know you can go for a middle ground without making such excessive concessions, right?
  • Flame Geyser Swamp, for all of those fantasy cartographers out there. I'm guessing that's the southeast corner of the official map, near Hayseed Swamp if not a sublocation within it. The French interjections and general aesthetic bring to mind Mage Meadowbrook's homeland later on.

  • The transcript renders the Cajun pony's French exclamation as "Andouille". Looking that up on Google, it apparently means "a type of pork sausage, served typically as an hors d'oeuvre." So... am I missing something informal here, or did the writers stick in a random French word without looking it up, or are carnivorous ponies canon now, or did the transcript translator on the wiki muck up good?
  • "Swamp water casserole". I hope that's just a funny dish name, because otherwise these ponies are going to die of cholera in droves.
  • Yeah, a pretty weak Season Four episode in which Apple Bloom's growing need for independence (a worthwhile and very nicely coming-of-age theme) is let down by a childish colouring-book level of storytelling, not much in the way of variety, and - blessing with strong condemnation (opposite of damning with faint praise) - the chimera bit being too good for its own good.


    418: "Maud Pie"

    The Gummy juxtaposition explains so much.

  • If you don't already know, then I apologize in advance: I'm not a Maud Pie fan. So this segment will likely need a counterweight from someone else, but my attitude towards the character colours my attitude towards this episode too. It's only fair to put my cards on the table first. That said...
  • "Maud Pie": You know when a fanfic writer randomly creates an overpowered yet personality-bland OC who happens to be a relative of one of the main characters, and then pretends they were always there? Well, turns out official writers do it too.
  • I'd probably be less sore over this episode if it didn't essentially mean Limestone and Marble got sidelined later. "Hearthbreakers" proved an excellent showcase for the sisters' personalities, and then they were basically ignored for the rest of the series beyond occasional cameos in Maud eps.
  • Sorry, guys. I know Maud's popular and quite possibly an autism/neurotypical icon, but I'm not a fan of this one. Most of the episode gets this reaction from me: 💤. Ghost Mike once described a prior planning stage in which the Other Sister had a more exuberant personality, and I find myself wishing I could see a finished version of that episode instead.
  • Maybe the problem I'm having is that Maud really is not presented as having flaws that aren't the Mane Six's fault for not understanding her better. It's not the flawlessness per se, so much as it's the lack of relatable hook that the flawlessness casts into sharp relief. Or else the comedy's too dry for even my British tastes.
  • Looking at the credits, I see this one was written by Noelle Benvenuti, whose only other writing credit was for "Made in Manehattan". Another episode with slower pacing, though for my money a more entertaining version thereof. Generally, the too-slowly-paced episode awards are given to the Fox brothers from Season Six onward... a run which also starts with a Maud ep.
  • Seriously, how did Maud get so many eps? A trend that chiefly started in the Denny Lu era of the second half of the show.
  • "Rocktorate in rock science". Between this and the "archeology/paleontology" mixup in Petunia Paleo's episode, somewhere a geologist is crying.
  • Rock candy is made from rocks. Logical. But a super-secret kind of Maud-discovered rock, so hopefully Rainbow won't suffer from colic or damaged teeth.
  • Pinkie Pie tries associating Maud's traits with each of the Main Six. For some reason, this feels like a weird kind of test run for when Gabby the Griffon ends up being an ace at everything she puts her hand (talon?) to.
  • What on earth happened to Rarity's fashion sense this episode? (Or this season in general)? That hat is hideous.
  • I'd be more impressed by Maud's establishing character moment if she'd been more specific about what kind of sedimentary rock that was. Think more along the lines of her human-self's description in "Forgotten Friendship": "felsic-intrusive igneous, granular in texture, most likely arranged in an equigranular matrix, with scattered biotite mica and amphibole, at least sixty-five percent alkali feldspar by volume, with a melting point of twelve-fifty centigrade, plus or minus ten degrees". Which, by the way, I want to put to a geologist to see if it translates well.
  • Still not sure if Maud genuinely thinks Boulder is alive, or if she knows that's a simple rock and is going through the motions. If the former, it flies in the face of her general literalism elsewhere.
  • "Camouflage" is the sort of game Franz Kafka would have come up with. A lot of stress and effort, and you were never going to win regardless.
  • Do like how Fluttershy seems to take Boulder's identity seriously, especially contrasted with Rainbow's utterly exasperated refusal to do the same. I'm on Team Dash here, but Fluttershy's at least being a good sport.
  • Hummingway. Clearly, he wrote the next episode. :trollestia:
  • "These spiders only live in Ponyville, and even though they may look a teeny bit scary, they're actually very sweet and help keep other, more dangerous insects away!" Firstly, that image inspired another fic of mine, and yay spider love. 🕸:heart: Secondly, that's a funny way of saying "help eat the s**t out of those insects".
  • Also, "other... insects"? Did the writer seriously imply that spiders were insects?
  • Quilland Ink. Flourish Prose. Both became literary icons. Nominative Determinism kinda sucks in Equestria, don't it? God help you if you're named "Toilet Brush".
  • "I've written thousands." Damn it, my envy suddenly went into the red zone. Although quality control might not be Maud's priority in this case, given the samples recited.
  • Similar to other eps (and fics) in the past, this one I feel suffers a bit from the familiar checklist approach towards Main Six inclusion. There's a draggy bit in the middle where the formula is basically Maud being Maud at each of the girls in turn.
  • One thing I do respect this episode for is having a more nuanced moral than usual, openly acknowledging that the Main Six and Maud simply don't click despite their common interest in Pinkie Pie. Still, on some level it kinda feels redundant, given the Main Six themselves don't always have overlapping interests - if anything, they're an unusually diverse range of stereotypes from different cliques - and future episodes undermine it by making Maud and e.g. Rarity close friends regardless.
  • "It combines everypony's interests into one giant activity that we can all enjoy together and that will totally bring all of my bestest friends together as bestestest friends!" Another thing I'll praise the episode for is that this feels entirely on-point for Pinkie. Also, she has Leonard Da Quirm levels of ability for naming things: the "Pinkie-Rainbow-Rari-Twi-Apple-Flutter-Maud Fun Time". If she ever invents a submarine, she can and will call it the "going-under-the-water-safely device".
  • Critter time for Fluttershy... and a way to sell cigars, apparently.
  • Question: what is the significance of Maud donning the vaguely Germanic pointy helmet when she saves Pinkie?


419: "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils"

  • "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils". Now seems like a good time to mention how randomized-for-the-sake-of-pun some of these episode titles are. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a war novel about what turns out to be a suicide mission to sabotage a fascist enemy. "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" is an envy-driven sisterly spat that becomes a misguided act, a "Christmas Carol" plot before "A Hearth's Warming Tail" did it, and a break-up-make-up between the sisters in question. Um... they both involve sabotage!
  • I like how the punny version works in its own right, but yeah, the allusion has that superficial, disjointed feel to it.
  • Sapphire Shores is the pony of pop here. Come "The Mane Attraction", she'll be so last season. Fads are ambush predators.
  • "Perhaps it needs... appliqués." Wikipedia defines appliqué as "ornamental needlework in which pieces or patches of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. It is commonly used as decoration, especially on garments. The technique is accomplished either by hand stitching or machine. Appliqué is commonly practised with textiles, but the term may be applied to similar techniques used on different materials. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration. The term originates from the Latin applicō[1] 'I apply' and subsequently from the French appliquer[2] 'attach'". Huh, the more you know.

    "Sweetie Belle! Ne mange pas ton rouge à lèvres!"

  • My best guess is that this is purely an independent performance, but Cheerilee acting as stage manager does give the impression that Sweetie Belle took over a school production.
  • Surprisingly subtle bit of foreshadowing early on wherein Sweetie Belle's reluctant to mention she needed Rarity's expertise when asking for a favour, and then she turns out to have delayed asking her sister for weeks. Symptoms of envy showing up ahead of the big blowup. Nice!
  • "Forsooth and anon, I cometh forthwith and posthaste with glad tidings, miladies." Firstly, I love how three of those words mean exactly the same thing ("quickly"). Secondly, in one awful line you get an idea of why Sweetie Belle's script isn't exactly going to knock socks off compared to her sister's dressmaking skills (to be fair, this is comparing a child's skill with adult skill, which is kinda the point - imagine an A.U. where Rarity and Sweetie Belle's birth order was reversed). And thirdly, oddly appropriate how a Luna episode features mangled Early Modern Equestrian.
  • Also weirdly like how Sweetie Belle deliberately stays calm and "gracious" when anticipating the play's warm reception despite clearly expecting it to be an utter hit. Nice compromise between her seeking to act mature and a little bit of childish naivety poking out.

    Behold the Three Graces!

  • I don't know what impresses me more: Sweetie Belle persuading Scootaloo to wear that dress, or Scootaloo never once complaining about it.
  • Lemon Hearts here gets Bon Bon Syndrome and sounds completely different to how she'll speak next season. (If I remember right, going from Patricia Drake to Ashleigh Ball).
  • Note that Fluttershy's sensitive enough to lead the charge in bailing as soon as Sweetie Belle makes clear she's come looking for a fight. Why were Rarity-Fluttershy episodes so rare again?
  • Another bit of foreshadowing (less subtle, but still) when Sweetie Belle angrily drops the fifth birthday party mention while Rarity looks confused.
  • Do like how Sweetie Belle shows some frustration when dealing with Rarity's pickiness, so that her helpfulness isn't without limits. The "It's all red!" line is exemplary Angry Claire Corlett acting.

  • Inevitably, I'm comparing this ep's content with that of "Sisterhooves Social", but for me the memorability rankings are so different that I'm trying to wrap my head around what the crucial factor is. I think I've pinned it down.

    • The first one gave itself an added dimension with the Apple sisters' compare-and-contrast, but I don't think that's sufficient to explain this.
    • What I think it comes down to is: "Sisterhooves Social" was about both sisters, with their corresponding redeeming qualities and problems. Sweetie Belle starts with helpful intentions but disastrous execution; Rarity struggles to patiently work around that and soon flat-out snaps; Sweetie Belle sees a healthier sisterly friendship but bitterly takes the wrong lesson from it (ditch Rarity for Applejack); Rarity eventually repents but apologizes in a cluelessly self-serving way; it takes a surprise stunt (and some outside assistance) to get them to see eye-to-eye again.
    • Thus, a good-and-bad chain of back-and-forth helps develop both in a surprisingly layered short story (I just listed the five major checkpoints), which neatly establishes the engaging and solid core of a love-hate dynamic.
    • Whereas "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" is Sweetie-Belle-centric (Rarity has no flaws in this one; it's all her sister's perception), and her own flaw is so obvious that Luna just has to hammer at it repeatedly until she snaps to her senses.
    • See the difference? It's a lot simpler, a lot flatter, not as meaty or crosswire-entangled (Luna briefly sympathizes in a line but neither elaborates further nor behaves any different as a result: much as I like the envy comparison, you could cut the line and lose nothing plot-wise). The core conflict is Sweetie Belle popping out of place and being whack-a-moled back into it, so while we get to see one rarely explored side of her, that's basically it for the backbone.
    • Now, having said that: go back to the last two screenshots and tell me which eps they came from.

  • As for Luna herself, we got three CMC-centric episodes out of her, and of the three I also think this one is the mildest of the bunch (despite some great dream surrealism). "Sleepless in Ponyville" was a major game-changer for Scootaloo (in a wholesome, well-won wish-fulfillment way), while "Bloom and Gloom" qualifies as one of the few CMC episodes to challenge the romanticism of gaining cutie marks (appropriate for Apple Bloom, who kicked off the whole crusading subplot back in "Call of the Cutie" and has always been the most invested in it). Again, "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" feels like it lacks a little by comparison, acting more like an extended footnote to "Sisterhooves Social" which just happens to have a dreamwalker gimmick.
  • That said, it's also the only one wherein Luna has an extended role, acting as a moral guide and as the "Ghosts of Christmas Past/Present/Future". More Luna is never a bad thing. 🌝
  • Wondering about the significance of the headdress having an Egyptian theme. Also of Sapphire Shores' spirit animal being a dolphin.
  • Speaking of Sapphire Shores, she's... passable. If a bit of a jerk in the "bad future" vision. Then again, I assume that whole vision was exaggerated by Luna to motivate Sweetie Belle further, as I can't imagine Rarity not bouncing back from one embarrassing mistake. But yeah, I much prefer the double life of Countess Coloratura/Rara next season.

    It fell apart... LIKE YO CAREER! Oooh, SNAP! :rainbowwild:

  • I don't know if I'm just imagining it, but in this and in "Twilight Time", the CMCs occasionally have these mini-Seinfeldian conversations (such as Apple Bloom wondering why Scootaloo kept posing for the paparazzi, or their talk here about Sapphire Shores' songs). I don't know if that's a Dave Polsky touch to give them quirks or if I'm just reading too much into a bit of padding.
  • Sweetie Belle prefers showtunes. I assume she's a Bridleway fan and would have killed to see Hinny of the Hills.
  • The showtunes thing also feels very appropriate given her self-made play early on. Was it a musical, do you think? The CMCs are pretty good singers by this point (remember how Scootaloo sang off-key back in "The Show Stoppers"?).

    "I'd like to thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank..."

  • Despite Sweetie Belle's plight, it's easy to see why that security guard was completely unimpressed. Remove all the context and the CMCs sound like they're a few hits short of an album.
  • First, they need to zipline to get in (and only Sweetie Belle makes it anyway), then suddenly all three of them are inside the studio to play Package Keep Away. I'm fine with narrative streamlining, honestly, but I'm still curious.
  • Also like how Sweetie Belle's sense of reality gets played around with in opposite ways (earlier interpreting the Rarity cloud as definite dream logic, then later mistaking Luna's presence as evidence that they're in a dream).
  • But seriously, though, Nightmare Belle: someone's done it, right?

    "This song... will last... FOREVER!" (*excited Sweetie squeaking*)


    420: "Leap of Faith"

  • "Leap of Faith": boring title aside, I have a lot of respect for this episode, starting with the surprising focal point of old-age nostalgia. To a much lesser degree, it reminds me somewhat of how Up (Pixar) hung its kiddie adventure story on the broken heart of Carl Fredricksen in his widower years. Obviously, nostalgia over one's former aquatic athleticism is nowhere near that scale or intensity ("The Perfect Pear" is closer on that score), but it does give this lighthearted episode an oddly mature premise, something that feels incredibly right for what turns out to be an Applejack-centric episode.
  • Moving on from there, this is the strongest Flim Flam Brothers episode. Not the most spectacular: "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000" has the superior song and flashier conflict in the cider-making contest. Nor is it necessarily the most fun: "Viva Las Pegasus" beats it on that front, I think, with its far more unconventional plotting. Here's what I'm getting at:

    • My point is that, once you start examining the Season Two ep in any depth, it quickly becomes obvious how messy and unfocused the plotting is. The Season Six ep also leaves a few questions unanswered (such as how anyone would fall for such a basic ruse on Gladmane's part, and it mostly boils down to "find and beat the bad guy"). Whereas here, despite having to brush over the aftereffects of their last visit, the Flim Flam Brothers have a more sensible (if straightforward) plan, M.O., and motivation, which directly challenges Applejack despite her rumbling their scam pretty quickly.
    • Because beating the bad guy isn't the point: the point is posing the much more uncomfortable question of the placebo effect that genuinely seems to help ponies (to an extent, since the ending drops the ball a bit by having them stray out of that grey zone into the "obviously bad idea" zone), namely whether that justifies not disillusioning the victims by pulling the curtain down and showing what's backstage. It's a surprisingly more thoughtful conflict than you'd normally see in this series, even if it doesn't result in many fireworks.

  • The third reason this all works for me is because of how Applejack responds.

    • After rumbling their scheme a few minutes in (actually, "Super Speedy" helps here because the last time the brothers were in town, their invention worked fine, it was just their attitudes screwing them over), her own commitment to honesty is immediately pitted against her commitment to her kin, and that's a pure "unstoppable bullet versus immovable shield" conflict.
    • She doesn't do the dramatic-but-stupid thing and throw her hat firmly into one ring. Instead, she's hesitant and hedging her statements despite going along with it, and that ongoing sign of inner conflict feels more knife-edge and conciliatory towards those two sides of her character than a wholesale OOC personality switch would've been.
    • Again, it's not flashy conflict, but it feels more believable and real to compensate: again, fitting for the more down-to-earth pony gal.

  • One other thing I appreciate looking back is how none of the Key antagonists are exact duplicates in term of their respective roles. Each one does something different in acting as reflections of the Main Six.

    • Coco Pommel was a downtrodden soul gone astray who took inspiration enough to break out of an unhealthy partnership;
    • the Wonderbolts were powerful temptations leading Rainbow Dash astray themselves;
    • Cheese Sandwich was a direct rival to Pinkie Pie but ultimately was on the same page;
    • Seabreeze and Fluttershy wanted the same thing but clashed over how best to go about it;
    • and later Discord deliberately turned against everything Twilight stood for and needed her support to realize how badly mistaken he was.
    • Here, Silver Shill acts as a good middle ground between Applejack and the Flim Flam Brothers. He has fewer scruples about conning ponies than Applejack had (though they're still there), but neither is he all that confident in his trickery. So in a way, he mirrors what Applejack stands for, just through a darker glass. Forgettable as he is in the grand scheme of things, I like how he further erodes the idea that this is a simple black-and-white conflict.

  • That all said, I think the episode has plenty of fun moments in its own right. Examples: the Jaws gag; the song's still pretty catchy; Big Mac using his horse collar as a lifebelt; Lyra as an oddly over-harsh judge in the Ponyville swim meet. :pinkiehappy: Pony still ponies!

    Also, Apple Bloom is downright precious in this episode.

  • I think that's really my ultimate takeaway from this episode. Not as flashy or as ambitious at first glance as other eps, true, but I think it's more solid and even rewarding for the topicality and subtle depth of the conflict invoked.


Well, that's all for now! Impossible Numbers, out! :twilightsmile:

"Please buy a souvenir I.N. Toxication Tonic on your way out the door! Two for the price of three!"

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Ooh, I think I might like this format of stray observations in the experience of watching the episode!


Hands up everyone who can even remember the name, let alone that tidbit.

Not me! Though I do remember that in early drafts of "Three's a Crowd", Fluttershy was out of town to observes dragonflies, not Breezies. They got swapped by the earliest drafts of this script – either Hasbro decided dragonflies weren't cute enough (blasphemy!) or wanted the G1 callback.

Vaguely remember Ghost Mike explaining to me once that it was a voice actor confusion thing (both Cloudchaser and Flitter - the other pegasus helping with the breeze here - were voiced by Cathy Weseluck) and they did it deliberately to differentiate them better. Still, I thought the distinction worked fine enough back in "Hurricane Fluttershy", so it still comes across as arbitrary to me.

Mostly – it was more that the staff and executives said you could very clearly hear Spike and the Mayor in their lines here when they were talking back-and-forth, which may be down to Cloudchaser and Flitter, before the former got swapped out, having more direct lines than their ones with Dash in "Hurricane Fluttershy". Possibly also slight changes in how Cathy approached the roles (they don't tend to be too concerned with voice matching such incidental ponies – look at Lyra and Bon Bon changing voice every time they spoke, even after "Slice of Life".

Poor Spike. Fluttershy forgives him for the whole mess, but he really was the writer's punching bag back in the day, wasn't he?

And that's in the final cut – the locked script devoted what felt like three occasions to Spike being apologetic to Fluttershy and others for causing this mess even though they forgave him. Many Season 4 scripts were overlong and Spike's bits were often first to go when then needed time (notable examples include "Bats!", where he had more than like the five lines that survived, or "Trade Ya!", where his comic bartering subplot had small scenes throughout and not just glimpses of the start and end), but this is one occasion where I'm glad that material was lost.

Not sure if that's just copy-paste logic, or if there really are only so many combos you can do before you end up repeating yourself.

A logical issue of budget, mostly, one we see with the kirin later. When you have a new species appearing as a one-off and don't have time to come up with lot of varies style and design for the appendages (manes, tails, cutie marks, etc.), they can get visually homogenised. And push too far and you get the dragon, which at least for the teens later on are mostly just random cartoon designs in varying directions that don't feel like the same species the way ponies do.

So basically, Fluttershy might be distracting them with a food bribe. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

All joking aside, I rather enjoyed that information on bee dances.

Twilight knows a trans-species spell, provided there's a member of the target species nearby. That has some MASSIVE implications for her magical arsenal, so why the hell was this spell never used again!?

Because the massive writer and executive turnover in Season Five meant tons of ideas in prior seasons, and especially in Season Four that were likely intended to be usable again, weren't? Yes, I know, out-of-universe reason, but that's really all there is to it here.

Overall, I think I liked this one a smidge more than you, but I largely agree with a few subtle points that give more merit to the "Fluttershy repeating her lessons" thing here than in most episodes that get that accusation. And possible expansions for the Breezies beyond this one, in canon and fanfic, are very limited. Still, I quite like Seabreeze, and if nothing else, the fact of him being written as female, Brian Drummond getting cast to play her (like with Big Mac as Goldie Delicious), Hasbro feeling she was still clearly and distractingly voiced by a man, and after more pitch effect attempts, canonically changing her to a male and rerecording some pickups for Fluttershy, amuses me to no end. Plus, the contrast between his masculine tough family man attitude with his frail and dainty build and voice is both funny and resonates on some extra levels.


I think the telling fact about the characterisation of Applejack in "Somepony to Watch Over Me" is that for his My Little Chronology, Oliver set this one in the aftermath on "The Return of Harmony" in a group of episodes where after-effects of Discord's magic accounts for the Mane 6 being exaggerated ("Lesson Zero" was another such episode), and simply had the journal entry written much later as a "flashback" of sorts.

But yeah, nothing to add on this one. Chimera third is so much better than the weak sauce regression writing of the rest that feels like a flash forward to Seasons Six or Seven.

Your various points on the swamp and the final delivery destination, especially the Cajun aspects, it putting me in mind of "The Princess and the Frog". Dang it, now I want the Apple sisters to bump into Ray and Louis on their way back. Make it happen, crossover fanfic writers! :rainbowdetermined2:


I’d probably be less sore over this episode if it didn't essentially mean Limestone and Marble got sidelined later. "Hearthbreakers" proved an excellent showcase for the sisters' personalities, and then they were basically ignored for the rest of the series beyond occasional cameos in Maud eps.

Wha puzzles me the most is, having Pinkie with two sisters already via her cutie mark story, why they designed a third one that they retconned her in, instead of reusing one of those designs for this new character. She's aged up to a mare from a filly, you can change her mane style and give her the frock still.

Ghost Mike once described a prior planning stage in which the Other Sister had a more exuberant personality, and I find myself wishing I could see a finished version of that episode instead.

Admittedly I'm not familiar with Parks and Recreation, so the Premise likening Maud to April Ludgate from that show, beyond the premise specifying Maud at this stage to be eager to make friends, but with quirkiness that causes difficulties, is kind of lost on me. Maybe someone who knows the show can weigh in on this? It does make one think.

I do find Maud can click for me in supporting roles, but I am largely with you otherwise in finding this one to have not worked out the character properly. I can't even be too mad at The Hub's anxiety attack that she would come across as braindead to kids, and wanting to record inner narration so they could understand her – DHX had to fight tooth and nail to assure them that the reactions of the others' in the animation would make it work.


"For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils". Now seems like a good time to mention how randomized-for-the-sake-of-pun some of these episode titles are.

I've never sat down and analysed the seasons trends in titles (though there are a lot of weak-ass ones in the Nicole Dubuc end era), but I am getting the feeling they were strongest in Faust's era, at least as regards puns with layering and meaning. Holdover of hers from The Powerpuff Girls, probably, where in the Craig McCracken era, nearly every title was a goldmine.

Also weirdly like how Sweetie Belle deliberately stays calm and "gracious" when anticipating the play's warm reception despite clearly expecting it to be an utter hit. Nice compromise between her seeking to act mature and a little bit of childish naivety poking out.

There are great moments in this season of the writing getting the CMCs as being tweens now. And this being the first focus episode where Claire Corlett lost the last traces of Squeaky Belle, and settled in a timber closer to a sometimes-excited, sometimes-apathetic teenager is quite fitting for that.

Lemon Hearts here gets Bon Bon Syndrome and sounds completely different to how she'll speak next season. (If I remember right, going from Patricia Drake to Ashleigh Ball).

In most occasions, when this happens with a background pony, it's because the script just wrote them as "Pony in Crowd #1", they gave the role to whatever actor was on-hand, and when it came time to animate, the person who's job it was picked a model mostly at random. If their voice stays consistent between appearances, it wasn't an incidental bit of writing.

As for Luna herself, we got three CMC-centric episodes out of her, and of the three I also think this one is the mildest of the bunch (despite some great dream surrealism).

Interesting. This episode is no "Sisterhoods Social", certainly, as that was one of the show's best, but I enjoy it a decent bit more than "Bloom and Gloom". Possibly depends on how much value one places on food for thought the episode gives over its entertainment value (a crossroads we will see below with "Leap of Faith"…). Also, as sometimes happens, the behind-the-scenes increasing my appreciation: this episode's third act was such a structural mess even at locked script that at the animatic stage it was rewritten between Hasbro and DHX to better clarify many things and flow much better (this is also why Princess Celestia is still in the voice credits, she was in the earlier final act), and with some quick pickups for Sweetie and Rarity and Luna before shipping the animatic overseas.

Sweetie Belle prefers showtunes. I assume she's a Bridleway fan and would have killed to see Hinny of the Hills.

I do find myself relating quite hard to Sweetie Belle preferring showtunes. I can appreciate a good pop song, but diegetic songs sung by character in film, tv or theatre just tends to click with me more. Plus film scores in general, of course.


Sometimes I feel sorry for "Leap of Faith". I agree with nearly everything you said about it, if maybe marginally less enthusiastically, and it's by no means a Fox episode as regards not having anything actually fun or entertaining on top of the framework. Yet though I like it more than the average consensus, it still falls into the category of being an episode more appealing to reflect on or dissect than to actually watch. There just needs to be a bit more zip and liveliness to the proceedings. Only a bit more, and this episode would be both fascinating to think on and analyse and consistently fun to watch, as opposed to only mildly so.

Still, in ranking the five Key episodes I'd put it 3rd. So it undeniably works.

Also, I'm flabbergasted this script came from Josh Haber, a writer whose regular tendencies are the total opposite to this, even when he was just a writer in Seasons 4 & 5, favouring silly hijinks over nuanced character-based storytelling. Did Meghan McCarthy basically lock down so much of the outline that he just followed the instructions and cashed in his cheque, feeling "well, most of the work is done, no need to bend over backwards to add on top of it"? Possibly – later comments of his do make it clear that it was never more than a job, even by the end of his six-year tenure on the show. Food for thought.

I'm curious as to whether there's ever been a dominant fandom consensus on who Doc gets as a romantic partner. The other candidates I remember are Derpy and Minuette (who, just to drive home the Doctor Who reference, was sometimes called Romana).

From memory, back in the early days of my time in the fandom (2012) it was Derpy by some distance who was the most popular choice. The audio dramas about them were very popular at the time, and there was at least one of those "Ask..." blogs. Some fandom songs, too. Minuette (yet to receive that name in those days of course) was much less common. I don't recall her being called Romana at all, though I more or less entirely ignored shipping back then so I doubt I'm a particularly reliable source!

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Mostly – it was more that the staff and executives said you could very clearly hear Spike and the Mayor in their lines here when they were talking back-and-forth

Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification. I still feel it's a case of "you can't put the genie back in the lamp", but that makes more sense as a rationale.

A logical issue of budget, mostly, one we see with the kirin later.

Makes it easier to appreciate how the later seasons added more pony variety (barring one or two slip-ups). One-offs, as you say, don't have the advantage of a ready-made template.

Because the massive writer and executive turnover in Season Five meant tons of ideas in prior seasons, and especially in Season Four that were likely intended to be usable again, weren't?

It's OK; I was being rhetorical here. If someone ever kept a record of every spell cast, though, Twilight would be even more of a juggernaut later on than she proved to be...

Still, I quite like Seabreeze, and if nothing else, the fact of him being written as female, Brian Drummond getting cast to play her (like with Big Mac as Goldie Delicious), Hasbro feeling she was still clearly and distractingly voiced by a man, and after more pitch effect attempts, canonically changing her to a male and rerecording some pickups for Fluttershy, amuses me to no end. Plus, the contrast between his masculine tough family man attitude with his frail and dainty build and voice is both funny and resonates on some extra levels.

Yes, I might have mentioned something similar in our PM talks, but I liked the irony of Seabreeze too. If only he was physically tougher, he'd be an honorary Nac Mac Feegle. "Crivens, ya daft wullie!" :rainbowlaugh:


Oliver set this one in the aftermath on "The Return of Harmony"

I used something similar in my own chronology, except reversed as a herald of chaos. Ultimately, though, it's a backhanded comment about AJ's behaviour here.

Your several point on the swamp and the final delivery destination, especially the Cajun aspects, it putting me in mind of "The Princess and the Frog". Dang it, now I want the Apple sisters to bump into Ray and Louis on their way back. Make it happen, crossover fanfic writers! :rainbowdetermined2:

Maybe when they go to Equestria Girls. :pinkiehappy:

Tangentially related: I'm trying to figure out what the placename was, though. I'd had some vague idea they were in Hollow Shades, except it looks nothing like its incarnation in Season Seven, and I don't think it's mentioned in-episode.


Wha puzzles me the most is, having Pinkie with two sisters already via her cutie mark story, why they designed a third one that they retconned her in, instead of reusing one of those designs for this new character. She's aged up to a mare from a filly, you can change her mane style and give her the frock still.

Alternatively, have her be a favourite cousin. Never mind. These are the retcon cards we're dealt.

Admittedly I'm not familiar with Parks and Recreation

The show writers sure were, though. I remember you pointing out their fondness for it in various behind-the-scenes trivia.

the Premise likening Maud to April Legate from that show

If I remember right, that would be very much along the lines of sarcastic goth, which I'm still happy to give an ep. Notwithstanding that, I could've sworn the idea was that the Maud precursor was more the perky kind, but maybe that's my memory jumbling up the details.

I do find Maud can click for me in supporting roles,

Same here.


I've never sat down and analysed the seasons trends in titles (though there are a lot of weak-ass ones in the Nicole Dubuc end era), but I am getting the feeling they were strongest in Faust's era, at least as regards puns with layering and meaning.

Filing that away for a future discussion topic... 🤔

Interesting. This episode is no "Sisterhoods Social", certainly, as that was one of the show's best, but I enjoy it a decent bit more than "Bloom and Gloom". Possibly depends on how much value one places on food for thought the episode gives over its entertainment value (a crossroads we will see below with "Leap of Faith"…). Also, as sometimes happens, the behind-the-scenes increasing my appreciation: this episode's third act was such a structural mess even at locked script that at the animatic stage it was rewritten between Hasbro and DHX to better clarify many things and flow much better (this is also why Princess Celestia is still in the voice credits, she was in the earlier final act), and with some quick pickups for Sweetie and Rarity and Luna before shipping the animatic overseas.

I think one factor might be how much brilliance is hidden in the way Luna and Sweetie Belle can relate. Here, I think it's not relevant enough to the actual plot for it to influence my immediate enjoyment much (when it comes to generating fanfic fuel, on the other hand...). On the other hand, I remember you suggesting that it had a more subtextual resonance to the episode, so it's entirely possible I'm not giving it enough credit.

Much as I tend not to factor in behind-the-scenes trivia when judging an episode on its own merit, it can still be impressive to learn how many bullets the crew managed to dodge.

To be fair, I also have a slight bias towards Apple Bloom out of the CMCs (ever since "Bridle Gossip", surprisingly enough, though I also found her very relatable in "Call of the Cutie" and "The Cutie Pox"), so there's that possibility.

I do find myself relating quite hard to Sweetie Belle preferring showtunes. I can appreciate a good pop song, but diegetic songs sung by character in film, tv or theatre just tends to click with me more. Plus film scores in general, of course.

Thanks to Hazbin Hotel recently, I'm appreciating that more and more, aye. I mean, if Sweetie Belle were a fan of 90s and later Disney songs (given their stage musical influence), I would not blame her one bit.


Yet though I like it more than the average consensus, it still falls into the category of being an episode more appealing to reflect on or dissect than to actually watch.

Mm hm, I can see it's no showstopper. I can't say that finding it dull in the moment is my experience, though. The Flim Flams are always fun to have around, the first confrontation with Silver Shill is surprisingly tense, Granny nonchalantly getting on the "I can do anythin'!" train, and the water show at the end: all do it for me. Alongside Apple Bloom, I also have a massive soft spot for the Apple clan in general. Including Granny's outspoken sass, of course.

Also, I'm flabbergasted this script came from Josh Haber

They didn't break his chain till late Season Five, but you're right indeed; you wouldn't be able to tell going in blind, would you?

Another little detail I forgot to mention was the sepiatone flashback. It's cliched and not the most amazing thing the show's ever done visually, but it really does feel like Granny dug up an old roll of film briefly and subjected everyone to Backstory Time for a bit. I also think the tidbit about Granny being an aquapony feels like one of those believable combinations of "hidden depths" and "reminder that plenty of old people have had eventful lives you take for granted".

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Some background ponies tended to accumulate names back then. Doctor Whooves was sometimes known as Time Turner, Ruby Pinch was sometimes Berry Pinch (which I avoided, as it was one letter off her alleged relative's name), Bon Bon was sometimes Sweetie Drops before S5 weighed in on it, and goodness knows what the list looks like for Derpy.

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Oh yeah, I'm familiar with all the names you mention there. I'm pretty sure Sweetie Drops was the name on said pony's first blind bag card, and so was official before Bon Bon was. Not sure about Time Turner. Berry Pinch is the name used in The Silver Standard as it happens, so that one's in my mind now as well. Then you have Heartstrings for Lyra, the various second names for Octavia, etc etc. Colgate on the other hand was (at least in the circles I moved in at the time) vastly more common than Romana, to the extent that I can't remember anyone using the latter. (Mind, I was wrong about Minuette. It turns out that too was on a blind bag card years before it was used in the show.)

and goodness knows what the list looks like for Derpy.

Ditzy Doo (obviously), Bright Eyes and Bubbles are the ones I can think of. Bubbles is used by an early (March 2011) story by an anonymous author on EqD. I'm sure there are others!

"I know this is a lazy dig, but... do you reckon Treehugger "takes" magic Breezie pollen?"

I hope so, because if she's not higher than a Canterlot balcony, then that's her actual personality! :twilightoops:

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Well, this is Equestria. It's quite possible she's genuinely an eccentric expert in some obscure branch of magic, and the relaxed attitude's a part of that. Like Pinkie but the exact opposite.

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