MLP:FiM Episode Reviews: Character and Story Analysis by Half the Battle

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Episode 60: "Apple Family Reunion"

Aired 12/22/2012, written by Cindy Morrow (her tenth episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Going through RSVPs, Apple Bloom announces that the entire extended family is coming to the Apple reunion.
  • Act 1: Applejack volunteers to be in charge of the preparations, and Granny recounts memories of past reunions. Applejack pledges to make this the best reunion ever and is up late at night planning.
  • Act 2: AJ's friends help her set up for the reunion, and as soon as everypony arrives, she assigns them to a vast array of fast-paced activities, leaving them no time to talk or rest. This culminates in a hayride that stirs up fruit bats who chase the hayride cart into the barn, which collapses.
  • Act 3: Applejack frets over ruining the event, but she pulls the family together to raise a new barn to song and dance. After the family farewells, she writes to the Princess about the sufficiency of just spending time together.

Character: If Applejack's great desire is to know she's delivering on her commitments and obligations, then her great temptation is to overcommit and then overdo. We've seen before that she usually bonds with family and friends by joining in work or some other activity. So it's no surprise how AJ handles the reunion. Further, she herself is so busy promoting and managing the event that she doesn't pick up on early signs that something's wrong.

As we might have gathered from the title, we get moments with the rest of the Apple family as well: the return of Braeburn, the reunion of Apple Bloom and Babs, a couple comic moments from Big Mac, and some more of young Granny Smith. It's nice to see Babs' genuine congeniality, and her accent reminds us just how spread out the Apple family is. The quieter moments with Applejack's immediate family show the closeness and warmth we've come to expect.

A few of the other main characters get cameos during the set-up scene, but the focus is kept tight on Applejack, Granny, Apple Bloom, and Babs throughout.


Lesson: A letter! Here Applejack's passing on the moral from Granny Smith, who speaks with decades of acquired wisdom. In my teaching I like to talk about the difference between socializing and fellowship. The former tends to be oriented around activities and small talk. You're together but you're not really interacting on a deep level. You come away having enjoyed the meal, the movie, the game, and maybe a joke or two. But fellowship is a more intentional bonding around internal commonalities and a shared life purpose. After the fact, you may not be able to recite what all you did together but you know you're closer than you were before.

I think of this as a very American episode since other cultures I've visited aren't as schedule-oriented. We clutter up our calendars with activities that make us think we're doing something important in our lives, when often things that really matter, like the actual maintaining of healthy relationships, slip from our attention since it's not tied to scheduled events.

Since most kids gravitate so much toward unstructured play, I believe this lesson is more geared toward teens and adults. It's still a good one and relates well to friendship, but younger viewers will find themselves identifying more with Apple Bloom and Babs being pushed around by busy adults than with AJ here.


Logic: It's been "100 moons" since the last reunion, where Applejack first met Twilight Sparkle. Timeline indications are pretty sparse on MLP, but we know the reunion from the premiere is separated from this one by at least two winters (Winter Wrap Up and Hearth's Warming Eve), the last of which was 17 episodes ago. Add to that an unknown gap of time between seasons two and three, and we're looking at anywhere from two to three years. (Much longer than that and the CMC would presumably have gotten into adolescence by now.) If "100 moons" was the same as Earth's lunar cycles, that'd be more like eight years. MLP refers occasionally to months (e.g., "three months of winter coolness"), but the moon works so differently in the MLP world we can't assume that it cycles through phases the way ours does, English etymology aside. If we assume the last reunion was two years ago, then 100 moons is close to 100 weeks. Three years after the premiere would require a 10-day or 11-day "moon." (Equestria Girls mentions the figure of 30 moons, but likewise with no indication of how long that is. By the above reckonings it would be between seven and eleven months.)

 

Resonance: "Gesund-hoof," heh, heh. It took me a couple viewings to catch that. The scene of Apple Bloom falling asleep in Applejack's bed is quite sweet, and I'm moved every time I see the shooting stars that represent Applejack's parents. The second act has plenty of funny moments; the best ones to me come early: Pinkie's glitter and the use of Spike as a cigarette lighter, though the Wilhelm scream deserves a mention. Applejack's teary scene at the destroyed barn is heartbreaking, mostly because of the voice acting but also because we almost never see Applejack in despair like this. Granny takes just the right tone to bring AJ and the viewers out of the dumps together.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: My extended family still has an annual reunion, though without much structure beyond the meal. I have fond memories of several of these, including the 100th reunion we celebrated back in 1999. Those familiar with reunion customs will get more of the setups here, such as the quilt that's added to every year and never meant to be completed, and the importance attached to the meeting location.

There are some really strong moments in the first and third act here, and great music and decent humor throughout. Most of the second act struck me as mildly entertaining, worth watching but not quite on the level we've gotten used to, especially compared to the powerhouse episodes of the early third season. Alas, this is another episode where the ponies are posed like bipeds half the time, the seven-legged race notwithstanding. It's still one of the better Applejack episodes, however. While AJ almost always puts in an appearance, she gets very few solo stories, and this one gives some good insights into her character and especially her family's history. It's also a good follow-up to last season's Family Appreciation Day, which gave us the story of how Sweet Apple Acres was established. And the artists do an excellent job of bringing in nearly all the Apple family members established in the first three seasons There are only four present-day Apples I couldn't find here: Apple Cider, Apple Munchies, Lavender Fritter, and Sundowner. (There are a also few one-shot ponies whose fan nicknames start with "Apple" but who aren't established as family on the show.)

 

Apple Family Reunion armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 10th of 13 season-three episodes
Ranked 116th of 147 stories overall

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