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

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Episode 4: "Applebuck Season"

Aired 11/5/2010, written by Amy Keating Rogers (her second episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Applejack assures her brother Big McIntosh that she can harvest the entire farm all by herself.
  • Act 1: Applejack saves Ponyville from a cattle stampede, but her exhaustion from apple bucking causes her to almost miss her award ceremony and she's not all together when she gets there.
  • Act 2: Applejack refuses Twilight Sparkle's offers of help but continues to "help" others, unwittingly causing problems for Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie.
  • Act 3: Applejack's help with Fluttershy's bunny census turns into a stampede that destroys Ponyville's flowers, and all her bucking still leaves half the orchard unharvested. She finally accepts help from her friends.

Character: An in-character weakness for Applejack. Her determination and commitment to keep a promise fall right in line with her leadership abilities and her element of honesty. Like so many character flaws, her stubbornness here is actually a strength that's gone out of balance. The irony is that she is so invested in helping her friends while disdainful of any reciprocation. As an outside observer, Twilight Sparkle makes this point excellently, along with the fact that AJ's over-commitment is spoiling the quality of the help she's providing. But her stubbornness also arises from pride (in the negative sense), something that shows up in later episodes as well and that she's never directly come to terms with.

It's worth mentioning here that although Applejack gets paired up a couple times and has significant roles in the ensemble shows, this is the only episode of the first season in which she is the clear "star." She'll become more predominant in the second and third seasons but still rarely gets her own episode.

The rest of the Mane Six are just supporting characters here, though Pinkie Pie's comic bits bear close attention as they actually have a place in the story and often reveal a one-step-off understanding of a situation. Recall that at this point in the series she's mostly into things for the fun, resulting not in obliviousness but in skewed priorities. The whole priority issue also afflicts Rarity and occasionally Twilight, whereas the other three typically perceive situations just as they are but react differently according to their personalities.


Lesson: A broader version of this episode's message could be that friendship is mutual, and therefore you have to allow those you love to love you back love being understood in the active sense. Any act of generosity requires someone to give and someone else to accept that gift, and when you refuse to ever be a taker, you effectively place yourself above everyone else.

This episode's secondary lesson: When you realize what you've set out to do is a really bad idea, giving up may be just the right thing to do.


Logic: This is the fourth episode aired and produced, but given the state of the orchard and Twilight's open use of magic, this episode must take place a little later, anywhere between Boast Busters and Swarm of the Century. Body Count: I'm not sure whether this is a slip or not, but Twilight Sparkle says "What on earth is that pony doing?" Usually Equestria is invoked in such expressions, though the term "earth pony" and the mention of Earth as the name of their tribal home in Hearth's Warming Eve means this isn't necessarily an error. (Princess Celestia likewise says "Where on earth would you get such an idea?" in A Bird in the Hoof.)

 

Connections: This is the only episode in which Big Mac in his right mind says anything besides "AJ," "Eeyup," or "Nope" until Ponyville Confidential near the end of the second season.

 

Resonance: This episode is most definitely a comedy. Pinkie's interjections add hilarity to the exciting cattle stampede scene, and Twilight's notecards and the repeated interruptions during the award ceremony had me chuckling. Other fun moments: Applejack's woo-wooing and snoring (complete with little neighs); Twilight's non-reaction to Rainbow Dash crash landing on her balcony; the shout-out to Night of the Lepus; and Spike's salvaging of the muffins. On the other hand, Applejack's mistaking words for soundalikes is a common routine that just misses for me and goes on too long.

Applejack's contrite request for help felt very sincere due to excellent vocal delivery. Twilight gets an awesome moment as she uses her magic to harvest an entire grove of trees in a few seconds.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Big Mac's raised-hind-leg threat display in the cold open is a good opportunity to comment on the ponylike behaviors in the show turned-down ears, applause by stomping, certain postures, being wary of Zecora's pawing at the ground, etc. Having spent some time around real-life ponies, I love this about the series. It shows that the creators have done their homework and that the characters aren't just horse-headed humans.

With the story consisting of a main point being made multiple times in a straightforward (though fun) fashion, this story is too conventional to outrank the great episodes, but the humor hits enough to make it a respectable episode, about average for the first season.

 

Applebuck Season armor rating: Iron Mail
Ranked 16th of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 117th of 147 stories overall

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