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

Previous: Read It and Weep Hearts and Hooves Day Next: A Friend in Deed

Episode 43: "Hearts and Hooves Day"

Aired 2/11/2012, written by Meghan McCarthy (her seventh episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: The Cutie Mark Crusaders make a huge greeting card for Cheerilee on Hearts and Hooves Day.
  • Act 1: In class, Cheerilee accepts the card and the Crusaders learn she doesn't have a "very special somepony." Sweetie Belle leads the search for The Perfect Stallion, and they settle on Big McIntosh.
  • Act 2: The CMC arrange a picnic, but Cheerilee and Big Mac interact only as friends. They bump into Twilight, who is reading a book that mentions a love potion. Borrowing the book, they concoct the potion and invite Cheerilee and Big Mac to a punch tasting. They fall sweetly and sickeningly in love.
  • Act 3: The CMC discover the drink is a love poison which only causes obsession but whose spell ends if the affected are apart for an hour. Finding the couple at Sugarcube Corner, the CMC suggest marriage. Apple Bloom takes Big Mac to pick out a ring while Sweetie Belle has Cheerilee try on dresses. The ruse just barely works, and the now-normal adults assign the Crusaders to do Big Mac's chores as punishment.

Character: Big Mac gets to go beyond "Eeyup" and "Nope" for the second time in the series, but only out of character. We are informed by the CMC that he is kind, hard-working, and shy, but we haven't really seen this demonstrated on the show.

Cheerliee, however, gets some genuine development here as we see her outside the classroom. (She also had a good scene in The Secret of My Excess.) We learn that she and Big Mac are already friends, and we see her bubbly facade slip a couple times with her deadpan reactions to various CMC antics. The writer wisely does not make the adults clueless about the scheme as some storytellers are tempted to do; Cheerliee knows perfectly well what the Crusaders are up to but decides to "humor" them. Her closing scene with Big Mac also gives her a little personality moment.

The fact that the CMC think so highly of their teacher speaks as well of them as it does of her. These are not eggheads or teacher's pet types, and their minds are rarely on school itself, but they are fond of their teacher and this drives their every action in this story, including the cold open. Contrary to some reviews, I believe Apple Bloom's moment of panic about Ponyville fits with most of what we've seen before (she's not brave so much as she is impulsive), and it makes sense for Sweetie Belle to be taking the lead here since she takes after her sister's romanticism. And knowing the CMC as well as we now do, we also understand why they don't turn to an adult for help in this crisis: it's their nature to try to solve problems themselves.


Lesson: There's no letter to the Princess here, but the usual music plays as the CMC give the lesson to Cheerliee, who has the same voice actress as Celestia. It appears to be a moral against matchmaking, which is a common enough activity for adolescents and young adults. Technically, it's not that one can't force love, but that doing so causes problems. I'm not sure how well this connects with the younger audience, though they will doubtless enjoy the episode.

There is a balance to be had here: while no two people can be coerced into love, I know several happy couples who were first introduced (and later egged on) by a mutual friend. From a practical interpretation of the story's events, the real lesson is, as seen in Lesson Zero and The Cutie Pox, not to mess around with magic. But overall, I think the Shouldn't Force Love moral is probably clear enough to stick in the young audience's minds until it becomes relevant.


Connections: Cheerliee and Big Mac are briefly seen together in Just for Sidekicks, and she swoons for him in Filli Vanilli. The illustration in the CMC's book is the first canonical appearance of an alicorn aside from the two regal sisters.

 

Resonance: The mushy stuff between the two adult leads is funny in small doses. Most of the fun, however, comes from the Crusaders, including their reactions to said mushy stuff. Aside from that, my favorite laugh-out-loud moments were: Apple Bloom continuing to talk without missing a beat after the card falls on top of her, Cheerilee's expression when the Crusaders express disbelief that she's unattached, the jelly-obsessed pony, "That's an apple tree," and "Oh, come on!" Twist pinning the heart directly on Cheerilee is pretty funny, and Apple Bloom has a memorable headdesk in this episode as well.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Airing just before Valentine's Day, this episode continues the season-two world building by giving Equestria its fourth holiday. Michelle Creber has a challenge singing what is essentially a duet with herself (providing the singing voices for Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle; Scootaloo only speaks during the song), but she handles it well by exaggerating AB's accent. It actually reminds me of a moment in the G1 Transformers' second episode between Wheeljack and Sparkplug, both of whom were voiced by Chris Latta. The song is just wonderful for its clever lyrics, cute animation, and dead-on performance.

I like the fact that the Crusaders get in trouble at the end. That sounds bad, I know, but being punished/disciplined is a natural part of just about any child's experience, and it's just plain realistic for the kids on the show to have to face occasional disciplinary consequences for their mischief.

Most of this episode is hilarious to my tastes (annoying to many others), but there's not much beyond that in terms of emotional resonance or practical relevance. As a result, like most of the other CMC episodes this season, it meets but does not exceed what I consider the standard of quality set by the series so far.

(Note: As much as the show's creators care about their work and interact with fans, it's possible they may come across this review. If you helped make this episode and I'm offbase in my understanding of it or have overlooked its strengths, you're welcome to give me the "Marshall McLuhan from Annie Hall" treatment and show me the insights I've missed.)

 

Hearts and Hooves Day armor rating: Leather Armor
Ranked 21st of 26 season-two episodes
Ranked 129th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

Previous: Read It and Weep Hearts and Hooves Day Next: A Friend in Deed