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

Previous: Rarity Takes Manehattan Pinkie Apple Pie Next: Rainbow Falls

Episode 74: "Pinkie Apple Pie"

Aired 1/11/2014, written by Natasha Levinger (her first episode)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Pinkie Pie interrupts Twilight Sparkle's genealogy study and reads that she is Applejack's distant cousin.
  • Act 1: The Apples welcome Pinkie to the family, but concerned about the smudged paperwork she cites as evidence, they embark on a visit to Goldie Delicious to compare with her records. The trip is cut short when the family's overloaded cart collapses.
  • Act 2: The cart is rebuilt into a raft, where a lost map and a wrong course through a scary cave cause discord to break out among the Apples. Their fight dislodges the raft's steering and they go over a waterfall.
  • Act 3: The Apples make it to Goldie's, where they regret their behavior. Goldie's records are also smudged, but the Apples affirm Pinkie as family nevertheless. Back home, they all argue over who gets to make the journal entry.

Character: Judging by early Internet comments, first-time viewers were split on whether Pinkie is especially shallow or especially layered this time out. In keeping with this episode's lessons (see below), I choose to interpret it as confirming my previous understanding of Pinkie as perceptive and caring about the ponies and situations around her, but responding oddly as a result of her idealistic values and priorities. Fully aware of the Apples' struggles, Pinkie wants everypony to be happy and without fear, and her efforts at contagious smiles only intensify as things get more and more desperate. The fact that she's not been oblivious is made explicit in the scene just before Goldie arrives. Evidently then, this first-time MLP writer understands the subtle motivations behind Pinkie's unsubtle cock-eyed optimism and uses them to drive her actions throughout the story. What's distinctive here is Pinkie using optimism as her own coping mechanism, as is most obvious between the cave and the waterfall. All this has a payoff near the end, when the smudge of Goldie's records leaves Pinkie's Apple ties in doubt. She drops the "act," if you will, and lets her disappointment show. I believe this demonstrates how comfortable she's become around the Apples; she's free to express her non-positive feelings rather than make light of the situation, a transparency she probably reserves for times she's around family.

For anyone concerned about Pinkie's relationship with her immediate family, they receive some mention in an important early line: "I was already happy as a Pie, and now I get to be part of this amazing family, too?" She's not abandoning her close relatives for her distant ones. I treasure my interactions with my second cousins (once removed) when I get to see them, but I'm still close to my immediate family. As we await a second look at the other Pies, the evidence from this episode and The Cutie Mark Chronicles (and to a lesser extent Magic Duel) is that Pinkie's relationship with her parents and sisters is fine though geographically separated.

It occurred to me at some point after my second or third viewing that Pinkie's not looking at her own family history. If she were, she'd have a scroll full of Pies with a smudged name that might be "Apple." Instead we get the reverse. Having been told genealogy is about who you're related to, she grabs an Apple scroll and starts looking for her name. And so this whole story begins with either a wish or a hunch on Pinkie's part that she might be kin to AJ. It's neat to think that she wanted this from the outset, prior to any evidence whatsoever.

Applejack and Apple Bloom are their usual selves here, and given what we know of them, it's no surprise they have a traditional family song. Granny's stubbornness, ingenuity, and generally optimistic nature have appeared in earlier episodes but receive a lot of attention here. Big Mac's cart-related confidence and philosophical bent are new here, as is his singing ability as a low tenor/baritone. More than anything else, their interactions on the journey ring true for anyone who's been on a long family trip. Travel involves stress and a lot of decisions, which is ok when you're driving alone and a bit tense when you're flying or otherwise just along for the ride, subject to someone else's decisions. But when you travel as a family, you feel you ought to have an equal say in decisions, and I believe it's those control issues that lead to the conflict even among normally peaceful families. Holding in their frustrations for Pinkie's sake naturally leads to an eruption after the high-stress cave incident.

Goldie Delicious, a tantalizing combination of Pie and Apple traits, is instantly the most interesting character in the episode. She has a house full of heirlooms and family records but never comes to the reunions and has never met the Sweet Apple Acres Apples. Yet she's not homebound, since she leaves to go shopping. Most memorably, she has the appearance of a hoarder of both cats and clutter. Hoarding is rarely presented in kid's shows, though it did feature in a first-season episode of The Littlest Pet Shop ("Blythe's Pet Project," which also features a shout-out to MLP). Like everything else in this episode, the hoarding is played light, though not much comedy is made of it beyond a couple sight gags. It comes across more as just the reality for this character. She's kind, family-oriented, and neighborly, not to mention generous. (She gives the Apples a new cart and offers some of the heirlooms.) If there's a lesson in this, it's that those with disorders or other mental issues are people too and aren't solely defined by their condition.

There is an alternate take on Goldie, that she's not a hoarder in the pathological sense but has more heirlooms than she can keep up with. I reflect on that idea here.


Lesson: The stated moral for this episode is relational: that being family (and this applies to friendship as well) isn't about keeping up appearances for the sake of smooth sailing, but about "getting through the rough patches together" through forgiveness. Any close, long-term relationship requires a healthy regimen of confession and reconciliation in order to remain solid. I'm delighted that the writer chose to have Pinkie teach this lesson to the Apples rather than the other way around; Applejack does come across as a little too noble compared to the other main characters sometimes. It's a sad truth that some families don't remain together, but children should not be too easily distraught over normal family squabbles. It's great to have a lesson like this as part of the MLP series.

The non-reveal at Goldie's leaves Pinkie's relation to the Apples up in the air, to the frustration of many. But it drives home a more philosophical point that has echoes of the lesson of Feeling Pinkie Keen: Belief is a matter of choice. Whereas Feeling Pinkie Keen deals with matters that seem impossible or inexplicable, this episode presents the more common circumstance where things are simply unclear. Evidence is important, and it makes sense that Applejack would want to double-check Pinkie's claim before making assumptions. But at the end of the investigation, the Apples are still left with a choice, and they make it in Pinkie's favor. More specifically and less philosophically, their choice could be taken as a demonstration of a family's right to define itself.

The reason I take this as a deliberate lesson rather than a cop-out is the foreshadowing we see earlier in the episode: Pinkie has no problem with an immediate reaction of "I knew in my heart it was true," and outside Goldie's house, Applejack stresses that Pinkie shouldn't feel any obligation to consider herself an Apple, even if she finds out she really is one. But we see the negative side of making assumptions contrary to obvious realities with Big McIntosh's insistence about the cart and Granny Smith's assurances regarding the cave. Believe what you will, but reality won't just bend to your determination. The importance of truth/submission to reality receives attention later in the season, in Leap of Faith.


Connections: Most of the Apples in Goldie Delicious's portraits were also present in Apple Family Reunion. Besides Feeling Pinkie Keen, other episodes that deal with evidence vs. intuition/assumption are MMMystery on the Friendship Express and A Canterlot Wedding—Part 1. During the mix-up of Magical Mystery Cure, Pinkie believed her destiny was to farm at Sweet Apple Acres, though it's not clear whether she thought she was an Apple herself.

 

Resonance: Pinkie's delight in bonding with the Apple family seems to go beyond even her normal enthusiasm. That and her brief display of disappointment are both touching, as is her delivery of the lesson to the Apples at their reconciliation. I was beaming when I saw that scene the first time. Apple Bloom exudes cuteness from start to finish. The rest is all fun, packed with clever animation from the song to the scrapbook. My favorite moments of hilarity are the eagle gags, the sappy squirrel (how did he get in that position?), and the trip through the scary cave. Big Mac's duck floatie and Goldie's cheetah also deserve mention. (Or maybe that's Equestria's version of a savannah cat, which we've domesticated from the serval.) And no, this isn't one of Sibsy's episodes, duck references notwithstanding. Credit for the storyboards goes to Emmett Hall and Tony Cliff.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Pinkie's cartoonish characterization allows for more crazy and convenient coincidences than we might otherwise find comfortable. Consequently, this episode is a bit zanier than most, and a viewer's enjoyment of it will likely depend on how much Pinkie Pie they can enjoy/tolerate. I loved every second.

This episode also contains a number of shout-outs to facets of brony culture: the "-licious" raps that originated from a Twitter post by Tara Strong, an apparent nod to DustyKatt, and a freeze-frame appearance of a ponified SlenderMan probably thrown in by a mischievous animator. Such references will be missed by the average viewer and neither make nor break my enjoyment of the episode in any case. Nearly every episode contains shout-outs to some movie, TV show, or other cultural artifact. The only difference is that season-four episodes seem to have more contemporary cultural references than we've seen previously.

Comic timing, background humor (mostly involving small animals), and constant unexpected twists make this a very entertaining comedy episode, following a long string of episodes based on thrills and drama. This is a good character-based story, one of the best to delve into Pinkie Pie's deeper layers.

 

Pinkie Apple Pie armor rating: Golden Vest
Ranked 16th of 26 season-four episodes
Ranked 81st of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

Previous: Rarity Takes Manehattan Pinkie Apple Pie Next: Rainbow Falls