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

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Episode 102: "Party Pooped"

Aired 6/27/2015, story by Jayson Thiessen (his third episode) and Jim Miller (his second); written by Nick Confalone (his first)
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Twilight opens diplomatic relations with the yaks of Yakyakistan, only for them to go into a rage when the imitation yak food at the welcome table isn't perfect.
  • Act 1: Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all fail to make the yaks feel at home. All hopes rest on a party planned by Pinkie, causing her to stress out. As tensions build, Twilight checks in on Pinkie to find she's disappeared.
  • Act 2: A letter from Pinkie promises she'll return for the party, but her train is stuck at Dodge City and a ride from Cherry Jubilee ends in a fall off a cliff. Meanwhile, the yaks give up on friendship and declare war on Equestria.
  • Act 3: With no sign of Pinkie, Twilight and the others mope at her house and trigger a drop into her secret party cave. Pinkie finally reaches the gates of Yakyakistan only to be sent home. She has an epiphany to throw an Equestria-style party instead of trying to emulate yak style. The yaks are pleased and declare friendship.

Character: As with the previous episode, Twilight Sparkle is doing princessy things as she's tasked with answering the yaks' offer of friendship. The rest of the Mane Six take their turns trying to mimic yak culture in the interest of making the yaks feel at home, all to no avail. Spike comes closest to winning the yaks over, but also makes them the angriest since his entertainment involves actual deception. This episode is a good example of Twilight relying on her friends' help for her role as the Princess of Friendship, except that they're going about things exactly the wrong way, which we'll get to in the Lesson section.

But while this starts out looking like a Twilight episode, Pinkie's quest turns out to be the real heart of the story. In fact, Party Pooped was originally conceived as a journey undertaken by Pinkie to resolve the identity issues raised in Pinkie Pride. Since she only gets part of the finished story, much of her quest is conveyed only through her self-narration, but her little soliloquies on the train and in the carriage make the montage fit right in. Her story is so random that I wouldn't have been surprised to see a liopleurodon in there, but on second viewing, you can tell the zig-zags of her trip are actually important to the story, in that they illustrate how helpful everypony in Equestria is, which is what Pinkie realizes in the end that the yaks need to see.

Is Pinkie zany? Yes. Over-the-top? Yes. Unpredictable? Yes. But she's also a responsible planner, demonstrating her dedication early on by reading the seven-volume guide Twilight recommended, and driven throughout by love, determination, and courage.

Now let's spend a moment on Yakyakistan's best and brightest. We don't get much in terms of their individual personalities. I like the spectacles one of them wears, and I couldn't ask for a better name than Rutherford. At least at the beginning, it's not clear whether the yaks are just temperamental perfectionists, whether they enjoy destroying things, or whether they use anger deliberately to ensure they get their way. We could well question the wisdom of seeking friendship with such creatures. Shouldn't the ponies just send them home? One important key to understanding their role in this episode, and the validity of its lesson, is that it's the yaks who have offered friendship. Given their temperament, refusing that offer was probably never an option. But they've come here to give Equestria a chance, to see what these ponies are really like. What they get instead is a mockery of their own home, sort of like a US Senator taking the new Mexican ambassador to Taco Bell. The yaks are proud of their culture and are insulted when it is badly imitated. In the real world, diplomats not always selected for being particularly diplomatic, but for their devotion to protecting their people's interests. From that perspective, the yaks are surprisingly determined and even patient in giving Twilight and her friends plenty of chances to turn things around.


Lesson: This story's message follows from the yaks' priorities. Twilight's mistake was assuming the yaks wanted Ponyville to feel like Yakyakistan. But the yaks already have a Yakyakistan, the real one. They've sought out ponies, and our ponies are excellent ponies, but they're ill-equipped to be yaks. An effort to mimic someone else is bound to be more than just imperfect; it's a fake, a lie. That makes this episode a balancing counterpart to Castle Sweet Castle. Since the castle is Twilight's home, our heroes should have been decorating it according to her tastes, but since Ponyville is their home, they should have been operating according to theirs. Pinkie's solution gives us the positive form of the message: If I want to be honest in my friendships, I need to be myself, and treat you like you're part of my family instead of pretending to be part of yours. And speaking of honesty, it really was insulting for Spike to pull an Ashlee Simpson on the yaks with that player piano.

Along the way, we get a few secondary lessons, in addition to the running theme of being your best self. We see by the yaks' bad example how much stress your perfectionism can put on those around you. This story fits in well with the series' frequent theme of loving the apparently unloveable. And as Pinkie learns, your real friends appreciate how far you go for them, even if they don't tell you to your face. If you believe in a providence that will handle the outcome of a situation, then your success in your responsibilities is defined by your faithfulness. Anything else is out of your hooves and therefore not something you need to worry about.


Resonance: This whole episode is non-stop funny, so I'll just mention the ten moments that got the most laughs out of me: Pinkie playing with Fluttershy's hair; her pointing out her quest took "most of the afternoon"; Pinkie's hair poking out of the snow like a periscope; the anticlimax as Pinkie reaches the gates of Yakyakistan only to fall ALL THE WAY HOME; the panic-themed party; Twilight's fear of quesadillas; Fluttershy's slide question; the presence of the Beatle ponies at the party; Berry Punch drinking from a tank of...something, for a long while, apparently; and Celestia's double-take as the yaks revoke their declaration of war.

In this episode we also get an awesome save from Fluttershy, some cute moments with a sleeping Cherry Jubilee, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, and Lyra and Bon Bon. The greatest moment in the story is the Mane Six's vocal appreciation of Pinkie Pie. It's been a long time coming, and my eyes welled up because we know how much it means for Pinkie to hear how important she is to her friends. Now all we need is for Fluttershy to receive the same appreciation, and I can die happy. (I'm not dying, by the way; that's just an expression.)

 

Logic: My best calculations for how long an Equestrian "moon" is, works out to almost exactly one week, assuming 100 moons between the premiere episode and Apple Family Reunion. The last pony contact with yaks "hundreds of moons" ago would be few enough years that Twilight's books would still be relevant, and "friends for a thousand moons" works out to about twenty years, meaning these sorts of treaties are renegotiated anew for each generation.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: The pacing and structure of this episode are unconventional, but in a fun way that kept me guessing. It starts out normally enough as a linear story that moves from pony to pony, just like in the olden days. But after a scene of That 70s Show-style round-the-table shots, we're cutting between Ponyville in a crisis that needs to be solved immediately, and Pinkie going off on a quest that by all rights ought to take forever. About the time she fell off the cliff, I'd pretty much given up trying to figure out how her part of the story would be resolved.

I really can't say enough about Sibsy's storyboarding, the snappy editing, and all those faces. I enjoy seeing background ponies reacting to events and doing stuff rather than just standing around. We get a return of Cadance's calming technique and the root chandelier in the castle, and some impressive voice acting as well. For example, Twilight's line, "Let's not get carried away" doesn't sound scripted, but just something one friend might say to another in a light moment.

This is a successfully unconventional entry in the series, with strong character work and a magnificent showcasing of Pinkie's best traits, filled with hilarity and teaching a subtle lesson that fits well with the series' overall themes, this is a superb episode and another fine example of what MLP in its fifth season can do.

 

Party Pooped armor rating: Diamond Armor
Ranked 11th of 26 season-five episodes
Ranked 49th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

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