|Previous: Three's a Crowd||Pinkie Pride||Next: Simple Ways|
|Aired 2/1/2014, story by Jayson Thiessen (his first such credit for MLP); written by Amy Keating Rogers (her eleventh episode)|
|Character: Ponyville is fickle, we know that. But it's surprising to see Rainbow, Twilight, and the others apparently abandoning Pinkie in favor of this stranger, especially so soon after Rainbow Falls' loyalty lesson. I say "apparently" because we're seeing this from Pinkie's perspective. On my second viewing, I paid closer attention to the dialogue, and without the visuals it's more evident that Dash and the others expect Cheese and Pinkie will be planning the party together. They're giving a newcomer a warm welcome and hope his more professional, sensational style will bring new life to the usual Ponyville fare. Recall Pinkie's own question: "Who's ready to join this super duper party pony to plan this super duper partay?" And consider this exchange after Cheese's introduction: Rainbow says to both Cheese and Pinkie, "So what do you say, party planners?" and Pinkie's reply, "Oh, I think we can do it!" indicates that at this point, the universal understanding is that this will be a joint venture. But after Cheese's self-indulgent song, everypony is too swept up in the excitement to notice Pinkie taking offense. (To be fair, she tries pretty hard to cover up her feelings.) They are at fault for this, but they never meant to abandon her. We get a decently profuse group apology at the end, acknowledging their lack of consideration.
And so while the team fails at friendship in this episode, it's not out of character or due to the writer's inattention; it's a deliberate plot point. In fact, this is a recurring problem the team has, both generally and with Pinkie specifically. They too easily accept a friend's insistence that everything is okay (though Twilight makes a fair effort in this case). And it's still very rare to see them tell Pinkie how much they appreciate her constant, ultra-serious dedication to their happiness. I'll say once again that I like the fact that MLP doesn't always assign a friendship problem to one pony who has to be corrected by the group, but sometimes has one pony in the right and all the others in the wrong.
This episode is yet more complex than that, as we look at Pinkie. In this story she neither accuses her friends nor gives them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, she's thinking as little about them as they are about her. Her thoughts are so much on herself that she totally loses her purpose because for a moment she's out of the spotlight. Perhaps even more than Rainbow Dash, Pinkie feels a need to be the best. Since coming to Ponyville, she's never known anything else. It's her pride, more than her friends' excitement over Cheese Sandwich, that is the root of her personal crisis. This is consistent with the Pinkie we know: We've frequently seen Pinkie focused on herself, especially in early episodes, and she couldn't accept having even one Ponyville resident reject her friendship in A Friend in Deed.
Pinkie's centerpiece song in this episode adds a little something to her character, and it's a glorious sight to behold: She accomplishes the rare feat of turning her Song of Defeat into a Song of Determination. I've seen villains do this, but usually the hero in these situations needs someone else to do the cheering up. Here Pinkie brings herself out of her own depression without a hint of malevolence (other than punching a sandwich), and she does so using the photos of past parties in much the same way Twilight used letters of friendship in The Return of Harmony Part 2. Along the way, we get a glimpse of Pinkie's third sister, whose existence was teased in Pinkie's chapter book and in Meghan McCarthy's April Fools' Day Twitter posts in 2013.
Cheese Sandwich has the same pride and priority problems as Pinkie, but they're not challenged in this episode since he has the upper hand. We do see him frown a couple times when Pinkie momentarily upstages him during the goof-off. But I'm very happy he didn't get the Flim-and-Flam treatment. He's not handed the Villain Ball or even functioning as a genuine rival. He softens immediately when he sees the effect he's had on Pinkie, and he sounds sincere in his explanation of his motives. (It may in fact be the first time I've heard Weird Al in sincerity mode.) His appreciation for Pinkie is surprisingly understated but tenderly expressed, and there are some subtleties in his performance throughout that suggest he's moved by the friendly atmosphere of Ponyville.
|Lesson: Pinkie learns twin lessons in this episode, both of which have to do with the titular theme of her pride. The first involves her "key" realization that even the most impressive antics serve no purpose if their target isn't having fun. In short, the party's not about the planner. It's about the guest of honor, and fun is had because of the company shared, more than the events enjoyed. The planner simply provides the setting for this to happen. Pinkie herself once said of her events, "They're always the best parties 'cause my best friends are always there!" This moral was also picked up by Applejack in Apple Family Reunion, but it's more fitting here with Pinkie because it refines her element and enables her to be the pony of Laughter.
The second of Pinkie's lessons here is not to be so binary. In her mind and in her words, one pony gets to plan the party and the other doesn't; either she's the best party planner or she's not; if she's not the best planner, maybe she shouldn't plan parties at all. If you've ever been the resident expert at something or otherwise been the top dog, and then faced the loss of that title, you know what that's like. But it's one of the tests of whether you're a genuinely caring person: If someone gets something that you wanted, are you happy for them or sad for yourself? Excelling at your own talents while accepting the fact that others may have the same talent in greater measure is an important lesson to learn, and I'm eager to see just what Pinkie has written in the journal.
|Logic: Added to the backstory here: Rainbow Dash moved to Ponyville ten years ago on her birthday, and Cheese's confession song confirms that Pinkie came to Ponyville very shortly after receiving her cutie mark.||Connections: The third "key" episode. This episode references events related to Friendship Is Magic, part 1, Call of the Cutie, Over a Barrel (the appearance of Appleloosa and the buffalo), The Cutie Mark Chronicles, Party of One, Baby Cakes, A Friend in Deed (the stolen Smile song), and A Canterlot Wedding—Part 2, and features a costume Pinkie wore in Dragonshy, in which she also had a rubber chicken.|
|Resonance: As long as it allows time for the feelings to sink in, MLP does "sad" very effectively by making you care about the characters and by the sensitivity of its music, both in the score and in the vocal songs. Even though Pinkie's despair is unjustified in this episode, my heart aches because she really is deeply hurt and conveys this beautifully in song as she puts her favorite things away. Cheese's confession doesn't have the same effect because it's so brief and we haven't connected with him the same way. It adds some depth to his character but isn't intended to have real dramatic weight. The town's appreciation for Pinkie at the beginning and the "Make a Wish" celebration bookend the episode with joy and gladness.
One sad line that stuck with me long after the show was, "There's gotta be more to me than planning a party or two." That particular question isn't answered in the story and is potential fodder for drama in the fifth season.
Where MLP has really come to excel in the past couple seasons is in its humor, and this episode is absolutely shot through with gags. Standouts for me include the name Boneless (and its invocation by Pinkie), Silver Spoon stealing back her milkshake, "I sensed you did," Cheese in a lineup with ponified Weird Al lookalikes, the Spike-colored fish hat, Rainbow Dash eating straight through the middle of a giant cupcake pizza, and Pinkie mock-forgetting Cheese's name after he leaves. The live-action bits were a delightful shock, and I lose it every time when Pinkie goes into The Piñata Song. Derpy, who at this point could be accurately described as a foreground pony, steals the show for one scene as she drinks from a fondue fountain with total abandon, at the same time as Rainbow shares a moment with Tank. That's only a sampling of everything going on in this episode, which manages to outdo even Discord in the previous episode for zaniness.
|Other Impressions and Final Assessment: For those who aren't aware, MLP composer Will Anderson played on two of Weird Al Yankovic's albums and produced the music for his TV show way back when. I've been a fan of Weird Al pretty much continually since 1988, always impressed by his versatility and staying power, and especially fond of his polka parodies of chart-topping hits. I hope this episode brings a host of new listeners to his music. The story was written with him in mind but would have gone to someone else if he had not agreed to come on the show, though I doubt anyone else could have been a believable match for Pinkie Pie.
Once again, one of our ponies sees the shimmery rainbow effect at the moment she realizes she's subverted her element, and she receives a token from somepony who's learned something of that element from her and shared in the lesson she's learned. I really like this pattern and the way it ties the season together. I'm still waiting to see how this will be applied to Twilight, since her Element of Magic isn't a character virtue. I expect her test will involve leadership via her position as princess, but if so it will need to do it in a way that's distinct from her challenges in Equestria Girls and the season premiere.
I've looked into other reviews and fan comments and asked myself the usual question for the shows that impress me: Could it have been better? This time the answer is no. The only thing even slightly critical I can say about this episode is that it may be just too crazy for some viewers. For that reason, I'll keep MMMystery on the Friendship Express as my top-rated Pinkie story since Twilight's cool head gives us at least some break from the insanity. Nevertheless, MLP really hit it out of the park with this one, containing all the good stuff essential to a superior episode with music to boot, ending up right on the border between Crystal and Diamond.
Pinkie Pride armor rating: Diamond Armor
Ranked 10th of 26 season-four episodes
Ranked 78th of 233 episodes overall
|Previous: Three's a Crowd||Pinkie Pride||Next: Simple Ways|