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

Previous: Stare Master The Show Stoppers Next: A Dog and Pony Show

Episode 18: "The Show Stoppers"

Aired 3/4/2011, written by Cindy Morrow (her third episode)
I used to be so quiet that the ponies used to laugh.
My singin' teacher always passed me by.
But then I learned to vocalize just like a love-sick calf:
Just rear back, open up, and let 'er fly!

We're little but we're loud,
We're short but we're proud;
We're two-foot-five and we don't care who knows it.
Who'd wanna be a giant with his head up in a cloud?
We're puny, short, and little, but we're loud!
    Storyline:
  • Intro: Applejack gives her broken-down clubhouse to the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
  • Act 1: Scootaloo delivers a map of Ponyville to the clubhouse, which Apple Bloom has repaired, as Sweetie Belle starts work on a Crusaders theme song. After some unsuccessful crusading, they are invited to be in the school's talent show.
  • Act 2: The Crusaders gather supplies and sort out duties for their contest entry. Each Crusader chooses the work for which she is least suited, and Applejack is rendered speechless by their rehearsal.
  • Act 3: At the talent show, Twilight reassures the nervous Crusaders, but their performance falls apart and draws only laughter from the audience. The CMC get the award for best comedy, causing them to miss a possible lesson about where their true talent lies.

Character: The quintessential CMC episode. This story nails down each of the characters' real potential, especially in the middle of the second act. We also see quite a bit of them interacting with one another and with the adults (especially Twilight). Not much else to say hereóno problems and no other developments, and most of what's here can be seen in other CMC stories.

Twilight is in lecture mode here, which is becoming more common and gets deconstructed following next season's premiere. It's appropriate in this context, as she's dealing with children and does an effective job of trying to guide them to the truth by nudging their own reasoning along. The CMC only miss the point at the last step.

I haven't determined whether the 80s-esque portions of the CMC's performance came from Scootaloo's own tastes or were a conscious tribute to the young Cheerliee we saw in Call of the Cutie. Probably the former, since Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle weren't in Apple Bloom's class yet in that episode. But if the latter, it's a nice callback and a clever strategy for a prize in the talent show. By the way, Scootaloo may be the worst singer, but otherwise her performance essentially goes as rehearsed while the other two Crusaders have problems with the set and effects.

Oh, and Snips and Snails from Boast Busters return. (Snails also had a brief appearance in Call of the Cutie.) It helps to know they're children, and their bit is mercifully short and actually almost funny this time since one of them gets to play his role straight. Also seen at the talent show are Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, and Twist, but we're not told anything about their performances.


Lesson: Voiced by the CMC and forgotten thereafter, as with Apple Bloom in Call of the Cutie. The idea of "one true talent" is a truth of the MLP universe that doesn't necessarily apply to our own. As a teen I assumed I should be a mathematician because math was my best subject. But I also sing, am a good listener, and have a flair for analysis, organization, and detail work. So which one talent do I embrace? And what does any of this have to do with the magic of friendship? (Of course, that last point is part of my struggle with the whole CMC concept.)

The real elephant in the room here is what to do when your abilities don't line up with your interests. Sweetie Belle is a great singer but is afraid of singing in public, Apple Bloom is a whiz at construction, art, and set design but wants to dance, and Scootaloo has great agility but wants to do music. It's actually kind of rare to be terrible at the things you love; you'll either stop loving them or else get better with practice. But this is a challenging issue that I might learn a thing or two about if it were addressed well on the show. As it stands, the question goes unanswered.


Connections: Scootaloo's scooter trip through town is performed again, with more skill each time, in Sleepless in Ponyville and Flight to the Finish. Twilight's apparent interest in guiding the Cutie Mark Crusaders in the last scene doesn't have a payoff until the fourth season's Twilight Time.

 

Resonance: You have to admire Scootaloo's scootering, Sweetie Belle's off-the-cuff lyrical ability, and the sheer ambition of the CMC's performance. But "COMEDY!" is the episode's strong point with all the dry one-liners, the shout-out to Don Music, and the cringe-worthy parts of the musical piece.

 

Other Impressions and Final Assessment: Concerts and similar events are usually scheduled near the end of the school year, so this may take place not long before the season finale. No evident continuity problems would arise from placing this after The Cutie Mark Chronicles. In airdate order, this is the first time we see Rainbow Dash associated with Scootaloo (albeit implicitly), as Dash shows up alongside Rarity and Applejack to pick up the Crusaders after the talent show.

I like the full-length montage music heard in this episode (even though the composer has said he does not), as well as the clips themselves and all the funny. We're still seeing good ponylike behavior here, such as the stomping applause, and Cheerilee rearing up when announcing the final award. Entertainment value covers a multitude of cinematic sins, and what we have in this episode is almost enough to make up for the difficulties in messaging. In the end it's an okay episode, ranking a bit below the hilarious and exciting but also message-impaired Feeling Pinkie Keen.

(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.)

 

The Show Stoppers armor rating: Leather Vest
Ranked 21st of 26 season-one episodes
Ranked 135th of 147 stories overall

Click HERE for Character Appearance List and Screentime.

Previous: Stare Master The Show Stoppers Next: A Dog and Pony Show