Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episodes Seventeen and Eighteen

Since the next two episodes focus on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who haven't been seen since episode 12, I figured I'd write them both up together.  Both episodes feature rockin' songs and lots of crusading for cutie marks.

Stare Master
Sweetie Belle watches as Rarity (who is apparently her older sister) runs around her dress shop in an absolute tizzy, trying to figure out how she'll get her latest order finished on time.  Sweetie Belle offers to help, but Rarity tells her to just stay in the corner.  While this may seem mean, Sweetie Belle's attempt to help by grabbing a spool of ribbon instantly creates a calamitous chain of destruction throughout the shop, proving Rarity's request a rather sensible one.  Having lost a lot of time cleaning up the mess, Rarity balks at the sound of the doorbell, but it's just Fluttershy, returning Opalescence from her grooming appointment.  It seems that Fluttershy is the only one who can groom the kitty without getting swiped at, and Rarity wonders if this is due to "the stare" (last seen in Dragonshy).  Fluttershy insists that she doesn't actually control when that happens; she's just good with animals.  Rarity would love for Fluttershy to stay, but she's just got too much work, what with the twenty gold-silk-lined robes she needs to finish by the next day.
Hearing this, Fluttershy starts to leave, but is stopped by the arrival of the other two members of the CMC, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo.  It seems Rarity offered to host a sleepover for them, and they plan to use the time to sniff out their cutie marks.  To aid in their quest, Sweetie Belle shows off the capes she made for them, lined with gold silk.  The same gold silk Rarity was going to use for her special robes, in fact.  With the last of the silk ruined, Rarity has even more work to do, meaning the sleepover is cancelled.  Seeing the Crusaders so downcast about this, Fluttershy offers to let them have the sleepover at her place.  Rarity tries to dissuade her, thinking the girls too rambunctious for the shy pegasus to handle, but Fluttershy cites her skills with animals, and after much back and forth, Rarity agrees to let her sister switch sleepover locations.  With a triumphant cheer, the girls take off for Fluttershy's cottage, with Fluttershy trailing behind.
On the way to her cottage, Fluttershy imagines how the sleepover will go, with tea parties, tail-braiding, and coloring, though the way the girls whip past Twilight Sparkle, it seems that Fluttershy may have the completely wrong idea.  Twilight, meanwhile, is on her way to Zecora's for some tea, and Fluttershy worries about her going through the Everfree Forest alone.  Twilight, on the other hand, worries for Fluttershy watching the CMC, but they go their separate ways.
As night falls, the CMC marvel at Fluttershy's cottage, zipping around and asking questions a mile a minute.  Angel wisely vacates the premises.  Since the aim of their sleepover is to get their cutie marks, they pooh-pooh Fluttershy's tea party invitation and set their sights on an adventure in the Everfree Forest, which lies not too far from Fluttershy's cottage.  Fluttershy instantly puts the kibosh on this, warning the girls of the monsters and strange creatures therein.  Sweetie Belle suggests taking Fluttershy as a chaperone, on the off-chance that their life's ambition is to catch said strange creatures.  Fortunately for Fluttershy, the Crusaders are satisfied with just playing Creature Catcher in the house, though the game does end with a broken table.  But no worries, it's just a chance for the CMC to try their hooves at carpentry!  Which involves head mirrors and stethoscopes, for some reason.
Well, a hammer cutie mark is definitely ruled out.  Fluttershy hopes for an end to cutie mark crusading and tries to get the girls to play The Quiet Game with her.  The CMC quickly "lose" and decide to try being coal-miners instead.  Fluttershy shuts this idea down pretty quickly, bringing up the subject of bedtime.  The girls insist there's plenty of crusading still to be done, especially since they haven't used their capes yet, but Fluttershy beseeches them to wait until the light of day, and the girls grudgingly give in.  Fluttershy tucks them in and starts to sing a lullaby, but when she invites Sweetie Belle to join in, she's unprepared for the gospel spin Sweetie Belle puts on it, nor for how loud one small unicorn can get.  So loud, in fact, that she wakes up the chickens in the henhouse outside.
Before Fluttershy can even turn around, the girls are out of bed and investigating the chickens.  Fluttershy quickly follows after, but has little luck rounding up the girls or the chickens.  Until, that is, she lets out an uncharacteristically terse "Girls!" that stops both crusaders and hens in their tracks.  She's then able to round up the chickens perfectly fine, though it takes "the stare" to get them back in the henhouse.  With that taken care of, she sends the girls back to bed, and though they promise to wait until morning, the moment she's out of earshot, they're already planning their next crusade.
A peek outside reveals a hole in the wire around the henhouse, and chicken tracks heading to the Everfree forest.  Their course of action is clear: put on their capes, sneak past Fluttershy, follow the tracks, and rescue the chicken.   Part one of the plan works perfectly, complete with a none-the-wiser Fluttershy commenting how nothing will get past her.  It isn't until much later that Fluttershy realizes that things are a little too quiet around the cottage, and sure enough, finds the bed empty.  She checks the yard and the henhouse, finding no girls, and also a missing chicken (named Elizabeak).  Following both sets of tracks, she realizes, much to her horror, that they must have gone into the Everfree forest!  As she girds her loins to follow after them, she realizes that both she and the girls have gotten themselves into situations they weren't prepared for.
The girls run into a hitch when it comes to the last part of their plan, as the chicken is nowhere to be found.  They call, and bicker, making no efforts to keep the more deadly creatures of the forest from knowing where they are.  Fluttershy, on the other hand, manages to freak out at the merest twig and tree, eventually running for her life from nothing in particular.  As she runs, she catches sight of Twilight Sparkle in the distance and heads for her friend, relieved to see a familiar face and to hopefully get some help finding the girls.  However, as the clouds uncover the moon, Fluttershy sees that Twilight has been turned to stone, obviously the work of a cockatrice!
With a new sense of urgency, Fluttershy takes wing to find the girls, which isn't too hard, what with all their bickering.  She tries to herd them out of the forest, explaining about the cockatrice, but it's no good.  A creature with the head of a chicken and the body of a snake doesn't sound too frightening to the girls, and they continue into the forest.  Fluttershy tries to explain about the turining-to-stone part, but before she can get that out, Elizabeak appears, and the girls take off after her.  Seeing two chickens in the bushes, the girls completely forget about Fluttershy's description of the cockatrice and go for both of them.  And are thoroughly freaked out when they witness the cockatrice wending its way out of the bushes on its snake body.  The cockatrice makes short work of Elizabeak, and sets its sights on the girls, who run off, screaming.  They literally stumble onto the stone Twilight, which just makes them freak out more, just as Fluttershy finds them again.  The girls are too panicked to listen to Fluttershy, until she suddenly orders them to stay behind her NOW.  For you see, all that screaming led the cockatrice straight to them.  It bears down on Fluttershy, who keeps her eyes covered, but can't help sneaking a peek at the frightened young ponies behind her.  This sends her into Alpha Mode, and she does the unthinkable: she stares down a cockatrice.  As she lectures the monster, it sets its stone stare on her, but even turning into stone is not going to stop Fluttershy once she's in the zone.  With her own stare in full effect, she overpowers the cockatrice's stare and forces it to change Elizabeak and Twilight back to normal.
Having now seen Fluttershy's "stare" in action, the CMC have a new-found respect for the pegasus, dubbing her the "stare master."  Ha ha.  The girls apologize for sneaking out and promise to listen to her from now on. Fluttershy jokes that she'll just use "the stare" on them if they don't, but no one laughs until she does.  The next day, as the CMC play outside, Fluttershy fills Twilight in on the whole story of what happened that night, which Twilight writes up as a letter to the princess (not her report). Fluttershy learned a lesson this time around, though it wasn't particularly friendship-related: don't bite off more than you can chew, full stop.  As did Rarity, who just barely managed to make all the robes in time.  She shows up to pick up the girls, but can't get them to listen to her.  One quiet word from Fluttershy, however, and they snap to attention, much to Rarity's confusion.  Fluttershy chalks it up to her being as good with kids as she is animals (and Twilight keeps her secret).  Which reminds Rarity, she needs a hand with Opal.  Not sure how she could forget in the first place, since the cat is latched onto her good and tight.  Ouch.

This is the first episode where the lesson isn't actually given in report form, which is a nice change.  Truth be told, I was wondering how it was going to be handled, considering that Twilight reporting on Apple Bloom's lesson in Call of the Cutie was a little awkward.  Not quite sure how I feel about Sweetie Belle being Rarity's sister, though.  Rarity always struck me as an only child, but then again, if she's already an adult while Sweetie Belle is still in grade school, then there's enough of an age gap to make it make sense.  Speaking of Sweetie Belle, I absolutely loved her going all diva on Fluttershy's lullaby.  Best part of the episode, seriously. Though the cockatrice was pretty cool, too.

Misc. Screenshots:
Little Angels
Chicken on her head

The Show Stoppers
Seeing as the Cutie Mark Crusaders tend to cause chaos wherever they go, Applejack decides its high time they had a place where they can do as they please without disturbing the populace.  And it just so happens that she had a treehouse when she was their age, so she bequeaths it to the CMC.  The Crusaders are less than impressed, since the house is in an active state of disrepair, but Applejack spins fixing it up as a way to earn their cutie marks.  Sometime later, Scootaloo finishes up a map of Ponyville and then takes off on her scooter, using her wings to power it and pulling off totally awesome tricks as she makes her way back to the clubhouse.  Apple Bloom is impressed by Scootaloo's scooter skills, but Scootaloo is equally impressed by how quickly Apple Bloom was able to fix up the treehouse.  And they're both impressed by Sweetie Belle's sweet singing, especially when she reveals that she was working on their official Cutie Mark Crusaders theme song.
Applejack checks in on the CMC and they share their plans with her: try anything and everything to get their cutie marks, which they make good on in a montage of failed attempts.  From slopping the hogs to styling hair to deep sea diving, nothing seems to work.  Their last stop: the library.  Seeing the girls buried in a mound of books, Twilight Sparkle suggests that their overall crusade style is flawed, and recommends they focus on the things they actually enjoy doing.  And Cheerilee, visiting with Twilight, just happens to have the perfect plan: they can appear in the school's upcoming talent show, with a chance of winning awards.  Already excited, the CMC run through all the various things they could do for the show (Juggling!  Tiger taming!  Square dancing!), only for Twilight to remind them of what she just said: things they're already good at.
With this in mind, the CMC gather their supplies: fabric from Rarity's shop (without her permission), a fan, planks and paint, and a book of ghost stories.  This all adds up to a dramatic showstopping number, complete with singing, dancing, costumes and scenery.  When it comes to divvying up the workload, however, Sweetie Belle defers from singing the lead, since she doesn't want to sing in front of a crowd, and she'd rather work on costumes, just like her big sister.  This also nets her scenery-making.  Apple Bloom calls for Scootaloo to figure out the choreography, since she's good at scooter tricks, but Scootaloo would rather sing the lead, and asks Apple Bloom to come up with the moves instead.  Apple Bloom agrees, seeing as kung fu is sort of like dancing.  And so the ponies get to work.
As the CMC prepare, they can each see where the others are lacking, yet none can see the obvious solution (that is, switch jobs).  Apple Bloom attempts to copy the spin Scootaloo showed her, and Sweetie Belle helps Scootaloo when she finds her lyric-writing skills lacking.  Sweetie Belle somehow manages to make a costume with five legs, and though dizzy, Apple Bloom is able to point out that using a dress form would have helped, and that the exceedingly brown scenery could have been avoided by rinsing the paintbrushes between colors.  Applejack once again checks in on the CMC and is stunned by their practice.  Before she can sneak off, the CMC corner her and ask for an assessment of their performance.  Scootaloo interprets Applejack's unwillingness to criticize as her being left speechless, and they high-five.
And so the night of the big talent show arrives.  Snips and Snails return for the first time since episode 6 to perform a magic act, and two new fillies, Peachy Pie and Sunny Days, recite their favorite poems while rollerskating.  Meanwhile, the CMC wait backstage for their turn, and Sweetie Belle explains the lore of "break a leg."  Twilight sneaks backstage to see how they're doing, but is bewildered when she hears who's doing what.  Before she can enlighten them, though, their number is called and the CMC take to the stage.
And what a performance it is.  Beyond Scootaloo's less-than-stellar singing, Apple Bloom's kung-fu-inspired "dancing," and Sweetie Belle's heavy-metal-esque costumes and make-up, the performance is riddled with snafus of missed cues, under-rehearsed missteps, and treacherous equipment.  Despite all this, the CMC eagerly await their applause at the end of the number, only to be met with laughter.  They slink off the stage, only to be told it's time to go back on for the presenting of the awards.
The girls try to keep to the back as Cheerilee hands out Best Magic Act to Snips and Snails (most likely "only magic act") and Best Dramatic Performance goes to Peachy Pie and Sunny Days.  Much to their amazement, the CMC actually win an award, Best Comedy Act!  The girls are overjoyed they won, but Sweetie Belle points out it would be even more awesome if they also got their cutie marks.  One quick check, though, and they're bummed out again, to Twilight's surprise.  They understand why they didn't get them, though, and tell Twilight that it's because they weren't doing following their true calling: comedy!  Twilight is taken aback by this colossal missing of the point, but by that point the other ponies attached to the CMC have arrived backstage to congratulate the little ponies, so Twilight just shakes it off with the knowledge that the CMCs will get it--eventually.

The middle part of this one bugged me due to the obviousness of the lesson to be learned, although the epic point-missing at the end kind of made up for it.  And the song is actually kind of catchy.  I'm glad that someone finally pointed out that just trying anything probably wasn't going to work, though one wonders how long their crusade is going to last.  It was good to see Snips and Snails again, especially since I've read some decents fics about them lately, and Sunny Days and Peachy Pie were cute, too.

Misc. Screenshots:
Scootaloo's singing has that effect
Giant squid
Writing it down
Twilight, unsure
Literally brought down the house

Episodes focusing on the CMC tend to be looked on less favorably, partly because they take the spotlight off of the main ponies, and partly because the CMC are younger and thus do things like not see the really obvious lesson right in front of them.  While this is true to kid behavior, it can get a little tedious.  But the CMC episodes do tend to do a bit more world building, especially on the younger side of things, so for that, I like them.  And the next slated CMC episode involves the main ponies telling the story of how they all got their cutie marks, so that is definitely a reason to be glad for them.

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