Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 41

Pony economics take the focus in this episode.
The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000
Fluttershy sleeps peacefully, until a knock at the door wakes her up.  As she wonders who could be calling at such an hour, Rainbow Dash bursts in through the window.  Telling her that cider season is starting, she drags her friend out and they race to Sweet Apple Acres.  In the past, Rainbow Dash has always failed to get any cider, which she blames on Pinkie Pie being ahead of her and drinking all the cider.  So this year she plans to get there before sunrise, guaranteeing her a spot in line before Pinkie Pie.  Why she needs Fluttershy for this, I have no clue.  But as the pegasi approach the farm, they suddenly spy a line of tents stretching all the way back to town.  And who's at the front?  Why, Pinkie Pie, of course.  It seems she got so excited about cider season that she just couldn't sleep, so she decided to camp out, and one thing lead to another, much to Rainbow Dash's annoyance.
Once day actually breaks, and cider season officially starts, the line moves quickly.  Barrel after barrel is emptied as thirsty ponies get their fill of cider, and it looks like Rainbow Dash is finally going to get a mug, only for it to fizzle out on the very last barrel.  Applejack declares the stand closed for the day, much to the chagrin of not only Rainbow Dash, but the other ponies who were in line behind her.  They demand to know why the cider always runs out, and Applejack does her best to defuse tension by telling them that they did their best to improve the supply, but since they only use the highest quality apples, it takes longer to make.  She assures them there'll be more tomorrow, and while this doesn't fully appease the crowd, they disperse nonetheless.
Pinkie Pie, unaware that Dash didn't get any, gushes over the cider she drank, fully endorsing the Apple family's methods.  But just as Dash is about to lose it, a very strange vehicle pulls up to the farm, bumping the fence.  From this vehicle emerge two unicorn brothers, Flim and Flam, who regale the gathered ponies with a song very reminiscent of "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man.  In song, they reveal their vehicle is a cider-making machine known as the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, capable of making enough cider for all of Ponyville.  After getting permission from Applejack, the Flim Flam Brothers use their magic to power the machine, which sucks apples right off the tree and turns them into cider before your very eyes.
Here Granny Smith objects, pointing out the quality and care they put into their cider can't be replicated so quickly.  But the brothers have found a way, as their machine has a built-in quality checker that keeps any subpar apples from becoming part of their cider.  They offer Granny Smith a cup, and to her surprise, it actually tastes pretty good, though she tries to hide her reaction.  With the SSCS6k's properties fully demonstrated, the brothers call on the crowd to get the Apples to give their machine a try.  Apple Bloom agrees immediately, but Granny Smith objects and calls for an Apple Family huddle.
Despite having tasted their cider, she insists it can't compare to theirs.  Apple Bloom points out it would be great for productivity and keeping angry crowds from storming the farm, and Applejack is undecided.  The Flim Flam brothers join the huddle and offer them a partnership: they provide the machine and the magic to run it while the Apples provide the materials, and they split the profits 75-25 (with the 75 going to them, of course).  But since cider sales are what keeps the farm going through the winter, the Apples refuse.  And so the Flim Flam brothers announce their intention to directly compete with the Apples by selling the cider themselves, certain that they'll be able to drive them out of business.
The next day, cider sales start up again, and the Flim Flam brothers are nowhere to be seen.  Cider runs out even earlier than last time (not Pinkie's fault this time, though), leaving more angry ponies than before (and Rainbow Dash nowhere near the front of the line).  Which is precisely when the SSCS6k pulls in, ruining the fence Granny Smith just fixed.  The jilted ponies flock to the Flim Flam brothers for cider, and Rainbow Dash is even given one on the house.  Before she can taste it, however, Applejack lassos the cider barrel, inadvertently knocking the mug to the ground.  Applejack objects that the brothers can't sell that cider, since it was made with apples from Sweet Apple Acres.  This doesn't deter the brothers, who assure the gathered ponies that they'll simply get apples from somewhere else and make much more than the Apples ever could. Apple Bloom takes this as a challenge, and declares they'll make more than even that.  Big Macintosh picks her up by her tail so Granny Smith can explain that quality is what counts, not quantity.
"Who cares how good the cider is if I never get to drink any?" Rainbow Dash demands, and Flim jumps on this to propose a contest.  Apple Bloom accepts without even hearing the terms, and when Flam declares their machine will make enough cider for all of Ponyville in one hour, she counterdeclares that her family will do the same in 45 minutes.  Granny Smith tries to get the young filly to stand down, until Flim calls her "chicken."  This riles Granny Smith right up, and she immediately challenges the brothers to a cider-making contest the next morning.  She even lets them use the apples from the south field, just to prove her family's cider is the best.  And so Flim finalizes the contest details: whichever team makes the most cider in one hour will win exclusive cider-selling rights for Ponyville.  With that settled, the brothers take their leave.  And the Apples better win, since losing means they might as well give up the farm right then and there.
The next morning, all of Ponyville gathers to watch the competition.  As the Apples warm up, Twilight asks Applejack whether they should go through with it.  Though she was less confident the night before, today Applejack insists she and her family can win, plus, as Apple Bloom points out, nopony calls Granny Smith chicken.  So Twilight wishes them luck, and the mayor announces the beginning of the competition.  With Dr. Hooves as timekeeper, the hourglass is turned and the Apples leap into action.  The Flim Flam brothers also get to work, but as their magic is all they need, they just lounge around while Applejack bucks apples for Apple Bloom to catch, who gives them to Granny Smith to evaluate and then send to Big Macintosh, who does the actual cider-making.  Once one barrel is done, the Apples check out how the competition is doing, and are shocked to see the brothers' machine has already made six barrels.
As the contest goes on, the Apples work hard, but even at top speed, the brothers make three more barrels.  Things are looking grim, until Twilight gets an idea.  She asks the mayor if honorary family members count, and the mayor asks the brothers if they object to this.  Being so far in the lead, the brothers allow it, and Applejack fully accepts their help.  And so the rest of the mane six jump into the fray, with Fluttershyknocking apples from the trees, Pinkie Pie helping with apple catching, Rarity evaluating apples, Rainbow Dash joining Big Macintosh at the cider press, and Twilight getting cider barrels in and out of position.
With the extra help, they manage to take the lead, and the brothers start to actually get worried.  They double the power to the machine, but this causes it to start sucking up whole trees, pushing their production back as the quality control has more bad stuff to reject.  So Flam, remembering that winning the contest is based only on quantity of barrels, simply turns off the quality control, and they're back in business.  Seeing this, Rainbow Dash tries to get Granny Smith to do the same, but the old pony refuses.  Applejack agrees, saying there's no point in winning if you do it by cheating.  Twilight calls for everyone to just work that much harder, and so with time running out, Team Apple picks up the pace.  It's a close race, and once the sand in the hourglass runs out, Team Apple collapses.
While the mayor tallies each sides' barrels, Twilight assures Applejack that their hard work and dedication to integrity will be rewarded.  However, the mayor announces that Flim and Flam are the winners, as their barrels tower over Team Apple's.  With their victory, the Flim Flam brothers consider the farm as good as theirs and begin making plans for it, even rolling out a new banner.  The brothers laugh in the Apple family's faces, who leave to pack up their things.  The gathered ponies watch them go, tears in their eyes, but Applejack tells them to go ahead and have some of the Flim Flam brothers' cider.  The brothers, however, unwisely poured their first mugs from one of the QC-less barrels, and after one taste, the ponies declare they won't pay.  And with the lack of good will they garnered from kicking out the Apple family, Flim and Flam see they won't make any profit and split for the next town.
With the brothers gone, Sweet Apple Acres is safe, plus they finally have enough cider for the whole town, thanks to all the hard work Team Apple put into the contest.  As Ponyville celebrates, Applejack drafts a letter to Princess Celestia, even though she didn't actually learn anything.  The episode's lessons include taking the time to do things the right way, and counting on your friends to help you out, but these are things that Applejack already knew.  But hey, at least Rainbow Dash finally got to drink some cider.
One wonders why Applejack bothered to write to Princess Celestia.  After all, wasn't one of the stipulations from Lesson Zero that they only write when there's something worth writing about?  Maybe she was warning the princess about Flim and Flam.  But still, there have been episodes where the lesson was espoused without writing a letter, so surely that could have been done here.  Or maybe the idea of Applejack stating she didn't learn a darn thing was just too funny (and indeed, it cracked me up the first time I watched it) not to do.
I still don't get why the Flim Flam brothers took control of Sweet Apple Acres, though.  Sure, without cider sales, the Apples would have had to sell the farm, but surely they could have sold it to someone else.  Or at least tried to.  And one last thing; I have no idea why, but I find this face so incredibly cute:
Misc. Screenshots
Fluttershy blushes
Pinkie buys all the cider
Ponies want cider, especially Dash
Smug Flim
Shocked Apples
Worried Applejack
Angry Apples
Smug brothers

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