• "On Your Marks": Episode Followup


    "Well, Scootaloo," Sweetie Belle said with a sigh. "Might as well get this over with."

    Scootaloo shrugged and nodded, letting out a sigh of her own as she and Sweetie climbed the ramp up to their clubhouse. "Wonder which movie reference it'll be this time? I mean, Singin' In The Rain's the obvious choice, but I don't know what we're here for if--"

    As the door swung open, the rest of Scootaloo's idle thought faded from her lips. Instead of the mopey young earth pony they expected to find, a grownup pegasus stood in her place, faced away from them with her two-tone pink mane tied up tight behind her head. All around her, Polaroid photographs and notebook pages filled with cramped hoofwriting covered the clubhouse walls, all layered over by a web of criss-crossing red threads strung up with thumbtacks. At the sound of the Crusaders' dumbstruck entrance, the mare lifted her head to glance back at them, nodding her head once she took them both in.

    "Good," she muttered. "I'm in the right place."

    "The right place?" Scootaloo shook her head, trying to remember if she'd ever seen the mare before. She wasn't from Ponyville, for sure, or any place else she could think of now. "Who are you?"

    The mare took her time answering, busy as she was tapping her hoof against different papers and mumbling to herself. "Spotlight Splash," she finally said. "Investigative reporter. I think you both already know why I'm here."

    Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo looked at each other, silently agreeing that they didn't know at all. Thankfully, Spotlight seemed to notice that. "I'm here because of him," she explained, stabbing her hoof down on a blurry photo in the center of her web with a question mark scribbled onto it. "I've cleaned up this organization from top to bottom. fixed every crack and filled every hole, but him... he always comes back. I can't stand it: his unprofessional attitude, his inappropriate remarks... and of course, his constant, sunforsaken movie references." She lifted her hoof again, holding it in front of her chest as if biting back the urge to let it punch forward again. "But this time, I'm a step ahead. This time, he's going down."

    A pit formed in Sweetie Belle's stomach, one she recognized all too well. "He'll... he'll know you're here," she whispered. "He always knows..."

    "We don't have a choice, Sweetie Belle." Spotlight shook her head, trailing her hoof along one of her threads. "If I don't stop him, he'll find this website and butcher this followup. I can't let that happen. Not again."

    Scootaloo's brow furrowed. Something wasn't right--something she couldn't quite identify. "There's... there's no time..."

    "It is time, Scootaloo!" Spotlight shouted. "The old blogponies knew about him! They knew and they let it happen--to kids! Okay? It could've been you, it could've been me, it could've been any of us. We gotta nail this scumbag! We gotta show ponies that nobody can get away with this, not a priest, or a cardinal or a..."

    Spotlight fell silent. As Sweetie's eyes narrowed, her own went wide.

    "Wait..." Scootaloo said. "Isn't that a line from..."

    "No..." Spotlight whispered. She stared at the wall, at all her notes and pieces of evidence, and finally her eyes landed on the photo in the middle of all of it. Her face contorted, and she ripped it down with a furious screech.


    Well, howdy, folks. My name's Aquaman, this is the "On Your Marks" episode followup, and don't worry, Spotlight: I'm not going anywhere.

    It's okay, girls. Take your time. I remember what I spent most of my time staring at in puberty too.

    Their apparent "radiance" aside (and thanks, tiny-vicarious-Rarity, for the vocab lesson), the Crusaders' eponymous cutie marks aren't the only signs that they've done some serious growing up. Compare their voices now to what they sounded like in Season 1 and you'll notice some pretty pronounced changes, a handy example being that my dog doesn't start whining every time Sweetie Belle gets excited nowadays.

    "It's pretty amazing how the colors just pop off your flank..." - Dave Polsky, speaking through Scootaloo while staring pointedly at the analyst end of the fandom

    [muffled banjo music playing in the distance]

    [unmuffled riiiiiiicola right in your flipping ear]

    Presented without conte... oh, for God's sake, we're not even through the cold open yet. Don't make me pop that running joke off this early.

    Looking back on this episode a second time, it's interesting to note that none of the Mane 6 make even a cameo appearance, which I'm both led and inclined to believe is a first for the series. It's also interesting to note that a front view of tiny horses sitting like dogs is adorable and shouldn't be as rare as it is.

    See? Proof in the pony pudding. Case in pony point. Sit your unblank flanks back down, I'm not even close to done.

    Bonus points to DHX, meanwhile, for killing it with the title card layout.

    Based on the CMC's early conversation as well as that buttmark idea chart still tacked to the wall, it seems this episode immediately follows the events of "Crusaders of the Lost Mark". I guess that makes this technically a Season 5 episode, if we're going to hold up as gospel the wibbly-wobbly ball of background references and guesswork that is this show's chronology.

    "Can you at least tell us what time it is?"
    "Can anypony, really?"

    On a scale of "Santa Hooves" to "the looming, everpresent specter of her own inescapable mortality", "personal space" falls somewhere close to "making Equestria great again" in terms of things Scootaloo believes in.

    Exem-pony gratia. Quod er-trot demons-brand-um. I could do this all day. Give me an excuse.

    You know, I'm all for a montage of gradually mounting desperation, but to paraphrase a great philosopher from my youth: one of these examples of ponies jiving with their tramp-stamp destinies is not like the others.

    "Yes, hello. My name is Double Bubble, I live with my parents at the age of 28, and my deeply personal, Celestia-given calling in life is chewing gum. I'm not bitter. I don't care if you asked."

    Apple horse face #[tiny-vicarious-Applejack]

    I like to imagine that Bulk Biceps wasn't scripted to be in this episode. I prefer a reality in which Michael Dobson just stuck his head into the recording booth and went off in the middle of a take, and the directors just figured they might as well fill two minutes with the resulting nonsense.

    I mean, otherwise, this shot would need logical context, and that's a road this man's good not walking down.

    Now look what you've done. The "no context" joke's used up. What exactly am I supposed to say now that won't get me on a new list created to list all the lists I'm already on?

    Don't give me those looks. You brought this on yourselves. Meta-commentary on the central conflict of the episode intended.

    Have we ever determined which of the three Crusaders is the one drawing all the diagrams and flow charts in their clubhouse? Is community management a subclass in their special talent trees? Does the determining range of "special" versus "mundane" talents follow a linear or exponential path of progression?

    No, I'm not obsessed with unnecessary metrics. I also don't care if you asked.

    Thanks for that tease of the Exploring Equestria theme, Apple Bloom. Thanks also for immediately killing the dream, lazy reality and/or child endangerment laws.

    Dodged like Muhammad Ali revving a Challenger.
    Tripartite littler-pony faces #[but actually, though, why do we hang out together]

    The spirits of the animal kingdom are no substitute for holding on to the handlebars, Scoots.

    "Anyway, here's Wonderwall Aphex Twin on acid. So just regular Aphex Twin, basically."

    It's not a real shiv, per se, but I'm sure PO'd Sweetie Belle's done more with less.

    I could focus on Zecora's non-speaking cameo or the fact that Apple Bloom stuck with potion-making much longer than Scootaloo did with mechanical engineering. Conversely, you could focus on the founding moments of Ponyville's newest hair metal band, "Marked For Life". It's all about perspective, really.

    Apple Bloom being allergic to bees is sort of glossed over in a way that I wouldn't think it should be. That's what killed Macauley Culkin in My Girl, just like how puberty killed his career.

    While we're on the subject of soul-crushing irony that I guess is funny now, here's this dodo getting super psyched about the opposite of flying.

    Seriously, though, talk about heavy implications. Apple Bloom gets an entire song to herself (her first, I believe, if Scootaloo's hock-block from a couple seasons ago doesn't count), but it's a distinctly mournful ballad about growing apart from her friends and losing faith in her purpose in life. A midlife crisis is bad enough, but try muscling through one when you're not even old to drive the Ferrari you can't afford.

    Plus, "mid-puberty crisis" just sounds like the B-side of a Fall Out Boy single, and that's debatably an even worse fate.

    "Remember, kid, it's not alcoholism if you call it 'microbrewing'!"

    From left to right: Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Random Background Mare #38 just trying her best, Salvador Dali. Not pictured: Andy Warhol, roughly 100% of the Rule 34 from this episode.

    Don't be too hard on yourself, AB. What's important is that you tried hard, had fun, and didn't rack up a hundred thousand bits of student loan debt so you could wax pretentious at Starbucks while waiting for that museum director to call you back.

    Reformed Diamond Tiara Cameo Prayer Circle: [  ] Failed | [  ] Outcome unclear | [X] F[fired]K YEAH MOTHERF[really aggressively fired]KERS

    "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." - Chuck Palahniuk, coming to terms with a cutie mark that's just a book with the words "WEIRD S[I'll clean out my desk]T" printed on the cover.

    Ponyville's dance instructor-in-training may be the first overtly Russian-typed pony we've seen in the show (at least, I don't think Stalliongrad's been mentioned--it's been around so long the fanon-canon line's kind of blurry), but the star of this episode's second and third acts has to be Tender Taps. He's technically not the only established young colt in FiM's lore, but rarely do we see a rep from the other side of the gender aisle take center stage, even in a supporting role. Kind of unique, that. Pretty interesting. Rare, even.

    (oh my god kid run they're gonna ship you with EVERYTHING)

    Apple horse face #[I'm not old enough for most of the things happening to me now and this right here is about twelve of them]

    Eat your heart out, Gene Kelly / all y'all buzzkills who don't like followups full of movie references.

    You too, Donald O'Connor. The whole heart. Every last bite.

    "Without my friends, I don't think I'll ever feel again." - Apple Bloom, just... holy crap. Can someone check on Dave Polsky for us? Give him a hug or something?

    Tender Taps' stage fright continues the train of thought Season 5 established about buttmark destiny: ninety percent of it's all in your head, man. It seems those cryptic little symbols have more to do with the moment a pony fully embraces their special talent, rather than just whenever they first discover them.

    Things I didn't expect this year: Leicester City's title run, the entirety of the U.S. election cycle, Sweetie Belle gaining self-awareness. Pretty much all on the same tier there.

    "So, uh... y'all are home early."

    I guess we add Apple Bloom to the list of Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie, Twilight Sparkle again, Rarity, Twilight Sparkle a third time, and... okay, the rest of this list of "Major Characters Who've Had Complete Mental Breakdowns on Camera" is just Twilight's name a bunch more times. Maybe pull her into the Polsky Party Group Hug too.

    The best episodes of any children's TV show are the ones that address crippling anxiety and latent inferiority complexes.
    Even though the moral of this episode is technically, "You're a little thick, Apple Bloom, but we love you anyway," it's not an altogether unbelievable for a young kid to have, especially one who's gone through such a dramatic transition so recently. Even as an adult, it can be tough to figure out how to parse changing interests in the context of old friendships. That being said: you are thick, Apple Bloom. Lovable, absolutely, but dumb as a brick.

    Image... rel-hay-ted? All right, yeah, should've quit while I was ahead.

    "I'm losing faith that 'hobo chic' is a real fashion school."

    Apple horse face #[STOP IT NO YOU'RE GIVING THEM IDEAS]

    [Kickass drum solo layered over swelling keyboard riff]

    Well, how's that for some background cameos: Lyra next to Bon-Bon, Octavia out in public, and... and Button Mash sitting next to Berry Pinch. And Sweetie Belle's backstage, right there, so I guess that's... yep. Cool nod. Excellent. Fantastic.

    Just f[all right, I'm going, you don't have to push]k me up, DHX. Good and heavy.

    And you're doing the opposite of helping, Romeo.

    It may have been an awkward segue at times, but establishing the CMC as individuals separate from their acronym can only bode well for the show's future. With three more options for focal characters, Season 6 is bound to lead to some entertaining escapades, and hopefully can help FiM avoid stagnating too much in the process even with so many episodes behind it. At the very least, we know for a fact that the Crusaders aren't about to vanish from existence just because they aren't blank flanks anymore. I'm happy about that, and I'll refrain from asking if anyone else is with me because--cards on the table--I don't care. Tiny horses is best horses.

    Aw, hell with it. Presented without context, yadda yadda yadda, roll the damn credits. Friggin' teenagers...

    That's all I've got for you today, so I'm out, folks. Until next time, do me a solid and tell Spotlight I went that way. Just pick any direction. None of them will be right.