• "A Perfect Pear": Episode Followup

    Since the first moment we met Applejack and her family, we've forever asked about her parents, the fever pitch of our inquiries only rising as we met Twilight and Pinkie's in "Cutie Mark Chronicles". Over the years, we have come by shooting stars in the sky, absences in family photos, and most recently a quiet word with Apple Bloom after her cutie mark awakening.

    It has been six years and more, and in answering "who were they?", Hasbro spared little expense in recruiting William Shatner and Felicia Day to present the other half of the Apple family tale.

    I pray I do this episode justice. Hit the break and bring tissues.

    Nice to open with that unicorn we first saw in "Brotherhooves Social". There's a ponified Sam Elliot, to boot! Hope we get to see him later.

    Meanwhile, can someone explain to me how earth pony magic allows Caramel to hold a loaf of sliced bread together like that.

    I look at this scene, and I just see Applejack dirtying an extra plate. Seriously, this just strikes me as an inefficient use of flatware -- why can't she just catch them flapjacks on the stack she has already.

    "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"


    This one word, this flap of a butterfly wing, from the mouth of an unsullied babe -- and for the grace of Celestia a towering statue of a feud showed the first cracks in its clay hooves.

    Was anyone else just as confused as to how earth ponies "wash up" in an outhouse. Also, how inconvenient must it be to visit the thunderbox in the winter. How do pony septic tanks work. If Ponyville has its own sanitation department, why have we not seen it until now.

    These musings brought to you by an 11.6% ABV beer, a fatal amount of procrastination, and genuine, if perturbed, curiosity.

    CAT-amari. These jokes write themselves, I swear.

    Hang on, what in the world is a foam finger doing there? You'd have to be rather odd to have one just lying around in Equestria, wouldn't you.

    Yeah, forget you and your family lineage, Golden Harvest; your carrots don't amount to nothin' in this town.

    I must have watched this episode four or five times, and didn't catch the sped-up VHS voices between Grand Pear and Granny Smith until I started putting together this followup. Really nice touch by the SFX crew.

    Dinky Hooves also confirmed for time traveller. I mean, take another watch at this scene and every other pony around belongs to the earth tribe -- fitting when you consider how Ponyville began as an earth pony settlement.

    It was so satisfying to see the Mare in the Moon again. Princess Luna was a much better character this way

    Whatdya know. Reading to your trees isn't such a newfangled concept in the Apple family, is it?

    Share a touching bedtime story with your trees so they feel better when you kick the crapples outta them the next day.

    Apple family knows how these things do.

    Bright Mac and Buttercup, née Pear Butter, at last. And for tiny baby ponies, they're frighteningly eloquent.

    In addition to the stable of colt and filly models DHX has developed over the years, we've got models for five-year-olds from "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Tolls". I'm legitimately curious as to the decision-making behind making the Apple siblings' parents babies for this one scene, especially since Bright Mac has audibly gone through horse puberty.

    Oh, awkward.

    Yeah, I'd probably react the same way if I found out that I was half-fruit, too.

    This episode being the Romeo and Juliet story we're all familiar with, it's neat to hear Goldie describe the Apple parents as "star-kissed" lovers (in lieu of "star-crossed"). It might be the beer talking, but I really dig these little tweaks to our everyday language and idioms as subtle reminders that Equestrian culture isn't always the same as ours.

    The rest of Goldie's line, though, that "other-side-of-a-rainbow" bit to her description of Bright Mac and Buttercup's love, does become rather pedestrian if all you need to do walk past Dashie on market day.

    Just a stranger selling carpets to a dude, no big deal.

    It's quite the subtle and transitory detail, but there's a wrinkle under Applejack's eye -- in terms of conveying the physical and psychic tolls learning about her parents are extracting, it pairs really nicely with Burnt Oak's genuine warmth as he reads her intentions for visiting on the spot.

    How appropriate that Bright Mac and Burnt Oak were in the middle of a plowing competition when homepony peeped this piece of prime and perky.

    Burnt Oak, the original bro.

    I think Big Mac's received enough development by this point, especially after his characterization in "Where the Apple Lies", that his saying more than one word per sentence doesn't register that hard on my "woah" meter. I really didn't expect him to slink back to Burnt Oak to ask about hearing more about his dad, though.

    After Goldie's "star-kissed" comment, assuming the term is used roughly in the same way we use "star-crossed" on this side of the mirror, Burnt Oak's tearing up is the second time this episode tries to convey where the Apple parents are now. Keep track of these hints.

    Caught Twilight in the wipe. Huh, they also brought back another mare from "Brotherhooves Social" to talk to her. I don't think we've seen those models in a while.

    One of my favorite parts about "A Royal Problem" happened in the first conversation Starlight and Twilight had after the former had first met with the Princesses -- after some rambling from Twilight, the camera cuts back to Starlight with a split-second of skepticism on her face before she continues the conversation.

    Notice how Mrs. Cake goes from pleasantly surprised to nostalgic the moment Applejack brings her mother up. These split-second attitude adjustments happen all the time in MLP, I'm sure, but this switch continues to stand out in my mind just for its emotional impact.

    Oh, man. I think one of the biggest questions about pony identity we've had is how pony parents know to give their foals names that befit their future talents and roles. Do all horses possess some kind of foresight to guide their naming decisions? Does the name come first, and the talent after?

    Nah bro -- not once, but twice in this episode, it's as simple as ditching your old name and taking a new one the moment your life calls for it! Who needs to register with City Hall, anyway.

    Shouts-out to the pony who finds stems, eggshells, a flour sack, and a literal bottle of vanilla extract in their next Surgarcube Corner purchase, too.

    "You're sure that's frosting in these piping bags? Who'd you say this cake was for again?"

    "Don't ask questions you don't want answered."

    This is probably the hardest anypony has horsed on the show. Look at those nostrils. Those are studio apartments in the Bay Area.

    I don't even have anything funny to say about this scene; its purity cannot be described by words alone. Just look at the way she laughs.

    I'm all for doing things the earth pony way around Ponyville, but, uh, just how much "fresh" Sweet Apple Acres produce do you think sells second-hoof? Are ponies okay with their food having been in another pony's mouth?

    I find it interesting that we don't zoom in on Buttercup -- we zoom in on Buttercup's buttercup. Granny Smith, where are your eyes looking?

    I will never have a lady look at me in life the way Buttercup looks at Bright Mac. No, no, it's fine, that's why God invented the second beer.

    Here, have your award for best face already.

    When the show sent Felicia Day the first overtures toward guest-starring in an episode, the fandom reacted with an appropriate measure of unfettered ecstasy I can't corroborate because the IntenseDebate comments on the post went poof.

    If you have never heard her sing before (or heard of her at all), this song should have messed you up. If you HAVE heard her before, and you didn't anticipate her whipping out the four-string at least once, you are probably the only person in the world who didn't, and are a loser, and are also me, and definitely got messed up.

    Anyway, you reckon this has anything to do with how AJ learned to play the guitar?

    This song had so many touching moments, though! Granny Smith and Grand Pear are so engrossed in their inter-stall bickering that they don't even notice the other's kid making all kinds of lovey-dovey faces at them.

    Like, did Grand Pear ever wonder why Bright Mac looked at him with those melting eyes or what.

    Out of all the set pieces in this song, I think this one got to me the most. Even when separated as much as they are, Bright Mac and Buttercup find a way to dance together without their parents noticing.

    Notice how this crowd scene only uses earth ponies, too. Again, I'm not sure how intentional a layout choice this was, but I think it really serves to ground the story in the viewer's head without letting them know -- quite the departure from the frenetic mania of "Discordant Harmony".

    I can't remember a time I was so haunted by a song in the show, what with the way Daniel Ingram chose to have the final bars trail off into silence. Felicia had a monstrous amount of room to pour her heart into those three little words at the end, and I'm literally brought to the brink of tears listening to that part alone.

    Okay -- was I the only one who thought Bright Mac suddenly sprouted an extra pair of eyes here?

    Something I tend to obsess over are the musical cues the show uses within and between episodes -- the little, swingy jaunt that accompanies Scootaloo and company in "Sleepless in Ponyville" from the moment she meets up with the Apples before their hike, the racing music from "Rainbow Falls" that shows up in Rainbow Dash's Wonderbolts performances, and now this.

    Go listen to the first few seconds of the cold open in "Lesson Zero", and compare the music to what's here. It's a little motif that will forever say "Ponyville" to me, and all the quiet work its ponies put in to make it a happy place to live.

    Maybe Buttercup wanted a quiet wedding, but this spread, though! Firefly lanterns, alternating apple and pear banners, seating for forty, practically. And, of course, a ceremony attended by two witnesses to legitimize the union. When the background artists get to let loose, the work shows.

    Also, check out Mayor Mare's pink 'do! You'll remember it's her natural color from "Ponyville Confidential", right?

    And while the Mayor provides voice-over, you clearly see Bright Mac and Buttercup giving each other their "I Do"s. I'm not crying, you're crying.

    And, uh... let's talk about this.

    Buttercup's decision to stand up to her father and join the Apples was more than just crossing a familial no mare's land. This moment, this answer, secured not just the futures of her eventual children, but with Applejack among them, the future of all Equestria at Nightmare Moon's return.

    I mean, sure, there are so many other ways Twilight Sparkle could have befriended a bearer for the Element of Honesty had Buttercup decided otherwise. But given how Starlight Glimmer doomed one Equestria to an ashen waste in interfering with Rainbow Dash's fillyhood race back in "The Cutie Re-Mark", I think the argument that this timeline's Applejack was the only one who could save the world is a strong one, too.

    It's humbling taking into consideration how lives can hurtle in completely opposite directions on the advice of single moments. And that, right there, with Grand Pear forcing his daughter to choose new love over old, got me.

    Appul hugs.

    Grandpère Pear. Ha, I guess Apple Bloom kept some of that Fancy speech from her bout with "The Cutie Pox".

    Applejack's stalwart attitude in reporting back to her grandmother took me by surprise at first -- but then again, it wouldn't make sense for her to be angry instead, or contented, or anything else. She's shooting straight in a place she has the chance to for the first time concerning her parents, and it was a really fitting moment for her.

    "I shoulda told you all about 'em sooner."

    "Ahhh... and I should've been here."

    Just going off of AJ's prefacing dialogue -- Granny Smith is all but apologizing to Grand Pear for not letting him know what happened to their star-kissed children. What a gut-punch.

    But -- man. This show knows how to write parts FOR the people behind its coterie of guest stars; I shouldn't have to remind you of how Quibble Pants wouldn't have worked in "Stranger than Fan Fiction" if the writers didn't tailor his dialogue for Patton Oswalt.

    William Shatner, here -- Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of the U.S.S. Enterprise, delivered an unmatched master class in voice acting this episode. Grand Pear had force and vigor, a Baron Harkkonen basso rumble in his prime. But in his old age, you can tell there's so much regret weighing him down. It's a testament to Shatner's expertise and modern recording equipment that the most subdued utterings of his old-age dialogue ("Thanks, you old crabapple") not only come through clear and ringing, but stand on their own against the vibrancy of the usual VA stable in this episode.

    No, really. I have never heard anything like Grand Pear on this show before. He's definitely one of the reasons I keep re-watching this episode.

    And as if I couldn't get enough out of this story, here's the final set piece, two families reaching out to each other to catch up to the fruit of their seeds.

    I'm surprised to bring up earth pony magic in a followup so soon after my last time with "Not Asking for Trouble", but moments like these are what make me treasure this show the most. How else will I explain how these two trees knew to grow around each other, sharing the sunlight and nutrients from the ground, and interleaving their fruit, other than by the guidance of real magic? I watch My Little Pony for stories that belong only in Equestria, and I can think of no higher praise to offer the show than to say this episode surpassed the call of duty.

    Go back and imagine things from the point of view of the ponies the Apple siblings talked to in this episode. How many times did they trek out to Goldie Delicious(eseseses)'s cabin with Granny Smith for a friendly visit? How many days did Burnt Oak stand aside in the marketplace, watching Applejack and Big Macintosh selling apples where his best friend once stood? When was the last time all three siblings visited Mrs. Cake in Sugarcube Corner to purchase a pie?

    Now think of Ponyville, and its rejoicing at the return of one of its prodigal sons from Vanhoover. Absent from their minds is the great feud, replaced with the joy of knowing the taste of pear jam once again.

    And finally, if you will... imagine being Applejack the day after this episode.

    You wake up, head out into the orchards early in the morning, when the dew has yet to settle and the first rays of dawn are lancing over the treetops and hills. Nothing has changed out there.

    But you have. You are awakened to a half of you you never knew was there.

    And amidst these apple trees, touched through the generations by ancestral hooves, you begin to think. Think that maybe, just maybe... they would welcome a small copse of pears on the corner of the farm.

    No one would have to know they were there.

    In a sense, everyone would know already. Wouldn't they?

    We may still not know how Bright Mac and Buttercup met their untimely ends -- but I'm more than satisfied with getting to see how they lived.

    Thank you for reading. CouchCrusader, out.