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Episode 22. “A Bird in the Hoof”: Trollestia, Take Two

Sunny Fox

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Do you know what Princess Celestia will do to you when she finds out you’ve kidnapped her pet? – Twilight Sparkle

In her cottage, Fluttershy is busy reuniting one of her mouse patients with his family. Angel Bunny runs onto the scene, carrying a pocket watch and trying to get her attention. Despite a few false starts, he manages to remind his mistress of an important event: brunch with Princess Celestia at Sugarcube Corner. She keeps coming back to thank him, until he locks the door behind her, and she finally gets her rear in gear.

At the party itself, Rainbow Dash tries her best to get a reaction from the Royal Guard escort standing guard at the door. She even asks how she can get to be one herself. Oh, Rainbow, you just have to dye your coat white, grow by a metre, and become a stallion… nothing to it! Bored at the lack of success in making them change their stony expressions, she goes back inside.

When Fluttershy arrives, the guards sternly block her path, until Twilight notices her and asks them to let her inside. As the party goes on, Twilight confides her anxiety that everything will go well when her friends meet the Princess. And she has a right to be anxious… Rarity is wearing her Gala dress and is terrified that it’s going to get dirty, making her a nervous wreck; Applejack is petrified at the thought of making a faux pas by eating the wrong food item first, eventually declaring she’s not even hungry, and that damn ham sandwich… I’ll have more to say about that later. Worst of all is Pinkie Pie, who seriously needs her take her Ritalin. She’s bouncing off the walls and eating everything in sight in the most uncouth manner. She even ends up scarfing down a cupcake intended for the guest of honour…

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Foolish mortal, to steal the cupcake of a god! Your death will be slow and painful…

No, I kid, Princess Celestia is perfectly sanguine about the whole shebang. The Cakes, being the hosts, are waiting on her hoof and um, other hoof, by pouring her more tea as soon as she sips it, so she plays a little joke on them: she only pretends to sip, making the cup overflow when they try to “refill” it. Gotcha!

Twilight is reassured when the Princess starts talking to Fluttershy, finding common ground in their love of helping the woodland creatures of Equestria. At this point, the guest star for this episode makes her appearance: Philomena, Princess Celestia’s pet bird, looking very much the worse for wear as her feathers fall off and she coughs in a sickly manner. Fluttershy is disturbed by her condition, but before she can ask anything about the bird, the Princess is called away for an audience with Mayor Mare. I guess she still does wield some political power, despite Twilight effectively being Celestia’s representative in Ponyville, so good for her.

The guest of honour gone, the party winds down. Applejack leaves with a huge stack of leftover treats, Pinkie cartwheels out the door, inflicting a minor assault on a bystander as she goes, and Rarity demands that nopony move as she backs carefully out the door with her dress unstained. Twilight remarks to Spike that she’s glad nothing major went wrong… as we see the door to Philomena’s cage has been opened, and the Royal Pet has been birdnapped… by Fluttershy. Cue ominous chord. Is it just me, or does Fluttershy seem to get more ominous chords than the other ponies in general?

Back at her cottage, Fluttershy tries to cure Philomena, but she finds that her patient is not only difficult to care for, but rather uncooperative. She refuses to take medicine or any health food, and every treatment Fluttershy tries just makes her condition worse. In the midst of this, Twilight arrives to thank Fluttershy for making a good impression. Horrified to find out that Fluttershy took Philomena without asking, she tries to get Fluttershy to put her back before anypony is any the wiser.

Too late! On their way to the door, they are stopped by the two Royal Guards, who are looking for the missing pet. Despite a very unconvincing performance, Twilight manages to hide the presence of the pet, sending the Guards away. Since the cat’s out of the bag (so to speak), Twilight agrees to help Fluttershy treat Philomena. However, her “tough love” methods end up scaring the poor bird off, setting off a chase scene a la Benny Hill, with Scooby Doo Doors, Paper Thin Disguises, and various other tropes that are expected for these sorts of things.

The whole crew (Main Six, Guards and Philomena) ends up at the fountain, just as the final feather falls. Philomena, giving a dramatic death performance, falls off the top of the fountain. Fluttershy runs to catch her… only for the body to burst into flames and crumble to dusty soot.

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And that was the last time Fluttershy ever tried to bake…

The Princess arrives, demanding to know what is going on. Twilight tries to cover for Fluttershy, believing she’ll be given a lighter punishment, but Fluttershy admits that it was she who took Philomena in order to help her, and is willing to take the responsibility for the unhappy outcome. The Princess pauses at the pyre of her poor pet as if to mourn, but then she tells the still pile of ashes to quit playing the fool… whereupon, they spiral up into the air, and in a flash of fire, the real Philomena is reborn! As will come as a surprise to no one much, it turns out that Philomena was a phoenix all along, and was using her latest cycle of death and rebirth to play a few tricks on Fluttershy.

The Royal Pet back awing, and everything fixed up, Philomena gives Fluttershy an apology and a feather. Even Rainbow Dash gets what she wants when she tells Philomena to make the guards laugh by tickling their noses, and the rest join in as the episode closes out.

 

Thoughts on the Episode

Right, time to deal with you, ham sandwich! My good golly gosh, what a storm in a teacup this little guest at the party created! You can always rely on someone creating a thread pointing it out and making elaborate speculations on the secret carnivorous nature of our dear ponies. It’s a nigh monthly event, and every single one seems to be under the “charmingly” naïve assumption that it’s the first one to bring it up.

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Curse you, Oscar Mayer! You have no idea of the chaos you have unleashed! CURSE YOOOOU!

I’m not quite certain how serious the thread creators are in proposing the notion that the ponies are running slaughterhouses for the poor pigs on the sty sly, based on what is certainly a simple oversight on the part of the animators of that particular scene. The ponies eat hay, oats, occasionally apples and their diets are completely vegetarian, according to Pinkie’s song from Over A Barrel, so stop bringing it up! Since they do eat eggs, you could at most conclude they are somewhat omnivorous. For that matter, stop bringing up the opening credits. Derpy’s been in the train since Season 2, and Discord joined the lineup (peering out from Fluttershy’s cottage) in the first episode of the fourth Season, so you can stop pointing them out like you’re expecting people to praise your perspicacity. (Of course, I realize that I have no control or veto rights over what other members create threads to discuss, so this is more just venting than actually expecting anyone to comply. Plus, it let me use the word “perspicacity” in a sentence; a rare opportunity, sadly… Feel free to ignore it, if you want: this is just so cathartic! :D)

PS: This is not meant to be an attack on this thread and others like it. There, the point in discussion is the treatment of the non-pony animals in general, not just the “carnivore conspiracy”, so it gets a pass.

Oh, dear, I seem to have gone off on one of my tangential rants again. Sorry. Back to the episode review.

Like many of the slice of life episodes, this is one is a lot of fun to watch. The party scene is hilarious, due to the Mane Six’s behaviour and also gives us a bit of an insight into Princess Celestia’s more playful nature. Spike gets to be useful as he uses his dragon’s flame to cook some pies.

The way Philomena’s treatment goes keeps the comedy bubbling along nicely, and it starts coming to the boil when Twilight enters the scene. Her imagine spots are entertainingly over the top, and even give Fluttershy her first breaking the fourth wall moment, when she pushes apart the bars as the scene dissolves back to her cottage. Other than Spike, no one else has really interacted with Twilight’s imagination in this way, and that only happens in Season 2, so Flutters got there first. ;)

As I mentioned above, the resulting chase scene is entertaining, if a little bit standard. My favorite scene is after the chase. Just before we get to that though, there’s the bit where Rainbow Dash comes across Twi and Flutters running after Philomena and presumes they’re racing. It’s a good character gag. At the fountain itself, Fluttershy gets under Pinkie, eliciting a “Hey!” and Twilight physically picks up Rarity, getting an exasperated “Put me down!” before dropping her. The speed of the joke is something I find funny.

Another positive aspect is the theme running throughout the episode, that of pranking. Rainbow Dash tries to prank the guards, Princess Celestia pulls a prank on the Cakes, and the entire plot of the episode is Philomena playing an extended prank on Fluttershy. Then it all comes full circle, with Rainbow enlisting the mischievous bird to finally get the guards to laugh, providing us with an effective brick joke. This is the sort of tight writing that was definitely missing in the previous episode.

Even considering her earlier joke, I don’t get the impression that Princess Celestia was deliberately hiding Philomena’s true nature from Fluttershy, so despite the title of this blog entry, I don’t think this was a case of Trollestia. I understand why some people do think so, however, so if that includes you, I get it.

There is, however, one major problem (and a few minor ones) with the episode. Although things turned out alright in the end, Philomena’s fooling around did actually result in Fluttershy shedding tears when she thought the bird was dead, not to mention her guilt at her constant failure to cure her patient. That guilt must have been even worse when she was seeing the end result of her good-intentioned intervention. It just seems mean-spirited on the part of Philomena, and I think Fluttershy was a little bit too quick to forgive the bird for making her cry tears of grief as a joke. She took it a bit too far for my liking.

On the minor flaw side, the moral of the episode (ask permission instead of taking things into your own hooves) was a little bit tacked on, but at least they subverted the “letter to Celestia” for the second time. (The other time was Swarm of the Century.) Then again, maybe the rushed moral was deliberate.

The episode also ends with “Everypony laughs”, which is a bit of an outdated way of ending an episode. In part, it was justified, but it’s still a cliché.

Finally, it seems a little inconsistent for Twilight to be so concerned about how Celestia might react to things. She did prank her own mentor with disappearing ink at the end of Griffon the Brushoff, so what changed in the meantime that makes her so certain the Princess is going to banish Fluttershy for taking her pet without permission? If Celestia can take a joke, surely she can forgive somepony who only wanted to help.

 

Highlights/Quotes

The party scene is full of good jokes.

Twilight and Fluttershy covering up for Philomena’s coughing
Twilight: It’s that dry night air.
Fluttershy: But it’s daytime.
Twilight: … Well, day air is even drier.

The scene by the fountain.

 

Pros: Good writing with a strong theme. Some great comedy, including some classic character gags.

Cons: The central prank was perhaps a little cruel. Clichéd ending. Forced moral.

 

Final Rating
5 – Celestia Rank: A great episode. It will be re-watched frequently.
4 – Luna Rank: A good episode, but with one or two problems that prevent it from being great.
3 – Spike Rank: An average episode. Positives and negatives are balanced.
2 – Discord Rank: Worth watching once. After that, turn it to stone and put it in the garden.
1 – Nightmare Moon Rank: Send it to the moon!

Stay sunny side up! And remember: PHOENIXES ARE THE DEVIL!

  • Brohoof 2


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