When somepony says somethin's too good to be true, it usually is. - Applejack
The Apple family is busy having some watery fun together at the watering hole, but poor Granny Smith is feeling less spry than she once did, and doesn’t want to swim. As they head home, they find a group of ponies who are gravitating towards a large pavilion set up in a nearby field.
On entering, they find a pair of familiar faces... the Flim Flam brothers are back in town! After a (rather lacklustre) song, the Flim Flam Brothers sell Granny Smith a tonic that they say will make her feel young again. Granny is partly convinced by an injured pony who drinks the potion and then throws away his crutches.
The next day, Granny is swimming around as happily as a fish, and credits the tonic with making her young and confident again. A rightly suspicious Applejack, with Apple Bloom in tow, tries to find out what's going on by revisiting the Flim Flam Bros. tent. On the way, they see the same pony as before (who admits his name is Silver Shill) come out of the tent. They chase him, but he manages to escape, so Applejack decides to confront Flim and Flam personally. They point out that even though their "tonic" is nothing but apple juice mixed with beet leaves, it does seem to help her Granny.
Applejack, feeling conflicted about dispelling her Granny's illusions, finally admits to Apple Bloom that it seems to work, and so they shouldn't question the details. Apple Bloom takes her word for it, and the pair... hey, wait a minute. Free-thinking, independently minded Apple Bloom (who has actively opposed AJ on numerous occasions) is now (plot conveniently) happy to just follow her big sister's lead? Since when has that been consistent with her personality? I don't like this at all. It's not like AB to just follow along like a good little duckling. I call bullshit.
My outrage aside, let's continue with the summary. The following day, Apple Bloom suggests that she and her Granny enter the upcoming Ponyville Swim Meet. Granny is reluctant, but Applejack encourages her to join, with a little help from the tonic; of which they go to buy more. Seeing the Apple family "endorsing" the product, ("It 'seems' to work for Granny...") the gullible Ponyvillians start snapping it up, giving the Flim Flam Bros something to grin about.
At the Swim Meet (With Derpy or Ditzy or Bubbles or Shish-kabob or Whatever in the stands for her obligatory cameo), Granny and AB perform a fantastic synchronized swimming routine which gets them top honors from the judges. The Flim Flam Bros take the opportunity to further their campaign, selling their tonic via Silver Shill Salespony. As he takes his first bit, he mentions to AJ that he used to feel guilty about lying, but since the most honest pony in existence endorses the tonic... realizing that her reputation for honesty is being turned against her, Applejack starts to reverse her course...
Only to find her Granny is climbing up the high dive. She manages to lasso her Granny before she kills herself, but as a miffed Granny drinks more of the tonic, a familiar rainbow shines through the bottle and into Applejack's eyes.
Admitting that she "lied" (more like her ambivalence was overstated) Applejack reveals the fake tonic, and states that its placebo effect was the cause of all the good the tonic seemed to do. With Silver Shill backing her up, she admits her wrong, discredits the tonic. In response, Silver Shill gives AJ his first bit ever, and promises to return another to the pony he bamboozled.
AJ writes her thoughts about honesty over hurt feelings into the shared diary, and then goes to join AB and GS as they splash about, leaving behind her a single golden bit that shines with a familiar rainbow...
Thoughts on the Episode
One of the main features here is the return of the Flim Flam Brothers. Their new job matches their names perfectly, since it is literally a flim-flam that they are pulling on the gullible citizens of Ponyville. This is an ironic reversal of the taunt they used on the Apples in their last appearance: “I guess you’ll have to find a new line of work that doesn’t match your names so perfectly.” In that episode, they were presented as honest, if somewhat ruthless business-stallions with a product that really did what it was claimed to do. It’s a little bit sad to see them reduced to nothing but common villains in this episode.
More disturbingly, it could very well be that their moral downgrade is a direct result of the events of the previous episode they appeared in. There they failed to make a profit, despite having a genuine product to sell. It’s possible that the Apples are somewhat responsible for causing them to resort to scamming ponies. There is also another of their crowd songs, which not only pales in comparison to the song in their first appearance, but also makes this episode seem like a bit of a rehash.
Of course, it was entirely obvious from the very first appearance of Silver Shill that he was in on the whole thing, pretending to have a problem that could be cured by the useless product. Once again, the general population of Ponyville are shown in an unflattering light by falling for the ruse, even before Applejack’s “endorsement”.
Speaking of Silver Shill, he is voiced by Ian James Corlett, who is actually Claire Corlett’s real-life father, so it’s a bit of a pity that he didn’t get to interact with Sweetie Belle. On the other hoof, it’s hard to see how it could have been included without seeming rather forced. One post I made in a thread long ago mentioned that I would like to see them acting together. I’m still waiting for that, but at least this is a step in the right direction.
Pros: Synchronized swimming scene was super. This episode is Applejack’s turn to get Rainbow Power, adding to the overarching storyline.
Cons: No Sweetie / Shill scene. The Flim Flam Brothers are now generic villains, with none of the redeeming qualities they had previously.
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!
PS: This entry might need some updating.