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Episode 38. “Family Appreciation Day”: In Which the CMC Get a History Lesson

Sunny Fox

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Long ago, when I was a little pony, things were very different here in Ponyville… 'cause there was. No. Ponyville! – Granny Smith

Today’s review is for an episode that reminds us all that the older folks in our life deserve a great deal of respect, no matter how strange their ways may seem to us.

It’s late at night at Sweet Apple Acres, and the timber wolves begin to howl. Granny Smith is outside, banging pots together and shouting about how the Zap Apples are a-coming. This delights the rest of the Apples, particularly Apple Bloom, who is finally old enough to help her granny make Zap Apple Jam.

The following day, the family starts making preparations for the coming Zap Apple Harvest, and many of these preparations require somewhat… odd steps to be taken. One such step is for Granny Smith and Apple Bloom in matching bunny costumes to leap over watering cans while singing the Alphabet Song.

Diamond Tiara and her father Filthy Rich arrive at the farm to negotiate the rights of selling the first hundred jars of Zap Apple Jam, and DT starts smirking at seeing the rather idiosyncratic process in progress. She offers some faked sympathy for Apple Bloom having to deal with such apparently senile antics from her Granny. While Apple Bloom hadn’t considered her granny’s behaviour strange before, she certainly does from that point on.

A newly-embarrassed Apple Bloom accompanies Granny Smith on a shopping expedition, and mortification sets in at seeing her talking to the bees, biting the cooking wares, calling her by pet names etc. Even worse, both DT and Silver Spoon are present, adding to the shame.

At school the following day, Apple Bloom is still moping, while Filthy Rich is making a presentation for Family Appreciation Day, talking about how his shop cornered the market and made him… well, Filthy Rich, of course. Most of the class (even Silver Spoon) is bored to the point of stupification, and Sweetie Belle is fast asleep, but Diamond Tiara is perfectly attentive. It’s the first time she’s been seen smiling a purely joyful smile without any hint of mockery or cruelty, and it’s when I first considered that there might be some redeeming qualities to the here-to-fore unremittingly negatively portrayed little filly.

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She loves her daddy, she can’t be all bad.

After Cheerilee thanks Filthy Rich for his talk, she checks to see who the next student due to bring in a family member is. Of course, it’s Apple Bloom. She explains that both Big MacIntosh and Applejack will be busy with the harvest, since the Zap Apples will disappear if not picked quickly enough, and won’t be available. Diamond Tiara, in a return to form, mentions that Granny Smith will be available, as she is certain that it’ll result in yet more embarrassment for Apple Bloom. So is Apple Bloom.

As the weekend passes, the Zap Apples gradually mature. The CMC try various methods of avoiding having Granny Smith speak at school, including faking an illness for AB, impersonating Granny during her nap to cancel her appointment with Cheerilee, and even trying to pick the apples off the trees prematurely.

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Sweetie Bot enacting Bucking Protocol 11.802B…
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ACCESS DENIED!

Every attempt fails. Even sending Granny Smith out of town to visit Uncle Apple Strudel just ends with both of them showing up at the school.

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Ha ha! The senility has been doubled!

Just as Apple Bloom resigns herself to the knowledge that her life is destined to be an endless succession of humiliation, Granny Smith starts to speak of a time when Ponyville wasn’t even on the map. Here the story shifts to a sepia-toned historical flashback.

We see Granny Smith as a cute little filly, traveling across Equestria with her family of seed collectors. They eventually travel to an old timey Canterlot and meet the ever youthful Princess Celestia, the most regal of ponies, who sees how worn out they are and gives them a plot of land near the Everfree Forest, where they decide to settle and plant an orchard.

A quick comment here: many fans criticized Celestia for reckless endangerment for putting them so close to the Forest, but Granny Smith does mention that it was made clear that they should stay out of it, so I disagree there. Most of the dangerous critters stay in the forest anyway. Even the parasprite from Swarm of the Century was found very close to the edge of the forest. If Fluttershy hadn’t brought it into town, there would have been no problem. But to continue...

However, since the orchards they planted would take time to grow, there was a problem with getting enough food. Driven by hunger, Granny Smith decides to go alone into the Forest to find food. She eventually comes across the Zap Apple trees, but after getting a few of the fruit packed away, she is chased out of the Forest by the timber wolves. Luckily, she finds a pot to bang, scaring the wolves away.

The Zap Apple seeds, once planted, sprout immediately into full grown trees, solving the food shortage. The Smith family learned about the magical ways of the trees, and Granny Smith also learned that there were special rules for making the Zap Apple jam. All her silly methods actually turned out to be the result of a long process of trial and error, and not a sign of senility, after all. Attracted by the Zap Apple jam, more ponies came to settle, and eventually founded Ponyville.

Back in the present, Granny Smith’s story is applauded by the youngsters, starting with Silver Spoon of all ponies. This does not please Diamond Tiara, who exclaims that Granny Smith is “just a kooky old lady”. Apple Bloom immediately jumps to her Granny’s defense, saying she’s the most amazing pony in Ponyville, and even apologizes for not realizing it earlier. The story ends happily for everyone except DT, who is forced by her father to put on a bunny suit and join the others in jumping over the water cans.

 

Thoughts on the Episode
The best part of this episode is the moral: respect your elders. The way it’s brought across is a little esoteric, but this is a magical land of talking equines, after all. It’s also a great exercise in world building, explaining the origins of Ponyville itself, and adding to the lore of the world with the Zap Apples.

As I stated above, this episode first hints that Diamond Tiara can be a better pony that we’re usually shown, she looks really cute when she genuinely smiles. Silver Spoon also gets a bit of credit, since she was the first to begin the applause after Granny’s story. We even get a bit of an insight into Filthy Rich. Although there it’s a bit more ambiguous… did he punish Diamond Tiara because he is a responsible parent, or did he do so just to keep up appearances and avoid damage to his reputation? Or maybe a bit of both. Apart from his frowns whenever someone calls him by his first name (which is understandable, all things considered) he seems a pretty decent pony, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The main weakness in this episode is the fridge logic it generates. It was stated in Winter Wrap-Up that Ponyville hasn’t used magic to clear up winter for hundreds of years, and it hardly seems likely that Granny Smith is as old as a few centuries.

The “failure is the only option” aspect of the plot is a little forced, culminating in the mother of all coincidences, with Uncle Apple Strudel waiting at the station for Granny Smith, but as this is kind of a standard plot in TV shows, it’s not a major gripe.

Highlights/Quotes
Granny Smith: Here, take this.
<hands Apple Bloom a branch and twigs>
Apple Bloom: Is this one of your gazillion secret herbal ingredients for the Zap Apple Jam?
Granny Smith: That there’s a broom. Now get sweeping, pipsqueak!

Apple Bloom in a bunny suit. Her ears even react with her emotions!

The scene with Cheerilee visiting the farm is wonderful, especially when Granny wakes up and assures the rather confused teacher that she will be attending after all. Watch the movements of her still-CMC-controlled limbs: she ends up patting Cheerilee on the head and squishing her cheek before slowly being pulled up towards the second story. It makes me chuckle every time I see it.

Granny’s story is pretty cool, and as stated before, Silver Spoon begins the applause.

 

Pros: A great moral for kids. Some funny events. Silver Spoon gets a pet the dog moment.
Cons: A few too many coincidences. Some of what is shown here contradicts previously established information.

 

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!

Next episode, we’ll move from a story about the previous generation to a story about the next generation. I wonder: will my review engage you? I’ll do my best to make it so. Until then, feel free to comment, compliment or complain, and stay on the sunny side!



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