Well, I guess that was the most terrifying cave in all of Equestria. – Granny Smith
Twilight and Spike are busy being plot convenient when Pinkie decides to crash their study session on genealogy. Spike manages to explain to the mystified Pinkie what genealogy entails... he's come such a long way from not knowing what the words "precipice", "threshold" and "brink" are. (See Season 1, Episode 1) After using her Pinkie weirdness to cheat Jenga physics, and grab a scroll, she makes a startling discovery: she may be a distant cousin of the Apple family!
Just kidding. Applejack and family are in fact delighted to discover their relationship, and welcome Pinkie to the best darn family ya ever did see. They have the playful Apple Bloom and strong Big MacIntosh, the wise Granny Smith and the sensible Applejack herself. AB, Big Mac and Granny Smith provide some foreshadowing... AB's playing around sends her crashing into things; Big Mac has a pie slide off the stove he's lifting and land on his face; and Granny Smith's senile dementia (played for laughs) is highlighted when she refuses to admit that the bonnet she was looking for was on her head the entire time. Pinkie is tickled pink to be a part of this family.
However, they can't be 100% sure that she actually IS family, since the part of the scroll that could prove it one way or the other is smudged. They decide on a road trip to Cousin Golden Delicious, the family history buff of the Apple family, who they hope can confirm or deny the connection. After a plea from AJ to show their best behaviour for Pinkie's benefit, they set off with an overloaded wagon.
A jaunty little travelling tune "Apples to the Core" follows. As with most Applejack related songs, the song features a strong beat, and each member of the family sans Big Mac, gets their own verse to sing. He does, however, contribute to the chorus. The song ends with the wagon breaking down due to Big Mac over estimating it's ability to carry the load (as foreshadowed earlier).
Pinkie suggests they travel by river instead, and Granny Smith identifies a nearby tree with sap they can use to make a raft from the wagon parts. Everything seems to be running smoothly, with Pinkie taking pictures and creating a scrapbook, until the river splits into three. Applejack asks Apple Bloom to bring her the map. However, the filly's playful nature becomes her downfall (as foreshadowed earlier) when she accidentally drops the map overboard while dancing around. Granny Smith says she knows the way anyway, but due to her absent-mindedness and senior confusion, (going three for three, here) she ends up guiding them to the scariest cave in Equestria. "Ponies go in but they never come out," as she says. Which makes no sense, since how could they know about the cave unless somepony went in and survived it so as to talk about it?
After making it out alive (Pinkie must have been Giggling at the Ghostly or something) Applejack tries to take over the wheel, leading to an argument which ends with the wheel coming clear off and falling overboard. Unable to steer, the raft falls over the obligatory waterfall, but makes it through with passengers and cargo... until Pinkie lightly lands on the top, and the whole thing breaks apart and sinks.
Their spirits thoroughly dampened, the group arrives at Golden Delicious' home to find that she is out running errands. Pinkie declares she has time to get more scrapbook paper, and scarpers. The Apples berate themselves for arguing and ruining the trip, but end up forgiving each other. They conclude that they really didn't end up being the family they wanted to show themselves to be and that Pinkie might not want to be a part of their family. Pinkie, returning just in time to hear them say this, immediately points out that they are a great family, because even when things got bad and despite a bit of arguing, they pulled together in the end. She is still keen to be an Apple!
Golden Delicious arrives home and lets them in... to say her house is "cluttered" is a woefully inadequate description.
She has so much junk (sorry, family heirlooms) and so many cats that it's a wonder she manages to find what she needs... a book on the Apple genealogy. Opening it, they find the page they need is also smudged, making their entire trip a dead end. Pinkie is disappointed, but Applejack tells her that what the books says is unimportant, since she's proven herself an "Apple to the Core" for putting up with them during the trip. With a new wagon provided by Golden Delicious, the Apple family (all five of them) head home to write about what they've learned.
Thoughts on the episode:
I don't really know how to feel about this episode, which is why it took so long to get to reviewing it. The strongest impression I had from this episode comes from the series of running gags ("best whatever, ever", that damn eagle, the scrapbook pictures, etc) which is not really a good thing when the show is usually so character driven. In the case of Pinkie Pie, she seemed more like a vehicle for the gags rather than the Genius Ditz she should be. Her treatment by the writers just seemed a little shallow to me. And what is up with the weird powers her mane and tail seem to have in Season 4? Her mane is apparently hammerspace, able to absorb her scrapbook somehow, and her tail can not only use a camera, but is able to be back on her rump as the photo is taken, seemingly being in two places simultaneously! It's just Pinkamena Diane "Responsibility" Apple Pie being Pinkamena Diane "Responsibility" Apple Pie, I guess.
Poor Big MacIntosh. He nearly had a line of his own here, but Granny Smith took that away from him. At least he got to say "Hey!" at one point. I like it when Big Mac gets something to say - one of the highlights of "Ponyville Confidential" for me was his tirade against the CMC - but I guess it's awesome because it's so rare. Still, according to Pinkie's reaction when they were talking, he's deep. What other wisdom is being kept from us?
Applejack's stubbornness, matched against Granny Smith's, was quite funny to watch, but again, let's find some other flaw of hers to highlight. We've seen the stubborn side of her too often.
The song was good, as I described above, but there are a lot of them. In the past 5 episodes, 4 have had a song in them. They're going to start sounding alike if they make an appearance too frequently.
All in all, these are minor flaws, and the comedic slice of life episode is still one of the show's strengths, with a fine pair of morals: "being a good family doesn't mean never having conflict, but sticking together through the conflicts" and "really good friends can be a part of your family".
Pros: Slice of life comedy is good. Some funny moments and gags. Good morals.
Cons: Nothing really stands out as a shining example of awesomesauce. And what is up with the way Golden Delicious is living?
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 enjoy the new episode in a few hours time.