We’re back with another episode of the candy coated horse adventures! Now so far, season 5 has been pretty up and down, what with episodes like Castle Sweet Castle and Tanks for the Memories not really hitting for me as much as the others we saw. Will this one be another standout episode for the season, or will it be another mediocre slog in between the better ones that we get this season? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with the Cutie Mark Crusaders who are trying to come up with more schemes to get their Cutie Marks while visiting Appleloosa with Applejack. There’s a big rodeo that’s supposed to take place soon, but the local sheriff is a bit apprehensive because some “low down varmint” is in town and he believes they are there to ruin the rodeo.
While the town is gathering up a posse to hang the bastard, Applejack is practicing for the Rodeo that she’s replacing an injured Braeburn in. I’m not even sure what the contest is. Is stacking hay a thing in rodeos? All I’m saying is that it seems pretty unsafe to be playing life sized version of Jenga. Speaking of Breaburn, he comes off as pretty damn irresponsible in this. Dude had ONE job and failed miserably at it.
Thankfully the CMC didn’t wind up as buzzard food and make it back to the training grounds without incident. Good thing that they are at least somewhere they can be safe! Except that the giant unstable hay stack topples over and nearly leaves three filly sized smears on the ground. The sheriff comes around to investigate and determines that it is that dastardly villain that everyone is chasing! TROUBLE SHOES!!
The whole town is now up in arms about Trouble Shoes and we finally get to know more about who this guy is. He’s apparently been going from town to town and sabotaging rodeos because… reasons. No one really knows why he’s doing this, but his actions have certainly taken their effect on the other towns who had to shut down their rodeos after the destruction caused by Trouble Shoes. The sheriff though isn’t about to be intimidated and starts his hunt for this outlaw! WOO!! The sheriff is freaking BAD ASS in this!
Applejack however isn’t too thrilled about an outlaw being in town so she packs the CMC’s up informs them they better catch the next train to Ponyville. Now this is where things get a bit strange. Braeburn practically boots Applejack out the door so she can practice, but then he doesn’t take them to the train station. Instead, he sits on his ass staring at them well into the night until he finally falls asleep!
Why the hell didn’t he take them to the train station!? I guess it’s POSSIBLE the train wasn’t supposed to arrive until the next day, but considering that Applejack had packed their bags already, a detail like that would have needed to be explained! Naturally the CMC run off (Applejack didn’t check in on them once in several hours?) and they all decide to search for Trouble Shoes so that he can be caught and they can stay at the Rodeo. Well, all of them except Sweetie Belle who doesn’t seem to be up to it. Not sure if this is foreshadowing for the episode, or if this is an indication of Sweetie Belle growing as a character (she’s not as willing to do stupid things now).
They start looking in a nearby forest which for some reason is located right next to a damn desert town (it’s almost like they took where Fluttershy lives and just stuck a different house there) and get hopelessly lost in a thunderstorm. They eventually end up finding the pony equivalent of a trailer home and search inside to escape the rain. While this is going on, Braeburn finally wakes his sorry ass up and informs Applejack that the CMC have escaped his eagle eyed vigil. After chewing out the incompetent jerk, Applejack goes to gets the sheriff and his deputies to begin a search party for the missing girls. We cut back to the CMC who are exploring the domicile when the owner returns and shows off his fairly imposing silhouette.
Well of COURSE it turns out to be Trouble Shoe’s ratty shack. The CMC start screaming at the prospect of being his next victim which leads to hilarious slap stick opportunities! Trouble Shoes turns out to be nothing more than an overly pessimistic klutz with a penchant for flowery dialogue.
I love this miserable bastard! He’s one of those guys who’s so caught up in his own misery that he can’t realize how much of it is his own fault. WHY THE HELL DO YOU KEEP BANANA PEELS LYING AROUND IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SLIP ON THEM!? Now a character like this can be REALLY annoying if we’re supposed to take his angstiness seriously (look no further than Max Payne 3), but when the story is about them learning their lesson then you can definitely mine some decent comedy out this kind of disposition. The CMC realize this guy isn’t a bad guy (though he IS technically responsible for those rodeos getting closed down) and ask him to lead them back to Appleloosa. Trouble Shoes (who the hell would call their kid that!? Why not call him Adolf Von Dumbass!?) begrudgingly leads them to Appleloosa and begrudgingly tells them his life story along the way. Turns out that he always wanted to be a rodeo star and trained all his life to be one, but he never had a knack for it and would always get laughed at. Oh, so he’s supposed to be a rodeo clown instead? Good job hiding that oh so clever twist! NO ONE COULD POSSIBLY GUESS THAT!! Anyway, he gets his cutie mark during his entrance exam to rodeo school and this distracts him long enough to mess up his entire routine. Everyone starts laughing at him again and he decides to just run away. Still, he loves rodeos and finds himself drawn to them every once in a while but still causes disasters accidentally just by his klutzy nature.
Considering this grizzled bastard looks like he’s in in thirties, he’s had to deal with this problem for a long time so it’s no wonder he’s gone full Eeyore. The CMC, after hearing his sad tale, come to the conclusion that he’s actually destined to be a rodeo clown instead of a rodeo star. Wait, what? They figured it out already!? I was genuinely surprised that they figured it out so quickly. The way they set up the flashbacks made me think they were definitely saving this revelation for the end of the episode, but it turns out the CMC are a lot smarter than I expected. Kudos to the show for not drawing out the obvious! Unfortunately, the three of them don’t a chance to inform him of his obvious destiny because the sheriff springs his trap and finally has Trouble Shoes in his custody!
The sheriff reads him a list of trumped up charges which includes filly-napping and the CMC don’t bother to correct him, presumably out of fear of getting in trouble. Oh, well I guess it’s okay for this guy to spend the next twenty-five years in prison then! Instead of coming clean about Trouble Shoe’s lack of involvement in their escapade, the CMC instead decide to break him out of jail the next day. You know, because breaking out of prison is a GREAT way to prove your innocence. Anyway, it’s the day of the big rodeo and the three of them decide to get him into the show. They somehow convince him to dress up as a rodeo clown (that way people won’t recognize him), but it’s still not getting through his thick skull that this is his destiny.
After Applejack wins her competition (naturally), the rodeo clowns come out and start entertaining the crowd. You know, rodeo clowns are actually pretty badass. You know what they do other than be clowns? They’re the guys who antagonize the bull (or gets the bulls agro if you will) once a bull rider gets thrown off and lands on their ass! THEY’RE JOB IS TO BE A MORE ENTICING TARGET FOR THE BULL’S RAGE!!! HOW HARDCORE IS THAT!? The CMC finally tell Trouble Shoes what his true destiny is and after a bit of convincing, he finally decides to go out there. I don’t think this is the best idea because even though it IS his special talent; he’s not properly trained and has never worked with these clowns before. Considering the kind of tricks their doing (lots of jumps and teamwork based moves), having a rouge element just suddenly burst his way into the scene will undoubtedly cause chaos.
Despite injuring several of his fellow clowns, everyone finds him a riot. Trouble Shoes seems to have finally found his place in the world, but this momentary satisfaction is cut short when his fake nose falls off and everyone immediately recognizes him!
Everyone in town starts to gather their torches and pitchforks (literally) but they are stopped when the CMC tells them that the guy didn’t MEAN to destroy several rodeos. Oh, well if it was an ACCIDENT then all is forgiven!! Wait, it is? I WAS BEING SARCASTIC!!
Actually, there’s still one thing they won’t forgive him for and that’s for kidnapping the CMC last night which forces the three of them to finally come clean and accept their punishment. And so the episode ends with the CMC having to clean the entire rodeo grounds while Applejack smugly watches off to the side!
I actually really liked this episode and something dawned on me while I was watching it. MLP does a REALLY great job when they do genre themed episodes. Power Ponies was one of the highlights of the already great season 4, while episodes like Castle Mania (vaudeville comedy set in a haunted house) and It’s About Time (time travel with some John Carpenter trappings thrown in), are just as inspired. There are enough trappings of old school westerns in this episode to give it a lot of personality which went well with the decent story they were trying to tell. I especially loved the over the top sheriff in this who was on the hunt for the no good outlaw, though I find it a bit weird that they missed one of the most important details in these kind of westerns, which is that good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black hats. Now, the show isn’t REQUIRED to follow every trope, but that one seems fairly obvious to even the most casual fan of westerns. I guess it could be argued that he’s not wearing a white hat because he’s not really the good guy (he’s trying to lock up Trouble Shoes whose only crime is being clumsy) but if that was the case, giving him a BLACK hat would be just as wrong. In fact, it would have been a pretty cool detail to use if the law men had the white hats and Trouble Shoes had a gray, or black and white hat to go along with his moral ambiguity in the situation! Wow, did I really talk about hats for an entire paragraph? ANYAY, I really did enjoy this episode and having a character that’s misanthropic to the level that Trouble Shoes is was a nice change of pace for the usually sunny characters that usually characterize the protagonists of this show. There was also a weird thing going on about his Cutie Mark though that kind of raises some questions that might prove to be interesting in the future. He belives that his Cutie Mark symbolizes his destiny to always have bad luck instead of becoming a Rodeo Clown, though considering his Cutie Mark is LITERALLY a bad omen in their culture; it’s easy to see why he thought that. Still, I think it’s pretty fascinating to think that someone’s destiny isn’t what they want or is even something they can recognize when it’s so obviously given to them. We already saw how some ponies would be willing to give up their Cutie Marks if given the right incentive, so who knows what other less than idyllic views we will see with Cutie Marks in the future. Come to think of it, MOST of the episodes this season have been about Cutie Marks and how they can be seen as scary or unwanted by those who may be experiencing other problems in their lives. Aside from all these interesting ideas that may coalles into a grander thesis at a later point in this series, this episode was very entertaining because it was well written, (mostly) knew how to use its western tropes, and gave us a very likable character in the form of Trouble Shoes. It has its flaws here and there, but it’s definitely one of the better episodes this season. It seems that every other episode this season has hit for me (I’m counting the premiere as one episode in this scenario), but I hope that changes and that each episode maintains a consistent level of quality that we’ve seen in some of the better ones this season. NOW CAN WE GET BACK TO THE MAP!?!?
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