We’re back with another chapter in Twilight’s Saga to become the Princess of Friendship! After last week’s summit that had mixed results, she’s trying once again to prove her political prowess by inviting Royalty from a reclusive kingdom to the city of Ponyville! So is this going to be a theme this season? Is the show going to be the adventures of The Princess of Friendship trying to navigate the complicated world of Pony politics? Equestrian House of Cards if you will? I’m totally up for it if that’s the case! Now the last episode was pretty heavily flawed, what with Spike continuing to be short shrifted by the writers, but this episode will at least have the benefit of Twilight not being unconscious for the majority of the running time. Can she do a better job than Spike did? Will her presence make this episode all the more enjoyable? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with the Mane 6 getting things ready for the diplomatic visit and Twilight stressing out over it. Okay, so right off the bat I guess she doesn’t know what the heck she’s doing! That or she’s still having trouble managing the pressures of being a Princess.
The visitors in question are the Prince of Yakyakistan (uh… are you SURE you want that to be the name?) and his aids whose country had closed off diplomatic ties with Equestria several years ago. Wait, is Equestria the Pony nation, or is it the name for the entire continent? I mean, with a name like THAT there’s really no question whose on top of the food chain in this scenario. Furthermore, Twilight says that no pony has ever BEEN to Yakyakistan (ugh…) but they’ve only closed the boarders recently. She specifically says that it’s been closed for “hundreds of moons” (implying less than one thousand) and if you recall, the Apple Family has a reunion every hundred moons. It couldn’t have been closed for more than a decade, so how is it that NO PONY has ever been to… Yakyakistan. Seriously, do I have to keep calling it that? What, is it next to Derkaderkastan from Team America World Police!?
To be fair, their design ISN’T some racist caricature of Middle Eastern culture, though they DO remind me of another Trey Parker/Matt Stone joke (“god damn Mongolians!!!”). They also speak broken English and fly off the handle at a moment’s notice.
Their deal seems to be that they ONLY want things from Yak-topia and every time they are presented with something that the ponies have prepared for them (Yak inspired food, familiar lodging, etc.) they start to Hulk Smash everything around them in a blind righteous rage. While it is a bit annoying that the Mane 6 attempt no less than five times to try and appease them without thinking of WHY this isn’t working, I do like that there’s a bit of gray area here in terms of where the moral might go. Will this be a story about misunderstanding another culture, or is it going to be a story about standing up to jerks? The ponies are trying and failing to represent a culture they’ve only recently become familiar with, but then the Yaks are seemingly using this as a flimsy excuse to be raging assholes that destroy other people’s property and hard work whenever they feel they can justify whatever slight has been made against them. Then again, maybe it’s just an episode about Twilight freaking the fuck out again because that’s always good or a laugh.
After such an awful day, the Mane 6’s last hope to salvage the visit is the party later that night where Celestia herself will arrive to greet the prince. Since there’s only ONE pony here who can plan such an event (Cheese Sandwich was unavailable I guess), it all falls upon Pinkie Pie’s shoulders to make sure the Yak’s don’t cause an international incident.
You know, I’d LOVE to see the Yak’s try to throw a shit fit in front of Celestia “WE NO LIKE YOUR COUNTRY!!!” “Oh yeah? Well poof! There goes Yakyakistan. I just crashed the sun into it because I can do that.” Instead of that gloriousness though, we instead get to watch Pinkie Pie continue to doubt herself about the upcoming party. At least she’s smart enough to see a common thread in their debacles so far which is the inauthenticity of their representation of Yak culture. Her brilliant plan is to go to the never-before visited Yak-opolis and nab some swag to present to the Yak prince at the party! BRILLIANT!! Hopefully she can get back before they cause too much more destruction.
Time is definitely running short. The country of Yak Land is way up north so Pinkie has to take a train to the Crystal Empire. Unfortunately, they had to take a detour straight to Dodge City which has to be as far from her destination as possible. All seems lost for Pinkie Pie until a recognizable character from the show’s past shows up to make a cameo!!
By sheer coincidence (also known as convenient writing), It just so happens that Cherry Jubilee is on her way to the Crystal Empire and can give her a lift in her stagecoach. See, now THIS is what I’ve been looking for this season! We’ve got a wide range of characters (some old and some new) that get to help out our heroes while we get to see more of the world that they all inhabit! I would have preferred this story line not split time with the other story in the back half of the episode, but what’s here right now is exactly what the show needed. During their trip across the desert (which will somehow lead to the Northern Crystal Empire), the stagecoach ponies and Cherry Jubilee fall asleep. Normally this would mean that the stagecoach stops, but these ponies can somehow still run while sleeping and are heading straight for a ravine. Luckily, Pinkie Pie stops them just in the nick of time!
Of course the ledge breaks and they all plummet to their deaths. Well… probably not, but we cut back to Ponyville before finding out how they escape their Wile E. Coyote fate. Twilight is still doing whatever she can to occupy the Yak Prince and may have stumbled on something that works. Spike is playing his little dragon heart out on a piano and it’s actually keeping the Yak’s from destroying everything in sight. Alright! Spike is finally useful for something other than cleaning a house or making mistakes! Plus, it works with what we’ve seen before that he actually has some talent at playing the piano! No wait, it’s a player piano which he accidently reveals to the Yak Prince and this leads to even more raging.
The Yak Prince is SO upset that he’s decided to declare WAR on the Pony Empire! Okay, is this guy even the Prince? I’m starting to think that someone didn’t do their research properly and we either have an imposter or the absolute LAST person in the royal family to invite on a diplomatic meeting.
While the Yak Prince is storming off, we cut back to Pinkie Pie who’s already made it to the North and is regaling an unseen guide about her treacherous journey here. Apparently the Wonder Bolts appeared out of nowhere, dropped them off in Manehattan, and then she met up with a band who must have gotten together, got famous, and broke up in a matter of hours considering this is still the same day that she left.
Luckily, the spat between Paul and John reached its fever pitch right as they were touring the Crystal Empire which means Pinkie Pie jumped ship at exactly the right time and is now on her way to the Yak Country. Her guide has agreed to take her to the mountain path that should lead to the Yak Empire, but the guide has some serious doubts whether or not she’ll make it.
Oh hey! It’s Cadence! That’s three episodes in a row with her! I really hope she shows up a lot more, though it’s still odd that Shining Armor barely gets any screen time in this series. What’s the point of getting these two married if they’re never going to have scenes together!? Cadence leaves Pinkie at the bottom of the Yak Mountain and we cut back to Ponyville just as she begins her trek. Twilight is naturally freaking the hell out about causing a war which will no doubt cause countless deaths (and put the Crystal Empire in direct jeopardy) but is also concerned that maybe they put too much pressure on Pinkie Pie. That’s sweet and all, but YOU HAVE A WAR TO PREPARE FOR!! Okay, they’re DEFINITELY not about to introduce armed conflict into this series, but shouldn’t her first priority right now be to contact Celestia? If nothing else, she could at least contact her to see if she can smooth over this diplomatic incident. Wait, is the Yak Prince the leader (a la Princess Celestia) or is there a King? We’ve already established that Kings exist in this world (Griffonstone had a series of Kings) so does that mean that men get to be Kings while women only stay as Princesses? No wait, Chrysalis is a Queen. Maybe the whole Princess thing is just a Pony tradition. What the hell was I talking about? Oh right! The Mane 6 are wandering around Pinkie’s room, contemplating their mistakes throughout this endeavor, when Twilight stumbles upon a secret button that opens a trap door.
Back in the Northern wastelands, Pinkie Pie eventually stumbles upon Yak-ington D.C. (after narrowly escaping something that looks like a skinny Wampa) but is tragically denied entrance due to gravity working against her for once.
There’s a lot of falling in this episode, isn’t there? Anyway, the sled Pinkie is on (which is from New Yak City so there’s your authentic memorabilia right there) cracks the ice beneath here and she slides ALL the way back to Ponyville. So not only is gravity pissed at her for some reason, friction is angry as well and has removed any resistance from that sled which causes her to go back HUNDREDS OF MILES instead of a couple of yards. Well while Pinkie is failing to reach Yak-ramento, the remaining Mane 6 find themselves in Pinkie’s Fortress of Solitude.
Not unlike Batman, the group finds that Pinkie has kept detailed records on everyone in Ponyville and included all their likes and dislikes so she can avoid them when planning a party. Very MUCH unlike Batman though, her records aren’t the kind that are about to get everyone she knows killed (unless of course someone starts menacing Twilight with Quesadillas).
SHE’S AFRAID OF QUESADILLAS!? What kind of blasphemy is this!? Quesadillas are food of the GODS, and are right up there with pizza (which is ALSO very cheesy)!! Also, how the hell does Pinkie know something like this? Is there a lost episode that we all need to see where Twilight has a nervous breakdown at Cinco de Mayo!? Pinkie Pie slides home not long after the rest of the crew find themselves in her private study and they all have a big hug over the awful day they’ve had. Pinkie apologizes for not making it to Yak-usalem and the others apologize for putting so much pressure on her in the first place. After her trip around the world and this reconciliation with her friends, Pinkie Pie finally knows what to do to avert war. The answer is… A PARTY!! Didn’t see that coming! Pinkie throws a rather impressive impromptu party for the Yaks, and for some reason they don’t destroy it immediately. The trick (and moral of the story) seems to be that they should have thrown them a great PONY party instead of trying to make a YAK party work. Eh… I don’t know if I can really buy this message. We never got a sense that the Yaks’ complaints were reasonable in the slightest, and this lesson we’re supposed to learn kind of absolves the Yaks of any responsibility for their deplorable behavior. Considering that these Yaks haven’t even SEEN Pony culture in who knows how long, it REALLY shouldn’t have been THIS big of a screw up (brought them to the brink of war) to show some respect for customs that are not their own. Oh well. At least everyone’s happy and Celestia won’t have to enforce the draft due to Twilight’s mistakes! And so the episode ends with Pinkie Pie saving the day and Twilight learning once again that being Princess is no walk in the park… unless that park is filled with monsters, rivers of lava, and at least three angry mobs.
This episode is MUCH closer to what I was expecting this season than what we’ve been getting for the most part. It had something new (the Yak kingdom), it had some real stakes, and yet it still managed to have strong character moments throughout. It was big in scope, but never felt overwhelming because of it, and the humor was strong throughout with plenty of slapstick due in no small part to this being primarily a Pinkie Pie episode. The show doesn’t have to introduce a new species every week, but if more episodes had the kind of ambition that this one had in its execution, then the fifth season would really be living up to its potential. There were some flaws, especially with the Yaks who came across as kind of nonsensical. They’re actions didn’t seem to have any real logic to them other than as an excuse to be bullies, and the episode really should have addressed that if that was the case. Also, YAKYAKISTAN!? ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!? I still wish they’d give Spike a chance to be more than just an incompetent boob as well, and I REALLY disliked what they did with his one scene here. Despite these minor complaints, this is still one of the highlights of the season, and I hope this is an indication that the writers are kicking it into high gear for the remainder of this season. Princess Spike was a misstep that had some decent ideas, and this was an episode that was very well executed with only some minor flaws in the way it used its new characters. This gives me hope that the post Slice of Life episodes will continue to try new things and perfect the craft of telling stories about ponies. Here’s to hoping we get fewer episodes like the disposable Castle Sweet Castle, and more episodes like this one!
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