My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Hasbro.
Episode directed by Denny Lu and Tim Stuby
We’re back with another episode of The Rarity and Applejack Adventures, which is the closest thing we’ll get to an American Absolutely Fabulous! Okay, CANADIAN Absolutely Fabulous! Whatever! Despite their differences in occupation and lifestyles, Rarity and Applejack do have quite a bit in common; not the least of which is their business sense and drive for personal success. We haven’t gotten an episode with these two characters specifically since Made in Manehattan from season five, and that ended up being a highlight of that rather underwhelming season. Does this episode accomplish the same for season six, or has the dynamic between the two been explored to the extent the writers are willing to go? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Rarity enjoying a day at the spa and eagerly waiting for the arrival of Applejack in the steam room. Sadly enough Applejack is overburdened with chores recently and doesn’t arrive until several hours later; setting up the conflict for the rest of the episode and giving us a sight gag in the process. I don’t think that steaming can cause your face to melt off, but maybe they’re using magic steam.
Right off the bat, it seems this is PROBABLY not gonna be the most original episode of the series. The idea of Applejack having too much to do to spend time with Rarity brings to mind Applebuck Season which was a solid episode from all the way back in season one, but hopefully they won’t need to dip back to the well too deeply for this episode; lest they give off the impression that they’re running out of ideas. Anyway, Rarity is kvetching about all this to Twilight Sparkle who’s heading to the farm to get some more pies (apparently Spike is eating all of them at an alarming rate which doesn’t bode well for his waistline or pancreas) and, being the Princess of Problem Solving, she decides to see if there’s a way for her to fix this situation. Before that though, Rarity and Applejack have to fight like an old married couple; or should I say… old MARE-ied couple!?
Twilight injects herself into the conversation and offers to do Applejack’s chores so that she can go to the spa; a proposition that puts Rarity into a state of pure elation and Applejack into panic mode. She tries to come up with a simple task that she and Spike couldn’t possibly fuck up which is to feed the pigs (I guess we’re just forgetting that Twilight can pick an orchard full of apples with a single burst of magic) and gives them a very specific list of instructions on doing so. Assuring Applejack that the situation is well in hoof, Twilight sends the two off on their spa date and then tries to decipher the convoluted steps that Applejack has given them.
They’ll be fine!! Besides, there’s more important stuff to worry about such as how busy the spa just so happens to be on this day! The answer is… pretty busy! For some reason there are long lines everywhere and plenty of ponies still in the waiting room including one who Rarity and Applejack didn’t expect to see there but are more than ready to tear them a new one for even being there.
Rainbow Dash runs off in embarrassment which frees up a space in line, but that hardly puts a dent in the situation. Despite what is clearly a massive increase in staff (all of whom appear to be imported from whatever country the other spa ponies are from) there is not enough spa resources to go around; particularly the steam room which is unable to handle the volume. Rarity would rather try their luck at a different treatment while they wait for the line at the spa room to go down (like they’re at an amusement park or something) but Applejack is hearing NONE of that and demands to speak to the manager. Celestia forbid she should wait her turn! She’s a paying customer damn it and those spa ponies wouldn’t be working in the service industry if they weren’t glad to hear all her “helpful suggestions” about why they suck so much at their jobs!
Applejack, being trained in the art of plumbing apparently, starts to troubleshoot the issue with the steam room and follows the water lines all the way to the laundry room. By the way, the Ponyville Spa has got to be a TARDIS considering how freaking GIGANTIC this place is compared to how it looks from the outside. I don’t mind this all that much considering a lot of the exterior designs were done ALL the way back in season one and I’d rather them just go ahead and expand locations rather than restricting themselves for a vague sense of continuity. Still though, this place is H!!
When they finally reach the damn laundry room, they find that the machines are all running so as to provide warm towels for the ponies waiting in line for the Spa Room. Applejacks asks the spa ponies if these machines are always running simultaneously, and one of them (a dude who looks as shiftless and despondent as I did when I was working retail) lets them know that the warm towel service has been keeping the machines on constantly.
The clues are starting to come together as Sherlock Apples continues her investigation until everything finally comes together and she explains that a small leak led to longer wait times for the spa which lead to the warm towels which only exacerbated the issue. The only solution? Applejack needs to fix the leak and puts on her extensive Tool Time outfit (did she go back home to get it?) in order to get the job done and get these ponies some steam. There is at least one pony who’s steamed though as Rarity is in the background fuming that her spa date with Applejack is being wasted on a maintenance project instead of pampering.
I actually like this story line for the most part and I think it might be because of how low the stakes are. For once, it doesn’t feel like we’ll be getting a message at the end of the story; or at the very least, the whole story isn’t ABOUT whatever message will be coming up. It feels like an episode of a sitcom where we’ve got a primary story about a spa day gone wrong and a subplot about the kids trying to do their chores while the parents are away and the relaxed tone is rather refreshing. Speaking of which, how is that going?
Apparently the duo still haven’t deciphered Applejack’s convoluted process for feeding the pigs, and Rarity and Applejack (having run out of time for the spa day) return to find the pigs still unfed. With no progress made in either relaxation or animal feeding, Rarity feels even worse than when this whole enterprise started and Applejack just goes back to her regular routine which we see involves an oddly complex method for feeding the pigs that takes at least ten times as long as it should; all the while complaining about how the spa ignored how inefficient things had gotten and were just coming up with half measures that ended up making things take way too long. I sense a theme approaching!
So now we’re getting into the moral of the story which is that either paying closer attention to what you’re doing or having somepony not ingrained in the routine to observe the situation can save you a lot of time and effort! It’s not a BAD message I guess (it even manages to relate to what was going on at the spa), but the execution of it feels really off here. Maybe it’s because the episode up to this point didn’t feel like we were gonna get a lesson in friendship that makes this feel out of place, but I do think that they could have done a better job with what they have here, even if the episode was more explicitly building towards it. We have a montage of Twilight and Rarity helping Applejack come up with better methods for her day to day duties, but the bad routines that they are correcting seem REALLY counterproductive. That’s the point I guess, but her methods are straight up illogical. The worst one has to be the watering system she uses as the farm is apparently kept hydrated through a series of sprinklers. Applejack’s method is to turn on the first sprinkler and then release the water. Then she turns on the second sprinkler and turns the water back on so that now it’s coming out of both sprinklers. This supposedly continues for acres and acres and acres, over watering the closest plants and probably never getting to the later ones. How does a farmer not understand why that wouldn’t work!? She had to have somepony else come in and tell her to water them all at once instead of this insane staggering out process!? And before you ask, they’re all the same damn crop (lettuce it looks like) so don’t try to say the more water intensive vegetables are closest to the valve!
Oh well. At least her friends are able to show her the way to a streamlined chore system which will cut several hours from her daily routine! Now that everything is done with time to spare, what is she gonna do? Well I’m sure Rarity can come up with a few ideas! And so the episode ends with the two of them (I guess Twilight wasn’t invited) returning to the spa to see if they can FINALLY get an appointment with the steam room! Of course they run into Rainbow Dash again who’s returned to get her stereotypically girly treatments (masculinity so fragile I guess) and decides she’s tired of hiding it and enjoys the day with the other two. I’m sure she’ll never admit this ever happened to anyone else though.
I liked what they were doing in the first half of the episode, but it kind of lost its way in the second half. There was a lack of urgency or manipulation to the story that made it portentous or histrionic as the show can sometimes get. The sitcom comparison still rings true for me, though the show it reminded me most of was an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia where Charlie visits a spa for the first time (spoiler alert: it doesn’t go well). It’s too bad that they couldn’t keep going in that direction as back half where Applejack returns to the farm feels very perfunctory and lacks some polish. It’s fine if every episode just HAS to give us a moral at the end, but if that’s the case then it also has to be well thought out and at least somewhat relatable. If it’s not, then who is gonna learn from the lesson and therefore what would be the point? The first half felt of the episode feels very matter of fact rather that the standard MLP fable formula, but it had to go back to what is expected of this show and the episode suffers for it. Some of the best parts of this season are when it breaks from the format and tries something new, whether it’s a travelogue of the New York stand-in, an Office style retelling of events, or even a low key story about two ponies running into shenanigans while trying to enjoy a day out. As long as season six continues to try new things, then this will definitely work better than season five did. I just hope they get a bit bolder with what they do to change things up and let it ride out the entire episode instead of trying to split the difference between unique ideas and business as usual.