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 Mike Myhre
We’re back with another episode of Next Top Equestria Model, and if that title didn’t make it clear enough we’ll be focusing on Rarity and her love of fashion once again! Now Rarity is easily my favorite of the Mane 6 as her episodes tend to have a lot more range than anyone else’s and she’s a genuinely interesting character to watch with highlight such as Sisterhooves Social, Sweet and Elite and of course the eponymous Rarity Investigates! Will this be another great example of why Rarity is the best, or is this one we’ll want to bury away with other better off forgotten episodes like The Mysterious Mare Do Well or even Just for Sidekicks? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Rarity and Spike handing out flyers for a fashion contest that the former will be hosting at the Carousel Boutique in an effort to give aspiring young fashion designers an avenue to express themselves as well as an invaluable networking opportunity! With any good fashion contest though, you need a collection of colorful and sardonic judges to make it all come together and fortunately Rarity has such a group of characters in mind! Hoity Toity will serve as our Tim Gunn, Photo Finish will be the wacky and unpredictable one that’ll generate the drama, and the anchor will be… Applejack! Wait, WHAT!?
Hm… I don’t know about this. Sure, Applejack is HONEST, but that doesn’t denote expertise. I can be extremely honest about all sorts of things I know nothing about, but whenever I do that I’m asked to leave without causing a scene! Stupid school plays. It’s not MY fault the lead actress didn’t have the vocal range of Olivia Newton-John! Wait, hat was I talking about? Oh right! We also covered this ground already in Suited for Success where Applejack’s “practical suggestions” turned a fantastic dress into a rejected Beverly Hillbillies cosplay and nearly turned Rarity into a laughingstock! Heck, even Applejack isn’t convinced she’d make a good judge for this competition, but eventually ends up capitulating and gives it a shot. Needless to say that it ends up going completely wrong in all the ways you’d assume it would, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. It’s the first day of the competition and all three of the judges (along with Rarity) meet with the competitors to give them advice for the upcoming show. For some reason though there are only three which seems kind of odd, and I KNOW that there’s a screening process with competitions like these and that the celebrity judges only meet the ones who get that far, but that’s usually to narrow it down to HUNDREDS from THOUSANDS. Either this competition isn’t getting a lot of traction in the fashion world, or we’re like eight weeks into the darn thing! Anyway, our first competitor is Lily Lace who… essentially recreated the dress from Beauty and the Beast. Okay…
Naturally Hoity Toity and Photo Finish are impressed with the design while Applejack just looks at it cockeyed like she’s staring at some avant-garde piece from Thierry Mugler. IT’S A DRESS! SHE’S FRIENDS WITH RARITY! WHY IS THIS CONFUSING HER!? Next up is Star Streak who has a fabulous mane, knock-off Spider Jerusalem glasses, and TRUE ARTISTIC VISION! He’s still at the concept stage and plans on making something… futuristic I guess? Okay, THIS one I can buy Applejack being confused about; not because what he has so far is dumb but because it’s at such a rudiment outline that those not in the know about fashions and designs wouldn’t fully grasp. Still, this only goes to further prove that she’s not the least bit qualified to be judging something like this.
By the time they get to the third competitor, Inky Rose, Applejack has had it and lets her very unhelpful opinions be known. Inky has designed what seems to be a perfectly fine hoodie/shirt ensemble, but all Applejack can think about is how dark the material is. Okay… I’m not sure how blacks and grays aren’t “conducive to practicality” which is what Applejack seems to care about the most, but she takes this opportunity to start slamming all three of them for not making… I don’t know, overalls and waders?
Rarity is clearly starting to get some buyer’s remorse as Applejack’s suggestions get more bold as the day goes on; complaining about putting holes in outfits, questioning how a ballroom gown would fare when apple bucking, all VERY useful suggestions for the kind of competition this is! No, not really even if Applejack thinks otherwise. Rarity needs to find a way to relieve this stress before facing the second day of the competition, and she finds just a way to do that… by shredding an electric guitar solo on Pinkie Pie’s acoustic guitar.
I’m sorry, WHAT!?
Normally I wouldn’t dwell on a throwaway joke like this and just keep talking about the actual plot… but this is just so out of nowhere that I can’t NOT talk about it! Now look, jokes like this have been done MANY times before where a character breaks out into an unexpected guitar solo in order to shock the audience and the characters in the scene that weren’t aware of that person’s talent. It bothers me here though because it’s utterly meaningless in a show that doesn’t often waste time like this and in a specific episode that could have used a bit more character moments. When they did this gag in The Simpsons (The Otto Show), it served a purpose as the inciting incident to kick off the main plot and ended up being an efficient way of fleshing out Otto’s character. I mean, I guess we’ll have to see what happens in future episodes, but chances are that this isn’t a character trait we’re going to be building off of (the episode itself never calls back to later on) and I doubt we’ll be seeing Rarity shredding Freebird the next time we see her. It’s SUCH a useless gag that isn’t particularly funny and, at least for me, it stopped everything dead in its tracks in an episode that REALLY needed to build some momentum for the second act. Alright, so AFTER everything stops for that silly little bit that will never impact anything ever, we cut to the next day where Applejack has gone full on Gordon Ramsey on this situation; berating everyone for basically no reason and genuinely making it harder for everyone to work.
I will give this episode credit for one thing, and that’s what appears to be an intentional reference to the movie The Devil Wears Prada where Hoity Toity and Photo Finish, in trying to do their jobs, start comparing two belts that are very similar before Applejack starts yelling at them about the belts looking alike. This mirrors a scene in the movie where Anne Hathaway gives an involuntary dismissive chuckle when she sees a similar situation play out between Meryl Streep and one of her photographers and is rightfully torn to pieces in the way that only Meryl Streep can. First of all, this is kind of funny because Meryl Streep’s character in that movie and the design of Photo Finish in this show are both based on the same person (Anna Wintour; editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988) but more importantly, it provides a pretty unambiguous indication of what the moral we’re supposed to be taking away from all this is; namely that being honest or even being “normal” does not entitle person to have a say in how other people express themselves. Actually, before this scene came up, I was already thinking of The Devil Wears Prada but not for the scene that this references. Earlier, when Applejack was acting dumbfounded at all the fashion stuff going on around her, I was reminded of the scene between Anne Hathaway and Stanley Tucci where the former is complaining about how unfair everyone is being while the latter explains why that’s not true and how it’s her own attitude that’s causing so much friction. That seems to be the point here, albeit it’s a bit too over the top as Applejack, FOR NO REASON pretty much destroys the hard work of the contestants. Not giving advice, but actively tearing it to shreds because she doesn’t approve of all this fashion stuff; even going so far as to say that FASHION IS RIDICULOUS in a room of people who put their hearts and souls into what they love and the work they do. At this point, both Hoity Toity and Photo Finish (who have been MORE than tolerant of her behavior up to now) walk out and are soon followed by the contestants; leaving Rarity and Applejack alone with the former contemplating her rather poor decisions up to this point. I SORT of want to feel bad for her, but I’m honestly feel worse for everyone else who had to deal with Applejack’s horrendous behavior.
Somehow Applejack is still oblivious about everything that just happened (I WAS JUST BEING HONEST!!) so Rarity teaches her a lesson in a very satisfying and blunt way. How, you may ask? She drags Applejack to someone who doesn’t like apples (gasp) and gives her a front row seat to someone HONESTLY telling you that something you love is garbage.
Now that she’s seen the error of her ways, Applejack proceeds to try and make everything right by dragging all those ponies back to the Carousel Boutique (it’s not kidnapping if it’s for a good cause!) and begging them to give the competition another shot. They all agree and get back to work with Applejack basically being downgraded from Advisor to Gofer as she spends most of the subsequent montage running errands and helping to build the runway for the fashion show. With all that finished, the show can finally begin as each contestant presents their best work. My favorite is probably Inky Rose’s jacket with a billion buttons that looks like it was stolen from the set of Ava Adore.
Oh, but wait! It’s time for the judges to pick a winner and Applejack (apparently not losing voting privileges after her little freak out) has the final vote to determine the winner! She chooses… all of them? Okay. A little anti-climactic I guess, but whatever. It means that Rarity will have THREE new fashion lines to sell instead of just one which I guess was the prize all along. And so the episode ends with Applejack learning not to be a jerk and Rarity most certainly earning a lot more money from the publicity as well as what I have to assume are pretty lucrative contracts with the three designers!
This one was fine I guess, but the rather uninspired plateau that this season has landed on after such a strong opening is starting to get to me; so much so that I need to pedantically explain how annoying a single joke is just to find something worth thinking about. Maybe the show has always been like this and I’m only just now noticing, or maybe DHX and Hasbro are starting to phone this in just to keep this money train of a series from losing steam. Either way, I’m rather unimpressed with episodes that have extremely obvious lessons being taught to characters who should SERIOUSLY know better, and while I DID enjoy the new characters in this as well as bringing back Hoity Toity and Photo Finish, they weren’t quite enough to overcome the blandness of everything else and I hope that we can get to some adventure stories soon enough. Throw in some magic MacGuffins again! I know I’ve been harsh on the Cutie Map, but I’d take that over another episode that sticks us in boring old Ponyville again!