I cut to the chase and say that this was a good episode apart from one part being telegraphed and one part extraneous.

The telegraphed part is of course Big Mac thinking (mistakenly) that Sugar Belle is in Ponyville to break up with him. The extraneous part is the whole thing with the CMC and thinking Sweetie Belle may have a secret admirer after the postal mix-up. I guess there needed to be a B-plot in this story and something else for Big Mac to bounce off of.

Now let’s get to the good parts. Discord is actually making an effort to be helpful and cheer up Big Mac. The part with “Skelanor” was quite humorous. Spike was good in this one too to tie in with “guys’ night”.

Long story short, Sugar Belle is taking a part-time apprenticeship with Mrs. Cake while her cousin is running the bakery in Starlight’s old village on weekends (to be on his own for once apparently). Of course, Discord “stalled” Sugar Belle so that Big Mac can square things away with her.

So overall, a better effort from last week apart from the telegraphed mix-ups and the extraneous portion with the CMC.

GRADE: B+

StatManDan

[source]

810 – “The Break Up Break Down”

Written by: Nick Confalone
It’s Hearts and Hooves Day and Big Mac has big romantic plans for Sugar Belle, but the day takes a turn when he overhears his special somepony tell Mrs. Cake that she’s planning on breaking up with him!

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There’s a time and a place for everything and in this case, Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s competitive nature does not fit the task they are charged with. After Fluttershy wins her ninth successive Teacher of the Month award, AJ and Dash volunteer to take the Student 6 on a field trip (to battle for hearts and minds).

Both AJ and Dash maybe “Teamwork Experts”, but they are also experts at being over-competitive. The poor students are caught in the middle of this whether it is building a shack or a canoeing or a nature walk. For that last one, both compete in trying to be non-competitive and both build bridges towards a perilous situation with biting cuda fish.

Throughout this, the Student Six show teamwork skills by learning through their professors’ how-not-to-do things. And no, AJ and Dash will not learn their lesson about keeping their competitive streak in check.

Outside of AJ and Dash, we have a good episode as everyone else sees through how their competitive streak might lead to trouble. That said, it wouldn’t be interesting if AJ and Dash weren’t in charge of the field trip. Then the Student 6 wouldn’t be the most interesting thing about this episode.

So if you were tired of another AJ vs. Dash episode—you’re not going to re-watch this again.

GRADE: C

StatManDan

[source]

809 – “Non-Compete Clause”

Written by: Kim Beyer-Johnson
Applejack and Rainbow Dash take the friendship students on a teamwork learning field trip, and accidentally show the students the opposite of teamwork.

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For the first time, the map calls somepony from outside Ponyville. That would be Sunburst and he and Starlight Glimmer have been called to their former home—Sire’s Hollow. There, we see how the Development Committee (led by Sunburst’s Mom) and the Preservation Committee (led by Starlight’s Dad) have gone to extremes. That’s not really the friendship problem. Then we see Firelight treating his daughter like she was a foal and searching through the archives for the “Friendship Problem”. Meanwhile, Stellar Flare is full of plans to ensure the success of his son. None of those are the friendship problem.

The friendship problem is Sunburst’s and Starlight Glimmer’s relationship with their parents, especially after they tell them off. Neither have visited their parents for ages (as foreshadowed by Sunburst throwing one his Mom’s letters on top of a pile). Two lessons are at play here. Things were hard for both Sunburst and Starlight after they split up, but neither sought the support of their parents who only really want to be a source of support—no matter how annoying they get. Also, the parents need to learn to give their children some space to learn and grow.

However, that does leave the matter of the town still unsolved and that was left on the back-burner during the episode. Maybe there’s still room for Stellar Flare and Firelight to come to a compromise in regards to the town?

There are some good lessons and credit to the episode to keep people guessing as to what is the friendship problem truly was, but there were opportunities to address other things during the episode.

GRADE: B

StatManDan

[source]

808 – “The Parent Map”

Written by: Dave Rapp
Neither Starlight nor Sunburst have visited their parents in a long time, but when both are called by the map to their hometown, they discover their parents are at the center of the friendship problem.

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Twilight is planning to celebrate Celestia’s “ones-versary” (1,111th) of her raising the sun for the first time by staging a play at the school. Since being in a play is one of the things Celestia has never done before, though she has a love for theatre, Twilight decides in her infinite wisdom to cast Celestia in lead role as a way of doing something nice to someone who has always put herself before others.

Celestia is uncertain since she has zero acting experience. Despite Twilight’s reassurances, Celestia’s inexperience shows and no amount of acting lessons will help her. No amount of Twilight’s over-willingness to make the play work for Celestia instead of telling her the truth about her acting skills will help either. Rainbow Dash telling every creature she knows definitely doesn’t help—ruling out Spike’s suggestion of cancelling the play. Pinkie’s attempts of replacing the prop sun damaged earlier just makes things worse—especially when she imitates an Illinoisan looking to put on a fireworks show (where such amateur acts are illegal) and smuggled the fireworks from Wisconsin to do that.

Twilight goes over the edge and the cat escapes the bag—upsetting Celestia that her pupil had been lying to her all this time. Celestia tells Twilight that honesty is always better than the best of intentions paved by lies and has an idea to save the play. Celestia plays the role of production assistant and helps salvage the play with Fluttershy (some pony who has acting experience) as Celestia.

To some, this is a bit of a retread of “Inspiration Manifestation”. However, this is someone attempting to hide the truth from someone who has been like family and a mentor to her.. Also, this is not to help someone get out of a creative funk, this is someone trying to give back to said mentor. Twilight’s real fault is that she puts Celestia so far high a pedestal, that she does not realize that there are things that even the ruler of Equestria cannot do—such as act.

However, in both situations, honesty is still the best policy despite best intentions. However, this episode is still better than “Inspiration Manifestation” as Twilight isn’t one to be so dismissive about the lesson like Spike was in the former. The biggest problem with Twilight is placing Celestia high on a pedestal that some of things she feels she needs to do to pay Celestia back are unnecessary.

GRADE: B+

StatManDan