Our Little AJ by =Tsitra360

Episode: s3e09 Apple Family Reunion

By: Cindy Morrow

Review after the page break.

DHN Review by Ryan

We’re now well into the second half of the third season and every pony is starting to get their fair share. Scootaloo had her day in the sun (moon?), Rainbow Dash finally started on the road to get what she wants, and even Cadance and Luna have had some rather important parts when previously they had been overlooked. Now one of the most popular background ponies finally gets a chance to show what she has to offer. That pony being Applejack, of course. “Apple Family Reunion”, written by Cindy Morrow, is the 9th episode in production order, but 8th in airing order, similar to what happened last year around this time with “Hearth’s Warming Eve”. Morrow must certainly love the Apple family, as her writing credits for “Friendship is Magic” include “Family Appreciation Day”, “One Bad Apple”, and “Apple Family Reunion”. She does prove to have a very good grasp of the family dynamic that the Ponyville Apples have, and it’s once again on display here.

The Apple Family Reunion is coming up and the Ponyville Apple family is gearing up for another big party at Sweet Apple Acres. While listening and watching Granny Smith recall her previous, memorable reunions of past years, Applejack becomes more and more convinced that she should be the one to take the reins of the reunion this year to prove to the family that she can run a reunion just like Granny Smith can. Every event that is mentioned – the 7-legged race (they’re horses, remember?), fritter cooking, quilt-knitting, and more – is one more challenge for Applejack to accept and elaborate upon. She plans to make this reunion bigger and better. Partially for her own pride and partially because every single Apple from Las Pegasus to Manehattan has sent their R.S.V.P. and plans to take the trek to Ponyville.

Applejack proves to be far too overzealous in her attempts to show that she can throw as big of a hootenanny as Granny Smith. Applejack loses sight of what makes gets-togethers with your family important and goes a bit nuts in her preparations and events. From overly long, exhausting races to out-of-control haybale rides, AJ constantly turns what should have been a relaxing weekend with her extended family into a disaster. It seems unusual for Applejack to be so out-of-touch with what the other ponies are thinking. Typically, she is the one that is more down-to-earth and empathetic, but in this episode she seems more like Twilight in “Lesson Zero”, even hearkening back to early series episodes like “Apple Buck Season”.

Ultimately though, the issue is that the writers just didn’t do anything with Applejack. They gave her an out-of-character personality quirk and just sort of expected that to carry her through the whole episode. “Apple Family Reunion” is just another in a long line of failed attempts at making Applejack more interesting. She’s supposed to be the ‘straight man’, the solid foundation, and the shoulder to lean on. It may not be exciting, but that’s what it is. When AJ is taken out of her element and placed in another situation, it seems to contrast wildly with what had already been established with the character.

I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t raise an eyebrow at Applejack’s first solo song. I get they were trying to go for the whole square-dancing, hoedown, yee-haw tune, but it went from ‘homage’ into ‘terribly parody’ rather quickly. The song also suffers from absolutely horrible and simplistic lyrics. It’s also somewhat humorous that Applejack tries to make reparations for forcing her family members to do ridiculous activities by forcing her family members to do physical labor.

This episode also has the issue that most Applejack episodes have in that the spotlight is constantly stolen away from her by more interesting characters. In this particular instance, it’s Babs Seed. Yes, I did mention Manehattan earlier, and yes, Babs does indeed return for her second episode. She’s once again a main character, participating in activities with Apple Bloom for the whole episode. She reveals a bit more about her home and school and even references two possible new Manehattan Crusaders. It’s nice to see a new character return in such a big way, proving once again that DHX and the writers aren’t afraid of continuity. She almost has more to do and say in “Reunion” than she did her own episode.

The fact that Babs was represented so prominently and the fact that she mentioned a possible two new Cutie Mark Crusaders in Manehattan presents an interesting opportunity. Is it possible that we could get our first episode of FiM not featuring one of the established main characters and instead being set in Manehattan with Babs? It’s an interesting idea to think about, and may be a setup for a future episode in season four.

In a note of interest to some – the two shooting stars seen at the end of the episode were meant to represent Applejack’s parents who had passed away some time in the past. This was always meant to be as per Lauren Faust’s admission, but it was Sabrina Alberghetti, a lead storyboard artist, who finally confirmed its inclusion in the episode.This blink-and-miss-it scene was a small way to show something a bit deeper and thoughtful than sunshine and rainbows while still keeping it tasteful and not overly heavy-handed. This is still a children’s cartoon, after all.

The pacing in this episode, like most of season three, was superb. It never once felt like things were dragging on too long or being rushed at too hurried of a pace. Though I can say with confidence that this wasn’t the best episode of season three, it most certainly was not the worst. Ultimately “Apple Family Reunion” suffers from the issue that a lot of “Friendship is Magic” episodes suffer from: the episode comes, events happen, and then it ends, without much character progression or lasting appeal. It’s not a problem of the episodes being bad, per say, just that they are merely ‘good enough’. It’s important to note that, in the world of children’s television, being merely ‘good enough’ is often enough to propel the show to great heights, given its contemporaries. “Friendship is Magic”, though, has the added bonus of most of the episodes actually being ‘very good’ or ‘great’, even when compared to non-childrens programming. It so happens that “Reunion” just isn’t one of them.

  • Twisted Haywire

    I disagree with you.
    you see Applejack taking over as her trying to prove herself, I see Applejack taking over as her think Granny Smith getting to old and trying to help out.
    Applejack do miss the point trying to make things better not to late any pony down.

    and a couple of throw away scenes with Babs Seed and the aunts to show AJ over doing it, do not the show steal.

    a bigger questions how long is between Reunions, 100 moons that would be about 8 years, but in episode 1 all the apples ware there for reunion and that was 2 yesrs ago so dos that means Luna has been over doing it with a new moon every week?
    another questions airship earth ponies, why are no one talking about them ?

    • Aponymous

      ok,upon closer look at the most recent photo,seems Auntie & Uncle Orange (top-far left,I think) were there…possibly via airship (which I’m open for futher discussion on)

      also still nothing of this episode on hubworld as of yet…and I’m starting to wonder why

      and speaking of hubworld – has anypony else played or had issues with the new MLMajong game? (it seems to get stuck at the end for me)

      also a bit late but seems Fluttershy beat out Penny Ling for nastiest hissy fit
      The Flim/Flam Bros won best hubjam
      and her lovely majesty of the Changlings,Queen Chrysalis snagged the “Best Naughtiest use of a Villainous Power” (and for some strange reason…unless hub fixed it and it’s just me,the “watch clip” mini-popup shows up with a blank window that instead mentions Discord and asdfghjkl;’…unless that IS something Discord was up to just before he forked over the Naughtiest title)

      • Ponichaeism

        As for the Mahjong, I think it happens when you use the swap button, so try and avoid doing that.

  • Aponymous

    @Twisted Haywire
    (in the same tone as Twi when Luna recognized her Nightmare Night costume as Starswirl the Bearded) Finally! Someone’s brought up the subject of the time between Reunions! I’ve been pondering all WEEK that Luna’s been going over her abacus (as have I with mine) and even going as far as to questioning Big Mac (known for his fancy math) as to just how long “100 moons” is!
    as for the airships I figured they were from Manehattan and belonged to the fancy relatives that “flew in” but you’ve got a point there (also why weren’t the Oranges there? Hayseed Turnip Truck was…Braeburn (and every apple from Appleloosa) was.
    And another question – why no mention of Applewood??? (and I don’t recall hearing Apple Bloom name off Las Pegasus in the list of RSVPs either)

    also while I don’t require the use of captioning I still like to have it enabled anyway since I like to read along sometimes and while watching the cold open to Apple Family Reunion found two fun things –
    1) AJ says “Gesundhoof” when Granny Smith Sneezes ; Captioning text shows “Gesundheit”
    2) AB reads off list of cities in the RSVPs and adds “AND Manehattan!”
    Caption text shows “[speaking german]”

    @Ryan
    Also you try coming up with a song which starts (and has a chorus of) 1-2-3-4 (or am I the only one who noticed that it was a reference to how actual equines count? I’ve never been on a farm so personally wouldn’t know) It’s catchy,it’s country,it’s been in my head all week and makes me want to build a barn for some reason.

    lastly it seems to be Friday and this ver episode still has yet to appear on hubworld (unless it does later or right after I click post,likely hub’s site staff was busy for the holidays or something I guess?)

    -Aponymous out (and off to go raise up a barn…)

  • Zaehlas

    I would like to point out that my opinion pretty much rivaled yours when I first watched the episode. However, after the reveal of the meaning of the shooting stars, and watching AJ’s face closely (and listen to what Granny Smith says right at that moment), the entire rest of the episode up to the destruction of the barn, to me at least, had an entirely different meaning. At first I was very disappointed about how AJ acted, but after I realized how it affected her, I actually had alot of sympathy, and I really think they DID hit the characterization on the nose. Even if it was subtle at first.

  • Appleloosa2011

    I wonder why the earth ponies do not mention airships too.