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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle and Spike come to town one day finding the rest of the Mane Six, Applejack’s little sister Apple Bloom, and the rest of Ponyville hidden in their houses in fear of an individual named Zecora, a zebra who lives in the Everfree Forest who everyone is scared of being an “evil enchantress”. When Twilight points out that most of their fears are unfounded, Apple Bloom runs off to try and be brave enough to introduce herself and follows her into the Everfree Forest. The Mane Six catch up to her and run through a patch of blue leaves, at which point Zecora calls something mysterious to them before vanishing into the mist. The girls think she placed a curse on them, but Twilight, believing curses are nothing more than hokum and myths, dismisses it…until the next morning all of them seem to have been afflicted. Twilight’s horn is floppy, Pinkie’s tongue has outgrown her mouth, Rarity’s hair has turned long and shaggy, Rainbow Dash can’t move without being highly clumsy and crashing into things, Applejack has turned tiny, and Fluttershy now has a deep male voice. Apple Bloom, thinking this was her fault, goes to the forest again to try and talk to Zecora. The girls follow, and on arriving at Zecora’s house find her brewing a cauldron and saying it’s ready for “Apple Bloom”. Taking that as a threat, the girls break in and angrily confront her, Twilight Sparkle now believing she cursed them as well. However, Apple Bloom soon arrives safe and sound, having gone out to collect herbs for Zecora. They find out that Zecora’s call yesterday was a warning to stay out of the blue leaves, which were “Poison Joke”, a plant that plays jokes on ponies that wander into it, and that she was brewing herbs for a special bath that would have cured them. Twilight further finds a book Spike tried to show her earlier that would have cured the Poison Joke she dismissed as being full of myths without even cracking it open. Realizing she and the others are guilty of prejudice, they apologize and convince the other members of Ponyville to stop fearing Zecora as well and welcome her into the community. The episode ends with Twilight and the others taking the bath while she writes to Princess Celestia about the importance of “not judging a book by its cover”.

Review:

Let’s see…a zebra (African animal) voiced by an African American who stereotypically has African masks, jewelry, style, and words, and who everypony in town fears, shuns, and tacks stereotypes onto.

I wonder what the special message for this episode is…

I honestly think they could have been just a bit more subtle about the theme of this episode, which was obviously an “after school special” against racism. Or at least not made the victim of the racism such a blatant stereotype of native Africans. That said…the rest of the episode was quite good. The afflictions the members of the Mane Six get are quite entertaining. Apple Bloom stands out pretty well in this episode as well in a rare showing where she’s not with the other CMCs or obsessed with her Cutie Mark. I like Twilight Sparkle’s progression through the episode, first acting as the voice of tolerance and reason…then slowly being swayed by the sterotypes and prejudice of those around her…and finally realizing her foolishness and apologizing.

Zecora is one of my favorite recurring characters. I wouldn’t mind an episode in the future where the Mane Six went to the unnamed “far away” country she comes from and met her entire culture. She’s one of those deals on the show where a character was introduced mostly as a plot device, in this case a target for racism, and then later grows into her own character, and I think she did well. It would seem a bit “shallow” if the only reason Zecora was ever used was to point out racism, but in later episodes I like how she’s integrated enough into the community where she actually leads part of the Nightmare Night festivities. She also comes off as the wisest individual in the Ponyville area, knowing the answers to questions that even Twilight can’t figure out on her own. So I’m glad she didn’t stay, for lack of a better word, a “one trick pony”.

All in all, a pretty good episode with lots of entertaining moments (even a classic one or two), and a vast improvement over the previous one.

Fun Facts:

Although Apple Bloom appeared in the pilot episode and even had a line, this is the first “real” episode to feature her as a character. This is also one of the few where one of the CMCs is on “equal footing” with the other characters in the Mane Six, as usually they just hang with each other and occasionally get advice from the Mane Six.

First appearance of Zecora.

Another sentient race is introduced here: zebras…and, to me, one of the more “interesting” ones. Zebras are closely related to horses, after all, but I like the fact that while zebras practice magic like unicorns, they seem to rely more on shaman and alchemist ways rather than classic “horn waving” and incantations. It’s an interesting concept the writers chose to make.

I’m not sure if the description of the Everfree Forest is supposed to be a hidden joke or not. Sure…to us all, none of what they say is surprising since we’re used to “nature”…but not the characters on the show, so maybe it’s supposed to be more unsettling. Twilight doesn’t seem to think so although she’s lived her whole life with the sun, moon, weather, and plants being cared for by sentient creatures.

Pinkie Pie’s “Evil Enchantress” song isn’t one of the most noteworthy songs of the series, but “Flutterguy’s” rendition of it makes it one of the more memorable ones. On that note, Fluttershy’s male voice is the same one that did the dragon two episodes ago.

“Apple-teeny” is a take on “Apple-tini”…an alcoholic drink. Also, Spike breaks the fourth wall when he complains to the audience that he can’t think up a joke name for Twilight Sparkle.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

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