After being “broken” since the events of “The Cutie Re-Mark”, Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer get the Cutie Map working again, and immediately it directs Rarity and Pinkie Pie to Canterlot. On arrival, both are hungry, so Rarity directs them to Restaurant Row and all of the dining establishments that have earned the coveted “Three Hoof” rating by Zesty Gourmand; the local infamous food critic that everyone seeks the approval of and chooses their places to eat by. Yet on finding all of the establishments have overly fancy and tasteless food, Pinkie literally follows her nose to the Tasty Treat, a back-alley restaurant. Although the food there is terrific, Zesty Gourmand has refused to rate it based on its appearance and, as such, no one ever goes there and it’s going out of business; causing the father-daughter team that runs it (Saffron Masala and Coriander Cumin) to progressively go at each other’s throats with one wanting to fight for the business and the other ready to throw in the towel. On seeing them fighting, Rarity and Pinkie decide the Cutie Map wants them to save their relationship by saving the Tasty Treat, and Rarity gets Zesty to try re-reviewing the restaurant and remodeling it while Pinkie goes to drum up enough guests to pack the place. Unfortunately, both differ on the best way to do it. Rarity believes the restaurant needs to imitate all others in Restaurant Row to get Zesty’s three-hoof approval, while Pinkie believes the restaurant should continue to be unique to stand out from the others. The end is failure on both fronts, with Pinkie failing to get any guests besides two tourists (due to no one local trying anything without the three-hoof rating) and Rarity’s changes in decor and style failing to impress Zesty, who again leaves without giving the restaurant a review and without sampling the food. As everyone mourns their failure, Saffron makes a flat-noodle soup for everyone to cheer them up, causing her and Coriander to remember why they founded the restaurant in the first place: to do something they both loved doing together. This prompts Rarity to get the idea to “switch tasks”, using her own Canterlot reputation to bring guests in while Pinkie reinstates the original decor and atmosphere; and the “grand re-reopening” is a huge success. Zesty herself overhears the crowds and comes in, actually upset that everyone came to the Tasty Treat without her approving it, at which point Rarity and Pinkie confront her for using her own tastes and likes to dictate to everyone else what they are allowed to like or dislike. Other restaurant owners in the Tasty Treat announce their intent to “rebel” and start making their food the way they like doing it rather than conforming to her own standard as well. Although Zesty leaves, still adamantly refusing to even try the food, everyone else has a wonderful night, Saffron and Coriander reconnect, and Rarity and Pinkie are signaled by the Cutie Map for a job well done.
This episode is kind of an odd mishmash of things and can be appreciated on multiple levels, but, in a rare turn, they work out pretty well.
I myself watch “Bar Rescue” religiously, even if it’s only the Spike knockoff of “Kitchen Nightmares”. I’m somewhat familiar with that type of reality television as a result, and this episode definitely had that flare to me. I imagine not too many other viewers saw that as a stand-out aspect, even with Gordon-Ramsey-Pony walking in (although at least one fan wanted to see him chew out Zesty, I’m sure), but it was still a nice touch.
Another nice touch was how this was the introduction to…well…I’d say “Indian” culture but I’m not sure what the equivalent is in Equestria. Some of Coriander’s comments indicate that it is indeed still Equestria as opposed to, say, Trottingham or somewhere overseas. But the unique style of the characters, the locale they make, and even the little “Bollywood” song number are all cute little artistic touches that make this episode stand out uniquely.
The best part, and this is going to sound like I’m throwing stones from living in a glass house, was the message. The fact is reviews have gone a little wild. I review episodes a bit for my own enjoyment and to let others see my take on episodes, but the Internet, especially in 2016, has taken it to a new extreme. For example, like or hate the remake of “Ghostbusters”, the fact is people were burning it in effigy and declaring they would never see it long before it came out. That’s one example, but a lot of things get declared trash or cursed before there’s even an opportunity for anyone to try it. In some cases, some things are praised when no one has really seen it yet. And critics not only abound, but tend to make their opinions sound more and more objective rather than realizing that they are evaluating art and all art is, by nature, subjective. It was kind of disheartening for me this past year to listen to Doug Walker talk about the subject. I like him as a critic although I’d only say I agree with him 95% of the time. When he talked about when critics disagree with audiences, he came short of admitting that critics can ever be wrong and audiences can ever be right when they’re wrong…instead saying that they see things audiences don’t see. I’ll go ahead and admit I’ve been wrong. “Keep Calm and Flutter On” is a bit worse than how I remember it. “Maud Pie” is a bit better than how I remember it. Yet the extreme in this episode is unfortunately becoming all too real not only in food and entertainment but everywhere, especially politics: that holding certain opinions insulates you not only from differing opinions but somehow gives you more value.
Bottom Line, and one that I hope most bronies have learned personally by now, is that no one can tell you what you can and can’t like. Even if something is “trash” to everyone else, if you like it, that doesn’t make you automatically “wrong”. And that’s a good message for adults, but possibly better for little kids for whom peer pressure means a lot more.
If I had to fault this episode on something, it would be how the Cutie Map task was handled. You would think the goal would be for both characters to learn something, but it’s pretty clear throughout this episode that Pinkie is right all along and Rarity is wrong, right from the moment where she’s nearly like the rest of the Canterlot Elite until Pinkie literally shoves some of the food in her mouth to make her try it. And this is after Rarity experienced firsthand the problem of sacrificing unique identity back in “Canterlot Boutique”. In retrospect, that’s not so bad of a problem. In “The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone”, Pinkie had the right idea while Rainbow Dash was going about things wrong. In “Maid in Manehattan”, both characters were sort of clueless but it was Applejack who ended up coming up with the solution. In “The Hooffields and the McColts”, it was Fluttershy who came through for both herself and Twilight Sparkle. So really, in all these episodes it’s usually one of the two that gets it right. Yet not only has it not really been done to the degree this episode did it, but this is now two times Pinkie’s crazy logic has been spot on while her companion kept going up the wrong tree.
Yet that’s kind of a nitpick. It’s still a good episode. It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s intriguing, and it’s got some little odd quirks all of its own. A nice way to reintroduce the Cutie Map.
The title “Spice Up Your Life” is based off of a pop song girl group in the 1990s, the Spice Girls.
First use of the Cutie Map in Season Six.
This episode has the “feel” of reality TV shows specializing in “rescuing” failed dining establishments, such as “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Bar Rescue”.
One of the few episodes in Season Six to have Starlight Glimmer in it where she’s not the focus.
As a side note, Rarity and Pinkie Pie’s discussion about how to find the friendship problem is rather clever, as it’s based on how they discovered their own original Cutie Map “missions” in Season Five.
Saffron and Cumin are both spices. The Cutie Marks of Saffron Masala and Coriander Cumin match the appearance of the spices in their names. Both of their ears are more “teardrop-shaped”, with thinner tapering toward the ends, to give them a more unique kind of appearance compared to other ponies.
Saffron Masala is voiced by Diana Kaarina. The one other voice she has done for the show so far was Aria Blaze, one of the Dazzlings in the second Equestria Girls movie. Coriander Cumin, on the other hand, is voiced by series regular Lee Tockar (who is also the only member of the show cast I’ve ever seen in person when he went to Crystal Faire, St. Louis).
In keeping with the Indian theme of Saffron and Coriander, “It’s Gonna Work” is inspired by the Bollywood genre.
Orange Slice, one of the tourist ponies, is voiced by Enid-Raye Adams. The only other time she has done voice work this season was for the fourth Equestria Girls movie, when she played Gloriosa Daisy/Gaia Everfree.
Chargrill Breadwinner is voiced by “Big” Jim Miller, who has written, directed, and worked on the storyboards for numerous episodes…but also occasionally does voice work. Most of his own roles go uncredited, such as when he first did the voice of King Sombra back in Season Three. His first credit was for Troubleshoes Clyde in Season Four. I kind of think he has a bit of a “Trey Parker” quality to his voice.
I’m sure Zesty Gourmand is supposed to be a parody of someone with an appearance like that, but…I have no idea who. :X
Conversely, one of the unicorns who comes to the grand re-reopening is a pony version of Gordon Ramsey from “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Hell’s Kitchen”, reinforcing the “restaurant rescue” plot of this episode. He must like the Tasty Treat because he doesn’t let out a single profanity. 😛 I’m not sure if any of the other ponies are pony versions of people…
In the last shot of the Tasty Treat, the board for a rating has been taken down: signifying no rating is requested or desired.
Hoofs, er Stars out of 5