After repeated suggestions in her scrolls, Pinkie Pie has gotten an invitation from Prince Rutherford to go to Yakyakistan for Yikslerbertfest. On arrival, she gets so much into the festivities that Rutherford says he almost wishes to make her an honorary yak. However, during one of their stomping ceremonies, the yaks cause an avalanche that completely buries the town in snow. When the yaks are unable to dig out on their own, Pinkie suggests that they ask the ponies of Equestria to lend them a hand, but Rutherford adamantly refuses and instead announces they will wait for the snow to melt, even though they have no food or shelter. Pinkie goes along with this while subtly suggesting the yaks ask for help, but Rutherford not only continues to refuse but when Pinkie doesn’t stop announces that she knows nothing about yak culture and recants his statements about her being an honorary yak. Upset at how stubborn they’re being, Pinkie returns to Ponyville and rallies her friends, saying that they need to help the yaks but can’t let them know they’re doing it. The Mane Six return to Yakyakistan during the night on a “covert friendship mission” and secretly dig out the town and set everything back up again. When the yaks awake the next morning, they cheer on Rutherford for deciding to wait for the snow to melt on seeing their restored town, but Rutherford catches a glimpse of Pinkie Pie sneaking away and heads off the Mane Six. At that point, he declares Pinkie an honorary yak once again; saying she understood yak culture by helping without waiting to be asked. Pinkie gets her own honorary set of yak horns for horn bumps, but find out the hard way Rutherford was right about them being too heavy.
The general response to this episode that I have observed interests me. Most fans I’ve run into rate it as average or slightly above average for the lesson. I find that funny. Fans have lampooned episodes before for failing at the very moral they were trying to teach (such as “The Cutie Re-Mark”) even if the approach was decent, but this one seemed to get a pass from a lot of folks. As for me?
To me, this derailed the momentum the season was going through with a nice, big, fat muddled moral. And who better to deliver that sort of plot than Prince Rutherford.
The yaks were no one’s favorite characters following “Party Pooped”. On a personal note, I feel they are the biggest fail characters the writers have ever come up with. It’s clear to me they were designed to teach the audience about being sensitive to other cultures and recognizing that what is normal in our culture isn’t for everyone, and that what may come off as rude or mean is the natural response to a cultural insult for us. However, the yaks came off in “Party Pooped” as aggressive brutes rather than simply an alternative culture. It made many people think why the ponies would want to bother being friends with them in the first place.
Most fans seemed to think this episode did better. On the first viewing, so did I. The yaks are toned down quite a bit. They seem to be a culture with a lot of personal pride; not outright aggressive or mean. That’s a plus from the first appearance. And while it took me a while for it to sink in, I get the lesson this one was trying to teach. The idea was supposed to be that the yaks weren’t opposed to the idea of help; just asking for it. In yak culture, if you want to help someone you just do it without forcing them to make a show of it. And that’s perfectly understandable. I read once that some of the Native Americans were the same way. If they wanted to give someone a gift, they didn’t make a big official presentation of it; they just left it out for them to find. If they didn’t take it, they assumed they didn’t want it and so they took it back…which, ironically, led to the derogatory idiom “Indian giver”. But I can see the idea. If you do something for someone, you don’t want to draw attention to it to make yourself look good for being nice or giving a gift. If that was the case, that would have been fine and I might have rated this episode as average too.
Unfortunately, that was not what happened in this episode, in spite of Prince Rutherford outright saying that’s what happened.
- Pinkie Pie didn’t start with telling the yaks to ask for help. She said she’d go to Ponyville herself and ask her friends to help without the yaks prompting. The yaks would have never had to ask for anything. Granted, she would have been asking for help, but that’s what she did at the end and Rutherford didn’t seem to mind that.
- It’s rather clear throughout this entire episode that the yaks aren’t necessarily on board with what Prince Rutherford claims is “yak culture”. Initially, all the yaks except Rutherford like Pinkie Pie’s story. It’s only when they fear getting his disapproval that they disagree with it as well. They’re clearly uncomfortable with his decisions throughout the episode and only reluctantly give him “horn bumps” toward the end.
- Prince Rutherford makes it clear through his words and actions that it’s not just the idea of asking for help that he’s avoiding, but even admitting the yaks need anyone to begin with. And he’s very happy at the end that all of the yaks (incorrectly) believe he was right all along about not needing assistance.
- When Rutherford learns that Pinkie left, even though he’s the one who shut her out, he refuses to admit to anyone or to himself that she’s gone because he wanted it, and never admits he was wrong for driving her off.
To me, what all of this means is that it wasn’t about yak culture but being under a particularly stubborn and foolish ruler who was driving his own subjects off a cliff and was too arrogant to admit it. Pinkie keeps saying “those yaks” but it’s only Rutherford who keeps shutting her down due to his pride and trying to keep himself looking in control. On the second viewing, this episode would have worked better as a single individual learning to admit when he made a bad decision, but that was covered as early as Season One’s “Applebuck Season”.
It does have its humorous moments. It wasn’t the best Pinkie Pie episode by any stretch or even of this season (“Secrets and Pies” would handle that), and a fistful of the things the yaks say and do with their third person way of talking is humorous. And I do appreciate that so many people were able to overlook just how muddled the moral was to get the key idea behind it, but I doubt most kids will be quite that sharp. Yet most of it is still a lot of what was in “Party Pooped”: Pinkie Pie being forced to deal with yaks acting like big, dumb brutes. And unlike that one, I don’t think there’s enough “Pinkie Zaniness” to offset it this time.
Prince Rutherford’s prank on Pinkie Pie is a throwback to the plot (and audience perception) of his original appearance in “Party Pooped”, in which it seemed everything the ponies did ended up insulting the yaks. Nevertheless, if you have a careful eye you can tell he’s joking. When his mane momentarily moves away from his eyes in the scene, you can see he’s not angry.
When Pinkie Pie takes a bite of the yak cake, she says: “The perfect balance of vanilla extract!” In “Party Pooped”, the yaks threw a fit because the cake the ponies made for them didn’t have the perfect balance of vanilla extract. The yaks also seem surprised Pinkie was able to pull off eating the cake in one bite like they do. They clearly don’t know Pinkie.
The return of Pinkie’s “drill mane”, first seen in “Bats!”. Gummy helps by very slowly eating snow.
There’s a touch of meta-humor in this one. It’s been a long-standing gripe about justification for the actions of the villains or “mean” characters on MLP:FIM to have simplistic backstories with some emotionally scarring tragedy. Prince Rutherford tries to make one up, but Pinkie points out all the flaws in it.
When recapping the story to the rest of the Mane Six, Pinkie calls herself “Pink Pony”.
It actually makes sense that six of the girls are able to clear away the avalanche all by themselves overnight. They’re ponies. They “wrap up winter” all the time. 🙂
Nerd nitpickers of the show (like me) were quick to note that Twilight Sparkle was able to make crops spontaneously grow. The whole dynamic for earth pony/pegasus/unicorn is supposed to be that only earth ponies can grow food. However, I will note that Twilight is an alicorn and has attributes of all three races.
2 Stars out of 5