Fluttershy enlists Zecora’s help in collecting some moss for oxen visiting her wildlife sanctuary, but while gathering it Zecora accidentally breathes the pollen from a blue and orange-dotted flower and ends up getting infected with “Swamp Fever”: a terminal disease that will eventually turn her into a swamp tree. Blaming herself for the whole incident, Fluttershy grows determined to cure her and enlists Twilight Sparkle’s help in seeking out the identity of the “Masked Pony”, a legendary healer, to hopefully find a cure. In spite of Twilight’s insistence that Fluttershy pause to rest, she spends all night searching Twilight’s library and eventually discovers the Masked Pony was Mage Meadowbrook, an infamous healer, and, without stopping for sleep, immediately takes Twilight along with her to Hayseed Swamp to hopefully find something she left behind they can use. On arrival at the swamp, and to the tune of Fluttershy’s degenerating judgment and focus from lack of rest, the two find Meadowbrook’s old home. On reading her old journals, they discover she found the cure to the disease was the honey of the extremely aggressive “flash bees”, but the journal doesn’t mention how she managed to get it from them. Furthermore, Fluttershy’s neglect of her own health has caused her to contract Swamp Fever as well, but rather than pause to rest she immediately rushes to try and get the honey from the flash bees. The attempt fails as they ignore both her reasoning attempts and her Stare and she passes out. When she awakens, she’s shocked to discover she’s been out for three days due to her poor physical condition, making her realize her neglect of her own health in her desperation to help Zecora has only made things worse for both of them. Yet now that she has a moment to think, she realizes the flash bees ended up ignoring Meadowbrook because her healer’s mask was colored the same as the queen bee. Wearing her ancient mask, Fluttershy is able to get the honey and cure both herself and Zecora. She learns the importance of not getting so wrapped up in caring for others that she neglects to care for herself.
This would be the final “Old Pillar of Equestria” episode prior to the season finale. Similar to Somnambula’s episode, this is one that tied in pretty close to the legend associated with it rather than just threw it out with “Campfire Tales”. And unlike that one, in this one, in spite of Twilight Sparkle’s involvement, the focus is solidly on Fluttershy. It also did a few interesting things with Mage Meadowbrook’s character. It turns out, after being first introduced in the Season Five premiere, that she was never a magic user at all but an earth pony who only dealt in folk medicine. Makes one wonder how she managed to make any magic relics… Her Southern accent is a tad overbearing, but nothing horrendous. I was also happy to see Zecora again, even if she was bedridden most of the episode.
The subject matter was a little on the dark side again. Although it managed to do it in a way that sugarcoated it again, this episode was dealing with an illness that, for all intensive purposes, was terminal and fatal. Sure, everything ended up alright at the end, but it put a bit more weight on everything.
Unfortunately, as a result of that, it kind of…well, the moral wasn’t “muddled”, per say, but it was diluted a bit. It was a moral about making sure to take time to care for yourself even if you care for others. That’s a true statement, and I myself have felt the effects of neglecting my own health to try and get something ready for someone else. Nevertheless, there are some things worth a bit more stress than others. A friend who could be dying is one of them. Not to mention most of us will never be in a position where we’re trying to develop a cure for a loved one who is about to die. It’s more likely we’ll busy ourselves with trying to give friends or loved ones the best, or perhaps work overtime at a job trying to get something done, and eventually make ourselves so tired and sore that we’ll get sloppy, clumsy, or irate. Unfortunately, that would be addressed far better in “Once Upon a Zeppelin”, so we kind of received the same lesson twice.
Aside from that, it’s not a bad episode by any means at all. It’s not the best Fluttershy episode either, but it is on the upper end of the spectrum.
This episode premiered in the USA on September 3, 2017. Four days later, Legends of Magic #6 came out. Prior to its release, Meadowbrook had been teased but only while wearing her healer’s mask. In that issue, it had her pulling it off and revealing her face.
Fluttershy’s animal sanctuary finally gets a name: “Sweetfeather Sanctuary”.
Eh…try not to think too hard about how the tree dropping the flowers that infected Zecora got there.
In one of the bigger incidents of retconning, Mage Meadowbrook finally gets an appearance after first being mentioned in Season Five, only to reveal she’s not a unicorn or even a real “mage” or “sorceress”, but an earth pony that practices folk medicine.
Fluttershy is apparently good at “Old Ponish” as well. Too bad it wouldn’t help in the season finale. 😛
This episode settled that Zecora rhymes voluntarily, rather than has some sort of thing where everything she says is a natural rhyme.
Twilight mentions Fluttershy’s “excited squeaking noise”, the show’s first reference to the infamous “squees”.
Both Meadowbrook and Cattail are inspired by Louisiana Southern culture, although the bit with Meadowbrook’s mask is more of an allusion to old European plague doctors.
Meadowbrook shares Fluttershy’s eye shape. Similar to Somnambula and Pinkie Pie, Meadowbrook is an earth pony and yet Fluttershy most identifies with her.
Apparently, if an animal is aggressive enough, probably to the point of being nothing but angry all the time, it can ignore the Stare.
Brenda Crichlow, who does the voice of Zecora, also provided the voice of Meadowbrook’s mother. Doron Bell, the voice of Cattail, previously did Trenderhoof in “Simple Ways”.
3 Stars out of 5