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Synopsis:

Twilight Sparkle gets an unexpected scroll from her parents saying they won a contest for a free zeppelin cruise for the whole family, including Cadance, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart. Wanting some relief from her princess duties, Twilight decides to leave tasks to Spike and attend the cruise to spend some time relaxing with her family. Not long into the trip, however, she discovers that Iron Will is running it as a theme cruise for Equestrian princesses, and that he offered her parents the free cruise so that Twilight and Cadance would be suckered into coming along. With Cadance too busy with Flurry to entertain anyone, and the only alternative to be to cancel the cruise and disappoint both her family and the rest of the cruise attendees, Twilight agrees to participate in all of the princess activities so long as the rest of her family gets to do what they want on the trip. Unfortunately, while everyone else has a good time, Twilight’s trip is a disaster. She constantly has to be a “good princess” for everyone, she’s forced to be shadowed by an overeager fan named Star Tracker who won a raffle prize to be her “honorary family member”, she has no time to do anything with her family, and, as the icing on top, she misses a chance to catch the Northern Stars–the one event she wanted to see on the trip. This latest disappointment causes her to blow up at all of her family, honorary members included. Following her outburst, Cadance approaches her and reminds her in wanting to be a good princess for everyone, sometimes everyone demands more than she can give and she has to be willing to make time for herself. With that in mind, she decides to do something she wants to do with her family, again including the honorary members, and goes out with them for ice cream. On realizing Twilight just wanted to relax with her own folks, however, Star Tracker voluntarily agrees to leave them alone to themselves, and even stands up to Iron Will when he tries to turn the ice cream social into a cruise event. As a result, Twilight herself makes an announcement to everyone that she would really just like to spend the rest of the cruise with her family, inadvertently exposing Iron Will’s deception and that the contract the cruise attendees signed never guaranteed the participation of any princesses. He leaps overboard to escape the cruise attendees’ backlash, leaving Twilight’s family to enjoy the cruise any way they like, which they do by reenacting the Northern Stars for her.

Review:

This is another one of those episodes I should really dislike, but I don’t.

It has a number of things wrong with it. The foremost one is the entire setup, the idea that Twilight is overworked as the Princess of Friendship. That’s kind of flimsy. The fact is there are still a number of episodes to this day where Twilight is sitting around bored, and a frequent aspect of her character is trying to keep herself busy while fretting about not being off on Cutie Mark Map quests or the like. A large part of the series since Twilight became an alicorn has been her lamenting that she doesn’t get to do much. So the thought that Twilight needs a vacation to begin with is a bit tacked on. It doesn’t detract too much from what happened in this episode, as while she may not be overworked she doesn’t get to spend much time with her family, but it does a little.

Other smaller things also take away from it as well. As mentioned in Fun Facts, Twilight Sparkle wasn’t in Season Two’s “Putting Your Hoof Down”, so she doesn’t know Iron Will. At this point, turning Shining Armor into the whipping boy every time he appears in an episode is getting a little stale. Yeah, I know the joke is this guy who’s this big royal guard has all these nuances that you wouldn’t expect from a “macho man”, but when the only side of him you see is being wimpy, disorganized, and incompetent, he starts becoming a Memetic Loser. The moral itself isn’t the best in the world for a kid’s show or even an adult’s show. There are some people who work themselves to the bone and forget to take time out for themselves, but those are just the occasional overworker and parents. It’s not terribly universal.

And to be honest, Twilight’s family is quite a bit insensitive to her plight. As her family members, they should know when she’s lying through her teeth normally, but even if they didn’t it was clear she meant to spend the trip relaxing and spending time with them. Even if they consent to let her sacrifice her free time for them, the least they can do is not “rub it in” whenever she comes up to them. “Oh, I got a bunch of water up my nose with that barrel ride.” “Oops, I lost. This Bingo game isn’t as fun as I remember.” “I think that tiny boat’s pedals were busted so it wouldn’t have been fair.” Stuff like that to downplay it, you know? The worst part was when they’re so insensitive about the Northern Stars, which Twilight explicitly said was the ONE thing she wanted to do.

Yet in spite of all that, I did still end up liking this episode.

Iron Will isn’t quite as big as he was in his first appearance, but his character is still there and I get a real kick out of his farewell: “Satisfaction NOT guaranteed. NO REFUNDS!” (Jump overboard with a parachute of him swimming in cash) Flurry Heart is still just as cute as she was last time. The part where Twilight realizes she missed the Northern Stars is one of the more poignant parts of the series to me, as I’m sure most of us have had to deal with wanting to do something that was practically once in a lifetime and then miss it and know how that feels. Equally appropriate was Twilight losing her temper soon after.

But the most likable part of this episode is Cadance. Five seasons after she was introduced, it looks as if the writers finally found the perfect role for her in the show: not an alicorn princess or a ruler of a magic empire, but as an older sister. The show is filled with instances of friends helping each other in a heart-to-heart situation, but there’s a special connection between familial relations that’s greater than friends alone. Yes, I know technically Cadance is only Twilight’s sister-in-law, but the relationship there is still clear. I also know we have sister interactions with Rarity and Sweetie Belle and Applejack and Apple Bloom, but that’s different. There we have someone who’s older, more independent, and more in a position to have authority in a situation. Not always, but more often and more easily. Sisters who are both older and independent and free to talk to one another as equals isn’t something the show has done save for Celestia and Luna, but it wasn’t until “A Royal Problem” that this was really explored. And here she manages to give some good advice that comes not from her power or authority but by her life experience. She knows she has to make time for her family now because she’s begun one of her own. And a lot of her lines are simple and poignant, like when Twilight says she has to submit to the cruise activities if she wants to be a good princess.

“You’re already a good princess, Twilight.”

Finally, and this is going to be a little weird…but…well…I kind of picture Star Tracker and Twilight Sparkle together.

Yeah, I know in the bulk of this episode he looks like a creepy stalker…mostly because he acts like one. He’s constantly in Twilight’s personal space and he leans in close to whisper in her ear while sweating and quivering all over. And yes, that’s not only a bit disturbing but it’s essentially harassment. That said…he does learn his lesson in this episode, and even gets in a bit of physical pain for it. He realizes by the end that not only does he need to mind Twilight’s personal space but he voluntarily relinquishes his title of “honorary” family member even thought Twilight insisted on bringing him along after everything because he feels Twilight deserves it. He does try to stand up to Iron Will on Twilight’s behalf as well. On top of all that, even after all his behavior early in the episode, Twilight voluntarily gives him a hug too.

I can totally see these two meeting again in a couple years and being all: “Oh, you were that one earth pony from that cruise!” “Uh, heh…yeah. Sorry again.” and that be the kickoff to eventually the two pairing. Stranger things have happened.

In short, the good and entertaining parts make up for the parts that were a bit subpar, and even make up for them a little.

Fun Facts:

How does one deep fry a gem? Throw it in lava…?

Twilight Sparkle is more than right to worry about Spike handling “princess duties” while she’s gone. Remember “Princess Spike”? 😛

One beef I have with the show in general is that the audio can be really bad for some lines. The line Twilight shouts to Spike after he “waits for it” is: “Cruises have activities, right? I should probably make a schedule!”

This is the second time Twilight Velvet has had a speaking role. Oddly enough, her first speaking role, “The Crystalling”, had her voiced by Tara Strong herself, and was only the second character she had ever voiced on the show other than Twilight Sparkle. However, she’s been given a new voice in this episode, Patricia Drake.

It makes sense that Night Light loves the “organizational” aspects of Bingo. It explains where Twilight got it from. 😛

Shining Armor reenacts Rose’s part in “Titanic” by standing up on the prow.

Iron Will’s only other appearance was Season Two’s “Putting Your Hoof Down”, which is widely regarded as Fluttershy’s worst episode by much of the fandom. Twilight Sparkle, however, never appeared in that episode. So Twilight’s former knowledge of him is one of those deals like how Chekhov knew Khan in Star Trek II.

Iron Will still uses goats as his staff, and the fandom still wonders on what level of sentience they are. Are they basically slaves and indentured servants? Or trained monkeys?

That look on Cadance’s face after telling the parents Flurry needs her nap. 😛

Star Tracker has taken over Spike’s role of “quill case handler” for Twilight’s autograph session.

This was the first episode to air following the premiere of “My Little Pony: The Movie”. I almost thought it was something of an apology to Britt McKillip as Cadance only had two lines in the film.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5