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Synopsis:

The girls get a rather loud and obnoxious surprise when Pinkie Pie unveils her newfound love for the Yovidaphone instrument from Yakyakistan, declaring it her favorite thing and devoting herself to playing it all day, every day. Unfortunately, Pinkie is terrible at playing it and soon brings chaos and unpleasant, disruptive noise to everyone in Ponyville. Finally, the rest of the girls confront Pinkie and directly state that she’s not any good at playing the instrument and should focus on what she’s good at instead. At first, Pinkie seems to take the news well and abandons the Yovidaphone, but over the following days she lapses into depression over not being any good at playing it. The girls’ attempts to cheer her up fall flat and eventually culminate with her leaving Ponyville entirely to head to Yakyakistan to listen to real Yovidaphone players without so much as saying goodbye. The girls follow her there and find her even more depressed in a yurt hosting a Yovidaphone concert. She admits hearing good Yovidaphone players only made her realize more how she’d never be good at playing the instrument. This prompts the girls to suggest she play it anyway in a performance for the yaks even if she’s not good and will risk angering them, as it’s something that make her happy. Reluctantly, Pinkie does so, and is surprised at a roaring ovation from the yaks. They explain the true nature of the Yovidaphone is to play it to make yourself happy, so as long as Pinkie made herself happy by playing it she played it “perfectly”. Pinkie immediately goes into an encore song about how she has the best and most supportive friends a pony could ever ask for.

Review:

This episode was widely panned as being not only the worst episode of Season Eight but one of the worst of the entire series (according to IMDb, it’s actually third from the bottom at the time of writing this…with this same season’s “Non-Compete Clause” being the worst, if you’re interested). Do I think it deserves that notoriety?

Well…pretty much, yeah.

It’s not my personal pick for the worst of the worst, but that dishonor goes to episodes that I find painfully bland as well as making the mistakes that this episode did–namely gave a great big muddled moral and went out of character. To give the episode some credit, it at least kept things moving and animated and kept me wanting to see what would happen next. Aside from that, due to what I just mentioned (a muddled moral and out-of-character), it’s not that good.

While some muddled morals are smudged, this episode seemed to have been subjected to a rewrite that ruined it. The lesson behind it is good: do things that make you happy even if you’re not the best in the world at them. However, that lesson was already partially touched on and yet handled better by Season Six’s “On Your Marks”. I get the sense that how the episode was originally written was with the original Yakyakistan ending and only part of the opening. Namely, Pinkie Pie learned to play the Yovidaphone and loved it a lot although she wasn’t that good, she saw that real players were much better than her, she tried to go to Yakyakistan to learn better and failed, and at the end the rest of the Mane Six show up and tell her to do what she loves and from there the same resolution. And if that had been what happened, it would have been a decent episode.

Instead, everything gets confused. It’s very clear that the Mane Six, and Ponyville for that matter, don’t dislike Pinkie’s playing just because she’s not good at it but the fact she is very clearly disruptive and, in some cases, actually causing harm to residents and wildlife by playing. However, in order to make the end lesson works, none of the Mane Six state: “Pinkie, maybe you should play in a more open area.” or “Pinkie, maybe you should only confine your playing to indoors.” or “Pinkie, your instrument is really loud; please don’t play it after sundown.” No, they go straight to: “You’re not good at playing that instrument, and you should only do things you’re good at.” Not only is that rather hamfisted, it missed the mark of what the episode had been setting up.

And what does that mean? Was Applejack just supposed to smile and nod when Pinkie ruined her apple crop? Or Fluttershy supposed to just learn to put the animals to bed later after Pinkie went away? You can do something that makes you happy even if you aren’t good at it, but you can’t expect others to pretend you are. I play piano myself and I’m not that good. So if someone tells me to stop playing because I’m annoying people (which HAS happened before), I may be hurt but I have to expect it.

The other major factor is Pinkie Pie being out of character, which itself has two aspects to it.

The first is that it’s unnatural that Pinkie would get so attached to this instrument that she would hinge her entire sense of worth and well-being on it. What makes Pinkie happy is making other ponies happy. That’s been cemented since “The Smile Song”. The reason she went flat-maned in “Party of One” was because she thought her friends didn’t want to be her friends anymore, which hurt her personally but also disrupted her because she was throwing another party to make them happy and, to her, they acted like they didn’t care about her attempts to do so. Here…it’s an instrument she’s never touched before this episode. Suddenly Pinkie practically loses her sense of self over it. Not even in a “good” way appropriate to her character, such as in “The Maud Couple” when Pinkie had her meltdown over Mud Brier and imagined the girls all ending up having the opposite interests. She just becomes a bland lump who the rest of the girls have to actually physically move to make her do anything.

The second is that it makes Pinkie rather unlikable. A number of fans of “Gravity Falls”, which was a very well done show, nevertheless had the constant beef toward Mabel Pines that she always had to get her way and didn’t have to make any personal sacrifices, no matter how small, for the other characters for the sake of a relationship, and that others would have to cave into her to deal with her depression or sadness…which could be construed as a form of emotional manipulation. The same problem occurs here. The fact that Pinkie would end up going to such depressed lengths over an instrument she just picked up, continuously sulking until the Mane Six seemingly “caved” and just gave her what she wanted in order to get her to stop, seems almost childish. Like this was her version of throwing a tantrum or, worse yet, being emotionally manipulative to get her way.

Even Maud’s literal interpretation of everything the Mane Six say seems to be more “smartass” than her normal way of communicating in this episode.

I will say the rest of the Mane Six are fairly spot on for their characters (even if Applejack has grown more evasive rather than blunt) and, like I mentioned before, the episode at least keeps from being bland even if it goes in an unlikable direction to accomplish that end. Yet while Pinkie has her negative characteristics, this episode seemed to manufacture both one for her as well as engineer a situation which would bring it out. Neither makes for a good episode.

Fun Facts:

Although this episode is the eighteenth in production order, it actually aired prior to “A Matter of Principals” as part of Discovery Family’s “Summer of Surprises”. The episode wasn’t announced ahead of time and didn’t air again until the official release date, which was when I saw it.

Early releases of this episode called the instrument a “Zenithrash”, but this was not approved by Hasbro and the name was eventually changed to Yovidaphone. However, some synopses of this episode, including the one on Netflix, continue to call it a Zenithrash.

Applejack may be honest, but she’s mastered the subtle art of “weasel words”. “I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything like it in my life.”

Rarity slips and uses an apple euphenism. It’s a bit out of the blue, so I almost wonder if it was a line flubbed by Tabitha St. Germain they decided to keep.

Notice that Rainbow Dash kicks Fluttershy in the face to wake her up? 😛

Applejack chastises Twilight for attempting to lie about Pinkie’s playing ability, a callback to “Horse Play”. It’s rare to get a same-season callback that’s not tied to the season finale.

Notable in this episode is the return of flat-maned Pinkie AKA “Pinkamena”, who first appeared all the way back in Season One’s “Party of One”. It confirmed that Pinkie’s poofy mane goes flat whenever she’s depressed. However, this episode took it a step further and had her gradually lose all coloration, which is worse than her respective sisters (as even they have eye coloration).

Pinkie Pie’s bit in the yurt with ordering one ice cream sundae after another is a knockoff of the often-parodied bit of a depressed drunk constantly ordering more liquor at a bar. Also, yaks can wear bartender tuxes. 😛

Rating:

1.5 Stars out of 5