Applejack and Rainbow Dash are both excited to win the School of Friendship’s Teacher of the Month award only to find that they’ve lost (yet again) to Fluttershy. When Twilight Sparkle announces a special lesson on teamwork to be handled via a field trip and mentions that it’s appropriate for the Teacher of the Month, Fluttershy suggests that Applejack and Dash handle it together, which they agree to in order to try and show off that they are Teacher of the Month material. However, both end up letting their competitive natures get the better of themselves and end up arguing and ruining each other’s respective activities and even endangering the students. Twilight confronts both of them angrily about it and suggests that the best candidate for Teacher of the Month would be selfless enough to not be interested in the position to begin with, but Applejack and Dash convince her to give them one more chance on a nature walk. Unfortunately, they now take Twilight’s comment to heart and now “anti-compete” with each other by continuously trying to have the other one take charge to show themselves more selfless, and as a result end up getting the class lost and stuck on one side of a ravine. Still trying to follow the other’s ideas and teach about teamwork, both end up building very flimsy bridges to get across and end up breaking both of them and leaving them dangling over a river filled with pony-eating “biteacuddas”. The Student Six, however, work together as a team to rescue them and, on returning to the School of Friendship, declare the lesson as a success as they have misinterpreted Applejack and Dash’s behavior as showing them not what to do and believe they purposely put themselves in danger to motivate them to work as a team. Twilight sees through the ruse but lets it slide and decides to commend the two, yet unfortunately Applejack and Dash soon start bickering over who nearly ruined the nature walk.
This was considered by several members of the fan community to be the worst episode of Season Eight and one of the worst episodes of the entire series (although one episode in Season Eight in particular would take that title from it in the second half…). I don’t quite think it’s that bad, even compared to other episodes of this season, but…yeah, it’s pretty down there.
One of my least favorite episodes of all time was Season One’s “Look Before You Sleep”, which I summarized as “Applejack and Rarity argue for 22 minutes.” This episode, in many ways, is nothing more than an alternate version of that spliced with an alternate version of Season One’s “Fall Weather Friends”. The latter might be what irritated fans the most. As Twilight calls out in this episode, Applejack and Rainbow Dash learned a long time ago about how thoughtless and ultimately pointless it is when they get over-competitive with each other, so learning the same lesson again is never a good thing. Even Fluttershy, who gets slammed the worst for it, usually has a different context behind it. There’s a different context here too but, this time, it’s worse because they put kids in danger with their bickering. It would have been one thing if it was only them, but this makes it much worse.
Nevertheless, I saw some good things that keep me from rating the episode too low.
I can say this for this episode: also similar to “Fall Weather Friends”, it shows off Ashleigh Ball’s talent on being able to voice both Rainbow Dash and Applejack as the main leads of an episode. That always astonishes me, especially since in this one they need to defer to each other’s ideas and therefore she had to keep them straight.
It also does a good job of building on the Student Six. So far in Season Eight, the Student Six had only really featured in one other episode, “Horse Play”, and after that one I had the lingering fear in the back of my mind that they might end up being a “unit” similar to how the Cutie Mark Crusaders were in a lot of early episodes; namely the same filly more or less copy and pasted three times with small variations. In this one, even if they’re only the “side characters” to Applejack and Dash’s antics, they all stand out as individuals and highlight their own personalities. I still had a bit of trouble differentiating Smolder and Gallus’ characters, but everyone else is definitely spot on. Silverstream thinks everything that happens was meant to be fun, no matter how disastrous. Ocelus still gets good ideas but is timid about showing them off. Sandbar is still laid back, and Yona is still her big, goofy, (increasingly lovable) self.
Finally, it avoids one big problem that I had with “Look Before You Sleep” and most Applejack/Rarity episodes in general: something physically happens. Although most of the episode is arguing, things stay very active, whether it’s in the shed-building, the canoeing, or the nature walk and rescue. And even if the two are rather unlikable in this episode and they spend the bulk of it arguing, we at least get a “commentary” from the Student Six. They help break up the constant bickering by throwing in side comments or even having physical reactions, which both helps mediate the annoyance while simultaneously making them their own characters.
When taking all of that into considering, while a lot of fans see this as a failure, I see it in the same light that Twilight sees Applejack and Dash’s failed lesson: the students still managed to get something worthwhile out of it, so that makes it a C+ in my book.
Anyone else think the real reason Fluttershy keeps winning Teacher of the Month is because she’s probably too kind-hearted to give out anything less than As? 😛
Assuming that there has been one ever since the season premiere, based on the Teacher of the Month photos the school has been open nine months at the start of this episode.
By now, the cast had switched to using “everycreature” instead of “everybody” (or “everypony”).
Hey, the Student Six got to experience the additional benefit of any Apply-Family-created structure…how quickly and easily it’s destroyed. 😛
Not gonna lie…Ocelus’ seapony form is cute. 🙂 Unlike the pony she normally changes into, that one’s more obviously her as it shares the same color palette. Even her retinas are the same color as her, um, “eye spheres”.
As yet another callback to Season One…Twilight is kind of dense in the second half of this episode; not realizing that Applejack and Rainbow Dash still haven’t learned their lesson. Of course, by the finale, she’s able to read between the lines of the Student Six, so she kind of redeems herself. 😛
That somewhat sly grin on Yona’s face after ramming Applejack and Rainbow Dash. 😛
As this episode offered a rare view of Ocelus from the backside, it was the first time I ever noticed her wing coverlets are spotted, somewhat like a ladybug’s.
2.5 Stars out of 5