I should probably say right off the bat that I don't like love stories, not that there's anything wrong with them, they just don't interest me. I should ALSO say I hate awkward moments, because they're hard to sit through. This episode is FULL of that, plus other stuff I didn't like. Which is not to say it's bad, in fact there's a lot of stuff I liked about it, I just doubt that I'll be re-watching it anytime soon... Or maybe I will, just to try and catch anything going on in the background... Anyway, see my thoughts after the break.
So apparently there's this Ponyville Day thing, commemorating the founding of Ponyville. I like how the episode makes reference to the fact that Granny Smith's on the comity since she was there when it was founding, but... well, for one thing, did we really need to be reminded of that? Perhaps, to people who forgot about it. Some of us forget these things. For another, I'm STILL bothered by just how long ago Ponyville was founded and how old Granny Smith is.
But anyway, we see Bulk Biceps in the crowd for some reason, we also see Derpy and several ponies dressed up as something-rather. Also Pinkie inflates her head like a balloon. I have to admit, it was funnier as a still screenshot, but still funny regardless... Incidentally, it's weird how Pinkie Pie was playing off how she doesn't care if she's chosen to be head of the celebration or whatever, despite clearly wanting it badly. Part of me wonders if this is passive-aggressive or something, I don't know...
But it turns out, of all ponies, Rarity is chose? Why? How? Who cares, she's the one, and as it turns out, she ALREADY has plans for the celebration... I guess she's like Pinkie, in that she just assumed she was going to win. This seems a wee bit pretentious to me... in fact, that's one of the words I'd use to describe how this episode acts, "pretentious", and I'll hopefully elaborate as we go on...
Oh goody, more fucking Spike abuse. I'm sorry, but I CAN'T be the only one noticing just how much Spike is given the shaft this season! It's like every time he's onscreen he's the butt of all jokes. And isn't it also ironic that Rarity "learned her lesson" about never abusing her friends' kindness, yet she continues to abuse Spike's for all it's worth. It's like the writers literally think less of Spike then anyone else does and feel the need to make fun of him at every opportunity! Again, I probably wouldn't be that sensitive to this if they didn't hammer in that moral in Power Ponies about Spike not just being comic relief, despite the fact that that's LITERALLY all he's been throughout the season, including here! But wait, it gets worse for him... you'll see.
So the mane 6 get together at Carousel Boutique and hear about Rarity's plans for Ponyville. Honestly, I feel like she's trying to hard to make Ponyville something it's not, like trying to be too much like Canterlot or whatever, but everypony else seems to like it. then she brings up Trenderhoof, oh boy... Rarity acts like how my sister acted when she was obsessed with every single boy band ever. Also, it's weird how it's clearly implied that she more then just idolizes him, she actually seems to LOVE him (despite never meeting him in person... er, pony), despite similarly having romantic interests in Prince Blueblood. Makes me think Rarity is a wee bit shallow here... That might also be a good word to describe this episode, "shallow". Not that the episode itself is shallow or pretentious, but the way the characters come off definitely feels that way. Also, it's weird how Spike doesn't react at all hearing that Rarity has the hots for another pony, but again, we'll get to that shortly.
So Trenderhoof arrives in town, and we see the first in this episode's "Tabitha St. Germain goes all-out" moments, as Rarity wails about how he's not coming, then again when she's hiding behind Twilight. Speaking of Twilight... ugh, okay, I know why they went with Twilight here, they needed somepony to keep Rarity level-headed and on her hooves as she gushes over Trenderhoof, and Twilight's the best pony to do so, being the most level-headed of the main cast, but... come on, she's a freaking princess! You'd THINK Trenderhoof would take notice of that! An aside glance, a mention, ANYTHING to acknowledge that she's in the presence of royalty! This is an incredibly minor moment, so I feel like I shouldn't be that hard on it, but the fact that it's such a consistent problem this season, despite the guys at DHX writing themselves into it the previous season, is really distracting!
Anyway, Rarity gives Trenderhoof a tour around Ponyville, and at first, he seems like a decent guy; he's been around, he's seen things, he compares what Rarity intends to do with events he's been to... he doesn't QUITE have the appeal of Coco Pommel, Cheese Sandwich, or any of the other new characters this season, but still, doesn't seem all that bad... yet.
Then we get to Sweet Apple Acres, and Trenderhoof gushes over how fascinated he is by the farm life... You know, this reminds me of that one guy, who had a TV show where every episode he'd try out a different job. Sounds like quite a life, to have a different experience every day. That's what I thought he was getting at here, and I thought that was cool, and thus I started warming up to Trenderhoof... Then he sees Applejack...
...Did anyone else feel a LITTLE uncomfortable when the episode tried to make Applejack... what's the word... "alluring"? When she wipes apple juice from her mouth, was that supposed to... you know what, it's a kids show, I'm not going to say that or even think about it, but I kept thinking how weird it was, ESPECIALLY when the episode wanted to make sure we knew that Applejack was dirty and not at all glamorous. Also, when he pushed Rarity aside... kind of rubbed me the wrong way, you know? Also, I would have expected a bigger outburst out of Rarity, like she would be in SHOCK to see Trenderhoof eying somepony else, but no, just a small sad face before the commercial. Given how over-the-top Rarity gets in this episode, this felt really off...
Then we see Spike visiting Rarity, who's sobbing over Trenderhoof not loving her (the second big "Tabitha St. Germain goes all-out!" moment), and saying Spike has no idea how it feels to love somepony and have all that love unrequited... to which Spike gives an aside glance. This sent up a lot of signals in my head, but thankfully, this isn't the last this thing is mentioned. Rarity then decides to do something different.
We then see Trenderhoof, bothering Applejack, asking her about her work and apples, and bragging about his life, and how he mundane, the simple, the unappreciated (BTW, when he points to Derpy as he says "unappreciated", THAT was a stroke of genius!) and makes them "relatable", and this is where Trenderhoof started to lose me. While I was watching the episode, I was hoping at one point that he'd be called out for being a pretentious git then humiliated and kicked out of Ponyville, because I was so annoyed with him... It honestly gets worse from here. Rarity shows up, all sparkly in some adorable "country-esque" clothes, trying to get Trenderhoof's attention... Then we come to the SECOND most annoying thing in this episode, aside from Trenderhoof himself, Rarity constantly trying to win Trenderhoof over. I get that's the whole point of the episode, but here's the annoying thing for me, it's not Rarity's attempts to win Trenderhoof over (though I AM personally annoyed by that, the same way I'm annoyed when Finn tries to win over Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time or when Dipper tries to win over Wendy in Gravity Falls, it's just a lost cause because the opposing party CLEARLY isn't interested), it's that the episode constantly fakes us out on that! I think there were only one-or-two scenes dedicated to Rarity thinking she's won over Trenderhoof, only for him to go with Applejack, and let me tell you, I was annoyed when the first one came along, so when the second time came around, I was all "ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS?! You did this already! Do you really think we're going to believe, even for a second, that Rarity successfully won over Trenderhoof NOW?! Good freaking lord, man..." ...That, and the first attempt was lame. When Trenderhoof made that poem or whatever, with 3 words that rhymed with "Rarity", I just wanted to shout at the screen "that doesn't even rhyme!" I get that that's the joke, but that only begs the question of why he chose those words at all! I get that point out the joke would be annoying, but with a joke this overdone, I think going to route of Pixar's Up would be very much appreciated:
Russell: A wilderness explorer is a friend to all, be a plant or fish or tiny mole!
Carl Fredricksen: That doesn't even rhyme!
Russell: [offended] Yeah it does.
Anyway, then we cut to Rarity figuring out how a plow works, and keeps going on about how this is getting Trenderhoof "invested in the festival", instead of... well, you know. Rarity then thanks Spike for cooperating with her so much, and Spike gets all bashful... AAAAAAAAND that's the last time Spike's crush on Rarity is acknowledged in the episode. Really... What the DONK?! Like seriously, maybe I'm getting a bit too upset over this, and I'm not even sure why I should be upset about this, but the fact that Rarity, in just one episode, is being treated the same way Spike's been treated by her for practically the entire series, and they hardly touch on this except for a quick joke just feels insulting, not just to anyone who like Spike, but Spike's character as a whole! Hell, even when they all learn their lesson to be true to yourself (yeah, spoilers, whatever) and be honest with your emotions, Spike will STILL have his love for Rarity exploited LONG after this episode, because the writers don't give a shit about Spike in the slightest! He literally is "just there", and whether it be for jokes or a plot device or whatever, it seems that's ALL he'll ever be at this rate! I know people who are up in arms about Pinkie Pie possibly being "Flanderized" or being "out of character", but I've seen literally NO ONE complaining about Spike, despite being far more blatant in this season more then any other season. Maybe it's because fans, in general, never gave a crap about Spike, and thus, maybe that's why the writers don't give a crap about him, and just do whatever they want with him because they know if they do the same with any of the mane 6, the fans will have their heads. That's probably it, the writers want to do mean-spirited, cruel, unfunny jokes, it seems to be a growing tendency in cartoons this day and age, so they get it all out on Spike so they don't have to resort to doing it with characters people actually care about. I know what Spike's gone through doesn't really compared to what Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants or Meg from Family Guy goes through, but it really is distressing for me, because I DO like Spike, and I want him to be more then this, but 13 episodes in, and it really does seem like the writers don't give the level of care and attention the give the other characters to him... even in "his own episode", which really was just a gimmick episode that tried (and failed) to have something deep or meaningful in it.
Ugh... That rant literally came out of nowhere... I guess moving on, Rarity doesn't know how a plot works (which I guess is funny), and Applejack shows her up. Really, the way she moves, she DOES make it look easy, that plow must be pretty heavy!
Then there's the apple-bucking, Rarity tries to show off (and fails), and Trenderhoof still gets on Applejack's nerves. We then have our second fake-out, and again, it's REALLY annoying because anyone with a functioning brain can see what's coming, especially since they ALREADY did this joke before! ...I DID like how Applejack went into a chicken coop to get away from Trenderhoof, though.
Later, Rarity is apparently making Big Mac get some things for her, and AJ relents about how he's getting annoyed with how Trenderhoof is a LITTLE too interested in the farm life, to which Rarity interprets in all the wrong ways... See, I get that she's mad, and that her emotions are clouding her view, but while I can accept that happening in Rarity Takes Manehatten, here it just feels really stupid, since Trenderhoof CLEARLY is not interested in Rarity at all. Even if she wants to win him over, I still don't know why she's angry at Applejack. I mean, it's not AJ's fault that Trenderhoof likes her, and she even admits to being annoyed with him, so why... ugh, whatever, love makes you do stupid things and whatever. See what I mean when I said I didn't like romantic stories? CLEARLY I just don't get it.
But what follows is literally the best parts of the episode, almost enough to make it all worth it for me. Rarity speaks in this obviously phoney country accent, that half the time sounds convincing and the other half sounds like she's talking what she THINKS is how a country pony would talk! Her voice alone (God bless Tabitha St. Germain) is enough for me to watch these parts over and over again! Anyway, she decides to COMPLETELY redo the festival with a new theme. Applejack, of course, laughs at Rarity's pathetic attempts to be what she thinks is what AJ is... and Fluttershy does too, a little. Uhh, mmm, something about this didn't feel right, I figured Fluttershy would be more considerate then this, but then again, given what she's done in the past, and how questionable her moral compass is, I wouldn't say it's out-of-character, so I'll just say I don't like it. I think Rainbow Dash would be the one more likely to laugh at this (after Applejack), so going with Fluttershy just feels weird... But Rarity insists that this is what she wants to do, she loves doing it, AJ doesn't know Rarity as well as she thinks, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Trenderhoof. AJ is clearly annoyed...
Back at Sweet Apple Acres... is the rest of the Apple Family okay with Rarity doing all this? Apparently... Anyway, Rarity wants to make a new fashion show, but her sense of fashion clashes horribly with the style she chose. Practicality is something foreign to her when it comes to what to wear, and thus dresses up poor Apple Bloom like some kind of circus clown, and tells all the other fillies to dress like that. Then Applejack comes in dressed like a doll (literally and figuratively), and Rarity has pretty much the same reaction AJ had with her a few moments ago. Rarity keeps insisting on liking AJ's way of life while Applejack goes on acting like Rarity supposedly would... which is surprisingly effective, to the point where I actually wouldn't mind seeing Applejack act and talk like that... No really, she's really cute in that dress with that hair, and he "proper" take is surprisingly good, better then Rarity's (hilarious) attempts to talk country! Maybe he's taking what she learned in Manehatten all those years ago and applying it here! I'd like to think that's a nice call-back, but somehow, I doubt that was the thought-process here.
Then the second-funniest scene in season 4 happens (the funniest being that mumbling joke in Rainbow Falls) and Rarity gets mud on Applejack's dress... and it seems Rarity finally can't hold it back anymore; her desire for neat and tidiness has overridden her desire to be what she thinks Trenderhoof would like, which was Applejack's plan all along... I think... It felt like Applejack was just doing what Rarity was doing to egg her on, that mud splat was a complete accident. But at the very least, Rarity realized how ridiculous she was acting, and worst of all, she took it out on Applejack, despite Applejack, like Rarity said, knows her probably even more then she knows herself. Then Trenderhoof shows up, declaring that HE wants to live the farm life, and then we get our message... and I have to say, I love this message. It kind of redeems Trenderhoof, in my eyes anyway, as he learned not to let his love for Applejack (or apparently, his newfound appreciation for farming) get in the way of who he truly is, and who he truly is is a pony who goes from place to place, discovering all kinds of new ways of life. I also like how Rarity apparently got over her crush on Trenderhoof. Perhaps she realized her "love" for him was trite and petty, and trying to win him over was even more trite and petty. Trenderhoof realizes that, too, it seems, because when the actual festival takes place, he asks Granny Smith, not AJ, for a dance, and gives Rarity a rose... Speaking of which, they go back to the original plan, which was making everything fancy... and it looks ever more like Canterlot then I thought, because I SWEAR I saw some Canterlot ponies among the other ponies at the festival...
Oh, and apparently that dress AJ was wearing was Rarity's... Whoops. I almost thought it was a missed opportunity to not have that dress be a remnant of Applejack's Manehatten days, but on reflection, she only stayed in Manehatten for a few days when she was young, so why she would have a dress that size would be kind of weird and silly.
So, yeah, those were my thoughts on Simple Ways. It was... decent. I liked the latter half more then the former half, really liked the ending and lesson, but other then that, not much for me to talk about... Other then recurring problems with season 4 itself, but I think I'll gripe more about THAT when the season is over... or the next time Twilight's princesshood is ignored or Spike gets abused. Whichever comes first.