A Bird in the Hoof
It's a funny thing how one episode can be worse than mediocre and then back on track to just plain okay the very next. Well, things run a lot more smoothly in this episode than the last, that's for sure.
Princess Celestia was originally supposed to pay a casual visit to Ponyville in Episode 10, but instead left to tend to an infestation of presumed parasprites in Fillydelphia. This time, she ends up visiting Ponyville for real and attends a luncheon in the Sugarcube Corner.
Twilight Sparkle is obviously nervous that her friends aren't going to make the best impression, but Fluttershy assures her that regardless, things will turn out just fine. Applejack and Rarity are trying too hard, while Pinkie Pie isn't even trying. I mean listen to the recycled audio clip from Episode 1...
...used for Cup Cake, not Pinkie Pie.
Now this scene reminds me of the comedic play You Can't Take It with You by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. In the play, we have the Sycamore family and the Kirby family. The Sycamores seem to be crazy yet delightful, while in comparison, the Kirby family is stone-faced. Of these families, Alice Sycamore, the only 'normal' person in her family, is engaged to Tony Kirby, who sees the Sycamores as a loving and caring family contrary to his own parents. Tony invites his family to dinner at the Sycamores and on purpose brings them over on the wrong night just so they can see the true lifestyles of the Sycamores and after much discussion between Martin Vanderhof, the grandfather, and Anthony P. Kirby, Tony's father, everything in the end all works out.
It's kind of the same deal here in the luncheon scene. All that Twilight and the others had to do was just be themselves and all would be well. Besides, Celestia seems to be perfectly okay with the denizens of Ponyville in general, including even Pinkie, and even plays a trick on the Cakes when they refill her tea cup one too many times. Yeah, I say why can't Celestia have a little fun? She may be this god-like eternal ruler of Equestria, but all things considered, she's pretty much like anyone else in the series. I mean, being a princess doesn't mean that one has to be pampered and tended to every frigging minute. Royal lifestyles just don't seem to create the best impressions, I guess.
Oh, and we're also introduced to this rather sickly-looking bird named Philomena, who is Celestia's pet. Okay, so we have this bird who's seemingly in a dreadful condition and owned by this most grand of grand characters in a series. Now, where have we seen a very similar scenario before?
Anyways, Celestia eventually announces that she has an audience with the Mayor and has to end the luncheon early. Twilight is relieved that nothing too serious happened, but then we learn that Philomena is gone and apparently under the loving care of Fluttershy. She tries everything to nurse it back to health, but nothing seems to be working.
That's when Twilight shows up and jumps out of her skin when she learns that this is where Philomena was taken. To top it off, the royal guards show up and ask for her whereabouts, to which Twilight and Fluttershy are forced to cover up.
That's when a search all over Ponyville begins after Philomena escapes and the girls have to find her while evading the guards at the same time. But eventually, Philomena loses all of her feathers, bursts into flame, and turns into ashes just as Fluttershy makes a diving catch to save her.
"Heh, heh... Looks like someone just let that one slip through her fingers."
Eh, so to speak. Well, Celestia arrives and Fluttershy fesses up to her for what she did. However, Philomena is then reborn and revealed to be a phoenix. Yeah, can't say we didn't see that one coming. This is like straight out of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Fawkes goes through pretty much the same thing. Celestia then explains the natural life cycle of the phoenix, but then also adds on something that doesn't quite make sense to me.
- Princess Celestia: But all you had to do was ask me and I could have told you Philomena was a phoenix and saved you all this trouble.
- Fluttershy: I know. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions. Next time I'll ask before taking matters into my own hooves.
Yeah, I'm sure. I mean, what are the chances that there would have been enough time to ask? No sooner was Philomena introduced then Celestia had to leave. Oh, and what's this about leaping to conclusions? This is by far the most contradictory statement in the entire series. Why is that? Because in many future episodes, this is exactly what happens. One way or another, a character for some stupid reason always jumps the gun. Hell, even Celestia herself jumps the gun once!
"Hmph. So now you're saying the characters in this series are gonna get stupid?"
Well, most of them. And the episode ends with Philomena giving Fluttershy a parting gift and Rainbow Dash manages to get the royal guards to laugh by having Philomena tickle them.
So, was this episode better than the last one? Hell, yeah! Definitely. Was this episode better than "Applebuck Season"? No. Frigging. Way. Was it mediocre? Yeah, kinda. Okay, it's on to the next episode.