... until the Element of Honesty finally got her "key" in "Leap of Faith," last week's new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I'm not exactly going to beat my chest (or whack my withers, to coin a dubious equine phrase) about getting this guess right. Once it became known that the ep was going to feature "a test of Applejack's honesty" and that it was going to guest-star the Flim-Flam brothers, a pair of traveling salesponies who nearly won Sweet Apple Acres from the Apple family during a cider-making contest in a second-season episode, the scenario pretty much wrote itself. Well, up to a point. I had expected that the characters who would be taught a lesson by Applejack and would give her a "key-riffic" token of thanks in return would be the Flim-Flam brothers themselves. Not hardly. In fact, the brothers cross the line into outright dishonesty, selling a fake health tonic to Ponyville's old, lame, halt, and blind (of which there suddenly seem to be a great many), and barely manage to slip out of town before the locals can beat a tattoo on their backsides. Instead, it's the brothers' repentant shill who delivers the goods, giving Applejack the money that he'd earlier conned out of a credulous local before AJ's decision to break the "placebo effect spell" awakened his dormant conscience. It was a pretty predictable plot, but pleasantly rendered for all that.
Maud Pie" introduced us to Pinkie Pie's deader-than-deadpan older sister, whose life revolves around... rocks. Thankfully, "pebbular" puns in this ep are kept to a minimum, though the obligatory "pet rock" reference wastes little time in making an appearance. Far more fun is had with Maud's monotonic line deliveries, free verse (about rocks, of course) recitals, and overall sense of low-key otherworldliness (e.g., she calmly eats a rock as the picnicking ponies watch in shock). The contrast to sister Pinkie could not be more stark... or could it?? In her dull, gray way, Maud gradually reveals that she has just as much control over her environment as does the fourth-wall-breaking Pinkie. In addition to eating rocks, she displays the ability to hurl giant boulders incredible distances, and she literally drills through a slab to save Pinkie from a rockslide. Evidently, an inherited gene in the Pie family allows for this sort of where-the-hay-did-THAT-come-from activity.
For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" was an easy sell for me because it could be considered a follow-up of sorts of the marvelous "Sisterhooves Social," which I discussed during my article on Rarity. Here, it's Sweetie who is more sinning than sinned against, as she takes umbrage at what she feels (and, apparently, has felt for some time) is her big sister's propensity for stealing the spotlight from her. Full of resentment, she sabotages a piece of wardrobe that Rarity had made for a mega-important client... and we then segue seamlessly (heh) into a takeoff on Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL, as Princess Luna, who can invade ponies' dreams, helps the snoozing Sweetie explore the origins of her resentment and the possible impact that Sweetie's skullduggery may have on Rarity's career. The visuals in this sequence are something to behold, and the use of Luna is an inspired (and context-specific) touch, since the Alicorn of the Night turned against her sister Celestia and became the evil Nightmare Moon for much the same reason that Sweetie turned against Rarity. It's as if Jacob Marley wasn't simply the ghost who came to warn Ebenezer Scrooge against repeating Marley's mistakes, but also served as Scrooge's guide through the past, present, and future.
Somepony to Watch Over Me," Applejack had to be turned into a temporary control freak in order for the normally idyllic relationship between Applejack and Apple Bloom to throw a shoe.
Twilight Sparkle will (1) get her "key" and (2) figure out the magical, mystical procedure whereby the infamous "lockbox" introduced in "Princess Twilight Sparkle." I'd be shocked if both of these events didn't occur during the "Equestria Games" storyline that will wrap up season 4, but some have opined that (1) might happen during an upcoming ep in which the gang go to a trading post and have their friendship "tested" in some manner. I don't know; said "test" may simply amount to one of them buying up all the (fill in the blank)s available and pissing the others off. Besides, a season-long arc should, by all rights, be concluded at the same time that the season itself draws to a close. So I'll stick with my "Equestria Games" theory for now.