I guess part of me wanted to see if this could have been massaged with the right treatment, even if the general idea remained the same.
I present for your consideration a proposal for a deleted scene that could have changed the perception of the episode without materially changing the sequences that followed. It might not have papered over some of the events that occurred out of plot convenience, but it might have made their actions more coherent.
Element one: The going assumption is that the five conspirators were acting out of character. I am going to propose, using evidence from how they have acted in prior and later episodes, that four of them were. There is one pony who has established a pattern of undermining and subverting friends, especially if they lord something over her. It's even something of an routine she has with some of them.
From this, I theorize that we can produce a scenario where this one friend can put her hoof upon the scales of justice, and tilt them towards passive-aggressive sort-of-villainy.
That pony, I postulate, is Applejack--who we should probably strike off the list of candidates for the Element of Honor, if there were to be one. We have her history of poor behavior when competing against Dash, as well as a continued back and forth with Rarity, where one has tweaked or undermined the other when the opportunity arose. Dash did really push her buttons, especially during that awkward photo shoot.
Her role in the plot was a display of superior strength by stopping a runaway carriage. Proving herself stronger than Dash is something she has relished before.
If we take the somewhat ambiguous balloon rescue scene as being an Applejack rescue, then that means she did twice as much to tweak Dash.
Element two: Of the five characters, several are not known for taking leadership roles. Fluttershy is non-assertive, and Pinkie too flighty. Rarity is more collected, but she's generally more focused on herself and somewhat disinterested in what Dash does or does not think about herself.
Despite the comic's setup, Spike has already drunk the Rainbow Kool-aid and is not around to interject in the coming echo chamber.
That leaves two ponies who have established a history of being forward with their ideas and putting them into action. But one is the cerebral and balanced Twilight, surely she would choose the reasonable and mature course. Especially when she consults with her right-hoof mare Apple--ohhhhhhhh.
There's a brief, conspiratorial look in this episode that Twilight and Applejack share that shows that they at the very least start off from the same point, even if they hadn't decided on a solution yet. Twilight might be reluctant, but who goes and doubts the element of honesty? It's not like there's a long-established history of honest Applejack being anything but, right?
Element three: The plot could have been planned as a small ploy, one which simply built upon itself as time went on. One criticism was that this could have been portrayed as a little gag that snowballed out of anyone's control. My only addition to this would be that maybe one of them wouldn't have minded it as much as the others. Most of the various parties would only know of their individual roles, so in isolation it wouldn't appear as serious a jerking around as it really was. Note, that one of them may have purposely taken on more work than the others to make sure they didn't catch on (element 1), and she would be herding them towards the actions she really desired all along.
Twilight and Applejack had the precipitating meeting of the minds, and it would be likely that they would dominate any planning.
Put it together, and we have an ostensible leader influenced by the strong opinions of a second in command, and the rest falling in line.
***pointless text after this point***
Twilight: I don't know AJ. Maybe we should just talk to Rainbow. We can make her understand how important it is to be humble and to help others over wanting fans and attention.
Applejack: That's sweet Twi', and I get where you're comin' from. But I've know Rainbow for way longer than you. She's not in the right mind to listen. She'll just say we're jealous. We just need to wake her up a little from her own little dream world a little.
Twilight: But to show her up like that. I think I'd feel awful.
Applejack: Look, it doesn't need to be a big ol' production. Just one extra heroic deed she can't do, and she'll start thinkin' maybe she ain't the best thing since apple pie.
Rarity: I sense an Apple Analogy coming.
Applejack: Not now, Rarity.
Twilight: I just don't know. Maybe?
Applejack: You have to trust me. Has that ever steered you wrong?
Twilight: Oh, okay. When you put it that way.
Applejack: Great, now to fixin' Dash's wagon. I can figure out a way to outmuscle her or you can magic up somethin' she can't think of beatin'.
Rarity: This sounds like a dreadful amount of work to put the slightest bit of polish on a very rough personality. I don't think I'll be brutishly throwing myself about to put an end to a Rainbow Dash ego trip.
Applejack: You don't think you can help, just a bit?
Rarity: Can, yes. Will, no.
Twilight: But wait, if talking to her makes her think we're jealous, how will showing her up make us look.
Pinkie: That sounds easy. Applejack just has to outdash Dash when she's not being Applejack. Are you Applejack right now...Applejack.
Pinkie: Then you're not trying hard enough!
Twilight: What if you had some kind of disguise?
Applejack: Like a costume?
Rarity: A what?
Twilight: We might need more than one. It's not like we can guess the nature of the next emergency, or you or I will be the one around when there is one.
Rarity: Would this outfit you're thinking of need some design work?
Twilight: I'm thinking it would.
Rarity: Do you think a fashionista could, maybe, make a few suggestions?
Applejack: Don't see why not. But there's just not enough of us. We need more eyes on the ground, and maybe in the sky if Rainbow tries to hold that over us.
Twilight: Could you watch the sky for us Fluttershy?
Applejack: Would you mind wearing a little something extra while yer at it?
Rarity: I'm thinking a whole line of superpowered fashion!
Fluttershy: I'm, I'm not really comfortable showing off like that.
Applejack: Nopony would know it was you. Listen, what if you just flew around a bit. You wouldn't have to do anything else. Just wait until I give you the signal.
Rarity: If you say yes I can do a full ensemble.
Applejack: And we can make sure Rainbow can't foil our plans.
Twilight: What about you Pinkie?
Pinkie: Well, I think Dashie's being a little immature right now, so it's up to me and you guys as her friends to do the mature and adult thing.
Pinkie: I have no idea what that is, but this sounds just fun enough to be it. I'm in!
The rest of the episode could be book-ended with a final dialog free scene after the big reveal and the credits.
It's just one long glare by Rainbow Dash at Applejack--something the latter pony has a history of enduring as well.
- Joined: Sep 22, 2011
- Location: Flyover country