Recap: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S2 E15: "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000"
You got trouble, right here in Ponyville! Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with C, and that stands for cider!
Flim: Well, lookie what we got here, brother of mine It's the same in every town. Ponies with thirsty throats, dry tongues And not a drop of cider to be found! Maybe they're not aware that there's really no need for this teary despair?
Flam: That the key that they need To solve the sad cider shortage you and I will share!
Written by M.A. Larson
Sweet Apple Cider Season is starting! Rainbow Dash has been waiting all year for this, and she's determined to get some cider before they run out, as happens every cider season going back for years - and especially to beat Pinkie to the punch, as she's always the first in line, and buys multiple mugs full. Despite Rainbow arriving at dawn, Pinkie is at the head of a long line of ponies who camped out, so it plays out the same as every year: Pinkie gets her several mugs, and the Apples sell the last barrel just before Rainbow reaches the counter, with other ponies still in line who are none too pleased about the situation. Rainbow Dash riles up the crowd to berate the Apples for never having enough cider.Cue the Flim Flam brothers rolling into Ponyville. They charm and schmooze their way into the town's good graces and introduce The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000, which they claim can make enough cider to satisfy all of Ponyville in a fraction of the time the Apples can even make their daily batch! The Apples maintain their position that quality is more important than speed, but the brothers quickly prove that their machine can make very good cider, thanks to its built-in quality check system that only uses the best apples and automatically discards the rotten or bruised ones. The brothers offer a "partnership," but when the Apples refuse their blatantly lopsided deal, the two groups make a bet: Whoever can make the most barrels of cider in one hour gets exclusive selling rights in Ponyville! This means if the Apples lose, they'll lose the right to sell cider in Ponyville, and without that money to tide them over in the winter, they won't be able to afford to run Sweet Apple Acres!Once the contest starts, the Apples aren't doing too well, but Twilight and the others join the Apples and help them get a lead on the Flim Flam brothers. Fearing that they will lose, the Flim Flam brothers double the speed of their machine, which causes the machine to suck in an entire apple tree at a time. This makes nearly all of the apples pass as "bad" in the machine's quality control, so to increase productivity, they turn the quality control off.The hour is up, and the Mayor counts the barrels...and the Flim Flam brothers have won by a considerable margin.Having lost their rights to sell in Ponyville, the Apples are despondent. The Flim Flam Brothers openly mock them for their loss and decide to rename the farm Flim Flam Fields, much to the visible upset of Rainbow and Ponyville. The brothers then celebrate by letting everypony try the cider. Since the quality control was turned off, no one likes the brothers' rotten-apple- and twig-infested cider, and they refuse to pay for it! Seeing that their product isn't wanted, and also fearing an angry mob, the Flim Flam brothers promptly skip town, returning Sweet Apple Acres to the Apple Family.As the episode draws to a closenote and as Rainbow Dash finally gets a mug of cider, Applejack writes her letter...
Dear Princess Celestia, I wanted to share my thoughts with you... *ahem* I didn't learn anything! Ha, I was right all along! If you take yer time to do things the right way, yer work'll speak fer itself. Sure, I could tell you I learned somethin' about how my friends are always there ta help me, and I can count on them no matter what, but, truth is, I knew that already too.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
Subverted — Applejack begins dictating the letter, then just drops the serious tone, as she knew the moral already.
Applejack: Dear Princess Celestia, I wanted to share my thoughts with you... *clears throat* I DIDN'T LEARN ANYTHING!
Though Double Subverted when she goes on to explain the lesson she would have learned anyway.
Also played straight. When the Flim Flam Brothers shut off their quality control and their machine proceeds to pump out cider at an unmatchable pace, Rainbow Dash demands their side do the same. Granny refuses, with the classic Aesop line "One bad apple spoils the bunch!" Sure enough, the lack of quality control renders the Brothers' product useless.
The Atoner: While for the first half of the episode Dash is on the side of whoever can get her some sweet sweet cider first, once Twilight calls on the rest of the Mane Six to help the Apples save their farm, Rainbow Dash is the most aggressive about helping speed up the pressing process. note Of course, Dash is aggressive about pretty much everything she does.
The Bad Guy Wins: The Flim Flam brothers win the contest but the crappy cider needed to win is what drove them out of town and allowed the Apple family to keep their land.
The Bet: The Flim Flam brothers and the Apple family bet over the exclusive right to sell cider in Ponyville.
Big Bads: The Flim Flam brothers fit this trope as far as definition goes, at least (they're the ones causing the conflict and kick starting the plot). Compared to the other bad guys the Mane Six have faced, however, these two are pretty tame.
Big "NO!": The citizens of Ponyville do it three times, each one louder than the next, to show their utter dissatisfaction with the Flim Flam Brothers' cider.
Butt Monkey: Rainbow Dash until the very end of the episode.
Also, the scene when Twilight briefs Dash, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy on their roles in helping the Apple family is very familiar.
The Cameo: Doctor Whooves is seen a couple times, but specifically one shot with a tie, running the hourglass for the competition. Sibsy, one of the storyboard artists, affirms that this was an intentional nod to the fan-named character.
He is also seen earlier standing next to Derpy Hooves, fandom-recognized to be his friend/lover/adventuring companion. Coincidence?
Characterization Marches On: Flim and Flam are portrayed here as genuine if ruthless businessmen. All their later appearances, both in the show and the comics, show them as outright con artists.
Cheaters Never Prosper: Once the Mane Six and the rest of the Apple family start to outpace the cider machine during the cider contest, Flim and Flam skip the quality control process to get back in the lead. Though this wins them the contest, the resulting product is so terrible that they get run out of town, which would have happened anyway if they lost. At least if they had lost on even terms, it wouldn't have completely ruined their business.
Amusingly, had they just run the competition straight up - without allowing for the "honorary family members" to join in - they would have won handily AND had quality cider.
Twilight: Isn't it exciting? The first day of cider season! Spike: Yeah! That means it's only 30 days until sapphire season! [licks chops]
Also, Pinkie Pie, going on a rave about how good this year's cider was to Rainbow Dash, who's already frustrated and upset at not getting any… despite Fluttershy trying to warn Pinkie.
The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Rainbow Dash in full throttle. She is treated as wrong for complaining about the (admittedly hap hazardous) dispensing of the Apple's cider and pretty much spends the entire episode in Butt Monkey mode. Deconstructed since she actually has the large majority of Ponyville on her side. Done again when she attempts to speed up the production by skipping quality check (though this would end up the Flim Flam's own undoing) and is backed off from trying to deliver violent justice to the snide brothers.
Cool Train: The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 is this because it looks more like a train than a Cool Car.
Cross Cultural Kerfluffle: Cider is considered non-alcoholic by default in the United States, and the alcoholic variety is specifically referred to as "hard cider." In other places, however, "cider" is alcoholic. So, to the amusement and/or horror of viewers outside the US, this episode appears to be about ponies getting drunk. However, given how quickly the cider is produced, there is no way it is alcoholic - it hasn't had the time to ferment and form ethanol.
Russian "official" dub does away with cider entirely, calling it simply "apple juice".
And so does the Latin American and German dub.
Crowd Song: The whole town pretty much gets in on the Flim Flam Brothers' song by the end.
Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Flim Flam Brothers make a ridiculous number of economic blunders, though three huge missteps really take the cake:
If they had only been willing to split the profits with the Apple Family more fairly, the Apples' finances would stay in the black, Sweet Apple Acres would become a long-term supplier, the Flim Flam Brothers would have formed a profitable business venture, the town would finally get a decent supply of cider, and everypony would have been happy. Instead, they insist on driving the Apples out of business and taking their farm. Even if they offered fairer terms, they were wrong to suddenly confront the Apples with an offer for a major piece of farm equipment, never an easy matter in family-run agriculture. If the Brothers were willing to let the Apples look over even a written rental agreement with Twilight Sparkle, they could have been able to bargain a profitable arrangement with some patience.
If they insisted on running the Apple Family out of business, they could have done so easily with a little patience. With the ability to produce the cider on the spot where customers were already lined up, they had possibly the best predatory pricing scheme in history. Instead they insist on a contest, a much larger and more dangerous gamble with the same payout.
While their machine is fast, they are at the mercy of the local supply. All the Apple Family had to do was deny them apples and they would have nothing. Applejack does indeed do this before the contest by taking their apple barrels away from them.
The Apple family's business practices here are puzzling as well. Since demand massively outstrips supply, the obvious thing to do would be to hire seasonal help and/or raise prices. Especially since the Cider is explicitly one of their most important products.
The slightly more obvious thing is to limit one mug per customer (which they clearly don't, since Pinkie buys multiple mugs) and slightly raise the prices. It would rake in more profit AND get cider to more people in Ponyville.
Evil Plan: The Flim Flam brothers run one of these on the Apples throughout the episode. First they offer them a blatantly lopsided deal for the family providing them apples, then they show up the next day right after the family used their supply to capitalize on all the dissatisfied customers, and finally they goad the Apples into betting the farm on a contest they had no chance of winning as well as providing them a large amount of apples for free. No matter what happened, the Flim Flam brothers would profit off of the Apple family. The Spanner in the Works is that their sheer unpleasantness steadily drives off a widening proportion of their customer base in the process, until they have nobody left to buy from them.
Expy: The Flim Flam Brothers, of... every snake oil salesman in television history, Harold Hill in particular.
Fainting: Rarity, at Flam's "Whadya say, sister?" swoons back with fluttering eyelashes, and Spike has to catch her.
The "Jumping Lyra" gag, after being absent thus far in Season 2, finally returns. Can you spot her? note Just as Applejack accepts the help of Twilight and her friends. To be more exact, just as those friends "Yay!"ed after that answer.
Also, Rainbow Dash flies around making hilarious expressions during the song.
Derpy appears several times during the song, including one shot where she's even more wall-eyed than usual.
Graceful Losers: The Apples surrender the field with a fair amount of grace, though Applejack may have suspected that the crowd would reject their competitors' low-quality cider.
As this is a kid's show, the Apple Family's cider is presumably non-alcoholic. Yet they serve it in tankards foaming over like beer. On top of that, when the ponies drink it, they make some interesting faces.
At the start of the episode, Rainbow Dash yanks the blanket away from Fluttershy, who then promptly looks down and cups her hooves over her chest, blushing. All while the "TV-Y" rating is showing during the television broadcast. Made all the funnier when you notice that the rating logo disappears at the same time as Rainbow Dash yanking away the blanket. Almost as if the logo is thinking to itself "Oh the hell with it!"
Gratuitous French: During the Flim Flam Brothers' musical number, they refer to themselves as "nonpareil", or "without equal" in French.
Heel-Face Turn: Rainbow Dash initially supports the Flim Flam brothers, until she sees what jerks they are. At that point, she is willing to kick their flanks, but Applejack restrains her.
Homage/Suspiciously Similar Song: The first act is a loving nod to Meredith Willson's The Music Man. Not only do we have the the barbershop quartet-style outfits, red-and-white striped manes, and the use of the song to lure the rest of the town into the confidence scheme; the song itself shares many similar musical elements with "Ya Got Trouble" from the musical, including the eloquent vocabulary and the backing beat of the crowd shouting "Cider! Cider!"
The episode's plot itself is an homage to the American folk tale of John Henry; a railroad worker who competed against a steam engine and won. Of course, he didn't get any help from his friends, and died immediately after his victory.
Hoist By Their Own Petard: The Flim Flam Brothers, first by accepting the Mane Cast's choice to help the Apples, then turning off quality control, ultimately leading to their downfall. They also made the contest explicitly about quantity over quality — claiming they could make cider faster, not better. They won on quantity but ended up with a product that wouldn't sell.
Innocently Insensitive: Once again, Pinkie Pie is the one behaving this way. Between her "hope they don't run out" remark in the cold opening and her gabbing about how amazing the cider was in front of Rainbow Dash (she bought at least ten cups of cider), she acts pretty insensitive. She makes up for it in the end.
Jerk Ass: Pinkie Pie does it a lot in this episode. She causes the line to be extremely long due to gabbing about cider season starting, then buys at least ten cups of cider instead of the one that everyone else was satisfied with, and after that essentially rubs it in Rainbow Dash's face about how good the cider was and that it was a shame that Rainbow didn't get any.
Jerks With Good Publicity: The Flim Flam Brothers are charismatic, their cider-making machine is a true wonder, and their abundant machine-made cider is as good as (maybe even better than) the cider squeezed by the Apple family, so they win everyone's support as soon they arrive in Ponyville (It helps that they also introduce themselves and their machine with a song so catchy it gets the entire town singing along). It isn't until after they cheat the Apple family out of their farm and deactivate their machine's quality control system to produce faster (but vastly inferior) cider that everyone finally realizes the kind of jerks they are. Their public Kick the Dog moment doesn't help matters in the least.
Kick the Dog: The Flim Flam Brothers openly mocking the Apples for losing their livelihood, laughing in their faces. In-Universe, this not only enrages Rainbow enough that she'd have beaten the stuffing out of them if AJ hadn't stopped her, but it seems to cause the entire town to have second thoughts.
Know When to Fold 'Em: The brothers could tell an angry mob was likely to form, with them as the targets. So they did the smart thing and left for another town.
Subverted. Even Granny Smith is willing to admit the Flim Flam Brothers' machine makes good cider (she never says it, but the look on her face after she tries it says enough); the problem is that the Flim Flam Brothers themselves are greedy, dishonest businessmen who offer the Apple family a "deal" that would financially ruin them, threaten to put them out of business when they sensibly refuse, and only manage to win the contest by churning out vast quantities of undrinkable product. The machine itself is never presented as being inherently malicious; only its unscrupulous creators are.
Magitek: The Flim Flam Brothers' machine runs off their own magic.
Meaningful Name: "Flim Flam" being another term for a confidence scheme. Lampshaded by the Flim Flam Brothers threatening the Apple family, saying that they'll need to get jobs that aren't so perfectly suited to their names.
Mobile Factory: The titular cider press doubles as a vehicle. That looks like a steam locomotive for some reason...
Genius Bonus: it is similar in spirit to this machine, a steam locomotive powering a cider press. Also, this shows that using a steam engine for a cider press is not that far-fetched at all.
My God What Have We Done?: Nothing is said, but the town's reaction to seeing the Apple Family lose their livelihood because they were too impatient to wait for more cider.
Mythology Gag: This isn't the first time My Little Pony has had two competing juice stands. An episode of My Little Pony Tales, "The Great Lemonade Stand Wars", did it first, including contrasting the main characters' charming little wooden stand with their competitor's sleeker, shinier, mobile one. This time, however, Bon Bon is on the other side of the counter.
Naked Ponies Are Funny: Rainbow Dash pulls the covers off of Fluttershy's bed, causing Fluttershy to cup her hooves over her "chest" and blush with embarrassment. No real reason for it other than Rule of Funny.
This is Truth in Television. Every small town seems to want the big box stores to come in... and then laments the loss of smaller local businesses. Though of course, the real reason for this is that it is better to have more, and there is economy in scale. It is very likely, given the technology level in the show (late 1800s-early 1900s) that automation is just around the corner and going to greatly change the Apples' way of life within a generation.
By goading the Apple Family into a contest, the Flim Flam Brothers cause them to make enough cider for the entire town.
Not only that, but they allow the Apples to enlist virtually anyone they want on their side of the contest. Had they simply kept the Apples to the whole Apple family rather than brashly handing them a blank check, they would likely have won the contest. Instead, they tempt fate and let the Apple family "staff up" with anyone who will help...only to see the Apples start winning through a /far/ larger workforce, complete with special abilities that they would otherwise lack. Apple Family ponies are all Earth-but when the rest of the mane cast join in, they gain access to Pegasus flight abilities (enabling them to harvest trees faster) and Unicorn telekinetics (allowing full drums to be stacked faster, and apples to be sorted for quality further from the press).
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Deconstructed. The competition is over and Twilight and Applejack collapse in exhaustion. Having chosen not to cheat even in the face of temptation, Twilight compliments Applejack on how proud she is of her and how such integrity would not go unrewarded. Cue victory being handed to the Flim Flam brothers. 'deconstructed' because their victory was short lived. Their bigger barrel stack looks impressive but the juice inside is awful. Thus Twilight was perfectly correct; it just took a little longer than expected for the Apples' honest labor to pay off.
No Endor Holocaust: Nobody seems concerned with the massive loss of apples that were used to produce Flim and Flam's shoddy batches of cider.
Nopony Calls Me Chicken: Granny Smith doesn't take kindly to being called this and ends up betting Sweet Apple Acres in a cider-making contest.
The Flim Flam Brothers also have one when they realize that Applejack's friends are helping enough that they might lose the competition, complete with a spit-take.
The Flim Flam Brothers when they realize that not only is nopony going to pay one cent for their cider, but the entire town is furious at them.
Open Mouth, Insert Hoof: Apple Bloom just doesn't know when to shut her mouth. Granny Smith certainly doesn't help any by betting the farm.
Pyrrhic Villainy: The Flim Flam Brothers win the contest, but they've thoroughly alienated everyone in town, and they used so many bad apples, ( and chunks of apple trees) that no one will buy from them.
Quality Over Quantity: Seen when Sweet Apple Acres gets into a cider making contest against some slick salesponies and their Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000. This trope is Double Subverted because the machine is shown to make good cider, but when the Apple family, along with the Mane Six, start pulling ahead the sales ponies turn up the power and turn off the quality control, which lets them churn out far more barrels of cider but it's the kind no one wants to drink.
The Quiet One: Big McIntosh gets one line in this episode beyond his characteristic "Eeyup": a firm "No deal" to the Flim Flam Brothers.
Rant Inducing Slight: Granny Smith weathers the brothers' provocations with relative grace (unlike Apple Bloom), until one of them calls her "chicken."
Real Estate Scam: Near the end, the Flim Flam Brothers reveal their intention to bankrupt the Apple family, force them off their land, and construct "Flim Flam Fields".
Recycled In SPACE: The American folk legend of John Henry beating a track-laying machine risking to put hundreds of men out of work, as retold in the form of a cider-making competition; With ponies!
Why is Applejack sending a letter to Celestia when she hasn't learned anything? Because it's funny, that's why!
Fluttershy covering her naked body, even though it's already been pointed out they are naked anyway.
Rule of Perception: Once the competition is in full-swing, the amount of cider barrels on both sides is never shown in comparison to one another until the very end to give the impression that the race between them is close.
Rule of Symbolism: Flim and Flam are twin brothers, yes? Take a look at their cutie marks. Flim has an apple slice. Flam has an apple with a slice having been taken out of it.
Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Even when they are losing the bet (and therefore, about to lose everything they own) the Apple family refuses to use less than the finest apples to speed up the production of cider. This ends up making them lose the bet, the farm, home and livelihood to the Flim Flam Brothers. It pays off for them in the end because no one wants to drink the inferior cider made by the Flim Flam's speedy machine.
Second Place Is for Winners: Although the Apple family loses the contest, the quality of their cider is realized, and the Flim Flam Brothers' true nature is exposed, which (combined with them stupidly serving the bad batches of Cider they made instead of the first, better batches) forces them to skip town.
Serious Business: Sweet Apple Cider is so important that ponies line up for miles to get it and are even willing to camp out in front of the farm to make sure they get some before everypony else.
Maybe next time, the Flim Flam Brothers should try selling band instruments. Ya got trouble! Right here in Ponyville! With a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for Cider!
The brothers' quality control system seems remarkably similar to another system set up to detect bad... um... apples.
Shown Their Work: All through the episode. Cider season? A real thing in apple country, and a very short thing; a few weeks in late fall. Only selling one day's production at a time? Absolutely; cider has an extremely short shelf life before it starts to carbonate and ferment. The big stone wheel Big Mac turns? A real, and very old-fashioned, machine for cider pressing.
Single Tear: Shed by Applejack as they abandon the field to the Flim Flams.
Snake Oil Salesman: the Brothers definitely share traits of this from their showman marking system to their disregard of quality.
Spit Take: Done twice: the first time when the Flim-Flam Bros. realize they're falling behind, and the second time when the townsfolk drink their "cider".
Squashed Flat: Poor Big McIntosh gets pulled under and stuck to the treadmill when Rainbow Dash jumps off during the contest.
Static Character/An Aesop: Both played for laughs in the letter to Princess Celestia. Applejack hasn't learned a thing because she already knew this episode's aesop.
A Tankard of Moose Urine: This would be the best way to describe Flim Flams' cider when they shut off the quality control system. When it's active, the machine turns out cider even Granny Smith clearly approves of.
Ticket Line Campout: Pulled off in the to wait in line for the Apple family's cider. As Pinkie notes, she decided to camp out and then told a few friends about her suggestion. They then decided to follow her example. In other words, people camping out overnight in line to be the first to get new apple products...
Tim Taylor Technology: When they fall behind in the contest, the Flim Flam brothers increase the power to their machine. The hyperactive machine sucks up whole trees and mangles the apples. The only way they can produce any cider like that is to turn off their quality control sensor, and that only results in undrinkable sludge.
Villain Exit Stage Left: The Flim Flam Brothers make a run for it after they realize that no one likes their cider anymore.
Villain Song: The Flim Flam Bros. song counts, although it's rather upbeat and causes everyone else to join in singing, and isn't necessarily malicious or villainous in any way. It counts because it involves the villains outlining their Evil Plan and gloating. Also notable as the first Villain Song of the series thus far.
Visual Pun: The Apple family's device for making cider uses actual horsepower.
A Wizard Did It: Lauren Faust stated, in defining the technology for the show, that if there was a necessary device that needed to work automatically, instead of relying on electricity, she'd claim that one could just assume that some mechanic unicorn infused it with magic. That's exactly how Flim and Flam start up their machine. Their horns glow every time.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Rainbow Dash cannot get a drop of cider. First, Fluttershy, who is in line just in front of her, gets the last mugfulnote This being Fluttershy, she was perfectly willing to share, but then everypony started shouting.... The second day, the Flim Flam brothers offer her a mug, but she spills it when Applejack lassos one of the brothers' barrels of cider. You know she's desperate when she shoves the dirt it was spilled on into her mouth.