Sweetie Belle:We did it, girls! We found the one! Who will send our teacher's heart a-flutter!
Apple Bloom:Wait a minute, let me get this straight. Are you talking about my brother?
Written by Meghan McCarthy
Hearts and Hooves Day has come to Ponyville, a day for ponies to let their loved ones (be they friends, family, or significant others) know how much they mean to each other. The Cutie Mark Crusaders offer their teacher Cheerilee a huge, lavishly decorated paper heart the size of a rug, and in return discover that Cheerilee doesn't have a "very special somepony" to share the day with. According to Apple Bloom, a mare as wonderful as Miss Cheerilee clearly deserves to have somepony special in her life, and Sweetie Belle gets the idea for the Crusaders to go find him. One musical montage later, they've narrowed down the list of eligible bachelors to one: Apple Bloom's older brother, Big McIntosh.The Crusaders try to trick the pair into a blind-date picnic at the town gazebo, but the situation that results is more awkward than romantic, and McIntosh and Cheerilee part ways. Back in town, the disappointed Crusaders run into Twilight Sparkle, who just happens to have a book on the history of Hearts and Hooves Day...which includes a recipe for a love potion!The Crusaders borrow the book, whip up the potion, and serve it to Big McIntosh and Cheerilee, under the pretext of having the pair sample some punch they are intending to sell. The two older ponies drink down the potion, their eyes meet, and they fall head over hooves for each other! Unfortunately, the potion seems to work a little too well, as Cheerilee and McIntosh don't seem to be interested in doing anything but gazing into each other's eyes and calling each other sickeningly sweet pet names.Checking the book once again, the Crusaders discover that the potion they whipped up was actually a love poison, one that led to the fall of an ancient kingdom when a prince and princess under its effect were too lovestruck to attend to their royal duties. Fretful of the chaos that will surely result from Cheerilee and Big McIntosh neglecting their duties, Apple Bloom leads her friends to find the lovebirds and cure them. Fortunately, the book also mentions that the spell can be broken if the victims can be kept from looking into each other's eyes for an hour.Alas, Cheerilee and Big McIntosh are so utterly transfixed on each other that they resist the girls' attempts to break their gaze... until Sweetie Belle suggests the two get married! As part of the wedding preparations, Sweetie Belle manages to barricade Cheerilee in a changing room at Carousel Boutique while picking out a wedding dress, while Apple Bloom and Scootaloo try to keep Big McIntosh busy shopping for an engagement present. Unfortunately, Big McIntosh manages to make his purchase and slip away from the fillies; Apple Bloom has a devil of a time trying to stop her super-strong brother, as not even tying him to a house does more than slow him down. Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle manage to catch him in a pitfall just outside the boutique, but with seconds left on the clock, Cheerilee barges out of the changing room to be with her "schmoopie doo", and the two end up at the bottom of the pit together...Thankfully, the poison has just worn off, leaving the two very confused as to why they're on a mattress in a deep hole with Cheerilee wearing a bridal veil. The Cutie Mark Crusaders confess to spiking their drinks with the love poison, and admit they've learned not to mess with other ponies' relationships. Cheerilee is ready to forgive them... after they complete Big McIntosh's chores, that is.Later on, the Crusaders are just about finished with the chores when Cheerilee and Big McIntosh announce that with the free time Mac's earned, the two of them have decided to go on a picnic together. And just to mess with the Crusaders' (and the audience's) heads a little, they throw in a little lovey-dovey talk before walking off into the setting sun together.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
With the exception of Twilight (who appears for less than a minute), none of the Mane Cast makes an appearance. Rarity's voice actress gets a few lines as Mrs. Cake though.
Notably, this is the first episode of Season 2 where Applejack does not appear, meaning that no character appears in every Season 2 episode. (This may be partially to avoid answering the question as to whether the mane six have "very special someponies," especially since part of the point of FIM is to not be all about romantic relationships.)
Note also that there are scenes at Sweet Apple Acres, Carousel Boutique, and Sugarcube Corner, yet Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie never appear. It appears to have been a deliberate decision to keep the Mane Cast out of the story.
Alternate Animal Affection: Rubbing noses. The closest they come to an actual kiss is when they share a cherry at Sugarcube Corner. Even Mrs. Cup Cake is grossed out by their sappy lovey-dovey talk.
Anticlimax: On the first attempt by the CMC to hitch Cheerilee and Big McIntosh, the fillies wait in a nearby bush, getting more excited by the moment, as the two get closer, and closer, and Cheerilee looks deep into Big Mac's eyes, and then utters...
Unlike Applejack, Big McIntosh can buck a whole tree's apple harvest at once, by merely tapping it with one of his hind legs. Later on he easily pulls two bulls and a cart of anvils without breaking a sweat. He initially notices the increased weight when Apple Bloom adds Berry Punch's house to the load, but then he just applies a little extra force and drags the whole thing with him.
Chickification: The Cutie Mark Chronicles established that Scootaloo has a much lower tolerance for so-called "sappiness" than Applebloom and Sweetie Belle. In this episode, though, she's just as eager to see Cheerilee and Big McIntosh get together. It's not a bad change by any means, but it is jarring and makes the Cutie Mark Crusaders seem more homogeneous than usual. Ultimately justified as the goal is to make Cheerilee happy, and she's just as disgusted as the others by how sickeningly sweet they become.
An incredibly subtle one is done during the course of the song, as Scootaloo never actually sings any of her lines, since "The Show Stoppers" established that she's not a very good singer.
There's also the fact that every ingredient has something to do with pegasi ("making hearts soar" indeed), and it's Scootaloo who collects them. She picks off a bit of cloud with her teeth (Pegasi can naturally walk on/touch clouds), vacuums the rainbow (produced by the Weather Factory), and of course, provides one of her feathers. (Well, Sweetie Belle plucks it without asking.)
Deadpan Snarker: Cheerilee is this when she responds to the CMCs' tree identification "question".
Cheerilee: That's an apple tree.
Deconstruction: The episode deconstructs Shipping and Romance Novels in general. This is what a deeply-in-love-at-first-sight couple looks like from the prospective of everyone else and what the effects of pushing two people together are.
Dunce Cap: When Apple Bloom imagines a dilapidated Ponyville, a background pony is seen wearing one.
Eureka Moment: A simplified one when Sweetie Belle has her "idea."
Expressive Accessory: Apple Bloom's bow droops when she learns Cheerilee doesn't have a very special somepony.
Face Plant: Done to Applebloom about thirty seconds into the song.
Failed a Spot Check: The CMC not only fail to read the story of the potion until it's too late, they also don't notice that Big McIntosh and Cheerilee are already friendly with each other before they drink the potion. So the potion accomplishes nothing but trouble, since all positive effects come earlier.
Fantastic Aesop: The moral of the episode is "It's wrong to use a magic potion to force someone to fall in love."
Faux Horrific: We know you're worried about Cheerilee, Apple Bloom, but the inability of an Elementary school teacher to teach is not going to turn all of Ponyville into idiots.
First Date Marriage: Big McIntosh and Cheerilee are easily coaxed into getting married while under the influence of the love potion, but it's all a plot by the Cutie Mark Crusaders to keep them apart until the potion wears off.
Cheerilee is able to pick up on the CMCs' plot and quickly explains the situation to Big McIntosh, apologizing for her student's setup. However, she doesn't count on them using a love potion.
It's apparent Twilight is suspicious when it becomes obvious the CMC aren't just wanting to read because they were curious. However, she never acts on it, or at least never manages to catch up to them.
The "love potion" is served in what are obviously shot glasses.
During the CMC's song, Sweetie Belle briefly disrupts what is clearly a funeral service. In a Valentine's Day episode. Just so she can sing about how the preacher is too old to date Cheerilee. That's pretty twisted.
Cheerilee & Big McIntosh have a suggestive moment with a cherry while sharing a milkshake at Sugarcube Corner.
If you've ever had a teacher who's a Christmas Cake, an old maid, or a jaded divorcee, Cheerilee's first scene will seem awfully familiar.
One of the stallions the Cutie Mark Crusaders reject as a possible boyfriend for Cheerilee is "too strangely obsessed with tubs of jelly." The faces he makes only add to the suggestiveness.
During the teaser, Applebloom walks through a puddle of glue and gets it all over her hooves. Traditionally (i.e. in preindustrial societies like Equestria appears to be) glue was made from dead horses' hooves. Subverted in that the glue used is not a heat-melted keratin adhesive but modern PVA school glue.
The preacher's cutie mark is also that of a pipe which confirms that smoking is canon to the My Little Pony universe. Imagining your cute little ponies smoking away on a cigarette or a pipe is a strange image. Though a later episode depicts Pinkie with a bubble pipe.
The Glomp: Cheerilee on Big Mac as the latter waits in the pit, just as the spell is about to be broken.
Gone Horribly Right: The CMC discover (too late) that the love potion they've given to Cheerilee and Big McIntosh is actually a love poison that works a little too well at making ponies fall in love.
Gone Horribly Wrong: The CMC intended to make a love potion, and discovered (too late) that what they really made was a poison that caused the fall of an entire kindgom.
Gonna Need More X: "I think we're gonna need a bigger envelope." The letter is bigger than the three of them combined.
Head Desk: Apple Bloom, when she finds out that she and her friends may have permanently screwed up Cheerilee and Big McIntosh.
Held Gaze: Cheerilee and Big Mac after drinking the love potion. Defying this trope for one hour is what breaks the potion's effect.
High-Class Glass: The stallion Apple Bloom dismisses as "way too uptight" wears one.
Hold Your Hippogriffs: The phrase "very special somepony" is used constantly, as Equestria obviously has no St. Valentine.
Imagine Spot: Apple Bloom has one about Ponyville's certain doom when she is told that the Love Potion is really a Love Poison and how it led to the destruction of a kingdom.
Innocently Insensitive: The CMC ask Cheerilee straight out why she doesn't have a boyfriend on the setting's equivalent of Valentines' Day. The girls aren't trying to be mean. They honestly can't see why someone they think is as great as her would be romantically unattached. Cheerilee is clearly uncomfortable discussing her romantic life with her students.
Insane Troll Logic: Apple Bloom's overexaggeration of the effects of Cheerilee and Big McIntosh remaining under the influence of the love poison.
The Juggernaut: Nothing can stop Big Mac from reuniting with Cheerliee. He doesn't notice Apple Bloom biting his tail, effortlessly pulls two bulls carrying anvils off their feet, and being lassoed to a house only slows him down. The CMC finally stop him by trapping him in a pit but they know this is only a temporary stop gap measure.
Maybe Ever After: The ending leaves the possibility of Cheerilee and Big Mac getting together for real very open, while still being ambiguous enough to avoid conflict with the Aesop.
The Meadow Run: A variantóBig Mac and Cheerilee are running toward each other at the episode's end since they can't stand being separated by the CMC, but Big Mac spends part of it at the bottom of a hole and by its end, the love poison's effects have worn off.
Minor Injury Overreaction: Not exactly minor, as the obsession would've certainly hurt Cheerilee and Big McIntosh personally and maybe affected others, but Apple Bloom's apocalyptic vision of "starved uneducated ponies" running amok and dying out en masse was completely blown out of proportion.
My Sister Is Off Limits: Initially Apple Bloom is hesitant to hook Cheerilee up with her brother but she gets over it rather quickly. Instead of the usual 'no one is good enough' attitude, she's worried that Big Mac will be too shy to make it work.
Neat Freak: One of the rejected stallions, who's rejected for being "too clean".
Neglectful Precursors: The authors of Twilight's book on the origin of Hearts and Hooves Day provided the recipe for the potion that caused the initial disaster.
The CMC really screw up; they turned Big Mac and Cheerilee into love-dovey zombies!
To a lesser degree, Twilight is responsible for offering them the book in the first place. In her defense, she seems to have no idea they're going to do what they do, and is possibly more interested in the fillies reading/studying something. Not to mention that the book has a warning on the very same page as the recipe.
No Hugging, No Kissing: For the Mane Six, who are almost completely missing from the episode. Probably justified in that they're quite young and none of them is in a relationship, and the writers didn't want to show them shunning the holiday either.
Non-Ironic Clown: One of the rejected stallions, rejected for being "too silly".
OOC Is Serious Business: The first thing that tips off the CMC that the potion isn't working the way they expected is when Big McIntosh starts using rather cheesy pet names for Cheerilee.
Pair the Spares: A literal case, as Cheerilee is single and the CMC find out that out of all the candidates they list, Big McIntosh is the only one that fits their "good" and "still available" criteria. Also, during the cold opening, Twist and Truffle Shuffle can be seen as a couple as well.
The Pigpen: One of the stallions is rejected for being abnormally filthy and messy. He even has a garbage can for a cutie mark.
Pony Ladder: The Cutie Mark Crusaders do this to grab a cloud for their concoction.
Reality Is Unrealistic: The Cutie Mark Crusaders expect Love at First Sight when Big McIntosh and Cheerilee first meet. Instead, they get a friendly and slightly awkward talk between two ponies who are just acquaintances at best. Given that situation, Cheerilee's question over whether Big Mac already has plans is quite straightforward, as is her idea to play along with the CMCs' plans for a while.
Relationship Upgrade: Cheerilee and Big McIntosh begin the episode as just acquaintances (and it's clear that Big McIntosh is not interested at all on her), but after passing through their love poison ordeal, they have clearly become closer than before.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: This trope is what doomed the ancient land in Twilight's book. With the prince under the spell's thrall, his kingdom couldn't function without him and collapsed.
Caramel, a favorite of Yaoi Fangirls, is shown early on with a girlfriend, shown nuzzling with her, and is explicitly stated to be her boyfriend by the CMC.... Just to hammer the point home for those in denial.
Ship Tease: Intentionally downplayed so as not to conflict with the Aesop. The episode ends with Big McIntosh and Cheerilee going on a picnic while the Crusaders are forced to do Big Mac's chores as punishment. They smile and wink at each other after seeing how the CMC react to their use of the cutesy pet names from before, but they are also seen walking off into the sunset together.
Solo Duet: In a meta sense, the song in this episode is one, since Michelle Creber is the only one who actually sings.
Stealth Hi/Bye: The CMC pull one on Twilight after borrowing her book, leaving only a tiny dust cloud in the time it takes her to look at her book bag and back.
Stealth Pun: The CMC are looking for the "perfect stallion" for Cheerilee or, in other words, a major stud. It also qualifies as giving an Apple to their teacher.
Stepford Smiler: Cheerilee briefly has one of these moments. When Sweetie Belle asks her why she doesn't have a special somepony, her cheerfulness fades for a moment. note She's either annoyed or sad. However, the second she turns around, she's smiling cheerfully again.
Terrible Interviewees Montage: The Crusaders' song is something like this, with them going around town rejecting various stallions (and one colt) for various reasons.
This one's too young, this one's too old He clearly has a terrible cold That guy's too silly, he's way too uptight Well, nothing's wrong with this one, he seems all right (His girlfriend sure thinks so!)
There Was a Door: ...And Cheerilee explodes through two of them, destroying the wall around them for good measure.
Troll: Big Mac and Cheerilee get back at the CMC by making the fillies think they're still under the potion's influence.
Vocal Dissonance: To a degree - Big Macintosh's love-struck voice is both appropriate and yet completely unlike what one would expect (particularly compared to his longer, in-character speech from "Ponyville Confidential".
Vomit Discretion Shot: Ever hear the term "I just threw up in my mouth a little"? Cheerilee and Big Mac are so sappy, it happens to Apple Bloom at one point. In a surprisingly audible fashion for a kid's show.
Well Intentioned Extremists: The CMC basically tricks Cheerilee and Big McIntosh into drinking a rape drug potion, but they really meant well and they really just wanted to see their teacher happy.
What Happened to the Mouse?: You may notice that the CMC never use all of the love potion, leaving quite a bit in the pitcher. What happened to it? Who knows!