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Recap: MLP: Friendship Is Magic S4 E23 "Inspiration Manifestation"

Rarity: I'm so excited! I'm so excited!
Spike: I'm so scared.

Written by Corey Powell and Meghan McCarthy

The Ponyville Foal and Filly Fair is almost underway, and Rarity is making a puppet stand with Spike's help. However, her elaborate booth is unappreciated by the puppeteer, who needs a much more practical setup. Distraught, Rarity drowns her sorrows in ice cream. Seeking to help, Spike and Owlowiscious search the Castle of the Two Sisters for a spellbook that might be of use, eventually stumbling upon a hidden tome that claims to give an inspiration manifestation. Rarity recites the spell, and is granted the power to manifest her ideas, but with the warning that only true words can free her from its power. Rarity and Spike track down the puppeteer, showing him a much better version of a puppet theater, which he accepts. Spike attempts to return the book, but Rarity decides to keep it, citing its use for her talent.

The next day, Spike goes to Carousel Boutique, which explodes outward with dresses. Rarity has been up all night under the spell's influence, creating more dresses. She intends to use the Inspiration Manifestation to beautify Ponyville, but decides not to let anyone know she's the one responsible while making Spike promise not to tell. She also refuses to ask permission to change everypony's things or to even consider that they might not like what she's done. Rarity constantly badgers Spike for compliments, and Spike constantly heaps praise on her redesigns, despite being apprehensive about their changes, with Owlowiscious watching over Spike with a stern glare. As her changes increase in scale, to the point where Twilight and all of Ponyville think there's some kind of villain on the loose, Spike realizes he needs to stop her though he fears it'll mean the end of his friendship with her.

Spike hatches a plan to steal the book from Rarity, but even when he succeeds — and eats the book — its magic continues to control her. Since Rarity intends to beautify all of Equestria, Spike finally puts his foot down and admits that her changes aren't making things better, and he should have told her sooner. This is what finally breaks the Inspiration Manifestation, and Rarity returns to normal. Spike apologizes for not telling the truth sooner, to which Rarity replies that he should never be afraid to tell her the truth, because they're friends.

Back at the library, Spike writes in the Mane Six's journal that a true friend won't be angry if you tell them the truth, because they know you care about them. Twilight enters, visibly frazzled, having had to clean up all of the dark magic Rarity was using. She scolds Spike for taking a book from the old castle's library... to which Spike replies that Twilight looks awful. He's just being a good friend by telling her the truth, right?

Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes here):

  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • "Can't you see how distraught, disappointed, and downtrodden I still am?"
    • "Foal and Filly Fair".
  • Addictive Magic/G-Rated Drug: The spellbook effectively serves as this for Rarity. Under its influence, she stops eating, grows increasingly manic in her behavior, and is only free of it when Spike finally stops enabling her and makes her realize how harmful it is.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Rarity calls Spike "precious scales".
  • An Aesop: Being a good friend means being honest to them as well.
  • Artifact of Doom: The spell was inscribed on a stone tablet-like book covered in spikes and kept in a dark cave and guarded with a barred and locked gate. The spell itself also slowly corrupts the user.
  • Artistic License - Biology: Robins make their nests out in the open and not in hollowed out trees and therefore don't use birdhouses. Robins also do not eat birdseed so would have no interest in the rather copious amount of it Fluttershy provides.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The puppet stage Rarity initially made may have been aesthetically appealing and elaborate, but it was rejected by the puppet-master due to being difficult to move around and being too cramped on the inside for him and his puppets.
  • Baleful Polymorph: A party clown gets turned into a waiter and a mariachi pony gets turned into Octavia!
  • Balloon Belly: Subverted. In spite of all the ice cream Rarity eats in the midst of her depression, she doesn't gain any visible weight.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Rarity looks very good for someone who's spent the day crying and devouring ice cream, and only very slightly below her usual standards. Of course, this being Rarity, she immediately fixes her mane to its usual pristine state when she perks up.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Wishing for a spell that will make one's imagination come to life might cause them to want to inflict it upon the town.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Rarity slams into Spike rather hard to prevent him from revealing the existence of the spell.
  • Brutal Honesty: What ultimately breaks the spell over Rarity when Spike finally tells her that her "improvements" aren't making things better for anypony. He also tells Twilight she looks awful at the end after she's spent the entire day cleaning up Rarity's mess.
  • Call Back:
    • As in Suited for Success, Rarity's first attempt at fulfilling a client's needs doesn't meet with approval, but unlike the rest of the Mane Six and their gala dresses, Claude the puppeteer has legitimate objections to Rarity's work — see Jerkass Has a Point.
    • The plot can also be thought of as a role reversal of Secret of My Excess: this time, Rarity is the one who's gone mad with power and Spike has to stop her.
  • The Cameo:
    • Among the other pairings noted in Continuity Nod, Vinyl and Bulk Biceps are at the fair.
    • Rarity's upgrade to the mariachi band for the filly's party includes two orchestra members who played at the Grand Galloping Gala.
  • Captain Oblivious: Spike doesn't see anything at all wrong with the idea of using a spell from an ancient tome with spikes coming out of it that he was only able to obtain by breaking into the room it was kept.
    • Coincidental Dodge: He's similarly oblivious to the room crumbling as he walks away with his prize.
  • Chewing the Scenery: You can almost imagine Tabitha St. Germain desperately trying to hold back the maniacal laughter in her rant at the end, especially with the omnious bells chiming in the background.
    Rarity: ...until there isn't an inch of Equestria that hasn't been utterly transformed by my! creative! GENIUS!
  • City of Gold: Rarity paves all the streets in town with gold, Which ends up blinding a lot of ponies due to the suns reflection.
  • Clown Car Base: While Rarity's "improvements" on the birdhouse make it double in size, the interior is so big that the robin gets lost and it includes a shoe closet and multiple stairwells.
  • Companion Cube: Downplayed Trope. Rarity considers the book to be an actual person, which Spike admits is pretty creepy. That said, she's never seen to try and interact with it, nor is she all that upset when the book is destroyed. (Though that's mostly because she didn't need the book by that point.)
  • The Conscience: Owlowiscious.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Creepy Doll: The puppeteer's puppets, or at least when he manipulates them to shun Rarity.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Telling the truth breaks the spell.
  • Disapproving Look: Owlowiscious gives Spike several over the course of the episode.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Owlowiscious' response to the stone spellbook in a secret chamber hanging over a pit with a Sickly Green Glow emanating from the ceiling. Spike grabs it without a second thought.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: The spell book was left unguarded and defended only by a single lock, rather than, say, being moved to the secure archives in Canterlot, or at least having a barrier that needed more than some bolt cutters to get through. By then, one would expect the dangerous artifacts to have been moved to a secure location. Spike was correct in saying that the book was basically unguarded.
  • Eat the Evidence: Spike does this when he finally gets a hold of the book again, hoping it'll break the spell. It doesn't.
  • Evil Detecting Owl: Owlowiscious picks up that there's something wrong with the book right off the bat, and of course tries to dissuade Spike from taking it.
    • As has been mentioned before, you really don't have to be specially evil-detecting to think that a stone-grey book with spikes jutting out of the cover and hidden in a secret locked room of a castle ruin is probably something you should leave alone.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Spike eats the whole book without ill effects.
  • Eye Twitch: As more of the tome's power takes hold, Rarity begins doing this.
  • Facepalm: Owlowiscious simulates this with his flight feathers when Spike reads the cover page of the book and says "I'm likin' the looks of this one!" Even more impressive in that he used one of his wings to do it while in mid-flight, and still remained airborne.
  • Face Plant: Happens to Spike when he tries walking in the bulky crystal armor Rarity puts him in.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Owlowiscious' design doesn't really allow for much of one, but he's definitely giving the same spirit in his look at Spike when Rarity starts going off the deep end.
  • Feather Fingers:
    • See Facepalm above.
    • When Spike fails to tell Rarity how inappropriate the birdhouse makeover is, Owlowiscious folds his wings and feathers in a manner that resembles fists on his hips when giving Spike a disparaging glare.
  • Furry Reminder:
    • Rarity's favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla oat swirl.
    • The brass instrument played by one of the Mariachi ponies is uncoiled so that the valves can be manipulated by the pony's hooves.
  • Gender Bender: Possibly, depending on whether Rarity replaced that mariachi pony with Octavia, or turned him into her. The episode doesn't really explain what happened there.
  • Genre Blind: Spike apparently hasn't learned from the enchanted comic that was literally enchanted that something that sounds innocuous might be much more dangerous.
    • Also, you would think that someone who has spent his whole life around a unicorn that specializes in magic and is an expert in spellbooks would know a tome of dark magic when he saw one.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Whenever Rarity uses the magic found in the Inspiration Manifestation spellbook, her eyes glow a sickly green color and she becomes more and more obsessed with making everything pretty.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: When Rarity is succumbing to the influence of the spell, her eyes glow freakish green, and the usually enormous irises shrink. When Spike is showering her with kind words of praise and support, her eyes return to their normal limpid pools of blue.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: Non-romantic example. Rarity makes a puppet theater for Ponyville's Fall Foal and Filly Festival, but the harsh rejection she receives when her design proves unsuitable drives her to pig out on chocolates and vanilla-oat swirl ice cream, complete with "om nom nom" sounds.
  • Hero of Another Story: Twilight goes through a lot of offscreen trouble to clean up Rarity's mess. She eventually had to call in backup from Luna and Cadance, and it's made clear that the whole ordeal caused a great amount of stress.
  • Honest Advisor: Owlowiscious.
  • I Ate What?: Averted. Spike swallows the evil tome and it doesn't do a thing to him. It doesn't cure Rarity either, though (see above).
  • Idiot Ball: Spike holds it in this episode, since it's fairly obvious Rarity has gone mad with power, but decides to not tell anypony about it because he's afraid that Rarity won't consider him a friend anymore.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While the puppeteer could have been nicer about his criticism towards the puppet theater Rarity built, ample stage space and mobility are far more important for a traveling puppeteer than how shiny it looks.
  • Mad Artist: Practically every "improvement" Rarity does after a certain point is at least potentially harmful to somepony, but she either doesn't notice or doesn't care.
  • Ms. Imagination: With the power of Inspiration Manifestation, Rarity has this, starting with what she did in Ponyville. Thankfully, the spell was removed before she could change all Equestria and the world with her creativity running amok.
  • Mundane Utility: Unicorn magic is great for puppeteering.
  • Mythology Gag: Once again, we see Rainbow Dash dressed in style.
  • Nightmare Face: Rarity under the spell's influence, as shown in the page image.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The puppeteer's voice is based on W.C. Fields. The pony is credited as "Claude" which is what the "C" stands for in Fields' name.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Subverted twice.
    • Spike tries to invoke this by eating the spellbook. This accomplishes nothing, as Rarity retains her powers and corrupted behavior. It takes a Curse Escape Clause to set Rarity right again.
    • Even after the book is destroyed and the spell breaks, the changes to Ponyville still remain. It takes three princesses all day to reverse everything.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: We don't get to see Luna and Cadance join Twilight to restore Ponyville; we only hear Twilight saying that it happened.
  • Only Sane Animal: Owlowiscious is this to Spike, since he's Genre Savvy enough to know not to use spells from a book hidden in a secret ominous cave.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Rarity tells Spike that he's her favorite dragon. Let's be honest, though, it's not like the competition's very strong.
  • Playing with Fire: Spike uses his fire breath to melt a lock. It's probably the first time that Spike uses this ability to destroy something on purpose.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Most of the problems would have been avoided if Spike had been honest with Rarity when she started going over the top with the magical changes. And before that, the whole issue could be avoided in the first place if the puppeteer had told Rarity the precise requirements for his theater.
  • Portmanteau: "I'm thinking we go by chariot! Or as everyone will soon be calling them, Rariot!"
  • Reality Warper: Inspiration Manifestation is a Spell Book that contains a spell allowing its owner to alter things to match their imagined version of it. Spike gives it to Rarity so she can use it to fix her puppet theater, which the puppeteer she built it for was disappointed in, but she quickly goes mad from the spell's power, planning to alter all of Equestria to match her idea of beauty (which basically means turning everything into a golden, gem-incrusted version of itself).
    • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: As Spike learns a bit too late, the desire to exercise this power takes hold of the pony, and they can't help but use it.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The Inspiration Manifestation spell is waaaaaay on the side of romanticism, turning anyone that casts it into a Visionary Villain. It slurps up any practicality in the vicinity and and transforms it in favor of flashy style. Think of any trope with the word "Improbable" in its title, and you have anything this spell makes. Except it's ACTUALLY improbable. So, it actually makes sense that a single sentence of Brutal Honesty would snap the caster out of it, since the most loftiest of ideals are more easily subjective to someone pointing out their obvious faults.
    • Foreshadowed by the opening, where Rarity makes a puppet stand and it's completely unusable by the very puppeteer it's made for. The following events are a series of that very formula one-upping itself.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Princesses seem to be at Equestria's beck and call to solve big magical problems: Twilight gets called to rescue two ponies from the crystallized gazebo, and Princesses Cadence and Luna assist her in fixing Rarity's messes in Ponyville later on.
  • Rule of Three: Spike's description of Rarity's first puppet theater, lampshaded with Spike counting to three on his claw afterward.
    Spike: So that puppeteer didn't like your exquisitely crafted best puppet theater in the history of puppet theaters puppet theater.
  • Sanity Slippage/With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The more Rarity uses the book's power, the more deranged she becomes.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: In addition to actual chewing noises when scarfing down the ice cream, Rarity can be heard sounding out "nom nom nom".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The tome was hidden away and locked behind a caged door for a reason. But Spike fails to notice any of this.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sickly Green Glow: Rarity's magic is changed to this color by the spell, and her eyes take on the same color.
  • Slasher Smile: Rarity has one when she shows off the dresses she made while under the influence of the spell.
  • Spikes of Villainy: As if the book hidden behind a wall on a pedestal over a pit weren't suspicious enough, it has these on the cover.
  • Sycophantic Servant: The Inspiration Manifestation spell only works so long as Spike acts as this for Rarity.
  • Title Drop: The spell Spike finds for Rarity is called Inspiration Manifestation.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The book that Spike finds with the spell to help Rarity is hidden in the old Everfree Castle, hidden by a secret wall, behind a locked gate, and on a rock stairway that immediately crumbles when the book is removed from the pedestal. It's made of stone and even has spikes sticking out of the cover. Spike seems to think it's safe.
  • Unsatisfiable Customer: Rarity thinks Claude is this at first, until she is able to satisfy him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Exactly what did happen to the evil spell after it was driven out of Rarity, since the Tome of Eldritch Lore was (presumably) destroyed? Assuming that breaking the spell didn't destroy it entirely, of course.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Owlowiscious toward Spike as Rarity begins running amok with the spell, and his insistence that everything's going fine.
    • Twilight also berates Spike at the end of the episode for taking the spellbook from the castle without asking permission.
  • Who's on First?: At first, Spike's conversations with Owlowiscious seem like a reprise of their first meeting but eventually he starts responding to what the owl is saying.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Zig-Zagged. Much like in Simple Ways, Rarity's mascara runs when she cries though this doesn't leave any lasting smudges.

MLP: Friendship Is Magic S4 E22 'Testing Testing 1, 2, 3"Recap/My Little Pony: Friendship Is MagicMy Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S4 E24 'Equestria Games"

alternative title(s): Inspiration Manifestation
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