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Recap: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S4 E7 "Bats!"

Written by Merriwether Williamsnote 

Applejack is up bright and early for Apple Bucking Day, the first day of the harvesting season. But, much to her dismay, she finds her apple orchard has been infested with vampire fruit bats that are sucking all of the juice from her crop. She gathers the rest of the Mane Cast and insists that the bats need to be driven off — besides just her livelihood, Applejack is concerned with protecting a giant apple that the Apple family is growing for a competition in Appleloosa. The ever animal-loving Fluttershy, however, argues that vampire fruit bats are vital to producing stronger, healthier apple trees, and suggests they build a sanctuary for the bats instead. To her dismay, Applejack does the better job of persuading the rest of the Mane Six that immediate action must be taken to save the orchard.

At Twilight's library, the Mane Six come up with a plan to drive the vampire fruit bats away: after the rest of her friends round up the bats, Fluttershy will use her Stare on them while Twilight casts a spell to make them no longer want to suck the juice out of apples. Though reluctant, Fluttershy eventually agrees, and the plan appears to be carried out flawlessly. The next morning, Applejack returns to her orchard to buck the fresh apples from the trees, only to find them still rotten. Thinking their plan failed, she brings her friends back to find the bats are refusing to eat the apples — if the spell worked, then who's eating the apples now? Twilight decides that the only way to find out is to catch the culprit in the act. That night, the Mane Six patrol through Sweet Apple Acres, with Fluttershy unable to resist staring in hunger at the apples...

Soon, Pinkie Pie discovers the culprit: it's Fluttershy, who's been turned into a vampire batpony! The others try to reason with her, but "Flutterbat" is only interested in draining the life from Applejack's apples. Twilight says that when she cast the spell, the thirst for the apple juice must have been transferred to Fluttershy through her Stare, giving her the ravenous hunger for fruit of the vampire fruit bats. After repeated efforts to catch Flutterbat fail, Pinkie Pie gives Twilight another idea: get Fluttershy to use her Stare on herself. The Mane Cast use the Apple family's prized apple to lure Flutterbat to them, then surprise the vampire batpony with mirrors, reflecting her Stare. This works long enough for Twilight to cast a counter-spell, turning Fluttershy back to normal.

The next morning, the Mane Cast have finally taken Fluttershy's original idea to heart and set up a vampire fruit bat sanctuary in the orchard for the bats to live. Applejack and Fluttershy apologize to each other, Applejack learning that her short-term solution was short-sighted, and Fluttershy learning to stand up for what she believes in, even if it's not the most popular decision. Everypony laughs, none of them noticing the small fang still growing inside Fluttershy's mouth...


Tropes:

  • Adoring the Pests: Played with. Fluttershy takes pity on the fruit bats, evidently not considering them as disgusting as her friends do, although she isn't shown going so far as taking them into her home like she did in Swarm Of The Century. Although the vampire fruit bats at first appear to have pest-like role, and Fluttershy appears to only be defending them out of pity, they turn out toward the end to have their own valuable role in spreading seeds around.
  • An Aesop: An immediate solution to a problem isn't always the best solution. And if you disagree with your friends, don't be afraid to speak your mind.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Last time Twilight tried using her magic to force a voracious species to stop eating, it only made things worse. Seems she still hasn't learned...
  • Angry Mob Song: The Mane Six (sans Fluttershy) chanting "Stop the bats!" in The Villain Sucks Song fits the Torches and Pitchforks variant.
  • Anti-Villain: The Mane Six (sans Fluttershy) are significantly darker in this episode, but in reality all they want to do is help their friend. The vampire fruit bats could also qualify due to being a Designated Villain and not being malicious at all.
  • Appeal to Ignorance: Applejack's main argument against the vampire fruit bats.
    Applejack: These creatures have a one-track mind. The orchard is not their restaurant, but do they ever think what others may want? No, they don't, and that is just a fact.
  • Appeal to Inherent Nature: Fluttershy's objection to using her stare to help Twilight remove the vampire fruit bats desire to suck juice from apples.
    Fluttershy: I just don't like the idea of taking away the thing that really makes the vampire fruit bats vampire fruit bats!
  • Artistic License - Animal Care: Introducing a new species to an area is an extremely complex process, with the potential for many, many, unforseen consequences, especially with a species as ravenous as the vampire fruit bats. Fluttershy never addresses any of the problems involved with placing the vampire fruit bats in Sweet Apple Acres.
  • Artistic License - Biology: More generally, The difficulties with using new seeds in an established orchard, like tearing out old trees and planting new ones, as well as the wait needed before they start bearing fruit, are completely ignored.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The effect is delayed and unintentional, but Twilight's spell to control the vampire fruit bats inadvertently turns Fluttershy into a vampire pony.
  • Bat out of Hell:
    • Vampire Fruit Bats are much darker and creepier-looking than their more colorful cousins, and pose a more serious threat to Sweet Apple Acres as they infest the entire orchard rather than just one segment of it.
    • Then there's Flutterbat, a half-pony, half-bat creature with pale fur, a tattered mane, red eyes, fangs, leathery wings, and a bat-shaped cutie mark.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Fluttershy is right that the vampire fruit bats have long-term benefits if left to their own devices, but Applejack is rightly worried that her orchard would not survive the immediate problems they present.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Marks the second time Twilight has fallen back on this as a solution.
  • Bullet Seed: The vampire fruit bat that Fluttershy first speaks to responds by spitting a stream of seeds at her. Later, when Fluttershy becomes part vampire fruit bat, she also spits seeds at her friends.
  • Call Back:
    • The fruit bats shown in "Apple Family Reunion" are mentioned when Twilight questions if they're related to Applejack's bat infestation problem.
    • Apple Bucking Day is brought up again as part of an annual farm activity (and once again Applejack is left to do it alone), as is the city of Appleloosa.
    • For the first time since "Stare Master", Fluttershy's "Stare" plays a key role.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Applejack's prized gigantic apple.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Subverted; Fluttershy, the complainer in this episode, argues the long-term benefits that the vampire fruit bats would have for Applejack's orchard. The others don't listen because they're more concerned with apple starvation, Applejack's livelihood, and cider shortage, but eventually relent once they see what greater problems lie beyond the immediate ones.
  • Conflict Killer: All debates over the pros and cons of the various solutions are abandoned when Fluttershy is transformed, and never picked up afterwards.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cruel to Be Kind: After much internal conflict between her own beliefs and the beliefs of her friends, Fluttershy convinces herself to deploy the Stare on the vampire fruit bats for this reason.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Fluttershy's defense of the vampire fruit bats, explicitly stated in her first verse in The Villain Sucks Song and continued throughout the first half of the episode. Applejack also qualifies, representing herself and her orchard as plaintiffs. The song lyrics in the first two verses are worded as opening arguments in a tort case.
  • Cue the Sun: Twice Applejack waits on the sun to rise over the orchard so she can begin her apple bucking. The sun rising this quickly is perfectly normal when it's being raised by Celestia, of course.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Fluttershy still has fangs after the spell is reversed, though they're much smaller.
  • Cute Monster Pony: Despite the feral attitude, Flutterbat still looks pretty cute.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The vampire fruit bats are this compared to the mostly-harmless and rather comical fruit bats from "Apple Family Reunion".
    • This episode also brings Fluttershy into a serious conflict with her friends.
  • Dark Is Evil/Light is Good: Played with during the song. Every scene where Applejack condemns the bats is starkly dark and twisted, and the bats are much more vicious-looking than the actual ones. Counter to this, every scene with Fluttershy's praise of the bats are brighter in daytime and intentionally cuter than the real counterpart.
    • Dark Is Not Evil: Contrary to her friends' beliefs, Fluttershy insists that the creepy and disgusting vampire fruit bats are key to spreading strong and healthy apple trees.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "They don't care about nada! Not zilch, no nothin'!"
  • Drama Queen: Quite unusually, it's Rainbow Dash who acts at one point like this (instead of the usual Rarity). Justified, as her drama was due to Applejack's assertion that the vampire fruit bats would cause a shortage of apple cider, Rainbow Dash's favorite beverage.
  • Ear Worm: The hook from "Winter Wrap-up" makes yet another appearance as an in-universe earworm, this time invoked by Pinkie Pie with new plot-relevant lyrics.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final shot, which shows that Fluttershy still has Cute Little Fangs.
  • Epic Fail: Rarity misses a bat with her net, causing an apple to splatter against her hazmat suit, which gets a bunch of bats to chase her.
  • Everypony Laughs Ending
  • Fantastic Aesop:
    • Don't use magic to alter the behavior of animals, lest you accidentally transfer the unwanted traits to one of your friends.
    • Also Fluttershy's "long term solution" could only work in a magical land where all animals are at least semi-sapient; in real life it would be disastrous. "When pests are destroying your orchard, hand over part of your land to them. They'll definitely understand and respect the boundary you set and not, for example, breed explosively, expand to ravage your orchard anyway, and then either starve to death or move on to destroy someone else's orchard."
  • Fast Tunnelling: Done by Pinkie Pie to escape Flutterbat.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Rainbow Dash is more shocked by the fact there was no cider after the flashback of the vampire fruit bats' past infestation that nearly starved the Apple family for winter.
  • Foreshadowing: Shortly after Twilight casts the spell to curb the vampire fruit bats' appetites, Fluttershy sniffs as though she's suddenly noticing how delicious the apples smell.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Forgot About Their Telekinesis — Both Rarity and Twilight should have been able to yank Flutterbat out of the sky rather than chasing her around and finally relying on an elaborate trap. What makes it even worse is that they are clearly shown using telekinesis other times in the very same episode.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Subverted; Applejack clearly states that her orchard's yield is secondary to getting Fluttershy back to normal, and when the group uses the gigantic contest apple (the one thing she really didn't want the bats to eat) as bait, Applejack sighs in resignation for the need to tarnish it but doesn't hesitate in cutting it open.
  • Friend to All Living Things: This episode slightly deconstructs Fluttershy's nature as one: her friends point out that by refusing to interfere with the vampire fruit bats in their natural habitat, she'd be putting Applejack's entire orchard and livelihood at risk.
  • Funny Background Event: Rarity continuing to admire her reflection in the giant apple.
  • Game Changer/Plot Twist: The episode seems to lead up to a conflict between Applejack and Fluttershy, or about sticking to your principles vs. peer pressure. Then Flutterbat happens.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A minor one, but they got the phrase 'mean as sin' into the song. You don't hear that very often in children's programming.
  • Have You Tried Not Being A Vampire Bat?: Rarity, trying to talk Fluttershy down from her perch...
    Rarity: Fluttershy, sweetness. Please come down. And do stop being a vampire bat.
  • Hoist by Her Own Petard: How Flutterbat is finally captured, by reflecting her own Stare against her, so she can't escape while Twilight heals her.
  • Homage: More than a few fans have noticed a similarity between this episode's song and Danny Elfman's work, particularly The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • I'm an Equitarian: When told that she became a vampire, Fluttershy asks if she ate ponies.
  • Ignored Expert: Fluttershy, the resident animal expert, proposes a long-term, peaceful solution that won't harm the bats or disturb their normal behavior; her idea is only used at the end, after facing the consequences of Twilight's magical solution. Fluttershy ignores Applejack, who is the only expert on apple farming or the orchard present, when she says that the vampire fruit bats are eating too much for Sweet Apple Acres to handle.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: Fluttershy to Flutterbat.
  • Kangaroo Court: Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Twilight Sparkle are quick to take Applejack's side against the vampire fruit bats, and completely disregard Fluttershy's arguments in their defense.
  • Magic Misfire: Another of Twilight's spells goes awry when Fluttershy uses her Stare to hold the bats in place, implanting their animal nature in her without anypony knowing.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Inverted, in that the Stare was previously presented as completely mundane. Now we have the question: was Fluttershy merely too close to the bats? Or is there some kind of magic link between pony and animal?
  • Messy Mane: Part of Fluttershy's transformation. Her mane turns much more messy after she changes.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only the Mane Cast appear in this episode.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • The vampire fruit bat appears to be a cross between a vampire bat (general looks and feeding habit) and a flying fox (the size and main diet).
    • Also Flutterbat (Pegasus + Vampire Fruit Bat).
  • Monochrome Past: The flashback scene when Applejack describes Granny Smith's tales of the last vampire fruit bat infestation have a heavy sepia tint.
  • Mood Whiplash: During the song, there's a quick close-up of each mane six (sans Fluttershy) who look angry with a dark background to match their attitude towards the bats... except Pinkie, who looks cheerful with a matching pink background. She is immediately replaced by Twilight.
  • My God, What Have We Done?: After Flutterbat is revealed to the rest of the Mane Cast, Twilight deduces that they're the ones to blame for her transformation, prompting everypony to put aside their apple problems and start fighting to get their friend back to normal.
  • Mythology Gag: Applejack's expression in the cold open with the falling apples is much goofier than usual, most likely a Shout-Out to "Who's a Silly Pony" from the G1 merch.
  • Nobody Poops: The bats spread apple seeds by spitting them out, rather than by... nature's usual method.
  • Not Important to This Episode Camp: Granny Smith, Big McIntosh, and Apple Bloom are out in Appleloosa preparing for the produce competition while Applejack stays in Ponyville to deal with the harvest (and bat infestation).
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: Fluttershy still has small fangs at the end.
  • One-Word Title: "Bats!"
  • Overly-Long Tongue: The vampire fruit bats use those to grab apples. Fluttershy also acquires one after her change.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Fluttershy is accidentally transformed into a vampire pony by Twilight's spell. However, she's only took on the characteristics of the vampire fruit bats (she gains fangs, her wings turn bat-like, her eyes change color, her ears turn pointy, and she can hang upside down from trees) and nothing really mystical beyond that. She only targets the apples as her food source and still has her reflection in mirrors (though she is warded off by them). Oddly though, she doesn't speak while in this form, mostly hissing until she's changed back. Even more odd is that her cutie mark changes to bats after she's transformed.
  • Painful Transformation: For a bit, Fluttershy is seen cringing when her ears turn bat-like.
  • Prehensile Mane: Pinkie Pie grabs a flashlight and holds it in place with her curved forelock. She likewise forms it into a drill to dig underground.
  • Prehensile Tail:
    • As part of her transformation, Fluttershy can hang from trees with her tail. Thus proving that she ditched her tail extensions.
      • Or simply never had tail extensions to begin with, as not all of Gabby Gums gossip was true and she has made certain motions with her tail in previous episodes.
    • Pinkie uses hers to tunnel back up to the surface after fleeing underground. And to hang from the tree at one point alongside Fluttershy.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The vampire fruit bats have gleaming red eyes. Fluttershy gets these too once she turns into a batpony.
  • Schizo Tech: Rarity's hazmat suit with a self-contained rebreather.
  • Sequel Hook: The last shot reveals Fluttershy is Not Quite Back to Normal.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Pinkie Pie carrying a pile of apples on her head is reminiscent of Carmen Miranda's fruit salad hats.
    • At one point, the Mane Six use bat signals to signal one another while searching the orchard at night. Also doubles as a Stealth Pun.
    • Also to the first Tim Burton Batman film, Flutterbat briefly poses in full wing spread in front of the moon before divebombing the others, akin to Batman briefly doing the same with the Batwing in the final battle.
    • Speaking of Batman, during the song Applejack dons a tarp like a cape to give herself a more bat-like appearance, and knocks over a tree without looking behind her.
    • Rarity's hazmat suit brings Outbreak to mind.
    • And the way the bat splays itself on the faceplate and presses its tongue against the glass is almost certainly a reference to Caine's fate in Alien.
    • At one point Rainbow Dash moans "Think of the cider! Won't somepony please think of the cider!?"
    • The concept of attempting to brainwash animals to stop them from eating prized plants only for it to backfire and result in someone transforming into that animal seems strangely familiar. It even has a giant produce that was meant to win a competition being sacrified to lure the monster.
    • The idea of adorable vampires who drain the juice from fruits or vegetables instead of sucking blood from living things is reminiscent of Bunnicula.
    • Twilight Sparkle creates a vampire, one who sucks on apples.
  • Shown Their Work: Fruit-bearing plant species do propagate better when their fruit is eaten by animals and seeds carried away, while said fruit is nutritious to said animals. However, propagation relies on the animals actually spreading the seeds instead of just spitting them out in the same place that they grew. How the vampire fruit bats were supposed to make stronger trees was never explained, but that's either unrelated to propagation or Fluttershy misunderstood how that was supposed to work, as her sanctuary idea would actually prevent propagation from coming into effect.
  • Skewed Priorities: Rainbow Dash is more concerned about saving the apples out of her own interests (cider) than for saving her friend's crops from the parasitic vampire fruit bats.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Turning animals against their basic nature can backfire on you in... unexpected ways.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: A rare aversion for Fluttershy, as she admits it may take some time to completely understand the vampire fruit bats' language.
  • Squee: Pinkie Pie gives one after her false vampire teeth fall out from trying to bite an apple.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: Not evil per se, but Flutterbat is definitely much more physically impressive than normal Fluttershy, and her personality is replaced by a purely feral one.
  • Symbiotic Possession: One of Fluttershy's arguments in defense of the vampire fruit bats is that the surviving trees and seeds in the orchard will be stronger and more productive.
  • Take a Third Option: Subverted; said third option winds up causing more problems than either of the first two options.
  • Think of the Children!: Parodied by Rainbow Dash:
  • Truth in Television: In Australia, flocks of fruit bats (known as flying foxes) really do devour entire fruit crops, and debates rage on as to what to do with them. Farmers want to save their livelihoods from being consumed, but at the same time, the flying foxes are a federally protected species and are major seed dispersers.
  • Undeathly Pallor: Fluttershy when she changes, her fur and mane taking on a much darker color.
  • Vampire Vords: Pinkie Pie briefly lapses into this near the end.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: A literal example, since vampire fruit bats (and later Flutterbat) only suck the juice out of apples.
  • The Villain Sucks Song: "Bats" has Applejack, and eventually the rest of the Mane Cast (sans Fluttershy), singing about what vile creatures the vampire fruit bats are and how they need to go; Fluttershy's verses, on the other hand, are about how the bats aren't as bad as her friends make them out to be.
  • V-Formation Team Shot: The Mane cast sans Fluttershy pull a great one at the end of "Stop the Bats".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Applejack only wants to defend her livelihood from what she sees as pests. However, her solution involves interfering with the bats' natural behavior, which backfires messily on everyone when Twilight's spell affects Fluttershy.
  • Wham Shot: Fluttershy reveals her pointed teeth in the last shot of the episode.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The episode goes out of its way to show that the vampire fruit bats aren't adorable and therefore must be "nasty, disgusting and vile" in the minds of everypony sans Fluttershy.
  • Whole Plot Reference: To The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; same pest problem, method of trying to deal with the pests, and it backfires in the same way on Wallace. Both "monsters" are lured by sacrificing a giant produce that was meant to win a competition.
  • White and Grey Morality:
    • Fluttershy, on top of refusing to harm the vampire fruit bats, also points out how beneficial they can be in the long run. Meanwhile, Applejack and the rest of the Mane Cast want to prevent a widespread disaster, but are more extreme in their actions and too short-sighted to see how simple the infestation solution could have been until after they unintentionally make things worse.
    • On the other side of things, the vampire fruit bats were shown to eat too quickly for the apple orchard to sustain them even in the short term, something that Fluttershy never addresses or tries to fix. Her sanctuary would, at best, make the apple shortages caused by a vampire fruit bat infestation even worse, assuming that the farm would produce enough produce to keep from going under. The problems raised by allowing them to stay were completely ignored after Fluttershy was turned back to normal. The very real concern that the enhanced seeds produced by the vampire fruit bats would be unable to make up for their presence is also unaddressed, especially since Fluttershy, who explicitly isn't an expert on vampire fruit bats, never really explains that claim. Finally, getting the seeds from the vampire fruit bats wouldn't require hosting them for a long period of time, just collecting the seeds that they spit out before they leave.
    • It isn't explained how Fluttershy's plan would benefit the bats. From the episode, the vampire fruit bats exhaust a local food source before moving on to a new area. Fluttershy's sanctuary would prevent them from doing that, requiring that fruit be brought in from elsewhere to feed them.
  • Who's on First?: When Pinkie Pie tries to explain what happened to a cured Fluttershy. Mostly revolves around the episode's version of a vampire vs. a normal one.
  • Wing Ding Eyes: Blink and you'll miss it but when Applejack first bucks the apples in the episode and you see them fall in slow motion, the highlights in her eyes are apple silhouettes.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: How Fluttershy sees her Stare ability. She makes it clear that she only believes in using it as a last-resort technique to keep animals in check.
  • Written-In Absence: Despite having most of the episode take place on their farm, the rest of the Apple family never appears. Granny Smith gets a non-speaking role in flashback, but that's it. It's mentioned the rest of the family is off in Appleloosa checking out the competition.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: When Twilight's spell interacts with Fluttershy's Stare, the essence of the vampire fruit bats is transferred to Fluttershy.


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alternative title(s): Bats
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