Apple Family: No matter what comes, we will face the weather! We're apples to the core!
Written by Natasha Levinger
As Twilight Sparkle is studying genealogy, the study of family history, at the Golden Oaks Library, Pinkie Pie reads from a random scroll, stumbling on a discovery: she's part of the Apple family! Due to an old heritage, she's Applejack's fourth cousin, twice removed. Pinkie promptly tells the Apple family, who are overjoyed to have Pinkie as part of their family. But, upon checking the scroll to make sure, the exact name appears smudged, making Pinkie's link to the Apples unclear. Granny Smith suggests they all load up the wagon and head for the house of Goldie Delicious, another Apple family member, who has extensive knowledge of family history, to find out for sure. As Pinkie leaves to gather her things for the trip, Applejack tells the rest of her family members that they all need to be on their best behavior to make a good impression on Pinkie.While on the road, the Apple family's wagon breaks, since Big McIntosh overburdened the cart before the trip. After stopping an argument before it starts, Granny Smith decides it's best to keep going, since the wagon broke closer to Goldie Delicious's house than to Sweet Apple Acres. At Pinkie's suggestion, the Apples fashion the broken wagon into a makeshift raft, and head downriver. Pinkie snaps a photo of the family for a scrapbook she's making, having been documenting everything so far. Applejack tries to navigate with a map, but Apple Bloom drops it in the water, causing another argument between the Apples. Granny Smith takes the helm, confident that they've avoided "the scariest cave in all of Equestria," right before leading them directly through it. Fed up, Applejack tries to take the helm from Granny Smith, causing a full-blown argument between the Apples, ending with the raft's wheel flying off, the Apples helplessly flying down a waterfall soon after.The family makes it to Goldie Delicious's house, all of them dejected but Pinkie. Goldie Delicious is running an errand, which leaves Pinkie with enough time to grab more paper for her scrapbook. While she's gone, the Apples confide in each other about how Pinkie's seen them at their worst, and won't begrudge Pinkie if she doesn't want to be an Apple after all. Pinkie, overhearing, says she still wants to be an Apple, because the Apples never gave up even when things got tough, showing them the scrapbook she's made. And just because they fight, that doesn't mean they don't love each other.When Goldie Delicious returns from her errand, she finds the Apple family's history book. After finding the page relating to Pinkie, they find the page in question is smudged too. Though Pinkie's disappointed, Applejack decides it doesn't matter what the book says, or doesn't say; as far as the Apples are concerned, Pinkie's one of them. After returning to Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack plans to write in the Mane Six's diary about how being a good family means going through the rough patches together... right before the Apples start arguing again over who should write the entry and Pinkie cheerfully joins in.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
Absentee Actor: Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity don't appear at all.
Adorkable: Everyone in the raft has life-jackets, except for Big Mac, who is wearing arm floaties and a duck-shaped inflatable lifesaver. Before that, the Apples sport the biggest grins at the idea of a road trip.
A fish grabs the map that Apple Bloom drops in the water. The fish then is plucked out of the water by a bald eagle. Pinkie just takes a picture.
The raft's wheel falls into the water. A duck grabs it. The duck is then plucked out of the water by a bald eagle. Pinkie looks on, taking vacation photos. Unlike the fish, the duck is later seen flying with the wheel still around its neck.
Apple of Discord: Minor ones. The Apple Family is driven to distraction first by an argument over who steers the raft. At the end of the episode, there is another brief disagreement over who gets to write the episode's lesson into the journal.
Ascended Meme: Apple Bloom briefly sings a song that brings to mind the series of fan videos based on the "Twilight-licious" meme.
Aside Comment: Pinkie looks to the camera and addresses the audience at the end before joining the rest of the Apples in "arguing" and "bickering".
The cat-shaped ball of dust could have actually been a real, long-dead cat that had deteriorated into ash.
In general, the episode proves unusually cruel to small animals. In addition to the Always a Bigger Fish examples, we see a squirrel helplessly stuck to a sappy tree. Granny Smith ignores it, hopefully out of obliviousness. (Fluttershy would not be fond of this episode; good thing she isn't in it.)
Blush Sticker: Applejack gets some when Apple Bloom delivers over-the-top praise of her contribution to the family.
Brick Joke: Before they leave, Applejack asks Mac if he'd made sure the wheels were sturdy enough to hold them all and the overloaded luggage which he answers (with increasing annoyance) that he did. It seems to hold well enough during the song but breaks apart immediately after the song ends.
The cheetah seen in Goldie Delicious' cabin looks like one of the cats Ahuizotl sicced on Daring Do in "Read It and Weep" and "Daring Don't".
Granny Smith mentions her skill at storytelling at the end of the episode, a reference to "Family Appreciation Day".
Camera Fiend: Pinkie takes a lot of photos of herself and the Apple Family during the trip to Goldie Delicious.
Catch Phrase: In this episode we hear all the possible meanings of the word "Eeyup".
Chekhov's Skill: In the opening scene, Pinkie is shown to be able to pull objects from the bottom of a pile without it toppling over. Goldie is later shown to do the same, which may or may not be a clue to a genetic link between the two.
Crazy-Prepared: Deconstructed. While Big Mac packed EVERYTHING they could possibly need for the trip, it comes back to bite them when their cart collapses under all of that weight. And when they break down by a river bank, they realize about the only thing he didn't pack was a raft. (Zig-zagged, though: he did pack life jackets.)
Of the idea of a "perfect family". The episode makes it clear that there's no such thing, that all families fight and argue from time to time, with the best ones being those who manage to stick together through it all.
It also deconstructs the idea of being Crazy-Prepared. When Big Mac packs everything they could possibly need for the trip, the cart collapses under the weight. And while he brought life vests, when they decide to take the river the rest of the way, the find out that the only thing he didn't bring was the raft!
Delayed Reaction: When the Apples are bickering with each other for their misfortunes:
Apple Bloom: [The map] wouldn't have been overboard if Big Mac hadn't overpacked all the luggage! Big McIntosh: Eeyu— Hey!
Double Aesop: The Apples learn not to pretend to be a perfect family, because there's no such thing; the best families are the ones that stay together through thick and thin. Pinkie, meanwhile, learns that friendship is more key to being a family than actual blood ties.
Even truly eagle-eyed viewers might miss what happens at just after the 17 minute mark. Pinkie tackles Applejack into a hug, and the camera pans to the right to follow them. For a split-second during the pan◊, a mysterious figure can be seen hiding behind some bushes which many fans claim bears a resemblance to a ponified version of Slender Man.
Hammerspace Mane: Pinkie Pie's mane again. This time she stows her photo album in it.
Long List: The genealogy scroll that Pinkie reads is long enough to stretch down the stairs from Twilight's room, out the front door of the library, and quite a distance down the road. At Sweet Apple Acres, it goes from one end of the barn to the other with plenty of length to spare.
Lots of Luggage: Big McIntosh's insistence on overpacking becomes the biggest source of problems during the family's journey.
Loud Gulp: The Apple siblings give one just before they enter the Scariest Cave in Equestria.
MacGyvering: The Apples make a raft from the parts of their broken jalopy wagon and sap.
Mythology Gag: At Aunt Goldie Delicious' cabin, Pinkie Pie draws Groucho glasses, balloons, and wings on her reflection in a mirror. Faust had originally intended for Pinkie Pie to be a pegasus, and the character is based on the pegasus pony Surprise from the G1 specials and series.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A lot of the misfortune comes from the Apples' unintentional actions. Starts with Big Mac overloading the wagon, leading to its breakdown; then Apple Bloom losing the map while she's playing with it; Granny taking a wrong river route though a scary cave; and both her and Applejack breaking off the steering wheel while fighting over it, which leads the group off a waterfall. Pinkie, however, takes it all in stride, because no family's perfect.
After hearing ponies have gone into the Scariest Cave in All of Equestria and never come out, Applejack, Big Mac, and Applebloom express anxiety while Pinkie claps her hooves in anticipation and has an ear-to-ear grin. Once inside, while the Apples scream in terror, Pinkie is busy taking pictures for her scrapbook.
She later is the only one enjoying the trip over the waterfall, taking selfies (duck-face included) next to each of the terrified Apple members.
No, Except Yes: When Pinkie Pie and Apple Bloom are excitedly clamoring about being sisters:
Apple Bloom: I have another sister! Pinkie Pie: Well, you actually have a fourth cousin twice removed by a fifth cousin, but that's, like, exactly like a sister!
Noodle Implements: Pinkie and Big Mac have some kind of philosophical discussion involving... parachutes.
Nothing Is Scarier: Apart from a single photo in Pinkie's scrapbook at the end of the episode, we don't get to see much of how the Scariest Cave in Equestria's inside looks like. Judging by the Apples' yelling and later shocked expressions, maybe it's for the best.
Not Now, Kiddo: When the Apples admit to everything they did wrong, Big Mac tries to chip in with more than one word, but Granny Smith stops him.
OOC Is Serious Business: During the Apple Family's collective Heroic BSOD at the end, Big Mac actually starts to speak a full sentence, though Granny Smith cuts him off. But still, when that happens, you know things are bad.
The Quiet One: Played with in Big Mac's case, as in "Ponyville Confidential". For the most part all he says is his customary "Eeyup", but when he starts to apologize for overpacking the jalopy Granny Smith cuts him off before he can get more than five words out. Big Mac also sings full verses of "Apples to the Core," although it isn't obvious as he lacks a solo.
Road Trip Episode: The Apple Family takes a road trip to one of Applejack's relatives, and it goes just about as well for them as it did for the Griswolds.
Running Gag: The eagle that carries off animals who snatch up the various items, like their map and steering wheel.
Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: When Pinkie joins in the arguing at the end, she starts yelling "argue argue argue!" and moves on to "bicker bicker!"
Schizo Tech: As is common for the show. Applejack and the others wear fairly modern-looking life jackets, and the cart they take to Goldie Delicious has shock absorbers, in a land that rarely gets beyond early industrial developments.
Security Cling: Applebloom and Applejack do this to an equally terrified Big Mac during the trip through the Scariest Cave in Equestria. Applebloom first latches onto him when Granny Smith mentions the cave before they actually enter the cave.
Series Continuity Error: Applejack acts like she has never met Goldie and she wasn't at the last Apple family reunion — but we were told in that episode that all of the Apple family was in attendance. Also Goldie is not present in the final Apple photo taken at the end of the reunion episode.
Serious Business: Pinkie treats making a family scrapbook of their trip as this.
Applejack: Pinkie Pie, when did you have time to make this? Pinkie Pie: (dead serious) Applejack, when you're family, you make the time.
Shaggy Dog Story: The group go through a very harrowing road trip to reach Goldie Delicious and see if the family scroll is legit, only to finally reach her and realize her own family records are smudged as well. By this point, however, they don't really care since Pinkie has proven herself to be an honorary Apple.
Theme Naming: Goldie Delicious, like most Apple family members, is named after a variety of apple. Goldie's name is also suspiciously similar to Pinkie's, making one of several reference to the possibility of their relation.
Trash of the Titans: Goldie Delicious' hoard of Apple family history and heirlooms. She throws a large pile of it out to her front lawn to make her cabin somewhat fit to receive guests, and the Apples and Pinkie still climb over a lot of clutter inside.
The Unreveal: It is never confirmed or denied in the episode that Pinkie is related to the Apples, although the episode's Aesop of not worrying who you're related to sees that the Apples consider her part of their family either way.
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Applejack asks the family to show Pinkie their best behavior during the road trip, which in practice just leads to them all bottling in their frustrations until they explode.
Visual Pun: During the song, Granny Smith's line "we're thick as thieves" is accompanied by the Apple family dressed like pirates and Pinkie Pie dressed like a Blatant Burglar. Pinkie's line "The love I feel here is swim, not sink" is accompanied by her throwing a kitchen sink from the pile of stuff in the jalopy.
We Are Song: The Apples and Pinkie get a song together called "Apples to the Core".