Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S7 E8 "Hard to Say Anything"

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/hard_to_say_anything.png
Love hurts, especially when your paramours fall over on top of you.

"I think my brother has a crush!"
Apple Bloom

Written by Becky Wangberg

The Cutie Mark Crusaders notice that Big Macintosh has been making several apple delivery runs to Starlight's old village lately. As he leaves Sweet Apple Acres to go make his fifth delivery that week, the Crusaders suspect he must have some ulterior motive for going so often. They sneak aboard his apple cart, arriving at Starlight's old village to find Big Mac delivering the apples to the baker, Sugar Belle. She has been using the apples in her baking, but laments that she has limited space for the desserts on her store's shelves. Seeing that Big Mac is smitten with Sugar Belle, Apple Bloom deduces that he has a crush on her.

The Crusaders insist that Big Mac tell Sugar Belle, and he agrees. However, just as he knocks on her door, a suave earth pony named Feather Bangs pushes Big Mac out of the way and offers Sugar Belle a large bouquet of roses. Big Mac walks away rejected, but the Crusaders insist he try again. Sweetie Belle brings out a book on fairy tales, saying that grand romantic gestures will always win the heart of the "fair maiden." Big Mac tries "saving" Sugar Belle from an engineered robbery, but Feather Bangs returns her bags first. When Big Mac tries waking up a napping Sugar Belle with a kiss, Feather Bangs knocks him out of the way. Finally, the Crusaders suggest wooing Sugar Belle with a song. Big Mac and Feather Bangs end up vying for her attention with competing songs, but the spectacle ends with them destroying her shelves and desserts. She angrily tells both of them that she doesn't like grand gestures and asks them to leave her alone.

Looking through Sweetie Belle's book, Big Mac reflects that Sugar Belle is kind and sweet, but also a real pony instead of a fairy tale princess. Sweetie Belle realizes that they should have been thinking of what she might want, and Big Mac comes up with a way to apologize and enlists the Crusaders' help. As Scootaloo distracts Sugar Belle and Sweetie Belle keeps watch, Big Mac and Apple Bloom build a new, larger display case for the bakery. Sugar Belle excitedly thanks Big Mac and admits that she likes him, and the Crusaders apologize for putting him up to his ridiculous efforts to win her affections. The lesson they've learned is that romance is not about making grand gestures, but doing special things for the other pony in the relationship.

Feather Bangs tries to woo Sugar Belle again, but the Crusaders tell him that she is spoken for and point him toward three mares who have been swooning over him ever since his arrival in the village. When he nervously tells them that he has no idea of how to talk to mares, they offer to help him start a conversation with them.


Hard to Trope Anything:

  • Acting Unnatural: Apple Bloom tells her friends to "act like apples". They manage a barrel-shaped huddle with some apples on their heads and various nervous expressions on their faces. Big Mac doesn't even notice.
  • Adorkable:
    • Lovestruck Big Mac makes a return and it's even more adorable than before (especially since he's not influenced by magic this time).
    • Feather Bangs turns out to be this when it's revealed that he's a lot shyer than he leads on.
  • An Aesop:
    • When trying to woo someone, don't treat them as a prize to be won in a competition. Rather, take time to learn about them, treat then as a person, and do things that are actually meaningful to them on a personal level.
    • Love isn't about big showy gestures for the sake of big showy gestures. Actions can be genuinely meaningful and heartfelt even if they aren't big and loud.
    • Just because somebody is kind to your romantic overtures doesn't mean they're into you; maybe they're just being polite. If you think your crush might be mutual, just talk to them like an adult.
  • Angels Pose: In the Cold Open, the disguised CMC pose in a manner similar to the title card for the Charlie's Angels series.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Scootaloo declares that there's only one reason Big Mac would be making so many trips to Starlight's old village. The CMC then each suggest something different.
  • Ascended Extra: Sugar Belle is promoted to Big Mac's love interest.
  • Atrocious Alias: The CMC decide to go "undercover", with Scootaloo calling herself "Agent Rainbowhead" and Sweetie Belle taking the name "Shimmering Spectacles".
  • Auto-Tune: Feather Bangs' own song has a lot of this.
  • Beneath the Mask: Feather Bangs comes off as The Charmer, being able to swoon mares with the greatest of ease and the slightest effort, but it turns out that's all he's got. If he actually has to get to know one at a personal level, he locks up. He admits this to the Cutie Mark Crusaders after getting finally rejected by Sugar Belle and they suggest trying to get to know the mares who have been following him around.
  • Broken Aesop: One moral of the episode is that what works in a story doesn't necessarily work in real life. It then plays the Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario trope completely and utterly straight, rather than have Sugar Belle be creeped out by Big Mac breaking into her shop and failing to respect her boundaries, which is just as — if not more — likely to happen.
  • Call-Back: Naturally, many are made to "Hearts and Hooves Day", with Big Mac clearly not wanting a repeat of the Love Poison incident.
    Big Mac: No love potions!
  • The Cameo: Party Favor and Night Glider show up briefly when the Crusaders are looking for Big Mac. Double Diamond can also be seen in some of the establishing shots.
  • Cardiovascular Love:
    • Hearts float and pop like bubbles around Big Mac when he thinks about Sugar Belle; the couple are surrounded by them when they nuzzle each other.
    • Feather Bangs's trio of admirers also pops hearts frequently when they swoon over him.
  • The Charmer: Played with. Feather Bangs can try and charm a pony as much as he wants, but he can't talk to girls at all.
  • Chick Magnet: Feather Bangs. Until the musical number, Sugar Belle doesn't dislike him and, even if he loses to Big Mac, the Crusaders remind him that he has a trio of fangirls obsessed with him.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The episode starts out with the Crusaders looking over old costumes from the first two seasons: Pinkie Pie's Groucho glasses ("Party of One"), and Pipsqueak's pirate hat and Mayor Mare's clown wig ("Luna Eclipsed").
    • Big Mac's singing abilities make a comeback.
    • Sugar Belle mentions how she used to bake only muffins.
    • Apple Bloom helps Big Mac with the building of Sugar Belle's new display case, referencing the carpentry skills she first displayed in "The Show Stoppers".
  • Cringe Comedy: Big Mac and Feather Bangs's attempts to get Sugar Belle's attention, especially the song segment.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Big Macintosh has a large role and a large speaking part (by his standards) that isn't him taking on another identity. He even gets to sing!
    • Sugar Belle also gets some focus, and not just as the object of Big Mac's affections. Her passion for baking is shown, and her personality is fleshed out a little more.
  • Engineered Heroics: The Crusader's first attempt to help Big Macintosh win over Sugar Belle is to have Scootaloo pose as a purse snatcher so he can stop her. It almost works, but Feather Bangs beats Big Mac to catching Sugar Belle's saddlebags and steals all the credit.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: The episode closes on Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Feather Bangs laughing out from the CMC copying his Hair Flip.
  • Expy: Feather Bangs's trio of fangirls are the Bimbettes from Beauty and the Beast, right down to the manestyles. A trio of beautiful girls in love with the rival of the main hero in the story, who separately are trying to woo a Belle.
  • Eye Cam: Sugar Belle wakes up from her nap and open her eyes, only to see a close-up of Big Mac pursing his lips to kiss her. Unsurprisingly, it freaks her out.
  • Facepalm: Apple Bloom does a face-hoof when Big Mac and Feather Bangs cause a mess with their songs and a pie lands on Sugar Belle's head.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Big Mac is so smitten during his apple delivery to Sugar Belle that he fails to notice the Crusaders in his cart.
    • Feather Bangs seems surprised to learn that he has fangirls.
  • Flat "What.": Big Mac has one when Scootaloo suggests a song for their next attempt.
    Big Mac: S-say what now?
  • Foreshadowing: Feather Bangs stutters a little before his flirtation attempts and ignores the three mares who always swoon over him, showing he's not really comfortable actually talking to them.
  • Funny Background Event: When Feather Bangs does his first part of the song, his groupees pick up Sugar Belle and unceremoniously toss her on the stage, face first.
  • Furry Confusion: In Big Mac's song, he talks about "the heifer [being] milked and fed" as though they're livestock, even though cows and bison are sapient beings in Equestria. Though to be fair, cows at least seem to live as livestock do.
  • Geographic Flexibility: When we first go there, Starlight's village is at the far edge of Equestria and is literally the end of the line when you take the train there. Even in this season, It's clear that it's too far to go on just a whim... But Big Mac is able to trot there in a couple of hours.
  • Get Out: Sugar Belle to Big Mac and Feather Bangs after they make a mess of her bakery due to trying to sing over each other to woo her.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • When Big Mac first arrives at Sugar Belle's bakery, she occasionally makes an effort to display her backside to him. This is about as close to real behavior of a mare in estrus as you can get in a cartoon for little girls.
    • One of the lines in Feather Bangs's song is "blood is rushing from my head to my hooves".
    • Sweetie Belle pairs Feather Bangs with his fangirls... all three of them.
  • Gibberish of Love: When Big Mac finally tries to tell Sugar Belle how he feels, he barely manages to work in the words "eyup" and "nope" between his giggles. Fortunately, Sugar Belle is able to translate.
  • Graceful Loser: When the CMC tell him Sugar Belle is Big Mac's "special somepony", Feather Bangs gracefully admits defeat.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Deconstructed. The Cutie Mark Crusaders have Big Mac try several of them to impress Sugar Belle, only to be constantly outdone by Feather Bangs. In the end, Sugar Belle ends up angry with both of them, because that's not the kind of pony she is.
  • Hair Flip: Feather Bangs always does it. At the end of the episode, the CMC do it too, imitating him.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The dueling love songs between Big Mac and Feather Bangs.
  • The "I Love You" Stigma: Played with during Apple Bloom's summary of the episode's aesop:
    Apple Bloom: Romance isn't about impressin' somepony. It's about doin' somethin' that means somethin' special to that pony you love— Heh... [clears throat] like a lot.
  • In Love with the Mark: Played with, as Sweetie Belle has a few freeze-frame bonus expressions that seems she's fallen for Feather Bangs' cuteness despite being the pony she and the other CMC have to help Big Mac overcome.
  • Instant Fan Club: Feather Bangs's trio of fangirls that always follow him.
  • Invoked Trope: The CMC try to help Big Mac's romantic efforts by setting up schemes straight out of a fairy tale, like the Rescue Romance, the wake-up kiss or the love serenade. They do recognize it was wrong-headed by the end of the episode, though.
    Apple Bloom: We're sorry for everything we put you through today, Sugar Belle. Big Mac never would've gone through with all of those crazy...
    Sweetie Belle: ... over-the-top...
    Scootaloo: ... downright ridiculous...
    Apple Bloom: ... attempts to impress you if we hadn't put him up to it. But we learned our lesson. Romance isn't about impressin' somepony. It's about doin' somethin' that means somethin' special to that pony you love— Heh... [clears throat] like a lot.
  • Iris Out: Combined with Everybody Laughs Ending, but the "iris" is a heart and closes on Feather Bangs winking to the audience.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: On moving onto their second step to win Sugar Belle's heart, the CMC ask Big Mac if he's ready to step it up a notch, which he responds "Oh, yeah!" Cut to Big Mac stuffed into a costume, uttering "Oh, no..."
  • Irony:
    • Sweetie Belle spent the entire "Forever Filly" episode explaining that she is not a little filly anymore. Here, she uses a book of fairy tales for help Big Mac to win Sugar Belle's love; Scootaloo promptly joke on this.
      Sweetie Belle: When I was younger, I read all the fairy tales.
      Scootaloo: When you were "younger", huh?
      Sweetie Belle: Well, I was younger on the way here! It was a long ride!
    • Feather Bangs is a charmer who easily upstages Big Macintosh in winning over Sugar Belle until things get too over the top. When confronted with trying to talk to the three mares interested in him after Big Mac/Sugar Belle's Relationship Upgrade, he actually looks anxious and asks the CMC to help him out.
  • Laugh of Love: Big Mac blushes and giggles the moment Apple Bloom mentions how often he's been visiting Starlight's old village, and he and Sugar Belle frequently giggle when talking to each other.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: When Sugar Belle and Big Mac begin to act intimate, the CMC quietly back out of the shop to give them some privacy.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The episode focuses entirely on the CMC, Big Mac, and Sugar Belle; the Mane Six are nowhere to be seen at all.
  • Mythology Gag: Feather Bangs's fangirls each have bows around their tails, much like the original G1 ponies did.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The CMC's efforts to help Big Macintosh woo Sugar Belle cause her to kick both Feather Bangs and Big Mac out for being too over-the-top.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Feather Bangs is said to be based on pop star Justin Bieber.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Played with. By the end of the episode, when Big Mac and Sugar Belle admit to liking each other they are shown hugging, but the closest they get to actually kissing is pressing their noses together, like a normal horse kiss. Highly implied to be more with a Kissing Discretion Shot after this.
  • "Not Important to This Episode" Camp: Not only do none of the Mane Six appear, but this is the first time that their speaking-voice actresses are all absent from the credits. (Rebecca Shoichet, who does Twilight Sparkle's singing voice, does provide the voice of Sugar Belle.)
  • Oblivious to Love: Feather Bangs doesn't realize he has a trio of dreamy-eyed fangirls following him wherever he goes until the CMC point them out.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Big Macintosh gets a lot of speaking lines when trying to relay his feelings for Sugar Belle. Considering Apple Bloom's comments about him being shy, he's probably willing to forego that for her.
    • The episode starts with the CMC noticing Mac is going to Starlight's old town five days in a row, as well as his blushing and smitten looks.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The CMC put on ridiculous disguises they find in an old box. Scootaloo wears a rainbow wig, Apple Bloom wears a pirate hat, and Sweetie Belle wears classic Groucho glasses. Scootaloo uses all three at once when stealing Sugar Belle's bags, then wears only the glasses when she has to delay Sugar in the street so Big Mac can finish building the new display case.
  • Pie in the Face: The big song contest between Feather Bangs and Big Macintosh ends up with them crashing on the shop's stand with Sugar Belle underneath them, one of her pies splashing on her head. As she was already getting annoyed at them, this is the last straw for her.
  • Precocious Crush: Sweetie Belle is very clearly as attracted to Feather Bangs as his entourage is. She swoons over his pick-up lines, is shown enjoying his song (and gets annoyed when Feather's admirers block her view), and even nods dreamily in agreement when Scootaloo admits he has a "good mane".
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The CMC's attempts at helping Big Mac win over Sugar Belle are too over-the-top. Mac's speech after looking over the fairy tales realizes that was probably not the way to go about it.
      Sweetie Belle: I don't get it. Big grand gestures always work in the fairy tales.
      Big Macintosh: But Sugar Belle is not a fairy tale princess. She's a real pony.
    • While a Grand Romantic Gesture can certainly get a girl's attention, it takes time, and getting to really know her, to form a stable, lasting relationship. While Feather Bangs has the charisma, looks and skills to woo several ladies, he has no idea on how to treat them on the long term.
  • Relationship Upgrade: At the end of the episode, Sugar Belle admits she likes Big Mac, and the two of them rub muzzles together. Sweetie Belle even says that he's her "special somepony" to Feather Bangs, and no-one objects.
  • Rhyming with Itself: Big Mac tries to improvise more lyrics for his love ballad and ends up rhyming "blue" with itself.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Feather Bangs finally accepts defeat when he sees Big Mac and Sugar Belle romantically nuzzling each other.
  • Serenade Your Lover: Both Big Macintosh and Feather Bangs try to serenade Sugar Belle at the same time. They end up making her mad when their over-the-top performances accidentally wreck her shop.
  • Shipper on Deck: The CMC try very hard to help Big Macintosh woo Sugar Belle from the moment they realize what's going on. Too bad they (initially) attempt this through invoking fairy tales tropes. At least they learned their lesson about love potions from the "Hearts and Hooves Day" fiasco.
  • Ship Sinking: Every other possible ship with Big Mac before this episode ends abruptly. Especially the ship with Cheerilee, with the Crusaders even explaining that they were only a thing because of the love potion.
  • Ship Tease: Besides the main ship of the episode, Party Favor and Night Glider are shown sitting at a table together, apparently on a date, with Party Favor having a goofy smile before being interrupted by the Crusaders looking for Big Mac.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title of the episode is a reference to the 1989 romance movie Say Anything.... Feather Bangs also attempts a last-minute effort to serenade Sugar Belle holding a gramophone over his head à la John Cusack in the film.
    • The Angels Pose scene mentioned above.
    • The three mares that show up to swoon over Feather Bangs are based on the Bimbettes from Beauty and the Beast. Plus, the two male characters want to win the love of a Belle.
    • Most of Feather Bangs' parts of the song play off themes from videos of boy bands like N Sync, New Kids on the Block, and the like. Feather Bangs himself is based on Justin Bieber.
    • At one point, Feather Bangs leans back in a chair and douses himself with melted cheese, alluding to a similar scene from the film Flashdance.
  • Spy Speak: Scootaloo alerts her friends that Sugar Belle is about to enter the bakery with "The cupcake has landed!"
  • Supreme Chef: Sugar Belle has been baking all kinds of apple-based treats, and after getting a new display case, speaks of expanding her culinary repertoire further.
  • Take That!: The last stanzas of Feather Bangs's love song are so heavy on the Auto-Tune that it's nearly impossible to understand the words.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Apple Bloom immediately gets into character with her pirate hat and talks piratey when Big Mac heads off.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle realize that something's up with Big Mac.
    Scootaloo: We can't talk about costumes at a time like this!
  • Triang Relations: Type 4. Sugar Belle and Big Mac crush hard for each other; Feather Bangs tries to woo Sugar Belle, but she's not interested in him.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Scootaloo pointlessly does a roll in the pastry shop after her attempt to distract Sugar Belle falls through.
  • We Need a Distraction: Scootaloo tries to distract Sugar Belle while Big Macintosh and the other Crusaders try to build Sugar Belle a new display case.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After Big Mac and Feather Bangs each try singing over each other to woo Sugar Belle but just end up making a mess and covering her in pie, she angrily tells them both to get out and leave her alone.
  • Wingding Eyes: Big Mac starts sporting pink hearts in his eyes when he delivers his apples to Sugar Belle.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Cutie Mark Crusaders take inspiration from classic fairy tale stories for help Big Mac to win Sugar Belle's love. Every attempt ends up failing (although the first attempt was due to interference from Feather Bangs). The song from Big Mac also appears to have been working until, once again, Feather Bangs disrupts it and turns Sugar Belle's shop into a mess as he and Big Mac try to outdo each other. This causes Sugar Belle to become annoyed with both of them.

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