Apple Bloom is at school one day, listening intently to her teacher Cheerilee delivering a lecture on "cutie marks", the picture on a pony's flank that helps represent who they are and what they can do. Apple Bloom is one of the last girls in her class to get a cutie mark, alongside her nerdy friend Twist. This makes them a prime target for teasing from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, a pair of bossy, spoiled, upper-class fillies who already have their cutie marks, and are only inviting Apple Bloom and Twist to Tiara's "cuteceañera" so they can lord it over the "blank-flanks".
Desperate to get her cutie mark before the big party, Apple Bloom tries to earn her mark by helping her big sister Applejack with the family business. Unfortunately, she's a little too young to help with harvesting, and her hard-sale at the apple stand does more harm than good. Applejack suggests Apple Bloom go to the party with her fellow blank-flank Twist, but much to Apple Bloom's chagrin, she finds her friend has already earned her cutie mark, which prompts a passing Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon to rub in the fact that Apple Bloom is officially the last girl in her class to earn her mark.
Apple Bloom is sent into a funk, until Rainbow Dash offers to coach Apple Bloom in all manner of activities until she finds what her special talent is. One frantic, slapstick montage later, and the only thing Apple Bloom has earned is a distaste for sports and a few bruises. Fortunately, Pinkie Pie needs some assistance making treats at Sugar Cube Corner, and Apple Bloom brightens at the prospect of earning a cutie mark in baking. Unfortunately, Apple Bloom's attempt at making cupcakes only demonstrates that cooking is definitely not her special talent, and the only thing she gets on her flank is some spilled flour.
Desperate, Apple Bloom begs Twilight Sparkle to conjure up a cutie mark for her, but as Twilight demonstrates, even magic can't force a cutie mark to appear before its time. Bloom is all but ready to give up on going to the cute-ceañera after all... unfortunately, she'd forgotten in her haste that the party is being held right there at Sugar Cube Corner.
Right now, in fact.
Apple Bloom tries to hide her lack of a cutie mark and sneak out of the party, but despite all her efforts she's found out. Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon start to mock her for being "not special", only for two other blank-flanked fillies, a unicorn named Sweetie Belle and a pegasus named Scootaloo, to rush to her defense. They, and Twilight, point out that still having the potential to become anything can be regarded as special too, turning the crowd positively interested towards Apple Bloom, much to Diamond Tiara's and Silver Spoon's annoyance.
Scootaloo: We thought we were the only two!
The trio resolve to become fast friends, and to help each other find their purpose in life as the "Cutie Mark Crusaders". Twilight, meanwhile, is inspired to write a friendship report about how something you think will alienate you from others can actually lead you to making good friends.
- '80s Hair: Schoolfilly!Cheerilee.
- Adults Are Useless: Suddenly popped up in this episode where it hadn't been present before. Cheerilee doesn't stop the teasing and mocking going on in her classroom, Applejack does the out-of-touch-adult thing of referring to her little sister's tormentors as her friends, and everyone who's not a filly is generally wildly unhelpful (although Rainbow Dash seems to be giving it an honest try and several of them are giving relevant and accurate information), except for Twilight's speech at the end.
- An Aesop: The things that might make you feel left out are actually the things that will help you make new friends and realize how special you are.
- Alpha Bitch: Diamond Tiara, with Silver Spoon as the Beta Bitch.
- Batman Gambit: Pinkie Pie clearly wants Apple Bloom to attend the party, and knows the filly's desire to get a cutie mark "right now!" will keep her focused on baking batch after batch of terrible cupcakes until the party starts.
- "Begone" Bribe: Doctor Whooves ends up overpaying for an apple just so that Apple Bloom would stop hounding him.
- Behind the Black: Apple Bloom, after an afternoon of failed attempts of getting her cutie mark, walks out of the kitchen of Sugarcube Corner swearing to avoid going to Diamond Tiara's cuteceañera only for the camera to pull back to reveal the party has already started in the other room.
- Big Damn Heroes: Our full introduction to Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle is one of these moments.
- Bittersweet Ending: Apple Bloom doesn't get a cutie mark, but she makes new friends who don't have theirs either.
- Blatant Lies:
- At the cute-ceañera, Apple Bloom claims that she now has a cutie mark but can't show it because it's so incredibly amazing. Diamond Tiara actually buys it when threatened with being outshone at her own party, but the ruse doesn't hold for long.
- Apple Bloom telling Bon Bon that she (Bon Bon) bought those apples.
- Bowdlerise: On Treehouse TV airings of the episode, a line said by Silver Spoon is altered.Silver Spoon: Whatever. We still think you're losers, right, Diamond Tiara?
- Brick Joke: The horribly burned cupcakes that Apple Bloom cooks are later decorated and served to unsuspecting party guests. Hilarity Ensues.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Done accidentally by the animators, but the unicorn and pegasus fillies that were hiding under the same table as Apple Bloom in the first episode? They show up for a Big Damn Heroes moment for Apple Bloom near the end of the episode, leading to the formation of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.
- Curtain Clothing: Apple Bloom ties a tablecloth into a makeshift frock to hide her blank flank.Apple Bloom: Just something I, uh, pulled together last minute.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Apple Bloom, starting in this episode.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Cheerilee tells her class about an important part of growing up and is not above including awkward information about herself to make it relatable and interesting. Admirable – except that three quarters of her class had already (visibly) passed the point at which they would have needed that information.
- Later, Apple Bloom is worried about being behind her entire class in that field – especially when she discovers her family has a history of being behind their classmates in it.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: When the Cutie Mark Crusaders are formed, Sweetie Belle says to make it a secret society; but in later episodes featuring them, the group is obviously not kept secret as everypony knows about them.
- Epic Fail: The Cutie Mark Crusaders' fate is pretty much set in stone from this episode. You almost expect Apple Bloom's kite to catch fire after it crashes.
- "Eureka!" Moment: On learning that getting a cutie mark late runs in the family, Apple Bloom thinks that maybe her cutie mark is related to something else that runs in the family; apples!
- Every Man Has His Price: Applejack gives away several bushels of apples to Sweetie Drops to placate her after Apple Bloom's attempt at racketeering. Sweetie Drops's price ends up being all the apples Applejack has left in her stall.
- Fantastic Slur: "Blank flank!"
- Foreshadowing: "Outshined at your own cute-ceañera, can you imagine how embarrassing that would be?"
- Informed Attribute: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's outfits supposedly "show off" their cutie marks. However, their cutie marks are actually covered up!
- I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Cheerilee's Embarrassing Old Photo from high school gets a few laughs from her class.
- Lecture as Exposition: Cheerilee's lecture in the cold open (see the episode quote at the top of this page) explains the importance of cutie marks, not just for this episode, but for the entire series.
- Leitmotif: That background music during the cute-ceañera, which gets turned into the Cutie Mark Crusaders' theme.
- Motor Mouth: Apple Bloom explaining her problem to Rainbow Dash, and again when explaining to Twilight Sparkle. This quote she does in two breaths:Apple Bloom: (inhales) There's a cute-ceañera this afternoon and everypony in my class will be there and they'll all have their cutie marks and I wanna get my cutie mark but I'm no good at sellin' apples but I really wanna go to the party but how can I go to the party if I don't have my cutie mark which my big sister says I'm gonna get eventually but (inhales) ... I WANT IT NOW!
- Mundane Made Awesome: Pinkie Pie's song about baking cupcakes makes it sound like the coolest thing ever, but Apple Bloom manages to subvert this with her utter lack of culinary skills.
- Mythology Gag: The entire episode is a reference to the scene at the beginning of Rescue at Midnight Castle where Twilight tells Ember "you'll grow up to be your own special Little Pony".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A minor example, but it was Rainbow Dash that told Apple Bloom to keep trying various things in rapid succession in the hopes that she finds her mark. This would be carried on into the Cutie Mark Crusaders' modus operandi.
- Orphaned Etymology: During the Training Montage, Rainbow Dash specifically names karate in the martial arts segment. Presumably the Equestrian equivalents of Chinese and Japanese translate te as "hoof" instead of "hand".
- Personal Raincloud: When Rainbow Dash remarks that Apple Bloom's got "a dark cloud hanging over her head", she means it quite literally.
- Polish the Turd: In-universe, it appears that this was done with the cupcakes Apple Bloom made.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: Was intended to be one for a spinoff starring the Cutie Mark Crusaders, which never surfaced. However, the CMC later get many more episodes focused around them, to the point where they're usually considered the show's second set of protagonists.
- Record Needle Scratch: Justified in the best possible way, as Apple Bloom trips and runs into the record player, causing the horrible embarrassing incident that the sound heralds.
- Selective Enforcement: The second Apple Bloom's lips touch the note Diamond Tiara is trying to pass, Cheerilee comes down on her like a ton of bricks — ignoring Diamond Tiara being on the other end of it, and then ignoring that DT loudly mocks her in the middle of class, and that the whole thing was a setup. Ponyville's school system clearly has not instituted a zero-tolerance policy on bullying.
- Stealth Pun: Twist makes peppermints.
- Tablecloth Yank: Apple Bloom does this to obtain material for an improvised dress.
- Title Drop: Cheerilee says the smiles on the flowers of her cutie mark represent the cheer she brings to "my little ponies".
- Training Montage: Rainbow Dash puts Apple Bloom through one of these.
- Unusual Euphemism: From the context, "don't get your mane in a tangle" is equivalent to "don't get your panties in a bunch".
- Wham Shot: The reveal of Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle's blank flanks. (Although, Sweetie Belle's is briefly seen when walking to Apple Bloom before.)
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Apple Bloom's relationship with Twist seems to be dropped at the end of this episode. They seemed to be best friends at the beginning of the episode, but apparently grew apart once Twist got her cutie mark...
- William Telling: Possibly referenced at the beginning of the episode, with the Earth pony Palette Swap of Scootaloo with a bow-and-arrow cutie mark having an apple in her desk.