Rarity and Fluttershy meet up for their weekly spa day, where Rarity announces that she's doing a fashion shoot with the famous fashion photographer Photo Finish and proceeds to cajole Fluttershy into modelling her outfits. As they help prepare for what Rarity is convinced is her big moment, Spike decides to let Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie in on a secret: he has a crush on Rarity. Twilight is unimpressed, especially when Spike makes them promise to keep his secret, but Pinkie adamantly insists that they agree:
- Pinkie Pie: Losing a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose a friend forever!
Twilight Sparkle: But...
Pinkie Pie: Forever!
Photo Finish arrives for the big shoot and is apparently impressed enough to ask to do another one, but it turns out she's interested in working with Fluttershy, not Rarity. Fluttershy finds herself reluctantly catapulted into the life of a fashion model, while Rarity fights back her envy as best as she can.
As luck would have it, Fluttershy and Rarity both confide their true feelings to Twilight Sparkle: Rarity is insanely envious of Fluttershy's success but is trying to be supportive and let her friend have "her moment to shine," while the meek and shy Fluttershy hates being the center of attention but doesn't want to let Rarity down after all her support and encouragement. Twilight drives herself up the wall trying to decide between letting her friends suffer and breaking her promise to keep their secrets; she is not helped by Pinkie Pie randomly showing up and reminding her that keeping secrets is Serious Business.
Twilight eventually tries sabotaging Fluttershy's latest fashion show with her magic, but Rarity turns the crowd in Fluttershy's favor with her enthusiastic cheering. When Rarity visits Fluttershy afterwards to congratulate her, Twilight drives herself mad trying to keep from blurting out her friends' secrets. Fortunately for her, this becomes a moot point when Fluttershy and Rarity finally confess how they really feel about their situation, make amends for not telling each other sooner, and leave.
Unfortunately, the neurotic Twilight finally loses control and blabs about Spike's crush... to Photo Finish. Spike is quick to forgive her this slight lapse and is prepared to write Twilight's letter to Celestia about what she's learned from this experience (that while some things are okay to keep secret, around friends it's usually better to be honest with your feelings)... once he's done fawning over Rarity, that is.
- Abilene Paradox: The central conflict of the episode. Both Fluttershy and Rarity hate Fluttershy's new career as a fashion model, but both of them pretend to be happy about it, for fear of disappointing the other.
- Accidental Art: Invoked by Rarity to save Fluttershy's modelling career after Twilight had helped her act unattractive on stage. "She's invented an entirely new kind of modelling!"
- An Aesop: It's important to keep a secret for a friend, but don't be afraid to share your true feelings as well.
- Aesop Enforcer: Pinkie appears in increasingly unlikely places throughout the episode to stop Twilight revealing her friends' secrets, even when doing so becomes counterproductive.
- "Aww"-choo: Fluttershy sneezes from having makeup caught in her nose and the ponies doing the makeover on her marvel at how "graceful" her sneeze is.
- Be Careful What You Wish For:
- Rarity insists earlier on that she wants Fluttershy to become a model. As a result, Fluttershy becomes so famous that Rarity gets very jealous.Rarity: I'm the one who should be mobbed by strangers wherever I go!
- Later on Rarity explains this was her reason for standing up for Fluttershy; in her jealousy, she thought she wanted something embarrassing to happen to Fluttershy on-stage, but she felt extremely guilty when it actually did.
- Rarity insists earlier on that she wants Fluttershy to become a model. As a result, Fluttershy becomes so famous that Rarity gets very jealous.
- Big Word Shout: "FOREVER!"
- Book-Ends: The episode begins and ends with Rarity and Fluttershy spending time at the spa, this time with Twilight and Spike.
- Brick Joke: Pinkie Pie's swear and Twilight's attempt to repeat it.
- Celebrity Is Over Rated: Fluttershy can't stand the overwhelming fan attention and the time it takes away from her friends
- The Confidant: Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle to Spike, Rarity and Fluttershy... The promise to not pass on the secrets is what causes most of the drama.
- Continuity Cameo: Hoity Toity can be heard among the voices praising Fluttershy at the first fashion show.
- Continuity Nod:
- Twilight messing up the second fashion show involves making Fluttershy fly upside down, which last happened to Rainbow Dash back in "Bridle Gossip".
- While preparing for the photo shoot in the park, one of the dresses Rarity throws over the screen border is the same one Twilight asked her to fix in "Suited for Success."
- The dresses Rarity had on a rack when Fluttershy took shelter from the paparazzi were the ones Rarity had designed for her friends in "Suited for Success."
- Death Glare: After Rarity says she wants to be left alone, and Spike repeats this to Pinkie and Twilight, only to try to sneak off to be alone with Rarity when it seemed like Pinkie and Twilight were gone. Twilight steps on Spike's tail, drags him out of the room, and then she and Pinkie give Spike an "if looks could kill" glare usually reserved for the series' worst villains.
- Double-Meaning Title: "Green", as in green with envy, and the "nature colors" Fluttershy wears.
- Enforced Method Acting: In-universe. Photo Finish increases Fluttershy's Moe appeal by taking pictures of her natural reactions to harsh criticism.
- Everybody Knew Already: Spike's crush on Rarity is known by everyone. "Secret of My Excess" reveals that Rarity herself always knew.
- Expository Hairstyle: The mares in Photo Finish's entourage all have radical, high-maintenance manestyles that set them apart as ponies that work in the fashion industry.
- Eye Scream: Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie swear" includes the line "Stick a cupcake in my eye." When doing the gestures, Twilight accidentally pokes herself in the eye with her hoof. (The proper form is to close the eye first.)
- Fashion Show: The climax takes place in one.
- Foreshadowing: In addition to Fluttershy's previously-established character traits as a good friend and the ponification of Kindness, the cold open highlights her Tareme Eyes, her stage fright, and how little "spa treatment" goes into maintaining her natural beauty compared to Rarity. Photo Finish ends up playing up these traits in her fashion photos of Fluttershy.
- Funny Foreigner: Photo Finish, with her hammy faux-Austrian accent.
- GASP: Pinkie lets out a big, long gasp at the shocking revelation that Spike has a crush on Rarity.
- Go Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Photo Finish's pep talk for Fluttershy is anything but encouraging. It's possible that this was intentional, since Fluttershy's natural timidity and Moe appeal is what Photo Finish was trying to play up.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Rarity catches herself feeling jealous, and lambastes herself for her "unladylike" behavior.
- Groupie Brigade: Fluttershy ends up with one after becoming a model.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rarity and Fluttershy are shown to be closest friends to each other in this episode. They have a Spa Day.
- Hypocrite: Pinkie Pie, who doesn't like it when someone doesn't tell her the whole truth and will go to extreme lengths to find it out, prevents Twilight from explaining the whole truth to Rarity and Fluttershy.
- Hypocritical Humor: Spike shooing Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle out of Rarity's room when Rarity says she wants to be left alone... when what he really wants is to be alone with Rarity.
- I Didn't Tell You Because You'd Be Unhappy: The driving force behind the plot. Fluttershy didn't want to make Rarity unhappy by quitting the modeling career she had gotten her, and Rarity didn't want to make Fluttershy unhappy by admitting she was jealous.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Fluttershy dislikes the attention of fashion. Meanwhile, Rarity wants the opposite.
- Irony: A lot of the problems would have been solved earlier - particularly that of Rarity's jealousy and Fluttershy's nervousness - if Twilight ignored Pinkie's advice. Each side is dissatisfied with the arrangement, and Twilight should have been able to explain things clearly to both acting as a neutral party.
- Ironic Echo: Rarity tells Fluttershy she must take the opportunity to become famous, repeating the words "You must!" with great emphasis. Later, Fluttershy tells Twilight she's only doing it for Rarity, and repeats the words "I must!" with the same kind of emphasis, except fading to resignation on the last go.
- Is This What Anger Feels Like?: Fluttershy's so angry, she could scream! She's so frustrated, she could kick something!... except her scream is barely as loud as a tea kettle, and her "kick" just manages to wobble a vase.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks:
- Twilight nearly loses it trying to keep Spike's crush on Rarity, Rarity's jealousy, and Fluttershy's woes a secret. She eventually loses it and blurts out the first one after the other two are told.Pinkie Pie: (sighs) And you were doing so well.
- Averted with Pinkie, who apparently has no problems keeping secrets whatsoever. Especially if she Pinkie Promises.
- Twilight nearly loses it trying to keep Spike's crush on Rarity, Rarity's jealousy, and Fluttershy's woes a secret. She eventually loses it and blurts out the first one after the other two are told.
- Large Ham: Photo Finish, in spades. "VE GO!" Cue the flashing of cameras.
- Leitmotif: Photo Finish is quite a character — so much so that she gets her own theme music.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: Photo Finish's leitmotif grinds to a halt when she sees the glittery outfit Rarity has picked for the photo session in the park.
- Moe: In-universe example. Photo Finish's entire campaign involves emphasizing this one aspect of Fluttershy.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Pinkie Pie takes an apple... and eats it!Pinkie Pie: Mmm, juicy!
- Mythology Gag:
- If you look closely at the gallery with all of Fluttershy's photos, you can see Lauren Faust's concept illustration of the G1 pony Posey, but edited with wings and Fluttershy's cutie mark.
- Upset with her popularity, Fluttershy at one point says she is so frustrated she could just kick something, which she does to a vase. In an episode of My Little Pony Tales, Teddy says almost the exact same thing before bucking an apple tree.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Though often mistaken for a parody of Lady Gaga or Edna Mode, Photo Finish is actually based on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Pinkie shows up in places like a small bucket of sponges, a pile of apples, and inside a mirror to remind Twilight to keep her secrets.
- Paparazzi: They hound the newly famous Fluttershy.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: A large-brimmed hat and sunglasses seem to be sufficient to throw the pony press off Fluttershy's trail. Did they ever see Fluttershy's cutie mark underneath her dresses? They're used to seeing her wearing dresses and leaving her face uncovered. So her disguise was to leave her body uncovered while covering her face.
- People Puppets: Twilight's attempt to prematurely end Fluttershy's career is to manipulate her body into doing boorish things, such as picking her nose.
- Pinky Swear: It includes a "stick a [something] in my eye" phrase, which Twilight takes literally, much to her pain.
- Record Needle Scratch: When Twilight magically trips up Fluttershy on stage.
- Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Photo Finish insists on putting Fluttershy, who hates being the center of attention, into the spotlight in fabulous dresses, making her absolutely miserable.
- At one point, Rarity dons a black cloak that looks like the one worn by the Old Hag/Evil Queen in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, jealousy being the corresponding theme. Later on, Pinkie slowly bites on a red apple, pauses as if something is wrong, then declares, "Mmm! Juicy!", parodying the poisoned apple from the same movie.
- Pinkie Pie saying "Juicy!" after biting into an apple could also be a Shout-Out to Death Note, where Ryuk does the same thing.
- Rarity also says "I want to be alone" in a manner reminiscent of Greta Garbo.
- Sneeze of Doom: Subverted when Fluttershy's face is powdered. She gears up for a huge sneeze but a tiny "Choo!" comes out instead. Lampshaded by Photo Finish.
- Spinning Paper: Not newspapers, but magazines, each adorned with Fluttershy's visage.
- Springtime for Hitler: Twilight comes up with a plan to end Fluttershy's unwanted modeling career by using magic to trip her up on the runway and make her appear as boorish and unattractive as possible. The plan works perfectly until Rarity, in a fit of guilt, applauds Fluttershy's outrageous behavior as "a new style of modeling" and wins the crowd over for Fluttershy again, making her even more popular than before.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Rarity gets a minor one when, after an episode of being overshadowed by Fluttershy's success, a couple of fashionista ponies remark on her obvious fashion sense.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Photo Finish. Word of God says it's Austrian.
- "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Unsurprisingly, Twilight has to ask for clarification after Pinkie answers her plea not to tell anyone about her plan with a long series of weird miming gestures.