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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S1 E22 "A Bird in the Hoof"

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A bird in the hoof is worth a thousand meme images.

Twilight: You have no idea what the Princess is gonna do when she finds out you're the one who took her pet, do you?
Fluttershy: Do you?

Written by Charlotte Fullerton

Princess Celestia is at Sugarcube Corner for brunch, and Twilight Sparkle and her friends are all supposed to be there. Fluttershy, however, is running late due to her nursing yet another woodland creature back to health. Twilight is over-anxious today, seeing as this is the first chance the Princess will have to really get to know her friends, and the rest of the mane cast aren't faring much better: Rainbow Dash tries to get a reaction out of the stoic, intimidating royal guards, Rarity is freaking out about anything potentially staining her dress, Applejack has trouble remembering her table manners, and Pinkie Pie's being... well... Pinkie Pie.

Despite all this, Celestia seems to be taking the whole event in stride, even finding a chance to pull a lighthearted prank. Also, Celestia didn't arrive alone today, as she brought her pet bird, Philomena, along. Fluttershy notices that the bird seems to be really, really sick. When Celestia has to leave early due to the mayor of Ponyville wanting to see her, Fluttershy, unseen by anyone, decides to take the creature home in order to take care of it.

As it turns out, taking care of the bird is easier said than done. Philomena doesn't go along with Fluttershy's usual regimen of medicine, hot soup, and bed rest, and all her alternative treatments don't seem to make any difference, either. With such a stubborn and rapidly-declining patient, everything looks hopeless for Fluttershy. Twilight stops by Fluttershy's cottage and immediately panics when she sees Philomena, convincing Fluttershy that she could be severely punished for stealing the Princess' pet. They're about to return the bird before anyone notices she's missing, but the royal guards show up at the door, informing the ponies that the royal pet is missing and that they're on the lookout for her.

After the guards leave, Twilight tells Fluttershy they can't return Philomena now, and she tries to help her get Philomena better, this time with a little "tough love"...which means shoving medicine down the patient's throat, putting a cone on her so she doesn't pick at her feathers, and putting a blanket over her birdcage to make her go to sleep. During an attempt to force-feed Philomena a hot bowl of soup, however, the bird escapes, leaving Twilight and Fluttershy in Benny Hill-like hot pursuit. The chase goes all over town, until finally, the two ponies catch up with Philomena, who looks about ready to keel over. And she does, in fact, falling to the ground and… bursting into flames.

With nothing but a pile of ashes where Philomena used to be, and the Princess approaching the distraught ponies, Twilight prepares to take the blame. However, Fluttershy intervenes, and confesses taking Philomena in the hopes of nursing her back to health. Princess Celestia briefly mourns her pet, before suddenly perking up and telling Philomena to stop scaring everypony.

Immediately, a magnificent, fire-colored bird rises from the ashes and flies around the ponies. Turns out Philomena's a phoenix, and her sickness and bursting into flames are just a natural part of her life cycle. However, that doesn't really excuse her Jerkass behavior towards Fluttershy, so the Princess makes her apologize. Celestia also forgives Fluttershy for taking Philomena, but points out she could have avoided all of this by simply asking to take care of her. With the lesson learned, the episode ends on a happy note... but not before Rainbow Dash takes advantage of Philomena's mischievous nature by convincing her to tickle the royal guards.


  • An Aesop: Don't jump to conclusions until you ask permission first.
  • Alice Allusion: Angel Bunny running around with a pocket watch, combined with Fluttershy saying that she's "late for a very important date".
  • As You Know: When Fluttershy realizes she's "late for a very important date", and proceeds to ramble to herself about the big brunch with Princess Celestia.
  • Audible Sharpness: With the wings of Celestia's guards as they block Fluttershy.
  • Blue Means Cold: When Philomena tries to say that she's too cold, she turns blue.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Twilight Sparkle claims that as punishment for taking Princess Celestia's pet bird, Fluttershy could be banished from Equestria, thrown into a dungeon, or banished from Equestria and then thrown into a dungeon in the place she was banished to.
  • Break the Cutie: All Fluttershy wanted to do was nurse Princess Celestia's sick bird, Philomena, back to health. Unfortunately, not only does the bird get even worse, she bursts into flame, forming a little pile of ashes in Fluttershy's hooves. Philomena thought it was hilarious.
  • British Royal Guards: They're not British, but Rainbow Dash does have some fun with Princess Celestia's guards.
    Rainbow Dash: Ooo... you're good. (Beat) Too good, I'm bored.
  • Cardboard Prison: Fluttershy easily bends her cage's iron bars in Twilight's Imagine Spot.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Apparently ponies eat some meat, as a ham sandwich shows up on the table in this episode. This is Truth in Television; horses can indeed consume meat, though they do not do so under normal circumstances.
  • Comically Cross-Eyed: Among the many silly faces Philomena makes to emphasizes that she's "dying", her eyes crossing happens frequently.
  • The Compliance Game: Fluttershy thinks that Celestia's pet bird Philomena is sick because she's molting and has a cough. She tries feeding her homemade soup, but Philomena refuses it. Fluttershy tries pretending the feeding spoon is a train, but this doesn't work.
  • Cone of Shame: Philomena gets one to stop her from plucking her feathers.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Fluttershy puts herself (and Twilight, by extension) in a world of trouble by trying to heal Princess Celestia's sickly-looking pet bird without permission. We can thank her relentlessly caring nature for that. Celestia didn't get the chance until the end of the episode to tell her that Philomena was a phoenix close to its death and rebirth. The Princess then almost quotes the trope by name, stating that Fluttershy could've simply asked her ahead of time and saved all the trouble.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: This episode has a variant; it differs in that Fluttershy literally steals the Princess' pet bird in order to give it medical attention, and the drama lies in her caring for it adequately before giving it back to her. The bird dies at the last possible moment... before it is resurrected from its own ashes, because it's a phoenix.
  • Deus ex 'Scuse Me: Almost immediately after Princess Celestia introduces Fluttershy to her pet Philomena, the Princess is called away to a meeting with the mayor. This leaves Fluttershy, who doesn't know Philomena is a phoenix reaching the end of a molting/burning cycle, to assume the Princess is too busy with her royal duties to care for a sick pet herself.
    Princess Celestia: I'm sorry everypony, I'm afraid I have to cut the party short. The mayor has requested an audience with me. Royal duty calls!
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Fluttershy and Hummingway sing the theme tune, and try (unsuccessfully) to get Philomena to sing it as well!
  • Doomed New Clothes: Successfully defied by Rarity when she wears her new Pimped-Out Dress to the brunch.
    Rarity: Nobody move, and my dress won't get hurt!
  • Drama Queen:
  • Epic Fail: Fluttershy's attempts to heal Philomena, who only gets worse until she spontaneously combusts... Naturally she was doomed to fail because of the whole phoenix-rebirth-thing.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Because of the bird's prank.
  • Exorcist Head: When Fluttershy tries to give soup to Philomena, the bird shows that she can turn her head around several times to avoid it, until she has wired it so much that the rest of the her body twists back into place.
  • Expressive Hair: Twilight's tail when she finds Celestia's guards are looking for Philomena.
  • Facepalm:
    • Angel, when Fluttershy keeps popping back in.
    • Twilight facehoofs when she realizes Fluttershy stole Philomena.
  • Fancy Dinner: Applejack ends up not eating anything at the banquet because she couldn't tell which was the main course and which was the appetizer or remember which one you're supposed to eat first and didn't want to show poor table manners in front of the Princess.
  • Feed by Example: Fluttershy pretends to sip on the soup to get Philomena to have some. It doesn't work.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Celestia's prank with the teacup ("Gotcha!") provides a clue that her pet would share her mischievous sense of humor.
    • Her tolerance / amusement of Pinkie's crazy behavior (including her swiping Celestia's muffin) foreshadows both her relaxed attitude towards this episode's situations and her actions in the season finale.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture: At the end of the episode, Rainbow Dash convinces Philomena to tickle the guard-pegasi's noses to get them to laugh.
  • Funny Background Event: Philomena takes them to an art form.
  • Gasp!:
    • Mr. and Mrs. Cake when Pinkie Pie noisily eats some of the sweets meant for Princess Celestia.
    • Later, Twilight panics about Fluttershy taking Philomena without permission.
    • The Mane 6 when Philomena turns into ashes.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: Of a phoenix's molt.
  • Growling Gut: Applejack's belly can be heard growling after the food on the table is taken.
  • Hostage Situation: Parodied. "Stay right where you are! All I want is a clear path to the exit. Nobody move, and my dress won't get hurt!" (It's not a threat, she's just afraid something will happen to the dress.)
  • Idiot Ball: Fluttershy — the resident expert on animals and magical creatures — is somehow totally clueless that Philomena is actually phoenix and fails to recognize her as such even when she spontaneously combusts and is later reborn into her true, magnificent form. Heck, even when Celestia spells it out for her, it still doesn't ring any bells and the princess has to explain what a phoenix is. Seriously, Fluttershy, have you really never even heard of one of the most commonly known mythical creatures there are?
  • Imagine Spot: Twilight imagines Fluttershy being imprisoned, banished and banished with imprisonment if Celestia finds out she took in Philomena.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Molting Philomena has one. Fluttershy is quite disturbed by it.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Princess Celestia declares that she "cares deeply about all creatures," Philomena immediately starts coughing up a storm. Turns out she was doing it on purpose as a joke.
  • Jaw Drop: The stoic Royal Guards have one when their quarry, Philomena, bursts into flames and burns to ashes in front of them, but promptly regain control of themselves.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Well, not really jerkass, but Twilight's initial freak-out over Fluttershy taking Philomena without permission is justified. Key word being initial, everything after the Guards come looking for Philomena is over-reacting.
  • The McCoy: Fluttershy insists on taking care of Philomena despite the fact that she could potentially get into hot water with Celestia.
    Fluttershy: How could I walk away and not do anything?
  • Newspaper-Thin Disguise: Initially it appears that this is not going to fool Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy... but then they fall for a fake mustache.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Fluttershy sticking feathers back onto Philomena and Twilight putting the Cone of Shame on her to prevent her from pulling more out prevents the phoenix from completing her death and rebirth cycle.
  • Nurse with Good Intentions: Fluttershy kidnapped Philomena because she was sure she could quickly nurse her back to health.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Philomena wears a fake mustache and manages to fool Fluttershy and Twilight.
  • Perpetual Molt: Justified for once; Philomena losing feathers is taken as a sign she's unwell.
  • The Phoenix: Philomena, as it turns out, and she's close to her rebirth cycle.
  • Pie in the Face: Pinkie provides a self-inflicted example.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Rarity wears the same dress that she later wears at the Gala.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Fluttershy could have just asked Celestia if there was something wrong with the bird, or why it looked like it did. Of course, this was the point of the episode. Then again, Celestia did rush off in a hurry, and after all, this is Fluttershy we're talking about.
  • P.O.V. Cam: We gets a shot from Philomena's viewpoint while she's wearing the Cone of Shame, and thus framed by a circle.
  • The Prankster:
    • Philomena's behavior towards Fluttershy, though she gets called on it in the end.
    • Celestia joins in on the fun on at least two occasions. When she is at the party, the Cakes keep refilling her teacup obsessively every time she drains it on the spot. After taking a few drinks, she deliberately pretends to drink from her teacup, resulting in them overfilling it. Towards the end of the episode, after Philomena dies, she pretends to mourn the bird. She also acts sternly when she sees the flash of fire and the pile of ash on Fluttershy's hooves.
  • Prompting Nudge: Twilight gives Fluttershy a "make noise" nudge, to try to get her to help in covering up the sound of Philomena's coughing so the Royal Guards don't hear.
  • Put Their Heads Together: During the Scooby-Dooby Doors sequence, where they are chasing down Philomena, this combines with Watch Where You're Going! when Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle crash headfirst into each other.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Just in case you forgot this about Celestia, she refers to an immortal being of myth as "young lady". It Makes Sense in Context: she was just reborn, after all.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Twilight and Fluttershy learn the lesson that they should have realized Celestia is not going to fly off the handle at her subjects for no good reason. Celestia also has an earlier moment when she tries to eat a muffin (levitating it towards her mouth), only for Pinkie Pie to eat it. Celestia's reaction to this was, at worst, one of mild amusement.
  • Running Gag: Philomena losing a few more feathers with every attempted cure from Fluttershy.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: When Fluttershy and Twilight are chasing down Philomena. With a Suspiciously Similar Song of Yakkity Sax playing in the background. Downplayed in that the characters always exit through the same side that they come out of.
  • Serious Business: Mr. and Mrs. Cake take catering and baking for Celestia SO seriously they use a military code to detect and identify... a tea cup that needed a refill. This gets on Celestia's nerves to the point she pulls a joke on them to get them to lighten up; a fake sip and they refill it only to spill it.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Soup Is Medicine: One of the medicines Fluttershy tries on Philomela is soup.
  • Spit Take: Delivered by Twilight, when Princess Celestia declares that she has to "cut the party short".
  • Spoiler Title: In Russian, it's called Птица Феникс (Phoenix Bird).
  • Stealth Pun: At the party, Pinkie pieing herself in the face.
  • Stock Sound Effect:
    • Mrs. Cake's enormous gasp when Pinkie eats a cupcake that was for Princess Celestia is an exact copy of the huge one that Pinkie made in the first episode when she first saw Twilight.
    • Fluttershy's squeaking at Philomena's "Death" is her barely audible "I'm Fluttershy" from the first episode.
  • Taking the Heat: Twilight tries to shift the blame from Fluttershy onto herself for Philimena's death, on the premise that Celestia will go easier on her. Fortunately, Fluttershy refuses to let her take it, and Philomena regenerates at that moment.
  • Tempting Fate: "Well Spike, I don't know for sure how things went with the princess, but at least no big disasters happened..." Of course, it immediately cuts to Philomena's mysteriously empty cage.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Applejack finally gets ready to eat once Princess Celestia is gone, but all the tables are cleared as she's about to eat. Subverted when everypony is leaving and we see Applejack managed to get some food to take home.
  • Title Drop:
    Fluttershy: So, aren't you gonna banish me? Or throw me in a dungeon? Or banish me then throw me in a dungeon in the place of banishment too?
    Princess Celestia: Of course not, my little pony. Where on Earth would you get such an idea?
  • Tough Love: Twilight's idea of ideal pet-sitting.
  • Troll: Philomena spends most of the episode deliberately aggravating the symptoms of her supposed illness, reacting uncooperatively or violently to every cure she tries, running and hiding all across the town and finally bursting into flames in public so everypony would see it — solely and only to have some fun at Fluttershy's (and later Twilight's) expense.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Philomena, right into Fluttershy's face.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Philomena sneaks around drawing mustaches on one poster that Celestia's guards put up.
  • Watch Where You're Going!: Just at the end of the Scooby-Dooby Doors sequence, Twilight and Fluttershy collide against each other. Each suffers a variant of Circling Birdies as an aftermath.
  • Wham Line:
    Celestia: Oh, stop fooling around, Philomena! You're scaring everypony!
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Cakes' reaction when Pinkie swipes Celestia's cupcake.
  • Wingding Eyes: Philomena gets first ice cubes for being cold and later the "dead Xs" version.