Rainbow Dash: Here we go...
Taking a walk through Ponyville, Twilight discovers her friends and neighbors hiding from Zecora, a mysterious zebra who lives in the Everfree Forest, visits town about once a month, and is rumored to be a witch. Twilight is skeptical, as is Applejack's little sister Apple Bloom, who decides to tail Zecora and see if the rumors are true. Applejack and the rest chase her down before Apple Bloom gets herself in trouble, and meet Zecora herself at the edge of the Everfree Forest, near a patch of blue-flowered vines. The zebra shouts, "Beware, beware, you pony folk! Those leaves of blue are not a joke!" and retreats into the forest, leaving everyone but Apple Bloom and the skeptical Twilight convinced that Zecora has put a curse on them.
The next morning, Twilight and her friends find themselves afflicted by a series of bizarre ailments: Twilight Sparkle's horn is limp and covered in blue spots, sapping her magical powersnote ; Pinkie Pie is rendered incoherent by a massively swollen tongue; Rainbow Dash's wings are inverted, leaving her unable to fly straight; Rarity's mane and pelt have become inconveniently long and matted; Applejack is reduced to a minuscule size; and Fluttershy (to her great embarrassment) now speaks in a deep, masculine voice.
Twilight tries to ignore her friends' insistence that this is Zecora's curse and find a rational explanation for their condition, dismissing Spike's suggestion of looking in a book on "Supernaturals". Apple Bloom, who blames herself for what happened, wanders off to find Zecora again (with the tiny Applejack tagging along). The Mane Five rush after them, but Apple Bloom easily ditches her not-so-big sister, and the ponies' various impairments make finding Apple Bloom in the Everfree Forest harder than usual.
The gang eventually regroups at Zecora's hut to see the zebra mixing a large cauldron and chanting strange words. By now, even Twilight is convinced Zecora really did put a curse on everyone, and is now plotting to make stew out of Apple Bloom. They confront Zecora, spilling her brew in the process, and demand to know what happened to Apple Bloom.
Turns out she's right behind them, safe and sound. Twilight's original guess was right: there was no curse. Their condition is the result of exposure to the blue-flowered vines they were standing in earlier, which are actually "poison joke", a magical plant with a weird sense of humor. Zecora was actually working on a cure, out of a copy of the same book Twilight had earlier rejected: it seems Twilight had misread the title of "Super Naturals", a book on natural home-remedies. With the lesson in not judging a book by its cover doubly learned, Zecora offers to mix up a new batch of the poison joke treatment for the grateful ponies... once they convince the other citizens of Ponyville that Zecora is not only harmless, but actually quite friendly, allowing her to buy the last few ingredients she needs in town. Now a welcome member of the Ponyville community, Zecora gladly allows the Ponyville residents to use her remedy for themselves.
- Ad-Break Double-Take: "What if she's making Apple Bloom soup?" is repeated twice in a row.
- Adult Fear:
- Applejack worries about Apple Bloom when she sneaks off in search of Zecora.
- Happens twice to Applejack after she is shrunken.
- When tags along with Apple Bloom, the rest of the Mane Six worriedly check their rear ends, thinking they may have sat on her.
- At the end, when all the ponies are taking the bath remedy at Ponyville's spa, Applejack appears to be missing. They all panic, thinking she drowned. She was really in a tub to the side, re-grown, the tiny tub now stuck to her flank.
- An Aesop: Don't judge someone by their appearance alone.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: "Curses don't exist" said the magical talking unicorn to her talking horse friends and dragon assistant, in the land populated with dragons, griffons, and manticores. (This is lampshaded during the episode.) Magic A Is Magic A is a major belief of Twilight's, which she has to re-think in this episode and another centered on Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense".
- Aside Comment: When Spike is coming up with nicknames for the cast after the "curse" takes effect, he comments to the audience that he can't really work with Twilight Sparkle's name.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Zecora's pseudo-Swahili chanting. Word of God says they wanted to get someone who could do real Swahili for Zecora, but they lacked the time and budget.
- Blinding Bangs: Rarity suffers from this after her coat and mane grow ridiculously long.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: An infamous animation error in the final shot makes it look like Pinkie Pie is staring at the camera. This was later incorporated deliberately.
- Bucket Helmet: Spike wears one briefly.
- Characterization Marches On: This is the first major appearance Apple Bloom has with her big sister, though the chemistry is somewhat different. Applejack is rather condescending and overprotective of Apple Bloom, who is ultimately portrayed as even more of an Only Sane Mare than Twilight, compared to her much more impressionable and hyperactive persona in later episodes, with Applejack being the voice of reason between them.
- Chekhov's Gun: The book "Supernaturals", which Twilight initially dismissed as "a bunch of hooey", ends up containing the cure for poison joke.
- Comical Overreacting: Rarity faints when Twilight tells her that Zecora was born with stripes rather than them being a fashion statement.
- Comeback Tomorrow: Spike is unable to come up with a joke name for Twilight (Twilight Flopple) until she's left the house.
- Cross-Cultural Kerfluffle: Zecora's pawing at the ground in town is something actual zebras do when searching for water; the residents of Ponyville become scared of her for doing so, as to actual horses pawing at the ground is a sign of aggression.
- Damned by Faint Praise: Twilight's only response to Pinkie Pie's "evil enchantress" song is "Wow... catchy".
- Didn't Think This Through: When Apple Bloom goes off to look for Zecora, Applejack tags along by hiding in her mane. This seems to work until Applejack demands for her to turn around. After Apple Bloom leaves her on a branch, she plans to tell Big Macintosh on her. She then realizes she can't do so because of her size.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Twilight's horn goes limp, and because of that she apparently becomes incapable of performing something she takes great pride in her prowess and stamina in.
- Zecora speaks mock-Swahili, wears African jewelry, has an African spiral design for a cutie mark, decorates with African masks, and is a zebra: an African species. Ponies don't allow her to enter their stores.note
- Don't Tell Mama: Subverted. Applejack warns Apple Bloom to stay away from the Everfree Forest or she'll tell Big Macintosh. Since she has shrunken, Apple Bloom ignores her.
- Double Aesop: Don't judge a book by its cover — even literally. Twilight was skeptical about the poorly informed negative assumptions about Zecora from the start almost to the end, but the book was slyly put in as something that made her (and potentially us) make the same sort of mistake all the same.
- Dramatic Thunder: Subverted. It was just Spike, accidentally dropping pans in the kitchen.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Two In-Universe examples. First, Twilight not taking kindly to Spike's joking nicknames for the ponies' Poison Joke-afflicted ailments. Of course, it's later deconstructed at the end when the Mane Six learn that the effects are just harmless, even if somewhat ironic, jokes played on them. Second, albeit unintentional, when Twilight realizes that the effects of the Poison Joke are just little jokes played on them, the shrunken Applejack takes great offense to the "little" part, most likely due to being overly sensitive about being small.
- Early Installment Weirdness: While some of the African imagery remains around Zecora and her home, she never speaks in the pseudo-Swahili again, sticking to her rhyming.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: After Applejack grows back to normal size, and Fluttershy gains her normal voice again, the mane six laugh it up, along with Zecora and Apple Bloom.
- Exact Words: If you pay attention, Zecora's words to the Mane Six when they meet at the forest for the first time explicitly warn them of the flowers they're standing on. Nothing about curses or any sort of consequence from her. Zecora herself points this out, with complimentary Flashback.
- Fantastic Racism: Zecora is feared by the ponies of Ponyville, who close their shops and get off the streets when she comes to town once a month. Very slightly softened by the fact that the primary reason for this isn't because she's a zebra, but because she lives in a creepy forest and thus is thought to be a witch (in fact, only one of the mane cast even knows what a zebra is at the start of the episode). But while this is not really intentional, the "don't judge people by their appearance" lesson is given loud and clear. Subverted with Twilight, who knows what a zebra is perfectly well and doesn't judge her based on that. It's how Zecora's actions appeared that tricked her.
- Felony Misdemeanor:
- Forced Perspective: Used to introduce the shrunken Applejack's new size.
- Forgot I Could Fly: Inverted. Rainbow Dash never seems to realize she doesn't have to keep flying around with her messed-up wings.
- Furry Reminder: Zecora digs at the ground with a forehoof, and the townsponies mistake it for a threat display. In real life, zebras paw at the ground to dig for water (although specifically why Zecora was doing so isn't elaborated on in the episode), while horses use that same motion to display aggression.
- Glowing Eyes of Doom: Zecora is seen with these in Twilight's nightmare.
- Helium Speech: Applejack's voice is much higher when she gets herself shrunk.
- Humble Pie: The moral of this episode ties in with the Mane Six realizing how horribly they have misjudged Zecora; and while Twilight is the only one to outright apologize to Zecora, the other five's meek expressions following said apology make it clear that they feel the same way.
- Hypnotic Eyes: Pinkie Pie has them briefly in her song.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Pinkie Pie mentions that Zecora eats ponies. Later on, the Mane Six fear that she is making Apple Bloom into soup.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: Applejack becomes "Apple Teeny," as Spike puts it.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Apple Teeny, when Twilight refers to the effects of the Poison Joke as "little jokes".
- It's All My Fault: Apple Bloom blames herself when she see the poison joke effects on the Mane Six.
- Jerkass Realization: The resolution of the story's conflict revolves around the Mane Six realizing how unfairly they've been treating Zecora, simply because she looks and acts differently.
- Magic Pants: Applejack's hat and rope shrink with her.
- Mama Bear: This episode is the earliest example of Applejack being one to Apple Bloom. It helps that the rest of the Mane Six are as protective as she is of her.
- The Nicknamer: Spike gives all of the mane ponies nicknames to fit their embarrassing conditions. (After the girls leave, he manages to come up with "Twilight Flopple.")Spike: This is hilarious! Look at all of you. We got "Hair"-ity, Rainbow "Crash", "Spitty" Pie, Apple-"teeny," Flutter-"guy", and... (turns to Twilight) I got nothin'. "Twilight Sparkle"... I mean, seriously. I can't even work with that.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Pinkie, when looking through Rarity's hair for "Apple Teeny". Rarity even asks Pinkie if she's ever heard of personal space, to which she bluntly answers "nope!"
- Not Helping Your Case: While it's suggested that Zecora wasn't aware of the prejudice towards her, a lot of her cryptic behavior only serves to fuel Ponyville's suspicions.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Apple Bloom gets this repeatedly from Applejack, much to her annoyance.
- Not What It Looks Like: Almost everything Zecora does sends the ponies into a frenzy, albeit even mundane stuff like eating hay. And when she digs for water, the ponies mistake it for a threat display.
- Not So Above It All:
- Twilight goes from being perfectly reasonable and scolding the others for being silly to thinking Zecora really is a wicked witch on remarkably little evidence.
- Applejack is actually the most paranoid of Zecora, to the point she's actually trembling in fear from Pinkie's song (which even Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash respond to with bewildered glares).
- Occam's Razor: Twilight suggests that Zecora might just be making soup in the cauldron... then assumes differently when Zecora wonders aloud where Apple Bloom is.
- Oh My Gods!: The point were a "cursed" Applejack gets stuck in the Everfree Forest, Rainbow Dash crashes to save her. Which Applejack says "Thank Celestia".
- Poor Communication Kills: More or less drives the plot of this episode. No one speaks to Zecora and assumes the worst. Applejack ignores Apple Bloom, who in turn sneaks off without telling anyone. Twilight Sparkle dismisses a book as hokum without even opening it. And Zecora, who could easily have made her warning explicit ("Those leaves of blue are Poison Joke"), keeps it cryptic enough that everypony interprets it as her curse. At least Twilight finally realizes they "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot...
- The Problem with Pen Island: Twilight misreads the title of Super Naturals as "Supernaturals".
- Psychosomatic Superpower Outage: Wow, Twilight Sparkle is sure able to use her brush with her magic just fine before she notices her horn is floppy...
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Pinkie uses these on Fluttershy, to get her to sing Pinkie's song about Zecora, since she can't anymore.
- Rearrange the Song: "Evil Enchantress", Flutterguy jazz club edition.
- Rhymes on a Dime: All of Zecora's dialogue.
- Zecora always speaks in couplets which
do not help her reputation of being a witch.
- Lampshaded by Applejack of all ponies:Applejack: Will somepony please talk normal?
- Zecora always speaks in couplets which
- Rule of Three: Rarity, Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie when they accuse Zecora of cursing them.Rarity: You made me look ridiculous.
Fluttershy: You made me sound ridiculous.
Pinkie Pie: You made me speak ridiculous!
- Scary Flashlight Face: Pinkie Pie does this in the beginning.
- Stock Sound Effect: When everypony is shocked when thinking they crushed Applejack in their antidote bath, Pinkie emits her long gasp from the first episode.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Zecora's name is spelled as "Zakora" in closed captions.
- That Poor Cat: Heard when Rainbow Dash crashes into some bushes.
- That Reminds Me of a Song:
- Lampshaded.Pinkie Pie: And that wicked Enchantress, Zecora, lives there doing her evil... stuff! She's so evil, I even wrote a song about her...
Rainbow Dash: Here we go...
- Later in the episode, when Pinkie Pie has lost her ability to speak due to a curse, she asks Fluttershy, who has been cursed to have a comically deep voice, to sing it for her.
- Town with a Dark Secret: It's more of an unconscious thing, but for a town that is that consumed with unjustified prejudiced fear of a zebra, it's likely not a fact they would spread around about themselves after their collective Jerkass Realization.
- The Unintelligible: Pinkie Pie, who gets a swollen (and spotted) tongue after being exposed to the "poison joke" flower.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: Pinkie Pie's "Evil Enchantress" song. Here's the song sung by Pinkie and Flutterguy and a gender-bender version.Twilight Sparkle: ...Catchy.
- Vocal Dissonance: "Flutterguy", who has easily the deepest voice yet seen on the show, being voiced by Blu Mankuma.
- Watch Out for That Tree!: Rainbow Dash crashing into trees, walls, windows... well, crashing into everything.
- Word Schmord: Twilight, waking from a restless night, dismissively mumbles "curses schmurses."
- Wrong Context Magic: Twilight denounces curses as impossible until affected by the poison joke, which she mistakes for a curse by Zecora.
- You Need a Breath Mint: When Twilight and Spike see that the streets are completely empty, he asks if his breath smells, with the obvious implication. Twilight replies that not more than usual.
- Zebras Are Just Striped Horses: Deconstructed and examined. Zebra are a type of equine, so Zecora does have a lot in common with ponies, but at the same time she is noticeably different than a pony as well. Zebras have a different culture than Equestrian ponies.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Discussed by Spike when he starts wondering why the town looks so deserted.