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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S2 E3 "Lesson Zero"

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Twilight Sparkle: We haven't sent a letter to Princess Celestia this week!?
Spike: Why? Is that bad?
Twilight Sparkle: Bad? Bad?! Of course it's bad! I'm supposed to send Princess Celestia a letter every week telling her a lesson I've learned about friendship! Not every other week! Not every ten days! EVERY! SINGLE! WEEK!

Written by Meghan McCarthy

Today is a typical day for Twilight Sparkle: Order parchment, drop off laundry, pick up cupcakes for a picnic, make a ridiculous amount of checklists, the usual. Everything seems to be in order, until she realizes what she hasn't done — send her weekly letter to Princess Celestia about what she's learned on friendship. The last letter she sent was last Tuesday... and today is Tuesday. Twilight begins to panic, convinced that missing the deadline will get her sent back to Magic Kindergarten. Needing something to put in a letter, she decides to visit her friends, trying to find one with a problem that needs solving.

Twilight Sparkle: Sooooo... got any problems, troubles, conundrums, or any other sort of issues major or minor that I as a good friend could help you solve? [grin!]
Spike: Hum...hmm...huh...huuuh... I got nothing.

Her first stop is Rarity's boutique, just as the fashonista is having an epic meltdown. It turns out she's lost a ribbon, which she finds a few seconds later. False alarm.

Next stop is Sweet Apple Acres, where Rainbow Dash is wildly demolishing one of Applejack's barns. Clearly the two ponies are having a fight, and Twilight must intercede! But it's Not What It Looks Like; Applejack wants to build a new barn and has asked Rainbow Dash to tear down the old one, which she promptly accomplishes with a spectacular aerial dive and the Sonic Rainboom.

Growing desperate, Twilight moves on to Fluttershy's place, since the timid pony always has problems to work out. She arrives to see Fluttershy beating the crap out of a bear, and laments her finally growing a spine on the one day she needed her to be a scaredycat. As Twilight leaves, we learn Fluttershy was actually performing chiropractic therapy for him.

By the time she meets her friends for the picnic, Twilight is panicking to the brink of insanity. Although her friends dismiss her concerns as overblown, Twilight becomes even more convinced that Princess Celestia will be furious if she doesn't get her letter in on time.

With dusk fast approaching, Twilight gets an idea — since she can't find a problem to solve, she'll have to make one. Taking an old doll of hers, she tries to get the Cutie Mark Crusaders interested in it, hoping to create an Apple of Discord situation. Unfortunately, the kids simply don't care for the tattered old doll, so Twilight uses a spell to make it irresistible to everyone who sees it. It works at first...

Scootaloo: I want it!
Apple Bloom: I need it!
Sweetie Belle: I really like her mane!

...but things spiral out of control when more and more ponies spot the doll and immediately find it irresistible. Soon the entire town is fighting for it, which keeps Twilight from getting a clear line-of-sight to cancel the spell.

By the time the stampede of fighting ponies reaches the picnic, it's sundown, rendering Twilight's efforts meaningless. To make matters worse, Princess Celestia arrives. She quickly removes the spell and restores everyone to normalcy (despite the spell's dispersal, Big Macintosh grabs the doll with a triumphant whinny and runs), then sternly orders Twilight to meet her at the library. As Twilight leaves, her friends finally realize they shouldn't have been so dismissive of her fears earlier.

At the library, Twilight explains that she caused all the chaos out of her fears of not being a good student; just as Celestia starts reassuring her, her friends pour in and defend Twilight, blaming themselves for not helping her sooner. Princess Celestia was concerned and worried, but not genuinely as furious as Twilight feared, but everypony else, on seeing her arrival, took it with the same exaggerated seriousness Twilight had expressed. Celestia decides to "forgive" Twilight on one condition: that from here on out, all of her friends join in the letter-writing... but only when they actually have lessons to report.

And how did Celestia know to arrive? Spike wrote her about Twilight Sparkle's anxiety, which prompts the touched pony to offer her thanks with a hug. Once Celestia's on her way back to Canterlot, the group settles down to write a joint letter about what they've learned: that you shouldn't dismiss your friend's worries even if they are blown out of proportion, and that you shouldn't let your fears turn a small problem into a big problem. Spike tries to add a paragraph to the letter lauding his having been the only one to take Twilight's concerns seriously, but Twilight makes him nix it. Everypony laughs.


  • Aesop Amnesia: Twilight doesn't seem to get it that sweating over small problems just makes bigger problems (as seen in "Swarm of the Century" and "A Bird in the Hoof"). If anything, she's worse about it than before. Also like these two episodes, she's deathly afraid of disappointing the princess, even though she has absolutely no reason to fear her. Hell; if nothing else, saving the world twice should be enough to let her forgive a few mistakes.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Twilight Sparkle delivers a pat on the head to Rainbow Dash when she tries to figure out the Pegasus's reason for being angry with Applejack. Turns out there was no interpony conflict to begin with.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: The overhead shot of the picnic confirms that a pony's cutie mark is on both sides of their rear and is mirrored, eg. Rainbow Dash's bolt moves down and towards her rear regardless of which side you look at her. Prior to this episode, it was unclear if cutie marks were actually on both sides of a pony due to the show being made in Flash, where sprites are easily flipped to signify a change in direction.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Princess Celestia amends the format of this a bit. Now she wants the whole cast to write the letters, but only when there's an actual lesson learned, lifting Twilight's (self-imposed) burden of having to send them weekly. This episode ends with the whole Mane Cast giving the aesop as opposed to just Twilight in all previous episodes.
  • Animation Bump: Twilight's crazy smiles when she goes mad (such as the one in the picture above) are a huge step further in expression animation, which was something quite difficult to animate in the first season.
  • Anticlimax: Twilight building up why missing a letter means her doom to the other Mane cast. With each step of Twilight's Insane Troll Logic, they lean in and ask "Yes?" more anxiously, expecting it to be something bad. Only to breathe a sigh of relief and giggle when they find out the truth.
  • Anti-Hero: Twilight briefly falls into this by becoming so fixated on solving a problem in Ponyville in time for a weekly message routine for Celestia she reverts to creating one by trying cause a rift between the Cutie Mark Crusaders. The fact her neuroses had broken her into out and out raving insanity didn't help one bit. In a reversal of the usual examples, Spike has to bring her out of it.
  • Apple of Discord: Twilight tries to use her old Smarty Pants doll as one of these. It works after she uses a "Want-It Need-It" spell on it. Far too well.
  • Art Evolution:
    • Twilight's teleport spell now has a purple hue to match her color-coded magic, Rarity's magic a light blue-tint, and Celestia's magic has a yellowish glow instead of the generic white she had before.
    • When Spike licks the cake frosting, his tongue is clearly forked. In previous episodes, his tongue was the same as everyone else's.
    • He's also a slightly darker shade of purple with brighter green spikes than previous. Whether this is just a coloring error or a new model for him is unknown.
    • The backgrounds in general have much more detail and shading than in previous episodes.
  • Artifact of Attraction: The "Want-It Need-It" spell makes whatever it is used on into this.
  • Back to School: Twilight is scared that Celestia will send her back to "MAGIC KINDERGARTEN!" if she misses a single report.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    Twilight Sparkle: Rainbow must be angry with Applejack! She must hate her guts! (hoofclap) How wonderful!
  • Bait-and-Switch Compassion: When Twilight panics that she hasn't sent a friendship letter to Princess Celestia that week yet, the rest of the Mane Six express concern before laughing it off, thinking it's no big deal.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Parodied. Fluttershy appears to be fighting a bear (complete with the snapping of the neck), but she's just giving him a massage.
  • Beware the Superman: Twilight is a powerful sorceress — one of the most powerful in the setting — who is nonetheless inherently kind-hearted, sensible and responsible, always listening to reason and never using her magical powers frivolously. This episode shows, what could have happened if she stopped acting reasonably.
  • Big Ball of Violence: There are nearly a dozen simultaneous Balls of Violence. It would be easier to name characters that weren't in one in this episode. Special mention goes to a pair of background ponies that exist as part of the Background Six (the six most popular of the background characters). Lyra and Bon Bon get their own ball. No-one else.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Spike constantly tries to calm Twilight over her Obsessively Organized breakdown, and ultimately calls Princess Celestia after her neurotics worry him more and more.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Twilight tries to do this whenever she thinks one of her friends is in trouble, but they aren't.
    • Celestia does this in the end by showing up at Spike's calling to break Twilight's out-of-control "Want-It Need-It" spell.
  • Big Entrance:
    • Twilight bucking open Rarity's door.
    • The rest of the Mane Six bursting into the library (with a Rainbow Dash flourish) to stop Celestia from taking Twilight away.
    • Princess Celestia's entrance is instant teleportation and a "TWILIGHT SPARKLE!"
  • Big "WHY?!": Rarity does this after losing her ribbon.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Twilight Sparkle's description of her old Miss Smarty Pants doll and its accompanying accessories could be seen as a Take That! at the My Little Pony toys themselves. (Which perhaps explains why Big Macintosh is the one who really loves the toy.)
  • Black Comedy Burst: Like Pinkie's breakdown in "Party of One", Twilight's Sanity Slippage is played for laughs.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The moral Twilight and her friends learn is framed like this, where friendship is a give-and-take. One one hoof, Twilight acknowledges that one shouldn't make a mountain out a mole hill, as her friends tried to point out. On the other hoof, her collective friends admit they should've been attentive and taken her worries seriously enough so she didn't feel alone.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the first season, the animators often used anime-esque abstract backgrounds for close-ups, to get around the fact they had to create all of the art assets from scratch and didn't have time to create unique background plates for each shot. In this, the first episode of season 2note , when an abstract backdrop appears behind Twilight, Spike pushes it out of the way, signifying to the audience that the show now has the resources and time to focus on creating a more unique and dynamic style.
  • Breather Episode: After the emotional rollercoaster of "The Return of Harmony" two-parter, we have this episode, Twilight's fear over being marked tardy if she doesn't get a friendship lesson in on time.
  • Broken Smile: Twilight, toward the end of her breakdown, becomes more and more deranged in her smiles.
  • Call-Back: The "spark of friendship" in Twilight's eyes, from the climax of "The Elements of Harmony", is outright abused here.
  • Captain Obvious: Rarity wastes no time pointing out how over-dramatic Twilight was acting. See Hypocritical Humor.
    Rarity: Ugh, what a drama queen! (Beat) Relatively speaking.
  • Characterisation Click Moment: This story is considered to be where Twilight's Obsessively Organized busybody personality starts to hone in and become the subject matter of most of her limelight episodes.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Several trees in the background of the picnic scene are covered with them.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Twilight develops a particularly unsettling one during her Sanity Slippage, which soon upgrades into a Slasher Smile in the latter half of the episode. "Hiiiii girrrrrrrrls." (twitch, twitch)
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Twilight develops a very extreme case of this, insistent on finding a friendship problem to solve.
  • Circle of Shame: During Twilight's vision about being sent back to Magic Kindergarten she is surrounded by taunting peers.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: In her mad search for a friendship problem to solve, Twilight reacts with glee when she thinks Rarity is having a crisis, and again when she thinks Rainbow Dash is angry at Applejack. And when Twilight thinks she sees Fluttershy attacking a bear and snapping its neck, her only reaction is "Of all the days she had to stop being such a scaredy pony, she had to pick today!"
  • Conflict Ball: Twilight invokes the trope in order to have some situation occur that she can learn an aesop from. However, it gets a lot worse than she had intended.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Derpy Hooves briefly puts on her fish-eyed, scrunched mouth face from the original pilot, the exact same expression that launched her popularity in the first place.
    • When crazed Twilight sticks her head out of the bush near where the CMC are, the bird's nest on her head turns into the one she made in "Winter Wrap Up". Could be taken as a case of Prop Recycling given the Flash-based nature of the show.
    • The first season had a running theme of the Mane Cast freaking out when their individual special talents failed them. Twilight's talent was Magic. This episode is about her other special talent: Learning.
    • The blast wave from Rainbow Dash's destruction of the barn looks very much like the one from a Sonic Rainboom.
    • Applejack tells Twilight not to sweat the small stuff, the same message AJ had for Rarity in "Look Before You Sleep".
    • Spike still has trouble understanding fancy words like "tardy".
  • Control Freak: The full extent of a situation where absolutely nothing and no one is working the way Twilight demands is shown in a rather unsettling fashion here. Her breakdown escalates to the point she actually tries to brainwash some ponies to make a friendship problem for her.
  • Creepy Doll: Smarty Pants (granted, only because Twilight is holding it).
  • Cue the Sun: Inverted and played with. Twilight's deadline is the end of the day, so as soon as the sun sets, it's too late. That is, until immediately afterwards, Celestia (you know, the one with the sun cutie mark) appears in a burst of light.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Stumped for something positive to say about Smarty Pants, Sweetie Belle says "I really like her... mane?" Twice.
  • Deconstruction: The episode is an examination of what happens when someone in a show where a lesson is taught Once per Episode finds themselves without any lesson to learn.
  • Description Cut: Princess Celestia shows up looking angry with Twilight after she manages to brainwash the entire town into a riot over her old doll. She tells Twilight to meet her in the library. Twilight and her friends worry that she'll be sent back to Canterlot. Cut to the library, where Celestia is busy explaining to Twilight that she's herself gotten all worked up over nothing.
  • Deus ex Machina: Twilight, the only pony who isn't affected by the "Want It, Need It" spell on Smarty Pants, can't remove it because every pony that sees it just adds another body to the brawl over it. Instead, Princess Celestia removes it herself upon her Dramatic Entrance to Ponyville. If you accept the fanon regarding Celestia's divinity, that means the problem is literally removed by the abrupt intervention of a deity.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • A group of children are playing normally when suddenly they are approached by a disheveled, mentally unstable figure obsessed with "friendship" and offering them toys.
    • Twilight's horn shooting out hearts.
    • Big Mac secretly loves that little pony doll.
    • What Twilight goes through is reminiscent of an Asperger's meltdown: She becomes increasingly anxious about failing to send a friendship report on time, is extremely prone to yelling, and appears to have lost her sanity, before breaking down completely until Celestia arrives.
  • Dog Pile of Doom: The ponies of the town attempt this on Big Macintosh. It... doesn't work so well for them.
    [ponies go flying]
    Big Macintosh: Nnnnope!
  • Dutch Angle: Used when Twilight enters Rarity's boutique, probably to accentuate the over-the-top nature of Rarity's freakout.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: Twilight's rage, illustrated by her getting red in the face, is also accompanied by the whistling sound of a teakettle coming to a boil.
  • Empathic Environment: A windmill and the sun tick and move like the hands of a clock. This only starts happening the moment Twilight realizes she'll be tardy; at least two establishing shots before show the windmill moving normally.
  • Escalating Brawl: Twilight puts a love spell on a ratty old toy to get the Cutie Mark Crusaders to fight over it. But because Twilight's in the middle of a freak out, the spell is so strong that anypony who sees the toy wants it and gets into the fight. It probably doesn't help that the first pony she asks for help in taking the doll by force is Big Macintosh. By the end of the episode there's a Big Ball of Violence involving everyone in Ponyville except the core cast.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: When Spike gets carried away praising himself for being the Only Sane Man, Twilight makes him edit that part out, and all the ponies have a laugh.
  • Everything Makes a Mushroom: When Rainbow Dash decides to apply the Sonic Rainboom as a demolition charge, it produces a rainbow-colored mushroom cloud.
  • Evolving Credits: The opening sequence gets its first significant change in this episode. The background in the scene where Twilight lands in her balloon now has a train (one that is self-powered, at that), the music is slightly altered even though the lyrics remain the same (some parts have been rerecorded), and Celestia magically opening Twilight's letter at the end uses her new yellow glow. It fails to update Twilight's teleportation, though, using the same basic white flash as in the first season.
  • Face Palm:
    • Twilight does an exasperated variation once Big Macintosh gets hypnotized by her Smarty Pants doll. (Or was he?)
    • Spike gets a more traditional facepalm (faceclaw?) when Twilight pronounces her fears about being sent back a grade.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Twilight is so dead-set on getting the Cutie Mark Crusaders to fight over being the first to play with Smarty Pants that she completely fails to notice that they're already fighting... over not being the first to play with Smarty Pants. Though in her defense, that's not the kind of fighting she needed.
    • Her aesop could also have been "Don't try to fix something that isn't broken" or "Enjoy the times when you haven't any trouble".
    • Rarity goes into full drama queen mode when she can't find her ribbon. Five seconds after Twilight shows up, Rarity finds it... lying in the middle of the floor.
    • Minor example: Six ponies going to a picnic, extra cupcake in baker's dozen getting frosting on the one next to it, baby dragon drooling over the cupcakes. Why not just give Spike the extra cupcake?
  • Fantastic Nuke: Rainbow Dash's demolition variant of the Sonic Rainboom produces a full-blown rainbow-colored mushroom cloud.
  • Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: Rainbow Dash wears safety goggles when helping to bring down Applejack's barn, even though she's smashing head-first through the walls and kicking the rafters. Applejack has the actual helmet, even though she's already cowering in a trench to avoid the shrapnel. The helmet proves useful when a pile of debris comes down on top of her. Averted for Twilight, who is never given a helmet but survives being crushed by debris without a scratch. Well, her mane gets messed up a bit.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Celestia's seemingly bemused reaction to Twilight's friends' defense of her.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Twilight thinks being tardy is the worst thing ever and Celestia will send her back to Magic Kindergarten. And then there's Rarity overreacting to everything, starting with a missing ribbon.
  • Flanderization: Not an overwhelming case, but from this episode onward, Twilight's role as The Finicky One would become a more primary foible in her character, compared to Season One where her moments of being Obsessively Organized or a Control Freak were more subtle and brief over being a Fish out of Water or Only Sane Man.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Big Macintosh breaking out of the dogpile of ponies.
  • Foreshadowing: When Twilight is messing with the frosting on the cupcakes, her face temporarily gains the crazed expression she'll be wearing later in the episode.
  • Freak Out:
    • Twilight has one in the beginning of the episode, which spirals into full Sanity Slippage as she tries and fails to remedy the situation.
    • Parodied by Rarity, who performs absurdly over-the-top ones for the most minor things possible.
  • Freudian Couch: Twilight has to substitute a bench for an actual couch, but otherwise pulls it off exactly. Add in her half-moon glasses and her impromptu hairdo change into a Prim and Proper Bun.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: While Celestia has casually referred to Twilight by her full name before, her tone in this case certainly invokes this trope.
  • Funny Background Event: At the beginning of the picnic scene, Pinkie Pie uncovers her basket, only to reveal balloons tied to it for no apparent reason... apart from the fact that it's Pinkie Pie, that is. Along with an understandably confused Fluttershy, she watches the basket float away. Taken even farther when Pinkie stares right AT us, and then looks sad. Maybe because we didn't get joke?note 
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Spike does a thought-bubble popping variation to Twilight. Unfortunately, it doesn't work and he is forced to get Princess Celestia offscreen.
    Twilight Sparkle: (sees three fillies playing with a jumping rope, but in her thoughts she sees them as shadows laughing at her, with a hellish landscape behind them)
    Spike: (pops said thought like a balloon) SNAP OUT OF IT!!
  • Gone Horribly Right: Twilight hopes to create a friendship problem. She does. Only trouble is, it spreads to all of Ponyville.
  • Gross Up Closeup: While not a straight example, the closeup of Spike's wrist from writing too much seems designed to draw sympathy from any carpal tunnel sufferers in the audience.
  • Hypnotize the Captive: When the CMC start arguing over Smarty Pants, Twilight casts the "Want It, Need It" spell which brainwashes them into loving it so much they argue over it more.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rarity calls Twilight a drama queen for panicking about not having a topic for her weekly letter, only for everyone to stare at Rarity and her fainting couch.
  • Imagine Spot: Twilight has several throughout the episode, all of which are interrupted by Spike.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Twilight's perfectionism and smug assurance of her friends needing her help hides her deeply scarred woes over being branded a failure for so much as one slip up.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Twilight's fears amount to this. To paraphrase her thought process: "If I'm late with this single assignment, Celestia will make me take a test. Students who don't pass this test get sent back a grade. Since Celestia is the ruler of Equestria, she holds me to a higher standard and will send me all the way back to Magic Kindergarten." Spike lampshades how ridiculous this is.
  • Insufferable Genius: Spike gets this way briefly when writing the Aesop at the end with a touch of embellishment, but a disapproving head shake from Twilight prompts him to cut it out.
  • Ironic Echo: Sweetie Belle's "I really like her mane" used as a phony agreement with Twilight, then as a reflection of her brainwashed state.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: What Twilight did as a result of her fit of Insane Troll Logic (See above). She is so intent on averting her mentor's wrathnote  that clearly it's okay for her to drive a wedge between the Cutie Mark Crusaders if she's there to fix it right away. And when that fails, it's also justified for her to put a spell on her doll that makes people fight over it, right? It's all in the name of learning a valuable lesson. (Yes, this is a Villain Trope, but really, Twilight Sparkle was acting on ill-mannered intentions.)
  • Knight Templar: Twilight wants to avert her mentor's wrath by creating an Apple of Discord via her Smarty Pants Doll, so that she'll have a problem to solve. However, the entire population gets attracted to it, turning the scenery into a Big Ball of Violence.
  • Large Ham:
    • Rarity, given the fact she doesn't faint until she magically acquires a chaise longue to faint onto.
      Rarity: What? You didn't expect me to lay on the grass, did you?
    • Furthermore, her "I have searched high! and I have searched low!" is accompanied by some Milking the Giant Cow.
    • Even she finds Twilight's Obsessively Organized nature melodramatic.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Twilight observes that she sends a lesson to Princess Celestia "every week".
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Unspoken but palpable among the background ponies when the "Want-It, Need-It" spell is broken.
  • Long List: Twilight's list of things to do for the day is several yards long.
  • Lost Aesop: While the other ponies learn that they should take their friends' worries seriously even if they think the concern is trivial, Twilight Sparkle doesn't seem to have learned (or at least doesn't say she has learned) not to let trivial concerns get the better of her. On the other hand, the Aesop is mentioned alongside the former in their letter to Celestia, while not by Twilight herself, she is among those making it at the time, implying she agrees with it. It would explain however why the Aesop was repeated in Twilight's next spotlight episode, which she definitely gets the jist of that time.
  • Luminescent Blush:
    • The Mayor's reaction upon realizing what she had done under the effects of Twilight's spell.
    • Twilight gets one earlier when she thinks she's being made fun of by the rest of the Mane Six.
  • Madness Makeover: Twilight, as she becomes increasingly unhinged and desperate.
  • Madness Mantra: Twilight's constant search for something to report about is punctuated by her similar questions to everyone she meets about needing a problem solved.
  • Medium Awareness: Spike, three times — pushing a backdrop from behind Twilight, rolling up one of Twilight's imaginary scenes like a shade, and popping one of Twilight's imaginary scenes.
  • Megaton Punch: The exact nature of what happens is left offscreen, but there's no denying that after the townsponies pile on Big Macintosh due to the "Want-It, Need-It" spell, he escapes from the swarm of ponies by sending most of them airborne in a single stroke, as well as smacking some of them over the horizon.
    Big Macintosh: Nope.
  • Messy Hair: Twilight's mane and tail become messed up as she goes insane.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Twilight does this throughout the episode. Rarity also does it during Twilight's visit.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Despite her obvious sanity slippage, it somehow still doesn't seem at all out of character that Twilight thinks it's awesome that her childhood doll comes with her own notebook and quill for when you want to pretend she's doing her homework!
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Rainbow Dash seems to have developed a variation on her Sonic Rainboom that can be used for doing work around town.
    • Twilight uses her teleport more and more as she becomes more unhinged, at one point using it to save merely a few steps.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Twilight when she realizes how out of control her "Want-It, Need-It" spell has become.
    • The others of the Mane Six realize they made Twilight's condition worse when they dismissed her concerns, making her feel they didn't care about her. When it leads to Pinkie Pie realizing the fallout might mean they could lose Twilight, they have a Heel Realization and this moment.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Pinkie Pie's balloons lifting her basket are one of the more subtle references to the lyrics about her in the G3 theme song.
    • Rainbow Dash's Cool Shades are rather stylish.
  • Neck Snap: Fluttershy does this to a bear... as part of a therapeutic massage.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Twilight in trying to create a problem to be solved but the other Mane Six as well: if they had just helped Twilight find an Aesop to report when she asked them for help, she wouldn't have lost her mind and caused the whole mess in the first place.
  • Nightmare Face: The faces Twilight Sparkle makes as her mental state disintegrates are simultaneously hilarious and horrifying.
  • No Eye in Magic: The Want-It Need-It Spell only works if one looks at the affected object for long enough. Rainbow Dash's pupils start to turn into hearts when she looks at the Smarty Pants doll, but Twilight stops it by covering her face and yelling, "Don't look at it!"
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Celestia expands her request for friendship reports to the rest of the Mane Six, meaning the writers no longer have to shove Twilight into every single story as the designated character who learns a lesson.
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • Rainbow Dash is seen trashing an old barn on Sweet Apple Acres while Applejack hides in a nearby ditch, but it turns out Applejack has asked Rainbow Dash to tear down the barn so she can build a new one.
    • Fluttershy seemingly beating down then killing a bear turns out to just be a chiropractic/massage session.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Spike was so concerned for Twilight's well-being, that while she was out "making" a friendship problem, he wrote to Celestia informing her about Twilight's paranoia over not writing to her on-time, catching her up to speed with the episode's events.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In the beginning when Spike offhandedly mentions they don't have anything to report to Celestia this week, this causes Twilight to begin her Freak Out over her forgotten weekly letter, kicking off the episode's conflict.
    • Twilight, first when everypony goes nuts for her doll after she casts her spell on it, then again (along with everyone else) when she sees an angry Princess Celestia.
      Princess Celestia: TWILIGHT SPARKLE!
      Applejack: Whoa, Nelly!
    • A more minor one afterwards, Spike's expression after Celestia tells Twilight about him bringing her to check up on her practically reads "Uh oh, busted!" As it turns out, however...
  • Once per Episode: Twilight sends a letter at the end of every episode about the lesson of friendship she learned. Except this week she hasn't learned one yet... so she will make it happen. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Spike is quick to realize how downhill everything is going and immediately calls Celestia for help.
    • Applejack is this among the Mane Six, as she's the only one who shows actual concern for Twilight's distressed demeanor and the only one besides Spike who tries to help her relax.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • When your blunder is big enough to get Princess Celestia to show up in Ponyville to yell at you, you know you've massively screwed up. Although we learn Celestia came over at Spike's request, it sure doesn't look like it at first.
    • Twilight herself; when the most rational pony in Ponyville is coming up with a completely irrational plan and acting like it's completely reasonable, you know something bad is going to happen. She snaps out of it pretty quickly, though.
    • Done more comically to the annoyance of Twilight, since any of her usual locations for friendship problems are absent; Applejack and Rainbow Dash are getting along blissfully, Fluttershy has (supposedly) hardened into a beast slayer and Ponyville for once isn't a Weirdness Magnet for feuds and disasters.
  • Pet the Dog: Rarity's the only one who asked Twilight if something was bothering her and seemed pretty concerned.
  • Projectile Spell: Twilight speaks of "getting a clear shot" in the chaos when everyone is fighting over the doll and she's trying to disenchant it.
  • Properly Paranoid: Spike immediately calls Celestia for help once he realizes how downhill Twilight's situation is going. It was a pretty good move, preventing what could have been a major catastrophe, and preventing Twilight from being really sent back to magic kindergarten.
  • Psychological Horror: After pulling this off creepily in "Party of One", they outdo themselves to make a truly frightening episode by revealing Twilight's neurosis.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Lesson Zero" = "Less than zero". Compare with "Party of One": Looks like the creepier it gets, the lower the number in the title.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
  • Rack Focus: A particularly well-done one at the end of the episode, where we focus on a worried Spike to Celestia lecturing Twilight in the library.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Even after the "Want-It, Need-It" spell has been removed, Big Macintosh makes off with Smarty Pants.
  • Recursion: After completing a checklist of the things necessary to create a checklist, Twilight Sparkle and Spike create a checklist of things Twilight has to accomplish that day. The first item on that checklist is creating that checklist. The last item is triple-checking it to make sure they didn't miss anything when they double-checked it.
    Spike: Uhh... check.
  • The Reveal: Twilight has been sending Celestia a friendship report once per week up to now.
  • Reverse Psychology: Twilight in attempting to get the CMC to fight over Smarty Pants before engaging her magic spell on the doll.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Rarity has a dramatic Freak Out three times; the first two for no reason, but for the third, she really means it.
    • Sweetie Belle really likes Smarty Pants' mane. Really.
  • Running Gag:
    • Twilight has one: her fear of being sent back to magic kindergarten.
    • Rarity gets one: dubbing things the! WORST! POSSIBLE! THING! and crying, "Why me?!"
    • Rarity also pulls up a fainting couch to fall onto during her "Worst! Possible! Thing!" sessions, first in her boutique, then again in the middle of an open field. In the second instance, she explains that she didn't want to sit on the grass.
    • Sweetie Belle has her own, too, saying "I really like her mane." about Twilight's Smarty Pants doll. Sweetie Belle's and Rarity's gags eventually turn ... dark; the latter when Sweetie says, "I really like her mane!" and showing that she's under Twilight's "Want It, Need It" spell; and the former when Rarity thinks Twilight is leaving to return to Canterlot.
    • Spike repeatedly Breaking the Fourth Wall in order to pull the plug on Twilight's fantasies. Each time, he gets more invasive and agitated, culminating in him finally looking directly at the audience.
  • Sanity Slippage: Desperate to find and solve a friendship problem, Twilight Sparkle's mental state deteriorates before she becomes unhinged. She even puts Pinkie Pie's performance in "Party of One" to shame. She seems evil at some points.
  • Scare Chord: Up until this point, Twilight's stress is represented by a frayed mane and evident tension in her voice. Then a fantastic one heralds the beginning of Twilight Sparkle's REAL decent into madness.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
    • Twilight is worried that she will disappoint Celestia, and her anxiety over the thought of doing so eventually drives her to do something that ends up disappointing Celestia for real.
    • She worries about not delivering a report on a lesson, but by the end of the day, she has not one, but two.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Twilight's "If I can't find a friendship problem... I'll make a friendship problem!" is comparable to "If I can't find a reindeer... I'll make one, instead!" from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (both the live-action and cartoon versions).
    • Twilight emulates Gollum at one point when she starts talking to herself, even more so because she's talking to her reflection in a puddle, which has a sad expression in contrast to the fierce one of Twilight herself.
    • To Full Metal Jacket, of all movies. Take a really good look at the expression on Twilight's face when she punches into the CMC's beach ball, and her quavering, "Hiiiii, girls!"
    • Rainbow Dash appears to be wearing the "Deal with It" sunglasses during the picnic. (Or possibly the Rainbow Glasses from "Epic Cupcake Time".)
    • The "ticking" sun is reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
    • Pinkie Pie strikes a classic "Up, Up and Away" pose when she speaks about Princess Celestia saving the day.
  • Skewed Priorities:
  • Slasher Smile: Twilight, after popping out of the bush.
    Twilight: HI, GIRRRRRRRRRLLLLLLS!!!! (twitch, twitch)
  • Spectacular Spinning:
    • Spike's means of wrapping his Overly-Long Tongue around himself, and then pulling it back, spinning himself around while managing to gather up all the cupcake frosting Twilight splattered on him and eat it.
      Twilight Sparkle: Very efficient! And a little bit gross.
    • Rainbow Dash bursts in to stop the Princess from punishing Twilight and somersaults for no apparent reason other than to look awesome.
  • Spit Take: Rarity at the picnic when Twilight teleports beside her.
  • Staggered Zoom: Used to help punctuate Rarity's Running Gag of "The. Worst. Possible. Thing!" After the third time, the camera zooms back out normally as she points out, "I really mean it this time!"
  • Stealth Pun:
    • In the old days, stunts in airplanes were called barnstorming. Guess what Rainbow Dash does in this episode?
    • Smarty Pants is a donkey. A smart ass, if you will.
  • Storm in a Teacup: Twilight Sparkle goes mad with worry when she realizes she's forgotten to send her weekly friendship report to her mentor Princess Celestia. This culminates in half the town of Ponyville fighting over Twilight's favorite childhood toy after a botched attempt to "make a friendship problem". It is only revealed at the very end that Princess Celestia wasn't expecting a friendship report every week.
  • Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard: Twilight fearing that Celestia would send her back to magic kindergarten is the most ridiculous thing Spike has ever heard.
  • Surprisingly Creepy Moment: When Apple Bloom is bewitched by Twilight's spell, she says "I need it" with a creepy tone of voice.
  • Taking the Bullet: Done figuratively. Twilight's friends try to protect her from Celestia's "judgment" when they admit their failings to the Princess, by dismissing Twilight's worries rather than realize how badly off Twilight was because of said worries. This made Twilight think her "friends" were anything but, so here they take their share of responsibility for her.
  • Talking to Themself: Twilight, with a puddle.
  • Tele-Frag: Twilight pops a beach ball by teleporting into it. She technically expands inside of it, which is good since the ball was a lot smaller than her.
  • Teleport Spam: Twilight does this while ranting to her friends about turning in her friendship report late.
  • Temporarily a Villain: Twilight, when she is driven insane in her rush to find a friendship problem, to the point where she deviously creates one herself.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Rainbow Dash single-hoofedly tearing down Applejack's barn, which culminates in a Sonic Rainboom that produces a rainbow-colored mushroom cloud.
  • This Explains So Much: Twilight explains how her favorite toy, a Smarty Pants doll, has "her own notebook and quill, for when you want to pretend she's doing her homework", to which the Cutie Mark Crusaders (and the audience) react in this manner.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: As Twilight Sparkle trots off in search of a friend to help, Spike predicts, "This won't end well." Which is why he alerts Princess Celestia.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Subverted, or parodied, even; Twilight thinks Fluttershy has done this when she appears to be wiping the floor with an angry bear. (See Not What It Looks Like above.) If it hadn't been subverted, it would have been exaggerated, hence the parody.
  • Trampled Underfoot: It's not an evil example, but the Mayor sees Smarty Pants once everypony is free of the "Want-It, Need-It" spell, and steps on the doll as she walks away.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Twilight does this on a bench, but the way she strokes her tail at the same time is unexpectedly cute.
  • Twitchy Eye: As Twilight gets more desperate to find something to write about, her eye begins to twitch more and more. (For that matter, so does her ear.)
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Rainbow Dash does one when the other Mane Five come to the library to defend Twilight.
  • The Unsmile: Twilight had several of those, getting worse as she slowly loses her grip on sanity.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Twilight can dip into this if you think her overreacting goes a bit too far.
  • Up, Up and Away!: Pinkie does this when talking about Celestia having to come and "save the day."
  • Wham Line:
    • "Good thing we don't have anything to write to Princess Celestia this week..."
    • "TWILIGHT SPARKLE!" As soon as Celestia storms in, nopony dares to cross her any further.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: She doesn't say it out loud, but Celestia's angry glare and stern Full-Name Ultimatum to Twilight when she shows up serves as this. Doubly so considering this is only the second time we've ever even seen Celestia angry. (The first was Discord escaping his statue.)
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises:
    • Twilight as she starts to go insane.
    • Rarity during her dramatic freak-outs for no reason whatsoever.
  • Wingding Eyes: Everypony who falls under the effect of the "Want It, Need It" spell gets hearts in their eyes. Derpy even gets derped-heart eyes.
  • Winged Unicorn: An animation error resulted in one being in Twilight's imaginary "magic kindergarten", though that could be chalked up to Twilight's imagination during a mental breakdown. However, the appearance of Cadance in "A Canterlot Wedding" and the unnamed princess in "Hearts and Hooves Day" shows that winged unicorns other than Celestia and Luna do exist.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Twilight seeks to create a friendship problem to solve, she targets the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Who were, just before Twilight appeared, laughing and playing with a beach ball and generally being the most innocent and adorable fillies in Equestria. The Mood Whiplash when Twilight shows up is quite disturbing.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Fluttershy's bear massage includes a Single-Leg Boston Crab.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Twilight goes to most of her friends expecting to fulfill her assessment with one of their usual problems. Rarity in some sort of peril?...nope. Applejack and Rainbow Dash bickering?...nuh-uh. Fluttershy having a nervous breakdown over some new daunting experience?... not quite.

I haven't made any page edits yet this week! But if I create a new trope, everybody will HAVE TO MAKE EDITS!!! *snaps* EEEHEHEHEEE!!!!
What's all the commotion about?
They're Edit Warring over that trope!
That incredible, amazing trope!



Rarity's just being her typical overly dramatic pony self.

How well does it match the trope?

4.69 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / DramaQueen

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