Big Macintosh: Eeyup!
Applejack: I've never seen anythin' like it, have you Big Mac?
Big Macintosh: Nope!
One bright sunny day, Apple Bloom and the Cutie Mark Crusaders decide to try their hooves at bowling! They fail miserably (as usual), but what's this? As Apple Bloom makes her throw, someone yells "Cool! A bowling cutie mark!" Apple Bloom, excited, looks at her flank... which is still bare, as the cheers were for a young colt who happened to get a strike in the next lane and get his cutie mark. To add insult to injury, her own ball finally completes its meandering journey to the pins, only to bump against one without even budging it.
Despondent over her latest failure and resistant to her friends' efforts to cheer her up, Apple Bloom wanders into the Everfree Forest, where she stumbles down a hill and chips her tooth. Fortunately, Zecora invites her to her hut, and quickly mixes a potion to fix the tooth. When Apple Bloom wonders if there's a brew to give her a cutie mark, Zecora explicitly states that no such thing exists, then uses a flower named "Heart's Desire" to make a potion for a crow-less rooster. After Zecora steps out to get some amethyst, Apple Bloom eyes the flower and thinks there might be a way to get her cutie mark after all...
At school the next day, Apple Bloom shows up proudly sporting her new cutie mark! It turns out she's really good at playing with hula hoops, performing so well that Cheerilee cancels the day's curriculum so everypony can learn from her while the fillies cheer Applebloom on. Then in the middle of a trick, she gets another cutie mark — in plate-spinning! As she crashes in surprise, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon proclaim her to be a fraud. To everypony's astonishment (including her own), Apple Bloom is immediately proficient, effortlessly hula hooping and spinning plates simultaneously. Soon the entire class ends up in Ponyville, where Apple Bloom mesmerizes everypony with her acrobatics.
Later that night at Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack, Big Macintosh and Granny Smith are congratulating Apple Bloom for her unprecedented dual cutie mark achievements. An exhausted Apple Bloom heads off to bed, but she can't sleep; she's gotten a third cutie mark — tap-dancing shoes — and she can't stop performing her skills!
Desperate for a cure, Applejack takes Apple Bloom to see Twilight Sparkle for help. Twilight soon discovers that Apple Bloom has caught the Cutie Pox, a puzzling plague that perplexed ponies back in the paleo-pony period, where ponies earned multiple cutie marks and were compelled to act out every one of their talents. When Apple Bloom starts to speak in French, they resolve to find Zecora to ask for a cure, but are held back as Apple Bloom develops even more cutie marks and is immediately driven to perform each one. The citizens of Ponyville start to panic
Spike: No, she's not.
Daisy, Lily and Rose: *whew!*
Spike: She just has some weird, mysterious disease with no known cure called Cutie Pox.
Everypony immediately barricades themselves indoors. Just then, Zecora arrives; Twilight briefs her on Apple Bloom's condition, and Zecora mentions she came by because she was tracking down some ingredients that disappeared from her hut. Fortunately, Zecora happens to have a cure for Apple Bloom — the Seeds of Truth, a flower that will flourish once the truth is told.
Apple Bloom resists at first, but eventually confesses that her marks appeared because she used Zecora's ingredients to make a cutie mark potion. The seeds suddenly sprout into a beautiful blossom; Apple Bloom hungrily devours it, whereupon her cutie marks immediately disappear. Ashamed, Apple Bloom apologizes to everypony for getting carried away with her quest for a cutie mark. All is forgiven, with the promise that Apple Bloom will learn from her mistakes. She then dictates a letter to Princess Celestia about her lesson learned — that there are no shortcuts in life, that honesty is always the best policy, and all good things come to those who wait.
Not five seconds after saying that, the Cutie Mark Crusaders announce that they've waited long enough, then happily run off into the distance to do some more crusading. Maybe Zecora can help them get their marks in potion-making!
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Twilight's book on the Cutie Pox goes to great efforts on this.
- Adult Fear: Applejack having to watch helplessly as her baby sister is tormented by an illness for which there is no known cure.
- An Aesop: Don't take shortcuts to get what you want; it's best to let it happen naturally.
- Aesop Amnesia: Not for the aesop sent to Princess Celestia (that being dishonest and cheating to get what you want won't work out), but the one immediately after, that all good things come to those who wait — it's brought up and forgotten within a matter of seconds. Then again, this particular aesop is a consistent problem for the Crusaders. In this case it's a clever inversion because it reinforces the lesson about not taking a dishonest shortcut and gaining a cutie mark the right way.
- American Gothic Couple: Seen on the wall in the Apple family's house.
- Art Evolution: The animators seem to be making more of an effort to diversify the body types in background ponies. This is most apparent in the bowling alley scene. We have the Mr. and Mrs. Cake body clones, but an entirely new body type is seen on a tall, blue-haired unicorn (seen here).
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Apple Bloom really wanted a cutie mark... she definitely wasn't expecting to come down with a magical disease that causes her to break out in cutie marks.
- Bilingual Bonus: During the brief period where Apple Bloom is speaking French.
- Brand X: Apple Bloom's hooping is called "loop-de-hoops", ostensibly to avoid a possible trademark infringement with hula hoop. Lampshaded by Apple Bloom.Apple Bloom: It's a loop-de-hoop! At least that's what I always called it.
- The Burlesque of Venus: Apple Bloom shows off her Cutie Pox-induced talent in sculpting by carving a ponified statue version of Venus in a scallop shell.
- The Bus Came Back: Lily Valley and Rose return since their last appearance in "Bridle Gossip".
- Call-Back: Zecora, appearing in town just after the rest of the ponies have shuttered themselves inside:Zecora: I thought I had removed their fear
The last time that I visited here.
But doors are barred and shutters shut
Guess I should have stayed inside my hut.
- Cheerful Child: Sweetie Belle doesn't mind that she only got gutterballs; she had fun! Ironically enough, a complete round of gutterballs still gives Sweetie a better score than either of her friends' efforts.
- Chew-Out Fake-Out: From Cheerilee:Cheerilee: [sternly] Apple Bloom! I want you to take your loop-de-hoop into the yard!
Apple Bloom: [hangs her head dejectedly]
Cheerilee: [breaks into a smile] and give us ALL a lesson in your amazing loop-de-hooping!
[Apple Bloom beams happily]
- Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: The reason Zecora was "brewing up another mix for a rooster and his chicks."Zecora: Seems the rooster has lost his crow, making mornings very slow.
- Combo Platter Powers: Apple Bloom automatically performs each and every skill her new cutie mark represents, as shown in the page image.
- Comically Missing the Point
- A few seconds after Apple Bloom admits that good things come to those who wait, the Cutie Mark Crusaders announce that they've waited long enough, and head out on yet another effort to earn their marks.
- On the other hoof, at the start of the episode, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle seem to have learned some sort of lesson at this point; they both are more interested in how fun bowling was, rather than their lack of results. Meanwhile, Apple Bloom is still stuck in her "But I want it now!" phase.
- Continuity Nod:
- You know something is bad when the third cutie mark shows up, because it's already been established that Apple Bloom can't dance.
- Zecora alludes to the events of "Bridle Gossip" when everypony appears to have fled in terror from her.
- Some of Apple Bloom's new skills are activities that the Crusaders have discussed attempting in previous episodes, such as chimney cleaning and lion taming.
- Apple Bloom's rant about cutie marks is followed by an anguished cry of "but ah wan' it nooow!" which is a reference to "Call of the Cutie". Also, one of her new talents caused by the Cutie Pox is hang-gliding.
- In the French dub, Apple Bloom suggests that if they all are good at bowling, they call themselves "Les Trois Boules" instead of "The Three Strikes". Scootaloo shoots the idea down saying it makes them sound like "des poulets [chickens]". Also, three strikes in a row in bowling is called a "turkey" — yet another flightless bird Scootaloo doesn't want to be associated with.
- Contrived Coincidence:
- There just happens to be a block of marble to be chiseled, a chimney that needs sweeping, windows that need washing, a chess game that needs playing, lions that need taming, a pony in full fencing gear to duel against, a barbell that needs lifting, and a black board that needs random equations written on it when said cutie marks appear on Apple Bloom. (Fortunately, Pinkie Pie appears to have kept her accordion around.)
- When her Plate Spinning cutie mark appears, Snips and Snails just happen to have plates and sticks.
- Lampshaded by Applejack when Zecora comes into Ponyville...Twilight: We were just on our way to see if you had a cure!
Applejack: But, magically, you're here! Was your "zebra sense" a-tinglin'?
- ... then subverted by Zecora, stating that she came to Ponyville to find a flower that had gone missingnote .
- *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": Granny Smith gets stuck after trying to stand on one rear leg; Big Macintosh unblocks her.
- Crazy-Prepared: Apparently, (adorable) Hazmat suits are standard issue in Ponyville houses.
- Cursed With Awesome: At first, Sweetie Belle thinks it's great to have more than one special talent. When the Cutie Pox gives her even more talents and compels her to do them all, she starts to get worried.
- E = MC Hammer: One of Apple Bloom's cutie marks makes her write random, unrelatednote equations on a blackboard.
- Engineered Public Confession
- Enslaved Tongue: Apple Bloom is forced to speak in French when she gets a Fleur de Lis cutie mark.
- Epic Fail:
- Apple Bloom throws (or spats) her ball with very bad form, releasing it on an upward trajectory and causing it to bounce down the lane. Somehow, it goes perfectly straight and touches the front pin, and yet it lost so much velocity that the pin doesn't even budge.
- Which is still better than Scootaloo's performance; her ball doesn't even stay in the right lane, causes destruction, and lands in the gutter. She suspects she might be banned from the place from now on.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Though delightful at first for Apple Bloom as it drives her hula-hooping and plate-spinning tricks, it becomes very much Inverted by the time she gets the "tornado" cutie mark; the last one she gets before taking the cure.
- Expressive Accessory: When Apple Bloom is sulking, her hair bow droops down. This effect also extends to the hat Rarity offers to cheer her up.
- Fantastic Flora: Two kinds end up central to the plot.
- Heart's Desire is a plant with heart-shaped flowers that can, if eaten, grant someone their greatest desire.
- The Seeds of Truth are another flower that only grows when true words are spoken, and which can undo the effects of Heart's Desire.
- Felony Misdemeanor: Pinkie Pie lied about how many corn cakes she ate. Twice. At least.
- Fingerless Hands: Though normally Averted in the series by Word of God, special mention goes to its avoidance in the bowling alley scene. None of the balls (outside of Imagine Spots) have finger-holes, and through the CMC, we're shown at least three ways ponies can bowl (butting with head, bucking the ball, and using one's mouth).
- Fleur de Lis: A mark that forces Apple Bloom to speak French.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Literally — Twilight's book mentions "the trots", which is a euphemism for diarrhea. Also the French Apple Bloom says essentially translates to "Damn it! More cutie marks!"
- Godiva Hair: On Apple Bloom's statue of Venus, although what she's supposed to be covering is unclear.
- Gratuitous French:
- Good with Numbers: Apple Bloom derives the relationship between integration and summation on her own.
- Gone Horribly Right: The 'Hearts Desire' was supposed to give Apple Bloom one cutie mark, not half a dozen.
- Hammerspace: Apple Bloom was able to get items associated with her cutie marks off screen, like a hammer and chisel, an accordion, a whip and chair and lions.
- Hazmat Suit: Some of the ponies are wearing this when they hear of the Cutie Pox. The suits even come with radiation symbols on the suit, roughly where the pony's cutie mark would be.
- Heli-Critter: Apple Bloom temporarily becomes one by spinning a hoop with her tail fast enough to lift herself off the ground.
- Instant Expert: The Cutie Pox gives you incredible skill at whatever talent equates to the cutie marks that appear... but you can't stop doing it.
- Involuntary Dance: What the red shoe mark forces Apple Bloom to perform.
- Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon pooh-poohing Apple Bloom's hoop-related cutie mark as useless calls into question exactly what their cutie marks are supposed to be good for.
- Applejack , the Element of Honesty, couldn't make the Seeds of Truth bloom. Zecora implies that it has to be a confession, and Applejack had no lie to confess.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Diamond Tiara probably only calls Apple Bloom out on her cutie marks being fake in order to take her down a peg, since she hates anypony taking the spotlight away from her. Still, she's 100% right, and Cheerilee shares her skepticism.
- Loophole Abuse: Apple Bloom said she'd wait, never said how long.
- Mind Screw: When Apple Bloom is demonstrating her hoop talent, one of the school background fillies appears to be Derpy Hooves, down to her wings, hair color and style, and her crossed eyes of gold. Your guess is as good as ours.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Something of a regular occurrence for CMC episodes — there was a squid in "The Show Stoppers", and here it's lions.
- Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: When Apple Bloom brews a potion at Zecora's hut without her permission and drinks it, she gets the cutie pox. When she confesses to make the Seeds of Truth grow and therefore cure her, she feels bad, but Zecora tells her not to feel bad because "with each mistake you learn something new, growing into a better you".
- Mundane Made Awesome: While Apple Bloom is showing off her newly acquired talents for spinning plates and loop-de-hooping, she uses them to slice and serve an apple pie.
- Nice Hat: Rarity offers Apple Bloom one in an attempt to cheer her up. It doesn't work.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Of all the ponies Spike had to elaborate about Cutie Pox to, it had to be the Flower Trio.
- Not Helping Your Case: After Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle try to cheer Apple Bloom up.Scootaloo: Come on, Apple Bloom, it's just a cutie mark!
Sweetie Belle: Or lack of a cutie mark!
Scootaloo: Shh! That's not helping!
- Offscreen Teleportation: How Zecora leaves at the end of the episode.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: After Zecora tells her she has to be patient, Apple Bloom complains that she's been told that by every pony she knows and now every zebra she knows. Guess how many zebras she knows.
- Parental Bonus: The bowling alley scene features a few background ponies who look an awful lot like the main characters (and Jesus) from The Big Lebowski. Behold, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman and John Turturro as ponies. And shudder when you remember Jesús Quintana's character.
- Pass the Popcorn: Spike is munching popcorn when Apple Bloom's condition gets worse in the middle of the town.
- Persona Non Grata: Scootaloo says that Mr. Kingpin will probably never let her back in the bowling alley again. She seems oddly cheerful about it.
- Power Incontinence: Thanks to the Cutie Pox, Apple Bloom gets an infinite number of cutie marks and talents. The problem is, she can't control or stop using them, no matter how much she wants to.
- Prehensile Tail:
- Apple Bloom does most of her demonstration of her hula-hooping/ring toss cutie mark talent with her tail. Later, she lifts and holds a barbell with it.
- Zecora's tail is also nimble enough to extract seeds from her bindle.
- Pressure Point: Big Macintosh knows just the right one to treat Granny Smith's charley horse.
- Pun-Based Title: "Cutie Pox" to chicken pox.
- Quieter Than Silence: After Spike blabs about how Apple Bloom has contracted the title disease, which scares nearly everyone in Ponyville into hiding, a tumbleweed blows by and a hawk can be heard screeching in the distance.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Zecora appears in this episode in top form, as usual. In fact, she makes an on-the-fly rhyme for a situation that she couldn't possibly have known about beforehand.Zecora: What has happened to you, youth?
(Apple Bloom reveals her chipped tooth)
Zecora: Ah, you've gone and chipped your tooth!
- Rule of Three:
- Zecora has cures for bad teeth, bad bones and bad breath.Apple Bloom: And not only stuff that fixes the bad, but stuff that brings the good! Good health, good hair, good heavens!
- Invoked by Sweetie Belle in the Cold Open of the episode, when Apple Bloom suggests "The Pin Twins" as the Crusaders' new name.Sweetie Belle: But there are three of us.
- Three attempts to help Apple Bloom: Applejack herself, then Twilight, then Zecora.
- Zecora has cures for bad teeth, bad bones and bad breath.
- Separated by a Common Language: Twilight lists off a bunch of various punny diseases, trying to find what Apple Bloom is suffering from. One of the diseases she mentions is "the trots," which is British slang for diarrhea.
- Serial Escalation: Apple Bloom stacks feat upon feat as new cutie marks appear, starting with loop-de-hooping and spinning plates and moving on to incorporate sculpting and lifting a barbell with her tail.
- Ship Tease: When Apple Bloom is teaching her classmates how to use a hula hoop, she tosses one to Snips. He blushes.
- To The Big Lebowski, as mentioned in Parental Bonus above.
- The bit where Apple Bloom's bowling ball comes to a stop, resting against the 1-pin, is a reference to Uncle Buck.
- Her throwing of the ball is a reference to The Flintstones, complete with tip-toes sound effect.
- Apple Bloom's "Soon you'll be able to" list (while demonstrating her loop-de-hooping) is reminiscent of the old Skip-It commercials.
- The symptoms of the Cutie Pox are reminiscent of the Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Red Shoes", and a red shoe is the cutie mark that goes with uncontrollable (tap) dancing.
- When Apple Bloom gains her sculpting skill, the resulting work is a ponified version of Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus".
- A painting inside Applejack's house shows an American Gothic Couple.
- Applejack asks Zecora if her "zebra sense [was] a-tinglin'."
- When Apple Bloom gained a tornado cutie mark, she started spinning like the Tasmanian Devil.
- The bowling alley outside sign and some parts of its indoor decor sports a design aesthetic that mimics the Googie/Populuxe modern architecture style of the mid 20th century. Even at least two of the background ponies have cutie marks based on common icons of this style.
- The whole episode plays out like an episode of House, Zecora even gets as close to House's jerkness as is possible in the show.
- Apple Bloom's opponent in chess looks a lot like the old man in the Pixar short "Geri's Game".
- It's very subtle, but the scene when Apple Bloom is discovered tap dancing has her dancing to Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher".
- Shown Their Work: It's easy to miss, but every step of Twilight's buck when she dumps Spike is exactly how a real horse would dump its rider, including her pinned ears and leading with her front legs first to put the "snap" into the whole motion.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Anypony who even reminds Spike of Rarity earns his enamor, as demonstrated when Twilight's hair is momentarily styled like Rarity's thanks to Apple Bloom's loop-de-hoop skills.
- Spoiler Title: Apple Bloom getting her cutie mark would have been quite a shocking moment, and her getting multiple marks even more so, if it weren't for the episode's title making it incredibly obvious that they aren't real and are actually caused by a disease.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Zecora pulls this off with Twilight once Apple Bloom confesses to stealing her herbs, and has been given the cure for Cutie Pox.
- Status Quo Is God: Apple Bloom is back to being a "blank flank" at the end of the episode and she never learned the value of patience.
- Super-Strong Child: One cutie mark makes Apple Bloom into one, as she's able to lift a barbellnote with her tail while doing push-ups!
- The Tooth Hurts: Apple Bloom accidentally chips a tooth. Never a pleasant experience. Good thing that dentistry potions exist.
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Apple Bloom probably should've known what's the Hearts Desire flower and how it works before making it into a brew to drink for herself.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Outside Louisiana, the average American child is unlikely to know what the relation is between a Fleur de Lis cutie mark and French. The average French-Canadian, on the other hand, is likely to catch it right away.
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Apple Bloom learns this lesson at the end... only to suggest what to do next on how to earn her cutie mark.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Apple Bloom's attempts at bowling is met with applause when she gets a strike with another pony saying that she got a bowling cutie mark... except that was actually directed towards the pony who got a strike in the lane next to her. Apple Bloom's ball doesn't knock down a single pin. Considering how devastated she must have felt, it's no wonder Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle couldn't cheer her up. This whole episode is a life-threatening chain-yank for Apple Bloom.