Written by: M. A. Larson and Scott Sonneborn
After the defeat of Lord Tirek and another adventure in the Human World, Princess Twilight Sparkle and friends attempt to figure out the mystery of her new castle. They are surprised that when they all sit in their respective thrones, the cutie mark on each throne lights up, activating a holographic map in the center of the hall. As they try to figure out the map's purpose, they see symbols like their cutie marks come out of the center of the map and circle about a spot to Equestria's far north. They agree that the map seems to indicate they should check it out. Fluttershy initially plans to let the others go on without her to keep Spike company, until Spike indicates he's planning to spend the weekend talking Hoofball with Big Macintosh. Before long, all of the Mane Six have set off for the distant town.
At the end of their trek, they discover a small town with all the ponies having the same cutie mark, an equals sign. The Mane Six are concerned, and become more cautious when they see all the townsponies having the same creepy smile. They are taken to the town's leader, Starlight Glimmer, who welcomes them, with some curiosity about their cutie marks and Twilight's alicorn nature. She explains that all the ponies in the town have given up their cutie marks via the use of the Staff of Sameness, opting to be equal and the same, so that they can bask in the camaraderie that comes from everyone being the same, with the cutie marks being stored in a vault a short distance from town.
The Mane Six, outside of Fluttershy, remain distrustful and decide to stay to figure out what is going on. They opt to take in a meal from the local baker, Sugar Belle, who is surprised that not only that the group bickers over a petty argument, but quickly apologize and make up for it afterwards. Noting that other ponies, like Double Diamond, are keeping close tabs on the actions of the Mane Six, Sugar Belle whispers for the Mane Six to meet her in her store's basement after they finish. There, she, Night Glider, and Party Favor all express their elation to see ponies still with their cutie marks and able to live happily with their differences, and their wish to be reunited with theirs. When Rainbow Dash suggests they go do so, they point out Starlight wouldn't approve, and that they can visit their cutie marks at any time in a vault where all the village ponies' cutie marks are kept for them to visit at any time.
The Mane Six are able to convince Starlight to take them to the Cutie Mark Vault. Too late the Mane Six discover it is a trap, and before they can escape, Starlight uses the Staff on them, locking their cutie marks away in the vault and assuring them they will be part of the town, whether they like it or not.
TO BE CONTINUED
Continued in "The Cutie Map Part 2".
- Alphabet Architecture: Well, not a letter but close enough: the town itself, with its two straight row of houses, is shaped like an equals sign.
- Amusingly Short List: Sugar Belle—the baker who's sacrificed her talent for baking—lists off everything she has to offer at her bakery:Sugar Belle: We have: muffins...
- Animation Bump: The animation in some trailer shots has detailed shading and lighting, similar to a few of the season premieres/finales before it. In the episode itself, near the beginning Spike starts walking across the map and as his feet hit the ground the map lights up where he's walking. The expressions that ponies make while they're talking both in this part and the next have also improved; their muzzles scrunch up and smooth out as they speak or make faces. The strange smiles made by the townsfolk and Pinkie's suspicious frowns also mark a huge step in the animation development.
- Arc Villain: Starlight Glimmer. She believes the only way for everypony to be happy is to be equal.
- Ascended Fridge Horror: "Magical Mystery Cure" showed that it is possible to manipulate cutie marks, and fans have speculated about the possibility of a villain with a talent like Starlight Glimmer's using this to her advantage.
- As You Know: The episode opens with the Mane Six in Twilight Sparkle's new castle, with Rainbow Dash and Twilight summing up the events of "Twilight's Kingdom" apropos of nothing.Twilight Sparkle: Let's go through this one more time...
Rainbow Dash: [sigh] We've been over it, like, a million times, Twilight! We found all six keys, defeated Tirek, and got this sweet castle. End of story!
- Aside Comment: Starlight Glimmer concludes her comment, "When the rest of Equestria sees that a princess gives up her cutie mark to join us, they'll finally understand what we're trying to accomplish..." by looking straight at the audience, along with ominous music.
- Aside Glance: Pinkie looks to be giving one to the audience when Starlight holds Twilight's face with her hoof.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Applejack's reprimand to Pinkie when she eats the last muffin.
- Balloon Belly: Pinkie gets one after eating all of the muffins that were served to the Mane Six.
- Beat: A very long one played for comedy when Sugar Belle "lists" off what her restaurant has. She simply says "We have muffins..." then nothing else, leading to a rather awkward silence before the Mane Six orders said muffins.
- Being Watched: Twilight at one point mentions that she can't help feeling that she's being watched, prompting Rainbow to remind her that the entire town is ominously grinning at them at that very moment. Twilight however specifically means Double Diamond, who is the only one actually tailing them.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Starlight Glimmer acts friendly and welcoming but is really the Big Bad of both parts.
- Blood Knight: Rainbow Dash's motivation for going on the trip is the opportunity for dangerous adventure, and she says that "fighting a horrific monster would be awesome". As she realizes she won't get to fight any monsters on this trip, she becomes increasingly frustrated.
- Body Horror: Twilight and her friends writhe in agony as Starlight takes their cutie marks away from them. Pinkie Pie even cries when she loses hers.
- As Rainbow Dash puts it, "We found all six keys, defeated Tirek, and got this sweet castle! End of story!"
- Then Twilight says this gem:
- Chekhov's Skill: Pinkie Pie's Extreme Omnivore tendencies are usually Played for Laughs, but here it comes in handy when she has to polish off a plate of revolting muffins in order to justify the Mane Six's secret basement meeting with the town rebels.
- City with No Name: Lampshaded.Pinkie Pie: Something's rotten in... whatever the name of this village is that we're in right now!
- M.A. Larson said after the episode aired that the fandom could decide what to name the town. The general consensus gave the town the name "Our Town" thanks to the song.
- Cliffhanger: The Mane Six get their cutie marks stolen by Starlight Glimmer, making them equalized.
- Comical Overreacting: Rarity almost barfs at the sight of the poor design of the local clothes.
- Continuity Nod:
- This isn't the first time Pinkie Pie got sick from inedible muffins.
- Or the first time she fell down some stairs.
- This isn't the first time Rainbow Dash gets startled to where her tail sticks straight out.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: The adult ponies of the town cover the ears of foals when the Mane Six have a bout of bickering.
- Creative Sterility: Without their cutie marks, none of the ponies in Starlight Glimmer's town have any creative ability. This is shown with a clothesmaker selling only one basic style of cloak, a town of nearly identical houses with no architectural flair, and a baker serving nothing but muffins that even she considers "disgusting".
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: Pinkie Pie is the first of the Mane Six to suspect something is wrong with the village based on everypony's Creepy Smiles, and the only one to remain suspicious after they have been welcomed.
- Cult: Possible allusions to political extremism aside, the City with No Name is this. Its "religion" is a rejection of cutie marks and the special talents they represent, valuing sameness above all else.Starlight Glimmer: Nopony has ever come to our village and wanted to leave! Why should you be any different? But that is entirely your choice.
- Curiosity Causes Conversion: Sugar Belle, the Lethal Chef Equal Pony, looks in confusion and amazement over the Mane Six's bickering and then making up, as this goes against Starlight Glimmer's philosophy on cutie marks. This eventually allows the Mane Six to meet other equal ponies curious about the newcomers and finding out about the Cutie Mark Vault. Which turns the trope on them as Starlight uses the opportunity to steal the Mane Six's cutie marks.
- Darker and Edgier: There are fewer jokes than usual, with the two-parter focusing mostly on the subtle unease of the situation.
- Death Glare: Uncharacteristically, Pinkie Pie gives a lot of these in the episode. Most notably, to Fluttershy when she's getting caught in the welcoming song of the Equal Ponies.
- Deus Exit Machina: Spike is left behind to spend time with Big Macintosh. It's perfectly obvious why from a meta standpoint — a staff that removes cutie marks won't do much to a dragon, and if Spike with his fire breath was around, everything would have played out differently.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Starlight Glimmer's plan to create a perfect society by having everypony be of equal status with nopony being above or below the other (as well as plans to force it on others whether they want it or not) sounds suspiciously like the ideals promoted by communism in the 20th century.
- Likewise, Starlight taking exception from her own rules pinpoints the problems such communist countries constantly faced.
- Depending how cynical you are, the town can seem similar to mandatory education. Starlight forces a 'uniform' on the ponies, implies the solution to feeling sad is to ignore that sadness and be compliant, and she promotes mediocrity by denying their special skills in order to avoid conflict.
- Readers of pony fanfics may also note some similarities to The Conversion Bureau, which has similar ideas on forcing everyone to be a certain way.
- Also on the FIM fanculture front, an entire village full of ponies who are so happy it's spooky, with something very odd about their cutie marks? It's very similar to the fangame Story of the Blanks.
- The Evils of Free Will: Starlight Glimmer seems keen on making the townsponies look and act very similar and be constantly, creepily happy in order to create a more "equal" society.Starlight Glimmer: (singing) There's just too many differences that lead to disarray,
but when you learn to act as one, it's like a holiday!
- Evolving Credits: The Golden Oak Library in the background of the group shot is replaced with the castle Twilight gained in the previous season's finale.
- Fair-Play Whodunnit: It's clear, even prior to when Sugar Belle asks the Mane Six to come to meet her discreetly, that the townsponies are a bit anxious and unhappy under Starlight's leadership. There's shifty eyes and a few lip bites, and some of the actions show a willing desire to go against Starlight as long as they can get away with it.
- False Utopia: Starlight's society claims that everypony is equal due to lack of cutie marks and that this brings forth true happiness and friendship, but it's quite evident that there's something wrong under the surface.
- Fantasy World Map: Though we've had a merch-produced map of Equestria before which was used in some episodes (such as "Pinkie Pride" and "Twilight's Kingdom") the castle map shows more areas that were only hinted towards, such as realms for dragons and griffons.
- Fictional Counterpart: Hoofball, as a sport, is mentioned by name. Like its American counterpart, fans collect trading cards, discuss stats, and use something akin to beer hats for guzzling beverages.
- Funny Background Event: While Double Diamond is introducing himself and Party Favor to the Mane Six, Party Favor walks over to Rarity and starts staring at her, making her rather uncomfortable.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: The ponies in the town sincerely believe they're happier without their cutie marks and special talents.
- Giant Foot of Stomping: Unintentionally on Spike part as he "crushes" Pinkie's hometown after she notes it on the map.
- Green Around the Gills: Pinkie Pie, after eating a dozen awful muffins, is very green in the face.
- Happiness Is Mandatory: It is in this town. Starlight Glimmer casts Death Glares (with the implication of potential punishment) in the direction of ponies who don't smile enough in her village.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Fluttershy takes all the Stepford smiles and forced politeness at face value.
- I Can See My House from Here: On seeing the holographic map, Pinkie sees the representation of her family's rock farm and calls out "Hi, Mom and Dad!" — before Spike steps on the projection.
- Individuality Is Illegal: Starlight believes that friendship is impossible if someone is more skilled at anything than their friends, or has a different opinion from them on something, and keeps her followers from showing any real individuality besides their names.
- Initiation Ceremony: In order to be accepted into the village of Equals, a pony must have his or her cutie mark removed.Night Glider: The Cutie Un-marking is a beautiful experience!
- Ironic Echo: Throughout Season 4, Princess Twilight made a point of saying she didn't consider herself "better than anypony". In this episode, Sugar Belle makes a similar claim regarding her baking skills.
- It Tastes Like Feet: Pinkie's opinion of the muffins. Sugar Belle is quick to acknowledge the muffins aren't any better than anypony else in town could bake.Pinkie Pie: [miserably] I've accidentally eaten cardboard tastier than that.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Starlight Glimmer is entirely correct in saying that differences between ponies, especially differences in their special talents, causes conflict between ponies. That's the plot of half of the episodes, after all, and the Mane Six demonstrate this fact quite well in their own arguments in this episode. What she doesn't get, however, is that true friends can work past those differences, which is exactly what the Mane Six do and what causes several townsponies to reveal the existence of the vault. Starlight's "solution" is going overboard, eliminating the cause entirely instead of dealing with it.
- Knight Templar: Starlight Glimmer's motivation appears to be something along these lines; it's not that she doesn't believe in friendship, she just has a warped view of what it entails and is willing to remove ponies' free will in order to make it happen.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: In the song "In Our Town", when Starlight sings about differences causing disarray, one of the Equal Ponies dances out of line from the rest who are in step. However, a small glare from Starlight fixes her step.
- Lethal Chef: One of the Equal Ponies, Sugar Belle, serves the Mane Six muffins. Pinkie Pie takes a bite out of one of them and quickly spits it out. She is later shown looking like she's about to barf after eating all twelve of them. Sugar Belle laments that she was once good at cooking before she abandoned her cutie mark.
- Lured into a Trap:
- Starlight Glimmer leads the Mane Six into a cave and shows them a scepter called the Staff of Sameness and a wall full of cutie marks. After finding out how they knew about the cave, she summons some of the Equal Ponies and takes away their cutie marks. Twilight lampshades this via a Shout-Out to Star Wars.
- Earlier in the episode, the Mane Six is asked to follow Sugar Belle into her basement where she, Night Glider, and Party Favor surround them, ominously telling them that they don't want anypony else to see what they're about to do. Turns out to be a Bait-and-Switch as they just wanted to see their cutie marks and ask them questions about their friendship. They couldn't do it out in the open without arousing suspicion amongst their fellow ponies.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "In Our Town" is an upbeat tune that talks about how great the nameless town's society is, but the music contains a uniform drumming reminiscent of a military march. The lyrics are not all that light either, as they contain references to giving up your individuality and talents. It also has this chilling line:You can't have a nightmare, if you never dream.
- Magnetic Plot Device: Whatever created Twilight's new castle is apparently able to summon the Mane Six via their cutie marks. Due to a certain fandom terminology, even the trope name doubles as a Stealth Pun.
- Mundanger: After a trend of Serial Escalation in the threats the Mane Six face in season premieres and finales, the big bad of this episode turns out to be a relatively ordinary unicorn leading a cult of sameness, with designs on expanding her cult across Equestria.
- Mythology Gag:
- The sorcerer that supposedly created the Staff of Sameness shares a name with a pony that came as part of a G3 toy set.
- Night Glider (though her name is only given in the credits) shares her name with a G1 pony. Ironically, while G4 Night Glider gave up her cutie mark, G1 Night Glider leaned the opposite direction: as part of the Twice As Fancy toyline, her entire torso was covered in cutie marks.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Granted Starlight was already setting them up, but when she asks the Mane Six how they knew about the Cutie Mark vault. Pinkie instantly blabs that somepony mentioned it while talking about missing their cutie marks before Twilight shuts her up. This ends up having repercussions in the next episode.
- Nightmare Fetishist: In an Orange And Blue Morality version of this, Fluttershy finds the City with No Name charming and welcoming, contrasted with to her friends, whose doubts and suspicions cause them to find it disturbing at best.
- Noodle Incident: Pinkie Pie had accidentally eaten cardboard in the past. It was tastier than the muffins in this episode.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Starlight and her followers get really close to the Mane Six several times, especially during "In Our Town". Even the ever-tactless Pinkie Pie doesn't like having her cutie mark touched for examination. Also, Starlight has no qualms about grabbing a pony's mane and redoing it on the spot without a word.
- Number Two: The white Equal Pony stallion, Double Diamond, is apparently Starlight Glimmer's lieutenant.
- Off-Model: Twilight's wings turn into the standard pegasus wings when she is going to sit in her throne to summon the map.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Starlight Glimmer appears from behind Rainbow Dash in the song "In Our Town", scaring the filly.
- Oh, Crap!: When Pinkie Pie lets slip the reason how the subject of the Cutie Mark vault came up, Starlight drops all friendly pretense mid-sentence, and making the Mane Six realize they've been played right into a trap.Starlight Glimmer: Were they? Well, it seems you inspire all sorts of free thinking, don't you?
- On Second Thought: Said by Fluttershy after she unsuccessfully tries to worm her way out of an adventure.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Pinkie Pie remains uncharacteristically serious when she sees everyone's weird smiles. Considering she's the bearer of laughter, it's not surprising when she can tell if somepony is faking it.
- Order vs. Chaos: Unlike most previous times, it's the villain that's on the side of Order, with the heroes on Chaos, with her trying to impose equality on everyone and the Mane Six trying to put a stop to it and restore creativity and individuality.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:Starlight Glimmer: Well, now you can spend the rest of your lives here with us! And we'll teach you just how much better life can be without. Your. Cutie marks!
- Rewatch Bonus: When Starlight Glimmer refers to the Staff of Sameness as "one of the great mage Meadowbrook's nine enchanted items", Twilight's expression changes from amazement to confusion, and her eyes shift as though she's searching her memory and realizing something is amiss.
- Rule of Symbolism: The houses in town are arranged like an equals sign. At the end of "In Our Town", the ponies line upon on either side of the Mane Six like an equals sign, and similarly, when they are captured at the end of the episode, the ponies are in a similar arrangement.
- Sacrificial Lion: Played With; of all of the Mane Six to be the first to lose their cutie mark, who honestly expected Twilight?!
- Saying Too Much: Pinkie Pie lets slip to Starlight Glimmer that some ponies in town are missing their cutie marks.Starlight Glimmer: [holding the Staff of Sameness] I'm curious — how did the subject of the vault come up?
Pinkie Pie: Oh, some ponies were telling us how much they missed their cutie marks, and—
Twilight Sparkle: Pinkie!
Pinkie Pie: [covers her mouth] Oops!
- Pinkie starts to paraphrase Hamlet, but stops because she doesn't know the name of the town they're in.
- Twilight shouts "It's a trap!" Now what does that remind you of?
- A dystopia where everyone is forced to be equal has definite shades of Harrison Bergeron.
- Also, a pony who can force everyone to be equal has shades of Amon from The Legend of Korra. A bigger shout-out may be to Amon's Equalists, from the equals sign being everywhere (most notably, in place of the cutie marks).
- Spike's foot stepping on Pinkie's rock farm has shades of Bambi Meets Godzilla (particularly in the original animatic when it was a black and white sketch).
- The ponies in the town stepping in cadence has shades of "You Can't Take Me", even though they are more spread apart than in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
- The Town With No Name might as well be named Happy Happy Village.
- A story about a community that controls the lives of its citizens and holds them against their will was also an episode of Fear Itself.
- Starlight Glimmer's insistence that female ponies braid their manes feels like a subtle shout-out to The Giver, a story about another dystopian society that preached perfect equality.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Rainbow Dash's response to "In Our Town:"Rainbow Dash: "...You're kidding, right?"
- Sigil Spam: The equals sign is everywhere in this episode; not only on the flanks of the villagers but also in how they position themselves. Multiple times the ponies surround the Mane Six in parallel lines, forming equals signs. Even the windows of each cabin can form an equals sign on the floor via light, as seen in the next part.
- Skewed Priorities: Played for Laughs.
- Rarity has a few moments of this:Rarity: Let's get down there and find a spa.
[later, upon seeing the town's clothing store]
Rarity: What in the name of Equestria is that?!
- Pinkie Pie too, at the restaurant:[when asked if the Mane Six's friendship is ending]
Pinkie: Are you crazy? We'd never let a disagreement get in the way of food!
- Rarity has a few moments of this:
- Sound Off: "In Our Town" was written by Daniel Ingram specifically borrowing from World War II military propaganda songs.
- Sports Widow: The only reason Fluttershy is going on this mission is so she doesn't have to hang around Spike and Big Mac while they watch hoofball.
- Staircase Tumble: A shorter one than in the Season 4 Premiere, but a pudgy Pinkie Pie tumbles down the stairs in Sugar Belle's cottage.
- Stealth Pun:
- As the trailers show, the Mane Six's cutie marks appear to vibrate and buzz when the map wants to alert them to something, even when they are away from the castle. One could call this "buttdialing" or a "booty call". See also Magnetic Plot Device above.
- One could say that their cutie marks are pagers. Pagers would be around the waist of life savers (ex.: firefighters, paramedics, etc.) and would buzz to let them know that they need to come in to do their duties. And since the Mane Six's cutie marks are on their flanks...
- A cutie mark represents the essence of who a pony is, so when Starlight Glimmer steals them from the Mane Six, she's committing identity theft.
- Stepford Smiler: A whole town full of them. Pinkie Pie, the master of smiles, is unconvinced by them.Pinkie Pie: I know smiles, and those smiles... they're just not right!
- Stock American Phrases: Applejack and her "countryisms". She dismisses Twilight's suspicions with "That and two bits will get you a cup of cider".
- Stock Sound Effect: Twilight's cry of agony as Starlight removes her cutie mark is the exact same yell from the previous episode when Tirek steals her Alicorn magic. It's the same sort of experience, after all.
- Surprise Creepy: The fourth Equal Pony to say "Welcome!" to the Mane Six stands out due to an eerie tremor in her voice, making her come off as zombified.
- Tempting Fate: Pinkie Pie asks for 12 Muffins because she's very hungry. Unfortunately, they turn out to be so bad that she can't even finish one. She shrinks at the request of her friends to finish them all and has to force herself to eat them, making her regrettably sick with a stomachache in the process.
- Theme Naming: Like her predecessor as an Evil Counterpart, Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer's name is a clear take off of Twilight Sparkle.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Though it's immediately obvious something's off, so it's not very well hidden...
- Trailers Always Spoil: Various teasers and trailers have shown that the Mane Six will lose their cutie marks, and naturally will get them back along with those of the other ponies.
- The Treachery of Images: Don't cry, Pinkie! Spike didn't really squish your mom and dad because ceci n'est pas une ferme de roches.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "In Our Town" is initially in E flat, but modulates up to F during the second chorus and the latter half of the bridge.
- Truth in Television: Compassionate, non-competitive personalities like Fluttershy actually do tend towards ideologies that emphasize equality, including extreme ones.
- Uncanny Village: The town full of ponies with equals sign cutie marks and creepy smiles.
- The Unsmile: While everypony in the town has a huge grin plastered onto their face, they're extremely forced rather than genuine smiles, as Pinkie points out.
- Villain Song: "In Our Town", sung by Starlight and her town, explains their philosophy of equality.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: An actual plot point; as the Mane Six get in an argument but quickly make up, something they do a lot in the series, and the town folk find it amazing they can disagree to the point of arguing and still be friends, let alone come up with a compromise.
- Walking in Rhythm: The Equal Ponies march in-step during the Sound Off song. One of the Equal Ponies is briefly out of step in the bridge to lampshade The Evils of Free Will.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Starlight thinks that cutie marks make ponies different, and differences lead to disagreements and jealousy. Thus the only way to truly spread friendship and harmony is to eliminate cutie marks so everypony is the same.
- The Worf Effect: Twilight gets hit with this; when ambushed by the Equal Ponies in the cave, she teleports overhead and starts to charge up her magic to attack a la her battle with Tirek, but Starlight Glimmer hits her with the spell to steal her cutie mark before Twilight can fire.
- Wrong Context Magic: In the series, cutie marks are something not easily manipulated by magic forces: one can't force them to appear and removal requires incredible amounts of magic power (i.e. a Physical God like Lord Tirek) or something equally wrong context like Everfree Forest plants which causes "Cutie Pox". Starlight Glimmer's ability to control this kind of magic is unique and unheard of. The thing that makes it make a little sense is that her Cutie Mark supposedly grants her this magic.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Rainbow Dash's response to the choice the Equal Ponies have made.Starlight Glimmer: Each of us was confused once as well, blinded by the false promise of our cutie marks.
Rainbow Dash: Whoa whoa whoa — is she for real?