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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S5 E4 "Bloom & Gloom"

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"Oh, Apple Bloom, you can't get away from your own shadow."
Princess Luna

Written by Josh Haber
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Apple Bloom calls a meeting of the Cutie Mark Crusaders together at their clubhouse to announce something special: Babs Seed has received her cutie mark (a pair of scissors)! As the Crusaders wonder about what it could mean for Babs, Sweetie Belle mentions the prospect of getting stuck with an undesirable cutie mark. The thought suddenly frightens Apple Bloom, who worries about it well into the night. She eventually manages to fall asleep after Applejack comforts her, saying that everything will be fine after a good night's sleep.

When Apple Bloom comes down for breakfast the next morning, she discovers that she got her cutie mark overnight! Apple Bloom is excited, but neither she nor Applejack can identify the cutie mark until a strange old stallion walks in and informs them that it's the mark of a pest controller, a difficult job that he's all too eager to pass on to Apple Bloom. He shows Apple Bloom how to catch twittermites, swarming bugs that can generate lightning. Apple Bloom learns quickly but is not very pleased with her new job. After Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon mock Apple Bloom's lowly job, she tosses a jar of twittermites aside, unknowingly allowing them to escape, and flees into the forest. There, a dark figure offers to remove Apple Bloom's cutie mark. With the unwanted cutie mark removed, Apple Bloom happily returns to Ponyville, only to find the town overrun with twittermites. She tries to use the pest control equipment, but without the cutie mark, she is unable to capture them.

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Just as the twittermites begin to target her, Apple Bloom wakes up to find it was only a dream. Relieved, she goes downstairs, only to find that she now has a different cutie mark, for potion-making. Overjoyed, Apple Bloom rushes off to show it to Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, but when they see she got her cutie mark before them, they expel her from the Crusaders. Apple Bloom again runs off into the dark forest, where the dark figure again offers to remove the cutie mark. Apple Bloom returns to the clubhouse, but she finds that Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo now have their own cutie marks and want nothing to do with the cutie mark-less Apple Bloom.

Apple Bloom wakes up in bed again, feeling rather unsettled. This time, when she comes down to breakfast, she finds that she has a crude dolphin cutie mark. The entire Apple family shuns her for not having an apple-related cutie mark and throws her out of the house.

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Yet again, Apple Bloom wakes up in bed. This time, while her flank is initially blank, it begins to sport random cutie marks, changing each time Apple Bloom turns around. Exasperated, she laments that she never wants to see another cutie mark again and races out of her room, finding herself in the dark forest yet again. She blames the dark figure for her troubles and tries to escape from it, but suddenly, Princess Luna appears and reveals the figure was only Apple Bloom's own shadow, created by her own fears. Luna tells Apple Bloom that her cutie mark is only a representation of herself, helping Apple Bloom realize that her cutie mark doesn't matter as long as she's happy with who she is. Luna then reveals that both Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo have been having cutie mark nightmares of their own and gathers the three together so Apple Bloom can share what she's learned. The trio are happy to put their nightmares behind them, but they worry that Babs Seed might be dealing with similar issues. They decide to send her a care package to show their support for her—as soon as they wake up.

With the nightmares finally over, Apple Bloom wakes once more and is happy to see that she doesn't have a cutie mark. Apple Bloom joins her family for breakfast and tells Applejack she was right in saying a good night's sleep would fix her worries, but she wishes that it weren't so exhausting.


Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Apple Bloom's fear of being rejected by her own family if she were to obtain a non-apple related cutie mark is similar to how some people fear their lifestyle and true personality (which a cutie mark represents) would be rejected by their fundamentalist families to the point of being kicked out and cut off.
  • An Aesop: As long as you are happy with yourself, it doesn't matter who or what you are. Also, your friends and family won't hate you for being yourself.
  • Always Need What You Gave Up: In her first dream, Apple Bloom gives up her pestpony cutie mark just as the town gets attacked by the twittermites. In the second dream, she only gave up her cutie mark to be with her friends, who gain theirs immediately after she has it removed.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Luna gives one to Apple Bloom while reassuring her.
  • All Just a Dream: Within another dream... in another dream.
  • Animation Bump: When Princess Luna raises the moon within Apple Bloom's dream, the latter has a realistic shadow rather than the indistinct blobs used for shadows throughout the series.
  • Anxiety Dreams: All of the Cutie Mark Crusaders' dreams in the episode are based on their anxieties and fears of getting cutie marks that don't suit them or that would cause them to lose their friends. They get so bad that Princess Luna decides to intervene.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: During the first two nightmares, Apple Bloom keeps running into a shadowy figure who tries to help her out when her cutie marks aren't to her liking. However, the results never turn out as intended.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Apple Bloom's reaction in the second nightmare when Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo reject her and leave her alone in the derelict clubhouse.
    • She does it again in the third nightmare when her dolphin cutie mark causes her to be kicked out of the Apple clan.
  • Bindle Stick: Apple Bloom has one right before the Apples kick her out for having a non-apple cutie mark.
  • Book-Ends: Applejack sings Apple Bloom to sleep just before the nightmare sequence and greets Apple Bloom with part of the same lullaby at breakfast the next morning, after the nightmare sequence is over. The second time, Apple Bloom completes the song herself, indicating that she now believes what it says.
    Applejack: There ain't no call to worry, so don't you cry or fret.
    Apple Bloom: A cutie mark won't change me, no matter what I get.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In Apple Bloom's third nightmare, Applejack and Granny Smith start saying "Ee-yup" and "Nope" like Big Macintosh ordinarily does.
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: The chicken Apple Bloom startles on her second "wake-up" immediately lays an egg in fright. The impressive (and funny) part is that it's a rooster rather than a hen.
  • The Bus Came Back: Kind of. Babs is mentioned for the fist time since "Apple Family Reunion".
  • Call-Back:
    • The plot starts off mentioning Babs Seed getting her cutie mark. They mention scissors being appropriate since she was always fussing with her mane.
    • It turns out Apple Bloom does indeed sleep with sass.
    • Apple Bloom's second cutie mark is a potion-brewing one. She then says the lessons were good after all.
  • The Cameo:
    • In Sweetie Belle's nightmare, Rarity, Octavia and Vinyl Scratch appear briefly as judges in an American Idol-like singing contest. Notably, this is the very first time that Octavia and Vinyl have appeared together on-screen.
    • Pinkie Pie in her chicken costume floats by Apple Bloom's window in the fourth dream.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Apple Bloom naturally does this when her dreams start going south.
  • Circling Monologue:
    • Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon circle around Apple Bloom during her first nightmare while mocking her new cutie mark.
    • In the third nightmare, the Apples circle around her while they talk about disowning her.
  • Clucking Funny: At the beginning of Apple Bloom's second dream, she startles the rooster at her windowsill. He lays an egg when he jumps off.
  • Cobweb of Disuse: Apple Bloom's second dream ends with her alone in the now-deserted clubhouse, with cobwebs hanging from many corners.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo greet Princess Luna enthusiastically and take the news that they're still dreaming in stride. After all, this isn't the first time they've met Luna in their dreams.
    • The exterminator pony says that anypony with a trombone can get rid of a Parasprite.
    • Sweetie Belle's and Scootaloo's nightmares also reference "Twilight Time"; Sweetie Belle gets a cutie mark of the same broom she was levitating, and when Scootaloo gets a baking cutie mark, her scooter turns into the unicycle she was building, with old-time egg beaters instead of a wheel, which is then used to mix cake batter.
    • In her cameo, Pinkie Pie is wearing the same chicken costume she wore on Nightmare Night in "Luna Eclipsed".
    • In Apple Bloom's third nightmare, Big Macintosh and Applejack speak like they did in "Ponyville Confidential" with Big Mac doing all the talking while Applejack only replies with "Eeyup" and "Nope." Granny Smith talks like Big Mac as well.
    • Apple Bloom seems to wake up with each of her cutie marks. The only way we know this is possible is a brief story from Cheerilee getting her own cutie mark in her sleep, presumably having dreamed about it. Interestingly, it seems that Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were headed in that direction before their anxieties got to them.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The pest pony just so happens to show up the same morning Apple Bloom gets her cutie mark. Since this takes place in a dream, it's contrived by Apple Bloom's subconscious.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: When attacking the barn, the twittermites form a ring and charge their lightning between them before firing it downward.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: To each of her first three dreams. Apple Bloom removes her exterminator cutie mark only to be unable to stop the twittermites from destroying Ponyville and her home. Then she removes her potion-brewing one after she is kicked out of the Cutie Mark Crusaders only to be rejected by them once again after the other two earn their own cutie marks. Finally, having a non-apple cutie mark makes her family banish her. Given how things were going, it's likely if she'd given away her cutie mark in the last one, it'd have blown up as well, as the entire episode is her tormenting herself in a nightmare due to her fear of her cutie mark, and thus herself.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The twittermites in the first nightmare zap Apple Bloom left and right when she tries to round them up a second time.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Apple Bloom's interpretation of her "pest pony" talent in her first dream. She has an amazing talent to control dangerous, destructive pests, but thanks to taunting from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, she is worried she will be ostracized for it.
  • Disturbed Doves: When Apple Bloom screams that she has her cutie mark in the first nightmare, she screams so loud birds fly out from trees surrounding the Acres. It disturbs Big Mac who is plowing the fields.
    Apple Bloom: I'VE GOT MY CUTIE MARK!!!
  • Dreams of Flying: Scootaloo, who still struggles with flying in the waking world, flies effortlessly in her dreams.
  • Dream Walker: Princess Luna's Dreamland apparently includes a long corridor of doors — presumably matching everypony's bedroom doors — which she uses to literally walk into sleeping ponies' dreams. This episode also shows she can escort the consciousness of a dreaming pony to see other ponies' dreams and meet with others.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Four dreams in fact. It's eventually revealed that Apple Bloom is stuck in a recurring nightmare due to her worry about her cutie mark.
  • Face Palm: This is Octavia's reaction in Sweetie Belle's dream when the latter gets a broom-and-bucket cutie mark. Then Rarity does a double-facehoof when she has to score her performance.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Apple Bloom is shocked and her skeleton is briefly visible via the X-Ray Sparks, an apple is visible roughly where her stomach should be.
  • Friend to All Children: Luna appears to be getting into this role nicely since her visit to Ponyville in "Luna Eclipsed", getting along very well with the CMC and even being amused by their antics in the dream-clubhouse.
  • Funny Background Event: At the beginning of Apple Bloom's fourth dream, the rooster's crow is accompanied by Pinkie Pie floating past the bedroom window in a chicken costume.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix:
    • The breakfast scene keeps getting weirder with every subsequent dream. At first it's a pancake breakfast with apples, then the apples are replaced with lemons and muffins, and the pancakes have chocolate chips and whipped cream, then it becomes a cake with dog biscuits, cupcakes, and fish in a fruit punch bowl. Seen here.
    • There's also the egg-laying rooster.
    • Each of the dreams actually gets progressively less and less realistic. The first one is just weird enough to make sense. The second? Besides the CMC's sudden OOC switch, the clubhouse mutates into the "old" clubhouse... and the third, well, yeah. The fourth gives up all pretense as a new cutie mark appears every time Apple Bloom turns around, literally.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Apple Bloom's Dream Within a Dream has shades of this, as she keeps waking up and being called down to breakfast by Applejack, who then reacts with surprise as she discovers Apple Bloom's new cutie marks which soon devolves into the nightmare proper. Luna later explains that the reason for this is Apple Bloom's mind is tormenting herself, and thus she keeps putting herself through it again and again.
  • Growing Up Sucks: The crux of Apple Bloom's second dream is worry that if one of the CMC gets her cutie mark before the others or, conversely, if two get theirs at the same time while one does not, the odd pony out will be shunned by the other two.
    Scootaloo: (within Apple Bloom's dream) I don't even think we're still supposed to be friends.
  • Hair Reboot:
    • While discussing Babs, Sweetie Belle briefly flicks at her mane, causing a couple strands to go out of place. In the next shot, her mane is back to normal.
    • When Apple Bloom gets her mane and tail wet from her Personal Rain Cloud, they dry instantly after Luna blows it away (though in this case it's part of a dream).
  • Halfway Plot Switch: At first the episode seems to be about Apple Bloom learning to love her pest control cutie mark. Then that angle is dropped and it turns into an apparent "Groundhog Day" Loop masterminded by a shadowy pony who can remove cutie marks, like Starlight Glimmer. Then it finally reveals itself as a Sequel Episode to "Sleepless in Ponyville" and "From Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils", taking place entirely in Apple Bloom's dreamscape.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Apple Bloom is repeatedly zapped by the twittermites in her dream, and brushes it off. Justified, since she's only dreaming it.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Throughout the episode, Apple Bloom keeps finding herself in a forest area with a shadowed entity who somehow has the power to remove or change cutie marks. Eventually Luna reveals that the shadow is Apple Bloom's own fears and self-doubt.
  • Hold Up Your Score: Sweetie Belle's nightmare involves a musical talent show in which she receives a score of 0 from Octavia and Vinyl Scratch for getting a cutie mark that has nothing to do with singing. Rarity, her sister, is generous enough to give her a 1.
  • I Have No Son!: In Apple Bloom's third nightmare, getting a non-apple cutie mark causes her to be shunned by her family, to the point where she is considered Persona Non Grata and has to remove the "Apple" part of her name.
  • Irony: After spending the last few seasons obsessing over cutie marks, this episode has Apple Bloom worried what kind she'll get. It gets to the point that she would rather not have one at all.
  • Jerkass: In the second nightmare, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo act like complete jerks to Apple Bloom. To start, they throw her out of the clubhouse, and later refuse to show her their cutie marks. Their attitude here makes Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon seem like saints.
  • Lampshade Hanging: After five years of fan complaints about how esoteric some cutie marks can be, we get Scootaloo's confusion over what a scissors one means.
  • Minion Maracas: During the first dream, upon noticing her brand-new cutie mark, in her excitement Apple Bloom shakes Applejack hard enough that her head becomes a blur while making a ringing sound.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In the first nightmare, the twittermites manage to escape because Apple Bloom threw the container holding them to the ground, causing it to crack. Removing her cutie mark likewise took away her ability to catch them, allowing the twittermites to run amok through Ponyville.
  • No Name Given: We don't learn the name of the pest pony whose job Apple Bloom takes over. He is only seen in Apple Bloom's dream, so it's plausible he doesn't actually exist in the real world and has no name because Apple Bloom never thought of one.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The thing in the woods that keeps tormenting and tempting Apple Bloom. Until its reveal late in the episode, it's never seen clearly, only shown as an ominous voice and a shadow moving swiftly around in the background. The only thing we see of it is Glowing Eyes of Doom and a Slasher Smile. It's finally revealed by Luna to be Apple Bloom's own shadow, representing the filly's own worries and insecurity.
  • Not So Different: Princess Luna takes Apple Bloom into Sweetie Belle's and Scootaloo's dreams to show her that she's not the only one having cutie mark nightmares.
  • No, You: When Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon mock Apple Bloom for having the worst cutie mark, she tells them that they are the worst before running off.
  • Orphean Rescue: Princess Luna intervenes to help the CMC find a way out of their nightmares together.
  • Parental Love Song: A variation; Applejack sings a lullaby to comfort Apple Bloom, saying that she is "loved by all [she] know[s]" and always will be, no matter what her cutie mark is.
  • Parrot Exposition: Apple Bloom keeps parroting the pest pony while he's explaining her new job to her, until he tells her to stop repeating him so she can learn his job. She inadvertently does it again anyway.
  • Personal Raincloud: Apple Bloom briefly gets one after realizing she was her own worst enemy. Luna blows it away.
  • Red Herring: Before the dream sequence is revealed, the viewer is led to believe that the shadowy figure in the Everfree Forest who offers to remove a cutie mark is Starlight Glimmer. It turns out to be Apple Bloom's "shadow", i.e. her fears.
  • Reflective Eyes: At the end of the first nightmare, the destruction of the Apple Family barn is reflected in Apple Bloom's eyes.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Sweetie Belle asks "What's not to like about apples?" Scootaloo rattles off a few things off the top of her head, which just makes Apple Bloom more anxious over her future cutie mark than ever.
  • Rule of Three: In the beginning of all three dreams, Applejack says this line to Apple Bloom:
    Applejack: See, now what did I tell you? A good night's sleep'll fix just about an— Well, no wonder you were so worked up!
  • Shed the Family Name: Invoked by her family towards Apple Bloom when she dreams she receives a non-apple cutie mark. They allow her to keep the name "Bloom" because that doesn't have "apple" as part of it now.
  • Shock and Awe: The twittermites are capable of generating lightning. The further apart a swarm is, the more devastating the voltage.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The destruction of the Sweet Apple Acres barn by the twittermites borrows visual and audio cues from the destruction of the White House, Empire State Building, and Liberty Tower from Independence Day.
    • Inception: Dreams within a dream within a dream...
    • The hall of doors Luna uses to travel between dreams is reminiscent of the one seen in The Matrix trilogy or in the video game Psychonauts, though this is a common trope when Dream Walker characters are involved.
    • It turns out that the antagonist is simply Apple Bloom's shadow voicing all the fear and self doubt she's refusing to face can bring to mind a certain game. Especially when Apple Bloom arguing it is met with it telling her it's done nothing more than what she asked for. It even has a similar vocal distortion as the Shadows.
      Apple Bloom's Shadow: I only did what you wanted.
    • The outfit Scootaloo sports at the start of her nightmare is evocative of famous stunt cyclist Evel Knievel.
    • "I never want to see another cutie mark as long as I live!"
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Apple stomach aside, the bones in Apple Bloom's body are fairly show-accurate to a pony.
    • The three dream breakfast sequences is a relatively extreme example of change blindness.
  • Sink-or-Swim Mentor: The pestpony doesn't waste time with Apple Bloom's training; after telling her the basics, he unleashes a swarm of twittermites at her, and she has to catch them or get fried by their lightning. Apparently, that's because he cannot wait for retirement.
  • Skyward Scream: A rare happy example of this trope happens when Apple Bloom sees her cutie mark the first time.
  • Smash Cut: Used liberally throughout the dream sequences. Not once does Apple Bloom question the sudden shifts in scenery.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: The question that jump-starts the episode: the Crusaders have spent so much time fussing over getting their cutie marks, they never thought about what would happen after the fact.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye:
    • The pestpony vanishes just as Apple Bloom is expressing her doubts about taking over his job.
    • In the second dream, Apple Bloom disappears from the kitchen before Applejack can finish reminding her to do her chores.
  • Stylistic Suck: Apple Bloom's third cutie mark is a crudely-drawn dolphin with googly, "derped" eyes.
  • Surreal Humor: During part of Apple Bloom's third dream, Applejack and Big Macintosh briefly speak in each others' voices. Granny Smith also has a line in Big Mac's voice.
  • The Swarm: The twittermites in the first nightmare run rampant through Ponyvile and destroy everything in a buzzing cloud of electricity.
  • Take That!: The pests being called "twittermites" is a subtle jab at the older brony fandom that communicate primary with the show staff and each other through Twitter. Mike Vogel hints at this a bit.
  • Take Up My Sword: The pest pony is all too happy to retire and pass his job to Apple Bloom after she gains the exterminator cutie mark.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Even though it was just a nightmare (see Jossed in Trivia), Sweetie Belle walking up to the mic about to sing was spoiled in a trailer weeks before its air date.
  • The Un-Reveal: In the sequence where Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo have their cutie marks, all shots of the two completely avoid showing their marks, and the two outright refuse to tell Apple Bloom what they are or mean. Justified since it's part of a Dream Within a Dream and any cutie mark shown would be refutable.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon mock Apple Bloom for her first exterminator cutie mark, causing her to hate it and want it removed. Granted, Apple Bloom is just dreaming this, but it wouldn't be a stretch to think they would do something like that.
  • Vocal Dissonance: In the third nightmare, Applejack suddenly starts talking in Big Macintosh's voice and vice versa.
  • Voice of the Legion. The shadowy figure in Apple Bloom's dream speaks in a pronounced demonic tone as though it had a second voice underneath it.
  • Wham Line: It seems like a routine meeting but then this line occurs after Apple Bloom is asked what the Crusaders are meeting for:
    Apple Bloom: Oh, nothin'... just this letter from Babs Seed sayin' she's got her cutie mark!
  • Worst. Whatever. Ever!: In the first dream, Diamond Tiara tells Apple Bloom she ended up with the worst cutie mark ever.
  • X-Ray Sparks: When Apple Bloom tries catching the twittermite swarm after having her exterminator cutie mark removed, the twittermites first shock her into this.

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