The Crystal Map selects Starlight Glimmer as its agent to solve a friendship problem in Canterlot, much to Twilight Sparkle's surprise (up until then the map had only sent members of the Mane Six and almost always in pairs). She worries that the problem will be more than her student can handle alone.
Starlight wonders if the friendship problem is between the two royal sisters. Her first morning in Canterlot, Celestia makes elaborate pancakes for everyone, but Luna is too tired to want breakfast. That night, Luna hangs up lavender bundles as a way of providing more calming sleep, but Celestia is entertaining dignitaries and doesn't notice. This convinces Starlight that Celestia and Luna must be unknowingly hurting each other's feelings. She decides to go with her gut and confront the royal sisters the next morning. Though each is initially reluctant to admit to her resentment, Celestia and Luna soon devolve into a full-blown argument about which of them has it worse. On impulse, Starlight casts a spell: when the smoke clears, Celestia and Luna's cutie marks have been switched! The princesses are furious, but Starlight insists that the spell lasts only a day and suggests they take the opportunity to see what her sister's job is like. Luna and Celestia eventually give in, each believing the other's work will be easy.
With Starlight offering support, Luna sets out on a typical day in Celestia's hooves. But she struggles in her sister's role, finding it almost impossible to maintain the calm and cheerful demeanor Celestia seems to possess with no effort. The low point is when her smile fails at exactly the wrong moment, endangering the funding for a school field trip. She goes to bed exhausted, as does Starlight, leaving Celestia to face night duty alone. The princess enters the realm of dreams to find someone's nightmare to soothe, only to see Starlight wracked with anxiety about her rash decision. In the dream, Nightmare Moon appears and taunts Starlight about the harm she's done. Then Daybreaker, a violent version of Celestia, also appears and claims she never needed Luna — or anyone at all. Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon fight, and Starlight begins to have a nervous breakdown.
Celestia pulls Luna into Starlight's nightmare for help, but Luna doesn't have her own dream magic and can't intervene. She urges Celestia to trust herself, because she has realized now how strong Celestia must be to smile and keep up appearances for her subjects all the time. Encouraged, Celestia puts herself between Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon, blocking their magic before it does any damage to Starlight. Daybreaker commands Celestia to stop, but Celestia banishes Daybreaker with Luna's power.
Next morning, the sisters confide in each other, now knowing how hard the other works at her duties. Luna even makes pancakes (though they taste awful). Starlight joins them, still confused over last night's events. The sisters commend her for being bold enough to do what she did. Then Starlight's cutie mark glows, indicating that the friendship problem is solved, while the princesses's own marks return to normal. Twilight suddenly appears and drags Starlight away to get all of the details, with Luna leaving Celestia to deal with the fallout of her mess-up with the schoolchildren.
- An Aesop: Never let your assumption of another's responsibility seed resentment. You may not have any idea of the nuances and demands that go into their job, even if on the surface it seems like they have it easier than you.
- Never judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes.
- You'll never know how hard someone’s job is until you do it yourself.
- Aesop Amnesia:
- This is possibly the worst moment that Starlight Glimmer could've picked to forget that using magic on other ponies hardly does any good at all. It's heavily downplayed as she realizes that what she did was a horrible idea and starts having a nightmare over it. Also, to her credit, she resorts to using magic only in a fit of desperation, after her attempts to appeal to princesses' reason fall on deaf ears and both Celestia and Luna completely ignore her when she tries to stop them from arguing. So while Starlight was wrong to use a spell on them, she only did it after less-direct approaches had failed.
- Played straight with the sisters, as disagreeing and resenting each other about their contrasting roles is similar to what led to Nightmare Moon in the first place.
- And Here He Comes Now: Once the problem is resolved, Starlight muses on how she'll have to explain all this to Twilight. Cue Twilight teleporting right in front of them.
- Assurance Backfire: Luna is told to reassure a group of ponies that timberwolves do not inhabit their woods. She accomplishes this by booming it at them with the Royal Canterlot Voice, and they run off screaming about the timberwolves.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Starlight is briefly confronted by a giant, angry Twilight in her nightmare.
- Backhanded Apology: Celestia and Luna do this to each other when Starlight tries to get them to talk about hurting each other's feelings.Luna: I'm sorry I never noticed that you make fruit faces on pancakes, but nights are long for me. You might be a morning pony, but I am half-asleep.
Celestia: You think I don't get tired? I'm exhausted! Oh, I apologize for not noticing flowers in a wall sconce, but by the time I get to retire for the night, I can barely see straight! Even so, I still make an effort to smile.
- Batman Gambit: Whereas the Friendship Map's previous uses have involved sending two ponies who may try a few things but stumble onto the right solution for the friendship problem in time due to their respective knowledge or their Element and the help from others, this case specifically sent Starlight Glimmer to Canterlot, and required the situation to get to a point where she would use her cutie mark-manipulation magic in desperation to solve the problem (the Royal Sisters seeing the other's life from her point of view to come to their reconciliation). This is even after Twilight Sparkle attempted to intercede as much as possible to prevent Starlight from making rash decisions.
- Beam-O-War: Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker's exchange of beams from their horns, until Celestia interposes herself and stops both magic rays with her wings.
- Because Destiny Says So: Luna suggests that the map chose Starlight specifically to solve the friendship problem, so she'd end up casting the spell on them, despite her past troubles with magic like that. In this case, it turns out to be exactly what was needed to help the sisters solve their problems.
- Body Horror: Luna's nightmare has her teeth falling out as she tries to explain herself to the school-fillies.
- Both Sides Have a Point: Celestia and Luna both have valid gripes about each other because neither fully comprehend the other's issues. Luna thinks Celestia is an Attention Whore who doesn't appreciate her efforts because she's too busy basking in the adulation of her subjects, when Celestia is really a Slave to PR Stepford Smiler who doesn't dare show her frustration or weariness in public. Celestia thinks Luna is an Ungrateful Bitch who's too caught up in her own troubles to think of others, but Luna is just exhausted and desperately lonely from her solitary nights guarding everypony else's dreams.
- Brutal Honesty: Twilight realizes she may be making Starlight more nervous, and offers up a "I'm not helping, am I?" to which Starlight delivers a very blunt and terse, "No!" Starlight wasn't wrong, she honestly admitted that the princesses have terrible communication skills after finding out that they are accidentally hurting each other's feelings.Starlight: The princesses aren't the best at communicating.
- The time when Luna got corrupted into Nightmare Moon and Celestia had to banish her to the moon comes up a few times throughout the episode. Twilight in particular is anxious that the schism between the sisters could repeat, and those worries finally get to Starlight too, making her have a dream where not just Luna but her sister as well fall to their internal darkness.
- When Celestia tells Luna to step into the fight between Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, Luna says she can't, because Celestia's magic doesn't work in the realm of dreams, which was first addressed in "Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?" by Luna.
- The Cameo: In the various dream bubbles, we see Daring Do, Pinkie Pie riding Gummy like a surf-board, Fluttershy on a giant Angel Bunny, an infant Applejack in the forelegs of two ponies, Princess Cadance head-banging to the sounds of DJ Flurry Heart, the Flim-Flam Bros. playing in a huge pile of golden bits, Doctor Whooves scared and trapped in a garden maze with a seemingly innocent statue, Discord playing with the Smooze, and Derpy in a regal outfit and holding the Twilight Scepter.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: While Celestia and Luna are experts at resolving a problem before it becomes a crisis (through diplomacy or psychic intervention, respectively), neither of them see the growing resentment in each other, nor do they manage to handle it well when they finally acknowledge it.
- Color-Coded Wizardry: Along with switching cutie marks, Celestia and Luna's magic also swap colors, with Luna's turning bright yellow and Celestia's turning dark blue. Meanwhile, Daybreaker's magic is blood red.
- Continuity Nod:
- We see again the various stained-glass windows featuring past events in the palace, like Discord's reign or Spike saving the Crystal Empire.
- The delegate ponies entertained by Celestia were first seen during the congress in "Princess Spike".
- One of the ponies participating in the rose-smelling contest Luna is judging is from the Hooffield family.
- Luna agreeing to let Starlight spend some time with her, coupled with their close interactions for most of the episode, references the connection Luna made with Starlight in "To Where and Back Again - Part 1".
- The photographer taking the picture of Luna and the fillies is the same one who took Rarity and Sweetie Belle's pictures in "Forever Filly".
- The photo of Luna scowling is printed in the Foal Free Press, the school paper introduced in "Ponyville Confidential".
- The Royal Canterlot Voice makes a comeback after not hearing it for 5 seasons since "Luna Eclipsed".
- Creepy Child: The fillies in Luna's nightmare.That smile is too wide
It's obviously not real...
- Deadpan Snarker:
- As is often the case when dealing with Twilight, Starlight is not shy with giving sarcastic responses.Starlight Glimmer: Gee, thanks for believing in me, Twilight.
- During a Freak Out by Music Box Twilight, the Royal Guard overhears them. Twilight's snarking afterwards earns her a drawer by an annoyed Starlight trying to get some sleep.Starlight Glimmer: He's gonna think I'm nuts!
Music Box Twilight: He's not the only one.
[annoyed, Starlight Glimmer puts Music Box Twilight in a drawer]
- As is often the case when dealing with Twilight, Starlight is not shy with giving sarcastic responses.
- Death Glare: After switching their cutie marks, Starlight gets a double dose of this from Celestia and Luna... twice! Celestia in particular looks like she's about to send Starlight to the moon for this very act alone!
- First when Starlight tells the princesses the cutie-mark switching spell can only be removed by time (24 hours to be exact).Princess Luna: [glares at Starlight]
Princess Celestia: ...What?
- Second, after the princesses hesitantly accept Starlight's plan, Starlight tells them it was a good choice... not that they had one.
- First when Starlight tells the princesses the cutie-mark switching spell can only be removed by time (24 hours to be exact).
- Deflector Shields:
- Nightmare Moon creates an opaque bubble shield to withstand Daybreaker's searing Breath Weapon.
- Celestia erects a forcefield around herself and Starlight to protect them from the literal firestorm unleashed by Daybreaker. She later leaves Starlight in the shield in order to fetch Luna.
- Digging Yourself Deeper: See Death Glare above and Shutting Up Now below. Yeah Starlight, you should probably stop pissing off the two most powerful ponies in Equestria further by talking about their current situation that you caused ...otherwise a visit to the moon is likely for you.
- Dispel Magic: Averted; Starlight cannot remove her own cutie-mark switch spell, and neither Luna nor Celestia even try to with their own (switched) powers, forcing them to wait for the end of its 24-hour duration. It's probably justified by the fact that magic dealing with cutie marks is extremely tricky, as Twilight established in previous episodes, and tampering too much would be deemed too risky. Besides, each princess is looking forward to proving how "easy" the other's job is.
- Double-Meaning Title: The episode is called "A Royal Problem", which fits in the sense that the problem is between the Princesses, and also in the sense of it turning into a very big problem — that is, a royal problem.
- Dream Walker: Following the cutie mark switch, Celestia receives Luna's powers and duty to fend off nightmares from her subjects by entering their dreams. Without experience, however, she gets in over her head and immediately calls in Luna for backup.
- Early-Bird Cameo: In the various dream bubbles, one shows a infant Applejack being held by two ponies, likely her parents, foreshadowing the future episode "The Perfect Pear".
- Emerging from the Shadows: Daybreaker appears at first completely obscured by shadows, so that only the dark silhouette of an alicorn (with no mane or tail) can be seen. This increases the impact of the Wham Shot when she lights up her Flaming Hair and reveals herself as Celestia's Superpowered Evil Side.
- Enemy Within: Daybreaker is this for Celestia, specifically what Celestia fears of becoming if she looses all sense of self-restraint and deals with problems by burning them to ash.
- Evil Is Burning Hot: Daybreaker is an evil version of Celestia with Flaming Hair, tail included.
- Evil Is Hammy: Much like Nightmare Moon, Daybreaker wholeheartedly embraces Chewing the Scenery and over-the-top showboating during her appearance.
- Evil Laugh: Both Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon get great ones in Starlight's dream. Daybreaker laughs evilly so much that she might count as The Hyena.
- Evil Me Scares Me: Celestia is terrified by her Daybreaker side, only able to say "I'll never turn into you!" to her.
- Evil Versus Evil: Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, Luna and Celestia's Superpowered Evil Sides, have a fight in Starlight's dreamscape.
- Exhausted Eye Bags:
- Luna, throughout the episode, due to her coming off her night shift as each day begins, and as late putting her in a real cranky mood.
- Celestia has them as well by the time she ends her night of vigil over ponies' dreams.
- Expy: Daybreaker bears resemblance to Nightmare Star, a character from the Collectible Card Game, who is also depicted as an evil version of Celestia.
- Face Palm: Starlight double-facehooves in response to Twilight freaking out because she's switched the Princesses' cutie marks.
- Feud Episode: Between Celestia and Luna, when neither can comprehend the other's issues.
- Flat "What": When Starlight says she couldn't switch Celestia and Luna's cutie marks back even if she wanted and still thinks it was the right decision, Celestia says a small and angry "What?"
- Foil: It's implied that Celestia becoming Daybreaker would be because she stopped caring about the opinions of others and holding back, while Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon was because she felt that their subjects preferred Celestia over her.
- Food Porn: Celestia's pancake breakfasts look absolutely delicious. Or, as Starlight put it, almost too beautiful to eat. (Luna's pancakes... not so much.)
- Foreshadowing: When Starlight gets Princesses Celestia and Luna to talk about their feelings, their voices approach those of Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon in Starlight's nightmare.
- Friend to All Children: Luna is distraught when she learns that dropping her smile at the wrong time meant the local school fillies were unable to raise enough money for a field trip. She voices the desire to fix things, but is forced to keep going with Celestia's schedule. She even has a nightmare about it later, with one of the fillies tearfully asking her "Why don't you want us to go on our field trip?" And once everything is resolved, Luna tells Celestia that she needs to make the field trip happen.
- From Bad to Worse:
- Starlight's first attempt to solve the friendship problem is to get Celestia and Luna to talk to each other about how they seem to be hurting each other's feelings without realizing it. All this does is make the two of them start arguing over whose duties are more difficult, instead of being passive-aggressive with each other.
- Starlight's nightmare very quickly increases in how bad it is. It starts with her being tormented by images of Celestia's pancakes and Luna's lavender, increases to the appearance of Nightmare Moon, and not even a minute later escalates to Daybreaker's arrival. According to Luna, she was on the road to a damaged psyche.
- Fun Size: Twilight magically appears as a tiny music box ballerina to communicate with Starlight Glimmer. Later, Starlight dreams of them switching spots, ending as the ballerina.
- Furry Reminder:
- A unicorn Royal Guard makes a confused whinny after hearing Twilight Sparkle talk through the figurine.
- Both Luna and Celestia snort like horses to express their annoyance at Starlight switching their cutie marks.
- Applauding through stamping hooves makes another appearance.
- Gave Up Too Soon: Luna loses her smile just as the camerapony takes the picture. The resulting scowl ends up on the newspaper to embarrassing effect.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: Played for laughs when Celestia begins her duties as stand-in Princess of the Night. Celestia is so used to socializing with her subjects she isn't prepared for working alone like Luna is, and it isn't even 5 minutes into her job she suffers a minor case of Sanity Slippage and starts talking to herself, which she acknowledges with a panicked, almost Twitchy Eye, expression.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Nightmare Moon vs. Daybreaker, with Tabitha St. Germain and Nicole Oliver devouring as much scenery as possible.Nightmare Moon: You can't get rid of me so easily, sister! Unless you plan on smiling me to smithereens!
Daybreaker: Ugh. So much black. We get it, you're sad. You could really use some... SUN!
- Head Desk:
- Starlight bangs her head in frustration against the desk supporting "Ballerina Twilight", making the music box jump.
- Luna later slams her face against the dinner table after realizing that doing Celestia's job isn't easy.
- Hellish Pupils: Nightmare Moon has catlike pupils, as per usual, while Daybreaker's are also slitted but jagged.
- Heroic BSoD: Starlight near the end, courtesy of her My God, What Have I Done? taken up to eleven in the forms of Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, breaks down crying in her dream.
- Hidden Depths:
- Celestia is apparently a very good baker, making stacks of pancakes with ease, and putting fruit smiley faces on them.
- Luna apparently has skills in gardening and aromatherapy, placing lavender around the palace to help ponies have sweet dreams at night.
- Each of the royal sisters discovers that the other has several skills to help get through their schedule:
- Luna discovers that Celestia needs excellent diplomacy skills and strong cheek muscles to handle all her daily events. It's not all just smiling and waving like she expected.
- Celestia, meanwhile, discovers that Luna needs to understand dream psychology to help ponies with their nightmares, right after getting in over her head in Starlight's dream almost immediately. She has to pull Luna from her own nightmare and into Starlight's dream due to how lost she is about what is happening.
- How Do I Shot Web?: Celestia requires Luna's help with fighting nightmares.
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: The montage of Luna's public appearances in the day uses Celestia's sun cutie mark (now sported by Luna) as wipe for the scene transitions.
- In Another Man's Shoes: The premise of the episode: Celestia and Luna end up having to do the other pony's job.
- Incoming Ham: Daybreaker sure knows how to make an entrance that leaves a lasting impression, even stealing Nightmare Moon's thunder in the process.Starlight Glimmer: If you two can't see why you need each other, then—
Nightmare Moon: Then I am back! [evil laugh]
Celestia: Don't worry, Starlight. [conjures an energy shield] I know how to handle Nightmare Moon!
Daybreaker: Yes! But can you handle... [flaming mane lights up, dispelling the shadows] ...ME! [evil laugh]
- Inelegant Blubbering: While cleaner than most examples, Starlight sniffles, chokes, and is occasionally indecipherable in her berating herself when she breaks down in the nightmare.
- Innocently Insensitive: Twilight's panicking and building up the urgency of solving Celestia and Luna's feud inadvertently adds fire to Starlight's desperation and guilt in the episode.
- I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: As a dream walker, Princess Luna has seen a lot of nightmares, but nothing like Nightmare Moon fighting Daybreaker.
- Jaw Drop: Twilight starts out the episode with her jaw hanging open from seeing Starlight's cutie mark floating above the map instead of her or her friends. Spike does the honor of closing her mouth for her.
- Just Smile and Nod: Luna thinks all Celestia's duties amount to "smiling and basking in affection". She soon finds out that smiling nonstop is much harder than she thought and stopping at the wrong time has unintended consequences, and also that a town hall meeting is more than just the councilors admiring their princess.
- Lethal Chef: As a contrast to Celestia, Luna's baking skills are awful. Celestia only admits as much when Luna tells her it's okay to be honest.
- Light Is Not Good: Just like how Luna's insecurities and jealousy of her sister turned her into Nightmare Moon, Celestia's resentment at The Chains of Commanding could manifest as Daybreaker, who appears to be just as dangerous as her lunar counterpart.
- Long List: The to-do list for Celestia's day, that Luna has to go through, is as long as the huge dinner table used by the princesses. When Starlight unfolds it from one end, it ends up on Luna's head on the other.
- Loud Gulp: After switching Princesses Luna and Celestia's cutie marks, Starlight Glimmer says "There! Now you'll know exactly what it's like to... be each other." Followed by a loud, pained gulp.
- Mirror Character: As it turns out, Luna and Celestia resent the other for her 'easier' job. And (assuming Daybreaker can be trusted), Celestia also has fantasies about cutting loose from all restraints and ruling by herself.
- Motor Mouth: At the end, Twilight is so overexcited that Starlight succeeded in her first friendship mission, she talks extremely fast to her pupil, before literally dragging her away to make a report.Twilight Sparkle: So this is just a friendly visit not of course because I was worried I wasn't but I knew you could do it and I'm so so so so proud of you TELL ME EVERYTHING starting from after I hyperventilated and don't leave out any details!
- Mutual Envy: A main crux behind Celestia and Luna's issues is the assumption about how "easy" their respective roles are. Luna believes that since Celestia is the center of attention and a friend to all, just showing up with a smile on her face is enough. Celestia believes Luna traveling through dreams while getting a good night's sleep is much easier and relaxing. It takes an accidental Swapped Roles spell from Starlight and a day in each other's lives to learn that their jobs are not as easy as they thought.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- When Starlight's doubts about using a spell to switch the royal sisters' cutie marks without their permission get the better of her and it starts to seem like it might have been a bad judgement call, it becomes the source of her nightmares. In the end, the sisters manage to resolve their issues together and thank Starlight for doing the spell, but Starlight herself does acknowledge that things could have also become much worse because of her actions.
- When Luna accidentally ruins a fundraiser by not smiling at the right time, she feels extremely guilty for it.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker are clearly threatening cosmic names.
- Necessary Fail: At the end of the episode, Luna notes that Starlight losing her nerve and casting the cutie mark swap spell on the sisters was exactly what was needed for the course of events to eventually lead to Celestia and Luna being able to resolve their issues.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Twilight's nervousness is what sets Starlight Glimmer's anxiety in motion to lead her to tread far too carefully around the Princesses. Later, it is the fact that Twilight reminds Starlight about the origins of Nightmare Moon that leads to her dreaming of Daybreaker.
- Not a Morning Person: Luna, in this case since she's been working hard all night and is tired (and may even sleep during the day, as Celestia states she gets to sleep during the day and wakes up in the evening when their roles are swapped, meaning it might be evening from her perspective), and thus is indifferent to Celestia's breakfast. One morning, she takes a bite out of a whole pineapple (rind and all); the next, she peels a banana, then eats the peel and drops the fruit.
- Not Helping Your Case: Luna's method of dispelling rumors of Timberwolves in the White Tail Woods is to go up to the civilians and proclaim in her Royal Canterlot Voice that "THERE ARE NO TIMBERWOLVES!!!" The delegates run out of the castle screaming that there definitely are Timberwolves.
- Off Hand Backhand: Downplayed. When Celestia and Luna start arguing, Starlight tries to get between them to calm them down, but Luna shoves her aside with her magic without even glancing at her.
- Offscreen Teleportation: In Luna's nightmare, after showing up in her mirror, the fillies are suddenly in the room with her, and then multiplying to form a whole circle around her. Justified by dream logic, of course.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Starlight panics when her plan to have the royal sisters talk to each other and apologize for neglecting one another only makes the two openly argue over who has the harder duties. She ends it by casting a spell to swap their cutie marks for 24 hours.
- She then realizes that she's just impulsively cast an irreversible spell on the two most powerful ponies alive. And they're very angry with her.
- We then cut to Twilight freaking out and hyperventilating.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: The normally calm Celestia grows so annoyed with Luna not understanding her problems that she ends up shouting back at her during their argument. She's also just as angered as Luna when Starlight switches their cutie marks.
- Orphaned Punchline: From one of the delegate ponies strolling with Celestia.Fleur de Verre: And so, then I said, "Touring? More like 'boring'!" [laughter]
- Or Was It a Dream?: When Starlight sees the princesses being friendly with each other the next morning, she questions whether last night's nightmare sequence was real or if she's having a dream right now. Celestia confirms that it was real.
- Painful Persona: The episode explores the trope in depth when Celestia and her sister Luna, the Princess of the Night, swap places for one day; Luna learns all about Celestia's burdens and how perpetually frustrated she feels—especially at not being able to express those frustrations to anyone. Add in the fact that Celestia is also compelled to be Willfully Weak because she's terrified of the depths of her own strength and you have one miserable pony.
- Passive-Aggressive Kombat: After accepting their switch, Luna and Celestia are swift to comment on what a relief it is to have an "easy" job for once.
- Playing with Fire: Daybreaker's magic manifests itself as gigantic spouts of fire from The Power of the Sun, even being able to breathe fire. When Daybreaker sits on the royal throne, the hallway lines with fire columns.
- Poor Communication Kills: Celestia and Luna are so engrossed in their royal duties 24/7 that it seems like they rarely have any moments to spend quality time together such as talking about the interesting things and occasional problems that crop up every now and then in their personal lives, which explains why they're so eager to blame the other for having things easier than they do, even Starlight says that they're not the best at communicating with each other.
- Power-Strain Blackout: After blocking their magic rays with her wings, and tossing the attacks back at Nightmare Moon and Daybreaker, finally banishing them from the dream, Celestia flops to the floor, exhausted.
- Real Dreams are Weirder: Mostly averted, but Luna's dream features one of the most common hallmarks of real-life weird dreams: her own teeth falling out. In this case, even that bears significance, as that theme represents her failure to smile from earlier in the day.
- Remote Body: Twilight uses a spell to possess a ballerina music box in Starlight's room to remotely monitor her progress. She offers to teach it to her.
- Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony: One of the duties taken over by Princess Luna when she swaps role with Celestia is a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Except the scissors are blunt, so she has to karate-chop the ribbon with her hoof.
- Sanity Slippage: A mild example when Celestia begins her duties as the fill-in Princess of the Night. She starts talking to herself since she's used to socializing with her subjects during the day but at night they're asleep, leaving her alone. Both Celestia and Luna lampshade this at different points in the episode.
- Series Continuity Error: Luna's cutie mark transferred to Celestia includes the black patches that "Twilight's Kingdom" shows were part of Luna's natural coloration as opposed to part of the mark. Note that without the black background to contrast it, the moon would blend right in with Celestia's white coat.
- The mayor of Baltimare is a ponified version of Edgar Allan Poe, made clear by his raven cutie mark. (Poe did live in Baltimore for part of his life). The mayor of Fillydelphia is a ponified Rocky Balboa.
- The statue seen in Doctor Hooves's dream is, judging by his reaction, supposed to be a Weeping Angel.
- Shown Their Work: Lavender has been shown to help individuals fall asleep.
- Shutting Up Now: After quipping that the princesses have no other choice but to go through her Swapped Roles plan, Celestia and Luna snort in annoyance and lock her in a double Death Glare that could peel paint, to which Starlight meekly says "I'm gonna stop talking now." Yeah, it's best that you do stop talking, Starlight, before you dig yourself deeper.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Complementing their different roles as Princesses of Equestria, Celestia is more adept at dealing with real-world issues, while Luna is better at tending to ponies' psyches. When they're forced to swap roles, they barely manage to cope using their own skill sets.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Celestia already is this, but the implications of Daybreaker being what happened if Celestia didn't hold back pushes this up to eleven. It is potentially deconstructed as Celestia's silk is at least partly Stepford Smiler tendencies and willfully holding back the steel.
- So Proud of You: Twilight is gushing praise for her former student when Starlight solves the friendship problem. It is a big deal, after all, to solve one of these solo, and especially when it involves the Royal Sisters.
- Stalker without a Crush: Twilight Sparkle is really invested in making sure Starlight doesn't screw up her mission to Canterlot, and through most of the episode, possesses a music box figurine to learn what's going on from Starlight. When Starlight is done and the sisters have reconciled, she immediately teleports in to get all the details, under the pretext that she was just bringing Starlight's toothbrush (which looks more like it belongs to Spike).
- Stealth Pun: Through Luna, we learn that Celestia's day consists mostly of the mundane duties of running a country. She's not a god, but her job is Celestial Bureaucracy.
- Superpowered Evil Side: As Luna has Nightmare Moon, Celestia has Daybreaker, which is Celestia using all of her power without caring who gets hurt, and arrogantly believing herself to not need anyone's help.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial:
- Upon being told she has to dispel rumors about timberwolves, Luna simply says there are no timberwolves in the Royal Canterlot Voice. This gets the ponies running out shouting that there definitely are timberwolves.
- At the end, when Twilight pops up in Canterlot, she immediately and vehemently insists she wasn't worried about Starlight. Cue disbelieving looks from both Celestia and Luna.
- Swapped Roles: Magically invoked when Starlight switches Celestia and Luna's cutie marks, forcing them to take over the other's duties for a day.
- Tastes Like Friendship: Celestia does this with the pancakes she makes for her sister and her guest (her student's student). In her words, "It's a small way to say 'I care'."
- Tempting Fate:
- Using a spell to swap the cutie marks of the two alicorn Sisters who also happen to be the ruling regents of Equestria? What can possibly go wrong? As Starlight's nightmare shows, quite a lot.
- Celestia sees Luna's relatively small list and thinks it should be easy. One nightmare proves to be too much for her without some guidance from Luna.
- The Dark Side: Where as Princess Luna was Nightmare Moon, we see a what-if evil version of Princess Celestia named Daybreaker.
- Thinking Out Loud: Celestia, when under the influence of Luna's cutie mark, and all alone, starts talking to herself a bit while planning how to accomplish Luna's duties. At the end of the episode, Luna admits to talking to herself a bit as well.
- This Is Something She's Got to Do Herself:
- As anxious as she is, Twilight admits the Map called Starlight alone for the mission, and therefore she shouldn't interfere at all.
- A way-out-of-her-depth Celestia attempts to recruit Luna to deal with Starlight's nightmare, only for Luna to point out that with their magic reversed she is powerless within the dream realm and it is Celestia alone who can stop it.
- Time-Passes Montage: A notable aversion — When Luna and Starlight walk into the town hall where two ponies are bickering, the doors seem to close behind them only for a few seconds before opening again. However, the mayors' dialogue indicates that, despite almost no hint of fast-forward (the lavender wilts a bit and the outside sky in the clear window changes from day to night), it took three hours to settle their differences.
- The Tooth Hurts: During Luna's nightmare, her teeth fall out of her mouth as she speaks, a representation of her being unable to hold a smile when she needed to — and in the world of dream interpretation, a sign that one is feeling powerless.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Discovery Family's commercial for the episode proudly shows off Daybreaker's debut, which was supposed to be a shocking reveal near the episode's end.
- Tranquil Fury: When Starlight nervously explains she can't reverse their switched Cutie Marks, Celestia gives a subdued but scary as hell reply:Celestia: ... What?...
- Tutu Fancy: Averted. Ballerina Twilight is depicted wearing a perfectly ordinary leotard, tutu, and pointe shoes laced up over the ankles, and her mane is in a Prim and Proper Bun, making her much less fancy than the typical music box ballerina, but more like an actual ballerina.
- The Unfettered: What Daybreaker is in comparison to Celestia. Whereas Celestia consistently keeps her magic in check, Daybreaker goes all-out, not caring who she hurts.
- The Unsmile: Luna has to keep up a cheerful demeanor all day, to the point her smiles become incredibly forced.
- Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: It's only a dream, but Celestia as Daybreaker is likely the single most potentially destructive entity in the show.
- Villainous Face Hold: Daybreaker briefly does this to Celestia when she is in Starlight's mind.
- Voice of the Legion:
- Daybreaker has Celestia's normal voice with a deeper reverb added in, giving this effect.
- Luna uses the Royal Canterlot Voice when trying to reassure the ponies that the supposed timber wolf problem is under control.
- Wham Shot:
- The episode itself opens with quite the stunning shot — Starlight Glimmer's cutie mark floating above the Friendship Map, revealing it can call others for friendship problems instead of the Mane Six. It counts in-universe too, as Twilight is just struck speechless from the realization.
- The shot of Starlight exchanging Luna and Celestia's cutie marks. Those are the alicorns controlling the moon and sun above Equestria, respectively — if there are two ponies whose powers you really shouldn't toy with, it's them!
- Nightmare Moon showing up in Starlight Glimmer's dream is shocking but not unexpected. However, Celestia is then suddenly confronted with Daybreaker, her own evil side, and all hell breaks loose.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Starlight tries to convince everyone (including herself) that switching the princesses' cutie marks on a whim was the right call in making them reconcile. The other involved parties don't exactly agree with her, but decide to play along since they have no other option. It really falls apart when Starlight herself begins to think her actions might have actually driven them even further apart and she has a nightmare about the worst-case scenario.Twilight Sparkle: You switched their cutie marks?! The actual princesses' cutie marks?!
Starlight Glimmer: [sigh; double-facehoof] I thought we moved past this. It was the right call! I hope.
Twilight Sparkle: [hyperventilating]
Guard: Are you okay in there?
Starlight Glimmer: I-I'm good! Just, uh... reading an exciting book! [towards Twilight] He's gonna think I'm nuts!
Twilight Sparkle: He's not the only one.
- What the Hell, Hero?: When Starlight changes Celestia's and Luna's cutie marks, they immediately make their anger known, but begrudgingly agree to Starlight's idea of handling the other princess's duties for a day and a night since neither of them knows what it's like to be each other. Twilight also calls her out later in her room, but Starlight says that it was the right call. In the end, the princesses manage to solve the issues between them and they end up thanking Starlight, although she herself admits she did come dangerously close to messing everything up.
- Willfully Weak: Daybreaker implies that Celestia is constantly holding back her true power out of fear of hurting others and causing collateral damage.
- Wingding Eyes: In Starlight's dream, she's confronted by a giant Twilight whose eyes are suddenly filled up by Luna's and Celestia's cutie marks.
- Worf Had the Flu: Daybreaker insinuates that the only reason Celestia ever loses is because she's too afraid of collateral damage to use her full power.
- You All Look Familiar: Luna's nightmare has her surrounded by seventeen creepy foals, with only four unique character models. A rare justified example as Luna is dreaming, recalling the four foals she met at the schoolhouse earlier while her mind expands them into a crowd.