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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S7 E21 "Once Upon a Zeppelin"

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Fun for the whole family! ...Mostly.

Twilight is stuck in a mountain of paperwork when Spike burps up a letter from her parents, Night Light and Twilight Velvet, saying that they won a airship cruise and have invited Twilight along. Though Twilight is hesitant to take a vacation, Spike insists she go and offers to take over the paperwork for her.

As the cruise boards at Canterlot, Twilight joins her parents as well as Princess Cadance, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart. Twilight being Twilight, she has arranged a schedule for all of them to do the things they enjoy and spend time as a family, in particular, seeing the rare occurrence of the Northern Star passage after sunset. However, the cruise pilot insists by the speaker system them come out to deck with the other passengers. As they pass famous landmarks, the cruise pilot rattles on how these attractions are tied to Twilight and her family, even when they are fabrications. She and Cadance notice for the first time that nearly all of the other ponies on the cruise are wearing Twilight or Cadance-related fan gear, and are watching Twilight's family closely. She goes to see the cruise pilot, and discovers this is all a plan of Iron Will, who arranged for Twilight's parents to win the trip so that he could sell tickets for a "Cruise of the Princesses" to adoring fans of Twilight and Cadance.


Twilight and her family accost Iron Will, learning he wants them to be part of the day's activities for the passengers. However, Twilight insists that the rest of her family be allowed to do what they want to do, if she takes on what Iron Will wants for her. Iron Will accepts and drags her off for the first event, a raffle drawing for a pony to become an honorary member of Twilight's family for the day. The winner is Star Tracker, a eager but shy stallion who frequently gets in Twilight's personal space.

Over the day, Twilight tries to get involved with the events her family is enjoying, but Iron Will directs her to her other "duties", and she misses out on some of the events she really wanted to be a part of. As the day wanes, Iron Will gives her one more event, an autograph signing line. This takes seemingly forever, and when Star Tracker, the last one in line, comes up to her, she sees that sunset has passed. She races to the bow of the ship, too late as the Northern Star passes, and breaks out in tears. Star Tracker tries to apologize, but she chews him out for his behavior all day, and further yells at her family, since they all had the time they wanted but she didn't. She storms off.


Later, Cadance finds Twilight alone, and tells her that while she is a princess, and has her duties, she also needs to spend her own time with the things that matter most to her, as Cadance had to do when Flurry Heart was born. Taking Cadance's advice, Twilight returns to her family and Star Tracker, and apologizes, saying she should have been more vocal about her disappointment at missing the events. She then takes them all to get ice cream, something completely off the schedule. As they are enjoying it, Iron Will comes over to try to make a spectacle for the rest of the guests of ice cream, but Star Tracker steps up and tells him to leave Twilight alone. Iron Will refuses, but Twilight takes charge, and tells the guests they know they wanted to be with the princesses on this trip, and had this all day, but she needs to spend the rest of the trip with her family. The guests agree to give Twilight privacy but asks why the cruise was advertised as a princess theme if she wanted a break. All eyes fall on Iron Will who admits the fine print states there is no guarantee of an "actual princess" performing the activities. The guests, enraged, start shouting at Iron Will for their money back, but the minotaur asserts he learned his lesson from last time, and had a "no refunds" clause in the fine print, before jumping overboard with a parachute.

The cruise continues as it returns to Canterlot. Twilight finds that her family had made makeshift Northern Star costumes to help try to cheer her up, and she is happy to spend the time with them.


  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The activity Twilight suggests for Flurry Heart is called "Peewee Princess Playtime".

  • An Aesop: Even if you have responsibilities to other people, you also have responsibilities to yourself and you shouldn't run yourself ragged just to please everyone else.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • As Shining Armor is suffering from air sickness, the symptoms seem to aggravate when he's staying on the deck, and in order to feel better, he constantly needs to go below. However, in real world the exact opposite is true. To simplify, any motion sickness — including air sickness — is mainly caused by dissonance between signals you receive from your labyrinth (which tells you that you are on the move) and from your eyesight (which tells you that you're not moving). Therefore, staying in the cabin on a ship, where you see nothing but completely static, immobile environment, will make you feel even worse. If you want to feel better, you should go outside, where you can clearly see the movement of the vessel in the landscape (not to mention, where there's fresh air to breathe). Or you can lie down on the bunk — it will inhibit the symptoms.
    • An In-Universe example is invoked by Shining Armor himself. When asked by Twilight about his air sickness while sitting in the paddle boat, he claims that since he's in the water, that "totally cancels it out". To the show writer's credit, this time Twilight is quick to point out that it does not work that way.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Star Tracker is a fan of Princess Twilight, and after winning a contest gets to spend the whole day with her as an honorary member of her family.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Discussed. Cadance says even princesses need to learn to draw the line somewhere, and for her, that line became easier to see once she had Flurry Heart.
  • Backhanded Apology: Twilight makes one to Star Tracker when she finally loses her temper. After she accidentally steps on his hoof due to him being, again, way too close to her, she turns around and lets him know in no uncertain terms that his hoof wouldn't have gotten stepped on if he'd stop being so close to her, and telling him that not even her real family is like that.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Twilight and her family wanted a luxury cruise. They got a luxury cruise, all right... One designed around the princesses.
  • Blackmail: Iron Will threatens to cancel the cruise in order to ensure Twilight's family stays. Night Light almost lets him do so before Twilight speaks up.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Most of Iron Will's announcements about Twilight's family early on are completely wrong, but the cruisers still run to see the sights he talks about, even Twilight's parents who know these announcements are false. It's unknown if Iron Will is making this up or if he just did poor research.
    • Shining Armor insists that he isn't airsick, despite quickly turning green and making retching noises.
  • The Bus Came Back: Iron Will returns in a major one-episode role after having been absent for over five seasons.
  • Busman's Holiday: Spike encourages Twilight to go on the vacation cruise specifically to take a break from her princess duties. Turns out the cruise is specifically designed around princess-themed activities where Twilight has to be the pony in charge.
  • Butt-Monkey: Shining Armor's been mind-controlled by Chrysalis, beaten by Sombra, sapped by Tirek, captured by Chrysalis, and now his shameful secret of airsickness is out. The Captain of the Royal Guard just can't get a break!
  • Cool Airship: The episode takes place on an aerial luxury liner, in the form of a large airship moved by finlike wings at its stern.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The only fact Iron Will gets right in his speech is Twilight Sparkle's tour of the weather factory with her friends from "Sonic Rainboom". (Though that might've been accidental.)
    • Iron Will includes a "no refunds" clause in the contract for the cruise, having learned his lesson from "Putting Your Hoof Down".
  • Crazy-Prepared: Iron Will learned his lesson from last time and includes "satisfaction not guaranteed" this time to avoid any refunds. Then he jumps overboard with a parachute to avoid angry ponies.
    Shining Armor: Wow, he may be pushy and manipulative, but nopony can say that minotaur isn't prepared.
  • Cringe Comedy: This happens about whenever Star Tracker is onscreen. Between his awkward smiles, lack of respect for Twilight's boundaries, and especially his random lines and gushing toward the princess... it's both funny and difficult to watch at the same time.
  • Cult of Personality: All of the cruise attendees who have paid for a chance to spend time with Equestria's one and only Princess of Friendship. They have wigs, shirts with her face on them, etc.
  • A Day in the Limelight: This is the first time that Twilight Velvet and Night Light get a large role in the series, as their previous five appearances have been very minor roles. This is also the first time they're named proper in the show's credits; their last speaking appearance in "The Crystalling" left them as "Mr." and "Mrs. Sparkle".
  • Everyone Has Standards: The fans on the cruise are not happy when they learn Iron Will essentially coerced Twilight into spending time with them. Loony as they may be, they are respectful of Twilight's privacy and time and would have left her be had the cruise not advertised that they would be spending the day with Twilight.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Twilight first boards the craft, she notes how "assertive" the announcer is in his welcome. There are several announcement rhymes before the announcer's identity is revealed as Iron Will.
    • In contrast to Twilight, Cadance has zero qualms about pulling Flurry from the playpen when the other parents get a little too enthusiastic about their foals making friends with a princess. She later tells Twilight that she learned when to draw the line between what she's willing to do as a princess and when she puts herself first after Flurry Heart was born.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
  • Gasshole: Spike mistakes coughing up a letter from Twilight's parents as him having eaten too many deep-fried gems.
  • Green Around the Gills: Shining Armor turns green from air sickness.
  • Honorary True Companion: After winning his prize, Twilight's family treats Star Tracker as another family member for the rest of the day.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Twilight just misses seeing the Northern Stars, her family inadvertently rubs salt in the wounds by telling her how awesome the sight was.
  • Irony: In a bit of in-universe historical irony, Twilight once complained that all she ever does is smile and wave and doesn't get much attention as a Princess of Equestria. Now she's being smothered with boatloads of attention and hating every moment of it.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Iron Will's not wrong when he points out that Twilight's parents "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot if they had bothered to Read the Fine Print for his airship cruise offer. Even her parents acknowledge that they made a mistake because they were so eager to go on the cruise.
  • Karma Houdini: Iron Will simply parachutes away — presumably keeping his ill-gotten money — before the passengers can do anything to him.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: An unintentional verbal example. After witnessing Twilight's breakdown at missing the Northern Stars, instead of immediately comforting her or staying silent, her family who watched them tells her about how great it was, effectively rubbing it in. Not surprisingly, Twilight snaps afterwards.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Twilight and Spike, as usual; when Spike insists on Twilight taking the family vacation while he does her job, Twilight says Spike is family too and he'd be going as well.
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Or "Like Father, Like Daughter"; Night Light enjoys bingo because of how the numbers are organised. Twilight inherited her love of organisation from him.
    • Twilight Velvet levitates herself, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart at the same time. Apparently Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor got their magical strength from their mom.
  • Like Parent, Unlike Child: Twilight Velvet's Thrill Seeker ways are something neither of her children particularly share.
  • Loony Fan: Twilight can't even get any privacy in her ship cabin because that's how much determination some of the cruise attendees are showing in their "love" for her. They even wear Twilight-style wigs and masks while doing so! Averted when they get upset at Iron Will for cohering them into a tour with a princess, who had just stated that she wishes for her privacy to be respected. At the end of the day, they would've left Twilight and her family alone if she had requested it.
  • Meaningful Name: Star Tracker stays in Twilight's shadow all day, "tracking" the "star" of the cruise throughout.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: Due to the "duties" Iron Will gives her, Twilight misses out on a lot of the cruise activities she wanted to do, but says nothing. The straw that breaks the camel's back is when she misses seeing the Northern Stars pass the ship.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Iron Will shows up for the first time since his debut with a new job, since according to him, the need for an assertiveness trainer has dried up.
  • Nice Guy: Star Tracker. Despite his habit of getting uncomfortably close to Twilight, he is a genuinely decent colt, thanking her for letting him be an honorary member of her family. He even stands up to Iron Will for her.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: Flurry having much more "grown up" eyes is more noticeable when she's in a playpen full of foals with monochrome pupils like the Cake twins, showing that that's still the standard foal design. Were it not for a picture of baby Applejack having similar pupils to Flurry in The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows, this could have been Handwaved as a consequence of her being an alicorn.
  • No Sense of Personal Space:
    • Star Tracker gets a little too uncomfortably close to Twilight, which freaks her out. After losing her temper, she accidentally steps on his hoof and gives him a Backhanded Apology. However, she later apologizes to him for real when she admits she was just as wrong to keep quiet about her discomfort before snapping at him.
    • Some of the other fanponies are no better, like the one telling Twilight how excited she is to be in cruise with her, while spluttering all over her face, or the ponies that shove their foals in Flurry Heart's face to play with them and make a friend.
  • Not Quite Flight: Twilight Velvet is skilled enough to levitate herself, Shining Armor and Flurry Heart in the air.
  • Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Iron Will does this once the cruise ponies wonder why the trip was advertised as a princess theme if Twilight and Cadance just wanted a break and everyone turns to face him.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Star Tracker does this a few times, particularly during the bingo game scene, where he's next to Night Light in one shot, and then in the next he's whispering in Twilight's ear, freaking her out.
  • Orphaned Etymology: Unlike most real-world names, which are usually "ponified" for the show, "Zeppelin" is used unchanged in the episode, despite coming from Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: After reconciling with her family and Star Tracker, Twilight suggests they do something "off the schedule", surprising all of them.
    Star Tracker: Who are you?
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Twilight runs herself ragged trying to perform all the activities by herself and misses several activities she wanted to share with her family but still manages to remain calm. The final straw though is when she misses the Northern Stars, the one event she actually wanted to share with the family, because she was signing autographs. She shouts at her family how she's the only one on the entire cruise that isn't happy and gives Star Tracker a Backhanded Apology when she steps on his hoof.
    Star Tracker: OW! My hoof!
    Twilight Sparkle: I'm sorry, but that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been PRACTICALLY STANDING ON MY TAIL!
  • Read the Fine Print: Twilight Velvet and Night Light were so excited to get a free family vacation they signed the paper work without reading the fine print. The conditions for the cruise also state that there is no guarantee for any actual princess to participate, Iron Will just got lucky on that part.
  • Revisiting the Roots: Multiple stylistic quirks of the show's earliest seasons, such as abstract paint splatter backgrounds for close-ups and a violin glissando accompanying a character leaning into frame, reappear in this particular episode.
  • Rewatch Bonus: One of the things Spike says he'll take care of while Twilight is on the cruise is answering fan mail. Innocuous enough on its own, but it turns out to be Foreshadowing the fact that Twilight is popular enough to have a cruise centered around her.
  • Running Gag: Shining Armor repeatedly insists he doesn't get airsick, even as he turns green and tries to avoid throwing up.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When called out for his scummy business practices, Iron Will escapes by parachuting off the deck.
  • Shout-Out: Shining Armor starts the "I'm king of the world" routine from Titanic before succumbing to air sickness.
  • Slave to PR: Twilight is dismayed to find herself being the center of attention on what was supposed to be a family outing. She only wanted to spend time with her family, but can't refuse the attendees since she has an obligation as a Princess to spend her time with them, especially when they paid for their chance to interact with her.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: Star Tracker shadows Twilight all day once he wins the prize. His motives seem strictly that of a devout but nervous fan.
  • Stealth Pun: Twilight Velvet says that when someone offers you something for free "you just sign the paperwork and don't ask questions." In other words, don't look a gift pony in the mouth.
  • Stepford Smiler: Twilight is unfortunately getting a crash course on this as she needs to maintain a content façade even when the situation will only add to her stress.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome: In his last appearance, Iron Will was pushy and loud, with questionable assertiveness training techniques, but was ultimately an honest businessman who accepted when his customers weren't satisfied. Here, he manipulates both Twilight's family and their fellow passengers, "forces" Twilight into activity after activity (admittedly, she agreed to take on all the tasks he would ask of her, but only after selling tickets to pressure her into it), then ultimately jumps ship without providing any refunds.
  • Tears of Joy: Twilight sheds these when her family puts on a show dressed as stars to make up for the Northern Lights show that she missed out on.
  • Thrill Seeker: Twilight Velvet enthusiastically takes on Shining Armor in a paddleboat race and later goes over Neighagra Falls in a barrel. Night Light mentions that she went bungee jumping on a previous vacation. For her, "relaxing" is the same as "thrilling".
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Iron Will was originally an honest, if aggressive, businessman. Here, while he does keep his end of the bargain, it's revealed that he tried to pull a fast one on Twilight and her family via Read the Fine Print, intentionally keeps things from Twilight about the cruise's activities, and doesn't even offer refunds after the cruise ponies call him out on ruining Twilight's good time.
  • Tyop on the Cover: When the episode first aired, the title was spelled "Once Upon a Zepplin" in the intro.
  • Vacation Episode: For the cruise attendees? Yes. For Twilight Sparkle? Not so much. She's saddled with the very Princess duties she was trying to get away from.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Once the cruisers learn how Iron Will forced all the activities on Twilight, he quickly jumps overboard and parachutes away to avoid facing them and giving a refund.
  • Visual Pun: When Iron Will bails on the cruise, he happens to have a parachute with a picture of him in a pile of bits. It's his golden parachute.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Shining Armor appears ready to lose his lunch several times due to his airsickness acting up, but never actually throws up on-screen.
  • Wingdinglish: Twilight's schedule for the cruise consists of strips of multicolored lines.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Iron Will's goat assistants return as well to help with the cruise activities but are not seen with Iron Will when he jumps ship.
  • Workaholic: Twilight seems to be a reluctant one, resigned to the mountain of work she's got. Spike has to literally push her to the door and volunteer to take over for a while to get her to go.