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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S8 E14 "A Matter of Principals"

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"You're a good leader and an expert in friendship. I trust you to run this school exactly as I would."
Twilight Sparkle

Written by Nicole Dubuc
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Twilight Sparkle is preparing the students for a scavenger hunt, to locate six artifacts from the various Equestrian species she will hide around the school, when her cutie mark starts glowing. She meets the other Mane Six at the cutie map, all to find them summoned by the map to a far-distance location outside Equestria. Twilight realizes that this will leave the school with no teachers, and institutes a backup plan — putting Starlight Glimmer as the temporary headmare, with Spike's help, to run the school in their absence.

As the Mane Six depart, Starlight and Spike find Discord is there too. Discord is upset that Twilight didn't ask him to help run the school, but before he can take over, Starlight asserts she's going to follow the lists that Twilight left, as she doesn't want to let Twilight down. Discord seems to accept this, but Spike knows that Discord will likely cause a ruckus. The next day, they find Discord has hired temporary staff, all ill-fit for their teaching duties, such as Iron Will for friendship lessons. Starlight reprimands Discord, tells him to leave her alone, and replaces his hires with competent ponies. However, Discord still manages to cause disruption in the classes with his chaos. Starlight approaches Discord, but he refutes to recognize Starlight as the headmare, leading Starlight to hit him with powerful magic that permanently banishes him from the school.

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The next day, Starlight is prepared to start the scavenger hunt, assigning the students in pairs. As the students look for the artifacts, Discord, in a more ghostly form, still manages to cause havoc by appearing to make the school haunted and scaring the students. Starlight witnesses all this from observing the students and realizes she was far too harsh on Discord. Before he can cause more trouble, Starlight returns his body to him, apologizes, and offers to make him the vice-principal for the school so that he can help. Just as Discord is ready to start, the Mane Six return, having discovered that Discord purposely tricked them away from the school for a few days. After assuring that all is well, Twilight tells Starlight she did a good job, even with dealing with Discord.


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Tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: None of the students are excited when Starlight offers Discord a job at the school as vice-headmare.
  • An Aesop: It's best to do things your way and not get hung up over whatever someone else wants to do.
  • Animated Armor: The pony armor that is wearing the Helm of Yickslur comes to life and chases Ocellus and Smolder thanks to Discord's magic.
  • Big "NO!": After Starlight offers Discord position of vice-headmare, Yona shouts one out while the other students voice their own objections.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: When Starlight wonders why Discord is messing with her, stating that she thought they were friends, Spike points out that Discord can care about others but still play tricks on them (usually in the name of "testing" them). While that's partially the case here, Discord does have another reason.
  • Bookworm: Ocellus correctly calls the objects at the beginning of the episode artifacts since she read ahead in the textbook. She later checks her book for clues during the Spell-venger Hunt.
  • Breather Episode: This episode takes a breather from the previous which was rather villainous and gory.
  • Call-Back:
  • The Cameo:
    • Derpy makes a quick nonspeaking appearance during Trixie's class, with Trixie pulling her out of her hat due to Discord messing up her trick.
    • Maud Pie and Spitfire appear briefly as two of the three substitute teachers Starlight hires to replace Discord's terrible choices. Spitfire makes a second appearance at the buckball field, flying away at the end of PE class.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Cozy Glow makes several background appearances.
    • One of the changes Discord makes to Twilight's office is a swarm of Twittermites.
    • Iron Will's methods of teaching "friendship" are similar to his original assertiveness training techniques.
    • During Trixie's class, Discord causes an Ursa Major to emerge from her hat.
    • Discord uses a Bugbear to get the students to take some laps.
    • One of the artifacts is the crown of Grover, first king of Griffonstone. Another is a shell formerly owned by Knuckerbocker, a dragon from the Daring Do book Daring Do and the Eternal Flower.
    • The portrait of Mirage the changeling seen in the library depicts her in the original changeling style.
    • Cranky Doodle is still wearing the wig made from Steven Magnet's mustache.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: As Starlight stated at the end of the episode, the entire plot could have been avoided had Discord simply talked to her about how he felt and politely asked to help out in the school, rather than spending the entire day chasing her and her students around the school. Discord justifies not doing so by saying they wouldn't have such crazy misadventures otherwise.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Played with. When Starlight blasts Discord with a huge magic beam, the students clearly think that Starlight's killed him, but she reassures them that she only banished him from school grounds. However, Starlight's banishment spell only affects Discord's body, not his spirit nor his powers. As such, he revisits the school as a spirit instead. According to Word of God, Discord also let her do so.
  • Dish Dash: When Discord drops the six artifacts with his telekinesis, Spike dives to catches them all before they'd hit the floor.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Discord's reaction to Starlight bluntly turning down his suggestions for the school is to make her role as acting headmare as difficult as possible.
    • Later, Starlight's reaction to Discord insulting her during an argument is to just end the argument through physically banishing him from the school, in a spell that looks like it killed him. This only ends up playing to Discord's favor.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Starlight threatens Discord with her banishment spell in this manner. Spike tries calming both of them down until Discord insults Starlight, at which point Starlight fires a large beam of magic.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Explicitly "Principals" in the title, but "principles" is clearly implied.
  • Easily Forgiven: After spending the entire episode wreaking havoc around the Friendship School and endangering the students at several points, and even sending the Mane Six on a bogus Friendship Map quest, Discord reveals he did all this because he felt left out for not being a part of the School. Starlight then apologizes to him and offers him a job.
  • Exact Words: When Starlight tells Discord to leave, he indignantly states that he won't try to "help" anymore. The next day, he resorts to simply sabotaging the classes and spell-venger hunt.
  • Fainting: Rarity is her usual Drama Queen and faints (into Fluttershy's arms) at the prospect of leaving in the middle of her friendship quilting class.
    Rarity: All of those unfinished seams! [faints]
  • Flat "What": Discord's reaction when Starlight apologizes to him.
  • Foreshadowing: The glowing effect on the Mane Six's cutie marks is different from how it usually is (an early clue that things aren't as they seem).
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Discord is upset that he wasn't picked as temporary principal and sets out to drive Starlight crazy by messing with the school.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Gallus actually paid attention when Twilight was teaching about King Grover (something he tells Silverstream not tell anycreature).
    • Sandbar seems to have a fondness for poetry.
  • I Let You Win: According to Word of God, Discord let Starlight banish him from the school and even viewed it as a victory for him.
  • Impact Silhouette: After being cranked up by Iron Will's motivational lesson, Yona bursts through the wall of the classroom, leaving a Yona-shaped hole behind.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The artifacts introduced for the scavenger hunt go on to have a critical role in the season finale.
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • Discord holds it firmly for the entire episode. He lures the Mane Six away on a bogus map mission, makes Starlight as miserable as possible while she tries to run the school, and practically tortures the students with his antics. All because he felt left out due to not being invited to the school's grand opening.
    • Cranky Doodle Donkey is suddenly viewing others as being at his beck and call.
  • Karma Houdini: Discord spends the whole episode making Starlight's life miserable and walks off scot-free. Though he does end up losing his position as "vice-headmare", which he only had for a few seconds, once the Mane Six get back from their bogus friendship mission, making his entire plan a "Shaggy Dog" Story for him.
  • Kinda Busy Here: Discord interrupts Trixie's class with something ringing in a paper bag he carries. Turns out his phone is a banana which he answers and has a conversation with (and which has an actual phone handset hidden under its peel).
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Discord's "substitute" teachers are Iron Will, Cranky Doodle Donkey... and a tree. Starlight's reaction sells it.
    Starlight Glimmer: You hired a tree as a teacher?!
    Discord: Its schedule was free.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • After getting annoyed with Discord, Starlight tells him he can't be a teacher. So he rejoins as a student instead.
    • Starlight banishes Discord from school grounds with a spell. This doesn't stop his spirit or his magic affecting the school, though.
  • No-Sell: A post from one of the writers reveals Discord was completely unhurt by the spell, and wanted Starlight to blast him in order to prove his point.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Both Discord and Starlight Glimmer suffer from this. Actively and intentionally making the acting principal's job harder doesn't help Discord's argument that he should have been acting principal instead, while blasting Discord with a spell that physically banishes him from the school doesn't help Starlight's argument that she's not a power-hungry Control Freak.
  • Oh, Crap!: Spike has one when he realizes the tree Discord brought in was a dragonsneeze tree. Smolder starts sneezing out fire uncontrollably seconds later.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: Discord spies on Starlight in the Friendship School through a portrait of Twilight Sparkle. There aren't really peepholes in this case, it's more like Discord fuses with the painting with his magic.
  • Primal Chest-Pound: After bursting through a wall, Yona pounds her chest while yelling "BE MY FRIEEEEENNNND!"
  • Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: Trixie attempts this trick during her class, only for Discord to mess around as she pulls out in order a pig with wings, Derpy Hooves and an Ursa Major.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: Discord literally falls to pieces at one point, much like Pinkie Pie in a previous episode.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Iron Will makes Yona come to the front of class and loudly assert herself to "make" everyone be her friend, she eventually shouts at the other students so loud they run away scared.
    Yona: BE! MY! FRIEND!
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Discord has his after it becomes clear that none of his chaotic tricks are going to make Starlight take him on as a helper.
      Discord: Fine! From now on, I won't try to help. AT ALL!
    • Starlight holds back a banishment spell until Discord calls her "an incompetent, power-hungry unicorn." Cue Wave Motion Gun-level magic.
  • Say My Name: Trixie yells "DISCORD!" when the latter ruins her magic show by summoning an Ursa Major through her hat.
  • Scavenger Hunt: The "spell-venger hunt" Twilight was organizing is one of the main points of the episode when Starlight takes over headmare duties and which Discord gleefully disrupts.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Cranky Doodle Donkey (firmly holding the Jerkass Ball) forces Gallus, Cozy Glow and other students to cater to his whims while relaxing under a chair.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Discord's whole motivation for holding the Jerkass Ball in the episode is that he wanted to be involved with the School. Finally, at the end, he is made vice-principal...but then the Mane Six return from the fake friendship mission Discord had them sent on, which means Discord won't be vice-principal after all. The episode ends with Discord sighing and throwing away the business cards he'd already made for his new role.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Discord at one point appears among the students in an outfit based on the 30 Rock meme involving Steve Buscemi appearing to try to look cool among school kids, and repeats a similar line: "How do you do, fellow creatures?"
    • The sticky staircase brings A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) to mind.
    • Discord's Cellphone going off in class is a banana, which seems to be a reference to the old Banana Phone meme.
  • Smoke Out: Unsurprisingly, Trixie begins her class by making an entrance through a smoke screen.
  • Sneeze of Doom: The dragonsneeze tree (first seen in "Princess Spike") makes a return. Smolder has the same allergic reaction to it that Spike did, sneezing uncontrollably and blasting dragon fire everywhere.
  • Snipe Hunt: What the Mane Six's "Cutie Map mission" turns out to be.
  • Spooky Painting: Discord brings several paintings to life in order to scare and mess with the students.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase: Discord turns a flight of stairs into sand when Sandbar and Yona attempted to go up to the floor above during the spell-venger hunt.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Twilight makes the presentation of the six artifacts for the spell-venger hunt, Spike feels the need to point out:
    Spike: And the gems are real! Eh, not that I... tasted them.
  • Take a Third Option: As talking to Discord and using magic to keep him away from the School didn't work to keep him in line, Starlight chooses to hire him as vice-principal under her which he accepted... only for Twilight Sparkle to return and overturn this result.
  • Tempting Fate: Upon being given the role of headmare by a departing Twilight, Starlight drolly says "What could possibly go wrong...?" Her surly tone makes it quite clear that she knows full well she's jinxing herself, though.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Spike after Discord is turned down by Starlight.
    Discord: Reeeeeeally? Well, we'll see if you change your mind.
    Spike: Uh-oh. When we play Ogres & Oubliettes and he puts that many E's in "really", the things don't usually end well.
  • Twitchy Eye: Starlight's eyelid start twitching after Discord's hired teachers cause a mess and he sarcastically teases her.
    Discord:Mmmm, my, my, my. You do seem like you're in over your head. Won't Twilight be so disappointed with how you're ruining — I mean, running her school?
  • Visual Pun: When Starlight says to Discord that she needs him to leave, the trickster quite naturally shapechanges into a huge tree leaf with eyes.
    Discord: Happy now?
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Spike gags and has to cover his mouth to keep from losing his lunch when he gets a whiff of the Limburger cheese wheel Discord drops on him. Starlight has a similar reaction a short time later.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Starlight's banishment spell is a massive beam of magic that tears through the ground after it hits Discord.

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