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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S8 E7 "Horse Play"

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Written by Kaita Mpambara
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In honor of Princess Celestia's "ones-versary" (the 1,111th year since her first raising of the sun), Twilight Sparkle and her friends are putting on a play about Celestia at the School of Friendship, and Twilight, on a spur of the moment decision, offers Celestia the opportunity to star as herself in the play. Celestia is overjoyed, having seen her friends, while a filly, act out in plays, and having wanted to do it herself but never having the time.

When they return to the School, most of Twilight's friends fret about how Celestia's involvement will affect the play, but Rainbow Dash is more optimistic and flies off to tell everypony she knows about this. The others start rehearsing the play, but it quickly becomes clear when Celestia takes her role that she has no acting ability, speaking too softly or too loudly, getting too excited, and at one point accidentally opening a trap door on the stage, causing the students to fall and break the sun prop stored there. Twilight's friends, particularly Applejack, warn Twilight privately that she should confront Celestia about her poor acting skills, but Twilight refuses, and instead enlists two of the Method Mares to help give Celestia acting lessons while the others work to rebuild the sun prop.

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Celestia has extreme difficulty in learning how to act, while Pinkie's attempts to replace the sun prop fail. Twilight's friends suggest that maybe they should cancel the play, since they hadn't announced it to anypony else yet, but then Rainbow Dash returns, informing that they'll have a big audience that night. As ponies start to arrive for the show, Twilight tells the others that she's rewritten the script to put Celestia in a non-vocal role, which the others still feel is a bad idea. Just then, Pinkie reveals her latest replacement for the sun prop, a stock of firestocks she purchased from Trixie in a back alley. The fireworks go off, ruining most of the other props, and setting Twilight in a rage over how bad Celestia's acting is. Just then, the backdrop falls to reveal Celestia, who had heard Twilight's tirade, and she flies off alone.

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With the crowd getting restless, Twilight has Spike help entertain the crowd while she chases after Celestia. She apologizes to Celestia for her harsh words, but Celestia is less disappointed about that than the fact Twilight wasn't honest with her about her being a bad actress. After reconciling, Celestia agrees to come back to help put on the show, but knows she won't be acting. Back at the stage, Celestia quickly orders Twilight's friends to manage replacement for the props and backdrop, and asks Fluttershy to play her instead. Fluttershy briefly panics, but Celestia reassures her that she can do it. The play starts awkwardly, but soon progresses in a pleasing manner through Celestia's stage management, and, when it is time to raise the sun, Celestia uses her own power to raise the real sun, stunning the audience and making the play a success.

As the show winds down, Celestia tells Twilight that she's decided to no longer be a princess and take up full-time acting. When Twilight freaks out over that, Celestia tells her she was just kidding, but that she does know how to act too.


Tropes:

  • Adorkable:
    • Celestia is so excited at the thought of Twilight doing a play that she prances around the throne room.
    • Just the look on Twilight's face when Celestia asks if she's sure about casting her as lead actress as seen here.
    • Celestia during some scenes in the play acts like a little filly participating in a school play. One scene with Sandbar has him reciting his line before Celestia turns to the audience and waves with a giddy smile on her face.
  • An Aesop:
    • An oft-repeated one for this show: Lying to your friends to protect their feelings is likely to cause collateral damage, and ends up hurting their feelings anyway. Honesty is the best policy among friends.
    • Just because you're not good at your passion doesn't mean you can't find ways to help those with expertise in that area somehow.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Discussed in-universe. Applejack reminds Twilight what lying has done to them in the past, but Twilight won't listen if it means helping Celestia's dream of acting in a play come true. When Twilight blows up from the stress, Celestia also says that Twilight should have just been honest from the beginning.
  • Animation Bump: There's a noticeable upgrade in character movements during the last act of the episode, as Celestia and Twilight take to the sky.
  • Antidisestablishmentarianism: This is one of Raspberry Beret's guesses when Celestia does charades.
  • Aside Glance: When Tempting Fate, Applejack glances directly at the audience.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: When Twilight assures everyone that the play will go well since they'll be helping Celestia, Rarity interrupts her this way.
    Twilight Sparkle: Well, she was a little nervous at first, but I told her not to worry. With us helping, it will all go smooth as—
    Rarity: Silk! I must find the silk! If Celestia's going to be in our play, we have to take everything up to the next level!
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Princess Celestia proves to be a terrible actress, alternating between over-acting and under-acting: she starts out whispering at a barely audible level, overcompensates by going into the ear-bustlingly loud Royal Canterlot Voice, can't work through a choreography to save her life and has seemingly no ability to suspend disbelief. She can't even do charades.
  • Big, Bulky Bomb: The last of the fireworks to go off is a truly massive one as big as a pony.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    • Applejack (obviously) would rather just come out and tell Celestia she can't act, but Twilight vetoes any such suggestion.
    • Starlight, as usual. When she and the others are briefly worried about interacting with Princess Celestia, Twilight points out that she's a princess, and they don't have that problem with her. Starlight replies that Twilight isn't a "princess princess" (as in, not as regal or imposing as Celestia).
  • Busman's Vocabulary: Applejack, as usual. "Wormy apple cores, Pinkie!"
  • Call-Back:
    • When Twilight asks Celestia to project her voice more when acting, Celestia uses the "Royal Canterlot Voice" demonstrated by Luna in "Luna Eclipsed".
    • As previously mentioned in The Journal of the Two Sisters, according to Twilight's play it used to take teams of unicorn sorcerers to raise the sun at dawn, and the strain would often cause them to lose their magic powers completely.
    • On Stage and Raspberry Beret are two of the four Method Mares from "Made in Manehattan". All of them appear in the audience near the end of the episode.
    • Fluttershy's "stage fright" from both "Hearth's Warming Eve" and "Filli Vanilli", returns. In addition, Fluttershy once again takes the role of Celestia from "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3". Her ability to get fully into a role, explored in "Fake It Until You Make It" comes in handy as Celestia helps her visualize.
  • The Cameo:
    • Princess Luna, Fancy Pants and Fleur-de-Lis all appear in the audience for the play, but none of them speak.
    • Trixie's fireworks have her cutie mark as their logo, and the big one finishes off with an image of her face, so she gets one too.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Early on Fluttershy says she has no problem memorising lines quickly. This allows her to play Celestia's role at the last minute.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: While Celestia isn't able to make use of the things she learned from her acting workshop herself, she does get the rest of the cast to use improvisation, charades, and visualization to help their performance.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Celestia reprimands Twilight for not just straight-up being honest with her about her acting ability, correctly guessing that Applejack could have told her that much — which she did, multiple times.
  • Cringe Comedy: A lot of the episode's humor is based upon Celestia's catastrophic acting, her clueless responses to the two ponies trying to teach her, Twilight's increasingly stressed and frantic reactions to the whole mess, and other little cringy moments, like when Spike has to entertain the crowd.
  • Cue the Falling Object: After the fireworks have gone off and Applejack splashes water on the smoking decor, a projector falls from the ceiling as the final touch to the scene's complete disarray.
  • Cue the Sun: A key part of the play has first the "unicorns" (actually the Student Six) and then Princess Celestia raise a prop sun. This gets destroyed early on, and Pinkie substitutes it with a balloon, a giant flaming marshmallow, and then a huge ball of fireworks she bought from Trixie in a back alley at midnight before Princess Celestia uses the actual sun for the main play.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Figuratively and literally; it's an episode about Celestia — itself rare — doing time in the limelight as an actress in Twilight's play.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Spike, oh so much. When Twilight claims that she understood Celestia's attempt at charades, he remarks that this statement is "the best acting we've seen all day."
  • Disapproving Look: As Rainbow Dash is acting quite proud of the crowd she attracted to the play, despite it promising to be a disaster, Starlight, Spike, Rarity, and Applejack give her glares that quickly douse her enthusiasm.
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Celestia has wanted to be a stage actress (at least for one production) since she was young, but she doesn't have the ability to back it up.
  • Exact Words:
    • When the crowd starts to become restless, Spike says "nopony" will try to keep them calm and Rarity says he is right, "no pony" will, but a dragon will. This ends with Spike being forced to entertain the crowd while they wait.
    • When Celestia is initially talking to Twilight about wanting to be in a play, she says she always wanted to be a part of one; she never said that she specifically wanted an acting role, and as such is perfectly happy sorting things out behind-the-scenes.
  • Face Palm: Twilight facehoofs on seeing that Celestia's "acting lessons" aren't doing any good.
  • Finger Muzzle:
    • When Applejack to tell Celestia what she honestly (of course) of her acting, Twilight teleports in AJ's face and silence her with a hoof on the mouth.
    • Later on, as Rarity is starting to freak out and rants under pressure, Pinkie Pie puts hoof to her mouth to prevent her from saying anything unkind about their "lead actress".
  • Funny Background Event: In a blink-and-you-miss-it reaction shot of the audience, Luna is none too happy with Celestia raising the sun during her night at the climax of the play.
  • The Gadfly: At the very end, Celestia manages to muster enough acting chops to convincingly joke about wanting to give up her crown and devote all her time to the theater.
  • Gale-Force Sound: The "Royal Canterlot Voice". When Celestia uses it, the sheer force pushes back several of the Young Six, and knocks Spike & Twilight out of their chairs.
  • Good News, Bad News: Spike indulges after being chased from the scene by thrown tomatoes.
    Spike: Good news: free food. [chomps on a tomato] Bad news: this play is officially a disaster.
  • Got Volunteered: The Mane Five force Spike to entertain the crowd as they wait for Twilight to bring back Celestia.
  • Gratuitous French: On Stage pronounces "improvisation" the French way.
  • Hidden Depths:
  • Holding the Floor: Spike is Pushed in Front of the Audience in an attempt to keep them entertained until Twilight can bring Celestia back. He's apparently quite bad, since he gets pelted with tomatoes and booed off-stage before Twilight gets back.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Applejack keeps trying to tell Twilight Sparkle to be honest with Celestia about her acting ability (or lack thereof), but Twilight can't bring herself to say anything until the very last minute.
  • Honorary Princess: Lampshaded. As Starlight has some anxiety of having to handle Celestia in the play or interact with a princess, Twilight tries to calm her down:
    Twilight Sparkle: I'm a princess. You talk to me!
    Starlight Glimmer: That's different! You're not a princess princess.
  • Hope Spot: Everypony is on board with cancelling the play before all of Equestria finds out about it... then Rainbow Dash flies in saying she's already told everypony she knows, and they're telling all of their friends, and now everypony in Equestria is going to see the play.
    Rainbow Dash: Did I miss something?
    Twilight Sparkle: Just the bright light of hope being snuffed.
  • Human Resources: Before Celestia, raising the sun every day took the full strength of six unicorns, including Star Swirl the Bearded. The other five unicorns lost their magic forever.
  • Hyperventilation Bag: Fluttershy has to breathe into a bag when Celestia asks her to take the star role and her stage fright flares up again.
  • I Call It "Vera": Pinkie is shown to have an even bigger party cannon that she calls Big Bertha.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: This was just a simple episode involving Celestia acting in a play... up until the ending scene, where Celestia (jokingly) tells Twilight she intended to retire.
  • Irony as She Is Cast: The Student Six are asked to play the unicorns who raised the sun every day before Celestia took it up. Sandbar, who comparatively is the "normal" one of the group without any special abilities, is the one playing Starswirl, one of the most powerful unicorns of all time and the only one whose magic was able to withstand raising the sun.
  • It's All About Me: A minor example. During the play's first rehearsal, Twilight makes a point of urging Spike to announce that the play was "directed, written, and produced" by her.
  • The Last Straw: Pinkie purchasing and setting off Trixie's "back alley" fireworks, including a big one that wrecks Applejack's props, tips an already-stressed Twilight over the edge and she simply goes postal.
  • Literal-Minded: Celestia, when the Method Mares' attempt to improve her acting skills.
    • During the "visualization" phase, she reacts to Raspberry Beret's acting like she's skiing, and "so chilly", by asking if she needs a blanket.
    • When On Stage asks her what she feels, she answers "the classroom floor under my hooves".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Twilight after Celestia voices her disappointment in not telling her the truth about her acting sooner and flies off in disgust and disappointment at her long-time protégé. Twilight knows she really screwed up if Celestia is angry with her and goes to make amends with her.
  • Nominal Importance: Since the only unicorn wizard to retain his magic after raising the sun is Star Swirl, all the other unicorns are unnamed.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Twilight and Spike's reaction shot after Celestia reveals her Bad "Bad Acting".
    • Everyone does this after the backdrop falls after Twilight's angry rant to reveal Celestia heard everything.
    • They have another one later when Celestia says she plans to step down from the throne to devote herself entirely to the theater, before Celestia reveals she's joking.
  • Only Sane Man: Applejack, as usual. She frequently advises Twilight to tell Celestia the truth about her acting through the whole episode, only to be ignored.
  • Parody Retcon: In-Universe. The audience laughs at the damaged costumes for Starswirl and the unicorn mages, so Spike pretends the costumes were supposed to be a humorous exaggeration.
  • Performance Anxiety: Fluttershy briefly falls back into her old stage fright at the thought of playing Celestia while Celestia watches.
  • The Performer King: Princess Celestia loves theater and always dreamed of acting in a play, even though her royal duties have never allowed her to take the time to do this. On learning this, her former student Twilight decides to give her the starring role in a play she had been writing about Celestia's own early life and ascent to rulership. Celestia is overjoyed, and takes to the role with gusto... until it turns out that Celestia is an incredibly bad actress.
  • Portmanteau: Celestia's "Ones-versary", celebrating her 1,111th year of raising the sun. Who else but Pinkie Pie would think of celebrating this milestone?
  • Produce Pelting: The crowd responds to Spike's attempt to keep them entertained by pelting him with tomatoes.
    Spike: Good news! Free food!
  • Pun-Based Title: The common meaning of "horse play" is roughhousing (which is often shown in the series with the characters Horsing Around), but the episode is about ponies putting on a theatrical production, and the actors playing the unicorns in the play are other creatures.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience:
    • Spike says nopony would volunteer to try to warm up and appease a crowd waiting for the play to begin. Naturally, he gets sent out as the first warm-up act.
      Rarity: Nopony indeed.
    • Fluttershy is drafted into the role of Princess Celestia after it becomes clear that Celestia won't be able to play herself in the play.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: During Twilight's angry rant, she calls Celestia "The worst! Lead! Actress! In Equestria!"
  • Rage Breaking Point: With everything going wrong with the play, including Celestia being a terrible actress, the crowd being packed making them unable to cancel, and all the props ruined, Twilight finally snaps and delivers an angry rant about how things are going so terribly.
    Twilight: AHHHH! I can't take it anymore! It was supposed to be a simple play! Just one simple play! And then everything goes wrong, from the stage to the props, right down to the worst! Lead! Actress! In Equestria!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Celestia gives a small one to Twilight after she overhears Twilight calling her the worst actress in Equestria.
    Celestia: I'm not upset because you insulted my acting.
    Twilight: You're not?
    Celestia: I'm upset because, in all the time we've known each other, I thought I taught you about the importance of friendship, trust, and honesty!
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: A frustrated Applejack asks how many times she's asked Pinkie to keep her practical effects out of her sets.
    Pinkie Pie: 327. Oh, unless you just did! Then it's 328.
  • Right Behind Me: Twilight goes into a rant about the problems she's been having with her play, including "the worst lead actress in Equestria!" It turns out Celestia was standing behind the backdrop and heard the whole thing, but she's more upset that Twilight wasn't honest with her sooner.
  • Say My Name: Applejack yells out "Pinkie Pie!" after Pinkie's attempt at replacing the prop sun with a flaming marshmallow results in her sets getting burned.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the acting coaches Twilight hires is Raspberry Beret, who shares a name with a song by Prince.
    • Spike wears a stereotypical movie director costume, made iconic notably by Cecil B. DeMille.
  • The Show Must Go On: Celestia even says so, verbatim. In spite of having a trashed set, trashed costumes, and a lead actor who can't act, Twilight and her friends can't back out because they have a packed house waiting. They find a way to put on the show anyway.
  • Show Within a Show: Twilight Sparkle puts on a play about Princess Celestia called "A New Day in Equestria".
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • Applejack repeatedly urges Twilight to just tell Celestia the truth about her awful acting skills, but Twilight refuses to listen.
    • Double Subverted when Spike suggests they just cancel the show to spare Celestia the embarrassment, especially when he points out that hardly anyone even knows about the play to begin with, which everyone agrees is their best option. Cue Rainbow Dash announcing that she's just spread the word of Celestia's first starring role to everyone in Equestria.
  • Stock Weapon Names: Pinkie Pie calls her super-sized party cannon "Big Bertha", which was originally the name of a large-bore German howitzer and is a common name for any BFG. Like its Real Life namesake, Pinkie's Big Bertha is about as Cute as a Bouncing Betty.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Applejack asks "What could possibly go wrong?" after Twilight announces that Princess Celestia will be starring in the play. Naturally the play becomes an In-Universe Troubled Production.
    • At one point when Twilight asks for suggestions, Spike suggests cancelling the show because most of Equestria doesn't even know they are doing a play so nopony would miss it if they shut it down. Cue Rainbow Dash flying in saying she told everypony they're doing a play and that Celestia would be in it.
  • Title Drop: In-Universe, Princess Celestia's big line in A New Day in Equestria is "It is time for a new day in Equestria."
  • Tranquil Fury: Celestia barely raises her voice when scolding Twilight on her lie, but her Disapproving Look and voice make it very clear that she is angry.
  • Trash the Set: Applejack constantly gets upset with Pinkie for ruining her props, first from getting confetti everywhere, then having bits of it catch on fire, then from the firework explosion.
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe. The production of the play is beset with issues, from props being destroyed to the sets being ruined to Princess Celestia herself being a terrible actor.
  • Twitchy Eye: After Pinkie's biggest firework explodes, Twilight's eye twitch... and then she explodes herself.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: After getting drenched and returning to the school, Twilight uses a spell to dry herself off. This is accompanied by the brief whirring sound of a bathroom hand air drier.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Celestia becomes angry at Twilight when she overhears Twilight say she is a bad actor and lied to her about it. She forgives Twilight though once she apologizes and explains herself.

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