Sunburst: Do you really think that will work?
Starlight Glimmer: Nope!
In the Crystal Empire, Sunburst is surprised that he is being called by Twilight's map, and makes his way to Ponyville. To his further surprise, Starlight has also been called, but she's far less excited about the mission; she points out that the map is taking them to Sire's Hollow, the village they both grew up in. On the train ride, Starlight complains that her father Firelight was always trying to coddle her, while Sunburst is upset that his mother Stellar Flare has continually pestered him about his plan for life.
When they arrive, Sunburst and Starlight find that Sire's Hollow has changed significantly from their last visits: part of the village now houses extremely upper-end shopping establishments, while other stores are set aside for historical purposes. They find their respective parents, learning it is their conflict that has created this duality within Sire's Hollow, and both Starlight and Sunburst initially take this as the problem they are here to solve. After getting over the initial embarrassment of their parents, Starlight and Sunburst set off to try to reconcile their differences, but quickly enough, both Firelight and Stellar Flare agree that they've been battling over how to develop Sire's Hollow and agree to work together. Starlight realizes that this isn't the problem they were meant to solve, since the map has not yet called them back.
Separately, the two work to find what the problem may be, with their respective parents wanting to help given the importance of the mission. But this sets off past behaviors that irks both Starlight and Sunburst. Firelight wants to keep treating Starlight as a young filly and tries to help through lecturing her on his vast knowledge of the history of Sire's Hollow hoping they can discover the friendship problem that way, while Stellar Flare wants to make sure Sunburst has a direction for his life, and thus tries to manufacture a friendship problem for Sunburst to solve so that he can keep on being assigned more such missions. Both Starlight and Sunburst yell at their parents that their help isn't needed. Both soon realize the friendship problem to solve is the broken relationship they each have with their parents.
Both sets of parent-child work out their issues: Starlight convinces Firelight to not treat her like a young kid anymore, and she'll appreciate his help, while Sunburst asks Stellar Flare to not keep pushing on him to find a plan while he works it out for himself. When they come to this reconciliation, they find that their cutie marks are glowing, and their mission is complete. As Starlight and Sunburst prepare to return home, Firelight and Stellar Flare suggest that they can maybe help them on any other cutie map missions, making a road trip out of it. Starlight and Sunburst cannot wait for the train to come fast enough.
- An Aesop: If you're feeling smothered by your parents, you need to talk to them about it. You can't be their little child forever, and their relationship with you has to grow as you do.
- Always a Child to Parent: Firelight still treats Starlight as though she were a filly, including Baby Talk in public.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Both Starlight's dad Firelight and Sunburst's mom Stellar Flare refuse to leave their kids alone, with the former treating Starlight like she's still a kid, and the latter treating Sunburst like he can't take care of himself without her to guide him. Also, both parents keep constantly embarrassing them in public by calling them pet names and pestering them about the future.
- Ambiguously Absent Parent: No word has been made on Starlight's mother.
- Anti-Smother Love Talk: Sunburst and Starlight have to give the talk to their parents in order to help their relationships move past their childhoods.
- Anything but That!: When Starlight and Sunburst figure out they have to improve their relationship with their parents, Starlight exasperatedly wonders why they couldn't have been sent to stop a war instead.
- Ascended Extra: Stellar Flare first appeared in a few cameos in the Season 5 finale and the Season 6 premiere, and has her first major role here.
- Aside Glance: Starlight gives a particularly epic one when Firelight squishes her cheeks with his hooves.
- Bad "Bad Acting": The townsponies Stellar Flare has help fake a friendship problem are obviously bad actors. Sunburst isn't fooled for a second, and storms off in anger.
- Blatant Lies: Starlight and Sunburst insist that they're not trying to hide from their parents as they sit in the dark corner of a bookstore while whispering to avoid being caught. One of the townsponies even points out the absurdity of this logic.
- Blunt "Yes": Sunburst brings up the idea that smoothing things over with the parents could be the friendship problem. When Starlight asks if that is really it, the Baker pony gives this answer almost immediately.Starlight: You don't think that's it, do you?
Baker: Well, that's what all of us think.
- Both Sides Have a Point: Initially, Stellar Flare wants to develop Sire's Hollow, but winds up trying to turn the whole town into a shopping mall — while Firelight wants to preserve Sire's Hollow, and winds up trying to turn the whole town into a museum. Starlight and Sunburst help them reach a compromise.
- Brick Joke: During the montage of seeing how both parents have "improved" Sire's Hollow, Sunburst gets sprayed in the face with one of the essences and starts choking with his eyes streaming. Later in the episode, Stellar also sprays herself in the face with one and starts choking in the same way as her son.
- Sire's Hollow, Starlight and Sunburst's hometown along with Sunburst's mother, glimpsed briefly in the Season 5 finale and in a flashback in the Season 6 premiere, are the primary setting and conflict of this episode, respectively.
- Spike makes a reference to when he was called for a friendship problem in "Triple Threat".
- Calling the Old Man Out: Starlight and Sunburst both call out their respective parents for meddling with them too much.
- The Cameo: Gallus, Ocellus, Silverstream and Mrs. Cake can briefly be seen outside Twilight's castle.
- Comically Missing the Point: Stellar Flare tries to make a fake friendship problem for Sunburst to solve. Sunburst tells her that Cutie Map missions just don't work that way, but she thinks bad acting was to blame.Sunburst: Ugh! It needs to be a real friendship problem! You can't just make one up! [groans angrily, walks away]
Stellar Flare: [to her assistants] This is what happens when we don't rehearse! Ugh!
- Continuity Nod: Starlight's old room has a few kites hung in it, and her old security blanket also has a kite on it.
- Cutaway Gag: The quick pan to Starlight's old bedroom, showing her to have a very emo-like nature based on its decor.
- Disappeared Dad: Despite having been seen earlier in the Season 5 finale and Season 6 premiere, Sunburst's father is never seen, and neither is Starlight's mother.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- Stellar Flare's constant forced planning of Sunburst's future combined with constantly driving him to succeed may give out vibes of young adults at the age whose parents are constantly hounding them to choose between pursuing higher education or getting a job.
- A bit lower key, Stellar Flare also constantly frets over her son's appearance, adjusting his mane and pulling on his clothing, and generally having little respect for his personal space.
- Empty Nest: Both parents show that they would love to have their children with them all the time and miss them. The town's name "Sire's Hollow" plays off this trope.
- Engineered Heroics: Attempted by Stellar Flare when she recruits a few townsponies to make up a friendship problem for Sunburst to solve. Thanks to their absolutely wonderful acting, Sunburst is able to see right through their ruse.
- Everyone Can See It: A non-romantic example. The townsponies can plainly see that the friendship problem Starlight and Sunburst are looking for is with their parents, but the two are in denial until they reach the conclusion on their own.
- Exact Words: When Sunburst comes looking for Stellar Flare, she passive-aggressively wonders if he's come to apologize to her. Instead, he casually answers it's the contrary: he and Starlight found the friendship problem without the help of either parents. Given they realized the friendship problem after said-parents', he's right.
- Failed a Spot Check:
- Sunburst is easily distracted and often miss things around him, like not noting that the mailpony is waiting for a tip, or slamming in the Sire's Hollow's entrance gate because he is talking to Starlight.
- Starlight and Sunburst try to hide from their parents by meeting with other locals in an obscure corner of the bookstore. Somehow, nopony notices that Firelight is perched on a ladder, directly overhead, until he speaks up. (And Firelight doesn't notice them until the baker raises his voice.)
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: When the baker pony tempts fate by claiming that nopony ever comes back to this specific corner of the bookstore, he specifies that it's the antiquities section. Firelight was already established to have a keen interest in local history. Sure enough, Firelight is there and finds them.
- Foil: Firelight and Stellar Flare are this to each other. While Firelight is obsessed with the past (trying to preserve Sire's Hollow at all costs and treating Starlight like a small child), Stellar Flare is obsessed with the future (trying to renovate Sire's Hollow and incessantly making plans for Sunburst, believing grown-up ponies need them).
- Spike brags about his own friendship mission, which turned out to involve fixing a problem he caused. Ultimately, Starlight and Sunburst learn that they caused this episode's problem by avoiding their parents.
- That both parents are going overboard with their efforts for looking after Sire's Hollow, despite having started with reasonable motivations, also kind of mirrors that both have gone overboard with their smothering of their children despite having started with good intentions.
- Sunburst's mountain of unopened letters from his mother in the opening hints that he has a big problem with her that he's avoiding.
- Former Teen Rebel: Starlight is one, judging by the contents of her old room, which includes a guitar, an amp, skulls, a bat-winged alicorn toy and posters of rebellious-looking ponies on the walls.
- Freudian Excuse: Both Firelight and Stellar Flare's overbearing attitudes towards their children turn out to be this;
- Firelight was aware of how hard life was for Starlight after she left home, and wanted her to feel safe, like she was when she was young.
- Stellar Flare made all those plans for Sunburst in response to how "lost" he was after failing magic school, not wanting him to feel that way again.
- From Bad to Worse: Played for laughs; Starlight and Sunburst originally think their mission is to get their parents to stop arguing with each other, but once they make the two of them work together and be friendly they realize the mission isn't over yet. Firelight and Stellar then start working together to help Starlight and Sunburst find the friendship problem, giving the two of them one giant annoyance instead of two smaller ones.Sunburst: I think I liked it better when they were fighting.
- Funny Background Event: When Firelight and Stellar Flare admit to going overboard in their efforts, the baker pony's cart can be seen collapsing under the weight of all the bread in it, and the "essence" pony can be seen chasing the bookstore ponies with one of her "essences".
- Furry Reminder:
- Blink-and-you'll-miss-it: Starlight's ear literally perks up when Sunburst admits he has similar problems with his mother.
- Sunburst snorts and later whinnies when his mother's antics make him reach his Rage Breaking Point.
- Generation Xerox: Firelight is obsessed with the past, has difficulty accepting that his relationship with his daughter has changed, and wants to preserve his town exactly as it is. His daughter Starlight was obsessed with a moment from her own past, had difficulty accepting that her relationship with Sunburst had changed, and tried to use magic to preserve it exactly as it had been.
- HA HA HA—No: This is the response of one of the librarian ponies when Starlight asks whether they can hold the books at all in the "preserved" library.
- Helicopter Parents: Sunburst's mother Stellar Flare keeps pestering Sunburst to make plans for the future, while at the same time refusing to listen about the things she's trying that aren't helping.
- Indestructible Edible: The bread made by the baker pony is made from "ancient pony grains"... and is also as hard (and dense) as a rock.Baker: Hope you like crust!
- Info Drop: Stellar Flare mentions that Sunburst felt lost after he flunked out of magic school. While the fact that he didn't do well in magic school because he's not exceptionally gifted at magic has previously been discussed, this was the first time he's been revealed as having failed.
- Innocently Insensitive:
- In the Cold Open, Sunburst is too engrossed in his book to notice the mail pony, ultimately closing the door in his face without giving him a tip.
- When Sunburst notices Starlight isn't thrilled for a map mission like he is, he asks if she isn't excited about being called with him. Starlight answers no and Sunburst is nearly reduced to tears. Starlight however quickly realizes what she said and amends her answer to saying she is happy to be called with him, but isn't excited about where the two of them are being called.
- Jewish Mother: Stellar Flare has the typical overbearing nature and is disappointed by Sunburst's continued lack of success in finding a career.
- Literal-Minded: Stellar Flare, of a sort.Sunburst: I came to apologize.
Stellar Flare: Well, it's going to take more than an apology to make up for telling me you don't want my help finding your friendship problem.
Sunburst: Oh, I'm not sorry for that. Starlight and I already figured out what the problem is.
Stellar Flare: ...This is a terrible apology.
- Loony Laws: While trying to find the source of the friendship problem, Firelight mentions an old law that forbids the citizens to prance or canter after dinnertime.
- Made Myself Sad: Firelight, after getting chewed out by Starlight, walks away seemingly irritated and annoyed. When Starlight visits him later, he starts out cold and detached, but quickly tears up the further he goes.Firelight: [irritated] Hello, Ms. Glimmer. [detatched] How is your friendship problem search going? [breaking down] I only ask as an interested observer since I know you are an adult who is capable of doing things [visibly tearing] without help from anypony else. [whines before silently crying]
- Meaningful Name:
- Sire's Hollow. "Sire" is another word for "father", and Starlight's father resides there.
- One meaning of "hollow" is "empty". The main conflict is how the two parents have felt empty without the constant perceived "need" to take care of their children.
- The parent-child name plays on close meanings. A "stellar flare" can be seen as a type of sun burst, while "firelight" would be a low-level of lighting like the glimmer of stars.
- Messy Male, Fancy Female: In addition to trying to get him to have a plan, Stellar Flare also silently and forcefully tries to deal with Sunburst's messy mane, even at one point trying to cut off his goatee in mid-conversation.
- My Beloved Smother: Starlight's father and Sunburst's mother both treat them like they're still children. In the former's case, Firelight is still calling Starlight cutesy pet names and giving her a Security Blanket. In the latter's case, Stellar Flare constantly insists that Sunburst have a "plan" to move up in the world and treating him like he's incapable of making his own decisions.
- The Nicknamer: Firelight keeps embarrassing his daughter Starlight with cutesy pet names for her, such as "pumpky-wumpkin" and "chipmunk cheeks".
- No Sense of Personal Space: Starlight's father occasionally shows shades of this, especially when she first encounters him after arriving in Sire's Hollow. Sunburst's mother also strays into this, albeit not quite as much.
- Offscreen Teleportation: On two occasions, Firelight pops up from right behind Starlight.
- Oh, Crap!: Starlight's reaction when her dad says she can stay in her old room and that it is just like she left it. Perhaps she's embarrassed by her former emo-like state she left it in.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Sunburst, usually kind even if he's occasionally ditzy or absorbed in research, gets visibly and demonstrably angry when Stellar Flare continues to push his limits. It's enough to make his mother, up until that point a pretty headstrong mare, break down in tears and run away crying.
- Overly Long Gag: Sunburst's mother enchanted the gate at the entrance to the town to announce "Welcome to Sire's Hollow!" whenever it's opened. At one point, Sunburst repeatedly closes and opens the gate to demonstrate to her how annoying it is. Even Stellar Flare comes to agree with how obnoxious it is.Gate recording: Welcome to Sire's Hollow! Welcome to Sire's Hollow! Welcome to Sire's Hollow! Welcome to Sire's Hollow!
Stellar Flare: Okay, it's annoying, I get it.
- Poor Communication Kills: One of the root causes of the friendship problem is that Starlight and Sunburst never thought to keep in touch with their parents or were too lax in keeping them appraised of their whereabouts and well-being.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The episode's title is a reference to the film The Parent Trap and its 1998 remake.
- Rage Breaking Point: Starlight and Sunburst eventually have enough of their parents' meddling and shout they don't want their help and chew them out for pestering them.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After an episode of their parents meddling in their own respective ways, Starlight and Sunburst finally get a few words in edge-wise. Starlight voices to Firelight how she's not a little filly anymore and that she's sick of him babying her. Meanwhile, Sunburst argues with his mother that he doesn't want any plans, especially if he didn't come up with them. Deconstructed, however, when it turns out their relationship with their parents is the Friendship Problem, and yelling that they don't need them has only exacerbated it.
- Red Herring: At first, the episode's conflict seems to be a clear-cut case of Feuding Families between Firelight and Stellar Flare. However, they are able to resolve their differences quickly and painlessly. The true conflict is between them and their children.
- Running Gag: Sunburst exasperatedly trying to tell his mother that something "doesn't work like that".
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: A minor one, but after Firelight tells Starlight her room is exactly the way she left it, the mare is so embarrassed, she books it screen right.
- Security Blanket: Invoked. Firelight gives Starlight her old "blankie" from when she was a filly by wrapping it around her head. Starlight is more than a little annoyed by this.
- Sire's Hollow is similarly named to Stars Hollow, the location from Gilmore Girls. Firelight's name may even be a reference to the Firelight Festival, which celebrates the town's founding.
- In the Cold Open, Sunburst refers to The Houyhnhmn's Guide to Magical Arcana. The Houyhnhmns were a race of intelligent, talking horses in Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.
- Ship Tease: The Starburst ship naturally gets more fuel in this episode, especially with Sunburst being nearly reduced to tears when he thinks Starlight doesn't want to go on a mission with him, and their easy-going, affectionate contact throughout.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Spike is quick to brag to Sunburst about how he has seen his share of map missions and offers him advice (to the point of calling himself an "expert"), even though he himself has only had one mission before and conveniently forgets to mention it was a mission to solve a problem he caused.
- Stealth Pun: Stellar Flare constantly making plans for Starburst's future, as well as trying to comb his mane and cut off his beard could be seen as her literally and figuratively trying to groom him.
- Tempting Fate:
- The baker pony says they don't have to worry about Starlight and Sunburst's parents overhearing, because no one ever comes into the antiquities section of the book store. Who should turn out to be in there with them but Firelight.
- Not long after, when their respective kids are on the verge of losing their patience, Firelight and Stellar Flare congratulate themselves, believing their children are thankful for their parents' "help". On the spot, Starlight and Sunburst scream how they don't want their parents' help.
- This Is Gonna Suck:
- The Crystal Empire's mail pony rolls his eyes and sighs when he realizes he has a letter to deliver to Sunburst.
- Starlight isn’t excited that the map is sending her and Sunburst to Sire's Hollow. As soon as Sunburst learns their destination he also loses all his enthusiasm for the mission.
- The Tooth Hurts: When showing off the rock-hard bread made with "ancient pony grains", Firelight says that it's just like the kind that Sire's Hollow's founders used to eat. The next shot cuts to a picture of the founders in questions, all of whom have mouths full of broken, dislocated or outright missing teeth, by implication the result of a lifetime of dental trauma from eating food with the consistency of concrete.
- Visible Odor: While acting out a friendship problem, one of the bookseller ponies states that she doesn't wish to cover up her "natural scent" with the essences, and illustrates her point by lifting her foreleg, giving off a visible odor from her armpit.
- Worldbuilding: Starlight and Sunburst's hometown is revisited, given a name, and given focus throughout the episode.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Stellar Flare clearly has no idea how map missions work. She believes if Sunburst is successful, then Princess Twilight will send him on more missions; if he fails, she'll fire him. Twilight isn't actually the one to assign missions, her magic map is, though Stellar doesn't listen when Sunburst tries to explain it to her.Sunburst: MOM! It does not work like that!
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Starlight and Sunburst help mediate Firelight and Stellar Flare's dispute over what to do with the town. Sunburst thinks this is the friendship problem the Cutie Map sent them to resolve — until Starlight points out that their cutie marks aren't glowing, so the real problem still hasn't been fixed.