With the pilot episodes out of the way, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic veers away from the "let's all go on adventures and solve mysteries with the power of our friendship!" direction and starts focusing on what makes the ponies tick. And it's not always magical or friendly. (Read my introduction to the series and recap of the pilot episode.)Episode 3: "The Ticket Master" Twilight Sparkle and Spike are helping Applejack pick apples in her family's orchard. Twilight is stomach-growlingly hungry, and after Spike eats the one non-wormy apple they've picked, he belches up a letter from Princess Celestia. Being a baby dragon, one of his powers to be a conduit for mail and other paper products between Twilight and Celestia. (Sure, what do I know about dragons?) The letter is an invitation for Twilight and a Plus-One to the Grand Galloping Gala, which is exactly as big of a deal as its name suggests. Twilight and Applejack are excited, particularly the latter, who fantasizes about cornering the Gala's apple concessions to raise money for her family's farm. For his part, Spike acts as the surrogate for male viewers of the show and claims to want nothing to do with something as girly as the Gala. (Oh really, Spike? What are you hiding?) A napping/eavesdropping Rainbow Dash swoops down to claim the ticket as her own, hoping to impress the Wonderbolts (essentially the Blue Angels, but far less likely to kill hundreds if they crash) with her mad flying skillz and be asked to join. It is during Rainbow Dash's fantasy that we get this episode's installment of DerpyWatch: Proto-Derpy's eyes are just fine, of course, because the same animation glitch didn't happen twice. But the die was cast. Applejack is not okay with Rainbow Dash's sense of entitlement, and Twilight leaves them to hoof-wrassle (oh, butches!) as she goes off to have lunch and mull it over. But not before she literally runs into Pinkie Pie, who discovers the tickets and bursts into song about how it's the greatest party evar and thus best place for her. Before an increasingly peckish Twilight can say no to Pinkie Pie, the tickets are seen in Spike's hand by Rarity, who designs ensembles for the gala but has never attended. She rhapsodizes in a cross-faded slideshow -- the texture of each pony's fantasy is quite different -- about how she'll meet the regal unicorn/stallion/eligible bachelor of her dreams there... ... and no sooner has she finished before Fluttershy's pet bunny Angel steals the tickets from Spike and brings them to Fluttershy, whom Angel goads into revealing her own fantasy: entry into the private, gated gardens around the event. Pandemonium, and bickering, reigns. Twilight sends them all off so she can eat, and anyone who has ever watched a sitcom can predict, the Currying of Favor begins. (It's not the most original story in the world, nor does it have to be. It's all about the execution.) Rainbow Dash creates a hole in a rainstorm that, as a weather-controlling pegasus of dubious scruples, she mostly likely caused to begin with... ... Rarity gives Twilight a makeover she doesn't necessarily want (oh, femmes!)... ... Applejack tempts the starving Twilight with, well, apples -- which makes her Satan, come to think of it ... ... and Fluttershy cleans Twilight's library, though at least she's honest about her reasons (after being goaded yet again by Angel). Soon all Ponyville knows, leading to the episode's big setpiece, a farce-y chase through town set to an instrumental tune that I would argue is more Bob Wills than Benny Hill. And the percussion just kills. The episode ends as it must: with the other ponies realizing how dickish they've been acting and giving up their claim on the ticket (Rainbow Dash is the last to do so, being far more dickish than the others), inspiring Twilight to return the tickets to Princess Celestia -- thus making the first "letter to Princess Celestia about the magic of friendship" of the series also the last one that doesn't feel completely shoehorned in. Celestia replies promptly with enough tickets for everypony -- as well as Spike, who actually wanted to go all along (oh, boys!). None of them knows the cruel tricks fate has in store for them at the Gala itself but that's not for another 20-odd episodes.