From natives' rights to other people's pets, no issue is too big or too small to be meddled in by a well-meaning pony.
Episode 21: "Over a Barrel"
Night is falling on the train which is not the one they call The Friendship Express. It's rolling through through a landscape that resembles the Monument Valley, where John Ford shot the majority of his westerns. Rarity has just walked in on Applejack telling a bedtime story. To, um, a tree. A tree named Bloomberg.
Rarity is offended -- not so much by the weirdness of Applejack treating Bloomberg like a child, but because Rarity deserves the private car more than some dumb coddled tree. Applejack insists that it's necessary so Bloomberg can be well rested when he's given as a gift to her relatives in Appleloosa.
The next morning, they're awakened by a buffalo stampede.
Except it's not just a stampede, it's a heist, and Rainbow Dash goes in pursuit in one of the show's blessedly rare chase scenes.
But even she can't stop one of the younger, less bulky buffalo from unhitching and stealing the caboose -- containing not only Bloomberg, but also Spike.
The Mane Six are understandably panicked when they reach Appleloosa, but it's no match for the relentless hospitality of Applejack's cousin Braeburn, and his deep, bubbly pride in his year-old settler town.
Braeburn's whirlwind tour of Appleloosa (which is only one Howard Johnson's Ice Cream Parlor away from being Rock Ridge from Blazing Saddles), ends at the settler ponies' new apple orchard, where Applejack is finally able to get a word in edgewise.
Braeburn is disturbed but not surprised to hear about the attack, , as the buffalo have made it clear they want ponies to get rid of the orchard.
Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie have both sneaked off to find Spike, and because Pinkie's not quite in the same stealth mode as she was in "Green Isn't Your Color," they are quickly caught.
But all is not lost: Spike is with the buffalo, and buffalo respect dragons, so no worries.
Spike introduces them to Rainbow Dash's adversary from the train job, one Little Strongheart.
Rainbow Dash, ego still bruised from earlier, is not happy to meet her.
Rainbow Dash reluctantly listens as Little Strongheart and the buffalo chief explain: The settler ponies just up and planted their orchard on the buffaloes' traditional stampeding grounds, where they've run every year for generations, and the ponies didn't even think to ask the buffalo for permission.
Does Rainbow Dash come around? Rainbow Dash comes around!
To the surprise of the other ponies, Pinkie, Rainbow, and Spike waltz back to Appleloosa the next morning, quite unharmed -- and with a friend.
Little Strongheart and Braeburn (the progressive-minded settler and native) are more than willing to discuss the details and nuances of this complicated situation, but Rainbow Dash and Applejack (the conservative-minded outsiders) dominate the conversation with angry, oversimplified soundbites.
Oh, cartoons about ponies. They never reflect real life at all!
Oversimplifying the issue in her own way, Pinkie Pie attempts to bring the two sides together with a very, very bad song that rhymes "share" and "care," which is never okay.
The buffalo and the settler ponies do agree on one thing: It was a very, very bad song. Also, that at noon tomorrow the buffalo will stampede. The Appleloosans will be ready, and armed with apple pies. Nobody wants a war, but they don't see any other way.
While there have been plenty of John Ford and Sergio Leone references thus far -- and probably a few Howard Hawks homages, though I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never watched any of his westerns -- the battle ends with a big Sam Peckinpah moment, as the chief is felled in slow motion by a strategically aimed pie. We even get loving closeups of the gore, and I find apple pie to be revolting, so it's extra-gross to me.
The chief finds it to be delicious, and a compromise is found: a path is cut for the buffalo to run through, and they get a share of the apples, preferably in nommy pie form.
In the Shoehorn, Twilight Sparkle relates that with understanding and compromise, even the worst of enemies can become friends. It feels like a Captain's Log, appropriately enough for an episode that resembles the original Star Trek. (That's a compliment.)