The second season begins in earnest with two studies of paranoia. Also, the Shoehorn gets reshaped.
Season 2, Episode 3: "Lesson Zero"
After a pre-credits sequence of Twilight Sparkle overthinking a checklist, we see the show's new intro. It's same basic sequence series of events as the Season 1 opening (as well as of "The Return of Harmony," which feels more and more like a belated Season 1 finale) but with a slightly remixed song and some changes here and there to the animation -- including the Friendship Express running straight through the middle of Ponyville, which is just a lawsuit waiting to happen.
After Twilight Sparkle and Spike finished up everything on the day's checklist -- and Twilight gets typically OCD about proper icing distribution on cupcakes for a picnic that afternoon -- Spike makes a passing comment about being glad they don't have anything to report to Princess Celestia about the magic of friendship that week.
Except, whoops. Twilight freaks out. She's supposed to do a Shoehorn every week! Like clockwork! Clockwork that is never tardy!
The last one was sent on Tuesday, and it's now Tuesday again. (Tuesdays have a way of haunting Twilight, as we'll see later in the season in "It's About Time.")
It therefore follows that if she doesn't learn a lesson about friendship by the end of the day, Celestia will punish Twilight for her blatant tardiness by sending her back to Magic Kindergarten. Period!
Faking it 'til she makes it, Twilight sets out to a find a friend in need of help.
First stop: Rarity, who's drama-queening about losing a particular bit of fabric ...
... until she finds it herself. Rarity's problem is solved, by Rarity!
Still willing herself to be confident, Twilight heads back out.
Next stop: One of Applejack's barns, which Rainbow Dash is in the process of destroying. Surely, Rainbow has a problem with Applejack that only Twilight's intervention can solve.
The Doctor Is In!
Except that Rainbow is destroying the barn because Applejack asked her to. Oh.
An increasingly frazzled Twilight Sparkle seeks out Fluttershy, who will need Twilight's help with something, right?
Judging from the fact that Fluttershy is wrassling a bear, and Fluttershy then appears to snap the bear's neck, she does not require any help from Twilight.
Twilight leaves before she can learn that Fluttershy was giving the bear a hardcore massage, and that it is very much not dead.
A conversation with her reflection does not calm Twilight's nerves ...
... nor does it allay Spike's mounting concern for her.
At the picnic, the others see how frazzled Twilight has become ...
... but when she tells them what's going on, that her whole life depends on finding a friendship problem to solve before sundown, they don't take her seriously.
Pinkie Pie even laughs at her. Et tu, Pinkie?
Not cool, Pinkie. Not cool. (I'm a little peeved at her about this.)
Twilight realizes it's time for more direct action, and this is as good a time as any to mention that while many episodes titles are movie references, this play on Less Than Zero may well be my favorite.
Enter Smarty Pants, her beloved doll from fillyhood. She even comes with her own notebook and quill to do her homework!
Time has not been kind to Smarty Pants, who has that certain Invader Zim je ne sais quoi. GIR would have loved her, and Twilight's sure the Cutie Mark Crusaders will, too.
When the Crusaders are repulsed by Smarty Pants, Twilight -- who fails to notice that they've already start fighting on their own over who has to play with the doll -- uses the "Want It, Need It" spell to make them fight over who gets to play with it.
Instead, when all of Ponyville goes mad for Smarty Pants, Twilight Sparkle -- who tends to make bad decisions even when she's not on the brink of insanity -- learns that artificially-induced desire is dangerous and uncontrollable. This a theme that will be reinforced in "Hearts and Hooves Day," and then casually disregarded in "A Canterlot Wedding."
Ponyville is in chaos, the sun has set, all is lost ... Celestia Ex Machina!
Celestia breaks the spell, revealing a very confused populace. Also, Derpywatch!
Back in the library, Twilight confesses to Celestia.
Before Celestia can point out the obvious (there never was a deadline), the others burst in, penitent and ready to take the fall for Twilight.
Celestia declares that going forward, the entire Mane Six is required to do their own Shoehorns ... but only when/if they learn something. And only one per pony per episode, please.