Applejack's pride collides with pony economics.
Season 2, Episode 14: "The Last Roundup"
(There was a whole big foofaraw about this scene, a hullabaloo which I don't personally care about and thus consider beyond the scope of these recaps. If you care to get deeper into the fracas, I recommend listening to the discussion starting at about 10:00 on Bronyville Podcast #43. Beyond that, I got nothin'.)
Applejack's friends and family see her off as she boards the Friendship Express to Canterlot. Apple Bloom is excited about all the new blue ribbons Appleajack is sure to win, while the Mayor -- like Pretty Boy Floyd -- doesn't care about trophies, just cash.A week passes, and a surprise party is set up for Applejack's return. But not too surprising a party, Fluttershy reasonably hopes, lest it veer into "startling" territory. The real surprise comes when it's not Applejack at the door by a mailpony, who thinks the party is for him. It's a little heartbreaking, especially when Twilight Sparkle somewhat rudely slams the door shut on him, but it's okay -- he gets a piece of cake anyhow. Even more surprising is the letter he was carrying from Applejack: She'll send money soon, but she's not coming home. Never ones to not meddle when meddling is an option -- and, admittedly, because the Apple family is devastated, and nopony does "sad face" quite like Big Macintosh -- the Mane Six Minus Spike and/or Applejack set off to find their missing crew member. Their search leads them to the frontier town of Dodge Junction, the train ride to which includes My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's first genuine potty joke. (I'm not counting the diaper joke in the previous episode, because you can't do a babysitting story without a diaper joke.) It happened. I acknowledge that it happened. A lot of people liked it, and I respect that, but it hurt my soul a little. Let us never speak of it again.
In Dodge Junction, Applejack is startled to see her friends.And Rarity is startled by the aesthetics of Applejack's new boss, as she should be. It would seem that Applejack is now working at the Cherry Hill Ranch under one Cherry Jubilee, who hired Applejack after seeing her win so many ribbons of an indeterminate color at the Rodeo. Applejack refuses to return to Ponyville. Rainbow Dash is not happy about this ... ... but that's not Applejack's problem. The back half of the episode is a series of set pieces as they try to get Applejack to tell them what's going on, including a conveyor-belt scene which goes exactly in the I Love Lucy direction it must ... ... and siccing flibbertigibbet Pinkie Pie on her ... ... all of which leads to a somewhat prolonged chase sequence. Finally caught, the contents of her saddle bag spilled open for all to see, Applejack tells the truth. She didn't win any blue ribbons, or money, which is why she took the job -- to earn the money she's promised Ponyville, the residents of whom she's too embarrassed to face, even her family. On the train ride back home, she delivers her first Shoehorn: Sometimes you're going to fail, and you can't run away from your problems.
"The Last Roundup" starts strong, but there's a lot of filler, and the parts never quite add up to a satisfying whole. Thankfully, in the tradition of great episodes following subpar ones -- cf. "Owl's Well that Ends Well" b/w "Party of One" last season -- a great episode is about to follow this subpar one.