You have been warned.
One of the spoilers is a big giant spoiler but I'm guessing if you follow EqD or similar it's already been "spoiled" if you haven't seen the episode yet.
Actually, there's another smaller big event that I'm going to focus more on.
So. It's school-council election time. I never ran for anything, knowing almost no one would vote for me. (Sad irony: in fourth grade, they instituted a program they called "School Leaders" and said you could just SIGN UP, there were no elections. And I TOTALLY FELL FOR IT. It turned out the "School Leaders" were the ones who *helped the custodians wash up and put away the tables in the multipurpose room after lunch.* Yeah, my public school may have been run by trolls. Anyway, I signed up for it - an early lesson in READ THE FINE PRINT FIRST, STUPID and spent one day a week with my hands in a pail of water with soap that smelled like Pepto-Bismol and giving up my recess. Giving up recess wasn't SO terrible but the soap smelled gross and I admit I felt very very cheated and lied-to. Hm. Another reason I have trust issues?)
Anyway, in Ponyville School, they have the elections. And Pipsqueak (or Pip Squeak, apparently there are two spellings to his name) wants to run. He's a runty spotted pony from "Trottingham" who has a slight Britishy accent.
(I totally see Pipsqueak being - in fanfiction where the young ponies grow up - the eventual boyfriend of one of the CMC - maybe Sweetie Belle. Or perhaps even Diamond Tiara)
His opponent: Diamond Tiara.
(Hm. Initials are D.T. And she brags a lot about how she's rich. And talks about "losers." And "A vote for Diamond Tiara is a vote for MORE Diamond Tiara!" If I didn't know this episode was written the middle of last year, I'd be VERY suspicious).
Anyway, Diamond Tiara is being her usual rich-wench* self, talking about how her family can buy and sell any of the other ponies, and she should be the class president because Money.
(*Keepin' the blog G-rated, but you can imagine another word there)
She points out the stained-glass window featuring HER that was the replacement for one that got damaged, and she calls out Twist for wanting just a "plain" window there.
So, of course, the CMCs, being friends of Pip's and also generally for the underdog (and opposed to Diamond Tiara) volunteer to be his campaign managers.
Diamond Tiara doubles-down on the nastiness: she throws mud at Pip, and then she tells other ponies, essentially, "You have secrets. You want those secrets KEPT, don't you?"
(Ah, emotional blackmail. One of the primary tools in the mean-girl toolbox)
Silver Spoon, who always seemed slightly milder and more of a follower of Diamond's awfulness than an actual instigator of her own, tries to take Diamond aside and tone her down. (And now I want to see if Silver Spoon gets an eventual revelation - where SHE finds that rather than being merely a rich pony, signified by her cutie mark, she is silver-TONGUED as well, and therefore persuasive, and finds herself with a new role as a diplomat/peacemaker?)
Anyway, Diamond Tiara pushes her away. She's gonna WIN and no one else can tell her how to be a WINNER.
There are a couple songs. I guess there are more songs in the CMC episodes, because of the possibility of close harmonies? Or maybe because Michelle Creber?
At any rate: Pip wins, mainly because he's a nice and fairly humble pony, and because instead of just saying "I can fix things because I have MONEY," he actually proposes some ideas.
So Diamond Tiara failed. She has to go home and tell her parents. (And now her mom - Spoiled Rich - is canon. And her mom is a nasty piece of work. Which actually - having grown up in a rich town with a lot of rich bratty girls - that's pretty accurate; often the rich mean girls had rich mean moms)
And we see that Spoiled has always told her daughter what to do, has always pushed her, has always controlled her.
And the Cutie Mark Crusaders - they decide, even though Diamond has been mean to them, they need to befriend her to be sure she's okay. (Odd random thought: Of the outwardly non-religious shows out there, could this one actually be the most Christian? A lot of the themes it promotes are the same ones I've learned down through the years in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and Youth Group and everything else. No mention of God, of course, in the show, but the virtues are still there).
So they do. And while Diamond at first lashes out (those who are hurting do), she gradually comes to acknowledge that the CMC are actually.....lucky. Because they get to take the time to try things out, because they will not have a cutie mark thrust upon them before they fully understand its import. (Interesting thought, that). Apparently Diamond got her mark and just assumed it meant she was to lord it over others....and we see she is perhaps confused, and perhaps hurting, and...
One thing this show is shockingly good at is taking a character first presented as an antagonist of sorts (Discord, Trixie, Gilda) and showing them later to be a character that perhaps you should feel a bit *sorry* for....perhaps with the subtle lesson that a lot of times when another treats you badly, it is because they themselves are in pain, and rather than fighting back at them, maybe you try to understand.....Oh, the big baddies like Tirek are still bad, and maybe there's that idea that there's a spirit of evil in the world of the ponies - but that maybe most minor antagonists are more misguided than evil. And we see that here.
In the end, Diamond Tiara defies her mom (who, as head of the School Board, has refused Pip's plan to redo the playground - no money in the budget. Though it could also have been partly sour grapes, remembering how PTA stuff sometimes went when I was a schoolkid). And Diamond (politely!) gives her mom a note to take to her dad.....which turns out to be a request for him to donate the playground equipment. (Which he does. We have previously - in the Zap Apples episode - seen that he is perhaps Not So Bad, After All). And Diamond then goes to the ponies she had previously teased for being freakishly strong or having freakishly large teeth and suggests that their unusual quality can be helpful in the playground restoration....
(I joked on Twitter that "Next week, Diamond Tiara changes her name to Paul and sets off for Damascus." No, it doesn't QUITE map onto the Saul/Paul story, but there is almost a scales-falling-from-the-eyes moment when DT is in the clubhouse....)
And one of the CMC turns to the others, and comments that it "feels good" to help other ponies find their real meaning in life - it calls back "Appleloosa's Most Wanted," where they helped Troubleshoes Clyde figure out that (a) his cutie mark didn't mean misfortune, after all and (b) the other ponies weren't laughing AT him, they were laughing WITH him, and he was meant to be a rodeo clown....
And suddenly, as they high five (hoof-five? high-one?), there is a spark, they glow and levitate - and well, probably the Spoiler of the Season happens then.
Yeah, they get their cutie marks. They are all similar, they were all gotten at the same time (I think the only way it could be done for three such close friends and have it work - and I guess it also mirrors the Mane Six's experience, too). Their cutie marks are related to BEING cutie mark crusaders - related to the fact that they help other ponies find their roles in life.
One irony: it was only when they quit caring about their cutie marks that they actually got them.
I also joked on Twitter that "their special talent is being guidance counselors" and I admit, that's another interesting thought: the World tells you to be a "SUPERSTAR" - that what you "should" be doing is something that brings you fame and attention. When in reality, very, very few of us can be superstars. And really, if we were all superstars, this would be a pretty shabby world, because everyone would be out for themselves. Probably what this world really needs is for a critical mass of people to acknowledge that their role in life, really, is to help others....I've often felt that was my role. I will never be a great researcher; I don't have the skill or the time or the ambition and logistically, it's difficult to do high-powered research where I am. But I can provide my students the best training possible so they can maybe go on and do great things....or if not do great things, they can have a better life than they might otherwise. (We have a lot of so-called "first generation" college students, who are trying to climb the socioeconomic ladder)
And I think in a way, this thought dovetails nicely with last week's episode, particularly Big Mac's dialog at the very end:
"And I'm just here on the farm, doin' chores, helpin' out the way I can, nothin' special, nobody's hero. I guess I just thought... oh, never mind. Here I am about to start blabberin' on about my feelin's. You don't wanna hear all this.....I guess I just thought if I could... fill in for Applejack at the Social and get you a blue ribbon, well, I could be somepony you looked up to again. Be your hero again. Even if it was for just a day. It was foolish and I'm ashamed. Please, I just wanna be alone right now"
(I love Big Mac SO MUCH. And Peter New does such a great job of voicing him on the rare occasions he gets to say more than "Nope" or "Eyup.")
And also as I said on Twitter: that's straight in the feelings for me. I feel kind of like that a LOT of the time, that I'm doing my best but it's nothing special and I'm not really anybody's hero. And the thing is, when you get fed the SUPERSTAR!!!!! narrative too much by the world, and your life doesn't seem to fit that, you begin to feel awfully small and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
I think one of the reasons I like Pony so much is that some of the lessons it presents really, actually, honestly do seem to be an antidote to that. (Though Apple Bloom does admit that yes, she looks up to Big Mac, and wow, she really maybe needs to let him know that more). Which is pretty amazing when you think that this was a show largely developed to sell toys, and it says a great deal about the skill and the spirit of the writers.
(And now I want to see a Diamond Tiara episode, where she begins to navigate her new life. And maybe even a Silver Spoon episode, where, as I said, she decides that she's not JUST a rich-pony. And I can see more CMC episodes coming.... And maybe even a Spoiled Rich episode, because I can JUST imagine there's a lot of insecurity underneath that control-freak exterior.)