MLP:FIM season 4, episode 14 – “Filli Vanilli” – thoughts and review

Just to make sure we all get it when the episode’s main plot swings into action, we begin this episode with a long, rather obtuse but undeniably cute montage of Fluttershy singing enthusiastically for her animals.

FLUTTERSHY ENJOYS SINGING. THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND WILL BE ON THE TEST LATER.

FLUTTERSHY ENJOYS SINGING. THIS IS IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND WILL BE ON THE TEST LATER.

The end of the sequence is met with much appreciation from said animals, as well as utter shock from the rest of the mane 6, who – as it turns out – were standing nearby.

Even AJs HAT is surprised, apparently.

Even AJs HAT is surprised, apparently.

It’s not as if Flutters hasn’t ever sung before, but it was always with a group, or at the very least a duo. To see her getting so into a song on her own and really making herself the center of attention like that would be pretty unexpected (as Twilight points out). And she only did it because she thought there weren’t any ponies nearby at the time.

Then, we are introduced to a fun idea: “The Ponytones”, a Ponyville-based singing quartet including Rarity, a couple of unnamed background ponies, and… Big Mac! That’s a very clever use of the character, because it’s not something you’d expect, but at the same time, it kind of fits.

Eeeyup~

Eeeyup~

But soon, DISASTER STRIKES. Big Mac loses his voice, and the ‘tones find themselves one pony down. Now, based on the episode title, it was obvious that there would be music involved in some way, and I’d also read something about Fluttershy being involved, so when you put that together with them hitting us over the head with Flutters singing in the intro, it’s not hard to see where this is going.

I was absolutely not, however, expecting the return of Flutterguy.

Yes, they delved way back into that season 1 episode, dug up some Poison Joke, and boom, Fluttershy is once again being voiced by Tigertron.

"Oh, Rarity. We can't disappoint that sweet little filly." I swear, I'll never be able to watch Beast Wars the same way again.

“Oh, Rarity. We can’t disappoint that sweet little filly.” I swear, I’ll never be able to watch Beast Wars the same way again.

As it turns out, Fluttershy had always admired the Ponytones and loves to sing, but to actually sing up on stage in front of other ponies would frighten her to the point of catatonia, so it was never a real possibility. But now, to help out, Flutters agrees to hide in the back during their next gig, singing Big Mac’s parts with her Poison Joke-induced Barry White-like voice while he stands on stage pretending to sing.

Pay no attention to the pony behind the curtain!

Pay no attention to the pony behind the curtain!

So, the performance (which, incidentally, was for Fluttershy’s Ponyville Pet Center Fundraiser in the first place) goes forward, with everypony showing up to hear the singing and play with the animals.

I don't know why, but I find Bon Bon playing with a seal by bouncing a beach ball off her head to be completely adorable

I don’t know why, but I find Bon Bon playing with a seal by bouncing a beach ball off her head to be completely adorable

One thing I thought was neat was Big Mac’s expressions during the first Flutterguy gig. At first, he looks nervous, which makes sense, since they are essentially trying to pull one over on the crowd with respect to who is actually singing, and he’s probably never done anything quite like this before (lip-synching while someone else sings your parts).

The fact that he's hearing a singing voice that resembles his own come out of a pony he knows looks like THIS might also be throwing him off. Can you blame him?

The fact that he’s hearing a singing voice that resembles his own come out of a pony he knows looks like THIS might also be throwing him off. Can you blame him?

But then, a little bit into the show when it becomes clear that this crazy idea is working quite well (and with nopony the wiser), he begins to relax – before they even hit the refrain, he’s lost any trace of that earlier apprehension. This progression from nervousness to confidence was a nice little touch of realism.

I haven’t the foggiest idea what the deal is with these two. I feel like they’re too distinct in visual design and mannerisms to just be quirky original one-off characters – I’m assuming they are a reference to something, either another cartoon or someone famous or something like that, but I don’t know what.

Pinkie Pie, for whatever reason, was in super obnoxious mode during this episode. Mostly, I’m willing to file this under “Pinkie being Pinkie” – I don’t think she was trying to be MEAN to Fluttershy, but it certainly did make her look a bit insensitive, and a little dense after having to deal with some feelings-slighted drama of her own just two episodes ago. Still, the writers don’t pass up an opportunity to drop a gigantic lampshade on Pinkie’s head, making for a pitch-perfect set of dialog that basically encompasses the entire concept of Pinkie Pie.

"Pinkie Pie! *whap* Don't be ridiculous!" "Aww, but I'm so good at it!"

“Pinkie Pie! *whap* Don’t be ridiculous!”
“Aww, but I’m so good at it!”

In any case, their first performance goes off basically without a hitch. And then they line up another performance, and that one goes off without a hitch, and then another, and then… Seriously, I kept waiting for something to happen, for something to go wrong, because as you’re watching this it’s the kind of thing where you KNOW something just has to go wrong but it keeps going really really well THIS IS WEIRD

This is just asking for trouble! Why is nothing bad happening?!

This is just asking for trouble! Why is nothing bad happening?!

One performance just chains into another as ponies approach the ‘tones at the end of one show to plead with them to sing at some event or other, with Fluttershy making herself scarce in a particularly amusing way as the mayor comes up to ask them to perform.

Oh, hello Flutterbat.    ...wait, WHAT

Oh, hello Flutterbat. …wait, WHAT

The eventual return of Big Mac’s voice is heralded as a great relief for everypony!… except, as it turns out, for Flutters, who has begun to really enjoy her anonymous stardom. And she’s quite a good singer – which is sort of an odd thing to say since it’s not really her voice, but at the same time, it still IS, since with or without the Flutterguy voice, she could simply be a good or bad singer, if that makes sense. She still has to have the skill to use the voice well.

Anyway, the point is, she finds she’s not so keen on the idea of just stopping all of this. So, she convinces the others to do one last show the way they have been, with her hidden behind the curtain singing for Mac.

Ok, NOW, thought I, NOW something HAS to go wrong. And sweet Luna, did it ever.

Uh, Flutters, you knocked over the - um, ok, careful, you're -

Uh, Flutters, you knocked over the – um, ok, careful, you’re -

 

oh dear

oh dear

After Flutters brings the house down, the rest of the mane 6 (minus Rarity, who of course already knew) realize that something weird is going on, and has been for some time, and AJ confronts her big brother about it, snappily summing up everything that’s happened since he lost his voice in hilarious fashion. I was in stitches after this sequence – I’d have to say this was by far the funniest moment of the episode.

AJs other, hidden special talent: high-speed interrogation.

AJs other, hidden special talent: high-speed interrogation.

They manage to find Fluttershy (who is by now back to being Shy, not Guy, as the Joke effects don’t last forever… either that, or they got the cure from Zecora at the same time just to have it on hand, which would make a lot of sense actually) before she does something drastic such as flee town. Despite Pinkie pouncing on her to once again give a coherent voice to all of Fluttershy’s worst fears and basically say exactly the wrong thing at every turn

...seriously?

…seriously?

she makes a breakthrough, managing to sing in her own voice, out on stage, in front of an audience… kinda. It’s just the rest of the mane 6, a few animals, and absolutely nopony else. Still, as Fluttershy herself notes, you gotta start somewhere, and this is certainly a rather significant step forward when it comes to dealing with her stage fright.

This was a pretty fun episode – nothing grand or complex, but just fun. Not quite up there with the very best of season 4 (though, considering some of the remarkable highs that this season’s best episodes have hit so far, that’s hardly a severe condemnation on its own!), but right behind it, and definitely a very good Fluttershy episode, with a lot of wonderfully hilarious moments. I give “Filli Vanilli” a 9.

-Saito S

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