Specific Idido Ball instances:
I don't consider any of these to be severe enough to actually dampen the episode. Your mileage may vary, though, so I'll just explain to you how I perceived each of these parts of the story.
Granny Smith being goaded into agreeing to a speed competition when she has just finished reminding Apple Bloom that the Apple family way isn't about speed. (Is the irrational reaction to being called chicken an American thing? I've never seen it in real life, only on TV and the movies. It felt contrived in Back to the Future 2 and it feels contrived here, too.)
Not an American thing, but rather, a child-like thing. Considering this is a children's show, Granny Smith's willingness to accept the challenge after being called chicken is intentionally cast in a negative light. As for her agreeing to the speed aspect, that makes sense if you consider the context under which she made the "It's not about the speed" assertion -- namely, after tasting for herself that Flim Flam cider tasted just as good as or better than Apples cider, and as an attempt to support her family's reputation (building on the "quality" theme, since they certainly couldn't boast about quantity).
What's worse is that no one balked when, after the competiton was agreed to, the Flimflam brothers suddenly tacked on the rider that the outcome
of the competition would determine who had the sole rights to cider sales in Ponyville. So while the Apple family won't accept a 25% share of cider sales they raise no objection to potentially getting 0%.
All the Apples are extremely stubborn and hot-headed. Furthermore, after making the initial bet, all four of them had all night to build up their already formidable determination. It was either definitely be driven out of business by accepting Flim and Flam's offer, be definitely driven out of business by Flim and Flam becoming their competitors and eventually stealing all their business, or possibly win a one-time apple-handling competition that would assert their monopoly on the town permanently.
Forget about alcohol, the real debate in the fandom should be about whether Equestria has antitrust laws.
I have no problem with the FF brothers turning off the quality control in an effort to speed up production and win the competition. In a quantity-based competition it seems like a clever strategy to me. But once they've won and sent the Apple family packing what do they do? Do they try to sell the cider that the Apple family just made, but they now own? No. Do they try to sell the cider from their own machine which was made before the quality control was turned off? No. What they try to sell is the 'drek' filled with branches and rocks and who-knows what else!
This does seem stupid, and initially I was surprised that the brothers did this. If you'll kindly give me a moment....
And, of course, if people won't buy your poor quality stock then it stands to reason that they won't be interested in any of the good quality product that you happen to have lying around in large quantites, which prior to today they had been camping out overnight for.
The other ponies saw clearly what jerks they were after the way they openly mocked the Apples regarding the loss of their livelihood. In front of a whole town of potential customers. Notice how reluctant they all were to buy from Flim and Flam until Applejack explicitly told them to go ahead.
Very subtle, and not so very much an inconsistency or idiot ball as a textbook example of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain
I would mention that it makes no sense to win a con and then depart without your winnings but since they had only limited barrel carrying capacity I suppose it makes sense in context.
Realizing that they would no longer be able to do business in the area they'd just obtained their monopoly, they had no choice but to leave. With, it occurs to me now, as many barrels of the good
cider as they could carry.
Not Idiot Ball, per se but still…
How does a vague reference to needing the income from cider sales to keep the farm afloat over winter suddenly turn into the immediate transfer of all the land and everything on it when it is only the right to sell cider in Ponyville that has been lost? How far do the borders of Ponyville extend? (Judging by the length of the queues and how long it took RD to fly there the farm/orchard must already be a fair way out from the Ponyville township.) Can't the Apple family just move their cider stand to just over the county line, so to speak? If the Apple family refused to supply them any apples do you think the FF brothers (who, by the way, are conmen rather than businessmen) would go to all the trouble of sourcing, importing, and storing apples just so they could exercise their cider-selling rights in Ponyville?
A couple of notes here. One, the Flim Flam brothers were not conponies, at least as far as we could see. As much as Harold Hill would have admired their performance, they never tried to con anyone, but rather, won over the crowd and expertly played on the character flaws of the Apples to obtain what they wanted in a perfectly open manner. Two...
...this is where I continue from where I asked you to give me a moment above. You see, the Flim Flam brothers are businessponies. Smooth-talking, slimy businessponies who wouldn't bat an eye at depriving a family of their home. Why, you ask, did the brothers sell the bad cider? Why, you could add, did they turn off the quality control despite what they could have known would happen?
Simple. We all know that ponies have meaningful names
. What do "Flim" and "Flam" have to do with apples, or cider-making, or even magic-mechanical engineering
? Nothing. It can be inferred that maybe they were confidence artists, perhaps dabbling in apple-related fraud (note their cutie marks) before now going for something a little more legitimate.
But nothing about this indicates that they know the first thing about making cider themselves. In fact, their skill at manipulating other ponies is so impressive that I speculate they got the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000 by making a similar dubious business dealing with an inventor pony during the course of their adventures, and thus they know very little about operating it properly.
This is all just theory, and the episode still works just fine for me with the brothers simply being simultaneously conceited regarding their device, flustered regarding the possibility that they might have lost, and giddy that they just secured a monopoly on one of the largest industries in one of the prominent towns in the vicinity of the Canterlot suburbs.
In fact, that works even better.Epileptic apple tree cider is tasty, but should only be enjoyed in moderation.
Why is Apple family business in danger of going under financially without their cider sales? If they have a mortgage what was it needed for? It can't be for the land because Celestia gave that to them when they first arrived. In any case even if they did default on a payment the ownership of the land and the apples would go to whoever was lending the money, not to the competition.
Farms require a lot
of money to maintain. Without proper funds, the family would be unable afford to tend to the crops and animals, resulting in them being unable to afford repairs on their housing and equipment, making supporting the crops and animals even harder, and eventually requiring them to sell it. As admittedly jarring as it is, I don't believe the Apples would be spiteful enough to let their personal grudge against Flim and Flam prevent them from selling it to them, particularly if the brothers were the only ones with the rights to sell cider nearby.
If the Apple family thing is all about quality and taking the time to do a job right why were they confident enough to bet the farm on a quantity competition (where quality, or lack of it, doesn't matter) against opposition they knew nothing about? Okay, so they are the best cider producers in the area but surely Applejack still remembers last week's episode where ten years of dominating the local Ponyville rodeo wasn't good enough to win any of the events in the Canterlot rodeo, i.e. just because you are good at something that doesn't mean there aren't people out there who are better. Applejack's assertion that she didn't learn anything after being taken to the cleaners by con artists really makes me worry about the security of Sweet Apple Acres once Granny Smith passes away.
Granny Smith accepted the challenge, not Applejack. I can't see Applejack falling for the same trick, but I can see her supporting her family members even if they make questionable decisions.
Finally, Applejack's lying (or at least making statements which are untrue) — it bugged me in The Last Roundup and it bugs me in this episode too. Near the start of the episode she tells the ponies who missed out on cider that the Apple family have done everything they can to maximise their cider production without compromising quality, or words to that effect. Yet at the end of the episode they have, according to Apple Bloom, produced enough cider for all of Ponyville, i.e. they produced more cider in one hour than they had done previously when they had a whole day. This episode shows that Applejack intial statement was technically not correct (the best kind of not correct), i.e. a lie.
Nope, not a lie. A lie requires an untruth and an intent to deceive. In The Last Roundup
, she was dishonest (and this was shocking coming from the Element of Honesty, but understandable, because OOC is Serious Business
), but used exact words
to try and escape having to confess her secret. In this episode, she told the truth and was completely honest. As far as she knew, the Apples were
maximizing their production as best they could. Granted, this was wrong, but it was not a lie.
As I pointed out before, it was the competition of Flim and Flam which drove Applejack into considering other ways to boost the family's output. Perhaps now the Apples will consider hiring some helping hooves during the cider season. At any rate, capitalism saves the day!
Who expected a Econ 101 course from a show about pastel cartoon ponies?
P.S. Which one is Flim and which one is Flam? The song makes 4 references, 2 of which contradict the other 2, and the only other time where they address each other by name is done off-screen, when they're leaving at the end.
Completely intentional, I should think. Their whole game was dazzling everypony and throwing their targets off their guard. Inconsistent names fit perfectly right alongside their fast talking and unabashed flattery.
Daring Do is best pony archaeologist. Rainbow Dash.... Not so much.