Adventures in Pet Sitting: “Just for Sidekicks” review

I think Spike may be my favourite character on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Recent episodes aside, he’s shown himself to be reliable and trustworthy. If a little oblivious. He cares for those around him, and is always willing to help.

But of course he’s still a dragon, which comes with its own problems. Dragon instincts don’t fly well with the society in which Spike currently resides. Immense greed, an overzealous rigidity to a moral code, and a single-minded hunger for gems can cause quite a bit of conflict when surrounded by those who don’t have the same mentality.

What is a dragon to do?

Well, you try to get by the best you can. But obviously it’s not easy to go against your instincts and basic nature… though it would be nice if he actually tried. I bring this up because on this week’s episode, he doesn’t… at all.

We start with a bit of a montage, framed photos, sitting in the library, of Spike and his pet phoenix, Peewee. You know, the one he acquired last season. I sort of found it a bit odd that this character hadn’t made a single appearance since his debut. But now we discover why. It seems that, at some point, Peewee was reunited with his parents… or some other pair of phoenixes adopted him. Okay, that saddens me. I mean, I guess it’s nice that he’s with his parents. But what about Spike? he raised the little guy, for a few days at least. And now the character’s gone, we’ll never see him again. We barely even got to know him. What the hell!?

Anyway, the story opens as Spike is making a jewel cake. That would be a cake with jewels baked-in. Seems like a cool concept. I wonder how the gems react to heat. Probably not at all.

He’s been saving up all these jewels for months, which’ll make it one hell of a cake, if only due to the sheer mass of gemstones within.

Now as many people know, the funnest part of baking something, is to sample some of the ingredients. Take chocolate chip cookies. How many of us haven’t just grabbed a handful of chips and thrown them down!? I remember once I bought a big bag of high-quality chocolate chips with plans to bake them into a vanilla cake. Never happened because I ended up eating them straight.

So of course Spike samples a few gems as he’s stirring the batter together… and then a few more… and a few more… and by the time he’s ready to throw them into the mix, they’re gone. Of course Spike wonders where all his gems went, and he suspects Owlowiscious. Because… you know… gems are a natural part of his diet as well.

In all seriousness, the owl points out that Spike’s mouth is covered in glitter. So either he ate all the gems, or he licked a stripper.

Anyway, he doesn’t take this well, he was really looking forward to that cake, and now he can’t have any. Well, he already ate the gems, so he didn’t really miss out. Why not just make the cake without?

I guess it wouldn’t be the same. Or the gems were actually his way of preventing anyone else from eating it.

Fluttershy shows up, and explains that her and the gang are heading off to the Crystal Empire to welcome something about some games- it’s not important. What’s important is that Fluttershy needs someone to watch after Angel.

Actually, hold on, I’m glad they finally recognized that Spike never gets invited to these kinds of things. He’s part of the group isn’t he? So why does he get snubbed so often?

Actually, on that note, isn’t he the one who saved the Crystal Empire earlier this season? Isn’t he the one who got the Crystal Heart to ground level? Why shouldn’t he be invited as an honoured guest? I’m actually kinda pissed off at this!

But whatever. So yeah, Fluttershy needs a pet sitter. Of course she goes to Spike since he’s so reliable. She’s even willing to pay him, with a giant emerald. Why does she have a giant emerald? Are they used as a form of currency in Equestria? Well, whatever. Spike accepts, since he really wants that cake.

Angel’s not too thrilled about the idea, but Owlowiscious gives him the stare down, possibly reminding the bunny of an owl’s natural diet.

Anyway, Fluttershy’s proposal inspires Spike to open up a pet-sitting business for the weekend. Just until the girls get back. He quickly visits the others and asks them if they’re interested in his services.

You know, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time they’ve left town. Actually, I know for a fact this isn’t the first time they’ve left town. So why would they suddenly need a pet sitter now? Why did Fluttershy come up with the idea now?

So, Rainbow and Rarity are the first ponies he approaches. Tank seems to have changed a bit, character-wise. I always thought of him as relatively smart, but here, he seems pretty dim, crashing into things. I guess it has something to do with his propeller. He just has a hard time controlling it.

Meanwhile, Rarity explains all of Opal’s needs, and it’s a pretty lengthy list. I’ve owned a cat… two actually, and they don’t need that much maintenance. Just give them enough food and water and they’ll be fine, and if you manage to potty train them it’s better still. Though someone will need to flush the toilet.

You know, I can’t be sure, but I think Opal was hitting on Tank… Interesting.

So Rainbow and Rarity pay him with gemstones, and I find this perplexing: The supposed embodiment of generosity pays not with a gemstone, but a small shard of gem. It’s so small I’m pretty sure if he inhaled, he’d lose it.

Anyway, he manages to get all five to agree to his terms, and the next day they meet at the library, before catching the train up north.

Twilight hears about Spike’s new business, and appears a bit skeptical. But she pays Spike to watch Owlowiscious anyway, even though that should just be part of his job as Twilight’s assistant. She already paid him… as part of his salary. Wait… he does get paid right?

Oh… anyway, as she’s leaving, Twilight asks if he’s sure he’s up for this, but Spike reassures her by ogling a cookbook. She reminds him of his priorities, and leaves.

Then the pets start tearing up the library.

So I guess we know why they got rid of Peewee. Because he’s having a hard enough time taking care of six. A seventh would turn the library to rubble.

He quickly restores order, but Angel has already taken off, out the door. Goddamnit!!!

He leashes up the remaining five pets and follows him, using Winona’s expert tracking skills. They wind up at the Cutie Mark Crusaders Clubhouse. OOO!!! They’re here!

You know, I love how in many fanworks, Spike is paired up with the Cutie Mark Crusaders as one group. In some cases, Snips and Snails join in. But this is the first time they’ve shared any significant screen time on the show proper, and it kinda works. We need to see these four together more often. They play off each other really well. In their previous encounters, however brief, they haven’t exactly been on the best of terms. The Crusaders once messed up the library, they spread nasty rumors about Twilight (though in that case Spike was a bit of an accomplice, so I don’t know what his problem was) and once, Spike tried to steal Scootaloo’s scooter. But even then, the dynamic worked.

This time they’re on better terms, and it works even better. The Crusaders are fawning over Angel, annoying and exasperating Spike and the other pets. But good old Spike takes advantage of the situation. He tries to con them into taking care of Angel. But they have other plans: Skydiving!

Oh boy. I’m not getting into safety concerns again.

But once Spike mentions a bunnysitting cutie mark, they change their minds. Even Scootaloo is for it, which seems odd to me. She’s one of those girls who shuns cutesy stuff, so I’m surprised she’d want a cutie mark in that.

Then Spike suggests they take them all. But the Crusaders are wise to his plans, so they extort him for gems. He gives them the sliver he got from Rarity.

So Spike gets all the ingredients to bake his cake and is passing by the clubhouse when he hears- wait a minute! Why was he at Sweet Apple Acres? Isn’t it on the outskirts of town? He was walking away from a bunch of buildings as he passed it, so… was he heading home? Was he planning to bake it at Applejack’s? Well she might have a better stove, but still seems unlikely. Maybe he was passing through on the way to the library. But that would place the farm in the middle of town, unless he took a massive detour. I don’t know what’s happening. This town appears to be in geographic flux.

So anyway, he hears them mention that they’re painting Owlowiscious pink. He’s okay with that. Then he hears that they lost Tank’s head. DA HELL!?

Turns out it just receded into his shell.

So the Crusaders aren’t very good at… anything. So they give the pets back, but are unable to return the gem. They apparently lost it in one of their pores. I mean, they spent it on an industrial-sized pet-hair dryer. It’s a massive device. I love those kinds of visual gags.

Side note: It appears Big Mac and Cheerilee are still dating. Good for them, it’s good to know the date rape drugs didn’t cause too much emotional trauma.

So the pets start pulling Spike through town. Well… Tank and Winona are. Angel is hopping alongside, Owlowiscious is flying a bit behind, with Gummy in his talons, and Opalescence is being dragged like a rag doll. I once did that to my cat when he was young. Of course I didn’t do it at that speed, but I still feel bad about it to this day. I think it caused permanent mental trauma. I just wanted him to walk with me! That’s the thing about cats, they’re pretty fucking stubborn.

He ends up getting strapped to a tree by their tangled leashes. This amuses Angel, and catches the attention of the town’s resident zebra. Ah, it’s Zecora once again. She offers to help solve his problems of ‘bad mojo’ and stuff. I don’t know. She requests one of his gems, and instead of helping him out of his predicament, she just drops it in a donation box, since she’s so worried about his greed.

Okay, now she qualifies as a bitch. I’m sorry, but a dragon desiring gems, that’s not greed, that’s hunger, and who the fuck are you to give it away!? What good did that do!? Mojo… OH! She’s talking about karma! I want to say karma’s not real and such, but this is Equestria we’re dealing with; the land of pegasi, unicorns and other magical creatures. Though, given Twilight’s outlook in previous episodes, Feeling Pinkie Keen and Bridle Gossip… No, you know what!? Zecora’s full of shit! There, I said it! She’s full of shit! Karma, mojo, it’s all bunk. There’s no such thing. There’s no desire of the universe to ensure balance. It just looks that way because people end up cherry-picking data points memories to fit their theories. Karma is just another way people try to find some order in the chaos of the universe.

Anyway, yeah, fucking Zecora! He was going to eat that!

So he ties all the pets up in a giant ball, and a passing Granny Smith does not approve. He bribes her with a gem to keep her quiet. For those keeping track, he has only three left.

So it’s time to wrangle all the pets, but the rebellious Angel Bunny has hopped on a train. Spike runs after him, but the train conductor can’t let him on with all those animals. They would each need a chaperone. Oh… and tickets.

But, on a nearby bridge, the Crusaders are going to try skydiving… that… that’s not… eh-no.

Spike kidnaps them and asks if three is enough. He then pays the conductor off, either to overlook the fact that there are only four sentient creatures for five pets, or to pay for the tickets… or both.

You know, I don’t understand why Spike didn’t just ask those three to watch them for five seconds while he grabbed Angel, but that might have something to do with their results last time.

Spike, the Crusaders, and the pets get on and search the train. They quickly learn they’re heading to the Crystal Empire and… huh… that’s interesting. Anyway, they find Angel, and are about to get off when the train starts moving… shit.

At some point, the four receive a private cabin, and I get the feeling someone’s going to write a racy fanfic about that, because it’s the internet.

The pets nonetheless escape, and attack Pony/Donut/Pastry Joe’s Donut cart. Spike pays him off with his next-to-last gemstone. The last one remaining is the one from Fluttershy.

They arrive at their destination, and the tracks have apparently been expanded to run straight into the city proper… unlike last time. The Crusaders are excited. But Spike insists that they stay in the car. They’re not supposed to even be there. But like any group of children, they refuse to let an opportunity go to waste. Spike physically blocks the door, but Apple Bloom brings out the big guns.

I wonder how she knew Spike was ticklish.

But Angel quickly uses Tank to stage a breakout, specifically because he noticed Fluttershy walking past the window. Oh… right. They’re here. This is bad.

Spike runs out looking for Angel, and spots them himself, grabbing the pets and the girls, and hiding behind luggage. But Angel has a different goal. He runs for Fluttershy, and Spike has only one way of stopping him. He sacrifices his final gem, throwing it at a crate full of luggage, blocking Angel’s path, allowing him to catch up. I’m surprised all of Spike’s yelling didn’t attract her attention.

They all get back on the train without the six noticing, and settle in for a long ride home. But then they overhear Twilight talking as she wanders over to their car. It just so happens to be the car they settle in at. All ten hide under the seats. Not a comfortable position.

But Angel has other plans, he’s about to kick the underside of the seat, where Applejack is sitting. Spike begs him not to.

You know, this surprises me. This whole fiasco was all due to Angel. He ran off at the beginning. He jumped on the train, he ran out of the train to grab Fluttershy. If they are caught, he’d be in a lot of trouble.

But after overhearing Twilight explain that Spike would be fine with the critters if he just remained calm. He decides to just let himself get caught. He’d deserve whatever happens at that point.

But one of Angel’s emotions stops him. I want to say it’s guilt or sympathy, but this is Angel we’re talking about!

Spike apologizes for being so neglectful. He was so focused on the gems, he never really bothered to take care of them properly. In fact he lost most of the gems because he wasn’t taking care of them properly.

Then, Spike’s stomach starts to rumble. Not as loudly as his voice, but somehow, it’s his stomach that starts to grab Applejack’s attention. Angel runs off and quickly comes back with a giant emerald. The bunny shoves the gemstone down Spike’s throat, settling his noisy tummy.

As the train arrives in Ponyville and the girls disembark. The stowaways quickly jump out a window before the train can move again. Which it does very quickly, I find that odd.

They all reunite, and Spike’s all ready to use the last half gem in the epic jewel cake. Then he eats it without thinking.

Oh Spike.

So what did I think of this episode? Pretty darn good. I think it was Spike at his best. Plus the Crusaders had a decent presence, and they’re always good for a laugh. It’s one of this season’s best. But that’s not a particularly high bar.

Next episode: The gang is heading back to the Crystal Empire to welcome someone about some games… wait… Oh! That’s cool. This is going to get interesting. You rarely see an episode of any TV show run concurrently with the previous episode. I like it.

That’s in two weeks. OH! You are shitting me!

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