A CMC episode? That I LIKED? It's more likely than you think.
I was kinda dreading this one. The CMC have fallen back out of favour with me over the course of the season, which puts this episode into a similar position as Ponyville Confidential from season 2. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed this.
Now, let's begin with the characterization. The CMC, like with much of the season, seemed more mature than before. For this episode, it works to create a situation that is likely relatable to older children. In fact, I found I could relate a bit to Applebloom as well-though, being the oldest in my family, not entirely. On the other hand, Applejack's characterization as overprotective didn't quite feel right, though I'm not entirely sure if it's not consistent with her previous characterization. Still, she did make it even easier to root for Applebloom here, because her presence was uncharacteristically annoying in this episode.
What impressed me more is that what the Crusaders' fans always say about them suddenly made sense here. For the first time since One Bad Apple from season 3, I found the three fillies pretty cute, something that was missing from their other season 4 episodes. This will probably make me have more anticipation for future episodes featuring the CMC. At the same time, I have trouble thinking of them as main characters despite their continued appearances.
I was also very happy that they cut off the song in this episode, as I did not like their last song, and this one didn't seem much better. I don't feel I need to mention the animation any more.
Despite the off feeling of Applejack's characterization here, I can definitely say that this was a surprisingly great episode. For the first time in a while, I can't wait for the next one. See you next week!