These reviews do contain spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.
Watching Non-Compete Clause is the equivalent of seeing a train wreck happen before your eyes. No matter how much you want to look away at it, you just can't help but look and see how bad it is. You know, I said last season in my Honest Apple review how tiresome the Rarity and Applejack team up formula had gotten. So when I heard this episode was a Rainbow Dash and Applejack team up episode, it sounded like a great idea. They have a very unique dynamic that has them being friendly rivals. The most famous one, in my eyes at least, is Fall Weather Friends; the first Applejack and Rainbow team up episode. So it sounded like a pleasant surprise to have an episode staring these two again.
Little did we know that what we get is easily one of the most irritable episodes of the season yet. I'm not kidding when I say this could possibly be the worst episode of the season. I know we're not at the halfway point of the season, but this one is already a strong contender. It seems to do so much wrong and gives you nothing at the end. Probably by the time you're done watching this episode, you'll ask yourself what the point of it was.
When Fluttershy is elected as Teacher of the Month again at the Friendship School, Rainbow Dash and Applejack are both determined to become the next one. To do this, they decide to take the students on a field trip teaching them about teamwork. However, true to their competitive nature, Rainbow and Applejack soon get in the way and they lose focus on what's more important. Things get worse though when a nature walk on the trip goes wrong and they all end up in danger.
The episode seems to try to recapture elements from an episode that's similar to this one; Fall Weather Friends. In that one, Rainbow and Applejack got too competitive and nearly ruined the running of the leaves. They learned in the end though that friendship meant more than competition and went back to do another run together to get the rest of the leaves off. It was a great episode, and it had a good moral to boot with it.
Well, in that time, it seems both Rainbow and Applejack have completely forgotten about that lesson and have gone back to being overly competitive. Now, I get the idea that both of them are still competitive. We've even seen this in Castle Mane-ia with them seeing who can be the toughest. The difference though was at least in that episode, the two came to some mutual agreement about both being afraid and it was at least a subplot. In this episode though, they're both overboard on this competition of theirs to see who can become the teacher of the month.
It's not helped that Twilight, for some baffling reason, decides to allow these two to go and do this activity. She even comments about how these two get competitive in the past and obviously knows these two want to be Teacher of the Month. So, why would she choose two ponies who compete against each other to lead something like this? Isn't this like having a cannibal leading a cooking class?
Even later on, Twilight discovers things aren't going well at all when the students complain to her about what they've been doing. She decides to even take over the field trip and scolds her friends. At least until one really, really, really unconvincing conversation makes Twilight allow them to be given another chance. You know I did criticize Twilight in Horse Play about how she didn't listen to her friends. Well, I don't mean she should listen to everything; including half baked pleas to be given another chance when it's clear her friends aren't qualified at all for the task. For somebody so smart, Twilight seriously lacks in the common sense department.
This episode brings out the worst in Rainbow Dash and Applejack. It feels like they've reverted back to their season 1 and 2 selves again. The big difference though is that it could work back then, but after all this time passed and the lessons learned, we'd expect them to mature and learn from their past mistakes. Welp, in this episode they're not only back to their season 1 and 2 selves, but the obnoxious meter for both of them has been cranked up massively to the point you probably want to slap them or something.
Between the two though, I feel Rainbow Dash is especially written badly here. Applejack is awful too with how overly competitive she is, but at least from time to time points out some of the dangers incoming. Rainbow Dash though is just far too cocky, arrogant, and selfish in this episode who doesn't care about working together. She at the very least should know something about teamwork since she's a Wonderbolt. You know, for as much as I hate Newbie Dash, that episode taught Rainbow to not try and stick out so much and work together with the rest of the Wonderbolts. It wasn't handled well, but at least it taught her to put aside her showboating way and work with the rest of the Wonderbolts. In this episode, she completely ignores that just so she can win some trophy. I was kind of hoping Spitfire would've popped up and chew Rainbow out for her utter stupidity and forgetting what she learned about teamwork.
Along for the ride are the Student Six, the group of creatures we were introduced to in School Daze. To the episode's credit, these six are really the only ones written well here and carry this episode to make it better. There's some minor character development for them; in particular Yona about her fear of water. They get a few good jokes in here and there. They pretty much are the only thing this episode has going for itself. Too bad that despite their inclusion, they can't save this episode.
They also end up getting into constant danger not because of themselves, but because of how terrible Rainbow and Applejack are. For example, during the canoe activity, the boat breaks and Yona nearly drowns! Rainbow and Applejack don't bother to try and save her, but it falls to Silverstream and Ocellus to save her. Later on during the nature hike, they all get lost because of Rainbow and Applejack. Gallus later on comes up with a plan to fly every creature back to the school, but Applejack doesn't want them to do so. In other words, our so called teachers just do nothing but put the students in constant danger because they lack common sense and are too busy trying to see who can be a better teacher. They even show how tired they are of what Rainbow and Applejack are doing and the fact that none of them snapped at them is nothing short of a miracle.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this episode is this; it's so boring! There is very little going on in this episode. Most of the episode feels like filler or that nothing big is going on at all aside from the pointless feud between Rainbow and Applejack. This is espcially problematic during the second act when most of it is spent on that nature walk and both Rainbow and Applejack trying, and failing miserably I might add, to work together. By the time the episode picks up some steam, it's towards the very end with a quick climax that's resolved rather fast.
The comedy is another issue worth griping about. Aside from some decent jokes from the students, and a few chuckles at the start of the episode, this episodes seriously lacks anything funny. It tries to make us laugh at how Rainbow and Applejack try to force themselves to put aside their competitive nature, but it just comes off as cringe worthy. There's nothing really funny about how Applejack and Rainbow try to be overly friendly and comes off a bit creepy than funny.
Eventually, Rainbow and Applejack get saved from some bite-acudas thanks to the students. They all get back home safe and sound and Twilight wants to know how things went. The students, for some reason, decide to praise Rainbow and Applejack for their so called "genius" move of showing how to not work together and nominate them as Teachers of the Month. Yes, let the teachers who nearly let Yona drown and put the students in constant danger because of their pride be Teachers of the Month. When did bad behavior and child endangerment end up getting rewarded?
The episode ends with Twilight realizing both Applejack and Rainbow Dash were still competing. This leads to both of them arguing again and Twilight walking off exasperated. So, this means Applejack and Rainbow Dash learned ultimately nothing at the end of this episode. They put a lot of students in danger, don't apologize to them for doing so, and just completely ignore what they went through like it was nothing. Sounds like these two should be the students at the school instead of the teachers.
Non-Compete Clause is naturally a complete disaster. This is definitely one of the worst Applejack and Rainbow Dash entries in the series yet. It's bad enough that these two are reverted back to their season 1 and 2 counterparts, but this episode makes them so obnoxious and unlikable without being charming at all. In fact, it's made even worse when they constantly put the students in danger such as drowning, getting lost, and even ignoring basic logic like flying themselves back to the school itself.
The two of them are constantly butting heads against each other. This episode basically has neither Rainbow nor Applejack learned anything at all from this experience. Nothing ultimately comes back to bite them in the flanks for their bad behavior; not even guilt. They don't even apologize to the students at all for the way they acted or admit they learned a few things from them. But no, these two learn nothing at the end. I thought Fluttershy ignoring what she learned at the end of Scare Master was awful, but this may top it.
If they wanted to do an episode about the competitive nature involving Rainbow and Applejack with the students, there are better ways. They could've had the students split on who to follow and get into it. Eventually, they all face a big danger and realize they need to work together and face the threat. Then they would've learned about working together was important and realize how dumb they were. That sounds more like an interesting story than what we got here.
The worst part of all is that there's an episode from another TV series that did an episode similar to this. It was Spongebob Squarepants with the episode Employee of the Month. In that one Squidward and Spongebob both competed to be employee of the month at the Krusty Krab. It was funnier, more entertaining, and it was an overall better episode. It didn't have the characters be overly stupid and put others in constant danger like this episode did. It was a fun episode, and far better executed than this episode.
The only positives I'm willing to give this episode are a few of the jokes being funny, and the Student Six themselves. They were the best characters in this entire episode and were written well here. They got some minor character development and it was nice to have them all have speaking roles again. They tried to carry this episode, but they couldn't save this episode at the end.
I hate this episode, and it's a strong contender for worst of the season yet. Fake it Til You Make it was disappointing and lousy yes, but that one at least had more going for itself. It had some better comedy and the personas were good. This episode has nothing going for itself at all and you'll get nothing from this episode at the end. The characterization is deplorable, the comedy is terrible, the pacing is bad, and it brought out the worst in Applejack and Rainbow Dash. It's not only possibly the worst episode of the season, but it's arguably one of the worst episodes of the series yet. Why does this episode exist!?
Earlier in the episode, Pinkie listed off all her friends as being better examples of teamwork than Rainbow and Applejack; even a flowerpot. You know, I think this episode may have been worth it if, and only if, at the end, the flowerpot won the next Teacher of the Month. I get this feeling that pot alone would be a better teacher than Rainbow and Applejack. Instead of these two being nominated as Teachers of the Month, they should be in detention for this massive waste of time.
FINAL SCORE: 3 out of 10 (D-)
Season eight episodes ranking from best to worse:
Surf and/or Turf
Grannies Gone Wild
The Parent Map
The Maud Couple
Fake it Til You Make it
Surf and/or Turf
Grannies Gone Wild
The Parent Map
The Maud Couple
Fake it Til You Make it
Non-Compete Clause (NEW)