Well, I got what I expected, I suppose. Though it wasn't as much a CMC episode than it was an Applejack one.
Applejack sure loves her family but this seemed a tad ridiculous to me. How does she let her sister do all those crazy Crusader things they do? Hold a spoon in her mouth when running to carry an egg (You could get hurt if you trip over!)? Honestly, ridiculous. There was a concern we would have Merriwether grade accidents all over but all we got was a Merribad AJ which isn't necessarily any better.
Remember the train episode and how Pinkie was an idiot there? That's AJ in this episode. Sure, there were some nice elements in this episode here and there, but the overall pointlessness of the story and AJ being what she was ruined the episode for me, since that kinda was being the main focus.
Oh, and AJ listing all that nonsense about fire-proof boots and lion tamer's chairs and whatnot? Turns out she wasn't just being overprotective and silly there but actually serious. They did such a thing before in Family Appreciation Day and I found it worked there, it's one of my favourite episodes mostly for that reason. But there Granny was right all along and knew what she was doing, even if it seemed nonsensical without knowing why. Here AJ was wrong all the time, doing nonsensical stuff for no reason but then turned out to be right about what seemed to be some of the most outrageously nonsensical things. That doesn't sit well with me and it muddles the story being told here in my mind, or if not that, it weakens it. It's like they have two stories there, one where AJ is a wreck and Apple Bloom can take care of herself, and one where AJ is a responsible adult who Bloom needs to get along. And that responsible, no-nonsense AJ doesn't work with what we saw earlier in the episode. Of note is that this no-nonsense AJ has been the prevalent one in the show. This contradiction with the episode itself is one of the main reasons it didn't work that well for me.
The fire swamp was kinda cool, chimera as well, but I don't think its design was that great. I was expecting the chimera to actually be the one the pies were for and AJ showing up to "save" Apple Bloom from no danger at all. Instead it was a pony-eating monster and ruined the possibility of staying consistent throughout the episode. And of course then there were the ponies they were bringing the pies to… I don't know accents that well or anything, so I can't say for sure if the portrayal of those ponies was somewhat disparaging. Seems like it could be taken like that, though.
The song Apple Bloom was starting to sing didn't sound super good so I'm glad Scoots cut that short. No time for a song, indeed. I'm surprised their plan actually worked, though. Their manes are all different colours, and while the ribbon is huge some of the mane probably does show through. When I was a kid I thought if I stood or sat completely still people would think I was a statue. This plan is on that level. For the record, I never could fool anyone for some strange reason
AB growing frustrated with her sister was understandable and you could see her growing more and more frustrated as we went along, which was nice, at least. I would have liked if she'd properly blown up at AJ, saying stuff about their mom or whatnot. But no, opportunity wasted.
Overall, this is one of those episodes I might rewatch to fact-check something but wouldn't otherwise without it being part of a marathon-type thing. Bad characterization, uninteresting characters and poorly realized story idea all made this episode just meh. I feel sorry for that new writer, but their debut did let me down.