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Synopsis:

It’s time for the Equestria Games Qualification Trials at Rainbow Falls. Each pony in Equestria is only allowed to compete in a single event, so Rainbow Dash, Ponyville’s best flier, has elected to participate in the relay with Ponyville’s weakest fliers, Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps, to hopefully “offset” them enough to give them victory. Shortly after arrival and practice begins, the representatives of Cloudsdale, three of the best Wonderbolts (Spitfire, Fleetfoot, and Soarin’), arrive to compete as well and between their professionalism, high “sponsorship”, and already great talent they’re a shoe-in to qualify. Unfortunately for them, Soarin’ injures his wing while practicing and, being short a member, they look bound to lose. As a result, Spitfire and Fleetfoot tap Rainbow Dash as Soarin’s replacement for practice runs, as she’s originally from Cloudsdale. Rainbow Dash ends up giving into the temptation and splitting time between her group and Cloudsdale’s, and while Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy look ambiguous as to their chance of qualifying, she soon proves to be a match for the Wonderbolts in their own practice. The day before the trials, Spitfire and Fleetfoot ask her to join their team and be “one of the winners”, an offer that tempts Rainbow Dash even more for her desire to win and fly alongside the Wonderbolts, but Twilight Sparkle points out how abandoning Ponyville will end up ruining chances for Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy as well as all of her friends who have been sponsoring her. To avoid making the choice, Rainbow Dash fakes an injury to disqualify herself from both teams. Yet soon she gets a heavy dose of guilt when her friends treat her kindly in the clinic and Fluttershy, Bulk Biceps, and their “replacement” (Derpy Hooves) promise to give her their gold medals if they win since it means so much to her. Furthermore, she soon discovers Soarin’ has been healed for a while, but Spitfire and Fleetfoot coerced him into staying bedridden so they could replace him with Rainbow Dash, as she was the better flier. On hearing this, Rainbow Dash gets out of bed, confesses her deception, and declares her allegiance to Ponyville while saying she’d never fly with a group that treats their own members so badly. This prompts Spitfire to apologize to Soarin’ and bring him back in the team. Both Cloudsdale and Ponyville (albeit just barely) end up qualifying, Spitfire gives Rainbow Dash her own Wonderbolt pin for teaching her “another lesson”, and Rainbow writes in the journal about the importance of choosing loyalty to her friends over winning no matter how much she likes to win. As she flies outside to mess around with them, Spitfire’s pin emits a rainbow shimmer…

Review:

It’s DERPY rather DERPY hard DERPY to DERPY talk DERPY about DERPY the DERPY main DERPY point DERPY of DERPY this DERPY episode DERPY in DERPY view DERPY of DERPY a DERPY certain DERPY character DERPY that DERPY overshadowed DERPY it.

I honestly think some fans could hardly remember how this episode ended up in view of the fact that the real “noteworthy” part of this episode wasn’t the fact that it was the second Key of Harmony episode, but rather the fact that it was the long-awaited (not to mention surprise) return of Derpy Hooves. By now, some fans were resigning themselves to the fact she was “gone forever”. After making only three barely noticeable appearances in Season Three, she had been totally absent from Season Four up until now and more than a few rumors began to go around that she was never coming back. But I think there was a unified gasp of delight from every brony and pegasister in the country when Derpy walked through the door to Rainbow Dash’s room waving her little pennant. It would have been one thing if they simply had Derpy “fly in through the background” in this episode, but no…she interacts with the Mane Six in this one and she takes up a frame or two just by herself.

It was clear the show’s creators weren’t doing this because they simply “remembered Derpy and felt the rage over ‘The Last Roundup’ has died down”. They did it knowing full well the fans would be ecstatic over it, so she returned “in style” by actually figuring into the plot a bit. Granted, there were some “neigh-sayers”. Some fans immediately complained that no one called her by her name (“Derpy”, “Ditzy”, “Muffins”, or anything else), and others moaned that she was once again mute. I have to admit we’ll probably never hear Derpy say a word again (but keep your eyes on Season Five’s episode 100…), but I’m honestly “quite satisfied” with Derpy once again making “splash appearances” in the foreground doing “derpy things”. And, fortunately for the fans, that’s just what we got in the rest of the episodes of this series. The fact that she photobombs the picture at the end is also a clear nod the show creators knew this was what the fans wanted to see. With Derpy back, the show began to feel just like “the good old days” again.

Now, where was I… Oh yeah, there was an episode to talk about in all this, wasn’t there?

Honestly, they could have made this episode as bad as “Look Before You Sleep”, “Putting Your Hoof Down”, or…the episode that comes after this one…and the fans would have loved it simply because Derpy returned in it, but this episode would have been a pretty good one without it. The characters, including newly-named Bulk Biceps, the interactions, the humor…all of it is very good and hits well. Rainbow Dash was already tempted to give up her loyalty in favor of her dreams in “Wonderbolt Academy”, and her decision there was ultimately far more poignant, but I think she does very well in this one too. As a nice touch we haven’t really seen so far, I notice Twilight Sparkle doesn’t straight “lecture” Rainbow Dash in this one. She tells it like it is and then pretty much tells her to make her own choice. At one point, Rainbow Dash even asks her to tell her what to do…and Twilight simply says this is a decision she has to make herself and then walks away. Moments like this in Season Four are points where Twilight Sparkle seems less “the bookwormish, antisocial filly” from the Season One opener and more like “the new goddess of Equestria”.

Similar to “Wonderbolt Academy”, the biggest bad part of this episode to me is Spitfire…and, in a sense, the Wonderbolts as a whole. In Season One and Two they were portrayed as highly disciplined. In this episode…that “discipline” is starting to look like egotism and snobbishness. Their image was already starting to look a bit “tarnished” in Season Three. After this episode, it looks more and more like Rainbow Dash needs to find some new idols. The worst part was that Spitfire was supposed to be the “side character who learned the value of loyalty” in this episode. But she’s pretty much the worst example they could have picked. She at least remembers Rainbow Dash in this episode, but she still forgot the lesson she “taught her” at Wonderbolts Academy. Supposedly Spitfire was supposed to have learned in that episode how bad it was to value the philosophy “win at any cost”. But here she’s even worse than in that episode…backstabbing her own teammate. Frankly, I thought they could have done a bit better than that. I thought they could have had Soarin’ refuse to compete at first. After all, with Rainbow Dash flying for Ponyville, that meant Cloudsdale, the folks everyone thought would have the race in the bag, would have had no way to qualify and they’d have to really “get on their knees” to get Soarin’ back. However, I noticed the characters in this show aren’t ones to hold grudges like that…to make the ones who wronged them “suffer a bit”…and, to be honest, that’s a healthy trait to have. But it makes me seriously doubt Spitfire “learned her lesson”. I could rant about how much I hate her character, but that’s already in my review of “Rainbow Falls”.

But that aside, it’s another great episode. DERPY!

Fun Facts:

At long last, the “pegasus on steroids” got a name in this episode: Bulk Biceps. When Rainbow Dash says: “It’s going to take more than muscles and ‘yeahs!’ to get us to the Equestria Games.”, her eyes go “walleyed” like his when she yells “yeah”.

Another episode continuing the “Equestria Games” arc. It also introduced the rule of only allowing each athlete to compete in one event.

Griffons are trying out for qualification rounds too. This is only their third appearance in the series.

The pony giving Spitfire a massage bears a resemblance to a character in one of the greatest sports-related movies ever: Mickey from “Rocky”. In another “Rocky” nod, while Rainbow Dash is training with the Wonderbolts, a song similar to the one that plays during Rocky’s training montage is in the background.

The long-awaited return of Derpy Hooves. She photobombs the picture at the end.

Rating:

4 Stars out of 5 (0.5 Stars from Derpy)

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