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Synopsis:

Applejack’s cousin Braeburn has formed a team for a relatively unknown sports game called “Buckball” which requires a three-pony team of a unicorn, earth pony, and pegasus to play, but claims its the best; leading Applejack to want to form a Ponyville team to beat them. Believing she and Rainbow Dash are the best choices for the earth pony and pegasus, respectively, they get Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to form two-thirds of an opposing team so they can hold tryouts for a unicorn to round out their team. While eventually they discover Snails has a natural talent for it, the true surprise comes when they realize Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are even better at the game than they are, and they decide they want them to take their places. While the two agree at first, the next day Applejack and Rainbow Dash put them through a grueling practice regimen while continuously shouting the importance of winning this game not only for the honor of the Apple Family but for all of Ponyville, making the two so jittery and nervous they start messing up left and right. By the time the next day has come and Applejack and Rainbow have gotten all of Ponyville whipped up for the two to win the game, the pressure is on so much that the two declare themselves unable to win and kick themselves off the team. Realizing they’ve been pushing the two so hard the game is no longer fun for them, and they were only at their best when they were relaxed and having fun, Applejack and Rainbow Dash apologize and offer to take the places of the girls, but ask that they help them with a practice game first. In a much more relaxed and no pressure setting, Pinkie and Fluttershy regain their talent and again excel at the game. Now more mellowed out, they decide to follow Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and (surprisingly) Snips’ advice and not think about the pressure from Ponyville to win and just focus on having a good time again. With that mindset, Ponyville is able to win a 7-6 victory over Appleloosa. When Braeburn starts focusing on a strategy for the future rematch, Pinkie suggests that he just focuses on having fun.

Review:

This episode seemed to be all about “doing the unexpected”.

Not in the plot itself, of course. This one isn’t one of the major ones from the children’s playbook, but it’s a fairly simple storyline. Friend finds out other friend is good at a competitive sport and suggests they play in a big game; friend ends up pressuring other friend way too hard to win and makes the game not fun anymore; friend apologizes to other friend and other friend is able to have fun and play. They even went ahead and let Ponyville win the game once Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy relaxed, so Applejack and Rainbow Dash didn’t have to own up to their claim that they only wanted the two to have a good time at the end.

But, as in many episodes such as this one, it was all about the presentation, and this one I felt was rather nice on not going for the expected route in anything. One might have expected this to have Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the main roles, as both of them have shown they can be neurotic about competing. Instead, it went to Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, neither of whom are well known for being athletes on the show. To help drive the message home, they could have used the example of “tiger moms”, and to that end they could have had Applejack and Rainbow Dash pressuring the CMCs instead. (It would have made sense with an earth pony, unicorn, and pegasus needed for the game.) Instead, again, they used Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie; their peers rather than the younger generation (the fact that Applejack and Rainbow Dash were already abyssmal to the CMCs had already happened once this season already anyway…). One would have expected Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, or even Starlight Glimmer (renown for being able to do anything magic) to fill in for the unicorn. Instead, they used Snails…a character who has literally never appeared in the series when not being played off of Snips. They even go the extra mile and make him a Zen Master of ball catching (who would have thought a snail Cutie Mark would mean that?).

At its heart it’s a rather simplistic episode. There’s nothing terribly monumental about it, and the moral is one that could have easily fit in with earlier seasons. And yet there’s nothing wrong with being simplistic when it’s done well and everyone is in character. And the fact that none of the details were in the “playbook” and what would have been normally expected was a nice touch, and I actually give it kudos for that. Another solid episode in this season.

Fun Facts:

The “chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-chi” sound that is made when Applejack goes in slow motion to kick the apple is based off of a similar effect for TV series “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman”. That is one hard apple, by the way.

Rainbow Dash can fly with one wing.

I kind of like the irony that Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are both voiced by the same actor, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack are voiced by the same actor. Enables everyone of the same mentality to not be confused. 😛

One of the quirks of this episode that was unusual but a nice surprise was making Snails a stand-alone character. Usually he’s the other half of “Snips and”.

Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy get so nervous that Pinkie Pie ends up tongue-tied and Fluttershy ends up shouting.

When Applejack and Rainbow Dash are walking down the train corridor, there’s an interesting modeling effect going on in the background to create the passing rows.

When Snips suggests the way to keep from being stressed is to “not think about anything…ever”, Pinkie Pie immediately takes to that. 🙂

I noticed that all of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy’s fans weren’t on the train to Appleloosa with them, but were still at the game. Also, no Little Strongheart in this episode…again. 😦

With only four voice actors in the credits, this is one of the least voice-acted episodes in the entire series.

Rating:

3 Stars out of 5

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