Twilight Sparkle: Seven ninety-five! We are so close! Fluttershy, they need you up there! Fluttershy:I won't make a difference!
Written by Cindy Morrow
At an all-pegasus meeting, Rainbow Dash announces that Ponyville's reservoir has been chosen this year to supply Cloudsdale with the water for all the rain for Equestria — and Ponyville's pegasi will get the water from the ground to Cloudsdale by flying together and making a tornado of at least 800 wing power. Every capable pegasus in Ponyville is needed to help (including the Running Gag of a huge, beefy, enthusiastic stallion with disproportionately small wings). Rainbow Dash wants Ponyville to break the record of 910 wing power set by Fillydelphia the previous year with a hurricane of over 1,000 wing power! Everypony's cheering is marred by a little coughing.As training begins, Rainbow Dash watches over the proceedings, providing encouragement and scolding the coughing ponies for attempting to malinger. Fluttershy is conspicuously absent — she's at home, faking being sick and injured. Rainbow Dash spots the ploys and forces Fluttershy to admit the real problem: she was humiliated by her weak flying in front of the other young pegasi at Flight Camp, and now she feels a crippling sense of performance anxiety. Rainbow tones down her usual brash approach and reminds her friend how important their mission is. Fluttershy agrees to try despite her obvious misgivings.Twilight brings an anemometer to the training grounds to test pegasus wing power. When it's Fluttershy's turn, she makes a valiant effort but when she hears laughter from twin pegasi on the sidelines, it causes her to flashback to being teased:
"Fluttershy! Fluttershy! Fluttershy can hardly fly!"
Fluttershy falters, resulting in a miserable score of 0.5. She runs off in tears. Rainbow Dash tries to bolster her spirits, but Fluttershy's nerve has failed. Alone with her animal friends, however, she musters up her courage and begins practicing on her own. When she returns, her wing power has improved significantly — but it is still only 2.3 which is well short of the 10.0 goal Rainbow Dash has set for all pegasi. Though both Rainbow and Twilight commend her for her significant improvement, Fluttershy still feels humiliated and runs away yet again.On the big day, Spitfire of the Wonderbolts shows up to oversee the proceedings and witness the record-breaking attempt. Unfortunately, it turns out the coughing fits were genuine — eight ponies are out with the feather flu! Not only does this mean they won't beat the wing power record, but they might not even lift the water to Cloudsdale. Determined to overcome these setbacks, Rainbow Dash and the Ponyville pegasi start the tornado only to fail due to a mid-air crash. Despite Twilight's warnings that she's endangering The Team, Rainbow Dash rallies everypony to try again. They build a tornado of 795 wing power — five short of the minimum needed. Twilight urges Fluttershy to help, but Fluttershy says her measly strength is too little to make a difference. When Twilight convinces her to try not just for Rainbow Dash or Ponyville, but for herself, the meek pegasus takes flight and enters the maelstrom.In mid-flight, Fluttershy's memories of being teased strike again, but she refuses to let them stop her, pushing herself past her limits. The sight of Fluttershy's determination encourages the other pegasi. Together, they generate just enough wing power to propel the water to Cloudsdale!Spitfire congratulates Rainbow Dash, who graciously steps aside and gives props to Fluttershy, her number one flier! Everypony begins to chant:
Fluttershy narrates her letter to Princess Celestia from the shoulders of everypony: "Sometimes you can feel like what you have to offer is too little to make a difference. But today, I learned that everypony's contribution is important, no matter how small. If you just keep your head high, do your best, and believe in yourself, anything can happen!" YEAH!
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
Absentee Actor: Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity are not present, although Ashleigh Ball and Andrea Libman are still present as Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, respectively. This leaves Tabitha St. Germain as the only main VA absent.
Adults Are Useless: The teachers back at Flight Camp apparently took no action in preventing Fluttershy from being bullied. One teacher literally kicks her off a cloud, and another one shown with a circle of foals simply stared as Fluttershy was humiliated.
Artistic License - Physics: While the spinning air in a tornado can lower the pressure at the center, and a pressure drop can create some lift on internal fluids, it's not going to suddenly shoot water high into the air immediately upon crossing a threshold. There is such a thing as a waterspout, but it's a condensation effect inside a funnel cloud rather than a tornado actually sucking up water. But then again pegasi did it.
Derpy is present, derped-eyes and all, throughout the entire show, including participating in generating the tornado. No surprise there, as she is a pegasus. Thankfully, it wasn't her fault the tornado failed the first time. (Her friend Raindrops was the first to give out, followed by many others.)
Canon Immigrant: Blossomforth gets her debut in the show after making two appearances in the toy line the previous year.
Character Development: Rainbow Dash starts off as being very aggressive when confronting Fluttershy about participating in the tornado but catches herself on this before switching to a gentler approach, reflecting a greater sense of empathy and understanding in her character. This goes beyond this episode and for the rest of the series beforehand. In episodes like "Dragonshy", Rainbow Dash had zero patience for Fluttershy's cowardice. While previous Season Two episodes made subtle pushes into a kinder role, this cements it, with Rainbow Dash being nothing short of gentle and supportive towards Fluttershy despite her excessive lack of self-esteem.
Comic Role Play: Angel Bunny, the animals of the cottage, and the animals of the forest wear little outfits, some in pony masks, to help Fluttershy learn to cope with her fear of performing with other ponies watching.
Feather Fingers: Fluttershy (and Dizzy Twister in the background in another scene) were shown doing pushups with her wings, and another Pegasus mare is shown weightlifting with hers. It's used one more time when Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy high-five each other.
Thunderlane's excessive perspiration and Blossomforth's "too much flexibility" during the first training scene. Fever is often the first observable symptom of a flu, "feather" or otherwise, and often presents as hypermobility before anyone reaches for a thermometer.
Furry Reminder: Rainbow Dash bucking and snorting. Also, the Pegasi stomping in celebration.
Goggles Pull: Spitfire does this when the pegasi actually manage 800 wingpower.
When first confronting Fluttershy about skipping out on training, Rainbow is typically abrasive. Realizing this, she reins herself in and treats Fluttershy much more gently throughout the rest of the episode.
Similarly, Fluttershy is first convinced to do a test run out of guilt after a dejected Rainbow Dash submits to her refusal to train.
Kids Are Cruel: The fillies in Fluttershy's flashback tease her mercilessly.
Layman's Terms: Spike fills in for Twilight. After her techno babble conufses the mares, Spike says "it measures how fast you're going and how strong your wings are."
The Leader: This episode confirms that Rainbow Dash is the leader for Ponyvile's pegasi; she calls the meeting, she leads the meeting, she supervises the training, and gives the rousing speech. She is the headstrong variety.
Made of Iron: Both Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash crash halfway through a tree and neither suffers more than the minor inconvenience of being in that position.
Meaningful Echo: "Fluttershy, Fluttershy, Fluttershy can hardly/really fly!".
Rainbow Dash calls out Thunderlane for trying to play sick to get out of training and tornado duty and forces him to train with the other pegasi. Turns out Thunderlane (or Blossomforth) really was sick and got several other pegasi sick on the big day, which not only prevented them from breaking the wing power record, but nearly prevented them from raising the water to Cloudsdale.
Fluttershy, Rainbow, and Twilight seemed satisfied with her 0.5 first attempt, but Spike just had to be snide about it, sending the poor girl into tears. Twilight's smack to his head was well deserved.
Painting the Frost on Windows: Either normal water evaporation doesn't happen, normal condensation doesn't happen, or they find the natural processes inefficient,note Hearth's Warming Eve established that Equestria had normal weather prior to the arrival of ponies because water is brought to the raincloud factory in liquid form. This itself requires a bare minimum of 80 pegasi with an average of 10.0 wingpower to generate a large tornado.
Performance Anxiety: Fluttershy is a great flyer when it's an emergency like catching falling birds and friends, but suffers crippling stage fright when it comes to a performance.
Power Levels: The anemometer readings assign a number to wing power; Rainbow Dash's goal is for every pony, through intensive training, to reach 10.0.
Cloudchaser: What exactly does this machine do? Twilight Sparkle: This is an anemometer. It measures your accelerative velocity and translates it into wing power, thus gauging your cumulative H2O anti-gravitational potential. Any other questions? Flitter: Yeah. [to Spike] What exactly does this machine do? Spike: It tells you how fast you're going and how strong your wings are. Pegasi: Ohhhh...
Ship Tease: The Fluttershy / Rainbow Dash subtext reaches critical mass here. Rainbow Dash is dismayed when Fluttershy gives up, is overjoyed when she returns to try, and Fluttershy puts forth her greatest effort in an attempt to make Rainbow Dash happy and do her part to support her. The dialogue includes tidbits such as Rainbow Dash telling her "But I need you!" and Twilight telling Fluttershy "Do it for Rainbow Dash!"
Shown Their Work: Twilight refers to a device to measure the "wing power" of the pegasi as an anemometer. While the design is unconventional, this is a scientific device used to measure wind speed.
Stylistic Suck: The educational film shown to the pegasi is deliberately 1950's black and white with lame pictures and malfunctioning slides.
Super OCD: While it's a character defining trait, Twilight is seen enforcing a germ-free environment. Absolutely germ-free. Turns out to be Justified when eight pegasi get sick and create a problem for Rainbow Dash. Also the whole point of the job was to transport water up to Cloudsdale. If the pegasi moving it were sick, the water could've been tainted.
Testosterone Poisoning: Bulk Biceps is this to a fault. He's huge, muscular, hot blooded and his sole purpose is a running gag.
Took a Level in Kindness: After spending most of the second season as an abrasive Leeroy Jenkins, this episode pivots Rainbow Dash's Character Development into a gentler, more selfless figure. The same goes for Angel Bunny who started off the season as a selfish Spoiled Brat but in this episode is understanding and even oversees Fluttershy's personal training as her coach.
Training Montage: The training montage with the pegasi is mostly offscreen, but Fluttershy has one of her own that is played much more straight.
Training from Hell: Fluttershy (see above). If one does the math, it results in a whopping 300% increase (give-or-take) in her wing power.
Twilight's anemometer measures wing power by how fast the propeller on it moves.
By creating the tornado's vortex, the pegasi are helping to draw water from the reservoir.
Writers Cannot Do Math: Wing Power is stated to be cumulative. For the 8 Pegasi missing to account for breaking the record versus barely able to make the tornado would require them to have an average of over 13.75. This is unlikely given that only Dash displays a number higher than 10. That's only to beat Fillydelphia's 910, Dash's over 1000 goal would require the 8 to have been averaging over 25.