Recap: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S4 E5 "Flight to the Finish"
Professionally speaking, stop trying to make it 20% cooler.
Scootaloo: If we wanna win, I'm gonna have to fly! Sweetie Belle: ...Is that even possible?
Written by Ed Valentine
One day, Cheerilee's classroom is visited by Miss Harshwhinny, the head of the Equestria Games. She announces that the class can have the honor of carrying a flag at the Equestria Games in the Crystal Empire if they win a skit competition, with Rainbow Dash helping to provide feedback... with "professionalism", of course. The Cutie Mark Crusaders decide to enter the contest, intending to show off Ponyville as a place where ponies of all different types come together as friends.Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, who have also entered the competition, attempt to get under the Crusaders' skin by saying that they can't represent Ponyville as "blank flanks". This doesn't slow the Crusaders down at all, as they come up with an impressive routine in just a day that amazes everypony — even the bullies! Rainbow, still trying to maintain an aura of "professionalism", tells them the skit was "okay" and suggests they tweak it more. Worried that the Crusaders' routine will beat theirs, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon decide to mock Scootaloo's inability to fly, saying that Miss Harshwhinny will never pick a pegasus who can't fly to represent Ponyville.Scootaloo is deeply affected and changes the whole routine around, ending up making it almost all about her attempts at flight. Try as she might, Scootaloo can't muster up the wing power to fly, which exhausts Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle after they spend the rest of the day practicing. By the time they have to put on their second and last rehearsal before the competition, the three are so exhausted that their act leaves much to be desired. Fed up with Scootaloo's attitude, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle leave her to practice on her own. After hours of fruitless labor, Scootaloo finally gives up hope that she will ever fly, leaving her disgruntled friends to board the train to the Crystal Empire without her.When Rainbow Dash hears what happened, she chews them out for abandoning Scootaloo, then stops the train and rushes the two Crusaders back to Ponyville. Scootaloo is still kicking herself over her inability to fly like her idol, but Rainbow Dash tells Scootaloo that she shouldn't try to be Rainbow Dash; she should try to be herself, because she's already got her own talents. With some reassurance from her friends, Scootaloo perks back up, hopping on her scooter and speeding to the Crystal Empire with the other Crusaders in tow. The Cutie Mark Crusaders win the competition, earning the right to carry the flag in the Equestria Games. Scootaloo turns and looks expectantly at her flank... then gets the idea that they could get their cutie marks in flag-carrying!
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes for the episode can go here):
Absentee Actor: The only member of the main cast that appears is Rainbow Dash.
An Aesop: Be Yourself and don't focus on what others can do; even if you can't do them yourself, you have your own strengths.
Aesop Amnesia: The lesson from Babs' episode is forgotten; neither Sweetie Belle nor Apple Bloom tell their sisters or Rainbow Dash about the latest bullying from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, even though there's at least one obvious point they could have, namely near the end when Rainbow asks Scootaloo "who said you had to [be able to fly]".
Alpha Bitch and Beta Bitch: Standard routine for Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. Besides the usual teasing of the CMC for lacking cutie marks (which is now so played out it doesn't even bother them), they have a Kick the Dog moment when they tease Scootaloo about her inability to fly.
Art Evolution: Ms. Harshwhinny's mouth and muzzle are given a lot of new animated expressions compared to any other pony. In part they help to emphasize her proper enunciation of words and her annoyed reactions with Rainbow Dash.
Bait and Switch: At the very end of the episode, the camera zooms in on Scootaloo, with her looking meaningfully at her flank. Could this be it? Will she finally get her Cutie Mark? The answer is...no.
Be Yourself: Rainbow gives this advice to Scootaloo when she's bummed about not being able to fly.
Bittersweet Ending: Although it's very unlikely Scootaloo will ever be able to fly, she is still awesome for who is she, thus regaining her confidence and making it to the Crystal Empire where she and the rest of the CMC win the flag-carrying competition.
Boke and Tsukkomi Routine: Ms. Harshwhinny and Rainbow Dash's school talk sounds like one, as do Rainbow's conversations with herself while coaching the Crusaders. The two mares end up trading roles at the end of the episode.
The Bus Came Back: Cheerilee finally speaks again for a brief cameo, she only made background cameos in Season 3.
Also Twist, a background filly with curly red mane appears after her absence in season 3.
Ms. Harshwhinny and the preparation for the Equestria Games first shown in "Games Ponies Play" take a big part in this episode.
The CMC have learned to put on a much better stage show since their last known attempt, perhaps the reason that Rainbow, Diamond Tiara, and Silver Spoon are all shocked on how good it is. It makes sense since this time Scootaloo did the choreography, strongly hinted to be her special skill in the earlier episode.
Character Development: After three seasons of personal growth, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's "blank flank" comments barely even faze the CMC anymore. Sweetie Belle even rolls her eyes and the CMC look between themselves, as if saying "Seriously?". They're also rather good-natured over not getting their Cutie Marks in flag-carrying.
Rainbow Dash can be seen with her cap and whistle frombefore.
Scootaloo high fives Granny Smith as she zooms past her.
Scootaloo sings excellently inside the song. When she tries outside the number it's terrible.
Damned by Faint Praise: How the Cutie Mark Crusaders interpret Rainbow Dash's appraisal of their act (the injunction to remain "professional" had made Dash throttle her Squee of excitement down to tame statements like "It's okay").
Depending on the Writer: Apple Bloom's dialog occasionally has phrases (e.g. "all the live-long day") that sound uncharacteristically folksy, even for a farm pony.
Genki Girl: Rainbow Dash acts a little more pumped up than usual in this episode, due to her excitement about the Games. Even when she's told to "act professional" by Harshwhinny, she still maintains her genki and upbeat attitude throughout the episode.
Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: The CMC do a freeze-frame jump at the end of "Hearts Strong as Horses". Then the camera cuts to in front of them, where they remain in the air until Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon start sarcastically clapping, causing them to fall.
Hammerspace: Rainbow Dash pulls a cap and a whistle out of nowhere.
Here We Go Again: After going pretty much the entire episode without mentioning it, the CMC hope to get their cutie marks in the final seconds, exasperating Rainbow Dash.
Heroic BSOD: The teasing of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon causes Scootaloo to doubt herself.
Ironic Echo: "Constrain your enthusiasm, Miss Dash/Harshwhinny. Professionalism."
It's All About Me: Scootaloo starts acting like this as she becomes more and more obsessed with trying to fly, to the point of changing the routine so that she can try to show off.
It's All Junk: Scootaloo throws her beloved scooter in the trash. Fortunately, Rainbow Dash and the other two CMCs' step in to bolster her spirits.
Jerkass: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, per the usual.
Karma Houdini: Downplayed, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon never get called out or punished for teasing Scootaloo's inability to fly. Though they don't get to win the competition, they just go "humph" and leave without a shred of dignity to be lost.
Kick the Dog: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. After their "blank flank" teasing fails to discourage the CMC, they move on to Scootaloo's inability to fly.
Rainbow Dash fights down a series of squees after seeing the CMCs' routine on their first day of rehearsal. The only thing keeping her from a full-blown squee fit is Miss Harshwhinny's earlier admonition to maintain "professionalism". Dash finally lets herself geek out over their routine when they're on the train to the tryouts at the Crystal Empire.
Ms. Harshwhinny herself, after Rainbow Dash proclaims the CMCs' performance at the tryouts to be acceptable.
Ms. Harshwhinny: Acceptable?? Acceptable?? Why it was totally, stupendously, the single most amazing thing I've ever seen!
Admit it. We all want to know what Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's routine was like.
Regardless of their Epic Fail in the cold open, Snips and Snails must have put together a decent routine to qualify for the final competition.
Not so Above It All: At the start of the episode, Ms. Harshwinny is trying to make sure that Rainbow Dash is professional about her role, only to be geeking out at the CMCs' performance herself at the end.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Rainbow Dash of all ponies is this, despite being a Genki Girl, she's the first adult the CMC tell about Scootaloo and tries to give honest support of Scootaloo throughout the episode. Had the CMC told Rainbow Dash about Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's bullying, she probably would have done something about it.
Reveal Shot: "Hearts Strong as Horses" gently spoofs a Training Montage showing the CMC doing feats of athleticism only to zoom back to show that they are helping each other.
Rule of Cool: It's better not to try to logically explain how Scootaloo was able to get to the Crystal Empire by scooter and still make it to the competition on time, while towing her friends. It also implies that Rainbow Dash flew the whole way.
Sarcastic Clapping: Provided by Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon after the CMC finish their "Hearts Strong as Horses" song, which breaks them out of their freeze-frame finish.
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon are still using the "blank flank" slur after four seasons. By now, the CMCs don't really care and the duo seems at a loss when they realize it's not as effective as it used to be.
Silver Spoon: But what can we do? We already called them blank flanks!
Scootaloo seems to look for any opportunity to use road debris as a makeshiftramp.
So Last Season: The 'blank flanks' insult. Even Sweetie Belle, the most sensitive of the three, rolls here eyes at this as if to say "Yeah, that's getting old."
Trash Talk: The first time Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon attempt to taunt the CMC, it ends with the CMC and the bullies exchanging verbal taunts better suited to Spirited Competitors.
Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Three fillies are able to travel all the way to the Crystal Kingdom which is all the way at the northernmost end of Equestria on a scooter in less than a day to make it to the competition.
Tyop on the Cover: The DISH Network Guide for this episode misspells Scootaloo's name as "Scottaloo."
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: If Ms. Harshwinny hadn't told Rainbow to be calm and professional, causing the pegasus to give a somewhat less than honest evaluation of the CMCs' routine, Scootaloo wouldn't have been so insecure about it.
Very Special Episode: Downplayed. Scootaloo's small wings being a disability is never treated as such, which maintains Lauren Faust's stance that actually doing an episode about disability would be too sad. The Aesop instead focuses on not obsessing over not being able to do some things other people can, but accepting one's own strengths. However, the episode leaves the question on the table on whether Scootaloo is physically unable to fly, although it is made clear that Scootaloo's flight difficulties are unusually severe rather than just being a late bloomer.
What the Hell, Hero?: Apple Bloom becomes furious with Scootaloo when she rearranges their routine so much that it becomes all about her, and later when Scoots decides to leave the team, saying they don't need quitters; Sweetie Belle isn't quite so harsh, but still doesn't object to Apple Bloom's arguments. Rainbow Dash quickly scolds the two for this very reason, saying they should never leave a friend behind.