Fluttershy: I won't make a difference!
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 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!
- Actor Allusion: When Spike asks Twilight what the squirrel trying to tell them that Fluttershy is coming is saying, she replies "Do I look like I speak squirrel?" Twilight's voice actor, Tara Strong, was previously the voice of Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls, who can, in fact, speak squirrel.
- Adults Are Useless: The teachers back at Flight Camp apparently took no action in preventing Fluttershy from being bullied. One teacher literally kicked her off a cloud, and another one shown with a circle of foals simply stared as Fluttershy was humiliated.
- An Aesop: Everyone's contributions are important, no matter how small they are.
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Thunderlane gets one from Cloudchaser after his first anemometer test shows off his wing power.
- Against the Setting Sun: Fluttershy's entrance to retest her wing speed after her intensive training.
- Anime Hair: Cloudchaser. It looks straight out of Final Fantasy.
- 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.
- Under the effects of the super-tornado, the water in the reservoir displays properties more like a non-Newtonian fluid, with the water's surface tension holding most of it in a single large drop-shaped mass below the critical wingpower threshold.
- Badass Adorable
- One of the participants in the tornado making is a little colt, Rumble.
- There's also Tornado Bolt, shown just before Fluttershy's first measurement.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Fluttershy tries to fake sickness and a hurt wing. Unfortunately, her voice is too monotone to be convincing. She really need some acting lessons from Rarity.
- "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Twilight dope-slaps Spike to shut him up when he's accidentally insensitive towards Fluttershy. Twice.
- Big "YES!":
- The muscular white pegasus (officially named Bulk Biceps as of "Rainbow Falls", previously known as Snowflake), whose every appearance has him shouting "YEAH!!!".
- A completely serious one with Fluttershy declaring that she is going to let her fillyhood trauma scare her away from joining the tornado.
- Break the Cutie: Fluttershy, 3 times (though twice it's self-inflicted). The poor girl just couldn't get a break this episode.
- Call-Back: Fluttershy's and Rainbow Dash's time at Flight Camp is revisited. Both have their cutie marks by this flashback point, while Fluttershy is still the lanky filly compared to Rainbow.
- The Cameo:
- 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.)
- The same mule from "Applebuck Season" makes an appearance.
- Spitfire of the Wonderbolts is there to oversee the water transferring process.
- Canon Immigrant: Blossomforth gets her debut in the show after making two appearances in the toy line the previous year.
- Cassandra Truth: Nonverbal variation. Rainbow Dash assumed that some of the pegasi were faking their coughing to get out of Tornado Duty. Unfortunately, it turns out that they really were sick, and because Rainbow Dash still pushed them to train, it developed into Feather Flu, depriving the team of eight pegasi.
- 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.
- Circle of Shame: Fluttershy keeps imagining that everypony is laughing at her like in her Flashback.
- 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.
- Continuity Nod:
- Fluttershy is disguised as a tree.
- As Rainbow Dash flies around and announces the meeting at the library:Rainbow Dash: Be cool or be mule. (flies over to the same mule from "Applebuck Season") No offense.
Mule: None taken.
- Rainbow Dash coaches while wearing a cap and whistle.
- When questioned by Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy admits that she's capable of impressive flying, but only in emergencies.
- Fluttershy's wings snapping shut when she's afraid, just like in "Dragon Shy".
- When pretending to be sick, Fluttershy wears the same jacket that she wore in the spa in "Green Isn't Your Color".
- Crisis Makes Perfect: Rainbow Dash sets the goal for every pegasus to achieve 10.0 wingpower so they can make a tornado and lift water to Cloudsdale. Fluttershy initially gets 0.5 wingpower, and trains to get up to 2.3 wingpower. When the pegasi try to create the tornado, they don't have enough wingpower to lift the water, so Fluttershy joins and manages to fly faster than she ever did before.
- Delayed Reaction: Fluttershy keeps flying around in circles even after the tornado has disappeared.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The educational film shown by Rainbow Dash to the assembled pegasi.
- Rainbow Dash and all of the Ponyville pegasi.Rainbow Dash: No! One more time! I gotta know we gave it our all! If I'm going down, I'm going down flying!
- Fluttershy also becomes this when she sucks an about-to-fall tear right back up into her eye.
- Rainbow Dash and all of the Ponyville pegasi.
- Die or Fly:
- It's established that Fluttershy is capable of flying pretty fast, but only when there's danger.
- This also seemed to be the motive for Fluttershy's flight school coach pushing her off the cloud before she was ready, hoping that maybe her flight instincts would kick in.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The overly-muscled pegasus stallion with disproportionately small wings is somewhat suggestive of steroid abuse.
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: Downplayed; everybody outside the tornado gets tossed around.
- Dope Slap: Spike gets dope-slapped by Twilight twice, each time during a bout of being Innocently Insensitive.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Rainbow Dash has shades of this in her coaching style with the other pegasi, particularly with Thunderlane.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: For Fluttershy. After the training and overcoming her fear and diving into the malestrom, she has never deserved it more.
- Eye Scream: Rainbow Dash slamming into the tree, causing her eyes to pop out the other end, and get stuck there, temporarily.
- Fantastic Measurement System: Wing Power. A fan did some work and calculated 1 Wing Power to be roughly equivalent to 19.5 Miles per Hour.
- Feather Fingers: Fluttershy in the background in another scene) are 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.
- The coughing pegasi.
- 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.
- Glasses Pull: Spitfire does this when the pegasi actually manage 800 wingpower.
- Identical Twin ID Tag: Flitter and Cloudchaser. Their coats are the same color, but Flitter has a light green mane and wears a pink bow while Cloudchaser has a blue and white mane in a spikier style.
- Innocently Insensitive: This week it's Spike, harping on Fluttershy's lowly wing power score. Twilight goes upside his head and gestures for him to zip it.
- Instructional Film: With obligatory Stylistic Suck in parody of old 1950s films of this nature.
- Jerkass Realization:
- 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.
- Jump Scare: When Fluttershy pretends to have hurt a wing, Rainbow Dash blows her whistle right next to her, making her jump up in fright... and then instinctively hover in the air, showing her wings are perfectly fine.
- Kids Are Cruel: The fillies in Fluttershy's flashback tease her mercilessly.
- Layman's Terms: Spike fills in for Twilight. After her techno babble confuses 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.
- Letting the Air out of the Band: On Fluttershy's second speed test, the music from her Training Montage slows and falls in pitch when the anemometer shows she still has little wingpower.
- 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!".
- Mission Briefing: Rainbow Dash gives a military style one about tornado duty to the Ponyville pegasi, including an instruction video.
- Mythology Gag:
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- 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 seem satisfied with her 0.5 first attempt, but Spike just has to be snide about it, sending the poor girl into tears. Twilight's smack to his head is well-deserved.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Bulk Biceps, the white Pegasus with huge muscles and tiny wings, who has drawn comparisons to the works of John Kricfalusi.
- Obsessively Organized: 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.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: On her first test run, Fluttershy achieves 0.5 wingpower. She seems okay with it, until Spike comments, "0.5? Isn't that, like, less than 1?" Twilight dope-slaps him for being insensitive, but the damage is already done.
- 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 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.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Inverted. Fluttershy's tree disguise is basically flawless, but Rainbow Dash still isn't fooled by it. And honestly, Rainbow Dash has been over at Fluttershy's house many times before so it is no surprise she would know which tree just suddenly sprung up there.
- 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.
- Playing Sick:
- Fluttershy tries to fake the pony pox to avoid having to get involved in making the tornado. Rainbow Dash "cures" her with ice cold water.
- Inverted when Rainbow Dash thinks Thunderlane is faking sick. It turns out he really was sick all along.
- Polka-Dot Disease: Subverted. When Rainbow Dash comes to mind Fluttershy at her cottage, she finds the latter covered in red spots and claiming that she has "Pony Pox". However, Rainbow Dash washes the spots off Fluttershy, proving that she was faking it.
- 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.
- Reflexive Response: Fluttershy pretends to have injured her wing in order to get out of flying practice, but Rainbow Dash suddenly and loudly blows her whistle, causing the shy pegasus to jump into the air out of fright.
- Rousing Speech:
- Rainbow Dash gives one to all the pegasi in Ponyville after the educational film and then as they prepare to bring up the reservoir water up to Cloudsdale.
- Fluttershy's animal friends all team up to give her one in the forest, though she's the only one who can understand them.
- Running Gag: The muscular, white pegasus shouting "YEAH!!!".
- Schizo Tech:
- 1950-style propaganda films and the anemometer and Twilight's abacus.
- In Dash's chart, Ponyville is represented by the expected thatched roofs and cottages, but Fillydelphia has a skyline full of skyscrapers.
- School Bullying Is Harmless: Averted, as Fluttershy spends the episode fighting off her trauma of being teased in the past.
- Second Place Is for Winners: The pegasi might not have broken the previous wing power record, but Spitfire congratulates everypony for having the guts to keep trying.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Twilight naturally, when trying to explain the anemometer to Cloudchaser and Flitter.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.
- 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.
- To the My Little Pony 'n Friends episode "The Magic Coins", which was all about the importance of rain.
- Angel brushing Fluttershy's hair could be a subtle one to the toy line.
- The instrument Spike is seen playing looks very much like the instrument Jen has from The Dark Crystal.
- Fluttershy's critter friends donning pony masks could be a shout out to the Gig Simulator in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: Fluttershy telling her own flashback of kids taunting her to shut up.
- Stylistic Suck: The educational film shown to the pegasi is deliberately 1950's black and white with lame pictures and malfunctioning slides.
- Testosterone Poisoning: Bulk Biceps is this to a fault. He's huge, muscular, and 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 from Hell: Fluttershy (see below). If one does the math, it results in a whopping 300% increase (give-or-take) in her wing power. The training, however, is more about getting Fluttershy to overcome her performance anxiety than anything else, so the large improvement is very understandable as getting her to her normal wing power.
- Training Montage: The training montage with the pegasi is mostly offscreen, but Fluttershy has one of her own that is played much more straight.
- Translator Buddy: Spike plays this role after the pegasi are confused by Twilight's explanation of the anemometer.
Spike: What is he saying?
- Averted with Twilight when a squirrel comes up to her.
Twilight: Do I look like I speak Squirrel?
- Trauma Button: When Fluttershy hears Flitter and Cloudchaser laughing (though not at her) as she flies, it triggers a panic attack because she imagines everypony laughing at her the way she was laughed at in flight camp when she failed to fly.
- Visual Pun: Fluttershy cries... under a weeping willow.
- Vocal Evolution: Spitfire's sole line in the episode sees her with a higher pitch than she previously had, though unlike in "Wonderbolts Academy" she doesn't have the rasp just yet.
- The Walls Have Eyes: When Fluttershy panics, she envisions a monstrous tunnel of giant, disembodied eyeballs, their collective glare uniformly fixed on her.
- Watch Out for That Tree!:
- Fluttershy crashes into a tree during her training.
- Rainbow Dash, after being ejected from the first tornado, smashes in a tree and her eyes go through the trunk.
- When Things Spin, Science Happens:
- 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 wing power goal would require the 8 to have been averaging over 25.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: The first time Fluttershy attempts to test run she gets off to a good start, but her trauma kicks in and she stumbles at the last second making only 0.5. After an intense training montage and bulk up in courage, she tries again, more hopeful and confident, but still only makes 2.3. She finally musters up a proper speed for the actual tornado.