Fluttershy: Um, "Rainbow Dash" actually starts with an "R".
Bulk Biceps: NEVER MIND!!
The qualification round for the Equestria Games is a few days away, and Rainbow Dash is attempting to motivate Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps to help them qualify Ponyville for a relay race. However, while Rainbow Dash is a natural athlete, Bulk and Fluttershy assuredly aren't, despite their best efforts. The rest of the Mane Six go with the three-pony team to the competition at Rainbow Falls, with the Wonderbolts Spitfire, Soarin, and Fleetfoot competing for Cloudsdale. The Wonderbolts are proud to have some worthy competition from Rainbow Dash, but Rainbow's spirits soon sink when she realizes how hopelessly outclassed her teammates are against her heroes.
During practice, Soarin injures his wing and has to be taken off the practice field to rest. With him gone, Spitfire and Fleetfoot offer Rainbow Dash a chance to practice with them, since she grew up in Cloudsdale and has proven herself to be an exceptional flyer. Rainbow agrees, splitting her time between practicing with the Wonderbolts and trying to motivate her friends. Twilight catches on to the deception and confronts Rainbow about her two-timing. Just then, Spitfire and Fleetfoot show up and offer Rainbow the chance of a lifetime: since Soarin's wing is too injured to compete, Rainbow Dash can fly with them permanently to help them qualify — but if she accepts, it means Ponyville's chances of qualifying for the games will be slim to none. With the competition the next day, Rainbow begs Twilight for advice, but Twilight tells her she must make a decision on her own, and fast.
Not long after, Rainbow Dash arrives on the practice field in a wheelchair, covered in bandages and very badly acting out pain, claiming she "tripped and fell". Rainbow is taken to the hospital, where all of her friends encourage her to get better and tell her not to worry, since they'll make sure to give Rainbow a medal if they win the gold in the Games — they even got Derpy to replace her! Soarin, in the next bed over, compliments Rainbow on what good friends she has, remarking that his teammates never came to visit him even though his wing is feeling better. Realizing the Wonderbolts lied to try and get her on their team, Rainbow Dash leaves the hospital and reveals her deception to both teams. She announces her decision to retake her place on Ponyville's team, convincing the Wonderbolts to accept Soarin back onto their team in time for the qualifying round.
During the time trial, Cloudsdale easily qualifies with the Wonderbolts. Thanks to the combined work of Bulk, Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, Ponyville also (barely) qualifies. Everypony receives a medal, with Spitfire giving her Wonderbolt collar pin to Rainbow as well. Back in Ponyville, Rainbow writes in the Mane Six's diary that, as much as she loves winning, she loves her friends way more. As she leaves to go be with her friends outside, the Wonderbolt pin lets off an iridescent rainbow shimmer...
- Ascended Extra:
- "Snowflake", the hulking muscle pony, gets an official name (Bulk Biceps) and more speaking lines courtesy of a new voice actor.
- Fleetfoot, one of the less prominent Wonderbolts who played a larger part in the comics, gets a major role here as a member of the Cloudsdale team who goads Rainbow to practice with them.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Rainbow Dash attempts to feign injury to get out of having to pick which team to go with. Twilight doesn't buy it for a second, though all their other friends do.
- The Bus Came Back: This episode marks Derpy's first appearance in season 4. According to Jim Miller, this was intentional.
- The Equestria Games is a plot point again, this time with Rainbow Dash trying out for it.
- Spitfire brings up Rainbow Dash's training at the Wonderbolt Academy to vouch for her joining the Cloudsdale team, and again when Rainbow delivers yet another lesson on loyalty to her.
- Another member of the Mane Six obtains an item that gives off a rainbow shimmer, in case you had any doubts about that being significant.
- This isn't the first time Rainbow Dash saved Soarin from falling to his doom.
- Catchphrase: Bulk's "YEAH!"
- Character Development: Fluttershy is completely willing to participate in the relay race, even flat-out excited and eager, despite the fact that she's got severe stage fright when it comes to flying in front of ponies, and that a great deal of Equestria will be watching the Games. There's no sign that Rainbow once even asked Fluttershy to join in the relay, especially since Fluttershy is still willing to compete after encouraging Rainbow to join the Cloudsdale team.
- Characterization Marches On: Spitfire shows a much greater competitive streak than she has before, even going so far as to lie about the extent of a teammate's injury for a better chance of winning.
- Comically Missing the Point: Bulk Biceps ends up using Pinkie's "P is for (noun)" Running Gag to cheer for Rainbow Dash, forgetting that there isn't even a P in her name.
- Competition Freak: Due to the pressure of making it into the games. The Wonderbolts (and Rainbow Dash) start acting very out of character. Though they all snap out of it by the end of the episode.
- Compressed Vice: Applied to the Wonderbolts/Cloudsdale members Spitfire and Fleetfoot: where they've been portrayed before as nice ponies, here they lie about the extent of Soarin's injuries so that they could replace him with Dash because they care more about being the best than flying with their friend.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Rainbow Dash is torn between joining the Equestria Games Ponyville team with her less able friends, or the Cloudsdale team with her idols, the Wonderbolts. Naturally, she chooses her friends after a talk with Soarin reveals that they picked her for a better chance of winning.
- Continuity Nod:
- Rainbow Dash still has horrible acting skills when it comes to injuries.
- Within the first minute of the episode, Bulk Biceps responds to Pinkie Pie's cheerleading with a "YAY!" that knocks her over, recalling Fluttershy's very soft cheer and Rainbow Dash's reaction back in "Sonic Rainboom".
- Once again, Rainbow Dash catches a stallion on her back in a suggestive--for ponies--way.
- It's finally Rainbow Dash's turn to be inspired by a rainbow.
- Contrived Coincidence: If it weren't for Soarin's wing injury, Rainbow Dash would not have had the opportunity to receive her Plot Coupon in this episode.
- Depending on the Writer:
- Bulk Biceps and Fluttershy were previously shown to be capable enough of flying in "Hurricane Fluttershy", and Bulk Biceps was apparently good enough to enter the Wonderbolt Academy, but they're both written as weak fliers in this episode.
- In "Hurricane Fluttershy", Rainbow Dash reminded Fluttershy that she had done a "wicked nose dive to save that falling baby bird". In this episode, Fluttershy is all pasterns and can barely hold onto a relay baton; she'd have struggled to hold onto a falling baby bird.
- Fluttershy's dialog is filled with the "...if you're ready" and "...if that's OK" VerbalTics that have been absent in other episodes.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Soarin crashes because he took a moment to admire the Cloudsdale cheerleaders.
- Double Aesop: Rainbow Dash learns that she should have stayed loyal to her Ponyville team from the beginning; when she demonstrates this by turning down the Wonderbolts' offer to join their team, Spitfire and Fleetfoot learn a similar lesson and ask Soarin to rejoin the team. Both lessons were necessary for Rainbow Dash to receive her Plot Coupon.
- Double-Meaning Title: The bulk of the episode takes place at the "Rainbow Falls", but there is also the fact that Rainbow Dash (almost) fell for the Wonderbolts' offer to fly for Cloudsdale. Note that this is a combination of her first two temptations of the series: Nightmare Moon offered her to join a team of great flyers, and Discord forced her to choose between Cloudsdale or her friends.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Soarin, a Wonderbolt, and therefore a well known pegasus with several fans, doesn't receive a single visit after getting injured, not even from his own teammates, who go as far as lying about the extent of his injuries to convince another pegasus to take his place. Though they apparently communicated enough to tell him he was getting a replacement.
- Eat the Camera: When Soarin falls, the camera catches his screaming mouth.
- En Route Sum-Up: Much of the exposition of the episode is given on the train ride to Rainbow Falls.
- Easily Forgiven: Soarin forgives Spitfire pretty quickly for lying and trying to replace him. Granted, she did apologize.
- Famed in Story: Several pegasi recognize Rainbow Dash as one of the best fliers in Equestria. Even the Wonderbolts treat her as their only real competition for the qualifiers.
- Face Palm: Twilight's reaction to Rainbow Dash's fake injuries.
- Fingerless Hands: The horseshoe batons used by the relay teams make it clear that "sticky hooves" are canon.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: One of the rainbow rings that Soarin and later Fluttershy flies through is in the colors of the Mane 6. The rainbow that shimmers onto Derpy's flag is also said color scheme.
- Funny Background Event:
- Just what the heck are Rarity, Twilight and Pinkie Pie doing as Rainbow Dash is writing her journal entry?!
- When Bulk Biceps shouts "CROSS OUR HEARTS!", Derpy drops her flag with a start, then just stares at it.
- Furry Reminder:
- The Wonderbolts (plus Rainbow Dash) put feeding bags over their muzzles to eat while they are in mid-air.
- The relay batons are horseshoes.
- When Rainbow Dash manages to cross the finish line barely in time for the Ponyville team to make the qualifying round, the Wonderbolts all let out congratulatory whinnies for them.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Soarin, the Wonderbolts teammate, suffers one during practice when he hits the side of a ring and injures his wing, leaving him unable to qualify. Turns out it did heal in time, but he had heard he had been replaced and felt he wasn't worthy to compete.
- Parodied and invoked when Rainbow Dash fakes a full-body injury so severe that she doubts she'll ever fly again, just so she won't have to choose which team to join.
- Gentle Giant: Bulk Biceps may look like a roid head and rarely speaks without yelling, but he's as nice as Fluttershy, though a little lacking in intelligence.
- Girlish Pigtails: An artificial one by Pinkie using...pom poms?
- Got Me Doing It: At the end nearly everyone gives a big YEAH!!! for the winners, just like Bulk Biceps would do.
- Hand Wave: The episode establishes at the beginning that competitors in the Equestria Games can't take part in more than one event, which is why Rainbow Dash's relay team consists of Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps rather than more capable fliers like Thunderlane and Cloudchaser.
- Heel Realization: Spitfire and Fleetfoot realize how wrong they were to abandon and replace Soarin thanks to Rainbow Dash, the former even noting this is the second time that's happened.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Fluttershy is paired up with Bulk Biceps for the majority of the episode.
- Jerkass Ball: Held by Spitfire and Fleetfoot when they pretend that Soarin is still injured so they can get Rainbow Dash on their team.
- Jerkass Realization: When Rainbow Dash calls Spitfire and Fleetfoot out on abandoning Soarin, they admit that they were being jerks and apologize to him.
- Mythology Gag: Two of the competitors have the same character design as the G1 ponies Firefly and Medley.
- Nice Girl: When it's stated obliquely that Derpy is a poor flier and that a team with her instead of Rainbow is sure to fail, she just smiles and shrugs, not taking it personally at all.
- No Indoor Voice: Bulk Biceps. Not only does he get to say his "YEAH!", but everything else he says is at the top of his lungs.
- No Hugging, No Kissing: ...but there seems to be some overt flirting between Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps.
- No Name Given: In addition to being unvoiced, Derpy remains unnamed in this episode, referred to only as Rainbow Dash's "replacement" on the Ponyville relay team.
- Not So Above It All: Twilight, the closest to being the Straight Mare among the Mane Cast, gets so pumped by the Ponyville team's success that she breaks into Pinkie's cheerleading routine, rainbow wig and all.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: Aside from a previously injured wing, Soarin turns out completely fine from Rainbow Dash rescuing him from his fall.
- Obfuscating Disability: Rainbow Dash fakes being confined to a wheelchair in total agony so she can get out of having to pick which team to join for the Equestria Games. She stops after seeing that Soarin has already recovered completely and that the other Wonderbolts have been lying to both of them.
- Pec Flex: Bulk Biceps does this between training sessions. Fluttershy seems to think it's cute.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Rainbow Dash's team includes Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps, who aren't known for their spectacular flying abilities. It's no question why Rainbow's loyalty is challenged here when the competition includes the Wonderbolts.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Bulk Biceps is perfectly fine wearing Rarity's thoroughly girly uniform.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Twice between Rainbow Dash and another relay team member.
Rainbow Dash: Do I have to remind you how much I - I mean, Ponyville - wants to qualify and make it to the games?
- In the cold open:
Fluttershy: I remember! I really really really want to qualify for you and Ponyville!
Rainbow Dash: So, do I need to remind you of what our goal is here?
- In the first act:
Bulk Biceps: Uh, maybe?
- Running Gag:
- In the first half, Bulk keeps accidentally crushing Fluttershy during practice.
- Again, as it happens with almost all the episodes with the Wonderbolts in a prominent role, Rainbow Dash has to rescue some falling pony, Soarin in this case.
- Applejack, give it a rest with the Apple Brown Betties already.
- Schizo Tech: ECG meters are now canon.
- Screaming at Squick: Bulk does this upon learning Rainbow faked her injuries.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: The above trope results in Bulk doing this.
- Shout-Out: One of the trainers for the Cloudsdale team is based on the character Mickey Goldmill from Rocky, including having a ringside bell as his cutie mark.
- Sinister Shades: Spitfire and Fleetfoot both put on sunglasses right before suggesting that Rainbow Dash train with them after Soarin's wing injury. They wear the sunglasses in several scenes afterward, and Spitfire removes hers right before welcoming Soarin back to the team.
- Sixth Ranger: Derpy, who replaces Rainbow Dash after she's been "injured".
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: This episode isn't kind to Fluttershy, who gets squashed by Bulk Biceps a few times.
- Spit Take: Dash does one, having been in the middle of drinking water from a pond when Twilight confronts her about training with both teams.
- Suddenly Voiced: Helia talks to Rainbow Dash during the train ride. For some reason, her VA Kelly Metzger was instead credited for Blossomforth, who was relegated to the background. This episode is also the first time that Crescent Moon and Sprinkle Medley are voiced.
- Take a Third Option: Rather than choose between her idols and her friends, Rainbow Dash opts to pretend to be injured. Twilight points out that choosing not to choose isn't really making a decision.
- Two-Timer Date: Rainbow Dash practicing with the Wonderbolts and the Ponyville team.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Rainbow Dash is teamed up with Fluttershy and Bulk Biceps, two of the most flight-challenged pegasi in Ponyville. Their opponents are the Wonderbolts, who think her teammates have no chance of making the top five in the Equestria Games tryouts. Of course Team Ponyville qualifies in the end. Downplayed, as the Wonderbolts take first by a mile, while the Ponyville team just barely qualifies by a millisecond. It's also made pretty clear right from the start that Rainbow Dash is pretty much doing the work of three ponies; the goal is to simply have her teammates do well enough that she can pick up the slack.
- The Voiceless: Following the debacle surrounding Derpy being given spoken lines in her last major appearance, she remains mute this time around, except for when the entire crowd speaks at once.
- Wacky Sound Effect: What the heck was up with Bulk Biceps making a cat noise when walking away in a huff, after Fluttershy inadvertently smacked him in the face with the baton?
- Wham Shot: Derpy entering Rainbow Dash's room after being announced as Rainbow Dash's replacement.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A more literal example - Angel Bunny is present in the cold opening, but after one big shout from Bulk Biceps that knocks him offscreen, he never reappears in the episode.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Rainbow Dash calls out Spitfire and Fleetfoot for lying and trying to get her to replace Soarin. Soarin himself isn't exactly pleased, though he's glad when they apologize and invite him back onto the team.
- Rainbow Dash gets a milder one from Twilight as well when she confronts Dash about training with both teams.Twilight: It's not easy practicing with two teams, is it?
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Rainbow says early on that only four teams will qualify for the Equestria Games. The ceremony at the end shows five qualifying teams.