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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic S6 E19 "Buckball Season"

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"Everypony knows the secret to good buckball is just having fun!"

Written by Jennifer Skelly
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Rainbow Dash finds Applejack practicing her apple bucking at Sweet Apple Acres, aiming the apples at a target. Applejack explains that an upcoming game of buckball is going to be played between Ponyville and Appleloosa, and she's training hard in order to beat her cousin Braeburn, who is playing on the other team. Excited, Rainbow immediately offers to help win by joining Applejack's team.

Later on, Rainbow and Applejack take Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy to a small field, where they explain the rules of the game: an earth pony bucks a ball towards a basket levitated by a unicorn, which the opposing team's pegasus is blocking. In this regard, Rainbow and Applejack want Pinkie and Fluttershy to stand in for the other team while they have various unicorns from Ponyville try out for the spot. However, despite Applejack and Rainbow's natural athletic talents, they find that Pinkie and Fluttershy are still beating them easily by playing for fun. This makes Rainbow and Applejack give up their spots to Pinkie and Fluttershy for the team, while Snails gets the spot as the team's unicorn after an errant ball flung his way is easily caught in his water buckets.

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Later that day, Rainbow and Applejack put more and more pressure on Pinkie and Fluttershy during a training session, telling them that all of Ponyville is counting on them to succeed. This causes Pinkie and Fluttershy to mess up as the pressure builds, finally resulting in Applejack calling off the training so they can rest. While walking away, Fluttershy says that the pressure to succeed is getting to her, but Pinkie assures her that nopony else will be pressuring them, since most of the town hasn't even heard of the game. But at the train station, several ponies have turned out to wish them good luck, stressing Pinkie and Fluttershy even further.

On the train ride, with some more egging on from Rainbow and Applejack, Pinkie and Fluttershy finally snap and admit they don't want to play anymore because the pressure is just too great, running into the luggage car. Rainbow and Applejack finally see that the pressure to succeed, while useful for them, won't help Fluttershy or Pinkie. Upon finding their friends, Rainbow and Applejack agree to take their place and play in the buckball game after all, if Fluttershy and Pinkie only agree to help them practice one more time. During practice, with the pressure now gone, Fluttershy and Pinkie suddenly regain the skill they had before, and reveal that playing for fun makes them do far better. Pinkie and Fluttershy take the spots again in the real game, managing to win over Braeburn and his team, giving Ponyville the victory. Braeburn admits he'll have to work hard to beat them in the rematch, but Pinkie and Fluttershy say that the only way to play buckball is to play for fun.

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Tropes:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: After losing their athletic edge and cracking under the pressure of winning the big buckball game against Appleloosa, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy feel they're unfit to play buckball anymore and quit on the train ride there. Applejack and Rainbow Dash help ease them out of their slump with a few low-stakes practice rounds, at which point they decide to play again.
  • Absentee Actor:
    • Snips, who's never had a major role without Snails, never shows up.
    • Ponyville needs a unicorn for their team, but there's no trace of Twilight, Rarity, or Starlight in the episode anywhere. What's even more odd about their absence is that they didn't even show up in Appleloosa to support their team.
  • Accidental Athlete: All of Ponyville's debut Buckball team is selected from ponies displaying an unforeseen natural talent for the sport. Notable because the first act emphasizes how new it is, and two of them were recruited after initially being picked as opponent stand-ins for the tryouts.
    • Pinkie Pie's energetic acrobatics and juggling skill makes her an opponent with quick reflexes a seasoned bucker like Applejack can't outspeed.
    • Fluttershy discovers a talent for deflecting the ball in an attempt to cower from it. Combined with her long, dexterous tail she's a near impassable goalie with a wide reach.
    • Snails is selected as the buckball team's unicorn after displaying a natural talent at catching balls in water buckets he's carrying. His empty-headed attitude gives him a zen state of mind free from all distraction and high telekinetic skill. He's seen orbiting multiple baskets around himself at one point.
  • An Aesop: Some people thrive on pressure, others don't. Winning a game shouldn't come at the expense of having fun playing it.
  • Adorkable: Snails makes his entrance into the episode singing a little song about the water he's fetching.
  • Break the Cutie: On the train ride, Fluttershy and Pinkie become so overwhelmed by the pressure that they blow up on Applejack and Rainbow for egging them on too heavily before running off to hide in the luggage cart.
  • Briar Patching: Rainbow Dash and AJ convince Pinkie and Fluttershy to play just one more game to help them practice for the match and then they'll never have to play again, but this ends up proving to the pair that they are good players when there's no pressure on them, and convincing them to play against Braeburn.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Pinkie's "Somersault kick!" during the first practice session.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: The reason Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy get worse during their training with Rainbow Dash and Applejack is they get caught up in the training and the pressure to win instead of the fun they have playing the game. The secret to Snails' success, which is adopted by Pinkie and Fluttershy, is that he doesn't think about the pressures of winning — or anything, for that matter.
  • Cool Hat: Derpy and a bunch of other Ponyville ponies sport a cool rastafarian top hat when rooting for the game.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: With the season 1 episode "Applebuck Season".
  • Description Cut: Pinkie says that nopony in Ponyville has even heard of the buckball game. Cue a cut to the train station where many enthusiastic buckball fans are there to see them off. Later it's explained that Applejack and Rainbow Dash went through town hyping everypony up.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Rainbow becomes this while putting Fluttershy through the training course, complete with shouting and goading that stresses the poor mare out.
  • Easy Evangelism: All it takes is one description of buckball to turn Rainbow Dash into a die-hard fan. The same seems to go for the rest of Ponyville, though in their case it might just be town pride.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: "Everypony" meaning Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Snails after telling the secret to Buckball skill (fun).
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Rainbow Dash and Applejack are trying to figure out what's got Fluttershy and Pinkie so upset. They start discussing how important it is to be psyched up and excited about winning... then realize that that doesn't sound at all like Pinkie or Fluttershy.
  • Face Plant: Happens twice to Fluttershy while trying to run Dash's obstacle course.
  • Fictional Sport: Buckball, of course, which comes with the following rules: the game is played between two teams, each consisting of an earth pony, a pegasus, and a unicorn; the earth pony (offense) bucks the ball into a basket held by their unicorn (catcher), while the pegasus (defense) blocks the opponents' basket and passes the ball to their earth pony. It also mixes in the opening face-off of basketball and full contact with the ball with any part of the pony's body like football/soccer. First team to score six goals wins.
  • Flat Joy: When Applejack and Rainbow Dash mention they went around town talking up the team, Pinkie responds with an extremely nervous "greaaaaat".
  • Freudian Trio: The Ponyville buckball team fits pretty well into this.
    • Id: Pinkie Pie — Chaotic and very emotional, not the best at articulating her feelings.
    • Ego: Fluttershy — More rational than Pinkie, strikes a balance between mind and body.
    • Superego: Snails — Perpetually calm and in control of his immediate surroundings.
  • Funny Background Event: While Applejack and Rainbow Dash are in awe over Pinkie and Fluttershy's unexpected buckball expertise, one of the poor unicorn candidates stumbles around with his head stuck in a bucket.
  • Genius Ditz: Snails is masterful at telekinesis thanks to his lack of thinking, allowing him to ignore the pressure of winning.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Pinkie Pie sports some incredibly poofy ones when she's playing. It's not the first time she's done that.
  • Graceful Loser: Braeburn and his team take their defeat very well despite it being a very close game.
  • Green Around the Gills: One of the unicorns trying out for Ponyville's buckball team makes herself so dizzy looking at her own spinning bucket that she ends up looking like she's about to lose her lunch.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Both Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy have a natural knack for buckball: Pinkie for her lightning-fast speed and tendency to bounce all over; and Fluttershy for her long, sling-like tail.
    • Snails' empty-headedness keeps him in a constantly zen state of mind that relieves him of all the burdens and pressures the other players go through.
  • Instant Fan Club: Despite AJ being the only one that knew about buckball in Ponyville at the start of the episode, by the end, they have a reasonably sized group of avid fans that follow them to Appleloosa to cheer their team to play.
  • Irony: Rainbow Dash is a natural athlete who knows a lot of sports games, yet she's never heard of buckball prior to the episode. She later implies that it's a fairly new game.
  • I've Heard of That — What Is It?: Rainbow Dash is all pumped to help Applejack put together a winning buckball team... even though she admits she doesn't know what buckball is.
  • Jaw Drop: Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy's reaction just after the Description Cut, on seeing the many Ponyville ponies cheering them up for the upcoming game.
  • Kick Chick: Applejack naturally is this trope given that buckball revolves around bucking, an activity that she's been doing all series long. However, Pinkie Pie also becomes this trope and even surpasses Applejack as she not only uses bucking, but uses several types of acrobatic kicks: such as a backflip kick, an upside down buck, a bump with her rump, and even juggling the ball with her hind legs.
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy not only have the game of buckball down pat after just a handful of rounds, they manage to run circles around longtime player Applejack and natural athlete Rainbow Dash. The same goes for Snails, who proves his skills completely by accident.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Rainbow Dash and Applejack are hit with this hard after Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy tell them they're not playing anymore, making them realize they have been putting too much pressure on them.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Applejack and Rainbow Dash end up raising the stakes of the buckball game against Appleloosa way beyond Fluttershy and Pinkie's level of comfort, when all the latter pair want is to relax and have fun. The result is not only Ponyville's star players losing their edge under the constant pressure to win, but outright quitting hours before the big game begins.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The Appleloosa team pegasus is a mare with a design similar to Bulk Biceps.
  • Off-Model: In one of the shots, Snails is missing his horn. In another, his magic aura is yellow (much like his original appearance) rather than purple as seen throughout the episode.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Fluttershy is the one who blows her top after the pressure RD and Applejack are putting on her and Pinkie gets too high. This is after Pinkie is left stuttering when trying to explain to RD and AJ.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Much of the episode has Ashleigh Ball's two characters interacting with Andrea Libman's two characters, and the switching back-and-forth seems to get to both actresses as the episode goes on: Applejack will speak followed by Rainbow with a hint of AJ's accent, or Fluttershy will speak followed by Pinkie with a touch of Fluttershy's breathiness.
  • Portmanteau: Pinkie uses the word "uncredible" (a combination of "unbelievable" and "incredible") when she learns Applejack and Rainbow Dash want her and Fluttershy to play against Appleloosa.
  • Prehensile Hair: After the second practice session in the desert, Pinkie bounces the buckball on the extended curl of her mane.
  • Prehensile Tail: Fluttershy uses her tail to great effect in blocking incoming buckballs. She also holds a ball with her tail at one point. Pinkie can also do a balancing act on her tail when she kicks a buckball.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Extremely rare for Pinkie Pie, but this episode has her as the blue to the red of Applejack and Rainbow Dash because she wants to chill and have fun instead of get psyched up to win. Fluttershy, of course, is still very much the blue. Or put another way, Ashleigh Ball voiced the red oni duo while Andrea Libman voiced the blue oni duo.
  • Ret-Canon: Snails' portrayal as a Genius Ditz was actually established in the IDW Comics before the airing of this episode.
  • Serious Business: Deconstructed. Rainbow Dash and Applejack treat the upcoming game as a big deal because it works for them personally but it clearly goes against Pinkie and Fluttershy's mentality and causes them massive amounts of stress.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A slow-mo kick from Applejack is reminiscent of The Six Million Dollar Man or The Bionic Woman, right down to the same "bionic" sound effect.
    • Snails' role in the story follows that of The Waterboy (down to the fact he's carrying water around when they discover his talent).
  • Sudden Principled Stand: Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, after being driven way too hard but keeping with it, take a principled stand when they're on the train, after seeing how many ponies are coming out to see them. It even includes a royally pissed off Fluttershy yelling at Rainbow and Applejack.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • When Pinkie tries to help Fluttershy relax by saying that nopony else in town knows about the game, it cuts to them being cheered on by the whole town.
    • The whole episode was caused by Braeburn openly bragging about his Appleloosa team being better than the Ponyville team recruited by his cousin Applejack. Braeburn ends up eating his words by a close loss, though he is a good sport about it.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: One occurs while trying to find a unicorn for the team. Those trying out keep panicking or getting distracted.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Snails, one of Ponyville's resident Butt Monkeys, gets a moment to shine by becoming one of Ponyville's star buckball players.
  • To the Tune of...: The melody of Snails' "Carrying My Water" ditty is based on the French nursery rhyme "Alouette".
  • Training Montage: Rainbow Dash and Applejack arrange one for Pinkie and Fluttershy to improve their already great talent. It actually makes them worse because they're stressed out by the pressure to win.
  • Tribal Face Paint: Most of the Ponyville fans are sporting the blue and teal team colors. Taken to the extreme by Derpy, who looks like she just dunked her face into a paint bucket.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Dash claiming that Ponyville "whooped the hooves" off of Braeburn's team despite the fact that it was a very close game.
  • Vague Age: Snails is still enrolled in Ponyville Schoolhouse but is apparently old enough to be in the Ponyville Buckball Team which seems to imply that he's a young teenager.
  • Was Too Hard on Her: Applejack and Rainbow realize they've been putting too much pressure on Pinkie and Fluttershy after the latter two quit the game.

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