Saturday, September 03, 2016

Can't hold back (spoiler alerts, MLP)

I may add to this upon rewatching the episode later or after EqD does their wrap up, but I have a few things to say and I'm kind of bouncing around like Pinkie Pie after eating an entire chocolate cake, so....

I really really really really liked this week's episode. It MIGHT be because I was expecting something different based on the title. The episode was called "Buckball season," and so I assumed, "Oh, it's gonna be Spike and Big Mac, bonding again" (because they both apparently collect buckball cards).


Instead, buckball is a thing that apparently has intramural-type teams. And Ponyville is going to have one. And because of some slightly cheating-adjacent actions by Appleloosa (they put on a couple of ringers: they are an Earth Pony town, but brought in a Pegasus to goaltend and a unicorn to move the goal....which seems to me weren't originally a thing in buckball), Applejack, the big buckball player, has to find a team.

Well, of course Rainbow Dash is in. Rainbow Dash is in for just about any sport. But they need a unicorn, and they also need a second team to play against.

Enter Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. They can be the Earth Pony and the Pegasus on the second team, so that unicorns can audition.

(Rarity and Twilight are not in this episode. I'm assuming Rarity, when approached by either RD or AJ, raised one eyebrow, said, in a style not unlike that of the late Davy Jones, "You must be JOKING*" and closed the door gently. And Twilight probably had princess stuff happening. So background unicorns were brought in).

(*ETA: corrected misquote)

I have to stop right here and say there was a lot of super cuteness in this episode and that might be partly why I liked it. Pinkie put her hair up in pigtails (because sports, of course) and on Pinkie, pigtails are like giant Afro poofs and it's just a super cute look on her.

And Fluttershy gets stationed at one of the baskets that forms the goal. (It's not quite football, not quite basketball, not quite Quidditch....) Her job is to catch the ball. Now, you'd think Fluts would have a hard time with things that are flying fast at her face....but she turns out, after one or two moments of panic, to be really good at it.

(Also, apparently, she has a prehensile tail. Horse tails, how do they work? Apparently differently in Equestria than here....)

So good in fact, at one point she remarks, as the ball is whizzing at her, "Oh, hello, Mr. Ball" and then she flips it back out onto the field. SUPER. CUTE.

(Dang. I missed the Mane Six in last week's episode, and the previous week's one).

Pinkie is also crazy good at the game, perhaps partly because of Pinkie Sense (part of it is being able to kick the ball that is coming at you from any direction).

And I have to admit - and it's stupid, I know - but it made me so HAPPY to see two of my favorite ponies (a) have a sport they're genuinely good at and (b) they are happy to be playing it.

Anyway, Applejack and Rainbow Dash are watching this, and envisioning Appleloosa's face ground in the mud. Because it's not enough that I must win; my opponent must also lose big.

There's still the problem of that unicorn, and it's solved from an unusual quarter - Snails is carrying buckets of water somewhere (? Do some houses in Ponyville not have running water? The spa does, and I am pretty sure Fluttershy has a bathtub. Or is this "special" water from a special spring? We'll never know....) Anyway, he catches an errant ball (shades of every kids' baseball movie ever) and gets asked to be on the team. And he also is surprisingly good.

And it turns out, Snails is surprisingly chill - he is like a Zen master. Because, as it turns out, he never thinks about anything. This will become an important plot point later on.

So anyway. Fluts and Pinkie and Snails are on the team. And Rainbow and Applejack are super excited at fielding a winning team, even though THEY are not playing themselves. And so they kind of let it slip how IMPORTANT this is to Ponyville, and how EVERYONE is depending on a kid, a super-introvert, and a hyperactive sugar addict to bring home the gold.

And suddenly, it's not so fun for Pinkie Pie or Fluttershy any more - they were good, see, because they were having fun. It was a GAME, not a COMPETITION. And so they start to get nervous, even Pinkie, who is normally less stressed about things than most other ponies. And they start messing up!

Anyone who has ever "choked" in a piano recital or while in a school play or a Mathletes competition or a gymnastics meet can relate. (I even play better for myself at home alone than I do for my piano teacher)

But, walking home, they reassure themselves: we didn't even know what buckball is until a day ago! There can't be THAT many ponies who are actually fans!

Whoops. Because Applejack and Rainbow Dash have been going around Ponyville using their apparently-impressive powers of persuasion to hype hoofball. (It's probably good Equestria is a monarchy and there aren't elections). So when the three hoofball players show up at the train station, there's an enormous crowd. And apparently Ponyville's colors are sort of a cadet blue and turquoise? I bet the writers tried hard to find a combo that no real-world team had, lest they be accused of partisanship.

And so, Pinkie and Fluttershy's discomfort comes back. And it's not helped by Rainbow Dash being Rainbow Dash and putting the pressure on. And there's a very funny scene with very funny facial expressions where Pinkie is nearly crying and finally Fluttershy gives in to her anger and actually tells off Rainbow Dash for making the game not-fun and....

I really kind of AM Fluttershy. It takes a LOT to make me angry enough to chew out another person but when I do, it really is kind of like what she did here, even down to the ridiculous facial expressions (though in my case it's "I'm trying not to cry because I cry when I'm super frustrated" and being angry makes me frustrated because usually it's that I'm not being listened to). And they quit the team and run off.

But Snails is still chill with it, so....he's gonna get to play regardless.

Well, eventually Rainbow and Applejack find Pinkie and Fluttershy, and persuade them to practice with them - because if AJ and RD are gonna play, they need practice. (I can see right now where this is going, but I still like it).

And Fluttershy and Pinkie, with the pressure to perform taken off them, are really good once again. Because they're having fun. And....surprise! They're gonna be in the match. And Rainbow Dash realizes that pressure maybe works for her, but definitely doesn't work for them, and so she needs to take the pressure off. (Minor quibble: I thought she learned this about Fluts in "Hurricane Fluttershy," but whatever). And yes, this is one of those "morals" that rings really true: put me under pressure and I choke, and I'm usually crying while I do it. Let me pressure myself and I'm usually okay. Take the pressure off and I can do things well. But if you're breathing down my neck it is NOT GOOD.

Snails, of course, remains calm: he just doesn't think about anything. Ever.

(And that's sort of an impossible attitude for people like me to cultivate. I've had people tell me stuff like, in stressful situations, "Oh, just don't think about it" and I am like WHAT HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT and sometimes I wonder if the reason drug use is so common among entertainers is the idea of wanting to shut off the yammering part of the no, being on a beta blocker (often prescribed off label for stage fright) doesn't seem to have affected my nervousness about playing piano or singing in front of other people).

But they play.

And they win, though it's close, down to one point at the end.

But I like the moral, and I wish more people realized it: even as some people thrive under pressure, others don't, and they know their own minds, so back off, kindly.

(This also works for micromanaging administrators, as well).

I think there is something also undefinable about this episode that makes it part of the "episodes I really enjoyed" group - maybe a timelessness to it? Kids have always played sports of some kind, there's long been organized Little League and the like. There's long been that pressure to achieve, that "everyone is counting on you" idea....and also the interactions between the characters was fun in this one. (With the recent Discord episodes, I think, it feels to me like he sucks all the oxygen out of the room and with this episode, it was more everypony had her - or his, in Snails' case - role to play and nopony really dominated)

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