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Games Ponies Play is an episode of the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It aired as the twelfth episode of the third season, and the sixty-fourth episode overall. The title of this episode alludes to the 1964 bestselling book, Games People Play, but the idea of a sports competition is closer to the 1980 television series of the same name.In this episode, Twilight and her friends travel to the Crystal Empire to help it win the Equestria Games by touring the games inspector.

Production and development

File:Crystal Empire with stadium S03E12.jpg
Layout supervisor Tim Stuby stated on Twitter that "312 has a new title".[1] During the week leading up to the episode's scheduled premiere, story editor Meghan McCarthy wrote on Twitter that the original name for a new character introduced in the episode was Ms. Peachbottom.[2]

Summary

File:Twilight and spike S03 E12.png
This episode and Just for Sidekicks take place simultaneously, with the former focusing on Twilight Sparkle and her friends welcoming the Equestria Games inspector at the Crystal Empire, and the latter focusing on Spike taking care of the pets.

The episode opens outside Twilight's library (during the end of the first act of Just for Sidekicks), where Twilight expresses concern that Spike might not be able to handle taking care of her and her friends' pets by himself. Spike assures her that he has it under control. Twilight says goodbye and leaves, and Spike closes the library door- just as a loud ruckus ensues within. Twilight is about to go back, but Rainbow Dash stops her, saying they can't miss their train.

As the six friends are about to board the train, they talk about how excited the Crystal Ponies are about hosting the Equestria Games: the "biggest sporting event in all of Equestria", according to Rainbow Dash. She recalls a year during which Cloudsdale should have hosted the Games, and a flashback sequence (in which a filly Rainbow Dash appears on the back of a rainbow-maned stallion) shows it losing out to Fillydelphia. Considering the Crystal Ponies' past troubles with King Sombra, Rainbow Dash is determined to bring the Equestria Games to the Empire, and her friends share in her determination.

Return to the Crystal Empire

While on the train, Twilight and her friends practice a cheer to perform for the Games Inspector. Twilight is worried they're not ready, and mentions that the Inspector is known for "putting folks through the wringer on her visits". As they attempt to run through the routine another time, the train screeches to a halt. The sudden stop sent the girls flying. They've reached their destination!

File:Mane six walking through crystal city S03E12.png
The six friends walk through the city and notice that it's even livelier and "crystallier" than their last visit. Crystal Ponies are all seen sprucing it up to make it presentable for the Games Inspector. Rainbow Dash remembers that feeling of excitement that came with the Equestria Games, but not as much as the crushing disappointment that came later (she does well in imparting that fear onto a random crystal filly). With some nudging from Twilight, the six ponies eventually arrive at a spa, where Princess Cadance awaits them. Rarity is awestruck by the spa's magnificence. Princess Cadance offers the spa's services to the six ponies, but only Rarity and Pinkie Pie accept. Pinkie Pie helps herself to the mud bath. Twilight's anxieties return, but Cadance helps her to relax.

As Cadance prepares to get her ceremonial headdress (a tradition among Empire rulers when meeting with important guests) done, a Crystal Pony messenger bursts in with two crucial pieces of news. The first is that Cadance's mane-stylist has come down with the flu, and none of the other stylists present know how to do the ceremonial headdress. Rarity volunteers to step in for the sick stylist, to everyone's relief, and Cadance gives her the long list of instructions. Rarity's hesitant at first, but seizes the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Besides, the Games Inspector isn't expected for several hours and Rarity is sure to find some shortcuts...

...until the messenger relays her second piece of news: the Games Inspector, Ms. Harshwhinny, will be arriving on the very next train - in fifteen minutes!

Welcoming the Inspector

File:Peachbottom shakes hooves with Twilight S03E12.png
As everypony begins to panic, Twilight calms herself and takes charge of the situation. She tells Rarity to have Cadance back at the castle when they're done, and leads the rest of her friends to the train station, telling them to be on the lookout for a pony with flower print luggage. Rainbow Dash is sure that the Inspector's early arrival is part of a plan to "psych [them] out", if her reputation for trying to catch Games hosts off guard is true. Rainbow Dash warns her friends not to fall for any of her mind games.

The train pulls into the station, and a green-maned mare carrying a floral print bag -- the Games Inspector, no doubt -- steps off. Twilight and her friends welcome her, and while she seems abrasive at first, she's quickly receptive to such a warm welcome. In fact, she's thrilled by the fact Princess Cadance organized such a welcome for her. The visit appears to have gone off to a great start. As they head for the castle, the train the Inspector just got off pulls away from the station and another, more formally-dressed pony with a floral print bag is seen, looking impatient. She appeared to be waiting for something.

The grand tour

At the spa, Rarity is still hard at work styling Cadance's mane. Cadance picks up on Rarity's nervousness and asks what's wrong. Rarity had apparently skipped a step in Cadance's list of instructions, and the princess' mane was a tangled mess.

File:Main ponies final cheer pose S03E12.png
Meanwhile, Twilight and her friends show the Inspector into the crystal castle, where she's shown to have claustrophobia and altocelarophobia.[note 1] Fluttershy comments on how nice she is, but Rainbow Dash assures her that it's all an act. The Inspector is eager to go outside and stretch her legs, but not before Twilight and her friends put on their elaborate, well-rehearsed cheer to properly welcome the Inspector to the Crystal Empire. She happily applauds such a grand reception, and is surprised that Princess Cadance even knows her. When she asks where the princess is, Applejack wonders the same thing. The Inspector shrugs it off and, once again feeling claustrophobic, rushes out onto the balcony.

Rainbow Dash makes the suggestion of giving the Inspector a tour of the castle, but Twilight reminds her that they've hardly explored the castle themselves. "It's just another test," Rainbow asserts. Taking another calming breath, Twilight allows her friends to show the Inspector around while she goes to check up on Cadance. On her way to the spa, she passes by the formally-dressed pony from earlier, who gets splashed on when a pony-drawn cart passes over a puddle.

Twilight arrives at the spa to see Cadance, but Rarity intercepts her, saying the princess isn't ready and that "something's gone terribly wrong".

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File:Ms. Peachbottom trots in place S03E12.png
All of Twilight's efforts to speak with Cadance are thwarted as Rarity pushes her out the door, telling her to buy her more time.

Back at the castle, Pinkie is showing the Inspector around (as only she knows how) before Twilight returns. The Inspector is again getting claustrophobic and antsy, so Twilight goes to enlist the help of Shining Armor. She finds her brother in the new crystal stadium behind the castle training some Crystal Ponies on a running track. Twilight asks for help in giving the Inspector a tour of the castle, and Shining Armor agrees to help out, telling her everything's going to be okay. Twilight says she's not worried -- and she really isn't.

Just then, the castle tour leads Twilight's friends and the Inspector outside, which the Inspector is more than pleased about. She races around the track in excitement, even managing to outrun the other ponies. Her behavior confuses Shining Armor. When the Inspector gets her head covered buy a pail and ends up racing out of the stadium, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy chase her down and stop her. In spite of the commotion, the Inspector is in high spirits (even higher upon meeting Prince Shining Armor) and is thoroughly enjoying her vacation, which puzzles Twilight. Twilight at last asks if the mare is indeed Ms. Harshwhinny, the Equestria Games Inspector. She isn't.

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Where's the real Inspector?

File:Ms Harshwhinny and Ms Peachbottom at the spa S3E12.png
Twilight and her friends make a mad dash for the train station, hoping to find the real Ms. Harshwhinny, but there's nopony with flower print luggage around. Rainbow Dash suggests they split up and search the city, to which Pinkie Pie adds that there's no point in checking the spa because that's where Cadance is -- if Ms. Harshwhinny is there, game over. The others gasp at this realization.

The real Ms. Harshwhinny is indeed at the spa, enjoying a hooficure; on the massage table next to her is the "fake Games Inspector". Ms. Harshwhinny complains about having been unable to "get the inside scoop" on the Crystal Empire and otherwise being neglected all day. Her fellow spa-goer, however, has nothing but words of praise to give the Empire and its welcoming committee, which intrigues Miss Harshwhinny.

Twilight and company arrive outside the spa and, looking through the window, discover that both Ms. Harshwhinny and Princess Cadance are inside, neither aware of the other's presence. They enter the spa and meet with Rarity, who presents them to Cadance, her mane fixed and ceremonial headdress complete. Ms. Harshwhinny overhears the mention of Cadance's name and walks over, voicing her displeasure over the day she's had. When Cadance is baffled by this news, Rainbow Dash confesses that they'd welcomed the wrong pony, left the right one at the station, and completely ruined everything. She wanted to help the Crystal Empire win the chance to host the Equestria Games so they wouldn't suffer the same disappointment she did when she was a filly, but ended up ruining their chances instead.

File:Rainbow Dash hugging the Crystal filly S03E12.png
However, after hearing about the warm reception Twilight and her friends had given the green-maned mare from Mustangia, Ms. Harshwhinny's opinion and appraisal of the Crystal Empire was anything but negative, which meant only one thing...

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The Crystal Ponies' exhilaration over this announcement super-charges the Crystal Heart, and it shoots a beam of light into the sky that bursts into an aurora of colors.

Going home

File:Spike, CMC, and the pets hiding S03E12.png
Twilight and her friends return to the station, about to board the Ponyville-bound train. Rainbow Dash basks in the feeling of helping someone get something you always wanted but never had, and shows excitement about coming back to watch the Games when they are being played. Just before Fluttershy boards the train, she watches a cart of luggage collapse and make a pile on the platform (as a green jewel flies overhead).

Rainbow Dash feels sorry that Spike had to miss out on everything, but Twilight Sparkle was sure Spike was having plenty of fun watching their pets back home. Suddenly, Applejack hears something growling and asks her friends if they can hear it as well.

The camera pans down to show Spike, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and the six pets hiding nervously under the seats.

Quotes

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Young Rainbow Dash:NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
Twilight Sparkle: Princess Cadance is counting on us to do our part to convince the Games Inspector to choose the Crystal Empire. And we are not gonna let her down. Are we?
Pinkie Pie: Nooooooooo! What? I was just answering Twilight's question. 
Pinkie Pie: Easy peasy puddin' in the freezy.
Twilight Sparkle: I need to speak to the Princess.
Rarity: You can't! You mustn't! She's in the middle of a delicate conditioning rinse that must go perfectly if there's to be any hope for her hair!
Twilight Sparkle: Come on, how bad can it be?
Rarity: Imagine her mane turned into a porcupine.
Twilight Sparkle: Ew.
Rarity: Please, I will bring her back from the brink of tragedy, but you have got to buy me some time! There's no other way!
Pinkie Pie: So, you see this here? This, um, this is um, a big, round room. It's known for its roundness, and bigness, and did I mention that it's round?
Ms. Peachbottom: I think they call it a rotunda...? A small, confining, rotunda...
Pinkie Pie: [blows raspberry] Whatever. Round is round, am I right?
Rainbow Dash: We got the wrong pony?!
Pinkie Pie: NOOOOOOOOOOO! I mean, YEEEEEEESSSSSSSS!

Gallery

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Notes

  1. altocelarophobia: Fear of high ceilings, from Latin alto (high) and celare (cover). From Wiktionary.

References

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  2. Template:Cite web

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