While this is an admirable trait, there have been plenty of times in the past where she's let that get in the way of other things, being so desperate to fulfill those dreams that she seems ready to do anything to get them.
And once again, Rainbow's faced with the choice of either do anything to fulfill her dreams, or do what's more right...
Only there's a catch: apparently most of Ponyville's other pegasi got recruited to participate in their own teams for different events, leaving Rainbow with two pegasi on her team who were probably NOT her first choices: Fluttershy and the now-named bulked-up pegasi stallion, Bulk Biceps. Both of whom are willing, but not exactly capable. Bulk, in fact, seems barely capable of sustained flight with those little wings of his, and actually makes Fluttershy (who is a still the timid and mild flyer she is, but fortunately isn't so nervous about it as she's been in the past) seem the more capable flyer.
Rainbow's a surprisingly good sport about it though (which pleases me to see, actually, it shows how much she's grown during the series), and looks on the bright side: they've got her on the team, and she's confident that her speed is more than enough to pick up the slack and be able to get Ponyville qualified for the games. So with that optimistic view, they head off to train and, later, qualify at a place presumably called Rainbow Falls, although it is never actually named as such in the episode.
Everything seems to be going well enough, with this unlikely team's spirit not even really getting dampened even when they learn that Cloudsdale has roped in three of the Wonderbolts for their team (Spitfire, Soarin, and Fleetfoot, all of which get equal screen time and dialogue [a first for Fleetfoot]). But then disaster strikes and Soarin injures his wing in a mishap, and it suddenly seems unclear he'll be available to fly for the competition and qualifications, leaving them short a member.
And guess who Fleetfoot and Spitfire's eying as Soarin's replacement?
So now Rainbow's faced with a choice; fly with the Wonderbolts for Cloudsdale or fly for Ponyville. The choice is made even less easy as Spitfire and Fleetfoot (but namely Fleetfoot, anybody else notice that?) raise a few good arguments for Rainbow to join them. Things like that Rainbow may live in Ponyville presently but she grew up in Cloudsdale and thus would qualify as a Cloudsdallian, that Spitfire knew that thanks to Rainbow's time at the Wonderbolt Academy she was familiar with the Wonderbolt training regimen and could deal with the stress, and the fact that Ponyville team was holding Rainbow back and even with Rainbow on the team it had poor chances of qualifying.
All of which Rainbow knows. But its a choice she REALLY doesn't want to have to make. Already we're seeing that Rainbow is a better pony than she was back in season one, because in season one, it probably would've been a choice she made without hesitation...and probably not in Ponyville's favor. But while Rainbow doesn't want to miss out on the chance to fly with the Wonderbolts and all of that, she now knows that just ditching her team wasn't right either.
So she does a very Rainbow Dash sort of thing to do; she tries to avoid making the choice altogether. First she tries attempting to train for both teams in secret (at the suggestion of Fleetfoot) up until it wears even on her and Twilight catches wise. Then she decides to fake a serious injury to herself, keeping her from flying, and thus saving her from making the choice at all by basically letting down both teams.
But it's Twilight who says it best: "You know, choosing not to choose isn't really a decision."
So...it's decision time Rainbow.
Ultimately she makes the choice to side with Ponyville, as we all knew she would, thus the lesson to be learned for this episode, but while the lesson is simple enough, I'm struck by the fact that Rainbow wasn't the only one to learn it; the Wonderbolts also learn it to when Rainbow is explaining her choice, and they realize they have something to learn from this as well...especially as it turns out Soarin wasn't as injured as Rainbow had been led to believe and was actually perfectly capable of competing in time, the Wonderbolts had just wanted Rainbow over Soarin and "stretched the truth" of the matter to justify it. But Rainbow's choice to side with Ponyville regardless of all of this makes quite an impression on them, making them realize they were in error too.
Which is where the most important event of the episode takes place. Rainbow left the biggest impression on everypony by choosing to support Ponyville, even if it DID mean it would hold her back and hurt her chances of succeeding, simply because that was the RIGHT thing to do. And this is totally true in a real world scenario too; most people think that in order to succeed they have to look out for numero uno, but while that might be the fastest and easiest way to do it, time and time again I have seen ample evidence to show that it is the people who DON'T do that and inside look out for others, helping them out even at personal cost, who leave the greater mark on everybody else, and are really the ones more deserving of the reward.
So I'm immensely pleased with the lesson taught in this episode, and it's presented spot on. The writing and build-up to it was also good, as well as the characterization, and some funny jokes all throughout to entertain in the meantime. Its definitely an episode that I would put well up there in my list of favorites.
Though the return of Derpy and her appearance in a notable role in the episode (I always knew she'd be back!), even though she is not named and is completely silent all throughout (but I kind of expected that, honestly), certainly helps.
And, sorry, but I have to say it. Bulk Biceps? REALLY? That's the best canon name the crew could come up with? This is one of those rare times where I think I prefer the fanon name (Snowflake) over the actual name.
And I don't think I like Fleetfoot. Didn't anyone else notice she seemed to be the one who was doing most of the egging on for Rainbow to side with the "winning team?" In fact, now that I think about it, I think she was the one who said exactly that! Also wasn't too thrilled with Spitfire's role in this either, by association, but I'm more forgiving with her, as she just seemed to be more following Fleetfoot's example (even though she presumably outranks Fleetfoot), and was the first to admit their error later. Spitfire has also demonstrated in the past as being the sort of mare who would think more about the statistics than the ethics of a matter, but has pulled through in the end in the past, and that trend continues here. Fleetfoot, though, just seemed kinda like a jerk.
Soarin was quite likeable through all this though, and wasn't surprised to see he and Rainbow being a little friendly. Probably meant as a nod to the Rainbow/Soarin shippers, which are among the few shipper crowds I could actually see myself getting behind. My heart also goes out to the poor stallion too, because not only was he legitimately injured (though he put on a brave face, he looked so sad and pathetic getting on that ambulance cart that I wanted to say "Somepony get that stallion a pie! STAT!"), his own team tried to cut him out of the competition for no real clear reason other than he was injured and they liked Rainbow better. Ouch.
But yeah, overall I liked this episode. So until next week, fillies and gentlecolts!