A very nice group episode this time around, though it's better the second time around. Also, there's a lot of facepalming.
Fluttershy spends a typical day at her woodland cottage home, helping feed the various animals that surround it. When she coaches the bunny Angel (who is a boy, apparently) on how to eat his carrot, he gives her a hard time, and frankly, I don't blame him. You don't tell a rabbit how to eat a carrot. The other animals may put up with her overprotectiveness, but not Angel. In the course of running away from her, he spots a trail of smoke high in the sky, heading straight for Ponyville! But it takes an awful lot of coughing to get Fluttershy to realize what's going on (as she's still fixated on his half-eaten carrot). Once she does, though, she heads into town to try and alert the other ponies to the problem. She's unable to get her voice heard in the park, as Rainbow Dash attempts to break the ball-bouncing record and Pinkie Pie plans a party to celebrate her attempt. But Fluttershy keeps trying, until Twilight Sparkle arrives on the scene and gets everyone's attention instead. She reveals the source of the smoke: a dragon!
Later on, Twilight fills in her friends on the situation, as told to her by Princess Celestia. The dragon is just taking a nap, and his snoring is causing the smoke. Rainbow Dash is all for taking action against the dragon, but Twilight emphasizes the need for diplomacy on this mission. If they can't get the dragon to leave, Equestria will be covered in smoke for 100 years! She calls for the girls to meet her with supplies in one hour, and as the others leave, excited for the mission, Fluttershy hangs back. Cut to a montage of each pony getting ready: Dash puts on war paint, Granny Smith, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh get Applejack's rations, Pinkie Pie busts out with sunglasses and a bunch of balloons, Rarity trades her camo-helmet for a more stylish chapeau, and Fluttershy gets freaked out by her door closing, and then they all pose Charlie's Angels-style.
Once everyone is assembled, Twilight explains that the dragon is snoozing in a cave at the top of a (relatively) nearby mountain. Fluttershy is apprehensive, and goes to tell Twilight that she'd rather just stay in Ponyville. She nearly gets away with it, too, since Twilight was reading a map and not really listening, but unfortunately for her, Twilight realizes what the other pony just said and insists that Fluttershy come along. After all, her uncanny way with animals will surely come in handy when dealing with a dragon. And even though the mission involves a dragon, Spike stays behind to watch all the animals that Fluttershy will be leaving behind. Rainbow Dash is also apprehensive about bringing Fluttershy, but Twilight is confident that Fluttershy, despite all appearances to the contrary, will be fine once the trip gets going. And so the ponies begin their mission, sweeping up Fluttershy as they head for the mountain.
the foot of the mountain, the dragon's snores have become audible. Rainbow Dash is ready to just fly straight up to the top, but Applejack catches her before she can fly off and makes her stick with the rest of the group. And so up they go, Rarity and Pinkie Pie bantering a bit about the dragon as they climb. Twilight tells them to knock it off, and then asks Fluttershy, the animal expert, about the dragon. Only Fluttershy is still at the bottom of the mountain, afraid of the steepness. Rainbow Dash suggests, with more than a hint of sarcasm, flying up, but when Fluttershy does, the sound of the dragon's snores snap her wings firmly to her sides, and she plummets right back down to the bottom of the mountain. Twilight gripes that they don't have time to wait around for her, so Applejack snags the map and volunteers to take Fluttershy up a less steep path. She promises to be up "lickety-split," but Rarity and Pinkie Pie have time for 35 games of Tic-Tac-Toe before they actually get there, since she basically had to drag Fluttershy the entire way (if you were gonna do that, you might as well have just dragged her up the steep path, Applejack).
The whole team together again, they reach a gap in the path. Everyone jumps over with ease, but Fluttershy can't get herself to do it. Not until Pinkie Pie sings her a little song about taking "a hop, skip, and a jump," that is. Twilight nearly ruins it by telling her not to look down, which of course saps her resolve, but fortunately the gap was short enough that she could have just walked over it and been fine. With a push from Dash and pull from everyone else, she finally gets across. Further along, they come to an avalanche zone. Twilight warns them all to be quiet, but the already nerveracked Fluttershy mistakes a leaf falling on her rump for the start of an avalanche, and cries out in fear. Applejack stops her, but it's too late, the damage is done. The ponies manage to avoid all the falling rocks, but now their path is blocked by the residual rubble. There's no choice but climb over it all, with Fluttershy in the rear. Which naturally means that on the way down, she stumbles and knocks into Rarity and Applejack.
Rainbow Dash is still annoyed about Fluttershy being on the trip, but now her moment has come; they've reached the dragon's cave. Twilight goes over everyone's part of the plan: Rainbow Dash will clear the smoke, Rarity and Pinkie Pie will create a diversion if needed, and Applejack will use her apple-fu if the dragon decides to attack. But that's only if she and Fluttershy can't convince the dragon to leave, of course. Twilight enters the cave, unaware the Fluttershy is not with her. So out she goes again, and tries to get Fluttershy to come with her this time. But not even a push from every single other pony is enough to get Fluttershy to budge. Fluttershy tells them that she can't go in the cave because she's afraid of dragons. As if to prove her point, the dragon lets out an extra loud snore, covering the whole area in smoke. Twilight, however, calls attention to her wonderful way with animals, and Fluttershy responds that they aren't dragons. This is her response to Rainbow Dash reminding her of the manticore in episode two, and when Pinkie points out that Spike is a dragon, she responds that he's not a full-grown dragon, and that makes all the difference. Twilight demands to know why she didn't say anything about this earlier, conveniently forgetting about Fluttershy trying to get out of the trip back in town, and how much she's been dragging her hooves this whole time. Applejack, meanwhile, tries to appeal to Fluttershy's sense of duty, but Fluttershy just can't bring herself to face a dragon, not even with Equestria's fate on the line.
the dragon face-to-face, she begins to realize that Fluttershy may have had a point. Still, she attempts to get the dragon's attention and give her spiel, even after getting a snootful of dragon morning breath. In response, the dragon just blows more smoke in her face. Rarity goes in next to try the charm method. She lays on the flattery, all while helping herself to a fraction of the dragon's hoard. Her honeyed words seem to be working, and nearly gets him to leave, until she mentions watching over his hoard while he's gone. Her true motives laid bare, the dragon roars and she hightails it out of the cave before he can do anything more. While she grouses about not getting any of the jewels, Pinkie Pie decides to try the laughter approach, but is shot down before she can say anything more than "Hi."
Well, by now Rainbow Dash has had it. "We've tried persuasion, charm, ...whatever it is Pinkie Pie does." She goes in herself and gives him a kick right in the snoot. While this doesn't seem to actually hurt the dragon much, it does get him riled up, and he roars so loudly that Rainbow Dash is propelled right out of the cave and into the others, knocking them all over like bowling pins. As the dragon emerges from his cave, they cower in fear, making an easy target for his smoke breath, which is strong enough to knock them all back into a nearby rock. Right where Fluttershy was hiding all this time, it seems. Seeing the damage dealt to her friends, Fluttershy suddenly switches from timidness to righteous indignation, demanding "How dare you?" straight to the dragon's face. She goes all alpha on him, much to her friends' surprise. With a whimper, he tells her that Dash kicked him (and Dash actually has the audacity to be smug about this), so she apologizes for her friend, but reminds him that he's bigger and should know better. She goes into Mommy-mode and lectures him about sleeping where his smoke can effect other creatures, ending with "What do you have to say for yourself?" Her lecture is super effective, and the dragon breaks down crying. Fluttershy comforts him and tells him he just needs to get a move on.
While the dragon packs up his hoard, the other ponies surround Fluttershy to congratulate her on a job well done (if a little late). And so the dragon flies off, the pegasi of Ponyville clean up the smoke, and Twilight makes her report back to Princess Celestia, giving Spike a break from trying to keep up with Angel. She includes this week's lesson on friendship in the report, which is "never give up on your friends." As soon as she finishes her letter, Applejack calls her to watch Rainbow Dash break the ball bouncing record. But just as Rainbow Dash is about to do it, she hears a roar and freaks out, thinking the dragon came back. But no, it was just Pinkie Pie practicing her dragon imitation. "It's okay, Rainbow Dash," Fluttershy tells her, "Not everypony can be as brave as me." Dash, not in any mood to take this from the resident shrinking violet, promptly blows a leaf onto Fluttershy's rump, making the pegasus panic while everyone laughs.
The end credits changed to a more readable font with this episode, with the voice actor credits broken into two pages, but we still don't have any additional credits listed. What's up with that? Even the rebooted Pound Puppies and Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures change up their credits each episode to tell you exactly who is who, and frankly, MLP:FiM should be better than them in every way. Stop letting those shows beat you in in the credits, MLP:FiM! Get on the ball, whoever is in charge of the credits!
Rainbow Dash salutes
Rainbow Dash Posing
Pinkie Pie Posing
Rainbow Dash facepalms
Did you just say "avalanche zone?"
Twilight's reaction to Pinkie's chicken
Ponies getting cried on