This episode manages to not only be a great Rarity episode, but a great Rainbow Dash one as well. Lots of beautiful imagery in this one.
The episode opens with Rainbow Dash coaching Fluttershy on her cheering, but it seems to be a lost cause, as the softspoken pegasus can't get enough volume to make herself heard. Rainbow Dash gives her the chance to practice as she runs through her routine for the upcoming Best Young Flyers competition: fancy maneuvering, spinning clouds, and the elusive Sonic Rainboom. While the first two go just fine, Rainbow Dash finds herself so unable to break the speed needed for the sonic rainboom, she is actually bounced back by the sound barrier. She's flung all the way to Twilight Sparkle's treehouse, and right after she and the others put all the books away, too! Rainbow Dash complains about a feeble performance, but she's referring to Fluttershy's cheering, not her own failure at the sonic rainboom. She'd much rather have the rest of her friends come and cheer, but the competition is in Cloudsdale, and only pegasi can go there. Pinkie Pie demonstrates her knowledge of the BYF competition, then admits she'd like to see Rainbow Dash perform a sonic rainboom, as Dash is rumored to be the only pegasus to actually create one.
Twilight, for all her studying, is clueless about the sonic rainboom, so Pinkie Pie fills her in: it's when a sonic boom and a rainbow occur at the same time, due to a fast-flying pegasus. Rainbow Dash admits that she only did it once, back when she was just a filly, and isn't so sure she can pull it off again, though she puts on her usual bravado for her friends. She wants to pull it off for her own sake, though, since it's a sure-fire winning move, and the grand prize is an entire day spent with the Wonderbolts! She heads for home to rest up before the big contest, but orders Fluttershy to work on her cheering. As she flies off, Fluttershy expresses her concern about Rainbow Dash's chances of actually doing a sonic rainboom.
With the two pegasi gone, Twilight starts cleaning up again, until Rarity prods her to find a spell to get them into Cloudsdale so they can help out Dash. Applejack doesn't think Rainbow Dash needs their help, but Rarity, fashion show veteran that she is, knows stage fright when she sees it, and Dash was practically saturated in it. She buttchecks Twilight, demanding she find a flight spell, but Twilight insists she can't find anything in this mess of books. Pinkie Pie, though, is quick to pull out just the right book, right down to the page number. Was it her Pinkie Sense again? No, that book just happened to fall on her face when Rainbow Dash crashed into the room. But the spell is exactly what they were looking for, one that will allow a pony to fly for three days. It's such a high level that even Twilight doesn't think she can do it, but she will try. Since she was so adamant that Twilight find the spell, Rarity volunteers to be the test subject, for Rainbow Dash's sake. And so Twilight begins working on the spell, wrapping Rarity in a magical blue cocoon. There's a burst of light, and.... it worked!
three jerk ponies, old acquaintances of hers that waste no time reminding her that she's a flight school drop-out best known as Rainbow "Crash." But when they doubt her ability to pull off the sonic rainboom, Fluttershy takes Dash's advice and speaks up for her friend, in her not-actually-that-assertive way. The jerks promise to watch the competition and see Rainbow "Crash" fail, and fly off. Fluttershy tries to put Rainbow Dash at ease, but ends up ramping up her tension instead. Rainbow Dash starts to seriously freak out about everyone seeing her fail, so much so that she nearly misses the reveal of Rarity with wings! And not just any old pegasus wings, but beautiful gossamer butterfly wings. Both Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are left speechless by the sight, until Rarity mentions she's not the only one who came. Right on cue, Twilight's hot air balloon breaks through the clouds, carrying Twilight, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie.
Rainbow Dash is overjoyed to see her friends came to cheer her on, and amazed that they can walk on the clouds, since only pegasus ponies are supposed to be able to do that. Twilight explains that the wings spell was too difficult to attempt more than once, so she did a little research and found a spell to let ponies walk on clouds. Since there's a little time before the competition, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy take the others on a tour of Cloudsdale, and while everyone oohs and aahs over the sight of the cloud city, Rarity oohs and aahs at the sight of her new wings. And she's not the only one taken by them. She gets catcalled by construction worker ponies(!), but she doesn't mind at all. Twilight warns her to be careful, since the wings are very delicate, but Rarity isn't worried in the slightest.
The ponies head over to the weather factory, heading first to the snowflake room where Rarity's flapping causes an impromptu (and unwelcome) flurry. Next stop, the rainbow falls. Pinkie Pie takes a taste, but finds the flavor too intense, even for her. The jerk pegasi show up again, having caught sight of Rarity and her wings. They rib on Dash to just get herself some fancy wings if she wants to actually win, and fly off again. Fluttershy tells her to pay them no mind, but Dash's confidence is pretty much nil at this point, especially thinking about Rarity's fancy wings compared to her own. They move onto the steam room, where clouds are made, and Rarity picks up some more admirers. Twilight admonishes Rarity for showing off so much, since it isn't helping Rainbow Dash any, but Rarity just pooh-poohs her, flying directly under the sun, and creating a lovely show of light. Seeing this effect, she positively cackles with mad glee. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, has been reduced to a shivering pile of pony with nerves. The other pegasus ponies tell Rarity that she should enter the competition, too, and Rarity, all the attention going to her head, agrees, to Rainbow Dash's great dismay.
Rainbow Dash paces and Rarity primps. Princess Celestia makes her grand appearance, followed by the celebrity judges, the Wonderbolts, who bring in a little razzle dazzle with them. The stage manager pegasus arrives backstage and starts queuing up the competitors. Seeing that she's number two, Rainbow Dash panics, and clandestinely switches her number with number five. She continues swapping numbers (and Rarity continues primping), until finally there's no one left to swap with. And Rarity spent so long primping that the two of them have to go on at the same time. And on top of that, Rarity switched out Rainbow Dash's rock soundtrack for a classical piece.
While Rarity swoops and twirls, Rainbow Dash struggles through her routine, muffing up the end of phase one right in front of the jerks. She moves on to phase two, cloud spinning, as her friends cheer up a storm, but one of the clouds spins out of control, crashing right over Princess Celestia's seat. Rarity, meanwhile, heads up for her grand finale, spreading her wings in front of the sun. Rainbow Dash also heads up, to get the speed she needs for the sonic rainboom. Rarity's lightshow is indeed impressive, but (and don't tell me you didn't see this coming) being that close to the sun fries her delicate wings in mere moments, sending her hurtling toward the ground! The Wonderbolts take off to rescue her, but her flailing knocks them out as well, upping the count of falling ponies to four.
Hearing Rarity's screams, Rainbow Dash takes off after her, straining to fly fast enough to reach them all in time. With the lives of her friend and her heroes on the line, Rainbow Dash finally finds the wherewithal to break the sound barrier, creating the fabled sonic rainboom for all of Cloudsdale to see. While most ponies are left speechless, Fluttershy finds her cheering voice at last. But not only did Rainbow Dash manage to create the sonic rainboom, she caught all four ponies in the very nick of time. Back in the safety of the cloudeseum, Rainbow Dash is hailed as a hero, and proudly proclaims it the best day ever, her rainbow wake still twinkling in the sky.
Once things calm down a little, Rarity, now confined to the hot air balloon's basket, apologizes to everyone for getting so carried away. She gives Rainbow Dash a special apology for being so thoughtless as to trample on her confidence, but Rainbow Dash figures that it all worked out for the best. Her one regret is that she only got to meet her heroes when they were unconscious. But fortunately for her, the Wonderbolts are now awake and have come to thank her in person. That in and of itself would be enough to make Rainbow Dash's day, but it turns out she gets to spend all day with them, as Princess Celestia presents her with the grand prize for Best Young Flyer. While Rainbow Dash tries to get all the "omigoshes" out of her system, Princess Celestia asks Twilight Sparkle for an in-person report, but Twilight passes the honor on to Rarity, who learned the big lessons this time around: don't go mad with power, and be there for your friends. Rainbow Dash once again declares it the best day ever, but it gets even better when the jerk ponies from before show up to congratulate her and apologize for being jerks. They invite her to hang out, but Rainbow Dash has more important things to do, like hang out with the Wonderbolts. She flies off, hoof-in-hoof with two of the male members, into the sunset.
After a slightly disappointing episode, it was a relief to see this one, which more than made up for it. Rarity was amusingly self-centered, her wings were suitably gorgeous, Rainbow Dash showed her more insecure side, plus there was more world building with Cloudsdale and the Weather Factory. The jerk ponies were annoying, but since that was there purpose, I can't really be too annoyed by it. Overall a very good episode.
At first, I was surprised that Rarity's costume was so over the top, especially after "Suited For Success," but then I remembered that the Best Young Flyers competition is essentially a stage show, which means her costume and make up have to be more intense than what she'd wear normally, since it has to be seen by everyone from a distance. Good show, designers, good show.
Rainbow Dash dreams
Even ponies have gun shows
Fluttershy can't watch
Rainbow Dash hoisted on her friends' shoulders