• "Common Ground:" Episode Followup

    Today's episode is all about family bonding and sports... and that's about it, really. It's simple, it's sweet, and sometimes that's all you really need for an entertaining story.

    Get the followup for Common Ground after the break.

    It's been a while since I've seen the spinning newspaper bit in something. It's pretty nice, really. And as always, we're left with no way to really tell what's on the page. I think the title is "National B-"something, but that's all I've got.

    The newsreel announcer says that Buckball is sweeping the nation, and boy, he wasn't kidding. On that note, Buckball is back. It's cool how a little hobby sport has grown into the pony equivalent of baseball, football, cricket, or whatever other big popular sport there is in the world.

    That is one hell of a catch right there. Wings are such versatile things in this show.

    Is that a new pony right there? I don't recall seeing him in any previous episode. But since he's got a planet for a cutie mark, he's probably got some sort of job that involves space travel. Someone ought to name him. "Galaxy Trotter," maybe? I dunno.

    I bet Pinkie had a long conversation with him if that's the case, since she wants to go to space.

    Another pony I don't recognize. Either the animation team came up with some new background ponies just for this episode, or I've got a dreadful memory.

    I'm gonna call this one "Buzzy" because I'm not very creative.

    And Snails is here, too. He's still the greatest Buckball Basketkeeper to ever walk the field.

    This is probably the shot they used for his trading card.

    And here we have our spectators, decked out in Buckball spectator paraphernalia. We've got Berry Punch, Twinkleshine, Caramel, Lyra, Derpy, and Moondancer's sister way back if I'm seeing things right. I think the guy with the beard up in the top left is new. I could be wrong, though.

    By the way, what is it with sports games and giant hats? I've never understood that thing. Do you use them to catch foul balls? And why would a pony have a #1 Foam Finger glove? I suspect I'll never know the answers to these questions.

    Bon Bon/Sweetie Drops: Secret agent. Confectioner. Best Friend. Mare of a thousand voices. Official spokespony for Major Buckball League merchandise. She's one busy pony, I tell ya.

    I can definitely understand why the League picked her. This image is so adorable it might end up killing me.

    Not even the Canterlot Elite are above buying a little merchandise. Fleur De Lis didn't splurge quite as much as Bon Bon did, but she did get one snazzy necklace. I wonder if the ball's removable. You could hold your own little games of catch if that were the case. Good way to stay entertained during a long trip or boring meetings.

    This is a neat sequence, showing the stadium and museum being built. The designs remind me of old Yankee stadium, but with a bucket instead of a fake bat.

    I think I'm seeing double. But for real, I like that shot composition.

    Snails is just here for the cartoon playing after the newsreel. As for Pinkie and Flutters, they are in one of the most uncomfortable situations I can imagine.

    Seriously, having that many ponies staring at you can't feel anything other than creepy.

    I do feel sorry for Carrot Top, though. Poor girl's got a hat full of streamers blocking her view.

    Snails might be the best Buckball Basketkeeper to ever live, but he's still about as sharp as a brick.

    A few neat faces, though Fluttershy takes the prize with her half-supportive half-"I got nothin'" shrug.

    Your writer for today is Josh Haber. He's been involved with the show for quite some time now, and he's one of the more divisive people on the writing staff. Some people love his stuff, some people hate it, and this episode is no exception to that rule. I like it, myself.

    You see that filly and dog on the left?

    That's a reference to a movie called The Journey of Natty Gann. Now, aside from this being a pretty obscure flick to give a shout-out to -- though by all accounts it is an excellent film -- it's noteworthy because it's the first acting gig Meredith Salenger had. Salenger is one of three guest stars in this episode, so this is a nice touch.

    From what I understand about the film, the Natty Gann filly and the wolf-dog are in the middle of an epic cross-country adventure.

    "I can't believe you're you!"

    We've all been here, either because of excitement or sleep deprivation. I messed up a sentence like this about a week ago, actually.

    I'm going to assume the ponies next to him are his parents. They make a cute family. Unfortunately, the colt makes the mistake of asking if he has to pay to get an autograph.

    And that's all it takes for Snips to embark on the glorious road of C A P I T A L I S M.

    "What's the sound of one hoof clapping?"

    Turns out Snails is a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. Or he just came up with the koan on the spot. It could honestly go either way and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one or the other.

    He's also the most popular member of the team, if this reaction is anything to go by.

    "I never thought I'd get to be in anything like a hall of fame!"

    Flutters, you've been a high-profile model and saved the world countless times. I'm surprised you haven't been inducted into a hall of fame before this point.

    Actually, would stained glass portraits count as a hall of fame? Because she's got at least one of those.

    In the future, fillies and colts will study the great works of Starswirl the Bearded in the hallowed halls of Pinkamena Diane Pie Memorial Library. Mark my words, the next Twilight Sparkle will grow up checking out books in that building. I just know it.

    Three new background ponies. Somebody should come up with names for 'em. I would, but I'm nowhere near creative enough to pull it off.

    They do seem to be irritating Rainbow and Pinkie. I wonder why.

    According to Snails, stamping a hoofprint onto things counts as "a lot of writing."

    I did say he wasn't the brightest bulb out there.

    A hat is kind of a weird thing to get signed, but it's still pretty neat to have a signature on it. Makes for a nice talking piece.

    And then you have this guy, who just wants an autograph on his barrel. Is that the right term? I know horses don't have chests, but I'm not sure if barrel is the right word for that.

    Either way, getting your skin signed is just odd. It's going to wash off the next time you get a shower, so this guy's just wasting bits for the equivalent of a temporary tattoo.

    Rainbow Dash, demonstrating the concept of Hammerspace.

    It's interesting that Applejack wanted to see the museum exhibits. Then again, she was playing the game when it started, so she'd probably be more interested in making sure the museum got everything right.

    "What kind of sports fan camps out for a museum?"

    A very special kind, Rainbow. The kind that are obsessed with numbers and statistics and history. The kind that will look at a torn scrap of a jersey and instantly know who wore it and how many games it was in.

    Or the kind that's really into Daring Do books and is trying to look like they know more about sports than they really do.

    Today, we've got the latter. Quibble Pants is back, and this time he's trying to get a handle on this sports thingy he's heard so much about. Apparently his hair is just naturally colored that way. I honestly thought he had dyed it as part of his Daring Do cosplay.

    I think Rainbow was thinking that, too.

    You know what, I'm with Rainbow here. It is pretty confusing for you to be camped out in front of a sports museum, Quibble. You don't strike me as the Sporty McSportssports kind of guy.

    Quibble, you're about as convincing as I am when I try talking about football.

    Actually, you might be even less convincing. I can at least tell you some guy named Refrigerator Perry played the game, or get get terms like "field" and "rink" right. I can't tell you what those yellow prong thingies are called, but I at least know what a field is.

    Unfortunately, Rainbow is a living lie detector when it comes to sports.

    "Did you see that ludicrous display last night?"

    You can actually see the gears turning in her head in this brief reaction shot. She's not sure why Quibble's trying to bull[sports] her yet, but she knows he's lying like crazy.

    For one brief moment, Rainbow Dash became aware of the audience watching her. She did not panic, or fall into existential despair, but instead only looked at the uncountable masses watching her and silently asked them, "Is this guy serious?"

    That might be the most confused Rainbow's ever been in her life. You can almost hear her brain telling her the information she's getting does not compute in any way by the way she says "wha...?"

    Today's guest stars, from left to right:
    Alice Oswalt as Wind Sprint, Meredith Salenger as Clear Sky, and Patton Oswalt as Quibble Pants.

    Reportedly, Alice Oswalt's reaction to seeing Wind Sprint's design was, "I must bring this to LIFE."

    I'm pretty sure this is the first time the show's had a real family play characters in an episode. It's an interesting choice, and I think it paid off in the end.

    And right out of the gate, we're shown that Wind Sprint doesn't really like Quibble.

    Snoot boop.

    Yeah, that's how I'd expect a kid to react to adults talking about romantic stuff.
    "I hate you, floating text."

    The amount of disdain and irritation Wind conveys in one word here is incredible.

    Quibble definitely just latched onto the first thing he saw when he opened the brochure.

    Much like Rainbow Dash, it appears that Wind Sprint is a living lie detector when it comes to sportiness.

    Presented without context.

    This just screams "awkward." From Wind Sprint glaring daggers at Clear Sky, to the uncomfortable look on Rainbow's face, to Quibble's forced smile, everything about this frame tells you that everyone involved is going to have a bad day.

    "I kinda wanted to skip the museum, too."

    The first of many instances in this episode where Rainbow Dash's attempts to help end up backfiring.

    That is one unhappy kid right there. They don't show it often, but it's clear that Wind Sprint really isn't in a good place for most of this episode. We'll get back to that later.

    He didn't even get to finish his idea before she walked off. Absolute and total rejection.

    Rainbow Dash 100% ships Quibble and Clear Sky.

    Well, that's interesting. The kid seems reasonably interested in the exhibits if Clear Sky is the one leading her through them.

    That probably speaks volumes for how much she doesn't like Quibble right now, and honestly it's kind of depressing to think about.

    "Well, I don't know what it is, but you're right. You've definitely got something stuck in your teeth."
    "Darn. Is it really that bad?"
    "Oh yeah. Looks like a deformed jackrabbit made out of cabbage and dying dreams."

    I'd like to draw your attention to the lower left corner, where Streamer Hat is disgusted by whatever it is Dudebro McStallion is planning on doing to those hats. It's such an odd detail that goes by in the blink of an eye, but I love it.

    "How do you not know what a ball and a basket are?"
    "This is the first time I've ever seen these things."
    "My life has been nothing but Daring Do books, comics, and RPGs. I didn't know what the real world was until I was an adult."

    And so the truth comes out: Quibble knows nothing about any sport, Wind Sprint is the sportiest pony in the world, her dad was a huge athlete, and Quibble doesn't think he has any chance of competing with that.

    Which, going by how he can't get a ball into a basket that's right in front of him, might be true.

    Dammit, Quibble, you taunted Happy Fun Ball! Now the world is doomed!

    In all seriousness, this is actually something a lot of stepparents probably go through and it's handled rather well in the episode itself.

    He can't even throw a ball.

    That's such an incredible degree of not knowing how sports works that I'm genuinely impressed.

    Behold, the stern and disapproving glare of a child.

    If you have never been subjected to it, be glad. It will annihilate your self-confidence. It burns into your soul.

    Children are scary, man.

    In hindsight, asking Rainbow Dash to be a hypepony might not have been the greatest idea.

    And here we see a specimen of the rare Chelonoidis Caballus in its natural habitat. Little is known about this majestic creature, but careful observations have led us to conclude that it waddles around gift shops and museums searching for the right gift for those it knows. In this case, that would be the Equus Ferus nearby. Inter-species friendships such as this are not uncommon in the animal kingdom, though the bond between these two would appear to go far beyond that of normal interaction.

    I think Pinkie was the only member of the team that wasn't camera-shy. Fluttershy and Snails look like they're about to keel over from nerves.

    Alright, Rainbow's made a connection. She just might have a shot of convincing Wind that Quibble isn't a nerd that doesn't know the first thing about Buckball, if we can just avoid anything that would prove otherwi--

    Well, so much for that plan.

    The amount of concentrated disappointment in this image has caused at least one person to seriously rethink their life choices.

    Hey look, it's that tea shop pony from Discordant Harmony. Nice to see her diversifying.

    I can relate to Wind here. When I was seven, I got an encyclopedia for Christmas.

    The worst part about this, though, is that Wind was actually excited to see what was in the bag. There are a lot of moments in this episode where Quibble comes so close to doing something right and making a connection with the kid, only for it to immediately go south.

    Seriously though, that is a huge almanac for a new sport. It looks like it's almost as long as an explanation of Cricket.

    Just how many games have there been? Or how long has it been since we last saw anything having to do with the sport? Your guess is as good as mine.

    "I never realized there was so much math in Buckball! I mean, this thing's got more numbers than Ogres and Oubliettes."

    Quibble's finally found a way to get into the sport: STATISTICS.
    Unfortunately, mathematics have been scientifically proven to be the least favorite topic of most children.

    This is exactly how children behave in real life. You get them something they're not all that interested in, they'll give an awkward thank-you if they're polite, then immediately try to go do something they're really into.

    Clear Sky comes close to saying the moral here. It's worth noting that this day probably would have gone better if Quibble and Rainbow had just listened to her advice and stopped trying so hard.

    Good effort, Quibble, but I don't think you can learn the information in a book through osmosis.

    The face of a pony that's about to put a friend through training from Tartarus, and enjoy every minute of it.

    The face of a pony fully aware that they're about to be put through training from Tartarus with their friend as the drill instructor.

    "It's either that or be yourself and bond with Wind over comic books and role-playing games."

    Jim Miller mentions it in a twitter thread about how this episode's story came along (and you should check it out, it's a neat little read), but one of Oswalt's stand-up bits is about his future kid being the total opposite of him, to the point where they throw Patton's Blade Runner gun on the roof to make fun of him.

    Now, Wind Sprint isn't that mean, but Rainbow's logic operates on basically the same idea as that stand-up bit.

    What this tells me is that Quibble actually tried to play a game of O&O with Wind at one point. That's such a hilariously bad attempt at bonding with a sports fanatic that I desperately want to see it now.

    Some of you may wonder why, exactly, Wind doesn't think Daring Do is athletic enough to be cool. But it actually makes sense if Quibble only showed her the books he likes. After all, those are the ones where Daring "solves puzzles and uses her brain to get out of tough situations." He didn't show her the ones with a ton of action, he showed her the ones that make the series look like something written by and for nerds.

    It's kind of like the opening chapters of The Princess Bride, where a semi-fictional version of William Goldman spends a whole day trying to track down this awesome book his grandpa read to him so he can share it to his kid, only to find out his kid thinks it's the most boring thing ever written and that Will's grandpa was skipping over the pages and pages of description and luggage-packing to get to the good stuff.

    It's also like a bit Oswalt once did about how when he showed Alice Star Wars, she didn't really care for it and went for My Little Pony instead.

    Here's Rainbow casually showing off how good she is at balancing and tossing stuff with her wings. She's very good at it.

    This reminds me of those pictures of John Stapp on a rocket sled. Quibble probably just got slapped with a few G's, there.

    "It's called seizing your opportunity. Just let me have this."

    Naturally, Rainbow doesn't miss a chance to do some light bragging. If she can, she will. It's a compulsion. I don't even know if she's intentionally doing it at this point.

    Anyway, Rainbow comes up with a very simple, easy task for Quibble. Hit a slow, rolling-on-the-ground ball. Even he shouldn't be able to screw that up.


    Oh, we're in serious trouble.

    Of all the ponies Rainbow could have picked to race Quibble, Snips is the last one I was expecting.

    Merchandising, where the real money is made!
    Snails the picture!
    Snails the balloon!
    Snails the cider mug!
    SNAILS THE FLAMETHROWER! (the kids love this one).

    "OK, here we go. Focus. Speed... I am speed..."

    [Insert Chariots of Fire Theme joke here]

    Do... Do you even know how to run, Quibble? The old man from the Carol Burnett Show could cover more ground than that, and his whole shtick was that he shuffled his feet together to move.

    Book-pressing, the athletic sport of librarians the world over. You start out with the lightweight stuff, you know, a little Elements of Style here, a little Tom Swifty novella there, and eventually you're lifting the backbreaking stuff like Dumas, Tolstoy, or King.

    It's not an easy progression, and I think starting out with a Beagle and a Martin short story collection might have been a mistake. Those can fool even the best of us into thinking they're not heavier than they look.

    See? That's why you start out with the pulps and the guidebooks. You end up exhausted if you just dive right in.

    That's some serious despair right there.

    Rainbow, you're supposed to build confidence with a pep talk, not remind him of everything he's done wrong. This is the exact opposite of helping him.

    Rainbow Dash has a cunning plan. A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

    Actually, Baldrick probably would have come with something slightly better than what Rainbow Dash thinks up here.

    The entire point of this maneuver, as far as I can tell, is to trick the opponent into charging at you, leaving a small window of opportunity where you can leap up and kick the ball to your teammate.

    It's a brilliant strategy, I must admit.

    Meanwhile, Snails is in his happy place. Or he's going over some Zen koans. Is there a koan about flowers?

    I didn't grab a screencap of it, but the team they defeat here is the one that was practicing outside the stadium earlier in the episode. Nice little bit of continuity there.

    I give it two, three years max before the Ponyville team becomes the Buckball equivalent of the New York Yankees. Beloved by their fans, despised by everyone else.

    If you pay attention to Wind Sprint, you'll notice that she goes from being happy to irritated the second she sees Quibble Pants.

    But that changes when Quibble reveals that he can introduce her to the Ponyville team.

    There's an important line from Clear Sky here, and it explains the concerned look on her face: "I was hoping we'd all watch the tournament together."

    See, Clear Sky knows her kid. She knows what Wind likes, what she dislikes, and how to get on her good side. She also knows that trying too hard to get someone to like you, like Quibble's doing, will probably make them end up hating you instead.

    Her idea was probably to do what happens at the end of the episode, which was to let Wind talk Quibble through the game.

    Remember how Quibble said that Wind Sprint didn't like Daring Do?

    Well, here's Pinkie and Fluttershy, two ponies Wind really likes, talking about how Quibble went to a Daring Do convention, spent a whole day geeking out about those books, and how he initially came off as an annoying fanpony.

    Not helping matters is the fact that Wind Sprint came down here to meet Flutters and Pinkie, and is instead given a lecture from everyone about how sporty Quibble has to be just because he knows a ton of famous athletes.

    Which is why Wind goes from being ecstatic to slightly confused...

    ...to right back to being irritated by Quibble Pants's existence.

    Her blunt shutdown of the whole "Quibble is a cool guy" lecture series is a valid point, too.

    And then, in a desperate effort, Rainbow Dash goes off-script and spontaneously comes up with the idea of Quibble and Wind playing on the field for the halftime show.

    Quibble's got the appropriate reaction to that.

    Seriously, this may be the worst possible idea Dash could have come up with.

    Good lord, that kid's fast.

    I'm totally on Quibble's side here.

    How did this make any sense to you, Rainbow? Even if you do get Fluttershy and Pinkie to go easy on them, Quibble is still the most hopelessly un-sportsy pony out there. There is no way this won't end well.

    This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but it says a lot. Wind's actually willing to try to connect with Quibble here.

    Maybe she's just in the heat of the moment, but it does seem like she's giving the guy a chance.

    And just like that, the moment is gone.

    Wind might also have realized that the game is rigged, judging by what she does for the rest of the game.

    Like how she swoops in and doesn't even give Quibble a chance to try to kick the ball.

    I don't even think she's having fun at this point. She's putting all her anger and frustration into hitting that thing. Sooner or later, she's going to explode.

    On the left and right, two ponies that know Quibble's about to try and score for the wrong team. One of them is worried about that, and the other takes it as the final sign that he knows nothing at all about the sport.

    In the middle, there is Pinkie Pie. Nobody knows what she thinks, and all who try to find out are doomed to fail.

    In Quibble's defense, that is one hell of a kick.

    And the news of this mistake hits him like a ton of bricks. Meanwhile, Snails silently judges him.

    As does Wind, Rainbow, and probably the rest of the ponies in that stadium.

    You wanna know something funny? The Kentucky Derby was held a few hours after this episode aired, and someone did this exact sort of rules debate after it was done. That led to the first-place winner getting disqualified, which has never happened before in the 145 years of that race's history.

    Unfortunately for Quibble, Buckball enthusiasts are a little less inclined to followup on this sort of thing than the Kentucky Derby's stewards.

    And there's the explosion.

    "You and I have to rethink all of this."

    The situation has gone from bad to worse.

    Well, he's handling it about as well as you'd expect. Still, better to know when to fold 'em than to keep on screwing up.

    Oh my god Rainbow please just stop you're only making it worse

    Upset snoot boop.

    "But maybe I'm not the pony you should've come to for help."

    Rainbow does have good ideas. She just has to go through five or six bad ones to get to the good ones.

    "...they're not gonna make me forget about dad!"

    Hey, remember when I said Wind Sprint isn't in a good place for most of this episode? This is what I was talking about. It's one line, but it does so much to explain why Wind's been behaving this way throughout the episode.

    Her parents are either divorced, or her dad's dead. Both of those situations affect children in a bad way. Dealing with your parents remarrying or dating again is also an incredibly difficult thing for a child to go through. This episode doesn't focus on this topic quite as much as I'd like it to, but what we're given is a pretty good representation of it.

    This is just a sweet moment, and having these two be played by real-life relatives goes a long way toward giving it more weight than it would otherwise.

    This is so adorable. I don't know if my heart can take much more of it.

    Is that team made up of more new background ponies? Man, this episode is a gold mine for those.

    Bonding over sports, statistics, and the wind.

    What a nice way to spend the afternoon.

    She knew the whole time.

    I'm not surprised. She was right next to them when Quibble first asked Rainbow to talk to Wind.

    Smug pony is smug.

    Her transformation into a nerd has begun. Pretty soon she'll have whole bookshelves dedicated to Buckball almanacs.

    Rainbow Dash channeling her inner Mudbriar to point out how useful Quibble's book turned out to be.

    A cute little ending for a cute little episode.

    Your cast for today. Personally, I think all three guest stars did a great job.

    I really liked this episode. It's a nice little slice of life story with a lot of heart, and I'm sure it'll resonate with a lot of blended families out there.

    How about you? What did you think of it?
    Love it?
    Hate it?
    Want to discuss sports until the cows come home?
    Be sure to tell us in the comments.

    algernon97 knows nothing about sports