In the history of missing the point, few ponies have missed more points than Rainbow Dash.
Season 2, Episode 7: "May the Best Pet Win!"
One of Rainbow Dash's many afternoon naps is interrupted by her friends arriving with their pets (Twilight with Owloysius, Fluttershy with Angel, Pinke Pie with Gummy, Applejack with Winona, and Rarity with Opalescence) for their weekly pony-pet playdate. They never thought to tell Rainbow because she doesn't have a pet, which is reasonable enough, but Rainbow -- who, for all her braggadocio, is probably the most emotionally needy of the Mane Six -- decides that she wants one of her own.
Fluttershy couldn't be more excited to hear this, and this leads us into the season's first big for-the-heck-of-it musical number, "Find a Pet." It's inspired by a song from the 1967 Doctor Dolittle, appropriately enough, and also a vast improvement. (Recommended reading on the Dolittle debacle, among other things: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood.) Keep your eyes peeled for a stealth Derpywatch.
So: A competition to find out which animal is worthy of being Rainbow Dash's pet.
Fluttershy -- whose endorsement of this whole affair surprises me a little, given how aggressively non-competitive she is, though both Applejack and Twilight Sparkle do voice concerns -- encourages the tortoise that lurked around the edges of "Find a Pet" to join the competition.
Rainbow objects, since there's no way a
turtle tortoise (who's perfected the Looney Tunes slow blink) can possibly win since it can't fly, but Fluttershy convinces the reluctant Rainbow to let the tortoise try.
And what will increasingly abstract qualities will the the contestants -- the tortoise, an owl who is not Owloysius, a wasp, a duck, an eagle, a (hot pink!) flamingo, a falcon, a bat, a toucan, a butterfly, a goose, and a hummingbird -- have to demonstrate?
Speed and agility ...
... guts ...
... style ...
... coolness ...
... awesomeness ...
... and Poochie-ness.
(The winning pet will presumably accompany Rainbow Dash when she gets called back to her home planet.)
By the end of the primary competition (which includes obstacle courses and talent shows) the only contestants still in the running are the owl, the falcon, the bat, and the eagle. The tortoise has not done so well, and Rainbow encourages him to give up, not entirely unkindly.
The final event? A race against Rainbow Dash, through Ghastly Gorge! (Not to be confused with Gruesome Gulch.) Rainbow mistakes the eagle's screech for a sneeze, largely just to set up a better "Gesundheit" joke at the end of the episode.
The race begins, to the strains Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" -- possibly the same recording as used in Watchmen, but definitely not the one in Apocalypse Now -- with the tortoise far, far behind.
As though the local flora isn't spiky and treacherous enough, there's also the Quarray eels to contend with. Y'know, Rainbow may not be qualified to be a pet owner.
The contestants survive the eels, just barely, and showing they truly taken Rainbow Dash's boundless self-regard to heart, zoom past her as she gets stuck in an avalanche she herself caused.
Rainbow has herself a major panic attack, and as well she should.
127 seconds later (give or take), the final, long-eliminated contestant arrives. Rainbow is, shall we say, not gracious.
In spite of this, in spite of the fact that Rainbow Dash clearly does not like him, the tortoise starts to dig ...
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... the contestants are reaching the finish line without Rainbow, and the ponies realize something's amiss.
Before they can launch a rescue operation, they notice something approaching very slowly: The tortoise with
Danny Trejo's head Rainbow Dash on top!
Though the falcon technically won the race, and looks super-keen on Rainbow's back ...
... she realizes that tortoise actually scores major points for not being a nozzle, and stopping to help her. Winner: The tortoise (which Rainbow names Tank)! The falcon is very sporting about it.
In the Shoehorn, Rainbow Dash admits she was wrong about to think the most important quality for a friend or pet was physical abilities, concluding instead that what matters most is persistence and tenacity, and Rainbow's difficulty in coming up with the word "tenacity" set up the callback "Gesundheit" joke.
I love jokes with a long set-ups, which is something this show does very well, but it's also notable that Rainbow Dash gleans the wrong lesson. More important than Tank's tenacity was his act of compassion in stopping to help Rainbow when nobody else did. It can also be seen as an act of loyalty -- which, last time I checked, was Rainbow's Element of Harmony. Still, it's anyone's going to make that mistake, it's Rainbow.