Thoughts on "Games Ponies Play":
Another solid, fun episode. I really liked the interwoven plot with "Just for Sidekicks" a lot — it adds to the feeling of interconnectedness in Equestria; it makes it appear so much more realistic when it's made explicit that the ponies do not exist in isolation but that they're a part of a larger world, and that everyone who's not on-screen in any given episode is still living their lives, going about their business etc.
There were no issues with timing in this episode; unlike some previous ones, it didn't feel rushed. The plot was fun, if foreseeable — you could tell that they had the wrong pony pretty much right from "well darn tootin', ain't that the cat's meow". Funny how none of the Mane Six caught on earlier.
The resolution was pretty quick: just be honest and admit your failure instead of trying to wriggle out of it, and you'll be fine. (But note if it hadn't been for Ms. Peachbottom tell Ms. Harshwhinny about HER welcome after meeting her at the spa purely by chance, it wouldn't have worked). It was nice to see that Rainbow Dash made this confession; it fit in with her caring the most about the Crystal Empire getting the Games in the first place. The paranoia that Dashie was displaying about mind games was interesting, too: a new aspect of her personality? She always seemed rather straightforward so far, but perhaps covering up her anxiety is part of the reason for her spunk and her confident attitude.
Speaking of anxiety, it was interesting that Ms. Peachbottom was pretty explicitly shown to be afraid of enclosed spaces or heights (or both), without it otherwise defining her as a character. I think that's a good thing, doubly so on a kid's TV show; anxieties and similar ailments, unfortunate as they are, are pretty common, and people who have them are still that — people. Even though the Mane Six didn't really seem to catch on here, I liked the fact that the show a) featured a character suffering from these anxieties, and b) that said character was not reduced to just those anxieties, with the other characters only ever pitying her for her inability to function normally or lead her own life.
Speaking of Ms. Peachbottom, BTW, I also rather liked her in general — upbeat, warm and open, what's not to love? I wonder if there is an unwritten rule somewhere that characters with "southern" accents have to be this way, though. :)
What else? I like how the group's not afraid to split up — e.g. Rarity staying with Cadance in this episode (even though Rarity really needs more screentime again some time!). I also like how Rarity's able to handle heightened stress and demanding situations, and still do an admirable job even when under several different kinds of pressure.
And I liked how Twilight managed to keep herself from getting stressed; she had trust in her friends' abilities, and rightfully so: although their efforts were directed at the wrong pony, they did a commendable job. (And everything worked out in the end, right?)
Pinkie seemed pretty silly again; perhaps a bit over-the-top at times, but all in all in a good way. I liked her "Noooo!", and later her "Yeeeees!", and the way she jumped into the
gak mudbath was also pretty amusing. And really, BTW, I'm finding it VERY hard to believe that that was not an intentional in-joke for the bronies. :)