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25 November 2012

My Little Bully: Friendship is Magic "One Bad Apple" Review

I don’t believe in fate. You know, that whole idea that we are pre-determined to do things and meet people because there is a big scheme and yadda-yadda-yadda. I don’t believe in that because, like Neo in The Matrix, I don’t like the idea of not being in control of my own life. However, I would be willing to give the series of events that lead to this Saturday to fate, just this once. Why? Because, after a week during which a somewhat mediocre but big meanie head went on to “attack” on the fandom (with backfiring results) we get an episode that revolves about how to deal with a bully. And to add insult to injury, a couple of the streams that were premiering the episode were hacked too, so we can pretty much said that this week in ponies there are no grownups nor kids. We are all the same. And now, onto the review!

I was going to present you this lovely fellow of mine, Mister TL;DR, so he could tell you about the episode in a short paragraph in case you wanted to skip the whole review. But instead of giving me his opinion he punched me in the face and stole my lunch money. However, he did left a note in my wallet explaining that, quite possibly, this is the best CMC episode in the series, despite its uneven pace. He then added that I could ignore his opinion and review the episode anyways. How kind of him.

The episode starts, oddly enough, at Sweet Apple Acres, where Applebloom is going all Pretty Woman trying to find an outfit that looks good on her. Why is she looking for an outfit? Because her cousin, Babs Seed, is coming to Ponyville and she wants to cause a good impression of course. It has nothing to do with the fact that she is afraid of her showing her non-existent cutie mark. It’s when Applejack shows up and tells her that Babs is also a blank flank (a pony without a cutie mark) that Applebloom drops everything she’s doing and rushes through the door to find her two friends Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, leaving the room in a state of ruin, to put it charitably. After the intro (and about thirty commercials of certain product that starts with “G”) we cut back to the train station where The Cutie Mark Crusaders and Applejack are waiting for the train to arrive, and once it does we are presented to Babs Seed, a filly earth pony with brownish orange coat and reddish pink mane. I have to join my voice to the rest when I say that her design, or at least her colour scheme is not all that inspired. People joke about how she was made with the random pony generator app on The HUB’s website, but I think it’s not a joke at all. However, it never felt intrusive to how the character felt to me, and this is something that will have a paragraph for itself later on. As soon as Babs steps down from the train she is greeted with the warmest welcome one could imagine, as the Cutie Mark Crusaders take her to their club house, explain what they do in their spare time, and even offer her to become a member, all this while she covers her bare flank with the most shameful blush one could imagine. It’s not until they are showing her the float that they have built for the Ponyville Parade that they are visited by the town’s designated bullies, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. I have to say I am very happy to see them hanging out together. After season 2, and Diamond Tiara’s power trip during “Ponyville Confidential”, I thought these two wouldn’t be together again. It’s nice to see them back, even if all they do is abuse from other ponies. So, as the abusive jerks that they are, as soon as they see Babs’ bare rump they instantly start picking on her, which makes something snap in her, and for the worst way possible. As Silver Spoon mentions the CMC’s group’s name, Babs follows up with an even worse insult, and kicks the float hard enough to send it rolling downhill where it disintegrates in a pile of debris. Satisfied with the deed, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon allow Babs to become part of their club (which should be called Bullies Intentionally Teasing Causing Hell Everywhere Senselessly), as Applebloom sees her cousin walking away, turned into a full on bully.

To be honest, it's better than turning into a Joe Pesci impersonator.
For the Cutie Mark Crusaders their ordeal has just started. Back to their Club House Sweetie Belle promptly suggest telling an adult about this, to which Applebloom and Scootaloo quickly shout “NO!” According to Applebloom the best way to deal with a bully like her is to avoid her, and everybody knows that the best way to avoid a bully that’s going to constantly abuse you is to sneak around town while singing a song. This is where I might earn me a few enemies, so allow me to explain how my mentality works. Before the episode was released the HUB released a teaser of the episode with the song in it, and many people started saying that it was really catchy and memorable. This is the worst kind of thing I could read about, sadly, because anytime somebody says a song is very catchy, before I hear it, I instantly forget about it once I listened to it. I don’t know how that works, but it’s some sort of inversed psychology that doesn’t allow me to hum the song. Well, maybe just a little. That’s my only gripe with the song; that it’s not as catchy as people were making it out to be, but as songs go for this show, it’s brilliant! I love the powerful eighties feel that it carries, and the visuals are wonderful. It’s very Disney in the way it’s presented, and serves its purpose to explain how much Babs is abusing from poor Applebloom and her friends. It walks the very fine line between light hearted and heavy finger waggling, as explaining a bully’s deeds is a very touchy issue. I think they handled it really well, because even though Babs is presented here as a force of nature they never go too serious or too over the top. It’s a good balance, and it’s never distracting. So with the entire town under the control of this one new bully the CMC have no other place left to go, not even their club house which has been taken by the group of bullies.

I. Drink. Your. Milkshakes!
This leads us to a surprising new location, which is Sweetie Belle’s house. I really liked to see Rarity’s dad fishing outside of it, while next to a pig sty. There is a lot to be said about Rarity’s family and her relationship with them, while she is all about cleanness and class, and her family doesn’t care at all where they live. Well, I doubt it’s that extreme, but I don’t imagine Rarity living happily next to a pig sty. We do get to see Sweetie Belle’s room, and it looks and feels like it was taken directly from Jem, right down to the posters and all. So many eighties kids are squealing right now (not me, I hated Jem). Once again, Sweetie Belle brings up the fact that they have to tell an adult about Babs, no matter who it is, they have to get them involved in this issue. But Applebloom and Scootaloo still won’t accept it, and they decide to trace a plan to fight back and make Babs pay. So later at night they sneak in the barnyard to set up and prepare a new parade float, this one rigged with a booby trap, as we are treated to a building montage at the rhythm of THE A TEAM MUSIC!? I had to re-watch the episode again and pause, literally pause, because my brain was taking too long to process this. Once again, this show surprises me with its references. There is an A Team reference in My Little Pony. Do we really need anything else? All kids from the eighties are squealing harder than ever (like me, I grew up with The A Team). The next morning all the town of Ponyville is ready for the parade, especially the CMC who have set a float so pretty that not even Babs will resist riding on it. So, as they well predicted, Babs pushes them aside and jumps into it, not knowing that it’s rigged to go out of control once it reaches the edge of the cliff. I think there must be a law or two in the Equestrian books about vehicular slaughter, and attempted murder, but I think I’ll let that to those who think cartoon characters get hurt for real. However, the prospect of this whole plan does take a turn to the bad, when Applejack reveals to the CMC the reason behind why Babs came to town. Thinking that the three fillies are acting kindly to Applebloom’s cousin, Applejack tells them that Babs came to town because every filly and colt teased her for being a blank flank, and she needed a much needed break from all that abuse. And all of this while Babs rides on a rigged-to-crash float aimed directly to the edge of a cliff.

So, for the Cutie Mark Crusaders, the parade has turned into the slowest and most bizarre chase scene involving colourful ponies, as they try to reach Babs and take her out of the float. In the process they end up crashing Pinkie Pie’s float that turns into a...veggie salad? I am pretty sure Andrea Libman tweeted something about this a few months ago. All of a sudden everything makes sense. After the random excerpt from the pink pony, we go back to Babs’ float only to find out that the mechanism has been activated and that the float is now out of control, fumbling left to right down the hill with every pony in town running to the soon-to-be crash scene. Luckily, the CMC reach her in time and push her out of the float, in which they end up crashing directly into the pig sty. As the float sinks, the crusaders pull themselves out of the mud, as Applebloom says the second best line of the entire episode: “Maybe we will get our cutie marks in stupidest ideas of all time”. That is so true! Thank you, this sums up my feelings towards their course of action in every episode that features them. I know they are driven by the plot and that they can’t do anything to help it, but it has reached the point of self awareness now. Even they know that their ideas are stupid. They can’t deny it. It’s both hilarious and relieving at the same time, and I don’t know if feeling satisfied or angry. Even with all the mess they created everything is okay, they are okay and so is Babs, who is shocked to see how they “risked their lives to save hers”.

Then again, how can you not save someone so adorable?
Through a transition we move back to Sweet Apple Acres where Babs is explained why they rigged the float. When Babs hears their reasons she sulks her head in regret, as Sweetie Belle points out how they tried to bully Babs back, the same way Babs was bullying them for being bullied. This leads to the number one best line of the entire episode, especially for how it’s acted, as Sweetie Belle screams: “Why does life have to be so ironic!?” Lots of apologies follow, and Applejack throws her two bits saying that, had they gone to her in the first place none of this would have happened, which is exactly what Sweetie Belle wanted to do, thus proving that Sweetie Belle is the brains of the three. I love the way the moral of this episode didn’t include sending a letter to Princess Celestia. Instead we are just given the moral, plain and simple through the actions of the characters towards the end of the episode. Knowing now why Babs acted the way she acted, they are ready to start from scratch, as she is accepted in the Cutie Mark Crusaders during a ritual that rivals with “The Ring of Fire” from Finding Nemo in levels of comedy. The endless scroll reading and Scootaloo going all tribal with the drumming was a great touch, and gave meaning to the event. Once “knighted” a crusader, Babs returns to Manehattan where she will plan on getting new member for the group to help them branch out to other cities. After dishing Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon for the last time with the power of “I’ll tell your parents”, Babs jumps in the train and leaves the town, surely feeling a lot better with herself, having made new friends, and delivered quite an important lesson to all of us.

Have I already said this episode is very eighties?
So that was “One Bad Apple”. What did I think of it? Well, it was alright. Like I mentioned at the beginning, it does have some rhythm issues. At points the episode goes really well and it flows without problem, and at others it feels truncated, like it has one or two minutes more than it should. This is probably because the three act structure that’s presented here is not a traditional one. The conflict is not presented in the second act like in previous episodes, but on the end of the first act, and the resolution stretches from the middle of the second act towards the end. This is unusual and I can appreciate unusual approaches to narrative, but it makes the rhythm feel uneven, especially when we reach the chase scene, which lasts for longer than I think it should’ve. I am also still trying to figure out why was Pinkie Pie involved in all of this because, despite her providing quite a funny moment, she added next to nothing to the scene. It was still funny though. I already mentioned that the song wasn’t as memorable as everybody said it was, but that’s just my opinion. It does have a big potential to be remixed, but unlike the Crystal Fair song, I have yet to spend more than two hours humming that tune over and over again. I guess I haven’t watched the episode enough times.

I have the feeling that tomato is heading to my face.
You can take those two points as my only two gripes towards the episode, because I really like everything else, but out of all that this episode had to offer, I liked two things in particular, probably the most important of them all: The approach, and the new character. Let me tell you, as someone who has been bullied all his life, I can’t be more thankful for this episode. It makes me very happy to be able to say these words sincerely, because I mean it. This episode deals with a very heavy, very touchy issue which affects everybody all over the world, and it’s very easy to go either heavy handed or overly light hearted with it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. You see how I said the rhythm of this episode went up and down? Well, this didn’t happen with the tone. The tone was consistent and solid. It felt both funny and endearing, but also grave and sombre, several tones that if mixed wrong can lead to disastrous consequences. You can end up doing a super serious and preachy episode, or an over the top goofball comedy. This was neither. It was sincere, light hearted, direct, and one hundred percent free of nonsense. There was no subtext, no metaphor, no hidden meaning, nothing of that. What you were shown is what the episode was meant to give you, which is a lesson on how to deal with a bully. It might not be the most effective way to do so, because when you are a kid in school it’s very difficult to come to terms with the other kids, especially if you are as socially awkward as I was. But it’s a way to do it! It’s definitely a peaceful approach, trying to understand why the bully is like that, why does it act like it acts, what motivates it. They should have emphasized more into it though, but then again, they were intentionally avoiding making the episode feel like a lecture.

Now I should talk about the new character that we got introduced in this episode, and that is Babs Seed. I watched the preview where she wrecked the CMC’s float, and her accent struck me as odd at first, but that’s because I can’t identify accents, I am impervious to them for some reason. Later on I realized that she is supposed to have a New York accent, which makes sense since she is from Manehattan. That is a nice touch from the production team. I mentioned her design and how at first it struck me as, well, lazy, but as the episode progressed I warmed up to it. That reddish pink mane looks pretty adorable as she keeps blowing it to a side. But it wasn’t her voice, or her design, what struck me. It was her personality. I don’t think I am in a minority when I say that, throughout the entire episode (even when she was bullying the CMC’s) I never hated her. Not once. I spent the entire episode feeling bad for her. She acted exactly like many of my old school mates did, recoiling and covering what she’s she ashamed of, looking to the ground and falling silent, trying to cover her insecurities by hanging out with others who are stronger (or more popular) than she is. She is not just a bully. She is a very interesting bully, the kind of bully we are not used to see in cartoons nowadays. It’s very easy to write a bully wrong, to make lots of mistakes and portray them as flat or just downright unpleasant because they have to be the bad guys (like the dragons in “Dragon Quest” or every single bully written by Stephen King). Babs is not a bad guy, she’s not even an antagonist. She’s a victim. She was bullied before coming to Ponyville and she came to town in hopes to get a break from all that abuse. The problem is that, when you try to escape your fears and these come back to you, you may not react in the best way, which is why she teams up with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon. So, in terms of being a bully, Babs is one interesting character, and I am hoping to see more of her in future episodes since I feel we can squeeze more personality out of her, but for an introductory episode she’s very well developed.

My character arc is complete.
Overall, this episode was good. When it comes to Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes this one is above average without a doubt. My favourite is still “Family Appreciation Day”, with “Ponyville Confidential” following a very close second, and I am happy to put this one in the number three spot. It was fun, it was entertaining, it had some very funny segments like “The A-Team montage” or Pinkie Pie crashing her float into a veggie salad, and I have to admit that by now I am starting to mutter the song (although for some reason I keep mixing it up with “Hey Mickey” in my head, I don’t know why). As an episode that touches the subject of bullying it could have gone every which way, and many of those ways are pretty bad, but then again this show has a team of very talented writers so all my fears were unfounded. Something as sensitive as this issue, which we all suffer or have suffered in various degrees regardless of our age and social status, is a very easy thing to mess up when writing a children’s cartoon about it. Good thing we have a great team of writers along with a great team of animators and a great team of voice actors to make it work.

- Moral: Before bullying the bully you should try and understand why they act that way, and even if they keep being a bully to you, attacking them back is not the right thing to do.

- Defining Moment: The building montage accompanied with a re-arranged homage to The A-Team theme music. This episode is so eighties it makes me giddy with sparkles.


  1. Don't you mean to say "an issue as sensitive as this" at the end rather than sensible? I don't mean to bring up this odd grammar choice but I'm just checking that's what you meant.

    I like your reviews of this show that's wrapped me up in a warm bundle of cute awesomeness for the past year or so. I certainly like this approach to your reviews over your past ones which were way too "Hyperbole spewing Caustic Critic" for me. I HATE that critic cliche of saying you'd rather go through the most horrible torture imaginable rather than doing a watching something you find bad. It's obnoxious, it's not funny and it's trying way too hard! I'm glad you've gone away from that path. Don't go back there!

    Minor critic gripe aside, good job.

    1. Fixed it!

      Thanks for pointing it out. I agree with you, I don't want to go back to my old style. This one is much more pleasant, it makes me happy to write this way. Isn't that weird?

  2. Another very fine review; thanks! I had a different view, though: this wasn't a stand-out episode for me, and I wasn't a huge fan of Babs either pre- or post-redemption (though her tail flicking was cute). I just feel that bullying was covered much more satisfyingly in "Hurricane Fluttershy" (interestingly, also by Cindy Morrow) and certainly the S2 episode touched nerves for me personally in a way that "One Bad Apple" didn't quite manage. But then, "Family Appreciation Day" is my least favourite CMC episode, so what do I know?

    As for the song, again I part company with you to a certain extent: I think it was Lsensationally catchy, full-on "Winter Wrap Up"-level catchy, and it's been in my head permanently since I first heard it. The animation wasn't up to that of "WWU", but as the sequence was apparently a deliberate homage to Hanna-Barbera cartoons, even the less than stellar visuals (eg the reused sequences in the chorus) felt appropriate to me.

    1. No prob ;D

      It wasn't a standout for me either, but CMC episodes tend to be not very well received within our fandom. I see your point though, and that's alright.

      Also, the song is starting to grow on me, like a virus XD it's starting.

    2. No problem; it would be a pretty boring fandom if we all agreed about everything. I guess I'm an absolute sucker for cheesy 80s-style pop songs, so this one was aimed right at my heart!

      One other small point, though: "Rarity's dad"... he's Sweetie Belle's dad too! (Well, I assume they share both parents.)

  3. Repost from another blog because I'm lazy:

    I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one. I was apprehensive myself about it. But, I came away feeling pretty good, even if the ending kind of laid it out rather thick with the whole, "bad seed" shtick.

    I liked the song, repeating animation be darned!

    Also, I don't believe in having every antagonist having to get their comeuppance all the time. Life doesn't work that way and I felt the resolution was handled well. Also also, I second the statement that bullies can become friends. Myself, I had some incidents with bullies (nothing too terrible) and it's surprisingly easy to work things out if you keep a level head and just talk it out.

    Yeah, big shocker.

    Now, that was during my time in high school, dating back to the 90's, so things might not be the same as it is now for children and young adults. But, I'd like to think that the solution is the same as it was then and pride and "rep" are the only things keeping people from working things out.

    Anyway, nice analysis!

    Next week: The episode the entire fandom is holding their breath over.

    1. Next week: The episode the entire fandom is holding their breath over.

      Except me, apparently! I've never bought into the excitement about [spoilers!], so I'm just hoping for an interesting episode that doesn't depend on fandom squeeing.

  4. Another great review. Since you mentionned in a previous review (I'm pretty sure it was Hurricane Fluttershy) that you were bullied a lot in the past, I was looking forward to know what you think of that episode. And I'm glad you liked it!


  5. "Bullies Intentionally Teasing Causing Hell Everywhere Senselessly"....
    you sly dog.

  6. Who's the "meanie head" who attacked the fandom this week and how did it back fire?

  7. Another well written review.

    I must say, I keep going back to the song part of this episode as I found that to be the most interesting part.

  8. Thanks for the review.

    And I liked the episode too.

  9. Talking about irony, Is funny that you talked about Matrix because I recently rewatched it after a long time, did you rewatched it also? The line "I don’t like the idea of not being in control of my own life" is the most badass line ever in movies.
    I agree with you that in cartoons is rare to see that kind of sympathetic bully and I always wanted to watch that and even I write a story long ago with that kind of bully.
    It almost destroyed me watching Sweetie Belle crying, but the most weird thing is that even with that, I couldn't hate Babs Seed and that reinforces my point of not watching this type of character frequently.

  10. Great review, but please do not misspell Apple Bloom's name. It's not "Applebloom".

  11. You don't bully from someone; you just bully them.

  12. I tend to avoid spoilers, so whenever I see an episode, I don't normally have a preconception on what will happen or how it will play out. If you wish to avoid the problem that hearing about the song early created, I'd suggest avoiding spoilers in the future.
    I'm not sure why people are so shocked about the A-Team reference. The show had one all the way back in season one with Dragonshy.
    As for the CMC, I'm a fan of them. I like their episodes and can forgive them for their stupidity because they are kids and I remember being a kid meant doing stupid things that didn't seem stupid at the time.