Apple Bloom is anxious to meet Babs Seed, her cousin from Manehatten who's visiting for a few weeks, especially since Babs doesn't have her cutie mark either. The Cutie Mark Crusaders give Babs the grand tour of their clubhouse and show her their float for the upcoming Summer Harvest Parade, intent on inviting her into their club. Soon Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon show up and waste no time picking on the new "blank flank". Feeling insulted by their mean comments, Babs begins acting like a bully as mean as they are and knocks off one of the float's wheels, sending it rolling and crashing outside. She then trots off with her two new snobbish friends, leaving the Crusaders feeling crushed.Sweetie Belle insists on telling Applejack about Babs' bad attitude, but Apple Bloom and Scootaloo are terrified of what Babs will do to them for snitching, and would much rather try to avoid her until her visit is over. This proves to be a challenge, since Babs, Diamond Tiara, and Silver Spoon are always one step ahead of them to make their lives miserable. Finally, when Babs kicks the Crusaders out of their clubhouse, the three decide it's time to get back at her by building a new float rigged to go off course into a muddy lake. On the day of the Summer Harvest Parade, Babs can't resist kicking the Crusaders out of their golden apple float to ride for herself. The three gloat over their plan's success until Applejack compliments the Crusaders for letting Babs ride their float; after all, Babs was bullied back in Manehatten for being a blank flank, and came to Ponyville to escape it all.Realizing the error of their ways, the Crusaders hitch a ride on Pinkie Pie's float to warn Babs of her sabotaged ride. However, they fail to convince her in time before the float makes its way towards the lake. Acting fast, the Crusaders leap into the float and push Babs out as it crashes into the mud. Babs is touched the Crusaders would save her after all she did to them, and all is forgiven now that the four fillies have learned that nothing good will ever come of bullying, no matter what the reason. Applejack also brings up how the whole situation could've been avoided if any one of the fillies just spoke up. As a sign of their new friendship, Babs is accepted into the Cutie Mark Crusaders as their fourth member. Soon the time comes for Babs to leave, but not before Babs promises to talk to her family about the teasing back home, and gives Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon a good talk-down about their bad attitudes for good measure.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes go here):
Absentee Actor: While every member of the Mane Six and Spike appear, only Applejack and Pinkie receive lines.
Adults Are Useless: Subverted. While Babs' bullying goes for most of the episode unencumbered, Applejack points out that the entire plotwould've been resolved had the CMC told an adult instead of trying to handle things themselves. In the end, Babs promises to tell her sister about her own bullying problem. When she witnesses Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's bullying, Applejack is clearly enraged, but Babs deals with the situation properly before she gets the chance to do anything.
Aerith and Bob: Babs' name seems to be the short form of "Barbara," which stands out in the land of Twilight Sparkle, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Scootaloo, and so on.
Bigger Bad: Whoever it was that bullied Babs back in Manehattan. They're indirectly responsible for the plot, but they never appear and we know next to nothing about them. If they didn't exist and Babs had some other Freudian Excuse for her actions, the plot probably wouldn't change much.
Big Sister Instinct: When Applejack sees Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon bullying the CMC, she's clearly enraged by it, leveling them a Death Glare. If Babs hadn't laid into them, it's likely that AJ would have.
Boomerang Bigot: Babs picks on the CMC for their lack of having cutie marks, when she herself doesn't have hers yet.
Break the Cutie: The CMC get hit with this thanks to Babs' bullying. While Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's bullying has never been Played for Laughs, Babs is far more serious and clearly hurts them worse than theirs ever has.
Sweetie Belle: Why do I feel like crying?note And she does, when Babs takes the CMC's clubhouse from them.
Briar Patching: The CMC's revenge scheme depends on Babs stealing their parade float. They accomplish this by emphatically asking Babs not to steal it.
Brooklyn Rage: Babs' bullying is a lot more physical than Diamond Tiara's and Silver Spoon's. She's also from Equestria's version of New York City. Make of that what you will.
The Bully: Babs Seed, as well as the usual duo of Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon.
Bully Hunter: Deconstructed. The CMC try to take revenge on Babs, but discover there's a fine line between getting payback on a bully and acting like a bully.
Cartoonland Time: Even if their work was slapdash, their replacement float would have to have taken days to finish at the minimum, yet they finished it in a single night. Considering their previousdemonstrations of woodworking ability, a few days is being generous, however there is justification: Apple Bloom has been shown to be a wiz at carpentry when she's on her own (she restored the clubhouse herself, whereas the backdrop during their performance was made by Sweetie Belle), so assuming she got the other two out of the way she could do it. We can also assume that the CMC cut corners when making their float—after all, the whole point of the thing is for it to be smashed by the end—so it seems their first priority is simply to make it look good.
Character Development: In the past, Sweetie Belle has never shown any signs of being able to use magic, and Scootaloo has only used her wings to propel her scooter. In this episode, sparks shoot out of Sweetie Belle's horn when she gets excited, and Scootaloo is shown hovering. This may indicate that they are maturing. Also, Scootaloo's singing in the "Babs Seed" song is much better in tune than any of her past efforts and their new float ends up a whole lot better than Fluttershy's table, their very first crafts project.
Character Tic: Babs Seed blowing her mane out of her face when it swings too close to her eye. She also covers up her flank with her tail whenever someone references cutie marks.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders have matching milkshakes in the music sequence. The white-furred Sweetie Belle gets vanilla, the red-maned Apple Bloom gets strawberry (with a cherry on top, no less), and the darker-hued Scootaloo gets chocolate. Averted when the bullies hijack their table; the brownish Babs ends up with strawberry, the pinkish Diamond Tiara gets vanilla, and the whitish Silver Spoon gets chocolate.
Twilight's Star Swirl costume can be seen at the Carousel Boutique during the song, as well as several of the gala dresses.
Portions of the Parasprite Polka can be heard when the CMC come up with the idea for their revenge, and later during the parade.
Rarity's dad Magnum is seen fishing outside with some food: burnt juice and fried pancakes. Given this sets up for a scene in one of the CMC's bedrooms (and not Apple Bloom's), this likely confirms where Sweetie Belle and her parents live.
This episode is the first time Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon have teased the Crusaders about being "blank flanks" since "Call of the Cutie".
Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon also do their "Bump, bump, sugarlump rump" routine for the first time since "Call of the Cutie", but this time, they let Babs join in.
This isn't the first time the show has referenced The A-Team. (Note that the Suspiciously Similar Song to the A-Team theme in this episode is considerably different than the one from "Dragonshy" — the one in this episode is even more suspiciously similar to the original.)
Applebloom doesn't let Babs Seed get a word in when introducing herself and where she lives. This happened prior with Applejack in "Friendship Is Magic Part 1" and Braeburn in "Over a Barrel", suggesting that overly enthusiastic and aggressive introductions run in the Apple Family.
While initiating their new member the CMC wear their capes from "The Show Stoppers" and even make one for Babs.
Could Have Avoided This Plot: Applejack points this out when she finally finds out about the bullying, saying they could have just come to her in the first place. Lampshaded by Sweetie Belle, who insisted the same thing throughout the episode.
Crazy-Prepared: Apple Bloom pulls out an umbrella to cover her and Scootaloo moments before Sweetie Belle breaks out the Ocular Gushers. She also puts a mattress near the float for when Babs shoves the Crusaders aside.
Cycle of Revenge: Babs turns to bullying herself rather than stick together with Cutie Mark Crusaders when Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon start their usual meanness. In turn, the CMC plan to take revenge on her with their rigged float. Applejack later reveals that Babs herself was a victim of bullying back in Manehatten, prompting the CMC to break the cycle by rescuing her.
Death Glare: Applejack levels a pretty strong one at Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon when she finally witnesses their teasing of the CMC. She also looked like she would've let out some pretty choice words, if Babs hadn't spoken up for her.
Deconstruction: This episode deconstructs the issues of bullying, why bullies act the way that they do, and the effects it has on the victims.
The Dog Bites Back: The CMC attempt this... and then try to pull their punch when they learn Babs' motivation.
Don't Tell Mama: Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's reaction to Babs threatening to tell their mothers on them if she catches them bullying the CMC again.
Double Meaning Title: The title "One Bad Apple" can refer to the one badly-behaved member of the Apple family and it is also a reference to the saying "one bad apple spoils the barrel", indicating how the CMC pick up on the bad behavior.
Drum Roll Please: Scootaloo takes this a bit far when the Crusaders accept Babs as a fellow Cutie Mark Crusader.
Easily Forgiven: After tormenting them all episode, Babs is instantly forgiven when Applejack says she was bullied. Hell, the CMC apologize to her first. Similarly, Babs herself does not appear angry at all when she finds out that the CMC were planning on making her drive a float off a cliff with her inside of it.
Evil Counterpart: Babs to the Cutie Mark Crusaders; she picks on her fellow blank flanks instead of standing up for them. She later returns to their side.
Freudian Slippery Slope: Sweetie Belle calls the Crusaders' float "smashing" and "a hit" and struggles to come up with less suspicious adjectives, though Babs, Diamond Tiara, and Silver Spoon don't catch on. This also may be Sweetie Belle trying to avoid giving Babs any ideas, since she "hit" and "smashed" their previous float.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The gold paint the CMC's use on their new float is a special powdered dye Rarity uses for edible clothing.
Heel-Face Turn: In the end, Babs learns not to be a bully and becomes an official member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. She even stands up to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon.
Heel Realization: After putting their revenge plan into motion, the CMC are crushed when Applejack tells them Babs was bullied back in Manehatten. Babs herself also has one when they rescue her and explain their own Heel Realization.
Hoof Rubbing: The Crusaders do this as they eagerly wait for their parade float to crash with Babs in it.
Hurricane of Euphemisms/Long List: The CMC acceptance speech contains a very long list of titles before finally getting to the point. Scootaloo wants Sweetie Belle to hurry it up, only to be reminded that she was the one who wrote it.
Sweetie Belle: We, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, elect Babs Seed to join us as a sister, friend, confidante, ally, bosom buddy, gal pal, compadre, chum of chums, home girl, [...] and fellow Cutie Mark Crusader! You are solemnly sworn in, here this day, in witness of your fellow sisters, friends, confidantes, bosom buddies, compadres...
Hypocrite: Babs calls the Cutie Mark Crusaders "Whiny baby blank flanks" when she herself is a "blank flank".
Idea Bulb: Invoked. When the CMC explain to Babs Seed that the spot under the lamp is where they often go to think, Sweetie Bell turns it on.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Pinkie Pie has an abundance of lettuce-related wordplay gags. She also thinks the Crusaders are doing this when they seem to be saying "Lettuce in!"
Innocently Insensitive: The Cutie Mark Crusaders claim Babs would be a perfect fit for their group considering her lack of a cutie mark, not realizing her insecurity about being a blank flank, and that she was teased about it so badly that she needed to get out of Manehatten for a while.
In with the In Crowd: Babs Seed has the opportunity to be one of the socially dominant bullies rather than one of the blank-flank victims, and jumps at it.
Jerkass Façade: Babs plays this off in order to fit in with the local bullies.
Karma Houdini: Sure, she has a Freudian Excuse, and she makes Heel-Face Turn, but Babs Seed still gets off without any punishment at all for all the bullying she did to the CMC (which includes destroying the float they made for the parade, kicking them out of there own clubhouse, and kicking Apple Bloom out of her own bed and forcing her to sleep on the floor.
Kick the Dog: Babs taking away the CMC clubhouse, which is the final straw that pushes them to plot revenge on her.
Knight of Cerebus: Babs Seed, by the standards of the CMC episodes. While Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon's bullying isn't Played for Laughs, Babs' is played as much more serious, realistic, and genuinely hurtful than theirs. It's made clear the Crusaders are being hurt by what she's doing to them, and she physically bullies them at points. Fitting, as this episode was made to highlight the serious matter of bullying.
My God, What Have I Done?: The Cutie Mark Crusaders have this reaction when they find out Babs was bullied at home, and have now become bullies by trying to get back at her. Babs in turn goes through this when she finds out her bullying drove them to do such a thing.
Pay Evil unto Evil: The CMC decide to make Babs see what it's like to be humiliated and pushed into the mud, only to call it off when they realize she already knows how that feels, all too well.
Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Babs turns on the Cutie Mark Crusaders because Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon turned up, and because she came to escape the bullying in Manehatten because of her blank flank.
Poor Communication Kills: Applejack holds off on telling the Crusaders the reason Babs came to Ponyville. Justified because she thought it would've make Babs feel singled out for the very thing she was trying to escape.
Produce Pelting: Babs throws tomatoes and milkshakes at the CMC during the song.
Movie theaters with color film are canon now. Though we have seen film projectors before in "Hurricane Fluttershy", so a movie theater isn't too far out of line.
Self-powered parade floats, complete with acceleration and brake pedals.
School Bullying Is Harmless: Variant 3, and played with. The Cutie Mark Crusaders are clearly shown to not enjoy being bullied, but they do not shown to suffer any lasting harm, and the bully stops because of a single incident and never does it again. However, the focus is on the fact some people become bullies in response to bullying, which is treated as serious and avoiding it is the aesop of the episode. Babs Seed herself shows signs of psychological harm and was sent to Ponyville in the first place because of the bullying she suffered. While Applejack believes telling an adult will solve the problem, she also promises that she and the CMC will help if that doesn't solve the problem.
Seven Minute Lull: When Apple Bloom is trying to tell Applejack that they booby-trapped their float, she can't hear them over the noise of the parade. Naturally, it quiets down just as soon as she starts shouting at the top of her lungs.
Also in the parade, several times in fact, is Doctor Whooves dressed up as a giant pear, wearing a bow tie, and with some sort of shawl on his back that looks suspiciously similar to the painting van Gogh did of the TARDIS exploding.
Smug Smiler: Her default expression once she sides with Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara. But this becomes When She Smiles by the end, though.
Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Babs was bullied while living in Manehatten, so she bullies the Crusaders to avoid becoming another target. This is a stark contrast to Diamond Tiara, whose self-esteem is too high—she feels entitled to make everypony else miserable.
The second half of the episode centers on Babs Seed, from Manehatten, driving a big apple.
As pointed out above, Babs speaks with more of a Bronx accent. "Broncs" is often used as the shortened form of the word "broncos," adding it to the show's running theme of naming places using pony puns.
Sweetie Belle was the one who constantly said "Maybe we should tell Applejack," which makes her a snitch and she covered herself in the edible gold powder for demonstration purposes. Fillies and gentlecolts, Sweetie Belle is the Golden Snitch.
Stock Footage: The chorus of "Babs Seed" repeats the same piece of animation two and a half times, which is in keeping with the homage the sequence is making to Josie and the Pussycats.
Applejack: Well, that's just super sweet of y'all, making Babs feel so special... y'know, after all the heartache she's been havin' in Manehatten...
When She Smiles: Near the end, when Babs has finally completed her Heel-Face Turn and is inducted into the Cutie Mark Crusaders, she has the first legitimately happy expression on her face she's had all episode. And it's adorable.
Wrench Wench: Scootaloo looks like one under the hood of the Apple Float.
Yank the Dog's Chain: At one point, Scootaloo thinks she has a wrench cutie mark, but it's just a weirdly accurate grease stain, perhaps from where she laid the wrench on her hip or rolled onto and then off of it in the tight confines of working under the float.