In which ponies act with hastily-made prejudices.
This is a bit of a strange episode. This is one episode in particular that seems to be blatantly built around its eventual message, and this causes a few weird things to happen. Often noted for one is the apparent racism on behalf of the Ponyville inhabitants towards Zecora. Apparently because she looks a bit different due to being a zebra, the ponies have decided to judge her as an evil enchantress. The cowl probably helps, as does the glowing eyes we see at first. Why does Zecora have glowing eyes in exactly one shot? It's just to establish her as slightly scary, it seems.
Very few characters are at their best in this episode, especially due to the attitudes they display in order to further the friendship lesson. Rarity isn't at her most pompous, Rainbow isn't at her most cocky, Fluttershy isn't at her most adorable, and Applejack comes off as somewhat unintelligent, though Pinkie is at least random enough. Twilight starts off as having a deserved air of superiority, and has some very funny sarcastic remarks towards her friends' ignorance, but later on we see the trademark Ponyville crazy get to her, lending credence to my own theory that it's contagious. This, however, leaves us without a voice of reason.
All of this seems to be in service of the lesson, but it's a lesson that's been regurgitated over and over again. "Don't judge a book by its cover" is a very common idiom in the English language, which means that many viewers will likely not learn much from this episode. Even then, it's something that Twilight seems to know at the start of the episode and then mysteriously unlearns as the episode goes on.
That said, it's not a bad episode. The jokes are silly, but more often than not they do land, and the episode overall is pretty fun in spite of the somewhat dumb actions of its protagonists. The visuals definitely fit with the silly tone of the episode, and the design of the poison joke-affected main six is reasonably creative. Pinkie's song(s) here are some of her better ones, though the best songs of the season are yet to come.
It's a pretty decent episode, and though I can't say I'd call it a favourite, it's one that I did get some enjoyment out of. Ultimately, not a high point of S1, but definitely not a low point either.