Fresh off their victory at Professor Sycamore’s summer camp, our heroes have arrived in Shalour City at last. Ash is ambitiously aiming for his third gym badge in this the first anime season of Generation VI – a pace, which while not Kantonian by any means, is definitely quicker than Johto. Unbeknownst to Ash, however, there are filler episode fans among his traveling companions. Serena worries that Ash hasn’t yet mastered Tierno’s rhythmic dancing style of Pokemon battling, and Clemont wonders if our hero might want to spend some more time training before he goes up against Korrina and her mega evolution powered Lucario. Ash is anything but worried though, he plans on just battling head-on the way that he always does. (Plus, why should a seasoned trainer like Ash take battling advice from a fat tub of lard with zero badges like Tierno anyway?)
Ignoring the filler fans within his traveling party, Ash races towards the Shalour Gym – which in the anime is housed inside the Tower of Mastery. The aforementioned tower is located several hundred yards out to sea from the beach, and with the tide in, it is completely separated from the land by water. Pallet Town’s village idiot is at a loss as to how he or anyone else can reach this location. He wants to battle now, dammit! But there is too much blue wet stuff in the way! Clearly this is an obstacle that could never be overcome. Argh! If only there was some kind of Transport Pokémon, one that can understand the thoughts and speech of humans and enjoys ferrying people across the water …. Oh well! Since Ash doesn’t have such a Pokemon, and without any precedent of people traveling across water on Pokemon anyway, it seems that Ash will just have to give up on getting a Rumble Badge and return to Pallet Town a miserable failure.
Fortunately, Korrina arrives before dumb-Ash attempts to get to her gym by walking there underwater. Bonnie, for one, is very surprised to see the leader of the Shalour Gym in an episode where they traveled to her home town with the express purpose of challenging her to a battle. (Someone has been spending too much time around Ash…) Korrina informs our heroes that there is no way to get to the gym right now – boats apparently being hard to come by in French Kalos (perhaps they are still smarting from their losses at Trafalgar?) – and Ash and Pikachu do not take the news well.
Clemont notes that this delay will enable Ash to spend more time training for the match, and Ash agrees, calling out his Pokemon so that they may continue practicing Tierno’s dance moves. Korrina wonders if maybe she should go somewhere else, so as not to learn Ash’s secret battle strategy by watching him train, but Ash confidently declares that he doesn’t care if Korrina sees him – after all, when you don’t have a strategy, you have nothing to hide. So Clemont whips out the old-fashioned victrola that he keeps on his person at all times, and Ash’s Pokemon begin a 1980s style aerobics routine led by Pallet Town’s answer to Richard Simmons. (Wouldn’t have James been a better choice as a flamboyant fitness instructor?)
Poor Serena is horrified by Ash’s total lack of game, as Clemont and Bonnie double over in laughter, and Korrina and Lucario stare on in disbelief. Fortunately, Clemont has a solution; a little less fortunately, it involves an invention of his which looks like a combination of an Inquisition torture device and something that James’ fiancee Jessebelle keeps in her S&M dungeon. As it turns out, Clemont Stromboli’s marionette act is not quite as successful as in the Disney version, and as with most of the John Denver lookalike’s inventions, this one ends with explosions and regret. Serena spots a once-in-a-season opportunity to manhandle her man, and she runs with it, offering to give Ash dancing lessons. (Curious … Ash didn’t need dancing lessons in order to shake his thing with Misty at the Summer Festival in the Ghost of Maiden’s Peak…) Korrina must be familiar with the events of that episode too, because she begins to sway her body at Ash with a devilish look in her eyes, and suddenly it is hours later, the sun is setting, Ash is laying flat on his back exhausted, and Serena declares, “I’m tapped out!” Hmm, that was strange, it almost seems like a scene was cut out there doesn’t it? Perhaps the American censors objected to a visual portrayal of Serena being “tapped.” (Meanwhile, in Cerulean City, a certain Tomboyish Mermaid angrily throws her wine glass at the television screaming, “It was supposed to be me that you took to Kalos! I told you how much I loved French things!”)
On the beach (which is a great Neil Young album, by the way), Korrina declares that it is finally time to go to the Tower of Mastery. Our heroes stand on the sand in the diminishing twilight as the water slowly recedes; leaving a path to the gym in its wake. Dumb-Ash idiotically asks, “Korrina … what’s happening?!” Oh Ash! If you had bothered to complete your primary school education, you wouldn’t be so dumbfounded by things as simple as the tides. (I think Ash would have made the ideal medieval serf. He is easily mystified by even the most basic forces of nature, and would have been easily manipulated by the powerful and coercive Catholic Church during that superstitious age) Everyone rushes up the steps to the Tower of Mastery before –
Gurkinn has left the building.
Yes, Korrina’s questionably-gay grandfather has returned to the show along with his incomparable eyebrows. Ash has been waiting all day to get to the Pokemon fighting, but Gurkinn has other things in mind. Like most grandpas, Gurkinn wants to subject the young people before him to boring stories about the past – a magical sepia-tinted time when everything was subjectively better and racism was still socially acceptable. This story is specifically about the legendary beginnings of mega evolution. Apparently Gurkinn and Korina’s forebear arrived at the present location of the Tower of Mastery with his Lucario and just happened to find a mega stone and Lucarionite laying next to each other on the ground – how convenient! Thus mega evolution was born and a giant statue and surrounding tower were built at this spot to commemorate such a momentous occasion in Pokemon history. (And once again Professor Sycamore is noticeably absent when Ash and company are receiving all kinds of information about the “mysteries” of mega evolution. It’s almost like Sycamore isn’t even trying to learn about his chosen field of research and is instead using it as a front to mask his globetrotting sexploits…) Korrina remarks that one day she hopes to be as good a gym leader as her ancestors, and Serena speaks up that Korrina has mastered mega evolution, and is therefore already pretty good, but then Gurkinn butts in to say that no, in actuality Korrina still sucks – and she has a long way to go before she can see the family’s “Scroll of Secrets.” This Scroll of Secrets is, strangely enough, a scroll that contains the secrets passed down from one Shalour Gym Leader to the next – and in a shocking surprise, after refusing to show it to his own granddaughter, Gurkinn also declines to let Ash, Clemont, and Bonnie see it either. (Clemont is a gym leader, at least) Ash’s stomach grumbles, and he remembers that he hasn’t eaten anything all day (see what happens when Mama Brock isn’t around!), so the gym battle is postponed until the morrow.
Meanwhile, the real stars of the show have arrived in the form of Team Rocket. The voluptuous villains are sexily skulking in the shadows of the Tower of Mastery and they are equally intrigued at the idea of a Scroll of Secrets – particularly at the idea of them stealing it. To this end they sneak into Gurkinn’s bedroom and begin rummaging through his belongings in search of the mysterious scroll. (I’m guessing this isn’t the first time that James has spent the night in the bedroom of an old queen…) Meowth finds a Tepig figurine [A note from your friendly neighborhood Nintendo representative: officially licensed Pokemon toys like the one seen in today’s episode can be purchased online at http://www.pokemoncenter.com or at retailers near you! Pokémon: Gotta Catch ‘em All™], but little else, and after searching the rest of the Tower of Mastery and still finding nothing, Team Rocket is facing yet another failed mission. Luckily Wobbuffet is around to point out the one place our beautiful baddies haven’t searched yet: the giant Mega Lucario statue at the heart of the tower. Meowth crawls inside the statue’s mouth … and success! The sneaky Scratch Cat emerges with a small scroll of parchment! But before Team Rocket can get the goods to Giovanni and receive the promotion they richly deserve, Gurkinn awakes from his slumber and flips on the spotlights.
This of course proves irresistible to a pair of hams like Jessie and James, who have no choice but to break into the sacred Team Rocket motto, while Gurkinn rushes up the spiral staircase of the Tower of Mastery as fast as his ancient legs can carry him to meet the twerps who have emerged from their shared bedroom in a wide assortment of pajamas.
Ash – who has jettisoned his green pajamas from Episode One in favor of a striped wife-beater and boxers – emotes his usual surprise at encountering Team Rocket yet again, and Jessie rightly quips, “any slower and you’d be talking backwards.” Zing! The villains make a break for it with the twerps in hot pursuit – or some of them anyway. Gurkinn looks every bit of his age, and yet Clemont, in his Ebenezer Scrooge pajamas, is still in last place. James has Inkay blast a hole in the staircase, which nearly causes Korrina – in her official Shalour Gym two-piece pajamas – to fall to her death. Jessie and Wobbuffet make it to the Meowth balloon waiting on the roof of the Tower of Mastery, but Pikachu rudely ruptures it with an Iron Tail before James and Meowth even have a chance to hop into the basket – leading to some rather humorous outrage directed towards the electric mouse. Jessie refuses to surrender the scroll and summons Pumpkaboo to continue the fight, while entrusting the loot to Wobbuffet and his wobbly club arms. Ash prepares to blast them off again, as per tradition, and probably destroy the scroll in the process, but Korrina has a better idea and sends Lucario once more unto the breach. Exasperated, Team Rocket orders a triple attack, with even Meowth getting in on the action, but they are no match for Mega Lucario, who knocks back a Shadow Ball with his Bone Rush bat like steroid-era Barry Bonds, causing an explosion that sends Team Rocket blasting off once and for all.
Fortuitously, the Scroll of Secrets somehow escapes the explosion and lands in Korrina’s outstretched hand. Since she saved it and all, Gurkinn decides to acquiesce and let the kids hear the secrets contained within the ancient scroll. Unfortunately, the Scroll of Secrets ends up being less like a Sun Tzu Art of Pokemon War, and more like a Benjamin Franklin Poor Richard’s Pokemon Almanac, with advice about getting plenty of sleep and brushing ones teeth with regularity. Gurkinn insists that this information is critical to making a good gym leader, but the whole incident proves to be incredibly anti-climactic. (The animators do make an effort to provide a shot of Korrina from behind while down on all fours for all the fanboys at home…)
With that taken care of, this episode is all but over. Korrina performs some X-Games worthy tricks inside her skate park/Pokemon gym in order to set up the gym battle in the next episode, but as for the match itself – you’ll just have to tune in next time Pokemon fans. So ta ta until then!
Final thoughts: This was a decent episode which served as the now mandatory gym battle set-up while still providing some humor and action. Team Rocket was excellent as always, especially Wobbuffet, who is consistently funny despite not getting the spotlight too often. I enjoyed the build up to the Scroll of Secrets and the humorous revelation that it was little more than a banal list of life tips. What I don’t like is the idea that Ash needs to learn battling strategy from Tierno in order to beat Korrina. I get that Mega Lucario is a formidable opponent, but it’s not like Ash hasn’t faced more difficult obstacles in the past, plus Tierno is just so … fat! And as far as I can tell, he has almost no experience compared to Mr. 46-badges-seven-Frontier-Symbols-and-counting Ash Ketchum. Ash needs to go back to battling the way he battles best – by winging it and making things up as he goes!