We rejoin Ash and friends in the thick of the mid-generation blahs – the period in the middle season of a generational series when the writers have run out of new things to introduce and apparently don't know what to do with themselves besides crank out unoriginal fillers week after week and pray for the clock to run out. Certainly we haven't reached the depravity of "Johto League Champions," just yet, but I did spend the last two weeks attempting to claw my eyes out as Ash had the most boring visit to a wetlands imaginable, and then just randomly decided to leave his most powerful Pokemon (aside from level ten-jillion Pikachu) behind.
It would seem that all this lack of training, capturing, or battling Pokemon has been taxing on the energy of our notoriously lazy heroes, and they have decided to take "a rest stop." Over seventeen years of experience watching this cartoon has provided me with the insight that episodes that begin with all of the characters and their Pokemon "resting" and eating are overwhelmingly duds. Hopefully, I will be proven wrong. (But I doubt it)
Bonnie and Serena are busying themselves with checking their horoscopes on Serena's travel-planner thing. Fortunately, daily fortunes are converted into emoji form so that even the stupidest of people (looking at you Ash) can understand what the cosmos have in store for them. Serena gets a frowny face, but Bonnie does one worse and gets a face that is crying. The spunky little Lumiosian is also warned to beware of things made of gold!
Despite Serena's assurances that horoscopes are for entertainment value only, Team Rocket arrives on scene with a balloon-full of apples and quickly determines to make our heroes' day worse by snagging some Pokemon as well. Of course, Team Rocket's plan is foiled, as they so often are, by the fact that their get-away vehicle travels only at the speed of wind and furthermore, that it is only as strong as a light piece of canvas. A Swift by Luxray soon has the beautiful baddies grounded, and now their fortunes are looking bad too, as the apples they worked so hard to pick are scattered at the feet of the twerps.
Everyone's fortunes soon take a nose-dive when a group of angry Pangoro emerge from the forest (are they ever not angry?). For some reason Ursaring's Asian cousins live in French Kalos, but much like their brethren from Johto, who were depicted in the anime as mindless Hyper-Beaming killing machines, Pangoro soon start blasting everything in sight with Dark Pulse.
Bunnelby's face is priceless.
When the dust clears and the theme song is over, we discover that the Pangoro attack has served to split the human and Pokemon characters into several different groups – meaning that we have now landed in the "can everyone work together to reunite separated Pokemon and people?" sub-genre of episodes. I didn't particularly enjoy it in "Island of the Giant Pokemon", and it really hasn't gotten any better in the many subsequent remixes. Meowth finds himself paired up with Bonnie, or "the fun‐sized twerpette," as he calls her. However, a panic‐induced tumble down a cliff leaves the Scratch Cat inexorably attached to Bonnie via a vine. Even Meowth using Fury Swipes on himself doesn't do the trick. "You're so useless," intones Bonnie. *I guess these two will just have to put aside their differences and learn to work together to solve this quandary they have found themselves in!*
Meanwhile, the rest of Team Rocket has managed to stay together, but Jessie is not at all happy that she will have to spend time looking for Meowth, who was insensitive enough to get himself lost again. After all, what was the point of winning the power struggle to become the Bitch Goddess Queen of the Team Rocket trio if Meowth is still going to be the center of attention? As for the Scratch Cat in question, he declares to Bonnie that he will escort her back to her twerp friends. Bonnie doubts this very much, believing that Meowth intends to take her to Jessie and James so that they can steal Dedenne. Unfortunately, her above-average intuition is negated by her youthful attention span, and she soon barrages Meowth with a slew of questions, "what's that on your head?" (it's his charm), "why do you have a charm?" (he never really thought about it (existential crisis time!)), and "how come you can speak?" For this last question, Meowth prepares to regale Bonnie with the events of Go West Young Meowth, but she decides that in actuality she doesn't care to hear about the evil feline slut known as Meowzie.
Of course, it also dawns on her that her fortune about the color gold might just be referring to Meowth's charm – although our little feline friend is a bit put out at the insinuation that spending time with him might be considered someone's idea of the worst day ever.
Off with Pikachu, Braixen, and Bunnelby, Clemont is demonstrating a new device of his – a thermograph attached to a balloon that will indicate any warm-blooded people and Pokemon around. As a stand-in for it's dumb-Ash trainer, it falls to Pikachu to look on Clemont's scientific prowess with wide-eyed reverence. And while this invention doesn't explode – it merely fails to indicate that the fast-approaching ball of heat is a Pangoro, which forces Braixen to step up and counter a Dark Pulse with one of Jerry Lee Lewis' signature great balls of fire.
For her part, Serena is grouped with Frogadier and Chespin. The former decides to use his ninja skills to act as a bodyguard for his master's girlfriend. This does not please the jealous little Spiny Nut Pokemon – he wants to be a bodyguard too, darn it! Of course that all changes when Chespin comes face to face with one of the marauding Pangoro, and concludes that in actuality, he would rather cower behind Serena's leg. Fortunately, Frogadier is still thinking with his head (er, one of them, anyway) and sprays the Daunting Pokemon right in the face with his sticky white goo.
Of course, as was to be expected, through the power of teamwork and perseverance, everyone begins to find one another. Meowth even literally carries Bonnie at one point after she gets a heavy dose of Spore from a group of Foongus. Finally all of the twerps and twerp Pokemon are happily reunited. But instead of a simple, "thanks for bringing Bonnie back, Meowth," the poor Scratch Cat must face even more slings and arrows from the assembled children.
Oh, and more Pangoro too.
So, as it turns out, when Pangoro stop blasting everything in sight with giant explosive balls of energy and actually take the time to articulate what is bothering them, they can get some satisfaction. They tell Pancham and translator Meowth that the fruit from their favorite tree was stolen and they just assumed it was Ash and company who took it. Of course, Meowth is very concerned that the identities of the real thieves might come out, and tries to swear the twerps to silence until–
Prepare for trouble!
And make it double!
Team Rocket obliviously bursts onto the scene still carrying/eating the apples they stole earlier from the Pangoro. They turn a deaf ear to Meowth's protests in favor of silence – after all, true artistes never stop mid-performance, and even the reluctant Scratch Cat enthusiastically adds his line to the motto as well. ("I guess the catchy lyrics dragged me in!") The pissed-off panda bears prove to be tough critics, and respond to the Team Rocket motto by blasting our voluptuous villains off into the horizon.
The Pangoro seem more than happy to share their "berries" with the twerps (um… they're clearly apples), which is strange because they were willing to murder over them a few minutes ago. Serena believes that getting bound to Meowth means that her fortune came true – although Bonnie notes that it was kind of fun (I really hope the two of them are familiar buds from now on!).
Final thoughts: Well, the good news: today's episode was better than the last two weeks' snooze-fests. The bad news: it was still pretty bad. I've said it before, far be it from me to take away a child's weekly cartoon fix, but I would rather see shorter seasons of Pokemon if it meant higher quality episodes. At least we're moving in a positive direction… See you next week, Pokemon fans.