Last week, our band of unemployed underage drifters made their way to Laverre City, just in time for Ash to gain a brand new admirer in the form of Sawyer and also to witness the aforementioned vested trainer get absolutely destroyed in a Pokemon battle against Laverre's gym leader and fashion icon Valerie. But now it is time for Ash to show his young note-taking protege how it is done and take down Valerie for his sixth Kalos badge. The thought of watching Ash battle is making Sawyer's "heart pound like you wouldn't believe." Sounds like Serena has a new rival for Ash's affections. You heard it here first folks, TreeckoShipping is alive! Entering the gym lobby, our heroes encounter the Furisode Girls once again and follow them into Valerie's feng shui battle room, which is cause for me to wonder again – WHY IS KALOS SO JAPANESE?!
Seriously, it made sense when Kanto was incredibly Japanese since, you know, the first four regions are supposed to be based on Japan, but after years of the show trying to hide its roots, suddenly French Kalos is apparently in the Land of the Rising Sun. Weird.
Ash's coterie of devoted disciples gathers in the balcony to watch him battle, and Sawyer even calls out Treecko to gaze with reverence on their new messiah. Our hero is a bit perturbed that Valerie has not arrived yet, but the gym leader was merely waiting to make a WWE-worthy entrance to her theme song, complete with light show. This display might intimidate lesser challengers, but Ash has made a living out of kicking gym leader ass across the four corners of the Pokemon universe. Valerie informs Ash that this battle will consist of two Pokemon each, and then immediately calls out her first Pokemon, the newest Eeveelution: Sylveon. Valerie's next intimidation gambit involves professing to have learned "Pokemon speak" and she pretends to talk to Sylveon by repeating its name a few times (surely even Ash isn't dumb enough to fall for… eh, who am I kidding?). By this same logic, Hodor is fluent in Pokemon. (When will people realize that only Meowth can form the linguistic bridge between people and Pokemon?) Valerie claims that she "learned" how to speak to her Pokemon because… she always wanted to be a Pokemon! (She's the ultimate furry/cosplay fangirl! Take that Serena!)
Muk: the Bill Cosby Pokemon
Of course, now Ash is left with the problem of determining which Pokemon he will use against Valerie's brand-new Fairy types. Yes, if only Ash had a strong Poison-type with an affinity for sludgy rape hugs and a history of victories against smug Japanese kimono princesses… #bringBackMuk.
In the end, Ash settles for his flaming bird Fletchinder thanks to its access to super effective Steel Wing, and Sawyer hurriedly scribbles in his notebook the type advantage that he just learned (if Ash is an imbecile messiah, Sawyer would be the fawning apostle who writes the Gospel of Ash). As Fletchinder and Sylveon go back and forth, Valerie coyly giggles from behind her sleeve about how her Fairy types have fangs beneath their glittery exteriors. Serena clearly does not like this bitch who dares to laugh at the love of her life (look out Valerie, she will cut you), and she urges on Fletchinder from the sidelines. The Ember Pokemon absorbs a Disarming Voice and quickly finds itself entangled in Sylveon's ribbons. The Intertwining Pokemon swings Fletchinder around and around, until Ash more-or-less orders Fletchinder to "flame on" and it Flame Charges straight at Eevee's most fabulous evolutionary cousin – burning its ribbons in the process.
Ash and Fletchinder seem to have rustled some feathers (pun most-definitely intended), and Valerie decides to get serious with a Giga Impact charge – the move that basically fills the ultimate-physical slot that Hyper Beam used to occupy. Ash has no problem with straight-forward attacks – that's his trademark style. He orders a Steel Wing that sets up a stereotypical Japanese-Anime-Samurai-Charge-Each-Other-And-Stand-Still-With-Backs-Facing-Before-One-Of-Them-Falls trope.
And Fletchinder wins!
Of course, it takes the world's longest three-count before the Furisode Girl ref (who clearly learned her craft in the WWE) gets permission from Valerie McMahon herself to call the match for Fletchinder.
Valerie's next Pokemon is the little big-nosed bird thing we first saw last episode: Spritzee. The Furisode Girls murmur their approval when their leader unveils her battle strategy: Trick Room – a Psychic move that inverts traditional speed attack priorities. To Clemont's dismay, Ash immediately orders a Flame Charge – a move that makes Fletchinder faster, or in this case, slower. Serena seems genuinely surprised that her idiot boyfriend doesn't know things, compounded by the fact that Ash insistently orders Flame Charge after Flame Charge. Ash's single-minded stubbornness leads everyone to believe that he is up to something (no! He's just stupid, people!), but for the time being it seems that Spritzee has the upper hand. But as Fletchinder absorbs hit after hit, Ash finally catches his big break.
Time's up, bitch!
Suddenly freed from the confines of the Trick Room, Fletchinder has been boosted to ungodly speeds. The flaming bird crushes Spritzee with a full-power Steel Wing, and in a moment of desperation Valerie calls for a Moonblast, which manages to connect with Fletchinder and …Ash loses?
You sure were quick on the k.o. call this time, eh Furisode Girl?
Since Ash is apparently up against professional wrestling refereeing, he chooses the Pokemon on his team most familiar with "the business." Ash ignores Hawlucha's Fighting-type ineffectiveness against Fairy Pokemon and orders a Karate Chop straight away. Spritzee easily dodges and constructs another Trick Room. When Ash gives his Mexican wrestler some words of encouragement, Valerie misconstrues this as Ash knowing Pokemon speak as well (not the first or last time Ash's mental retardation will be confused for genius). As if to prove this true, Ash orders another ineffective move, X-Scissor, and notices the interaction between this attack and the illusionary Trick Room wall. Hawlucha catches Spritzee mid-Gyro Ball and uses this momentum to speed up another X-Scissor – cutting straight through a Dazzling Gleam and crashing Spritzee through the Trick Room itself.
Never start a feud with a headliner babyface.
"We never know what Ash will come up with next," proclaims Bonnie (neither does he…). Without its Trick Room to protect it, Hawlucha exposes Spritzee for the tiny flying nose that it is. A combination of Flying Press and Hi Jump Kick is enough to force the Perfume Pokemon to submit.
Sawyer resolves to make note of this battle in his dorky journal, while Valerie unfairly asks Pallet Town's village idiot a philosophical question about bonding hearts with Pokemon or some shit. Ash clearly doesn't know the answer to this or most any other question, and thankfully Valerie doesn't dwell on it and rightfully awards our hero his sixth Kalos badge.
Ash has a Fairy Badge!
(James has been proudly wearing the fairy badge his whole life…)
With the battle over, Sawyer takes the opportunity to profess his love for Ash and kick the nascent TreeckoShipping into overdrive. The young scribe gets closer to our hero than Serena ever has and asks him bluntly and directly to give it up – his training secrets, that is! "What are you thinking about when you're battling?!" (Nothing – just like every other time.) "Does Pikachu give you some kind of advice or something?!" (Now that is a distinct possibility…)
Final thoughts: The foremost thought on my mind, of course, is where is Team Rocket? Are they still trapped within the confines of the Scary House? Will we ever see our beautiful baddies again? As for this episode itself, it was pretty good, I guess, as gym episodes go. I still think it's strange that everyone seems to take it for granted that Ash has some kind of master plan when it comes to inventive battle strategies. He is an "idiot savant" for a reason. He has a remarkable skill for battling, it's true, but he is still an idiot – he's supposed to come across his victories almost accidentally. The shining star of this episode was definitely Sawyer. I'm excited to see how his obsession with Ash evolves as time goes on. Hopefully he doesn't progress to a Mark David Chapman level of fandom…