The last time we saw ten-year-old Ash Ketchum, he had just left home for the first time – having been sent on a quest by his secret father to catch and catalog 151 different species of monsters – conveniently leaving Ash's mommy and daddy with a lot more private time. However, in what we will increasingly come to realize is typical dumb-Ash behavior, our hero made a real mess of his adventure and almost died on the first day, only a few miles away from his house.
Thankfully Ash managed to survive his impromptu attempt to remake Alfred Hitchcock's the Birds thanks to the intervention of his new yellow slave/best friend Pikachu. But Pikachu expelled a lot of his own energy saving Ash from the Spearow, and now Ash is rushing to Viridian City with a Pokemon Emergency on his hands (which is also the episode's title, conveniently enough).
As the sun sinks below the horizon, the camera pans across the outskirts of Viridian City while a loudspeaker blares out a warning to the citizenry – Pokemon thieves have been spotted in the area. The voice behind the public service announcement is Officer Jenny, one of a series of identical law enforcement officers who together make up a hereditary caste of females granted sole police power within the Pokemon world. I tend to view the Officers Jenny the same way I view the George W. Bush administration – equal parts corrupt and incompetent. Throughout the series, OJs will be habitually late to the scene of the crime (often relying on Ash of all people to do their jobs for them), while simultaneously allowing organized crime in the form of Teams Rocket, Magma, Aqua, Galactic, etc. to flourish largely unmolested by the police.
As Ash rushes down the deserted streets of Viridian City cradling Pikachu in his arms, we get to witness Officer Jenny in action for the first time. As we can see by the wanted poster outside her station, Jenny has already identified two potential suspects – a shadowy blue-haired male and a shadowy red-haired female, both dressed in identical white uniforms adorned with a large red R. What happens next is a bit of a mystery, either Jenny stupidly thinks that the ten-year old boy with black hair running up the road resembles her criminal suspects, or she corruptly thinks she can shake down this yokel from Pallet Town for some protection money – either way the result is the same:
After treating us to some good old-fashioned physical comedy, Jenny demands that Ash present her with some photo identification (what is this, Arizona?). Yes, dear viewers, the dark Orwellian truth behind the friendly facade of the Stalinist Kanto nanny state is beginning to be revealed. Sure, people in the Pokemon world are free to run around without any source of income – dropping out of school at the age of ten and eating, sleeping, and receiving healthcare for free at government-run Pokemon Centers – but in return, Big Brother wants to know where its citizens are at all times, keeping tabs on them by checking their state-issued identification cards. The Libertarians were right! The establishment of seemingly compassionate government programs inexorably leads to the elimination of personal liberty! Hurry – grab your guns, Ayn Rand novels, and Rush LPs and head for your anti-UN bunkers!
Ahem... where were we? Ah yes, so Ash manages to avoid a one-way trip to the Pokemon version of Siberia thanks to Dexter the Pokedex, which fortuitously enough also doubles as an official Kanto identification pass (it's good to have a father in the Pokemon business, eh Gary?). Unfortunately, Jenny also remarks to Ash that he is the fourth trainer from Pallet Town to pass through Viridian City recently, reminding Ash that he is still lagging behind his much cooler nephew, Gary Oak. Apparently having no other pressing duties besides searching/shaking down passers-by (you know, like tracking down reported Pokemon thieves, or anything), Jenny shoves Ash and Pikachu into a sidecar and burns countless taxpayer dollars by racing downtown to the Pokemon Center in her police motorcycle. As they zoom away (leaving more emissions behind than you think would be allowed in a leftist state), we see that a certain angry red-head has been unable to forget the take-charge man who stole her bicycle yesterday, and has decided to put her entire life on hold to chase him around the countryside.
As Misty continues her angry lust-filled chase of Ash, the camera pans over and zooms in on the wanted poster next to Officer Jenny's station. A small fishhook is grasping the bottom corner of the poster and begins to slowly lift it off of the signpost and up to the basket of a hot air balloon piloted by two shadowy figures in white uniforms – the same people from the poster! In the foreground is a stylish effeminate man with blue hair clutching a rose and behind him is an equally beautiful woman with red hair. The man opens his mouth and utters his first delightfully-bitchy line, "this picture makes me look terrible!" Unfortunately, 4Kids has not yet found the right voice actor for James of Team Rocket – at the moment he just sounds like an evil Tracey Sketchit – but this will all be rectified soon, so just be patient.
Suddenly our view shifts to a cat with big eyes and a coin on its head filling the frame – AND THEN IT OPENS ITS MOUTH AND TALKS, HOLY SHIT IT'S A TALKING POKEMON!!!! Meowth (our feline friend) chastises his comrades to remember their mission – stealing rare and valuable Pokemon! Um...have they looked down? Because Meowth appears to be the only talking Pokemon in the world. Hell, even Mewtwo, the Most Powerful Pokemon Ever™ can only speak through telekinetic powers or by using a human puppet. And yet, Team Rocket will consistently fail to take advantage of Meowth's unique abilities throughout the course of the show. But then again, neither Jessie nor James is the brightest crayon in the box (they're just there for looks, Meowth is actually the brains behind the operation, as scary as that sounds).
Returning to Ash, Officer Jenny has arrived at the Pokemon Center and decides to make a further demonstration of her unchecked police powers by driving straight through the sliding doors and skidding to a stop in front of the desk of the first of many Nurse Joys (this group of women is similar to the Officers Jenny with their monopolization of jobs in their given field). Nurse Joy is unimpressed with Jenny's stunt (we do have a driveway, you know), but who cares what she thinks – Jenny does what she wants (she's above the law!)
Nurse Joy's Chansey slaves prepare a bed for Pikachu while Joy explains the inner workings of the socialist universal health care system to the penniless and brain cell-less Ash. Meanwhile, Jenny realizes that she's gone five minutes without extorting anyone or accepting any kickbacks, so she rushes back to her post. Momentarily left alone without either companions or Pokemon, Ash utters something he will never say again – "I'll call home." There will be plenty of times over the course of his Pokemon journey that Ash will feel the need to converse with his secret daddy, Professor Oak, but he will all but ignore his mom (I suppose we can forgive his out-of-character behavior, this being only the second episode and all). And speaking of inconsistencies, the strangest part of the phone call between Ash and Delia is the first and only direct mention of Ash's father (apparently it took young Sammy Oak four full days to reach Viridian, but he probably had to stop and examine every Caterpie and vagina along the way). Ash doesn't fully register the meaning of his mom's words (failing to ask, where is daddy, or anything), but Delia assures him he is the apple of his father's eye before hanging up – and who should ring the Pokemon Center not thirty seconds later, but Ash's illegitimate father himself, Professor Oak!
"Oops, wrong camera," remarks the good professor (probably not the first time he's said that, as his students could undoubtedly attest, after getting an unexpected eyeful of Mrs. Ketchum's nether-regions during a class film). "I just spoke with your mother," Oak continues, which anyone but Ash would find completely suspicious. Literally thirty seconds have passed since Delia hung up the phone, and somehow in that time Professor Oak has managed to learn from his "casual friend and neighbor, and in no way long-term lover" that her son made his way to Viridian City, and Oak found that random bit of gossip about his young neighbor so interesting that he decided he should personally contact him, and he managed to locate the phone number of the Viridian City Pokemon Center – again, all within thirty seconds. Bull. Shit.
Professor Oak knows his son well enough to remark "I'm pleasantly surprised you got there," but he also apparently has enough confidence in him to have bet his grandson one million dollars that Ash would catch at least one Pokemon before he got to Viridian City. First, lets take an appropriate amount of time to soak in the fact that Gary Oak has the financial wherewithal to make casual seven-figure bets, but then again, he also owns a convertible. Now we can return to the show to hear dumb-Ash's hilarious response to Professor pennybags: "Well, money isn't everything..." Ouch. Oak lingers on the screen long enough to tell Ash he is stupid for confusing the Articuno picture in the Pokemon Center with whatever Pokemon he thinks he saw yesterday (actually a Ho-Oh), and then pretends there is a pizza deliveryman at the door so that he can hang up the phone and curse his idiot money-losing progeny.
After the commercial break (Who's that Pokemon? Koffing!) Misty finally manages to catch up with her dream man, and Ash promptly demonstrates he doesn't remember who she is (even going so far as to ask what happened to her bike). Misty threatens Ash with bodily harm (typical ginger flirtation), and Ash manages to soften her ice-cold heart by tearfully admitting that he has all but killed his Pikachu after only one day of being responsible for its wellbeing. He promises he will pay her back for her bike "someday" (which is pretty rich coming from somebody with no job, education, or potential source of income).
Meanwhile, Team Rocket have piloted their Meowth balloon over the Pokemon Center, the target of their latest heist, while Jessie provides us with a rare au naturel look (perhaps James has been stealing her lipstick again). They drop their Ekans and Koffing into the Pokemon Center and burst in through a cloud of Smokescreen. "What are...who are they?" exclaims Ash – and Team Rocket provide him with the perfectly classic response:
Prepare for trouble!
And make it double!
To protect the world from devastation!
To unite all peoples within our nation!
To denounce the evils of truth and love!
To extend our reach to the stars above!
Team Rocket blast off at the speed of light!
Surrender now or prepare to fight!
Meowth! That's right!
Team Rocket proceeds to wreak havoc and let slip the Pokemon of war. Unfortunately for the local tax payers, there is apparently no available law enforcement in the area to prevent Ekans and Koffing from destroying thousands (if not millions) of dollars worth of state property (Jenny having conveniently left before Team Rocket showed up – it's almost like their boss has a base in Viridian or something). Soak it all in, Pokemon fans. This is the last time we will see the competent side of the Team Rocket trio until they become soulless robots early in the Best Wishes saga. They corner Ash, Misty, and Nurse Joy in the Pokemon transfer room, and when Ash proves how inept he is at using Pokemon, it falls on Misty to step in and battle with Jessie and James. Despite still being voiced by Tracey, James unleashes some typical bitchy sass on Misty, "The girl thinks she's pretty..." Me-ow!
Misty rather stupidly sends out a flopping Goldeen (perhaps Ash is rubbing off on her?), but this gives her boyfriend time to make his escape with Pikachu (despite Team Rocket claiming they only want the most rare and valuable Pokemon, and specifically not his Pikachu). Team Rocket emerge prepared to do battle once again, but Pikachu gets out of bed and teams up with its Pokemon Center brethren to give Jessie, James, Koffing, and Ekans quite a shock. Meowth has just decided to take things into its own paws, when Ash gets an idea (run for the hills!) and plugs Pikachu's medicinal-lightbulb-helmet-thing into Misty's ruined bike and begins to pedal furiously. Pikachu blasts the crap out of the villains until it all becomes too much for the gassy Koffing and he EXPLODES, sending Team Rocket blasting off for the very first time.
Annnnd look who just now showed up! Conveniently after the criminals have escaped... And where are those criminals? They are drifting past the full moon clinging to the rope ladder of their Meowth balloon. Team Rocket is in awe that they managed to lose to some novice trainer and his level 5 Pikachu (what is this, their first assignment?), and they massage their bruised egos by insisting that this was no ordinary Pikachu and that henceforth, they will set their sights on capturing it (an obsession is born!).
The next day, Officer Jenny and Nurse Joy are at the site of the wrecked Pokemon Center. Joy hears from her counterpart in Pewter City that all the transferred Pokemon have arrived safely, Jenny meanwhile is smiling – most likely at the prospect of raising taxes and conscripting forced labor gangs to rebuild the ruined Pokemon Center at the public's expense.
Ash has apparently got off scot-free from destroying the Pokemon Center (probably in exchange for not informing Jenny's superiors about her conspicuous absence during the whole fiasco), but he hasn't got off scot-free from Misty. His new girlfriend/traveling companion/stalker has gotten all kinds of clingy now that they are alone with each other in the Viridian Forest. But lo – Ash has spotted a Caterpie! Disregarding Dexter's advice from the first episode, he declines to have Pikachu battle it and goes straight for the hat-spin/Pokeball throw combo. Will Ash catch Caterpie? Will Misty ever get a hold of Ash's Caterpie (if you know what I mean)? Did Gary ever get his million dollars? You'll just have to tune in next time Pokemon fans (or watch the episode right now, it aired like sixteen years ago)! For now, just sit back and revel in the afterglow of the first truly great blue-ribbon episode of the Pokemon anime. Smell ya later!