The last time we joined our friends, Ash, Misty, and Brock just barely survived a trip to an unlicensed Pokemon health spa, but our hero from the Town of Pallet was able to "catch" the local sheriff: a no-nonsense law dinosaur by the name of Bulbasaur. I'm sure Ash is excited about this fact, but you would never know it since he will keep the Seed Pokemon inside its Poke Ball for the entire episode – as will all the other characters with their Pokemon. Indeed, if it were not for the fact that a new character will be joining the cast (I know, I know, SPOILER!), this would be the very epitome of a filler episode, albeit a still-enjoyable Season One filler episode.
Misty, at least, is in a hurry to get somewhere. She loudly complains that, "we've been looking for Vermilion City for ten whole days!" (I've always wondered what would happen if you add up the lengths of time mentioned by all the characters in the show. I mean clearly it doesn't matter since Ash is permanently locked in arrested physical and emotional development at the age of ten, but still. How long have all of his journeys *actually* taken?) Brock has been party to his underage companions long enough to know that an angry Misty is often prelude to some argue-flirtation with Ash, something that leaves Pewter City's horniest virgin particularly lonely. So instead, he decides to get a jump on the flirtation train by asking Misty if there is a bug on her shoulder before revealing after her customary freak-out that the tickling she felt was just him with a blade of grass.
Unfortunately for Pewter City's most eligible bachelor, if he thought he would be rewarded for his prank with some angry flirtation, he is met instead with rage Misty, and she is clearly still upset at the domestic violence she received from Brock last episode. And in these troubled times, who should emerge as the calm voice of reason, but Pallet Town's village idiot, Ash Ketchum. He points to a path on the map that he thinks will lead to a Pokemon Center. "Does this trail take us to Route 24?," asks Misty excitedly. "According to my calculations it does!," replies our dimwitted hero. (This is certainly not the first time an Oak boy has told a girl to 'trust his calculations,' specifically vis-a-vis the time of the month and whether condoms need to be worn … )
But our heroes will have to save any further bedroom talk for later, because they soon realize that they are in the presence of a fantastic beast of fearsome power, terrible to behold. So terrible, in fact, that Pikachu makes the wise decision to hide beneath Ash's backpack rather than mount any pathetic and ultimately useless attack against this monster, which would surely result in the Electric Mouse Pokemon's demise. This unholy creature, capable of destroying entire worlds, is in fact Charmander – the stray Pokemon! (I enjoy how the episode title cards used to use the Pokemon logo to replace the word 'Pokemon' in the English dub).
Our dimwitted hero expresses disappointment that he was unable to obtain the Lizard Pokemon from his secret father, Professor Oak, the day he left Pallet Town (Pikachu is *right there*, Ash!), but no matter – he can catch a Charmander now. (Brock is especially insistent that they capture Charmander and "take it to Pokemon Center", which is either an amusing early Season One error about the necessity of using the article before 'Pokemon Center' or lazy incompetence on behalf of the nefarious 4Kids staff -- take your pick!) So without even giving it a second thought (which is exactly two more thoughts than he normally gives), Ash spins his hat backwards and performs his patented don't-weaken-it-first Pokeball toss with enough careless abandon towards the low odds of success to make the drunken old man in Viridian City proud.
For some reason, tossing a Pokeball on the first turn at a Charmander with full HP did not result in Ash catching it (Take note, those of you who have joined the fandom since Pokemon GO!) and Pallet Town's Village Idiot seems even more puzzled than usual. But fortunately, just like on those lonely evenings on the road when Ash finds himself missing his mother, Misty has an idea about how to make everything better! For the second episode in a row, Misty advocates that Ash let her catch a non-water-type Pokemon for herself. In this case, because her Pokemon would be super-effective against Charmander.
But when her man fails again to catch the fiery lizard (Brock insisting that in this case, Ash is wise not to weaken it as it appears to already be in poor health), Misty huffs, "I think this Charmander has an attitude problem!" (Spoiler alert for when we eventually meet Charmeleon and Charizard: this is quite the understatement!) Instead, Pikachu scuttles up the rock to have a chat with Charmander and after a bit of deciphering from Ash (who has grown more fluent in Pika-speak since the Macarena incident), determines that Charmander already has a trainer and it is waiting on this rock for him to return. (Would that there were only a convenient way to carry and/or store Pokemon when you weren't using them that didn't take up much space! Oh well, what're you going to do? 🤷️) In any event, our heroes rush on down the road to 'Pokemon Center' at last -- and just in time too, as Pikachu's cheek pouches buzz with static to indicate the approach of a storm. Meanwhile, Charmander is still on the rock, huddled beneath a giant leaf and trying to keep his tail flame lit. (This is also, to my ears anyway, the debut of the sad musical motif, which the soundtrack calls "Prayer")
The twerps have decamped to what looks like the kind of Pokemon Center that Hitler would have had with him up on the Eagle's Nest. (Who knew Swiss chalet was the dominant architectural style of Route 24?!) I do actually like how the Pokemon Centers in the anime used to be individually unique, as opposed to the enforced uniformity of the video games. Although, I suppose the latter is more in keeping with communist sameness of design, which you think would be simpatico with the government of the People's Republic of Kanto. Perhaps they are practicing "socialism with Kantonian characteristics?"
Brock is still worried about the Charmander the gang encountered earlier -- as well he should! One doesn't come across a being of pure perfection like that very often! But when Ash expresses his belief that Charmander's trainer *must* have come back by now, Brock inexplicably decides to defer to the wisdom of the idiot child he's been following around like a moronic messiah -- a decision that will be proven incredibly wrong in just a few moments. Our heroes' dinner is soon interrupted by a noisy group of boys gathered near the fire around a blue-haired trainer and his displayed balls. No, it isn't James about to be busted for exposing himself to a minor, it's a character-of-the-day named Damian. And Damian is evil, kids! How do we know? Well, apart from his Satanic moniker, Damian has a BRITISH ACCENT! (The telltale sign of a villain since 1776! ) Interestingly, Maddie Blaustein is using the same voice for Damian that she will reprise for Bill the Pokémaniac in a few episodes! Damian is showing off a large pile of Poké Balls to his adoring hangers-on, clearly a sign that he is having more success at completing a Pokédex than the secret bastard of the Pokémon Encyclopedia's inventor, seated just across the room! One of Damian's toadies inquires about the Charmander that he used to have and the blue-haired royalist scum dismisses it as being too much of a weakling and brags about how he abandoned it on a rock by promising to come back for it.
And, well, that was a mistake!
Daddy Brock is back, baby! (Don't mess with him, he was a pirate!)
Brock tells Damian that Charmander is still waiting for him in the rain, which could cause the Pokémon to *literally die* if its tail-fire goes out, and Pewter City's Gym Leader informs Damian in no uncertain terms that he WILL go back to get his Charmander. Ash and Misty arrive with the cavalry, although the former's admonision to listen to Brock is met with a "what'd you say, nerd?!" from Damian, who is unafraid to uncork the ultimate 80s/90s schoolyard insult. (Although few people are probably less intellectually worthy of the title of 'nerd' than the dumb-Ash product of the forbidden love between Professor Oak and Delia Ketchum!)
But before we can see just what Damian is packing in his dozens of Poké Balls, Nurse Joy literally jumps in to break up the brewing fight. She warns our heroes to steer clear of Damian and his troublesome crew and renders pirate daddy impotent, as the horny virgin we all know and love emerges to blush paralyzed at the beautiful human face of Kanto's socialist healthcare system. Brock declares this Joy the most beautiful of them all, although as Misty points out, "she looks just like all the other Joys." "Yeah," adds her boyfriend Ash, with a bit of poorly synchronized/translated dialogue, "it's a joyful … world."
Misty manages to bring Brock back to his senses by reminding him that Charmander is still out there, rather than by grabbing him by the ear, as will become her wont, and the twerps rush out into the dark and stormy night to return the stray Pokémon to safety. And not a moment too soon, as it turns out, because Charmander is being preyed upon by a pack of godforesaken Spearow -- the black-hearted Beedrill of the skies! Still in his decisive daddy mode, Brock ignores the rain and whips off his coat to swat the Spearow away from Charmander. Ash orders a Thundershock from Pikachu and the animators treat us to a fun bit of cartoon physics, wherein Pikachu ends up zapping friend and foe alike because of the rain. (Seriously, if there is one stray bit of science that cartoonists want kids to remember, it's that water conducts electricity. Screw you, Bill Nye!️)
Brock scoops up Charmander inside his jacket, with Ash taking his off too for good measure (you'll catch pneumonia!) while insisting that *he* will keep Charmander's tail flame from going out. And true to his word, Pallet Town's wannabe Pokémon master manages to keep a pocket monster in his care from literally dying! Which, you know, is probably a requirement for successfully mastering Pokémon! Back at the Pokemon Center ski lodge, Nurse Joy chastises our heroes for allowing Charmander to get in this horrible condition, but the twerps pass the buck by blaming Damien, who conveniently is no longer around to defend himself! But with no time to lose, Joy takes Charmander back to the center's intensive care unit, where the Lizard Pokemon is placed inside a barometric chamber -- complete with a little stool to keep its tail from catching the bedding on fire! Things are looking bleak when Nurse Joy exits the ICU, leading us to believe that we are about to witness our first Pokemon death only eleven episodes into the series.
Time to go to Lavender Town?!
Joy flashes a patented Japanese peace sign to let us know that Charmander is going to be a-ok! What a victory for socialized medicine! Somewhere Bernie Sanders is smiling, and our Republican oligarchs are gnashing their teeth and losing their monacles in a rage -- THEY TRIED TO KILL CHARMANDER BUT THEY COULDN'T!
Everyone drifts off to sleep, with perhaps the notable exception of Brock, because while Ash, Misty, and Pikachu are kipping up on the couch, Brock is nowhere to be seen until he appears in the common room sweaty and short of breath? Just what was he getting up to -- more of his patented "stuff"? The disappointed look on Nurse Joy's face probably gives us some clue of what Brock *wasn't* able to accomplish last night…
Also, Charmander has gone! Like our Lord and Savior, when Brock and Joy returned to the ICU that very nearly became Charmander's tomb, he was no longer there! He is Risen!
Speaking of a religious devotion, the Team Rocket trio is also on Route 24, still obsessed with capturing the Pikachu that so electrified them back in Viridian City. Because they posess the integrity and consistent professionalism of true artistes, Jesse and James perform the motto even though there are no twerps around to hear! Inexplicably still possessing full access to the Team Rocket R&D department, our villuptous villains have today come to bear with a Dalek-looking robot contraption! Meowth is almost trembling in fear wondering what this device is capable of … until he finds out that it is just another hole-driller! "We tried that already!" complains the Scratch Cat. "This time we'll remember where the hole is!" declares James, speaking like someone who does not like to be confused about the location of specific holes. When Meowth seems a shade less than confidant in his companions' abilities of basic recall, Jesse angrily adds, "Don't you think we're smarter than that?!" But with the twerps approaching, it is time to hide and activate the drill's stealth mode!
- Je:Just another example of our incredible genius at work!
- Je:I don't think this is really my color at all, but...
- Why was Damian hiding in a bush?
- Damian pronounces it 'Charminder' instead of 'Charmander', what an idiot!
- Damian must be a fan of Rare Candies
- The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone!!
- D:Mummy! Oooh ooh oooh!