As the curtain lifts on another Pokémon adventure, the ever-present narrator reminds us of what Ash Ketchum and his disciples have been up to lately: namely catching Pokémon for a change! In the past two episodes Ash has managed to acquire both a Bulbasaur and a Charmander, leaving him only a Squirtle short of a complete set of Kanto starters. (Three guesses as to who the Pokémon of the day will be …)
His recent success at filling out the Pokédex has Ash humming along down the road—literally, in this case. Veronica Taylor is doing a nice bit of fourth-wall-breaking by humming along with the anime soundtrack. What could possibly go wrong for our heroes?
Well, in addition to snagging starter Pokémon, the other recurring theme of the current story arc of the anime has been Ash and friends falling into pit traps. And if there is one thing the Pokémon animators love, it's beating a dead horse! So, right on cue, Ash's foot sinks into the ground, and a second later he, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu find themselves at the bottom of a hole!
Dusting themselves off, our heroes look up to see a ring of spectacled Squirtle laughing down at them. A group of identically-attired bros with oversized sunglasses and a penchant for tomfoolery? These Squirtle are clearly in a fraternity! It must be pledge week for Pi Kappa Squirtle! The pit hole trap may have just been a prank to the gang of TinyTurtle Pokémon, but Ash "After School Special" Ketchum is none amused. "Dangerous practical jokes are nothing to laugh about!" he moralizes, as he claws his way out of the hole.
Possibly confused by the masterful disguises the Squirtle are employing, Pallet Town's village idiot unsheathes Dexter to get a Pokédex identification. Ash is pleased to learn that the tiny turtle Pokémon under the sunglasses are, in fact, Squirtle: the TinyTurtle Pokémon! "With my very own Squirtle, Gary will never beat me!" Ash declares in a fit of enthusiastic delirium, before sending Pikachu to fry the lead Squirtle. One of the Squirtle minions in the round glasses dives to take the brunt of the ThunderShock as Pikachu and the Squirtle leader face-off in a bit of Spaghetti Western schtick.
But before either of the Poké-Mon with No Name can draw and fire, police sirens ring out and the Squirtle scatter with their wounded fraternity brother carried above their heads. Five-O! Five-O! Here comes the crookedly incompetent face of Kanto Stalinist police state, Officer Jenny! Long-time viewers should already feel suspicious; this lazy pig never bestirs herself unless there are kick-backs to collect or long after crimes have been completed. Since when does Jenny perform real police work? Dumb-Ash, however, is busy trying to decipher the message his basic recall neurons are transmitting. This person … he has met her before! Unfortunately for our dimwitted hero, that Jenny was one of her identical cousins—also named Jenny! (#JennyLivesMatter)
Jenny takes Ash, Misty, and Brock back to the station and explains that the merry Pokémon pranksters they met were actually a criminal gang of trainer-less anarchists called 'the Squirtle Squad' who have been terrorizing the local shopkeepers! (I love the idea that trainers are abandoning their Squirtle en masse in recognition of the superiority of mighty Charmander!)
So, in addition to serving the interests of capital (the primary function of the police), this Jenny appears to also be in cahoots with the Dean of Kanto State University, who is bent on shutting down Squirtle House for good! (Has he considered putting them on double-secret probation?)
Things are beginning to fall into place here vis-à-vis the mystery of Officer Jenny's newfound work ethic. It must be hard for Jenny to extort the townspeople for protection money if she can't even stop the Squirtle Squad! Plus, I'm sure the TinyTurtle Pokémon also failed to cultivate an "understanding" with the police the way that the Yakuza-like Team Rocket organization seems to have done. And speaking of Team Rocket, its most glamorous agents happen to be spying from the bushes outside!
Jessie has her alluring eyes pressed against a set of binoculars monitoring the twerps and Officer Jenny outside the police station, but Meowth and James have less mission-critical topics on their minds. The Scratch Cat Pokémon complains that he is starving, but James adds that he is sick of pizza! (Wow, James! Meowth goes to all the difficulty of learning human-speech with an Italian-American accent and you just *assume* he wants pizza?! How hurtful!) And speaking of painful things, Jessie has suddenly armed herself with a Japanese fan and assaults her team members in a fit of rage. Barely recovered, James inquires as to whether they might order Chinese – "or tacos!" Meowth adds – before Jessie smacks them again! "Am I the only member of this team who thinks world domination is more important than lunch?!" demands Team Rocket's glorious dominatrix, before she is betrayed by her own growling stomach.
As luck would have it, Jessie has prepared a picnic lunch for just such an emergency! But before our beautiful baddies can tuck in, the squad from Squirtle House have returned and threateningly demand the food for themselves through Meowth the translator. This both angers and amuses Jessie who informs the Squirtle that it is Team Rocket who make threats. "Let's show these little creeps!" she declares to James whose "I'm game" reply lands just one extra syllable past coming out of the closet. (Baby steps, James!)
Unfortunately—both for Team Rocket and those who hoped to see Koffing and Ekans this episode—our voluptuous villains find themselves the victim of yet another pit hole trap before they can do battle with the Squirtle. Now tied to a tree, Team Rocket can do nothing but watch as the Squirtle devour the contents of the picnic basket. "They're eating all the jelly donuts and eclairs!" bemoans Jessie, earning 4Kids the eternal wrath of Japanophiles throughout Christendom. "Those aren't Squirtles," Jessie continues, "they're piggles!" Recognizing that we have not yet arrived in Johto and that he is still nominally in charge of the trio, Meowth reasserts his leadership, browbeating his Rocket teammates to play along as he convinces the Squirtle that Jessie and James are *his* humans and that they should release the Scratch Cat to join them for lunch in Pokémon solidarity. "I want a donut!" whines James.
Meanwhile, Ash and friends are resting on a riverbank while Misty does a spot of fishing. Suddenly, one of the underclassman round-glasses Squirtle pokes his head out of the water and douses everyone with a Water Gun! Pikachu tries to respond with a ThunderShock only to zap our sodden heroes instead. The camera cuts to the road, where everyone is miraculously dry, and Pikachu and Squirtle engage in battle. Withdrawing into its shell, Squirtle hits Pikachu with a spinning Tackle and sends the Mouse Pokémon flying into the river. Pikachu bobs on the surface momentarily before an absolute heel of a Goldeen interferes in the match and blindsides Pikachu with a Horn Attack outta nowhere to the ass! (Where was the ref?!) Too distracted by this blatant bit of bad-sportsmanship, our heroes fail to realize that the rest of the Squirtle Squad has arrived (along with their new pal Meowth!) and Ash, Misty, and Brock quickly find themselves fit to be tied!
After the commercial break, the scene shifts to a cavernous lair where Meowth and the brothers of Squirtle House have tied our heroes to a large boulder. Pikachu sits nearby in a cat carrier, and our resident electric rodent is not doing well. Ash needs a Super Potion to heal Pikachu, according to Dr. Brock in an oddly specific diagnosis. (Apparently a Potion just won't do, and a Hyper Potion would be overkill?) Meowth meanwhile is enjoying being away from Jessie and James probably too much, at least based on the absolutely unspeakable things he does to Ash with his tail! Ash responds in kind by biting down hard on Meowth's meandering member, which sends the Scratch Cat Pokémon into fits of …ecstasy? …excruciating pain? …both? (This is a ship that is so verboten the Internet doesn't seem to have a name for it—MeoAsh Shipping was the most likely candidate I could find.)
Ash pleads with the Squirtle Squad to let them free, but Meowth silences his erstwhile BDSM partner with a Scratch attack to Ash's face; Meowth needs to keep the Twerps on lockdown until Jessie and James arrive, and he knows that the brothers of Squirtle House will only venture so far down the road of criminality in the name of pranksmenship. Felony kidnapping might be a bit too far for any of their well-connected fathers to smooth over with the district attorney.
With Daddy Brock insistent that Pikachu needs a Super Potion after the thrashing it took from that Goldeen, Ash works out an arrangement with the Squirtle Squad to be allowed to go into town to buy some. The condition that Meowth relays to the humans is that Ash must return by noon tomorrow, or the brothers of Squirtle House will dye Misty's hair "poiple". (Apparently in Japanese the Squirtle threaten to execute Misty, but the translators wisely realized this was not a believable bluff from the toxically-masculine, yet not homicidal, squad of fraternity Squirtle) "Purple?!" rages Ash's ginger lady love, "Why you mangy little flea-trap! When I get out of here I'm going to wrap your tail around your …" whoa! Family show, Misty!
Ash takes off sprinting down the hill, but then Pallet Town's village idiot finds running to be too difficult a task and he tumbles and face-plants onto the mountain path. Should I give up after tripping literally once? our dumb-Ash hero ponders to himself. But no, "I've got to keep going!" he concludes. "Pikachu needs me to get that medicine!"
After overcoming what to him must be the single greatest hardship of his easy, easy life, Ash encounters yet another one of Kanto's many rickety rope bridges! (Is it Infrastructure Week yet?) And in a stunning change of pace that will truly shatter the anticipation of those who have watched Pokémon for any length of time,
Ash walks smoothly over the bridge with no trouble at all. Just kidding, Ash fails to hang on as the bridge crumbles under his weight and he tumbles into the obligatory river ravine below – even taking a Horn Attack to the ass from a Goldeen for good measure!
Miraculously, Ash manages to survive his catastrophic fall and limps into a dusty western saloon town the next morning with the aid of a cane fashioned from a tree branch – presumably for Japanese cultural reasons that I don't care about. It also boggles the mind how Ash could make the return trip in time to save his secret girlfriend's red hair. Although neither "Misty" nor "thinking in general" are things that typically receive a lot of neuron activity from Ash's "brain".
But none of that matters! The important thing is that Ash made it to town, and now he can buy the Super Potion for Pikachu! Let's just step up to this door helpfully marked "Shop", pause on the threshold to savor the fruits of victory, and…
You really hate to see nephew-on-younger-uncle violence
After having been knocked out by Gary Oak, like so many Pokémon, or love-struck women, Ash fails to notice as Team Rocket arrive to hold-up the shop he failed to enter. And, my God! James is wielding A LITERAL MACHINE GUN, while Jessie is shouldering A MOTHERF%*@ING BAZOOKA!
Fortunately for the sake of the American censors and younger viewers in the audience, James makes no secret about the fact that "these are ice packs we're gunning! Er, I mean, these are ice guns we're packing!"
"Cool," remarks Jessie, as the cowed shoppers recognize that they are in the presence of the infamous Team Rocket, "we're just like those super villains in the comic books except better looking!"
"And even meaner!" adds James, who is still trying to butch it up under, even under the vocal control of Eric Stuart.
"We want all the flash powder you've got!" demands Jessie. "And a large roll of dental floss!" adds James. "The flash bombs are to scare off the Squirtle Squad," he explains helpfully, "and the floss is for our teeth," concludes Jessie, less helpfully.
Our lascivious lawbreakers back out of the shop—James hamming it up by holding a box labeled "danger"—AND JESSIE ABSOLUTELY UNLOADS HER BAZOOKA AT POINT-BLANK RANGE ON THE DEFENSELESS SHOPPERS!
Fortunately for everyone involved, all the bazooka does is produce quite a bit of smoke and a shower of rose petals. And it is now finally that Ash decides to come-to, with the sight of Team Rocket making their escape in their Meowth-shaped hot air balloon. Our dimwitted hero's first instinct is to begin chasing after Team Rocket's balloon on foot, but then he remembers why he came all this way into town. "Super Potion please," Ash shouts, as he enters the shop at last … and finds himself staring down the barrels of four firearms.
"I don't need a new gun…"
Where were all these "good guys with a gun" seconds ago? Apparently this episode was brought to us by the National Rifle Association. (It's too bad that they wouldn't sponsor The Legend of Dratini, maybe we could have actually seen Ash catch all those Tauros…)
Even Officer Jenny isn't immune from threats of violence from the gun-toting crowd, who have trained their ire on a supposed "blue life that matters" quicker than white supremacists storming the U.S. Capitol.
Motivated no doubt by her desire to win back the favor of her patrons, the capitalist shopkeepers, as well as the chance to close Squirtle House once and for all (or at the very least put them on triple-secret-probation), Jenny gives Ash a ride on her motorcycle in chase of Team Rocket and seems too-surprised-by-half that the rope bridge is out; as if she could have ridden her bike over it anyway!
It's still unclear why Jenny is purposely engaging in a wild goose chase, although giving the appearance of working hard is certainly right in her wheelhouse. And before you know it, we see two classic Jennyisms: her inexplicable insider knowledge of ongoing crimes, in this case the secret entrance to the cave where the Squirtle Squad are keeping Ash's friends; and her desire to pawn off her job onto untrained children, in this case casually revealing to Ash that the entrance is "too narrow for an adult … but maybe *you* can squeeze through?"
Ash still hasn't found a use for Sheriff Bulbasaur after two episodes, but his mighty new Charmander rightfully gets to make an appearance! Regrettably it isn't used to incinerate Ash's foes, but for a more basic and perhaps deeper purpose: that being to banish the darkness with the power of light.
Unfortunately for Jenny's hopes of bungling the case, and perhaps remarkably for someone as dumb as Ash, our dim-witted hero manages to make it all the way through the tunnel and into the cave beyond. But then comes a realization that didn't even escape the dull mind of the cursed offspring of the forbidden love between Pokémon Professor and Delia Ketchum—Pikachu, Brock, and Misty ARE GONE!
Ash's first thought goes to his life partner Pikachu, but his *second* thought goes out to the Tomboyish Mermaid, whose affections Ash is usually oblivious to. In what is frankly a huge development for PokéShipping (and a devastating blow to BoulderShipping), Ash imagines Misty disappearing into a black chasm.
Before he even has time to adjust to the idea of life without Misty and Pikachu (and Brock), Ash spots the Squirtle Squad and Meowth outside of the cave and runs forward to give them a taste of his Charmander.
But lo and behold, Misty, Brock and Pikachu are standing untied outside the cave, as well. Like I've been saying all episode, these Squirtle are just harmless prankster fraternity men! "The Squirtle Squad was bluffing," explains Brock, dismissing their threat to dye Misty's hair purple as just some proverbial locker-room talk. "They play tricks," comments Misty sagely about the men of Squirtle House, "but they'd never change a girl's natural hair color!"
Ash allows Misty to spray the Super Potion onto Pikachu's wound and things seem to be looking up, but before our heroes can join the lads of Squirtle House for a chill game of lacrosse on the Fraternity Row lawn, Jessie and James arrive with their box full of "danger".
The voluptuous villains begin lobbing smoke bombs from the basket of their hot air balloon, allowing Meowth to scoop-up the still tuckered Pikachu and ascend the rope ladder to join his Team Rocket comrades.
In the face of explosions and flying rocks, twerp and Squirtle alike beat a quick retreat back to the shelter of the cave. But one of the Squirtle, the leader with the different style of glasses—let's call him the John Belushi of Squirtle House—is trapped upside-down by his shell. And so with the quick thinking (or more honestly, lack of thinking) and derring-do that will come to define "Action Hero Ash," Ash sprints back from the cave mouth and shields John Belushi with his body. "Save yourself, Squirtle, run for it," he says bravely/stupidly.
No one has ever accused a well-connected fraternity brother of not knowing how to return a favor, and so with tears of gratitude streaming from behind his oversized shades, and with a quick shout of "no homo", the John Belushi Squirtle lifts Ash over his head and carries him back to the cave and safety!
But from where Team Rocket are standing, operation Shut Down Squirtle House seems like a rousing success. Pikachu is in James' clutches and Jessie looks forward to the medals that the grateful townsfolk will bestow on them for getting rid of the Squirtle Squad.
Not so fast!
Ash and the John Belushi Squirtle have miraculously appeared at the top of the hill in front of Team Rocket. Ash directs Squirtle to hit the balloon with a jet of high-pressure Water Gun. A hole appears in the floating Meowth head and butterfingers James is unable to hold on to Pikachu as the balloon basket begins rocking.
In his second action hero stunt of the episode, Ash charges down the steep hill, managing not to trip like earlier, and catches Pikachu before it can hit the ground. Team Rocket, meanwhile, are blown off toward the horizon – their balloon not yet being packed with dynamite and/or the animators not yet feeling the need to make it explode every episode.
But all the smoke bombs from earlier have started a forest fire and Officer Jenny belatedly arrives on scene (conveniently *after* Team Rocket have escaped), remarking obviously that the conflagration could set the whole town ablaze. (And no doubt running a mental inventory on which shopkeepers have paid up their "fire-prevention protection money")
It is dumb-Ash of all people who comes up with the seemingly obvious solution of using the Water-type Squirtle to put out the fire with their combined Water Gun attacks.
Back in town after the fire is doused, Jenny has decided not to shut down Squirtle House after all – in fact she is making them the town's fire department. (Ah, now it all makes sense … Jenny must have discovered that her police captain is a brother of Pi Kappa Squirtle!)
Now that the brothers of Squirtle House have become firefighters, their Red Lives Matter to the white townsfolk, and they begin fitting the Squirtle with cute little matching kimonos, which 4Kids has helpfully airbrushed clean of its Japanese "devil's script".
And with that, our heroes leave town on the road to Vermilion City, satisfied with the confirmation that they helped some wayward college Squirtle acquire one of three professions that "matter" according to Republican rhetoric.
But before they can get very far, the John Belushi Squirtle calls back to them. Doffing his shades, and with one final cry of "no homo", Squirtle proves that everyone has to graduate eventually and leaves his fraternity brothers behind, running to embrace Ash in one of the scenes from the theme song.
"Guess I've caught a new Pokémon!" exclaims Ash, commenting on what will unfortunately become an increasingly rarer occurrence as the series moves forward. "Caught?! What do you mean *caught*?!" responds Misty, who does not seem to subscribe to Ash's theory of "they don't ask me how, they ask me how many," when it comes to defeating Pokémon and accumulating gym badges. One can only imagine what kind of angry flirtations Brock will have to put up with from the two of them as the curtain closes on another Pokémon adventure.
Final thoughts: And so the "Kanto Starters Arc" comes to a close with Ash managing to bag a Bulbasaur, Charmander, and now a Squirtle in the span of three episodes. This final entry is undoubtedly the strongest of the bunch; what with its amazing Gary cameo, more guns in one episode than we will see for the entire rest of the Pokémon anime combined, and some always hilarious Officer Jenny police crookedness. Top it off with the addition of the fun-loving fraternity prankster Squirtle to Ash's team, and you have a thoroughly enjoyable Season One episode of Pokémon! We're basically a third of the way between the beginning of the show and the Porygon incident, after which the anime would start to undergo some changes in tone and style, so buckle up because the next dozen episodes are some of the most memorable of the series!
As of the end of this episode, Ash has caught 8 of the 151 Pokémon available at this time—meaning he is 5.30% of the way to his self-declared goal to "catch 'em all."