It’s Pokemon Catch-up time! We’re going through the Fast Track Viewing List at the speed of light (or, you know, an episode every two weeks). It’s a list developed by a reddit user which cuts through the layers upon layers cruft to get to the core of the matter in Pokemon. To the catching of new Pokemon, to the Gym battles, and to the Elite Four. You won’t see a wasted episode (except for episode 15, not a big fan!).
In this episode, we get to explore Pikachu’s identity and what it means to be a Pikachu for it. The episode actually ends in a very nice lesson.
Today’s episode: Season 1 (Indigo League), Episode 14: “ Electric Shock Showdown”
Last episode, we got to see the awesome Dragonite despite not being told so. Pokemon awed us with its mystery. We also saw Ash catch Krabby and start to really think about his Pokemon journey. Gary bested him in terms of progress and in terms of Pokemon caught. What was Ash’s place in the Pokemon universe?
This episode, we get to see more self-reflection from our hero boy.
The episode start off with the trio finally making it to Vermillion City!
Just look at how happy Brock is! Ash tries to run off to the next Pokemon gym but his friends stop him. Pikachu is too hungry to even walk much less fight.
The group decides to eat some food back at the Pokemon Center. And guess who is sitting behind the counter? Nurse Joy. Nope, not the last one, and not the one before. She’s another one of the Joy cousins!
Their conversation is interrupted with a kid rushing through the doors with a fainted Rattatta and Chansey helping along.
Joy tells the group that it’s the fifteenth fainted Pokemon just this month! We get a shot of beds after beds full of fainted Pokemon and their trainers sitting by. It turns out that the Vermillion City Gym Leader, Lt. Surge, has been beating them left and right.
Misty points out, yet again, that Ash has gotten all of his badges through “pity” and he should be wary of Lt. Surge. She tells him that he should prove himself by battling the trainer. The two get into a short verbal back-and-forth before Joy stops them. She pokes fun at them telling them that if two people fight, they must really care about each other.
They hear a familiar jingle and the group returns back to Pikachu and Ash’s other Pokemon. And another trainer speeds by with a fainted Pidgey!
Pikachu tries to reason with Ash since it doesn’t want to faint just like that Pidgey. However, Ash believes they can win and so Pikachu has nothing to fear. In response to their disagreement, Pikachu shocks its trainer.
The trio makes it to the gym. And Misty taunts Ash again into going inside and battling.
When they walk in, Lt. Surge stands up and towers over them. He’s huge! He awkwardly hugs Misty and calls Ash a “baby”. He then laughs at Pikachu for being small. Wow, what a bully. If you’re a Pokemon Gym leader, PLEASE don’t do this.
Lt. Surge summons his Raichu. Honestly, Lt. Surge is a huge jerk to Ash and him and his cronies keep laughing at Ash, making fun of him and Pikachu. It’s a little unsettling. He calls Pikachu essentially useless.
Even Brock doubts Ash’s ability to beat Lt. Surge and Raichu but Pikachu is ready. It’s ready to prove itself.
The Gym lights turn on and the two trainers face each other. It’s a one-on-one battle with no substitutions.
As a side note, this was one of the big differences between Pokemon Yellow and the original Red and Blue. Pokemon Yellow’s Lt. Surge featured one very strong Raichu while Red and Blue’s Lt. Surge had several Pokemon at his disposal.
A bell rings and the battle starts. Pikachu fires off a Thundershock at Raichu but the attack doesn’t phase the Pokemon one bit. Lt. Surge calls for Raichu to return with the same attack. It hits Pikachu, hard. And that’s it. Pikachu falls over and it looks like it fainted.
Ash calls Pikachu back but it refuses. It shakes off the attack, comes back to its senses, and tries to attack Raichu again.
Raichu uses Thunder Punch.
And follows up with a Mega Kick.
While the battle is going on, Team Rocket peers in through the windows and realizes that they should try to steal Raichu instead of Pikachu because it’s way stronger.
Raichu fires off another electric attack.
Pikachu wakes up to Ash starring at it at the Pokemon Center. Pikachu is angry and devastated at the utter loss. Ash wants to try again but his friends point out that Pikachu was trying its hardest and there isn’t anything else he can do. It’s time to give up.
Nurse Joy overhears them and tells Ash about the Thunderstone which she has in possession. The Thunderstone can evolve Pikachu into a Raichu and give Ash the edge he needs to win. But it’s a one way road (unlike Mega Evolution!).
Ash, however, feels that if he forces Pikachu to evolve, he’d be doing the same exact thing Surge did, evolving its Pokemon for the sake of power only without consulting the little creature. And so he gives his Pokemon a choice.
Ash doesn’t want to force Pikachu to evolve but he does want to win. Pikachu gets up, looks at the stone, and knocks it out of Ash’s hand.
It goes on a quick rant and Meowth (who, with Team Rocket, were looking through the window again), tells Jessie and James that Pikachu wants to beat Raichu just as it is. James and Meowth burst out in tears. It’s great that Ash accepts Pikachu for who it is and that Pikachu can face defeat, get back up, and keep going without losing its own identity to the fight.
Ash promises Pikachu that they will beat the Gym Leader. They’ll find a way to win! Pikachu gets pumped but passes out as soon as it jumps up. It’s too tired.
Brock has a theory on how they can beat Raichu based on the fact that Raichu evolved as soon as Surge got it, missing some very important development years.
Ash and Pikachu walk out of the Pokemon Center looking very determined. They make their way through the city when they run into Team Rock– errr… “Challenger Cheerleaders”.
They want to offer Pikachu a cheer for the good job it did in its last battle. They promptly run off and Misty calls after them “Bye, Team Rocket!”.
Ash makes his way to the Gym and challenges Lt. Surge again who teases Ash about not evolving Pikachu.
The battle starts with Misty and Brock off to the side and Team Rocket watching through the windows intently.
Ash cryptically calls out to Pikachu to follow their new strategy and the two electric mice meet.
Raichu knocks Pikachu down and jumps on it while hitting it with its tail. Raichu goes for a body slam and hits Pikachu squarely in the back. Lt. Surge calls for another Body Slam and Pikachu jumps straight out of the way.
It uses Agility and Raichu uselessly tries to Body Slam it as Pikachu keeps dodging. Brock explains that Raichu evolves too fast to learn the speed attacks that Pikachu can learn.
Pikachu uses Agility again running circles around Raichu until its head spins.
Lt. Surge tells Raichu to strike with a Thunderbolt. An attack devastating enough to break all the lights and windows in the arena as well as making a mess of the battle field.
The tail worked as a ground to the electricity. Team Rockets crack a few puns and we get back to the battle.
Lt. Surge tells Raichu to fire off another Thunderbolt but it can’t do it. It ran out of electricity!
Pikachu uses Quick Attack and before Raichu can counter with Take Down, Pikachu knocks it out!
Lt. Surge congratulates Ash and we get to finally see just how huge Lt. Surge is:
I looked it up and the average ten-year old boy is about four and a half feet tall (or around 140cm). Lt Surge looks to be at least double the height! That means he’s nine feet tall (280cm). Upon further researching this topic, I found out that the tallest man in the world measured just shy of those nine feet!
He awards Ash with a Thunder Badge and commends Lt. Surge for his accomplishment. The entire group claps for him, even Raichu claps for Pikachu!
Our hero thanks Pikachu and the story ends with Team Rocket walking out of the city toward the sunset. They quickly break the fourth wall by telling us that they wasted the episode on cheering the good guys!
And that’s it! Like I said, I’m a big fan of this episode. It meant that against all odds, you can still stay who you are and win. You don’t have to change, you don’t have to become someone else just to beat the other guy. And now, 19 seasons later, Pikachu is still Pikachu. Sure, it may be skinnier, it might have a difference voice, and be just a tad yellower, but it’s still the same Pikachu.
Next episode, we get to sail away on St. Anne and encounter our handful of adventures there.