We are so close! Ash is in Indigo League, he’s passed his preliminary matches, and he’s facing off against his close friend.

record scratch/freeze frame

You might be wondering how we got here. The Pokemon Catch-Up series goes through the Pokemon Fast Track Viewing list which pares down the enormous list of Pokemon episodes just to the ones that are relevant to the core story: Ash’s journey. At the beginning of his journey, Ash got his Pikachu. We’ve seen him muddle through being a Pokemon trainer and become a great trainer. He’s beaten every Kanto gym (except for the non-existent ones that Gary beat), he’s evolved several of his Pokemon, and he’s finally at Indigo League. So let’s get to it!

Today’s Episode: Season 1 (Indigo League), Episode 79: “Friend and Foe Alike”

Synopsis

We’re going to skip the recap where Ash and Ritchie find out they’re facing off one against another. It’ll be the fifth round, but more importantly, it’ll be the first round at the actual stadium rather than one of the preliminary battles. Ash is having a moment by the window, recalling how he and Ritchie became friends when Misty informs Ash that she logged onto the Pokemon League Database which has lots of information on all the trainers, including Ritchie.

It turns out Ritchie won four rounds in the league without losing one of his Pokemon. He uses only three Pokemon: Pikachu, Butterfree, and a Charmander, a similar setup to Ash’s own. Ash vows to win the match, even if it’s against a friend.

We cut to Ritchie picking up his Pokemon from the Pokemon Center when Ash walks in and they exchange greetings. Ritchie tells Ash that as good friends, they should make this the best battle possible. They say their goodbyes and Ash picks up his own Pokemon. Nurse Joy chimes in that battling a friend is great because even if you lose, you can celebrate your friend’s victory.

Meanwhile, Team Rocket is looking through a window on the roof of the Pokemon Center.

The three discuss having friends and then hint at a plan at work. Back at Ash’s cottage, Misty picks up a ringing phone. Ritchie is on the other and but he uncharacteristically insults Misty and Ash and asks for his opponent to get on the phone with him. Misty gives Ash the phone. He asks Pikachu to come out with Pikachu.

We see that it’s actually Team Rocket using a voice changer to imitate Ritchie and so, Ash is walking into a trap. Ash finally arrives at the location where a Ritchie puppet talks to him. How Ash couldn’t see it was a puppet is beyond me.

A net falls over Ash and Pikachu and Team Rocket reveals itself! They say their motto and congratulate themselves. They call Ash brainless and Meowth points out that while brainless, Ash has managed to beat them every single time. Poor Team Rocket.

The group throws Ash into the back of their truck and cut to Brock and Misty wondering where Ash went. They wonder if Ash went straight to the stadium because the match is going to start pretty soon.

Back in the truck, the entire vehicle is flooding because Ash called out Squirtle who continuously uses Water Gun.

The truck spins out of control and crashes into a tree. Ash and Pikachu crawl out the back and head for the stadium where Ritchie already entered the field. Team Rocket manages to overtake Ash and tries to stop him but Ash uses Bulbasaur with Vine Whip and Pikachu with a lightning attack of some sort. The boy runs as quickly as possible but Team Rocket catches up again, on bikes this time.

Weezing uses Smog to cover the boy and his Pokemon.

Back at the stadium, Ritchie is waiting and the announcer explains that if Ash doesn’t turn up soon, he’ll automatically forfeit. Misty runs out into the field and confronts Ritchie, literally assaulting him. She accuses Ritchie of saying something to Ash that made him not show up. The two quickly realize that Ritchie never called Misty earlier and that something fishy was going on.

On the road, Ash is once again accosted by Team Rocket, this time they use a claw to grab a bike he’s riding and lift him into the air on their balloon.

They have a little back and forth until Ash calls out Pidgeotto which Pikachu jumps on and then flies up to Team Rocket’s balloon and blasts it with an electrical attack, making Team Rocket blast off. Pidgeotto pulls the now empty balloon as hard as possible.

Meanwhile, the referee tries to inform Ritchie that he’s the default winner but Ritchie asks for them to wait longer for Ash to appear. The referee agrees to wait ten more minutes.

We see Ash slowly approaching the stadium where the referee is about to call the match when Ash calls out to everyone. He jumps down from the balloon to greet Ritchie and Pidgeotto collapses behind him.

The two agree to start the battle. Ritchie calls out his Butterfree while Ash calls out his Squirtle.

The two fight intensely until Butterfree uses Sleep Powder and puts Squirtle to sleep. Ash yells at Squirtle to wake up but it’s rendered unable to battle. Ritchie wins the first match.

Ash jumps into the field and tackles Butterfree; however, it’s already really exhausted from the fight with Team Rocket. Butterfree lifts Pikachu into the air but Pikachu shocks the Pokemon.

Ritchie calls out his Charmander who uses flame attacks trying to get Pikachu. Pikachu runs around dodging but eventually it tires out and the flame hits it. Then Charmander’s tackle throws Pikachu out of the field and the rodent collapses.

Ash contemplates who to use next, could it be? Will he call for Charizard? Yep!

Ritchie’s Charmander, Zippo tries to attack Charizard but Charizard responds with a flame attack. As Charmander runs around scared, Ritchie calls it back. It’s finally one v. one.

Before we get to the last fight, let’s recap something real quick:

  1. Ash used both Squirtle and Pikachu extensively during his Team Rocket encounter. Pikachu was visibly tired before entering the field.
  2. Pikachu dispatches Butterfree with relative ease even in this state.
  3. Ash cannot choose Pidgeotto because it collapsed from tiredness.
  4. Ritchie hasn’t lost a single Pokemon in any of the matches so far yet Ash just won against two.

Even though the odds are against Ash, he’s still relatively triumphant. Let’s see how the match ends with the boy at such disadvantage.

Ritchie calls out his own Pikachu, Sparky.

Ash warns Charizard. Charizard stomps his foot and Pikachu falls to the ground. It waves its wings and Sparky flies back to the other side of the field. This match is a no-brainer. Sparky resolves to attack back, but already, we can see it’s exhausted. Yet, when it gets back to Charizard, Charizard is laying down.

This scene gets repeated and flash-backed to almost every single time Charizard shows up (I’m exaggerating but it shows up a lot!). Charizard refuses to listen to Ash and decides to take a nap. Ash yells at Charizard but the Pokemon ignores him. He pleads with Charizard. The crowd in the stands yells out all kinds of comments.

Oak explains that Charizard doesn’t see Pikachu as a worthy adversary so it decides not to fight. And Ash loses. Yep. Ash lost.

Ritchie runs up to Ash who wipes tears from his eyes. The boy congratulates Ritchie and they shake hands.

Looks like Ash’s adventures in the Pokemon League are at an end but it’s a bittersweet moment for Ash. He’s gotten very far, his heart is on fire with the desire to become a Pokemon master.

So is this the end? Are we at the end of the season? No! There are two more episodes to tackle. One more in Indigo League where we follow Ritchie’s journey and one after, in Palette Town. I hope you look forward to it as much as I do!

Trivia

  • In the Pokemon games, various badges grant the ability to control Pokemon at a certain level. Ash owns the Earth Badge which is supposed to make all Pokemon obey him. Despite that, Charizard refuses to.
  • In the Pokemon games, a Pokemon can fall asleep and still battle. Only HP matters. However, when Squirtle fell asleep, it was deemed unable to battle.
  • Ritchie’s Charmander used Tackle, a move it cannot learn.