To celebrate the Pokemon anime's 20th anniversary, we're recapping an episode of the series every Saturday!
Episode Title: Here Comes the Squirtle Squad
Original Air Date: June 17, 1997 (Japan); September 23, 1998 (US)
Episode Synopsis: Ash, Misty, and Brock fall into a pit trap dug not by Team Rocket, but the Squirtle Squad, a group of rambunctious Squirtle abandoned by their trainers. Pikachu scares the Pokemon gang off after zapping one of the Squirtles with a Thundershock attack.
The Squirtle Squad later enter into an unholy alliance with Team Rocket, who they believe is run by Meowth. The two teams ambush Ash and his friends as they rest by a river, and Pikachu is injured when he's tossed into the river and stuck by a Horn Attack by a passing Goldeen.
Meowth and the Squirtle Squad take Ash and his friends captive, although they do agree to let Ash head into town for a Super Potion to treat Pikachu's injuries. If Ash doesn't return by noon the next day, the Squirtle threaten to dye Misty's head purple.
After several close calls, Ash makes it into town but gets knocked out when Gary opens a door in his face. He wakes up just in time to see Team Rocket rob the store. Ash can't stop the robbery, but he does get the Super Potion and an escort back to the Squirtle Squad's hideout from the town's Officer Jenny.
Ash arrives to the cave and finds out that the Squirtle Squad was just bluffing - they didn't want to actually hurt Ash's friends. Team Rocket shows up and betrays the Squirtle Squad, tossing bombs at them while Meowth makes off with Pikachu. Ash rescues the Squirtle Squad's leader when it gets stuck on its shell, although they're both caught in a bomb blast. Instead of abandoning Ash, the Squirtle picks Ash up and returns him to the cave.
Moments later, Ash and the Squirtle team up to puncture Team Rocket's balloon and rescue Pikachu. The Squirtle Squad then puts out a forest fire caused by Team Rocket's bombs.
Afterwards, Officer Jenny names the Squirtle Squad the new firefighters for their town. Ash and his friends leave but they're joined by the Squirtle Squad's leader, who has taken a shine to Ash.
Ash's Episodic Moment of Idiocy: Ash is once again pretty well-behaved this episode. He does get knocked out when Gary opens a door in his face, but traumatic head injuries are pretty scary.
Characters Introduced: Ash's Squirtle, the Squirtle Squad
Ash completes the trifecta by capturing his third Starter Pokemon in consecutive episodes. Like Bulbasaur and Charmander, Squirtle joined Ash after he proved his character in a life-threatening situation. Ash might not be very good at catching Pokemon, but he's pretty good at convincing them to join him voluntarily.
The Squirtle Squad is one of the more popular groups in Pokemon lore, and made several additional appearances in the anime. Ash's Squirtle eventually rejoins the Squirtle Squad as their leader, although he still returns to Ash to help him out for the occasional big battle.
One other odd part about the episode is that Ash gets confronted by several townspeople with guns when he tries to buy a Super Potion. A later episode of the anime (which showed Ash catching his herd of Tauros) was banned in the US because it prominently featured guns.
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