To celebrate the Pokemon anime's 20th anniversary, we're recapping an episode of the series every Saturday!
Episode Title: The Water Flowers of Cerulean City
Original Air Date: May 6, 1997 (Japan); September 16, 1998 (US)
Episode Synopsis: Misty tries to convince Ash and Brock not to go to Cerulean City, but Ash is undeterred from his quest of catching up with Gary and earning more Gym Badges. Misty disappears shortly before Ash enters town, and Ash and Brock are quickly confronted by Officer Jenny, who is investigating the robbery of a machine stop. After Ash and Brock provide alibis (and Brock makes a pass at Officer Jenny), Ash heads to the Cerulean City gym to face its leader.
However, Ash discovers that the gym is being used for a water show for the Sensational Sisters, a trio of expert swimmers. The girls are the gym leaders of Cerulean City, but they seem to be more interested in performing than fulfilling their gym duties. They offer to give Ash a Cascade Badge without a battle, but Misty shows up and declares that she'll battle Ash instead. It turns out that Misty is also a Cerulean Gym Leader and the younger sister of the Sensational Sisters - although she doesn't have the best relationship with her sisters.
Ash agrees to a 2v2 battle with Misty, although Pikachu refuses to battle because he doesn't want to hurt his friends. With Pikachu sidelined, Ash uses his Butterfree against Staryu. Staryu knocks Butterfree into the water, causing Ash to recall him, and sends out Pidgeotto instead. Misty counters with her Starmie, but Starmie gets knocked into a wall by Pidgeotto's Gust attack.
Just as Ash is about to claim his first victory, Team Rocket arrives with a giant vacuum (which they stole from the machine shop earlier). The vacuum sucks up the Cerulean gym's Pokemon, as well as Pikachu. However, once trapped inside, Pikachu unleashes a Thunderbolt that causes the machine to explode and sends Team Rocket flying.
In the aftermath, Misty's oldest sister gives Ash a Cascade Badge over Misty's objection, as she points out that had Ash used his Pikachu, the battle would have been much shorter and more decisive. Misty also patches things up with her sisters and heads off with Ash to continue his Pokemon journey.
Ash's Episodic Moment of Idiocy: Ash doesn't use Pikachu in his battle inside the Water Gym. Sure, he's respecting Pikachu's feelings, but c'mon.
Characters Introduced: Misty's sisters Lily, Daisy, and Violet, Misty's Starmie,
Locations: Cerulean City
Ash wins his second Gym Badge, this time against his friend Misty. Ash and Misty had a complicated relationship from the start of the anime, and this episode is a pretty early highlight of just how complex it is. At this point, Misty clearly has taken a rub to Ash, but she definitely wants to be seen as the superior battler. This marks the first of several battles between Ash and Misty - most of which Ash wins despite his relative inexperience.
Probably the weirdest part of the episode is how Brock disappears for most of the episode. Brock parts ways with Ash before he enters the Cerulean Gym and doesn't reappear until Ash and Misty's battle is over and they're ready to depart the city. Brock cited he had "things to do," but many fans think he just wanted Ash and Misty's rivalry to play out without interference. After all, Brock clearly knew that Misty's sisters were in charge of the gym, even thouh he didn't say anything out of "respect."
Besides Ash earning his second gym, this episode also marks a very important milestone: Brock hits on a woman for the first time. This will eventually become one of Brock's defining characteristics in the series, although he's not nearly as obnoxious with his advances as later in the series.