Pokemon Episode 31 Analysis – Dig Those Diglett!

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That sound was your heart bursting with too much cuteness.

CotD(s): The Foreman – Known only as The Foreman, he is obsessed with ridding his construction site of Diglett since they’re impeding his progress in building a huge dam.

Reappears?: No.

Pokemon: None.

Evolutions: Jessie’s Ekans evolves into Arbok.

Likewise, James’ Koffing evolves into Weezing. Sadly, nothing really changes about the two besides their physical appearance.

Plot: Ash, Misty and Brock are lost again (Shock beyond shocks) as they try to make their way to Fuchsia City to get Ash another badge. As they walk through the mountains, they hear several explosions. Upon following the sounds, they spot a road where a huge convoy of trucks are carrying supplies to a construction site on the mountain.

The convoy suddenly crashes due to a rock slide caused by some local Diglett. The construction foreman angrily explains to Ash and the others that the Diglett have been ruining his efforts to get supplies to the dam project time and time again. They’re driving him up a wall and damaging his business.

Because of the Diglett problem, he states that he has set up a bounty on Diglett and is calling upon all skilled Pokemon Trainers in the area to handle the Diglett problem. If they do, they get a free week at a fancy resort.

Ash, Misty and Brock agree to help out, but they’re not the only ones who have been sent on this mission. Gary and a slue of other Pokemon Trainers arrive at the site to also help take care of the Diglett problem.

Ash is annoyed by Gary’s presence and his typical sleights, and Gary is more than glad to take the first shot at the nuisance Diglett. However, he’s shocked when his Pokemon recall themselves back into their Pokeballs before they’re even fully released. No matter who’s being let out or what Trainer is sending it out, everyone’s Pokemon refuse to come out of their Pokeballs and merely get returned to their respective Trainers by the Diglett.

Seeing their efforts are futile, Gary decides his time is better spent returning to his Pokemon journey and takes his leave.

Later that night, as Ash, Misty and Brock are following some of the Diglett, Team Rocket considers the consequences and benefits to making Koffing and Ekans evolve. While they desperately want stronger Pokemon, they are very worried about what changing their bodies might do to their personalities.

As they hug and cry on their Pokemon, both Ekans and Koffing suddenly evolve into Arbok and Weezing.

Ash and the others are lead to a beautiful area where the Diglett are planting many trees with Dugtrio, their evolved form, plowing the ground for them. They realize that it’s likely the Diglett and Dugtrio are responsible for planting a wide range of foliage not just in these mountains, but across the world. The Pokemon realized that earlier, which is why the refused to exit their Pokeballs and fight the Diglett.

The Foreman points out that building the dam here will wipe all of the plants out and many Pokemon will be swept away in the water.

He decides to call off the project, but the group is interrupted by Team Rocket, who unveil their newly evolved Pokemon. Unfazed by their evolution, Ash starts the battle with Pikachu, Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur. Arbok and Weezing tunnel underground, but are met with the very angry group of Diglett and Dugtrio who promptly beat them up and blast them off into the dam, destroying it.

With the dam project canceled and the Diglett and Dugtrio free to beautify their mountains, Ash, Misty and Brock head off to the Fuchsia City Gym.

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– That blank map is sure helpful. According to Dogasu, this isn’t even a case of text removal, either. It’s just a really useless map.

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– Jessie: *her food bowl fell on her head* “I didn’t *num num* get a taste” You literally just took a taste as you were talking about not getting a taste.

– I will never tire of the haunting chant of the Diglett. I can’t resist those cute little guys.

– Uhm…..Gary’s fangirls think Brock is an old man?……..They’re clearly older than him. They can even drive, so they have to be at least 16 whereas Brock is slated as 15, I believe. Does Brock just look old?

– Even though I know the reasons behind it now (translation issues), Jessie randomly shouting out ‘MY NAME’S JESSIE!’ before shifting back to normal dialogue will never not be hilarious to me.

– I love that the Diglett are actually kind enough to return the Pokeballs to their respective Trainers when their releases fail.

– I find it very strange that the show kinda tricks you into thinking Ash, Misty and Brock are all naked together in that hot spring. Ash is up to his chin in water, Brock is up to his waist and they make it a point to show Misty from the back, leaning on some rocks, with no visible bathing suit. It does seem like it’s a bit of a joke when Ash stands up and reveals they’re all wearing swimsuits. Am I looking too much into this? Because that really was the vibe I was getting.

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– Meowth may brush off their evolution as being their time to evolve, but they were clearly triggered by Jessie and James’ tears.

Also, just to get this slight rant out of the way, I do have to call this whole evo bunk. I, as much as anyone else, also wanted Koffing and Ekans to evolve. It was about time that Team Rocket had something new to work with, even if it is just slightly stronger versions of the Pokemon they already had.

The way they went about it and the subsequent results, however, are unsatisfactory to say the least. Yes, Koffing and Ekans, at this point, should have enough exp to evolve, if winning doesn’t mean anything anyway. And it is sweet that the tears of Jessie and James seemingly triggered the evolution. But this doesn’t make entirely much sense.

First off, Jessie and James were crying because they realized they might not want their Pokemon to evolve. That fear of what they will be afterward was what was causing them to cry, not the failure of making them evolve.

Second, I have a hard time believing a Pokemon can evolve just because their Trainer really really wants it. If they have been refraining from evolving after reaching their proper levels and decided to let go after witnessing this, I guess that’s fine, but why would they be doing that?

I wouldn’t really be that upset about this if Arbok and Weezing got any limelight in their debut. They get defeated just as easily as they did when they were Ekans and Koffing. I’m not saying let Team Rocket win, but at least make it a substantially more difficult battle than usual.

– Dexter: “Dugtrio – the evolved form of Diglett. No specific information found.”

…..Wait, so Gary has a damn near encyclopedic knowledge base of Diglett, but even Dexter can’t think of a damn thing to say about Dugtrio, even if they’re nearly as dirt common as Diglett?….The hell?

– The Foreman: “The project’s canceled – I won’t build the dam” You’re just the construction foreman. I’m pretty sure the city or some private backer is the person who is really making this project happen. You have no authority to call it off. Even if you did just leave with your crew, the actual people calling for the building of the dam would just hire another crew.

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– Ash: “Aw, we can handle this, right, Pikachu? Charmander, Squirtle, Bulbasaur! Everyone, go!” Everyone, eh? Sure that’s….EVERYone?….ALL of your Pokemon…..There’s not like…..a bird or something you’d like to call out? Begins with a P…rhymes with ‘Smidgeotto’? Not ringing any bells? I can beat you in the head with a baseball bat until you remember, if that’ll help.

By the way, I’m completely convinced that these three were just let out to create the illusion that this battle is tougher. This is reflected when Ash doesn’t even call on them to do anything. He just relies on Messiahchu as usual.

Also, if they were really even trying to give this battle even a slight illusion of weight, they shouldn’t have started it with Ash basically rolling his eyes and brushing off Team Rocket like they were pointless obstacles. He doesn’t even give a quick “Whoa, what are they!?” at Weezing and Arbok. He doesn’t give the smallest of shits. He doesn’t even give them a quick scan with Dexter. They unveil their new forms and he just acts annoyed that he has to battle them again.

What makes this battle even more annoying and almost insulting to both Arbok and Weezing and the audience is that Arbok and Weezing, in their grand debut, aren’t even beaten by Ash. They dive underground and get beaten up OFF-SCREEN by the Diglett and Dugtrio. The only thing they do beforehand are a Smokescreen where the effects aren’t even shown or felt and Arbok dodging one attack by Pikachu. That. Is. It. That. Is. All.

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God Bless Team Rocket for actually giving their Pokemon their proper celebratory entrance, though.

– How the hell is it possible that a sign that says ‘Construction of Giva Dam – Canceled’ falls on James’ head as a result of plowing through the dam if the foreman canceled it mere minutes before Team Rocket showed up and crashed into the dam?

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All in all, I like half of this episode. Each plot element seemed to be half good and half bad.

I like that Gary made another appearance and, despite the fact that he was taking many potshots at Ash, I wasn’t annoyed by his taunts as much as I normally am. Maybe because he takes the time out to show a bit more of his technical knowledge with Pokemon, and maybe because I’m at a point in the show where I am also shamelessly pointing out Ash’s flaws and failures.

I mean, seriously guys, can we be honest here? None of what Gary was saying was false. He is way behind everyone else from Pallet. His capture rate is atrocious. It is in poor taste to show off your Pokemon like trophies. He really hasn’t been studying.

However, Gary’s time was, as usual, very brief and disappointing. We don’t get to see Gary battle and we don’t get to see Gary battle Ash. He mostly stood around, mocked Ash and said some smart things. Again, his appearance was just another reminder that we could be watching someone far more interesting and competent than Ash. But we’re not.

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The plotline with the Diglett was also good. I absolutely love Diglett. They are very adorable, funny and kind. I also liked how the Pokemon all refused to leave their Pokeballs to fight them even if them ALL figuring that out before they were even released isn’t very believable to me (Pokemon telepathy or something I guess?)

However, of course it amounted to another semi-environmentalist message to stop the construction, and of course this is another case of the construction foreman, for some reason, having all of the power to stop the project and having a drastic, almost out of character, change of heart. He was trying to smash them with a hammer earlier but aww they plant trees!

The biggest issue I have with this episode is obviously Ekans and Koffing evolving. This was just a terrible and almost insulting way to do it. A Pokemon’s evolution episode is supposed to be their time to shine either for the entirety of the plot or to have one kick-ass hurrah after the evolution takes place. You’re supposed to celebrate the occasion, even it is an enemy. Because, keep in mind, we know that Ekans and Koffing are good Pokemon (See: Island of the Giant Pokemon) – They just have bad people as Trainers. They deserve to have their evolutions be a big deal.

Like I said, this doesn’t have to mean letting Team Rocket win. You could have the episode focus more on their efforts on making them evolve or their reasons for wanting them to evolve. Maybe Ekans and Koffing could’ve been depressed that they keep ‘failing’ their trainers, and Jessie and James could’ve thought inducing evolution would make them feel stronger and more useful, but then they realized that they love them just as they are and their failures are just as much theirs as Ekans and Koffing’s. Maybe not shove this plot into a completely unrelated episode as a nearly glazed over subplot. Hell, even Ignoredeotto gets an episode all to himself on his evo episode.

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You could also just have more focus on the battle between them, have the reveal to Ash and co. actually have some impact and make the battle significantly more difficult than usual. They still lose, but they lose as a team and they think nothing worse of the others for it – they just keep plugging on.

But no. They evolve for unclear reasons, prompted by Jessie and James merely going, “Boy I wish our Pokemon didn’t suck. *gasp* We should try to force evolution so they don’t suck! It didn’t work. That sucks. But wait, they might be different after they evolve. I don’t want that. *cries and hugs*”

Then they get a slight hurrah in Jessie and James making a big deal out of their reveal, but it’s ruined by Ash not giving a shit and no one else reacting at all. They try to force the illusion of weight by having Ash call out (almost) all of his Pokemon for the battle, but they never even move a muscle in the battle outside of Pikachu, and their battle is horrendously short with no moves (all two of them) even hitting. Then Arbok and Weezing are beaten up off-screen by the adorable little eight-inch mole Pokemon and their slightly bigger brethren.

It’s like this whole evolution plot was a contractual obligation by the writers. ‘Dammit, we’re over 30 episodes in and Team Rocket’s still got the same Pokemon they’ve always had. They’re getting stale and boring. How can we freshen this up but not alter the status quo in the slightest? Oh if only we could just re-skin the Pokemon they have now…..Oh right, evolution! Do that. The Diglett plot for this episode isn’t strong enough for 22 minutes anyway.’

Arbok and Weezing are more than welcome, but I always hated the way they were shafted in the execution of it all.

Fun Depressing fact: For years I wracked my brain trying to figure out what episode Ekans and Koffing evolved in. I felt like I missed an episode or something. But then, years into syndication, I stumbled upon the familiar Diglett episode, gave it a re-watch and the light bulb went off. This plot is so shoved to the corner, I legit forgot about it for years.

Next episode, the Fuchsia City Gym battle for the Soul Badge.

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