While still a memorable episode, I didn't remember much of this until I watched it for the first in a long time last night. The only reason I probably still remember it is because of Caterpie, but I do like the episode. The iconic method of the Pokémon series is shown here with Pokémon being captured, and the battles with the newly-captured Pokémon, no matter how brief. Ash, being a beginning trainer, doesn't have his type match-ups down here, which is fine, trainers have to grow and learn. After nearly losing Caterpie to Pidgeotto, Misty had every right to be mad at him for being careless (I heard the sound-effect of a slap, so I figured 4KIDS cut something out in this episode), though because she's one to care for Pokémon, it was to be expected. I guess she was supposed to be the mentor to Ash before Brock came around, but she's a harsh teacher xD.
Caterpie is very adorable, he is the perfect addition to Ash's team at this point. It's possible it's also a bit of a metaphor for Ash's own growth throughout the series, though Caterpie grows pretty quickly, so maybe it's more towards the metamorphosis symbolism than anything. Or I'm just looking into it too hard. Either way, he and Ash become close very fast, yet Caterpie's more attracted to Misty for some apparent reason. It was never explained why he came to like her as fast as he did, but it was for some good laughs of her freaking out. For someone who would slap Ash at the drop of a hat for being reckless, to watch her drop her hot-tempered personality for a more "girly" side is a nice balance to her character. Also makes way for a running gag, which is always a plus. In the meantime, Caterpie's evolution is probably the most realistic evolution is in the series, in my opinion. (It's also reminiscent of the Mothra larava enveloping itself in a cocoon, but eh, it probably was.) It was just amazing to watch Caterpie spray silk up into the air and let it fall on it.
Pikachu really only does one big thing in this episode, and that is paralyzing Pidgeotto for Ash. (Speaking of the bird, when he slapped the PokéBall away, that made me snicker. Even as a wild Pokémon, he had a personality of sorts.) Sure, Pikachu interacts with Caterpie, but that scene was really odd. The body language was repetitive, and it wasn't easily made clear what they were talking about until Caterpie's close up of his eye and the Butterfree flying against the moon. So whatever they were talking about we had to use our imaginations when they could've easily used subtitles like in "Island of the Giant Pokémon", but it might not've crossed their minds. Unless the scene was shorter in the original Japanese, I don't know. Still, that's all Pikachu does until he gets put out of commission by a Sludge attack to the eyes (which is another good example of how Pokémon battles are rather logical in the anime, at least at first).
Team Rocket are the same as they were in the previous episode, except now they really want Pikachu, and are willing to go to any measures to do it. (They're also bad at keeping secrets and beating each other up for it.) For now, we got a "double battle" that was "unheard of" at the time, and Pidgeotto is slaughtered by Koffing and Ekans. The battle was cool to begin with, and then he gets ganged up on. Then Ash runs to Team Rocket head-on to try and beat them up (and this was before he ran to punch Mewtwo). After reluctantly sending out Caterpie, the way String Shot is used is great, even if it ended up with silly moments. Too bad we can't get that creative with String Shot in the actual games, but in the anime anything goes. It's a type of strategy that shows off a bit of Ash's occasional cleverness with battles. Even Misty herself is impressed by it, which is when she starts to warm up to him. Not by much, but it's something.
So Team Rocket flee, Misty can't bring herself to become friends with Caterpie as soon as it evolves, and cue foreshadowing with a Beedrill flying across the screen and Ash running after it.
Better than last episode for sure, if only because we're back into the journey, and we do see Ash doing things that Pokémon trainers do. Ash hasn't exactly grown as a character in this episode, but he's very slowly learning, and that's rather realistic in my opinion. I really do love it when shows take their time with pacing and characters, and since Ash is likeable in these episodes, when he does something right, it feels really good.
The journey continues.