Diglett Dig, Diglett Dig, Diglett Dig! You're welcome for the earworm!
I shouldn't be surprised anymore that there's a lot I've forgotten about these episodes as much as I remember them. Of course I would remember the Diglett and Dugtrio and evolution of Team Rocket's Pokémon like I would forget the environmental message and how the one-shot construction worker (which Bulbapedia lists him as “the foreman”, but I'll call him the superintendent) was having a mental breakdown. No amount of digging (ha) into my memory archives would've pulled that up from my childhood.
So several months has gone by since the first episode. That's good to know if the show was ever consistent with its own timeline. I typically think back to Kanto as being the region where Ash and gang got lost often despite being natives to the region. The region is big, of course, but you would think Brock would have a good, up-to-date atlas to prevent them from getting lost. That's not a map, that's a plant cell under a 2000x lens microscope.
The hills have eyes. And green eggs without the ham.
Enough nitpicking about detailed maps, how about nitpicking about James' English ambiguity? What, the whole “tea and crumpets” doesn't drive it home? Don't worry, he'll be saying “bloody” in D/P, because campy people are secretly British, or British-wannabes. Though I'm honestly surprised 4KIDS never went that extra mile to give him a (fake) British accent. Really, if they had constantly hidden Japanese culture in the dub, then they could have made James British complete with the accent. I'm just saying.
Worth noting is this episode is Nathan Price's last role as Meowth before Maddie Blaustein replaced him—why he was replaced, I don't know. There's probably a reason for it, but I found no explanation, not that it matters in the end. For someone who played a character for about thirty episodes, he didn't do a bad job. It took a bit for him to get into the character, but when he did, he was undeniably Meowth. Meowth at the time was a rather slimy, manipulative but cunning character in the beginning, and he pulled it off. Maddie would give her own spin to him (especially when it came to his big mouth), and thus became the more recognizable, and beloved, voice Meowth has ever had, pushing aside Nathan Price's performance into near-obscurity. For what we got, Mr. Price, you did good. If you hadn't left the series, you might've stuck around and took up voicing him again because dear God Carter Cathcart can't do it justice.
Since we're still (kind of) on the subject of Team Rocket, they had a decent amount of screentime this episode, and they weren't being villainous. In all fairness, they looked and acted like they were wanting to take a break from villainy and just be themselves—or at least Jessie and James were. There was talk to go swipe the Pokémon from the crowd, but they never did it. Instead, they resorted to evolving their Pokémon. How, exactly? With this “Principle of Induced Evolution” tactic that was “Plan B”. And how does this work? Who knows. Apparently they had a guidebook of some sorts, or they came up with it on their own. When they did come up with it? Probably on the spot, knowing them.
Luckily for them, James' boot was “Plan Z”.
Ekans and Koffing's evolutions honestly has to be the highlight of the episode for me because of how simultaneously they evolved, and the circumstance involved. It's not known on which birthday and Christmas the two got them, but they've had their Pokémon for a while now. They may not have succeeded in gaining “experience points” often, so it's presumed that it was the power of love that got them to evolve in the end. They may be the bad guys, but Jessie and James love their Pokémon. It's just sad that after they set up the introductions to their newly-evolved Arbok and Weezing that they still lost... to Diglett and Dugtrio. Ash barely lifted a finger and they were defeated. Had to have been a first this point in the series.
But this episode was not about Team Rocket. This was about the Diglett and how they drove the superintendent to madness. That is the episode in a nutshell. Sure, I suppose there's the whole issue of Ash putting himself down because Gary-mother-freaking-Oak had shown up to taunt him about how much of a loser he is, and then he tried to stroke his ego by unsuccessfully showing off his skills because all of the Pokémon sided with the Diglett, but he shrugged it off and he and his cheerleading harem leave with a last-minute “Buckle up!” and a snap of the fingers like a boss. But it was all about the Diglett hilariously driving a man to the brink of an aneurysm because the construction was going to make a dam that would've flooded much of the forest that the Diglett and Dugtrio have built up over the years. Because though they're the moles of the Pokémon world (and just as adorable), they can rebuild a forest overnight through teamwork. And since Pokémon can't speak the language and tell humans to knock it off, they had to resort to using rock slides, potholes, and the like to slow down construction to teach a lesson about the environment even though they could've killed or injured someone in the process.
Conservationism: because nature will be a bitch to you, otherwise.
So overall, it's a decent, but cute episode, almost fillerish despite not being a filler. I honestly don't think Gary was really needed at all since all he contributed to the episode was him putting down Ash that went nowhere in the end because I guess Ash forgot about it or he moped it out of his system or something, and it doesn't come up again until probably the next time Gary comes back onscreen. That damned Diglett chant stays with you forever, however, even though over time the rhythm of it gets botched the more it loops. Unless that's just me.
And wait, Diglett can pull their heads underground at the speed of light? Now you're just messing with us, anime.