The Grass Route (ポポッコ！くさポケモンバトル！！ Skiploom! Grass Pokémon Battle!!) is the 21st episode of Pokémon: Johto League Champions.
With Ecruteak City drawing closer, Ash and co. decide to take a break. They notice a Skiploom that belongs to a young boy named Ephraim. He says that most people who head to Ecruteak pass through this grass route. Ephraim wants to have a Pokémon battle with Ash to see how strong he's gotten. The result, Ephraim lost. Later, they hear about a local tournament for Grass-type Pokémon where the winner gets a supply of Leaf Stones. Who will win the tournament?
Brock reads in his guidebook and reveals that Ecruteak City is beyond the mountain. The heroes encounter some Grass Pokémon, with one of them being a Skiploom. The heroes see it belongs to a trainer, Ephraim, who is excited they'll soon compete in the Gym. They ask him is it his and are told it is his first Pokémon. Ephraim knows they are headed for Ecruteak City to compete in the Gym. Ash shows his three badges, making Ephraim admiring him for being a great trainer, though Ash is modest about that phrase. Ephraim asks if he has a Grass Pokémon and Ash remembers he has Chikorita and Bulbasaur, as Ephraim challenges him to a battle. Ash sends Chikorita to battle Skiploom.
Skippy, Ephraim's Skiploom goes to Tackle, but gets reflected, as it is too little. Ash reminds Ephraim warning him, though Brock warns Ash not to get overconfident. Skippy uses Double Team. Chikorita uses Razor Leaf to banish some illusions, then hit the real Skiploom. Skiploom uses Leech Seed, but Chikorita counters using Vine Whip and defeats Skiploom via Tackle. Ash won, but apologizes to Skippy, seeing it wounded a bit. Ephraim knows it will be okay, but takes it home to give it rest. Ephraim's parents think their son has learned a lot from the battle with an elite trainer, as Skippy is exhausted. They invite them to stay for the night, to which the heroes agree. Ash, Brock and Misty see magnificent flowers and are told the Grass Pokémon helped them tend them. Ephraim explains despite their gentle nature, Grass Pokémon can be tough battlers. His father tells he is going for the Grass Tournament to compete, which is why he challenged Ash to a battle. Ash, having in mind that he won the Orange League, decides to compete in this tournament.
Team Rocket have hamburgers for lunch. However, James gets his hamburgers eaten by Jessie, Meowth and even Wobbuffet. A paper hits his face and reads there is going to be a Grass Tournament tomorrow. The winner gets a trophy and a Leaf Stone, allowing a Grass Pokémon to evolve, so they plan on entering it. James sends Victreebel to train with, but he gets gnawed upon. Meowth wishes they had another Grass Pokémon, but Jessie laughs and declares she will be entering too and looks upon Meowth with a malicious face, causing him to feel he is in trouble. Skippy uses Double Team and Ephraim encourages it to use at a faster pace. Once satisfied, Ephraim tells it to take a break. He thinks they are like flowers - they come as seeds and bloom. The heroes are amazed by his training, as he wants Skippy to battle bigger opponents. Misty asks Ash when will he train his Bulbasaur, but Ash thinks this Tournament is going to be a breeze and walks away, causing Misty and Brock to see he has a lot of confidence.
The Tournament starts, as Ash, Ephraim and Team Rocket (who have also Meowth dressed as a Sunflora) in it. Ephraim wishes Ash luck, who thinks he does not need it. At the stadium, Ash faces an opponent with a Gloom. Gloom starts with Petal Dance, but gets binded by Vine Whip and thrown away, causing it to be defeated. Ephraim faces James (who is named as Mr. Semaj). Victreebel starts with Razor Leaf, causing Skippy to dodge it. Victreebel binds Skippy with Vine Whip and tosses it in the air. Victreebel goes to Tackle, but gets binded by Skippy's Leech Seed. It is surrounded by Skippy's illusions via Double Team and faints, causing Ephraim to win the battle. Ephraim's parents brag they are proud, causing Ephraim to be embarrassed a bit. Ash goes to face another opponent, who is Eissej (who is actually Jessie). Sunflora (aka Meowth) scratches Bulbasaur, causing the heroes to be suspicious of how a Sunflora can use Scratch. Meowth fakes a Scratch, causing Bulbasaur to drop its guard, as it gets kicked away. Meowth uses Fury Swipes, so Bulbasaur retaliates with Razor Leaf. Part of Meowth's costume is cut, as an ear is seen, so Bulbasaur uses Razor Leaf to cut the entire costume, so everyone sees he is an imposter. Team Rocket undisguised themselves and go after the Leaf Stones, but gets blasted off by Bulbasaur's Vine Whip.
After some battles, in the finals are Ash and Ephraim. Brock is not sure who'd win: Ash with experience or Ephraim with will. Ephraim's parents decide to vote for both trainers. Skippy and Bulbasaur begin the battle. Skippy starts with Double Team and Bulbasaur uses Razor Leaf to banish the illusions, but it and Ash see it is quite fast. Skippy uses Leech Seed, though Bulbasaur counters it with Vine Whip, causing the seed to hit Skippy. Bulbasaur uses Vine Whip, hitting Skippy. Brock tells Misty he has a feeling the match will not end as it seems. Ash advises Ephraim to forfeit, but Ephraim decides not to. Small dots of light gather on Skiploom's flower. Bulbasaur goes to Tackle, but Skippy retaliates with Solar Beam, throwing Bulbasaur away and Tackle it. Bulbasaur is defeated, so Skippy and Ephraim win the match. Ephraim admits Skippy never knew Solar Beam, so Brock clarifies during its battles, Skippy leveled up and learned Solar Beam. Ash admits he should know how to respect a victory and shakes hands with Ephraim, congratulating him on his victory. Soon, everyone sees Ephraim and Skippy with the trophy and the Leaf Stones.
- Ephraim's father was voiced by Scottie Ray, and Kayzie Rogers provided the voice for Ephraim's mother.
- Brock gives a rare mention of Pokémon levels.
- The "Who's that Pokémon?" is Girafarig.
- In Japanese reruns and on Hulu and Amazon Video, this episode is immediately followed by the first part of Mewtwo Returns.
- This is the last episode to air in Japan during the 20th century.
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