The Path to the Pokémon League (Japanese: ポケモンリーグへのみち The Road to the Pokémon League ) is the eighth episode of the Pokémon anime series, except in the United States, after Battle Aboard the St. Anne was broadcast as the first episode. The episode was first broadcast in Japan on May 20, 1997 and in the United States on September 17, 1998.
After receiving the two badges, Ash encounters an unofficial Gym led by A.J. Though A.J. manages to defeat Ash, Ash sees and disagrees with his training style. Though Ash attempts to persuade A.J. to seek a new path, Team Rocket take A.J.'s Sandshrew, though Sandshrew comes back after biting Meowth's tail. A.J., furious by this act, challenges Team Rocket to a battle, which could earn him his 100th victory...
Ash, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu are on their way to Vermilion City. Ash says that he can't wait to earn his third badge. A trainer appaers and asks Ash if he will battle him. Ash says he will. Ash's Pidgeotto defeats the trainer's Rattata. The trainer admires Ash's two badges. He says that he may be able to win at A.J.'s gym and points Ash to it. Ash races off to the gym.
At A.J.'s gym, there is a sign that says he has a record of 98 wins to 0 losses and that the gym is not an official gym. A.J. walks up and challenges Ash to a battle. A.J. snaps a whip, making Ash jump. A.J. tells Ash that he plans to start challenging gym leaders for badges after his 100th win. Ash tells him that he has won ten battles and two badges. A.J. calls the Gyms "Failure City" and "Wimpsville", making Brock and Misty very mad.
A.J. summons his Sandshrew to battle Ash. Misty reminds him that electric attacks don't work on ground types. Ash ignores her advice and sends out Pidgeotto. Brock says that a flying type would do well aganist a ground type. Sandshrew rolls up into a ball and hurls itself into the air, taking Pidgeotto out quickly.
Ash sends out his Butterfree next and tells it to use Stun Spore, but A.J. cracks his whip and Sandshrew goes underground, avoiding the attack. It then bursts out of the ground, taking Butterfree out.
Ash wants Pikachu to fight, but Pikachu grabs onto the edge of the battle field and refuses to let go. Pikachu Thunder Shocks Ash to make him let go.
Ash accuses A.J. of cheating and A.J. tells him to stop whining.
As they are leaving, Ash hears A.J. training his Pokémon and cracking his whip like mad. Ash confronts A.J. and tells him to stop hurting his Pokémon, but A.J. tells him to mind his own business. His Sandshrew is wearing a "strength intensifier" that A.J. invented. It allows Sandshrew withstand the effects of water on it. A.J. says that he is tougher on Sandshrew than his other Pokémon because it was his first Pokémon.
Ash says that a great Pokémon trainer should be friends with his Pokémon. Ash asks Brock what he thinks but Brock only wants to know what kind of food A.J. gives his Pokémon. A.J., like Brock, makes his own Pokémon food from a secret recipe.Pikachu tries to pick up one of Sandshrew's weights, but falls backward from the weight, unlike Sandshrew who did alternating curls rapidly.
Meanwhile, Team Rocket is outside A.J.'s tent, checking their equipment for their newest plan to catch Pikachu. They fight over changing their motto.
A.J.'s Pokémon are all very tired. A.J. insults Pikachu, and Ash tries to punch him, but only making them both fall into the pool. Pikachu tries on the strength intensifier, but it doesn't fit well and Pikachu rolls up into a ball. Sandshrew laughs at Pikachu and rolls up into a ball.
Team Rocket rolls into the tent in a rubber ball, ready to take Pikachu. However, they are confused on who is who, and they take Sandshrew by mistake. A.J. and everyone else realize that Sandshrew is missing and they walk over to Pikachu. A.J. releases Pikachu from the strength intensifier. Sadly, Pikachu doesn't know where Sandshrew is either. Ash thinks that Sandshrew may have ran away because he saw how much better Ash treated Pikachu. A.J. gets angry, insisting that Sandshrew would never run away because of all he and A.J. have been through together. He sends out his three Rattata, his Butterfree, and his Beedrill to look for Sandshrew.
Jessie and James argue on who should carry the bag when Sandshrew bursts out startling them all. Meowth grabs Sandshrew's tail with his teeth to prevent him from running away.
Ash tries to convince A.J.'s Pokémon to leave with him, but they ignore him. Suddenly Sandshrew burts out of the ground with a worn out Meowth still biting its tail.Watching A.J. and his Pokémon, Brock points out how much A.J. cares for them despite his brutal training methods.
Ash wakes Meowth up and gets clawed in the face. Meowth realizes that he is facing against some angry Pokémon and their trainers. He tries to figure a way out of the situation when Jessie and James show up and say their intro. Jessie tells A.J. that taking his Sandshrew was a mistake and James calls it" second-rate" really making A.J. mad. He challenges them to a battle. Jessie sends out herEkans and James sends out his Koffing. Sandshrew takes them both out and Meowth tries to bite Sandshrew's armored skin. All of Team Rocket's Pokémon give up when Sandshrew uses a Fissure attack.
This was A.J.'s 100th win and he sets out to earn badges. Like Ash, he wants to be the world greatest Pokémon master. They become rivals and agree to meet at a Pokémon League competition.
- "With two Pokémon badges pinned to his jacket, our hero Ash marches boldly along the path to, uh, the path to..." - Narrator
- "Where are we going?" " - Ash
- ""I bet you could even beat A.J." - Little boy
- "A.J.?" - Ash
- "Yeah, he lives over there. A.J. trains savage Pokémon. He built his own gym. He's never lost a single match." - Little boy
- "Until now. He hasn't come up against somebody like me." - Ash
- "Ninety-eight wins and you still don't have a badge? That's tough luck A.J. I have ten wins and I've won two Pokémon badges." - Ash
- "Did you buy those badges or steal them? Either that or you competed in some loser gyms. Where were they, Failure City or Whimpsville?" - A.J
- "What do you mean loser gyms?" - Misty
- "Hey Ash, pulverize this guy." - Brock
- "Here's a line you'll like." - Jessie
- "And what's that?" - James
- "How about choreography killed the cat?" - Jessie
- "I'm exhausted. You take the bag now." - James
- "But a real gentleman always carries the bag." - Jessie
- "Is that so? Well as you know, I'm no gentleman." - James
- "That's it I forefit the match." - Meowth surrendering closley followed by Ekans and Koffing.
- "Come Back Here!"-Jessie
- "Meowth, where are you going!?!?!?" - James
- "To write us a theme song!!!" - Meowth
- The English version of this episode mentions a real animal. Misty says that A.J. controls Sandshrew with the crack of his whip just like a Lion Tamer, but in the Japanese episode, she says that it is amazing how A.J. can control Sandshrew with the crack of his whip.
- This is the last episode where Ted Lewis voices James before the role was passed to Eric Stuart.
- When Ash brags about his victories and badges his nose grows like Pinocchio, except Ash was bragging, not lying. The nose broke off when he lost to A.J. The nose growth could have been to point out the fact that Ash really hadn't actually won his badges, but they were both given to him without him even finishing the battle.
- The little boy with the Rattata that Ash beat before facing A.J. was voiced by Lisa Ortiz.
- The Who's That Pokémon? for this episode was Sandshrew.