Man… I don’t know. This was definitely one of the weakest episodes, so far.
Whenever I’m watching two or three series at once for W&L, the grouping invariably leads to some interesting and unexpected points of contrast. There is probably nothing else connecting MICHIKO AND HATCHIN to DBZ for a worthwhile comparison, of course: but seeing how this felt like a filler episode (even though it isn’t based on a manga, as far I know) after I just watched a pretty entertaining actual filler episode of DBZ, I feel compelled to make a point about a pacing.
I think the rub with the episodic nature of this series is that it’s built on a sort-of looser lingering question. Our titular duo is on the run each episode, and the only thing they’re running toward is the rather vague goal of finding Hanna’s pops. DBZ’s Seiyan arc, by contrast, has the very dire and defined threat of Vegeta’s arrival looming over everything. As such, even an episode going on the tangent of, say, playing out a baseball game still has an undercurrent of anticipation bubbling beneath it. The clock is still ticking and, thus, digressions can actually build greater tension because you, the viewer, know that the characters should be paying attention to the real problem instead.
I think the notion of Atsuko having to slum it in what seems like pseudo-Brazil’s equivalent of a Siberian KGB office is actually fairly sharp. She’s gone from an intense federal manhunt to a low-stakes tourist supervision essentially. The introduction of the thief girl adds another poignant double into the cast, and it organically prompts some flashbacks that better fill out Michiko’s back-story with this lady. However…
…maybe this plot with the golden pot just wasn’t as clever as it could’ve been?
Atsuko gets back on the case by the end of the episode, so we’re already back to our A-plot. So perhaps it’s not about pacing - - it's just as simple as this caper not being as well-devised?