As Ash enters the Hearthome Gym for his Gym Challenge, he collides with a blond Trainer in a hurry! The Trainer races off down the street, leaving his badge case behind. Then Fantina emerges from the Gym and explains that she's been battling all day—the blond Trainer was her latest (unsuccessful) challenger, and her Pokémon need a break. Ash's battle will have to wait until tomorrow, so he heads to the Pokémon Center and runs into the mystery Trainer yet again.
The Trainer's name is Barry and Paul is his personal idol. With taste like that, he rubs Ash and his friends the wrong way—then challenges Ash to a battle, too. But Barry left his Poké Balls in storage at a very suspicious-looking stand in the middle of town. Fantina stops by on her way to the store, and she even thinks there's something odd about this new Pokémon storage. Sure enough, it's all a Team Rocket scam! But between Fantina, Barry, and our heroes, Team Rocket doesn't stand a chance. When James hears Barry and his Empoleon even beat Gardenia, he's happy to hear that Gardenia taught Drain Punch to his Cacnea. The news makes blasting off much more bearable!
With Team Rocket out of the picture, Barry and Ash can finally battle. Like Paul, Barry believes that finding strong Pokémon is the key to victory—he's not interested in bonding with his Pokémon. The true test will be his 3-on-3 battle with Ash, however. First up, Barry's Staraptor vs. Ash's Chimchar. Chimchar uses Dig to dodge Staraptor's attacks, then knocks it out. Barry's Roserade defeats Chimchar, but Gliscor goes hand-to-hand with Roserade for a double knock-out! Now Pikachu takes on Empoleon, and the bond between Ash and Pikachu helps them come back from behind to beat Empoleon with Electric-type attacks. Barry isn't impressed, but he's willing to stick around and see Ash's Gym challenge tomorrow—which means Ash can't afford to lose against Fantina!