After losing a tough battle against Paul, Ash and his Pokémon are recovering at the Pokémon Center near Lake Acuity. Ash’s Pokémon are on the road to recovery, but Ash is still brooding over his loss. Team Rocket thinks this could be the perfect time to steal Ash’s Pikachu: why not kick a Trainer while he’s down? Ash’s friends, on the other hand, are doing their best to help out. Dawn and Piplup are planning to cheer Ash up and Brock is out by the lake, looking for Cheri Battles to help heal Ash’s Monferno. While Brock searches for berries, he sees a strange being hover over the water and then vanish.
Back at the Pokémon Center, Nurse Joy thinks the strange being was the Legendary Uxie. That makes the third mysterious lake Pokémon that Ash and his friends have spotted! And now, after a Pokémon pep talk, Ash seems cheerful again—but Dawn thinks he’s just putting on a brave front. So it’s time for Dawn’s Pokémon Circus, a show where Dawn’s Pokémon clown around and make funny faces. Sure enough, Ash starts laughing at their antics, but all laughter stops once Team Rocket takes over the stage.
After Team Rocket calls Ash a loser, they grab his Pikachu and run. Ash and his team work together to chase them down—when Seviper uses Haze, Buizel clears the smoke, then Grotle and Staraptor knock out Yanmega and Carnivine. To finish it off, Monferno uses Mach Punch to knock Team Rocket down so Pikachu can escape. As Team Rocket argues over whose bad idea this was, Ash and his team act as one to blast the three thieves into the sky. Ash is finally feeling back to his old self, and even Dawn has something to look forward to: her next Contest in Lilypad Town!