On their way to the Sunyshore Gym and Ash's next battle, our heroes come across their friend Barry. He shows off all eight of the Badges he's earned, which prove he's ready to compete in the Sinnoh League! Paul is on the scene, too, and he's also won eight Badges. Barry challenges Paul to a battle on the spot, but Paul refuses, suggesting Barry battle Ash instead. Barry would rather take on Paul, but when Barry discovers that Ash has previously battled Paul in a full battle, he changes his mind and challenges Ash.
Meanwhile, Team Rocket has decided to try a new approach: catch the heroes first to get them out of the way, and then catch their Pokémon. It appears to work! Pikachu, Piplup, and Barry's Empoleon are caught and held captive. But, while Barry and Ash are battling, Monferno becomes enraged, thanks to an out-of-control Blaze ability! Ash reasons with Monferno to calm it down, only to get a big surprise when it evolves into Infernape! Infernape saves Pikachu, Piplup, and Empoleon, and proves to be a powerful and quick Pokémon in its own right.
Paul tells Ash he will battle him in the upcoming Sinnoh League. But first, Ash knows he must set his sights on winning his eighth Badge at the Sunyshore Gym!