The day before the Wallace Cup, Zoey shows up at Lake Valor for the competition. She says hi to Dawn and meets May for the first time; while she's there, she also admits to Ash that Coordinators can still learn from regular Trainers, too. Not far away, Jessie is shocked to learn that she won the Solaceon Ribbon all by herself, without the use of any secret plans or cheats. Then it's on to the Wallace Cup and a dramatic entrance from Wallace himself—he'll even be one of the judges in the appeals performance round!
May and her Wartortle take the stage first and put on a great performance. In contrast, Jessie and Wobbuffet's appeals round performance doesn't actually seem to have much appeal for the judges. Then Zoey's new Finneon makes its dazzling Contest debut, which ratchets up the pressure on Dawn. It doesn't help Dawn's nerves when Ash and Buizel have a terrific performance, either; afraid of failing again, she's almost ready to quit before she starts.
Piplup responds to Dawn's anxiety with a well-timed attack that snaps Dawn back into reality. She tries to relax as she heads onstage with Ambipom, and indeed, Ambipom puts on a performance that showcases its best qualities without relying on too much flash. With the first round over, it's up to the judges to decide which Coordinators are moving on the second round. Jessie is in for a disappointment, but Dawn is relieved to know she'll be battling in the second round along with Ash, Zoey, and May!
With a day before the Wallace Cup, the group venture in Valor Lakefront to take in the excitement. Brock starts flirting with a female vendor when Croagunk jabs him. May laughs at the sight, noting Croagunk has taken over Max's job. Dawn, however, is really nervous now about the competition and her appetite is being affected. Ash finally registers for the Wallace Cup when Zoey appears. Zoey is surprised to see Ash entering the Wallace Cup and is further surprised when she learns that Wallace himself recommended it to him, though she quickly relents, as she's come to realize that she needs to learn from both Contests and regular battles if she expects to be Top Coordinator. The rest of the group show up and Dawn introduces May to Zoey. Meanwhile, Jessie, dressed as Jessilina, is also entering, still thinking that James and Meowth helped her win the Solaceon Town Pokémon Contest. James quickly denies having helped her with the Contest, leaving Jessie speechless about having won the Solaceon Ribbon all by herself.
The day of the Wallace Cup arrives, and Marian welcomes the crowd and Contest hopefuls. While May is all ready, Dawn is struggling with her hair again. May fixes it up, and Zoey says Dawn was like this during her debut, meaning she is extra nervous. Dawn admits that she worries about whether she can still do a good job or not but receives encouragement from her friends. Soon, Marian welcomes Contest Master Wallace to the stage, and he makes his appearance in an impressive way along with his Milotic. Marian informs the audience he will be a special judge and proceeds to present the other judges: Raoul Contesta from the Pokémon Activities Committee, Mr. Sukizo from the Pokémon Fan Club, and Nurse Joy from the Lake Valor Pokémon Center. She explains that the winning Coordinator will receive the Aqua Ribbon, a special Ribbon that is valid to use in any region.
May opens the Performance Stage, presenting her Wartortle to the crowd with a Pink Foamy Seal. Her family are watching from the Petalburg Gym while rivals Drew, Solidad, and Harley also following May on TV from Ecruteak City. May has Wartortle skip across the water field with a Rapid Spin before finishing up with a dazzling Aqua Tail that spreads throughout the entire stadium. The judges, especially Wallace, applaud May's performance and shower Wartortle with praise. Later, Jessilina takes to the stage with Wobbuffet, who trips over after he emerges from his Poké Ball, though the audience laughs as they believe it was intentional. Jessie runs right at Wobbuffet and is propelled into the air by his Counter. She lands atop Wobbuffet’s head; however, the unique performance leaves the crowd and the judges equally silent. Zoey's turn comes up revealing she has obtained a Finneon. It leaps out of the water for a Silver Wind that reaches across the entire pool. Finneon follows up with a Safeguard to showcase its luminescent scales and swims up its own Waterfall attack for a spectacular finish.
Ash's act with Buizel starts off by punching the Ele-Seal effect before transitioning into a speedy Aqua Jet. Buizel uses its inflatable collar to make an abrupt stop and then leaps from the pool using Sonic Boom. Ash finishes things off with a Water Gun aimed at the water field, kicking up a huge splash of water for a dazzling display. The display of power combined with an exceptional appeal goes over well with the judges. However Paul catches the appeal on TV and is unimpressed to see Ash has entered a Pokémon Contest.
By now, Dawn is extremely nervous that she will embarrass herself, and gets rather uptight. Piplup knows she can do it though and wakes her up with a blast of Bubble Beam. After a small stumble, she sends out Ambipom in a flurry of pink hearts and showcases her magnificent tails with a twirling Double Hit. Backstage, Zoey compliments Dawn's return to a natural and simplistic appeal, while May is inspired to see how well Ambipom is working with Dawn post-trade and evolution. Dawn has Ambipom aim Swift and Focus Punch attacks at the water field for a fountain effect. The judges commend Dawn’s performance for its excellent timing and display of cuteness. Wallace adds praise for the appeal's combination of exceptional power and technique.
Backstage, Dawn rejoins her friends who all shower her with applause. However, even though the appeal went well, Dawn is still nervous about the results, knowing that she felt confident before only to be disappointed. May reminds Dawn to have faith in herself. Everyone's attention is caught by Marian, who has the results of the first round's evaluation. Ash, May, Zoey and Dawn have all advanced to the Top 16 and the Battle Stage. Jessilina, however, is crushed as her Wallace Cup chances are quashed. Dawn is thrilled by the result, and with a renewed confidence she hopes to win the entire competition.