Ash's Mom and Professor Oak make a surprise visit to watch Ash battle in the Pokémon League Tournament. Professor Oak informs Ash that if he wins his next battle he'll be able to use six Pokémon in battle instead of three. He also tells Ash to remember that if he does his best but loses his matches, he's still a winner! On their way back from dinner, Ash meets another trainer who's also competing in the tournament and also has a Pikachu. Ash and Richie become fast friends especially when they have to fight the unrelenting Team Rocket that steals all of their Pokéballs, along with both of their Pikachu.
Ash and his friends are planning to have a big meal to celebrate Ash's last victory, and they meet Delia and Professor Oak outside their cabin. Delia says that she's going to cook them Ash's favorite meal and takes them all to a restaurant, where she goes to the kitchen and makes the meal herself instead of the restaurant cooks, who merely look at her in confusion. As everyone settles down to eat, Professor Oak tells Ash that the battles after the fifth round are going to be Full Battles and asks if he's already decided which Pokémon to use. Ash says that he'll wait to see who he's going to be battling first. After finishing their meal, they all head into the elevator, whereupon a boy named Ritchie asks them to hold it open. Professor Oak manages to keep the doors open long enough for him to enter. Ritchie sees Pikachu and pets him on the head. Ash warns him that Pikachu might shock him, but to his surprise, Pikachu is enjoying the experience. Suddenly, the power goes out and the elevator stops. Ritchie tells them that he can get it running again and asks Ash if he can use Pikachu for his Thunder Shock attack. Ash agrees, and Ritchie opens the elevator's control box and has Pikachu use Thunder Shock on it. The lights in the elevator turn back on and the elevator begins to run again.
Later on, Team Rocket decides to arrange a fake physical examination in order to steal some Pokémon. They cruise through the streets, using their vans loudspeaker to get everyone's attention. They claim that if Trainers do not comply with the examination, they will be disqualified from the Indigo League. Unfortunately, when Jessie attempts to stuff Pikachu into a sack, getting shocked in the process, James says Jessie's name, causing Ash and Ritchie to realize who they are. Team Rocket performs their motto, and use Weezing's Smog to escape with the looted Poké Balls and Pikachu. Ash and Ritchie chase after them, cutting through the mountains to reach the escaping van. Eventually, James is forced to swerve off the road, and Team Rocket drives into a river. Ash and Ritchie chase after them as the van floats down stream.
When nighttime falls, Ritchie suggests they camp out and Ash concedes. Over a shared meal, the pair discover they are equally passionate about Pokémon and competitive. The next morning, Ash and Ritchie follow a set of tracks and discover the van along with a sleeping Team Rocket. They creep through the camp and into the van, where they find Pikachu and the stolen Poké Balls. However, Team Rocket wakes up, finds them, traps them in the van, and drives off. However, Ash and Ritchie decide to use the hundreds of Poké Balls in the van at their disposal. Ritchie immediately identifies his Pokémon due to star-shaped stickers, but Ash sends out a Drowzee, Slowbro, and even a Magikarp before Pikachu sniffs out Bulbasaur's Poké Ball. Bulbasaur uses Tackle and Razor Leaf on the van wall, but to no avail.
Ritchie sends out his Charmander, Zippo, and orders it to slash open the van wall. The tactic is successful, and the wall breaks to reveal Team Rocket. Jessie sends out Arbok, but before Pikachu could use Thunderbolt on it, James swerves the van, causing Pikachu to lose balance and leaving it vulnerable to Arbok. Ritchie then sends out his own Pikachu, nicknamedSparky. Jessie orders an attack, while Sparky and Pikachu both counter with Agility. Arbok is overwhelmed, and both Pikachu Thunderbolt the van. The front portion explodes, blasting Team Rocket off, but the back of the van is still driving towards a cliff. Pidgeotto and Ritchie's Butterfree, nicknamed Happy, use Whirlwind as parachutes, catching their respective Trainers, the Poké Balls, and Pikachu. They land safely as a group of SUVs, which turns out to be the Trainers, plus Brock and Misty, pull up to claim their Pokémon.
Ash and his friends return to the Indigo Plateau's registration center. The attendant instructs Ash to fish for a Magikarp to find out his next opponent, and he finds it is Ritchie.
Pokémon senryū summary: Various limited edition goods, souvenir salesman.
This episode, as well as the next two episodes, each have the word "friend" in the title, referencing Ash's ongoing friendship with Ritchie.
Ritchie mentions being able to identify his Poké Balls from the rest of the stolen ones because he placed Star Stickers on them. This can be considered an early precursor of the Seal concept before its introduction in Generation IV.
Ritchie's Charmander is called Zippo, which may be a reference to the American refillable cigarette lighter brand, Zippo.
An instrumental of Together Forever can be heard, as well as Tears, After the Cloudy Weather.
When it turns dark in the lift, Professor Oak's eyebrows turn gray. The same error happens again when they're outside the elevator.
Though the power goes out while the characters are in the elevator, when they emerge into the lobby, all the lights are on. Although, everyone in the elevator assumes that the power went out, when it could have just been the elevator that had broken down. Either way, elevators are never set on the same power groups in buildings as the main rooms.
When James commands Weezing to use Smog for the first time, his glove is missing.
Through most of the Team Rocket motto and a little bit after, Jessie's eyes are different colors. This is most noticeable when she says "blast off at the speed of light."
When Ash is chasing Team Rocket, he turns around after Ritchie calls after him and Ash's eyes are a lighter color than normal.
After Arbok is shown dizzy, Ritchie's eyes are blue.
When Team Rocket gets blasted off, Arbok disappears.
Misty mentions the chef asking for Delia's croquette recipe in the dub, but in the original it's clear she cooked it herself and she marvels at the difference from normal restaurant food.
In the dub, Ash recognizes the Rocket trio in their disguises by James calling Jessie by name. In the original, he doesn't call her by name and instead he's suspicious because he said "we got what we came for". Also, Ritchie recognizes Team Rocket in the dub but not the original.
At the campfire, Ash expresses worry he won't ever see his Pokémon again in the dub but more specifically worries that they are starving in the original.
Team Rocket performs a Pokémon-themed parody of the folk song 99 Bottles of Beer in the dub on two separate occasions. In the original, they sing a different song with indistinct lyrics.