May is eagerly preparing her Beautifly for the Pokémon Contest while Max watches her Torchic. He is debating which Pokémon he will begin with when he comes of age. May discovers a beached Wailord and contacts Nurse Joy at the Pokémon Center. Joy and Brock rush to help while Ash and Max are left to take care of the Pokémon Center.
Team Rocket decides to try to steal the Wailord. At the Pokémon Center, Ash, Max and all the Pokémon are having a difficult time capturing a particularly troublesome Torchic. The Torchic evolves into a Combusken, which is an even bigger headache, especially because a new Trainer is coming to choose between a Torchic, Mudkip, or Treecko. Team Rocket tries to steal Wailord, but the newly evolved Combusken foils their plans and sends them blasting off again. The new Trainer chooses Mudkip and Combusken is invited to stay and guard the Pokémon Center.
The next Pokémon Contest is rapidly approaching, and May is training hard for it. She declares that she cannot wait to battle Drew, and runs off to train with Beautifly, leaving her Torchic with the others. Torchic feels left out and upset as it watches its Trainer running off. Ash, Brock, Max and all their Pokémon are eating when Max pipes up suddenly. He is annoyed that May keeps leaving Torchic alone; it seems like she does not care about Torchic anymore, only Beautifly. Ash reassures him that Torchic will always be special to May as it was her first Pokémon. Max wants to know what Brock's first Pokémon was and Brock remembers back to his tenth birthday when he woke up and found an Onix leaning into his room with a red ribbon around its neck. He and his father Flint sat on Onix's head and watched the sunrise. Max imagines the Pokémon he will have when he becomes a Pokémon Trainer, thinking that his father could give him anything, even a Slakoth. In the imagination bubble, Slakoth falls on top of Max and squashes him.
Nurse Joy walks past on her way to do her rounds of the Pokémon, and Brock grabs her and insists on coming with her. She shrugs off Brock's advances and instead focuses on Mudkip, Torchic and Treecko as they eat, and is surprised at their great condition. She informs the boys that there is a new Trainer coming to the Pokémon Center to choose a Starter Pokémon. Ash and the others follow Joy to another room, where Max is allowed to release the Pokémon from their Poké Balls. The Torchic is in a fighting mood; the Mudkip bursts into tears and is comforted by Brock's Mudkip, while the Treecko clasps its hands together and simpers. Max gets very excited when saying "Treecko, I choose you!" because it is something he always wanted to say. A video call from a rather panicked May comes in. She explains that there is a Wailord beached where she is training, so Nurse Joy runs off to help it, telling the kids to look after the three starters. She instructs them not to let them go outside because they are not used to the outdoors yet. Brock follows her. Max is feeling really happy to take care of Pokémon the first time. Meanwhile, Team Rocket are standing outside the window and hear about the Wailord, deciding they want to catch it. The trio proudly declare that a big Pokémon means a big promotion.
The Pokémon Center's Torchic runs off towards the outside. Ash calls on May's Torchic for help, but it gets overwhelmed by the other Torchic’s pecks. Mudkip is simply kicked aside, while Pikachu's sparking cheeks temporarily stop it, only to fall for a fake waterworks routine. Treecko steps up and manages to send Torchic retreating into Max's arms. However, it soon pecks at him to make its break for freedom. Ash sends out his Corphish, but Torchic attacks it with a flurry of scratches before bouncing off into the great outdoors. Ash and Max give chase, and soon Corphish tries to battle the runaway Torchic. Accidentally, the Torchic evolves into a Combusken. Ash and Max are sent into a panic. They quickly decide that the only thing to do is to substitute May's Torchic for the evolved one, and try to stop the Trainer from choosing it. After they fantasize Combusken being given to a girl, scaring her, they plan to tell May that her Torchic evolved, but as they imagine what May would do if she caught them, they decide that just have to keep her away.
May and Nurse Joy return to the Pokémon Center after the Wailord is given a clean bill of health. May sits down and Max brings her a cup of tea, asking her if she needs anything else. She starts to get a bit suspicious of the nice treatment and asks where her Torchic is. Max freaks slightly and says it is outside. She heads for the door to go find it. Max tries to stop her and she gets really suspicious. Meanwhile, on the other side of the same door, Stephanie, the young Trainer, is inspecting the Starter Pokémon with her father. She is very indecisive and cannot choose between the trio. She stops in front of Torchic and says that she chooses it, but Ash quickly covers up by saying that Torchic is a bad choice, because it is smelly, noisy, and disobedient. There is a banging noise and Nurse Joy does not know what it is, but Ash assures her that it is just the wind. May storms into the room, and her Torchic immediately runs to her. She hugs it and demands to know what is going on. This is when Combusken, who Ash and Max hid in a cupboard, bursts out. Nurse Joy is surprised at this, leaving Ash and Max to explain themselves.
An abrupt noise alerts everyone to Wailord as it is floating in the sky, high above them, in a sling with the Team Rocket "R" logo. They run outside and spot Team Rocket in their balloon, reciting their motto. Then, Combusken jumps up and attacks the balloon. The ropes holding the Wailord are severed by a swift kick, and it falls into the sea. As Team Rocket come crashing down, Pikachu uses Thunderbolt to send Team Rocket blasting off. Stephanie and her father applaud Ash's efforts, with the father even admitting that this is the first time he has ever appreciated Pokémon. Nurse Joy tells Stephanie that Combusken probably is not the best choice for a beginner, so she chooses Mudkip. Treecko gets upset and starts to cry. Stephanie's father looks at Treecko and gets upset too, and asks if it is too late for him to have Treecko and become a Trainer. The others assure him that it is fine, so Mudkip and Treecko prepare for a new life on the road with their new Trainers. Meanwhile, Nurse Joy decides to keep Combusken as a guard Pokémon at the Pokémon Center, and Max looks forward to the day when he will get his first Pokémon.