Ash meets an old friend: Thatcher from Mt. Lighthouse! He's a member of a pep squad school that cheers at Pokémon battles, led by a man named Sheridan.
A disguised Team Rocket offers Sheridan money to cheer for their Pokémon battles. To test the effectiveness of the cheering, Brock and Ash offer to battle against Team Rocket.
Brock's Forretress knocks out James' Cacnea, who is secretly revived using Helping Hand. Sheridan wears a mask containing a small microphone that he uses to give directions to Pokémon hidden inside the pep squad's giant drums.
After Cacnea wins, it's Ash and Pikachu versus Jessie and Seviper. Jessie doesn't pay attention to the battle, and Seviper is quickly taken down. Sheridan issues commands to revive Seviper repeatedly.
Max sneaks nearby and knocks the drums over, revealing the Pokémon concealed inside. Sheridan runs off, and Ash manages to encourage Pikachu to victory.
Team Rocket then reveal themselves, but Pikachu is too weak to fight them off. Plusle and Minun revive Pikachu, whose Thunder attack starts a thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning hits Team Rocket's balloon, sending them blasting off.
The members of the pep squad decide to go home, Thatcher continues his Pokémon journey, while Ash and friends continue to Lavaridge Town.
As Ash and his friends continue their journey, May admires her first Contest Ribbon. Excited at reaching the next town, Ash accidentally takes the wrong path. After hearing a set of banging drums, the group follow the commotion up a fleet of stairs and stumble across a group of people. Among them is a familiar face, Thatcher with his Plusle and Minun. He tells Ash and the others that he joined a pep squad that believes in the power of cheering. Meanwhile Team Rocket spots a new opportunity to steal Pikachu, and they recruit Sheridan, the leader of the pep squad school, to assist their efforts. Sheridan, invites Ash and friends to join him in a battle to demonstrate the power of cheering. They readily accept the challenge.
The first match pits Brock against "Jamester", who is in disguise. Brock sends out Forretress to battle Cacnea. Forretress uses Rapid Spin to deflect Cacnea's Pin Missile attack before bowling it over with a Tackle. As Cacnea struggles to its feet, Sheridan and his squad begin cheering. Unbeknownst to the group, Sheridan whispers "Helping Hand" into a microphone. Out of nowhere, Cacnea regains health and defeats Forretress with a barrage of attacks. Ash and May are dumbfounded, but Max thinks something is amiss. As Ash takes on "Jessica", also in disguise, Max goes on the hunt for clues. While she begins thinking of how to attack Pikachu, the Electric mouse begins attacking her Seviper. Angered, Jessie demands Sheridan begin to cheer, but he silences her, requesting patience. As soon as Seviper appears to have lost all energy, the cheering starts. Once again, Sheridan whispers Aromatherapy into a microphone. A Roselia and Vileplume are shown to be hidden inside one of the drums. Both unleash their attacks.
Now convinced that something is seriously wrong, Max overhears Sheridan whispering "Helping Hand", and Max realizes that he is giving Pokémon directions for attacking. Meanwhile, Seviper has now regained health and is attacking Pikachu. Just as Pikachu is about to lose, Max shoves the drums over, revealing the Roselia, Vileplume, Makuhita, and Shroomish that were inside. Sheridan is stunned that his scheme has been revealed. After Thatcher and the other pep squad members demand a refund, Sheridan takes off running, and the Rocket trio attempt to steal Pikachu. Seviper Wraps itself around Pikachu, but loses control of him after a powerful Thunder attack. Following her defeat, Jessie removes her disguise while her teammates appear with the Meowth balloon in time to perform their motto. Jessie is disappointed that they don’t have a new mecha, though Meowth explains that they used all their saving to pay Sheridan. Meowth, instead clicks and button and grabs Pikachu with a mechanical claw. As Team Rocket reel in Pikachu, Thatcher steps up and has his Pokemon lend a Helping Hand. The charge gives Pikachu an overwhelming surge of power, and he summons dark storm clouds. Soon enough, lightning finally strikes Team Rocket's balloon, sending them blasting off. Although he is left disappointed, Thatcher tells Ash that he really admires his work with Pikachu. He promises to work hard and start from scratch to eventually become as great a Trainer as Ash someday, inspiring some of his fellow squad members to do the same. The group bids farewell to Thatcher and heads off on their next adventure.