We rejoin the action in the middle of Ash's match against Juan, the Sootopolis Gym Leader. Ash's Grovyle has been confused by Luvdisc's Sweet Kiss and before it can snap out of it, Luvdisc knocks it out with Water Gun! Corphish must step up to take Grovyle's place.
Team Rocket has dressed James up as Juan to attract an audience for their Water Illusion show, but back at the Gym, it's a tense back and forth as Corphish confronts Luvdisc. Luvdisc is fast, and when Corphish's attack creates a rain-like shower of water, its Swift Swim makes it even faster! But once that effect dissipates, Corphish wins the round, only to be defeated by Juan's next Pokémon, Whiscash.
With no Water Pokémon and no talent, Team Rocket's Water Illusion is a very poor Water Pokémon talent show, but they've got a Plan B: sell merchandise and autographs! Naturally Team Rocket tries to swindle all their customers, but it turns out that Juan's fans include some tough Water Pokémon Trainers—never mess with a lady and her Blastoise! Team Rocket's plan is now officially all wet.
After Swellow defeats Whiscash, Juan sends out his secret weapon: Milotic! Milotic takes down Swellow and then faces off with Pikachu. Milotic's Restore ability makes this a tough battle, but in the end Pikachu takes advantage of the water-filled battle stage to score a victory. Ash has earned his eighth badge and it's time to prepare for the Hoenn League!
Ash's battle for his eighth Hoenn League Badge at the Sootopolis Gym is well underway. Grovyle takes a hit from Juan's Luvdisc's Sweet Kiss — and Grovyle becomes confused. Ash orders Grovyle to move, who instead begins bashing its head into a nearby pillar. Brock warns Ash that he needs to call back Grovyle, but Ash isn't quick enough — Grovyle is defeated by a timely Water Gun from Luvdisc. After Grovyle faints, Ash chooses Corphish, who is tired from fighting during the first round, to replace it.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Sootopolis City, Team Rocket has disguised James as Juan and are selling tickets to a "performance" of his. However, they aren't having much success because the local paper announced that Juan is supposed to be in a Gym battle. However, the disguised James claims that he defeated Ash so quickly he has extra time to do a water illusion show. Unfortunately for Team Rocket, James's adept lying doesn't compensate for his terrible performing ability. Team Rocket decides to sell autographs and photos after the show to compensate for their failure. However, the trio are quickly found out, and Team Rocket is sent flying by an angry fan's Blastoise.
Back at the Gym, Ash orders Corphish to open with a Bubble Beam, which Luvdisc deftly dodges and counters with a Water Gun. Corphish manages to dodge the successive Sweet Kiss and counters with another Bubble Beam. Luvdisc easily dodges this attack as well and dives down. Ash orders Corphish to use Crabhammer on the water surface, which acts like a depth charge and knocks Luvdisc up out of the water. However, Luvdisc eludes Corphish's Vice Grip and uses its Ability Swift Swim, which takes effect because Corphish's Crabhammer created "rain" by spraying water. Though Luvdisc attacks Corphish with another Water Gun, Corphish manages to dodge and suppress the mist with Bubble Beam, which disables Swift Swim. Corphish hits Luvdisc with a Crabhammer, taking it out.
For the second battle of the round, Juan calls out his Whiscash. Corphish attacks Whiscash with Bubble Beam, which Whiscash blocks with a surge of Surf. Whiscash retaliates with Rock Smash, which renders Corphish unable to battle. Ash calls out Swellow next, and starts the battle with a Quick Attack. However, Swellow is almost immediately grabbed by Whiscash's barbels, which Juan uses to deliver a Tickle attack, followed by a Hyper Beam. Swellow is thrown back so hard that it knocks over the pillar its back slammed into. Despite a direct hit and extreme damage, Swellow is still able to battle and zooming out of the dust cloud, it counters with Aerial Ace. Whiscash dives to dodge, but the Aerial Ace allows Swellow to dive in and hit Whiscash from underneath, throwing it upward out of the water and into the air. Whiscash uses a barbel to snag a pillar, swinging back around and uses Hyper Beam in mid-air, but Swellow evades. Swellow switches into a Quick Attack followed by an Aerial Ace which knocks Whiscash out of the match. Juan commends Ash and Swellow, impressed that Swellow could go from Quick Attack straight into Aerial Ace. This leaves only one Pokémon left for Juan. However, as Brock is quick to remind the group, both Swellow and Pikachu are tired from battle, whereas Juan's final Pokémon is fresh.
As expected, Juan calls out his Milotic, his strongest Pokémon. Milotic opens with Hydro Pump, which Swellow dodges with Aerial Ace and strikes Milotic dead on. Milotic recovers and counters with Iron Tail, though Swellow uses Double Team to avoid being hit. To clear the decoys, Milotic whips up a Twister, pushing the real Swellow up until it slams into the ceiling and renders Swellow unable to battle. Ash is now left with only one Pokémon — Pikachu. Ash uses the dubious reasoning that Milotic will block any Electric attacks he cares to use, so he should start with the most powerful attack at his disposal: Pikachu's Thunder. Milotic takes the attack head on, but Juan does not seem concerned. Moments later, Milotic uses Recover, effectively negating the damage. Juan comments that Milotic learned this tactic during Juan's days as a Coordinator, since in Pokémon Contests it is important for a Pokémon to maintain a pristine appearance no matter what phase of the competition. Pikachu and Milotic exchange Iron Tail attacks, with the exchange ending badly for Pikachu. Milotic also uses Twister, which catches Pikachu. However, Pikachu destroys the Twister with another Thunder and counters with a Quick Attack. Though Pikachu hits, Milotic quickly counters with a Hydro Pump, which Pikachu dodges and counters with a Thunderbolt. Milotic takes the Thunderbolt and uses Recover to replenish its health, leaving Ash not much better off. Milotic dives, surfaces, and uses Iron Tail and Hydro Pump, both of which Pikachu dodges. Pikachu grabs Milotic and flips it into the water and then uses Thunder yet again. After a brief explosion, Milotic and Pikachu surface — Pikachu still standing, but Milotic in a dead faint. Ash is declared the winner, and Brock explains that because water conducts electricity better than air, a direct attack underwater was even more effective.
Juan congratulates Ash on turning an almost certain defeat into victory, and gives him a Rain Badge as proof of his victory at the Sootopolis Gym. This leaves Ash with all eight Badges necessary to enter the Hoenn League Championship. Juan congratulates Ash on his victory, and Sebastian informs Ash that the Ever Grande Conference will take place in three months at Ever Grande City. In the mean time, Juan tells May about a Pokémon Contest in Pacifidlog Town, where the group decides to head next.