Dawn is still trying to catch her first wild Pokémon, but Ash's coaching isn't helping at all and both Trainers are getting annoyed. The outlook suddenly gets much brighter when Nando, a traveling Pokémon bard, has his Budew use Sunny Day to lighten the mood. To show Ash her skills, Dawn requests a Contest battle with Nando, but Budew's Grass-type moves are too tough for Piplup. Budew wins and our heroes head to a Pokémon Center, where they learn that Nando can't decide whether to dedicate himself to Pokémon Contests or Gym battles.
To help him decide, Ash and Dawn set off to find Nando again, only to end up deep in the forest. It's too late to get back to the Pokémon Center, but three very familiar and suspicious-looking individuals offer them a free inn room for the night. Of course, it's all another Team Rocket scheme to snatch Pikachu! Nando and his Budew come to the rescue, and now it's Ash's turn to ask Nando for a friendly battle.
Ash decides to use Pikachu to battle Budew. Nando's style may be elegant, but even though Budew evolves into Roselia during the match, it's still not enough to defeat Pikachu. Still, Nando had so much fun battling Dawn and Ash that he's decided to do both Gym battles and Pokémon Contests! Our heroes say goodbye to Nando with promises to meet again, then continue their journey towards Dawn's first Contest and Ash's first Sinnoh Gym battle.
Dawn makes her second attempt to capture a Buneary. She pulls out a Poké Ball, but Ash reminds her to make it larger. She expands the Ball and throws it, but it slips and hits Ash in the face. Ash gets angry and scolds Dawn, and an argument ensues. Buneary slips away, and Piplup notices, alerting everyone else. Ash and Dawn continue to argue, even as they continue down the path. Brock tries to stop them, though a ray of intense sunlight silences all three of them. Brock mentions that it is Sunny Day. A Budew soon approaches the group, so Ash checks his Pokédex. A minstrel steps out from behind a tree, playing a Mew-shaped harp and mentioning that the move helped calm the argument. The group exchanges introductions, the man identifying himself as Nando and his Budew. Hoping to prove her strength, Dawn asks Nando for a battle. Nando asks if she is going for the Sinnoh League, though Dawn declares that she is going for the Sinnoh Grand Festival. At that, Nando decides to make it a Contest Battle and escorts everyone over to a nearby clearing. Team Rocket follows and notices Dawn is now with Ash and Brock. With the new twerp in her sights, Jessie irritated that she is going for the Grand Festival.
Dawn chooses Piplup to go against Budew. Nando offers her the first move, so Dawn starts things off with Peck. However Budew dodges easily, jumping up in the air and firing Bullet Seed. Piplup dodges and hits its opponent with a Bubble Beam, which proves ineffective against Budew. Ash points out the type disadvantage while Brock notices that Budew used the smoke as an Appeal. Nando orders Budew to use Solar Beam and Dawn decides to rush Piplup in with Peck. However, Sunny Day was still in effect, something she overlooked, and Solar Beam fires immediately, scoring a hit and incapacitating Piplup. Nando commends Dawn on her first battle before he departs. Team Rocket watches and Jessie snubs Dawn for her loss as they plan to steal Pikachu.
As sunset passes, Dawn sulks at her loss and her inability to catch Pokémon. Brock looks at his guidebook and mentions a nearby Pokémon Center, where they can stay the night. Brock brings out Bonsly as Dawn checks her Pokédex. Ash asks if Brock brought his other Pokémon, but he affirms that Bonsly is his only Pokémon, while his other Pokémon are back at home. Dawn learns that Brock was the Pewter Gym Leader.
At the Center, Nurse Joy greets the group, and Dawn thinks this Nurse Joy is the same one from Sandgem Town. Brock promptly shows her a group photo of all the Joys, taking Dawn aback by their startling similarities. As Brock confesses his love to Joy, Dawn notices the familiar behavior. Ash admits even he doesn’t understand it. Later, Dawn calls her mother, who thanks the boys for watching out for her daughter. Dawn admits that there is nothing to worry about, though Johanna replies that such a statement only makes her more concerned. Johanna wishes the traveling trio all the best with their ventures before signing off. Afterwards, Nurse Joy approaches and gets Ash to register for the Sinnoh League, using his Pokédex for the registration process. Dawn asks if she can register for Contests as well, but Joy mentions that she does that at the Contest Hall, as well as getting a Contest Pass. Three Trainers arrive with the three Sinnoh starters, one with a Prinplup. Dawn is particularly excited and checks her Pokédex for information on Prinplup.
Nando also enters the Center, where he retrieves his Budew from treatment. Dawn wonders if he is staying at the Center as well, though Nando admits he needs time to ponder and leaves for the great outdoors. Nurse Joy reveals to Ash and his friends that Nando is trying to decide whether to focus on winning Badges or Ribbons. Ash and Dawn argue about what Nando should choose, running off after Nando to ask, forcing Brock to follow. However, their night time search fails, even with the assistance of Ash's Starly. Ash mentions that the group will have to camp out for the night as Brock scolds them for being impulsive.
A disguised Team Rocket shows up and directs the group to their inn. The group are lured in by the offer of a free overnight stay, and Meowth recommends Pikachu stay in their custom sleeping capsule. The wind suddenly whips up, causing the fake inn façade to collapse and removing Team Rocket's disguises. Now revealed, the Rocket trio recites their motto and James brings out Carnivine. Noting the new Pokémon, Ash checks his Pokédex. Dawn orders Piplup to attack with Bubble Beam, but Carnivine literally eats it and charges forward with Bite. However, Budew intercepts, pushing Carnivine back and fires Bullet Seed, sending Team Rocket flying. Nando shows up and is glad to see everyone is fine. He is surprised to encounter them yet again, though he takes them back to his campsite. Ash and Dawn try to persuade him to focus specifically on either Contests or Gym battles, which quickly turns into an argument. Nando stops them, calls for them to hear the forest sounds and wild Pokémon roaming. The echoing sounds enchant Dawn, admitting she has never stopped to listen to the forest before. Dawn apologizes to Ash for her anger and the two make up. Ash mentions the time when he first spotted Ho-Oh at the beginning of his journey. Dawn reveals her own sighting of a mysterious figure back at Lake Verity. Nando plucks at his harp, relieved to see the group understand and shares his same appreciation for mysteries of the world.
Ash challenges Nando to battle, which happens the next day, pitting Pikachu against Budew. Pikachu uses Quick Attack on Budew, but it fires Bullet Seed. Pikachu dodges and hits with Quick Attack. Budew replies with Mega Drain to replenish its energy while absorbing Pikachu’s. Pikachu gets up and lands a direct Thunderbolt on its opponent. Budew gets up and glows, evolving into Roselia. Ash is shocked by Budew's evolution. Roselia uses Sunny Day to amplify the rays and proceeds to complete the combo with Solar Beam. Pikachu darts forward as the beam launches. Pikachu jumps up to dodge and comes down with Iron Tail, knocking out Roselia. Nando picks up Roselia and recalls it. He thanks Ash and Dawn, announcing his decision to do both Contests and Gym battles based on his battles with the pair. Nando heads on his way while Ash's group continues on towards Jubilife City.