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The night before his next battle, Ash sits by the window and thinks of how he has to fight his newest best friend, Richie. Misty and Brock peer at a computer screen, and Misty calls him over. She tells him that she has loaded up the League database, and calls up Richie's file. They are all astounded to find out that he won all four of his battles without losing a single Pokémon. He also did it using only three Pokémon: a Pikachu (Sparky), a Butterfree (Happy), and a Charmander (Zippo). Misty notes that it all boils down to who's the better trainer, as Ash uses the same types. Brock tells Ash that battling against Richie will be hard, but Ash is confident in himself.
The next day, Richie picks up his Pokémon from the Pokémon Center. Ash walks in, and they see each other. They promise to make their battle the best one ever, and Richie runs off. Nurse Joy gives him his Pokémon and tells him that he's lucky that he gets to battle a friend. Either way, she says, Ash can be happy that either he or Richie won. Outside, Team Rocket peer through a window. Jessie notes that she never had that many friends when she was a girl and James concludes that it was her personality, only to be thwacked over the head with the infamous fan.
Later that day, the phone rings in Ash's place of residence. Misty picks it up and Richie's voice comes across the line. After insulting Misty, he asks for Ash, and she is all to happy to oblige. As it turns out, it's not Richie, but it's Jessie using a voice synthesizer. She tells Ash in Richie's voice to bring Pikachu outside to him, as (s)he needs to tell him something. Ash hangs up and, after a warning from Brock not to be long, leaves.
He gets to the clearing where Richie told him to meet, and sees his figure in the shadows. Just after he starts talking to him, a net drops from the tree covering him and Pikachu. Jessie, who was holding a Richie puppet stands up, and she and James do their motto. Ash struggles in the net, and Jessie and James congratulate each other on a job well done. Ash tells them that he needs to get to his match, but they throw him into the back of a truck and drive off.
Back at the house, Brock and Misty start to worry that he hasn't come back. Misty suggests that he went to Indigo Stadium, and Brock hopes aloud that this is the case. Meanwhile, the cab of Team Rocket's truck is filling with water thanks to Ash's Squirtle. Meowth jumps on James's face and since he can't see, they crash. Ash and Pikachu jump out and start to run back down the road toward the stadium. After a while, Team Rocket shows up again, rolling along on an axle of the truck. Ash jumps aside, and they careen into the side of the road. Ash sends out Bulbasaur, who Vine Whips them. Pikachu shocks them and they fall over. Ash continues on.
After another few minutes, Team Rocket shows up again, this time riding bicycles. James sends out Weezing, who fills the air around Ash with smog. He then tells Ash that he can either hand over Pikachu or miss his match. Ash remembers his promise with Richie, and notices the bikes sitting nearby. Jessie and James stare at the cloud, waiting for Ash's decision. He suddenly comes out riding one of the bikes. They yell at him to give it back, and he replies that he's only "borrowing it." Why does THAT sound familiar?
Meanwhile, back at the stadium, everybody is waiting for Ash to show up. Richie has long since arrived, and the announcer tells the crowd that if Ash doesn't show up soon, the match will go to him. In the stands, Professor Oak calms Mrs. Ketchum, telling her that Ash has an excellent knack for getting out of trouble. Misty runs onto the field and yells at Richie. She tells him her suspicions that Richie told Ash not to show up, and reminds him of what he said on the phone to her. Richie tells her that he never called, and Misty gets worried again.
It's getting dark, and Ash is still a ways away from the stadium. As he pedals along, Team Rocket's balloon floats overhead and grabs him and the bike and hoists him into the air. Ash sends out Pidgeotto, and Pikachu jumps onto his back. Pidgeotto brings Pikachu up to the balloon, and he shocks Team Rocket. The basket breaks, and they fall into the forest below. Pidgeotto then grabs the frame of the basket, and pulls them all in the direction of the stadium.
The stadium lights turn on as the referee approaches Richie to inform him that he has won. Richie begs him to give Ash more time, telling him about their promise and how he knows Ash will show up. The referee agrees to wait, but only ten minutes longer. Everyone notes how nice Richie is and they wait for Ash some more. The ten minutes is quickly over, and Ash has still yet to show up. The referee approaches Richie once again and is about to announce him as the winner when the balloon floats into the stadium. Ash apologizes for being late, and Pidgeotto crashes to the ground. After Ash tells his bird to rest, Ash and Richie start their match amid the cheers of the crowd.
Richie sends out his first Pokémon, Happy, and Ash sends out Squirtle. After exchanging blows, Happy succeeds in putting Squirtle to sleep with Sleep Powder. Squirtle is unable to wake up, and the referee declares Happy to be the winner of that round. Ash thinks about what Pokémon to send out next, and Pikachu jumps out, lunging onto Happy. Ash is surprised, as he though Pikachu was too tired. Happy tries to get Pikachu off by flying into the air, but Pikachu shocks him and they both fall to the ground. Pikachu wins. Richie withdraws Happy and sends out Zippo. Pikachu narrowly avoids several of Zippo's Flamethrower attacks, but is sent flying by a Tackle. He tries to get up, but can't. Zippo wins, and Ash is down to his last Pokémon.
Ash knows that Bulbasaur won't work, and he only has one other choice: Charizard. With all the times Charizard has disobeyed Ash in his mind, he reluctantly sends him out. Charmander uses another Flamethrower, which Charizard easily dodges. Charizard then lets loose a continuous blast of fire, which Charmander runs around to get away from. Rather than have Charmander severely injured, Richie withdraws him, losing the round. He then sends out Sparky. Charizard stomps the ground a few times, making Sparky fall over. He then flaps his giant wings and Sparky tumbles end over end. Sparky jumps up, and runs at Charizard, but he's laid down and appears to be taking a nap. Ash pleads with him, but he refuses to get up. In the stands Professor Oak tells Mrs. Ketchum that Charizard must have thought of Charmander as a worthy opponent, but doesn't want to bother with a Pikachu.
Since Charizard refuses to battle, the referee gives the victory to Richie. Ash falls to his knees as he returns Charizard. Richie comes up to him and they shake hands. The crowd cheers at this display of continued friendship, and Ash tells Richie to win his next battle for him. Ash's adventure in the Pokémon League may have ended, but his dream still lives on.
0081: Friend And Foe Alike!
0081: Dueling with Richie
Ash and Richie Have To Battle Eachother To Get To The Next Round
Ash Loses Making Him In the Top 16 in the Pokémon League