Ash and co. have finally made it into Hearthome City. Ash is very excited to battle the Gym Leader for his third gym badge. He finds the gym. At the Gym entrance lies Nando, a friend of Ash and co. Nando states that the Gym Leader is absent. This gets Ash upset because he waited so long to battle the Gym Leader. Nando was planning on battling the gym leader with his Kricketune. Ash looks up Kricketune in his Pokédex. Unfortunately, the gym is closed. A note is left on the gym doors saying that the Gym Leader has gone on a long journey. Nando mentions that a tag battle is coming up. The tag battle competition is where all trainers gather around Hearthome City to battle to see who is the best. Both Ash and Brock want to register. They ask Nando if he is going to enter, but Nando states that he plans on doing a contest instead. Dawn has totally forgot about registering for the contest. So her and Nando head over to the contest stadium to register. While walking, Dawn tells Nando about a friend of hers that helped her prepare for the double performance battle. She sees Zoey sitting at a table, and runs up to her. Nando introduces himself to Zoey. He tells her that he participates in both contests and gym battles. This gets Zoey a bit annoyed.
Team Rocket is also at the contest area. Jessie is practicing her moves with Seviper and Dustox, but they aren't good enough for her. Instead, Jessie wants to use Mime Jr for the contest. Dawn herself is preparing for the contest. Ash and Brock notice that Dawn is has gone a long way and is feeling confident. Brock assumes though that Dawn is a bit nervous. Dawn replies that she is because it's her first time competing at a double performance.
The contest is about to begin. Mary is the host for the contest, and she starts off with an introduction. She explains that coordinators will first use two Pokémon for a double performance, and then the second round will consist of double battles. Mary then holds up the ribbon that one lucky coordinator will win. After that, the three judges introduce themselves to the audience.
Then the first coordinator sets stage. It is Nando. He sends out Sunflora and Kricketune. Sunflora uses its Grasswhistle attack, and Kricketune starts to Sing. These two affects create soothing sound waves that attract the audience's attention. Zoey realizes that Nando is portraying the beauty of his Pokémon very well. When Nando is done performing, the audience cheers.
Many more coordinators show of their Pokémon after Nando. Dawn loves each performance. Zoey explains that Hearthome City is known for its talented coordinators. This boosts Dawn's confidence even more.
Mary introduces the next coordinator - Dawn. Dawn takes a deep breath and then sends out her two Pokémon. Piplup and Pachirisu both come out. Pachirisu uses Sweet Kiss, and Piplup uses BubbleBeam. The hearts from the Sweet Kiss are enclosed in the bubbles. The audience cheers. Then Pachirisu uses Discharge, and Piplup uses Whirlpool. The electricity surrounds the water in a unique way. The judges show much interest in Dawn's performance. Ash thinks that Dawn has a great chance on advancing to the second round.
Jessie is the next coordinator to perform. She sends out Mime Jr. and Cacnea. Cacnea first uses Needle Arm, followed up by Mime Jr.'s Mimic. Then Jessie orders Mime Jr. to use Tickle on herself. Mime Jr. starts tickling Jessie, and Cacnea soon joins in with them (which confuses Dawn, and creeps out Ash and Brock). Jessie finishes her performance by having Cacnea use Pin Missile and Mime Jr. using Mimic. The two Pin Missiles collide into each other, creating fireworks. The judges comment on how great Jessie's performance was.
After Jessie, Zoey appears on stage. Zoey sends out Shellos and Glameow. Shellos starts off with Mud Bomb. Glameow uses Iron Tail to quickly destroy each bomb that passes it. Glameow then uses Secret Power. Brock explains that the effect of Secret Power is determined by the location. Secret Power from Glameow creates some sort of light, and Glameow then uses Shadow Claw for a combination move. The combination creates an attractive light. Shellos then uses Water Pulse, and it surrounds Glameow. Glameow slashes its way through the water. The water adds an even greater effect to the light. When Zoey finishes her performance, the judges make some great comments on it.
When all coordinators have performed, Mary appears on stage and announces the results. Nando, Zoey, and Jessie have all made it to the second round, but Dawn unfortunately did not. Dawn is about to cry. Ash and Brock try to calm Dawn down, but their comments gets Dawn stressed out even more. Dawn runs out of the room. Ash tries to follow her, but Zoey stops him. Dawn runs to the balcony and lets out a loud cry.
Meanwhile, at the contest, Nando has just defeated Jessie, advancing him to the final round.
Dawn is in the dressing room putting herself back together. She sees Piplup walk into the room. Ash and Brock tell Dawn that the finals are about to begin. The match is between Nando and Zoey. Ash, Dawn, and Brock head into the audience to watch the final battle.
Later on in the day, Ash and Brock receive a call from Dawn's mother. They explain to her that Dawn is spending some time with her friend. Dawn's mother thinks that that's the best thing for Dawn.
Dawn and Zoey are sitting outside near the Pokémon Center. Between Zoey and Nando, Nando won the final battle. Zoey is amazed at Nando's skill and his destiny. Dawn is still disappointed that she lost the first round, but Zoey tells her to stop thinking about it. Knowing that she lost to Nando, Zoey wants to work much harder so that she can win the next time. She and Dawn make a promise not to worry about this contest and to work much harder for the next one.
- The title is parodying a lyric from "The Star-Spangled Banner." The lyric is "by the dawn's early light."