"Following Dawn's Sandalstraw Pokémon Contest, our heroes have decided to stay in Sandalstraw Town for some Pokémon Ping Pong." Ash excitedly bursts out of Pokémon Center, enthusiastically practicing his swing along with Pikachu. Dawn, Piplup, Ambipom and Brock come out, as Barry comes from around the corner just as excited as Ash. Barry proclaims his Sinnoh Pokémon Ping Pong conquest, practicing his swing along with Ash. Dawn, however, has only a vague knowledge of the rules and she announces this fact, much to Ash and Barry's dismay. Barry explains to her that Pokémon Ping Pong is where a Trainer and one of their Pokémon compete as a team. The Trainer is the only one allowed to have a paddle, while the Pokémon is allowed to use a part of their body instead. The Trainer always serves, and the first team with 11 points wins a game and first to win 3 games wins the match. Dawn enthusiastically decides to enter the tournament as well.
Outside of the Ping Pong tournament hall, Ash and Dawn fill out their paper work to register. Ash naturally chooses Pikachu as his partner, while Dawn picks Ambipom due to the knowledge of Ping Pong moves she displayed during the Contest. Dawn tells the others that she and Barry believe Ambipom really likes Pokémon Ping Pong, which Ambipom eagerly acknowledges. Brock tells Piplup that it will be with him in the stands. Coming around back, the gang notices the practice tables and Ash and Dawn decide to make good use of them. Dawn asks Ash to call heads or tails, and she uses the Coin Flip application on her Pokétch. Ash calls heads and wins, allowing him to serve first. Getting into position, Ash reminds Dawn that Trainers always serve before starting the match. As the match continues, a young man walks by noticing the match. Dawn hits the ball pass Ash, who has Pikachu hit it back which catches Dawn off guard. Ambipom jumps up, hitting the ball with tremendous force surprising Ash and Pikachu. The ball hurdles out of bounds pass Ash, engulfed in flames and towards the young man. He effortlessly catches it and is very impressed by Ambipom's skill. Dawn and the others rush over, apologizing for the incident and asking if he was ok. The young man tells her he is fine, and comments how its nice to see new teams entering the tournament. He then compliments Ambipom's reflexes and power thrusts. He assumes it to be from daily ping pong related training, only to find out that Dawn and Ambipom have only began playing Pokémon Ping Pong. He tells them how impressed he is, gives them some pointers and wishes them luck before continuing on his way. Brock notices that the young man is on a magazine he has, and brings attention to it.
Later in the tournament hall, the teams gather in preparation for the tournament. Ash, Pikachu, Dawn, Ambipom, Barry and his Empoleon arrive noticing the team lineups. Ash and Dawn notice that if they both win the first round, they would have to play against each other in the second. Dawn tells Ash she'll see him in round two, which causes Barry to boast about they would need to make it into the semi-finals to go up against him. Dawn accepts his challenge to meet him in the semi-finals, and then notices the young man before. She calls attention to his picture on the lineup board, where he is placed separately from everyone else and is bypassing the first round. Barry is shocked when Dawn refers to him as "that guy from before" and tells the gang that young man's true identity as last year's winner, O. He continues to tell them that O has the reputation of being the strongest player ever, and is always on the lookout for new talent and has earned a lot of respect for his global efforts to spread word on Pokémon Ping Pong. Ash comments on O sounding like a cool guy, and Barry tells him they are going beat "that cool guy" and show him who is the strongest. A whistle blows, calling attention to the announcer who informs the contestants it's time to begin. Meanwhile in the stands, a disguised James meets up with Brock. James begins to panic when he notices who it is, but his disguise fools Brock (as always) and they begin to talk. Brock asks James if he has a friend in the tournament, and James tells Brock that he has a friend (Jessie) who is just a beginner. James goes on to say that his heart is going "pitter pat," which Brock can relate to. They then take turns holding their hands on their hearts and chanting "pitter pitter pat pat." Seemingly becoming fast friends, Brock comments on their similarity and claims "great minds thinking alike." James response that they have the greatest, and the two embrace laughing boastfully much to Piplup's dismay.
Down on the tournament floor, the teams are gathered before the announcer and something with a tarp over it. The announcer pulls the tarp off, and announces that the winners of the competition will win solid gold ping pong balls. The announcer then continues to tell the teams about the second place prize, a year supply of special Pokémon food. Enviously eyeing the prizes, Meowth speaks about having gold fever. Jessie quickly pins Meowth down to stifle him, telling him he'll blow their cover if he's heard talking. The announcer tells the teams to get to their tables, and the tournaments begins. At their tables, the opponents size each other up and show their determination. Despite being nervous himself, Ash tells Dawn that they're there for fun. Dawn informs Ash that he's holding a fan instead of a paddle, and with his knees shaking Dawn tries to calm his nerves.
Meanwhile Jessie (or Jessilynlyn) and Meowth are set to face off against Haverson and his Marowak. The referee calls attention to Meowth holding a paddle, and reminds him that the rules prohibit it. Jessie tries to argue that Marowak has a bone, but is told that according to the rules this is allowed. Jessie claims the rules are unfair attempting to argue with the referee, but Meowth pulls her hair to get her into a huddle and talk. Meowth tells Jessie he doesn't need a paddle, and she tells the referee that a genius like her needs a handicap. The referee uses Coin Flip on his Pokétch, and Halverson wins first serve. He serves the ball, and Jessie tells Meowth to "slice and dice," which he responds to by using Fury Swipes on the ball slicing it into thirds. Since Meowth has used a move (and destroyed the ball), he and Jessie are instantly disqualified much to James' churning.
Elsewhere Ash and Pikachu face Wilkinson and his Farfetch'd. From the stand Brock comments on Wilkinson being a well known player of Pokémon Ping Pong. Ash serves and Farfetch'd hits it back to him, and he hits it to Wilkinson who hits to Pikachu who returns it to Farfetch'd. They go through this cycle several times until Ash and Wilkinson get into a heated rally with the ball. Wilkinson hits the ball pass Ash's head, and Pikachu saves with its tail. However Farfetch'd manages to hit the ball, and it bounces off the table and into Ash's jaw earning Team Wilkinson first point. Pikachu asks Ash if he's alright, and Ash reassures Pikachu he's fine. At Dawn's table the match between her, Ambipom and Team Scientist is well underway. Dawn and Ambipom are caught in a similar cycle to the one Ash and Team Wilkinson were in. Dawn plays hard as the ball is hit to Alakazam. Desperate to determine where the ball will come from, Dawn tries to read Alakazam's movement. She sees it lift its left hand, and tells Ambipom to go to the left. However Alakazam hits the ball to the right, soaring past Dawn and earning Team Scientist a point. Dawn learns from her mistake, and serves the ball. The ball goes towards Alakazam again, and it hits it with its right hand sending the ball past Dawn narrowly missing her head. Ambipom saves by using its tails, giving Dawn an idea of how to win. The ball goes toward Scientist who flinches, and the ball blunts off his paddle and to Ambipom. Ambipom hits the ball with similar force from earlier, setting it on fire and roaring pass Team Scientist earning a point. Dawn thanks Ambipom for the save, and she becomes focused and determined to win with Ambipom.
The matches continues with Ash having lost to Wilkinson, and Dawn prevailing over Scientist. Halverson goes on to win against a female Trainer and her Chikorita. Barry, having won his first round against a woman and her Grovyle, goes on to play and win against a Trainer and his Hitmontop in the second round. Outside of the arena Meowth tries to apologize to Jessie for losing them the match. Angry she scolds him, and voices her plan to steal the golden ping pong balls by force. She then orders Meowth to build a robot, but he tells her their bank account is empty and he can't do it. Aggravated Jessie storms off to join James in the stands, with Meowth following behind. Ash, depressed that he lost, joins Brock and Piplup. Brock consoles him, and Ash apologizes to Pikachu for them losing. However, despite feeling bad and that he let Pikachu down, Ash comments on how well Dawn is doing in the tournament. James informs them Halverson, who beat Jessilynlyn (he almost said Jessie) will face off against Dawn in the third round.
With the third round underway and ten points, Dawn and Ambipom fiercely go against Halverson and Marowak. O watches from the sidelines, still amazed at Dawn and Ambipom's skill given they are only beginners. The ball goes pass Dawn, and Ambipom saves before it hits the ground. Ambipom hits the ball with tremendous force, sending it towards Marowak. Marowak tries to use its bone to hit the ball back, but the force is too much for Marowak. The ball knocks the bone out of Marowak's hand, hitting out of bounds earning Dawn and Ambipom the winning point. From the stands Ash and the others watch, with Brock commenting on Dawn and Ambipom increasingly becoming better with each match. James however tells them it is Ambipom who is contributing the most to the wins. Behind James, Jessie who is still sulking over her lost and humiliation, reminisces on how she should have made Ambipom (who was still an Aipom) hers during the festival Contest. As Dawn and Ambipom rest, Barry and his Empoleon face O and his Shiftry. Barry comments on Dawn and Ambipom's success, and tells Empoleon that they will beat O then play against her. Barry's match with O begins, and Barry serves. O hits the ball to Empoleon who hits it above O's head. O ducks his head as Shiftry comes in for the save, and Shiftry sends the ball flying pass Barry and Empoleon. As Dawn sits in astonishment at Shiftry's technique, Ambipom shadow boxes in preparation for the next round. The match doesn't go much better for Barry and he is swiftly beaten by O. Barry obviously doesn't take the defeat well and leaves the group almost immediately afterward. Now O and Dawn are to play next in the semi-finals, and whoever wins will go on to face Theodore and his Gliscor in the final.
Dawn's match with O begins and she and Ambipom give it their all, however their teamwork is slipping against someone who has a lot more experience with Pokémon Ping Pong. This is indicated when Shiftry hits the ball, and Dawn and Ambipom collide trying to hit it back. O and Shiftry win the game, and Ash and Brock converse on Dawn and Ambipom's declining performance. Ash calls to Dawn to relax as the next game starts. O and Shiftry intimidate Dawn, and she tries to calm herself but is having trouble. Ambipom places her hand on Dawn's shoulder and reassures her with a motivational shadow boxing display. Dawn's confidence raises, and she is ready to continue the match. O serves, and the ball goes past Dawn. Luckily Ambipom saves, and the ball goes towards Shiftry who hits it to back to Dawn. Dawn swings and returns, but the force of the impact breaks her paddle. Taking advantage of the situation, O hits the ball, but Ambipom manages to hit it back. Ambipom faces off against both O and Shiftry using her tails, and holds her own very impressively. Ambipom evens the score up, gaining her and Dawn point after point. With tears in her eyes Dawn yells her support to encourage Ambipom. Ambipom hits the ball pass O and Shiftry, gaining the eleventh point and winning them the game. Dawn picks up another paddle and joins Ambipom again, filled with confidence and pride from Ambipom's efforts. O announces that he's going to win, and serves the ball.
Later Dawn sits anxiously outside the Pokémon Center's treatment room. Sadly she got knocked out of the tournament by O but the important matter at hand is that Ambipom got hospitalized from the intense match. Dawn sits outside the operating room listening to the TV, as it is announced that O and Shiftry beat Theodore and his Gliscor and won their second consecutive title. A melody plays as the treatment sign dims, and Nurse Joy exits with Chansey. Nurse Joy informs Dawn that Ambipom was exhausted, and that she has no real injuries reassuring Dawn there is nothing to worry about. Ambipom happily steps out of the room to great Dawn, who immediately apologizes for placing so much responsibility on her while she did nothing. O walks into the room, calling out to Dawn and getting her attention. He tells her that he witnessed remarkable skill in his match with her and Ambipom and offers to train what could be one of the most powerful Pokémon Ping Pong players yet. Mistaken he means her, she tells him that she appreciates his offer but her focus is Pokémon Contests. O apologizes for the misunderstanding, and clarifies that its Ambipom he would like to train which surprises Dawn. O tells Ambipom that he is impressed with her abilities and, while making swing motions, tells her he wants to take her to the top of the Pokémon Ping Pong world. Ambipom jumps around swinging her tails in joy, as O tells Dawn he hopes she thinks about his offer. O leaves, and Dawn is left with a very tough decision.
Later that night Dawn bursts into Ash and Brock's bedroom in panic. Ash asks her what is the matter, and she tells them that she can't find Ambipom. They rush outside to begin searching, when a peculiar sound coming from behind the Center catches their attention. They investigate to find Ambipom playing with a ping pong ball against the wall. Relieved Dawn watches and speaks about how much fun Ambipom is having. Brock comments on never seeing Ambipom so inspired, and Ash adds on that Ambipom is clearly addicted to Pokémon Ping Pong. Dawn confesses that she is still unsure of what to do, and tells the others about O's offer. Dawn asks Ash what he would do...
We are then reminded of how Ash first met his Aipom when she stole his hat and how initially she was very mischievous and was always seeking attention from him. However after Ash captured Aipom and she followed him to Sinnoh the two developed a close bond and, after being traded to Dawn and evolving into Ambipom, eventually became a Contest champion...
Ash, having faced a similar choice more than once, tells Dawn that in the end it's what Ambipom wants to do that's important, and Brock tells her that there is a choice the Trainer has to make too between what a Pokémon wants, and what is best for them and that is part of a Trainer's responsibility. She thanks Brock, and knows what she has to do.
The next morning O prepares to leave and initially assumes that Dawn has turned down his offer until she approaches him. She tells him that she thought a lot about what he asked her, and she has decided the best thing to do is to let Ambipom decide what she wants to do. Dawn looks at Ambipom and asks her what she wants to do, continue in Contests with Dawn or take up Pokémon Ping Pong full-time. She then holds out Ambipom's Poké Ball in a Ball Capsule and a ping pong ball in either hand asking her to choose. Ambipom grabs the ping pong ball, which makes Dawn a little sad. However, Ambipom then grabs the Poké Ball, and then Dawn's hat and finally Ash's and begins juggling them joyfully. Dawn asks Ambipom if she has figured out what she's going to do, and she put their hats back in place, examining the ping pong ball and her Poké Ball. Ambipom has a tough time deciding as she loves Contests, Battles, and Ping Pong equally, but with Dawn's support she hands her back the Poké Ball. Knowing it wants to play Pokémon Ping Pong, Dawn asks O to take good care of Ambipom. O promises and Ambipom joins O at his side. Pikachu and Piplup wish their friend goodbye, and Ambipom gives them a thumbs up with its tail. O tells Dawn that his Pokémon Ping Pong training center is located in Vermilion City in Kanto, meaning they can visit anytime much to everyone's joy. Dawn tells Ambipom to stay well and get strong, and Ash wishes his Pokémon good luck. Ambipom grabs her Trainers hands fondly and bids them goodbye.
Soon, O and Ambipom are leaving. Ash, Dawn and the others wave Ambipom goodbye and she waves back as she leaves for her new future as a Pokémon Ping Pong Champion.
- Professor Oak's Pokémon lecture: Happiny
- An instrumental version of A Small Thing is used as background music.
- The ending animation receives a minor change in this episode, as the Pikachu-colored Pichu is now surrounded by sparkles when it first appears similar to the games when a Shiny Pokémon enters a battle.
- The dub title is based on a well-known quote To Thine Own Self Be True, from William Shakespeare's Hamlet.
- As Dawn is waiting in the hall of the Pokémon center, the Generation I healing music is heard before Nurse Joy exits the operation room.
- This episode shares some similarities with The Punchy Pokémon:
- A main character participates in a special Contest, using a monkey-based Pokémon.
- The main character ends up giving his/her Pokémon that participated the Contest to be trained for another participant of the Contest.
- During the match between Dawn and Halverson, the end of Marowak's bone is colored brown instead of white.
- During the match between Dawn and Halverson the score board states Halverson is winning the games 10-9 over Dawn, however when Dawn wins just one rally she also wins the game which is impossible due to a person only scoring one point at a time.
- In O's match against Dawn, in one scene, O was winning 10-6, but when Dawn breaks her paddle, O was winning 9-7.
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