The Big Balloon Blow-Up (ポケモンききゅうだいレース！あらしをこえて！！ The Big Pokémon Balloon Race! Exceeding the Storm!!) is the 45th episode of Pokémon: Johto League Champions.
Still on their way to Olivine City, our friends encounter a strange circle with X on the ground. Suddenly, something pops out of the sky and lands in front of Ash and co. Then somebody yells "Sorry!". The one who yells is Skyler a boy in a Fearow hot-air balloon. He explains that the ball is marker and he tries to center it in the X.
Skyler then introduces Ash and friends to his father. He tells them there will be a big hot-air balloon competition with grand prize new burner. Ash wants to compete but forgets he hasn't got a balloon. Skyler's father give them a Pikachu balloon.
Team Rocket want to steal the burner to make their escape faster but Meowth want to win it fair and square. Will our heroes win? Will Team Rocket cheat? And why does Meowth want to win it fairly so much?
The heroes encounter an X on the ground. Ash thinks it is a no-parking zone, while Brock believes it might be the crop circles made by UFO-s. The heroes get upset, as something fell near them. A boy comes with a Fearow in the Fearow balloon and apologises himself for that. The heroes introduce themselves to the boy, whose name is Skyler. He tells them this X is for target practice. Skyler tells them he trains himself in hot-air balloon flights. He used that previously to evolve Spearow into Fearow, then decided to fly as a career. They come into his father's studio, who designes the balloons to look like Pokémon. Skyler tells them tomorrow is a race, so Ash wants to compete. Brock reminds him they have no balloons to fly in, but Skyler's father decides to lend them one.
The balloon is shaped like a Pikachu, making Ash's Pikachu pleased. Skyler and his father explain the goal is to fly to the target and throw the object as near as possible to the target's center. The Pokémon should lead the balloon to the target, so Ash and Brock think of using Noctowl and Crobat. However, Skyler tells them they need to catch the wind to speed up, as well as to lift up and descend down the balloon. To show them, Fearow comes up and feels the wind. Skyler throws a ring, so Fearow catches it and pulls the balloon. Ash sends Noctowl and does the same. He tells it to pull as fast as it can, causing the heroes to fall down, since Noctowl is flying too fast. Ash tells it to slow down, so Brock ignites the balloon flame to lift up.
Jessie and James see that and wonder how they managed to get a balloon. Meowth comes with an advertisement, where the winner of the balloon race gets a balloon engine, powerful enough to get away from being shocked by Thunderbolt. Jessie and James see they would need to win it, so plan on stealing it. Meowth protests, as he wants to win fair and square. James thinks he has a fever, while Jessie prepares the thermometer. Meowth is determined to win to prove his skill as a hot-air-balloon pilot. At night, Jessie and James decide to sabotage to ensure Meowth wins instantly. Next day, the heroes admire the balloons and think Skyler can win, since he, his dad and Fearow make a good team, which is required to win this race. Team Rocket register in and put Meowth's name. The overseer tells them they do not need to put the name of the Pokémon, but Meowth is angry and tells he is the pilot. Skyler's father tells the heroes that they should enjoy the experience first, as they can be big winners in that even if they do not win the race. The heroes thank him, but see Team Rocket's balloon. Ash reminds them they are Team Losers, but Meowth responds he is good at balloon flights and will not cheat to win, surprising the heroes for that statement.
The race starts. Suddenly, many balloons get stranded, destroyed and fallen down. Skyler's father tells the heroes to check the equipment, so the heroes see there is nothing wrong, but are cautios. Team Rocket fly up, so the heroes accuse them of the sabotage. Meowth tells today they play by the rules and goes up, knowing the others need Pokémon to move their balloon. Jessie and James see Meowth is moving their balloon, who trusts his skill to win. Still, Ash is determined to win against Team Rocket. Meowth thinks the other teams, whose balloons got broken, did not care about their equipment. Jessie and James know it is because of their secret plan they will win the engine, so James sends Weezing, who uses Smog to cover the air with it. Some balloons fall down, while the heroes are convinced Team Rocket sabotaged the balloons. Meowth protests about that plan, but James and Jessie know this is an easier way to win the engine. Meowth is angry, but Jessie sends Arbok to shoot the balloons with Poison Sting. The heroes' and Skyler's balloon move away, causing one of the competitors' balloons to fall down.
Jessie and James are happy, but gets scratched by Meowth. Jessie tells they are helping him, while James wants to know if Meowth wants to be a winner or a loser. Meowth responds he may be a loser, but has his pride and does not want to cheat. Since they have lack of faith in Meowth winning, Jessie and James tie Meowth up. The storm approaches, so Jessie and James use a jet to speed up and win. The wind blows, as Fearow and Noctowl attempt to have balance. The heroes' balloon's fire douses (since Arbok's Poison Sting damaged the burner), so Skyler's father tells them to ignite it once more. Ash sends Cyndaquil, who uses Flamethrower for igniton. The balloon approaches a canyon, so Cyndaquil uses max power, causing the balloon to fly over. Team Rocket's balloon comes out of the storm. Jessie and James are confident to win. However, the heroes' and Skyler's balloon come out of the storm, with Meowth admiring the heroes' balloon being moved with Poképower. Still, James, against Meowth's wishes, fires projectiles on their balloons. Cyndaquil is blown away, but Ash catches it. However, Ash falls down and Cyndaquil goes to ignite, while Pikachu goes to use Thunderbolt on Team Rocket.
Team Rocket move away with the jet. So, Pikachu goes on Noctowl's back, as they move closer towards their balloon. James releases the projectiles, causing Noctowl to evade the projectiles. Skyler's Fearow goes to help them, though it does evade the projectiles. Fearow manages to destroy the jet/projectile cannon, while Pikachu blasts them off. Later, Skyler tells Ash they need to throw the objects to the target. Skyler and Ash throw the objects. The crowd cheers, while the reward presenters says both objects landed on the same place, so both the heroes and Sklyer's team won. However, it is a tie and the reward is one engine. The heroes decide to give the engine to Skyler and his father, since they did not need an engine, plus they had a great time. The heroes continue their journey, but have one last view at the balloons.
The "Who's that Pokémon?" is Remoraid.