Episode #200 - The Balloon Blow Up
As Ash and his friends are traveling, they come across a large X marked in a field. As they wonder what it's for, a marker falls from the sky. A boy in a Fearow-shaped balloon that's being pulled by a Fearow calls down to apologise. He lands the balloon and introduces himself as Skyler. The X is a mark that he uses for target practise, because he wants to become a professional balloonist.
Skyler takes the gang to his father's studio, where his dad designs and builds Pokemon-shaped hot air balloons. There happens to be a big balloon race tomorrow, and Ash wants to sign up. Skyler's dad has a Pikachu-shaped balloon in storage, so they all go out to learn how to fly it.
Once airborne, Skyler's dad explains that the purpose of the competition is to drop a marker on the target from a height of 1000 feet within a certain amount of time. They have to use a Pokemon as well as the burner to pilot the balloon. Ash gets Noctowl out to pull, and Brock works the burner, but at first it isn't as easy as it looks.
Below, Team Rocket is watching. Meowth finds a brochure about the competition, the first prize is a state-of-the-art hot air balloon engine. If they had that, they could make their getaways faster. A plan is made to enter the race, and although Meowth wants to do it without cheating for once, Jessie and James sneak out that night and sabotage the other competitors' balloons.
The next morning, all is ready for the race. Skyler hopes that he wins the engine so his dad can build his best balloon ever. Ash sees a Meowth-shaped balloon nearby and realises that Team Rocket is in the race too, and swears he won't lose to them. As the competition begins, many of the other balloons drop out soon after starting, and Skyler thinks this isn't a coincidence.
Later, Jessie and James agree to begin phase two of their "secret plan" and send Weezing to impede the competition with Smokescreen. Meowth loses his temper and argues with them, but they tie him up. A storm lies ahead, and James plans to fly above it using rocket power, but the rockets malfunction and they go blasting off.
Ash and Skyler both have trouble in the storm, and Ash has to use Cyndaquil to provide the flames when the balloon's burner goes out. Eventually they break through the clouds to see Team Rocket's balloon ahead. Team Rocket uses a missile launcher to bombard Ash's balloon, Cyndaquil falls and Ash catches it, but hurts himself. Pikachu gets angry but James uses the rockets again to pull ahead out of range.
Now Ash tells Noctowl to let the balloon go and carry Pikachu to Team Rocket. They are stopped by a hail of missiles, but Skyler sends his Fearow to destroy the missile launcher, which gives Pikachu the chance to send Team Rocket blasting off again.
Both Skyler and Ash throw their markers and hit the target in the center, so they're tied for the win. Ash generously tells Skyler that he and his dad can have the engine, because having fun and learning about ballooning were prize enough for him. Then our heroes continue their journey.