Episode #249 - Beauty is Skin Deep
Ash is leading Misty and Brock in a run towards Blackthorn City when they spot a Dratini sleeping by a river. When they approach to get a closer look, they are attacked by a Gyarados! A blue-haired woman calls off the Gyarados and apologises, saying she's trying to protect the Dratini. She introduces herself as Claire, and Brock gets a crush on her. The Dratini wakes up and swims away, and Claire follows it with her Gyarados.
An older man runs up, calling Claire. He carries a box with a dragon fang inside, and explains to the kids that it's the treasure of the Blackthorn Gym. Ash realises that Claire is the Gym Leader. As they all follow Claire, the man tells them about how the first Blackthorn Gym leader defeated a Dragon type Pokemon and kept the fang as a keepsake. He's following Claire to remind her about the purification ritual that she has to do today.
Team Rocket is resting near the river. They see the Dratini and Jessie tries to catch it, but the Gyarados sends them blasting off. The kids and the man finally catch up to Claire, and he tells her that she must perform the ritual because it can only be done every three years. Claire tells them that she has to watch over the Dratini until it sheds its skin. The Dratini continues upriver and Claire chases after it again. Team Rocket watches them go, and Jessie is determined to capture the Dratini for herself.
Claire and the rest stop for lunch, and she agrees to a Gym battle with Ash once her Dratini has shed. The man sees Ash's Glacier badge and asks about a rumour of a red Gyarados. The kids tell him the story of the red Gyarados and Lance, and it turns out that Lance trained with Claire in the Blackthorn Gym for months.
Just then, an elderly couple arrive and begin taking pictures with the Dratini. When they get close, they capture Dratini in a net! They reveal themselves to be Team Rocket, and escape in their balloon. Claire swears that she'll get Dratini back, and the chase is on! Up in the balloon, Team Rocket gloats over their success, but the Dratini begins to struggle in its net, causing the balloon to go out of control and crash in the forest.
The kids and Claire find them, and Claire's Gyarados quickly overpowers James's Weezing. Ash tells Pikachu to Thunderbolt them, but Wobbuffet's Counter move causes the lightning to arc up and hit everyone. Claire throws herself on top of the Dratini to protect it, and it evolves into a Dragonair! Both Gyarados and Dragonair then send Team Rocket blasting off a second time.
Dragonair swims away, and everyone follows. During the night they reach a waterfall framed by cliffs on either side. It seems Dragonair led them here on purpose, since it's a perfect place to do the ritual. With the ritual done, Claire is ready to face Ash in a Gym match. The next morning, Ash and his friends approach the gates to Blackthorn City. The eighth Gym badge awaits.