Picking up where last episode left off, Maylene requests Dawn to give her a day to get ready for their gym battle, which Dawn agrees to. During that day's time, both Ash and Dawn do a little training. Ash works with Reggie to teach Staravia Brave Bird (Paul's Electabuzz is watching), while Dawn gets the help of Pikachu and some of Ash's other pokemon to be gym-battle ready. Staravia initially has trouble getting the hang of Brave Bird due to not having a moving target to focus on, so Ash volunteers to be the target. Ash narrowly dodges a few Brave Bird attacks, which I honestly wouldn't have taken too much notice of, since, as Brock tells Reggie, this is how Ash trains. But the surprise on Electabuzz's face and and the guilty look on Reggie's face (as Reggie says, he thinks maybe he should stop Ash, but of course you know he's not going to; Reggie is a really cool guy!) makes me stop and realize again how neat Ash really is. Electabuzz's and Dawn's expressions are particularly memorable for me b/c of how earlier in Sinnoh, both have thought Ash to be reckless in a negative way (well, Paul more than Electabuzz). But seeing Ash train, they realize how special that quality is; Ash knows what he's doing. Electabuzz's acknowledgement is much more important, as it marks a step forward in the Ash/Paul rivalry.
That night, Dawn talks to Ash and Brock about feeling a little nervous, to which Ash tells her how nervous he is going into any gym battle. Brock also gives a few encouraging words about some of his experiences as gym leader. I think this scene is overall quite beautiful, even if some of the things our heroes say are a little corny; but when Sinnoh ends, I think this scene so far is the best one to remember about the friendship among these three in this region.
The next day, Reggie is there for the gym battle, which almost doesn't happen as Dawn freezes when it's her turn to call out a pokemon. I like this scene very much, b/c it highlights how gym battles do have their own intense pressure that differs from contest battles. To be honest, I've at times felt gym battles are easier than contests, since you can challenge the gym leader whenever you want, plus can come back if you lose. But it's nice to see that gym battles do have a tough atmosphere as well, where all eyes are on you and only you for a long time, rather than 5 mins. Reggie's reaction is just so neat, as he observes Dawn's hesitation but makes no move to do anything. He's a very perceptive, laid-back guy; only very confident people who have been through many, many tough times and are self-reserved act this way (meaning, not me. Ha ha). Reggie is sympathetic, but I think he figures Dawn will work this out, or at the very least it's not his place to interfere.
Ash comes to the rescue, telling Dawn to lighten up and then reminding Maylene she's the gym leader (which I think means Maylene should be the one conducting the battle atmosphere, and encouraging Dawn to be relaxed). Maylene thanks Ash, and soothingly informs Dawn she can start whenever she's ready. The battle gets underway, and it's more entertaining than I thought it would be. Only thing I wish is that Ampibom didn't get 1 hit KO'ed by Lucario's Bone Rush, but otherwise everything is fine and fun to watch. I especially liked to see Ash so enthusiastic; he's on his feet for much of the match, almost as much as the referee.
The first time I saw Ash compete in a contest was pretty fun, and I think the first time seeing Dawn compete in a gym battle compares nicely.