Really just reviewing the first part, since, as usual, I'm not very knowledgeable about the TG part.
The first few minutes are really quite entertaining. Ash is working on his new move, and it's fun to see the different responses from his friends. Dawn is happy to see her spinning move being taken to new heights, while Brock is much more skeptical, and questions Ash about where he's going with this and whether he's really made a new move at all. It's funny to see. I think the fact that Brock brings up how Ash has done this before is again one of the charms of Sinnoh, in that Sinnoh generally acknowledges openly that it's repeating things that have been done before, with a slight twist added to the mix. Ash clarifies the difference, and in a way I can see what he's saying. The path Drifloom's hypnosis took to hit Buizel was certainly not straightforward, like Delcatty's Sing attack against Ampibom. But Ash also sort of acknowledges the weakness of the move as well, since by spreading the attack to cover so much area, he's only going to deal a "little" damage. This may just be a dubbing thing, but I think it's nice. Ash feels this is the best way to go, and his pokemon are all behind him. The fact that Ash has all of his pokemon out to help him figure out what to do establishes a sort of camaraderie for his pokemon; this group feels really close together, and I think part of that comes from how many training episodes we've had with them together. Ash also thanks Ampibom for the inspiration as he rubs its head, and I think this is the type of the friendship the writers were aiming for when they had the trade b/w Ash and Dawn, to make the trio seem closer together. And it works really well. I sincerely feel that this group of pokemon are the closest in terms of friendship since the Kanto group, and also the Hoenn group towards the BF stage.
Ash asks Dawn if she'll stay a little longer so that he can work on his move, and not Brock....and I think that was wise, since Brock looks like he was really ready to leave. He's even a little annoyed by Happiny emptying his backpack, in what was really a cute scene.
The most important scene in this episode, for me, is where Ash tries to explain to Cynthia how his last battle with Paul went. His hesitation prompts Cynthia's grandmother to surmise that Ash lost, or at the very least was disappointed with the results, and so he cannot even think of challenging Cynthia. I think the writers are really showing their sense of humor here, since this is the sort of thing we as fans probably complain about all the time, and it was wonderful to see Ash look a bit angry- like he really cares that he's traveled so long, and still can't match the champion. Ash (very politely, mind you) tries to brush it off and challenge Cynthia to a battle, but she declines. But I think Ash's challenge came more from how upset he was at hearing Cynthia's grandmother's "insult," rather than a sincere desire to challenge Cynthia.
It's this type of scene that makes all the difference for Ash, as a character. In the final episode of dp, he has an even more intense look than this one when watching Cynthia battle. He really, really wants to win, and he believes he can; but maybe no one else does. He also, I think, has some doubt whether he can. And supposing he doesn't, would it matter? I think that's one of the charms of this anime, in that, Ash's main dream is not something that the fate of the world depends on. What if Ash never does defeat the champion? He's done so much, and probably exceeded a lot of people's expectations already. I doubt anyone in Pallet Town would really be disappointed if Ash did not become champion; he's probably already the "pride" of that town. Neither Dawn nor Brock really stick up for Ash in this scene (although considering the champion's grandmother is saying this, I don't think they should). On Dawn's part, much of her story in this region is about her figuring out that it's important for her try her best, rather than be concerned about winning; even if she tries her best, sometimes that won't be enough to win. In future episodes, though, she does stick up for Ash and cheer him harder than anyone else does in this region. But at the end of the league, I think it's interesting that Ash's real feelings about his result, he sort of keeps to himself. Dawn sees him and catches him a little by surprise, but as soon as he realizes who it is, his expression changes, and he's "acting" a little. Brock very rarely is overly supportive of Ash (this episode is a great example, with him questioning Ash's tactics without just blindly praising them), and it's not until Ash's final battle in the Sinnoh league that he realizes something, and starts to cheer Ash on with much more energy than he normally does. But even so, I wonder if Brock really believes Ash can be good enough to beat someone like Cynthia.
Well, that was a lot of words and not much progress on what anything means. But there are such few scenes like this one in the anime, where you see Ash really being questioned about whether he CAN do it, and you see him thinking about it. I think this is one of his best scenes in Sinnoh, and as I've said probably too often, I think very rarely in Sinnoh we see Ash's true thoughts. Most of his best scenes, in fact I think 4 of his best ones (this one, the one earlier when Dawn loses for the 2nd time in a contest, the one at the very end of the Sinnoh League, and especially the one where he's watching Cynthia battle in the last dp episode), have him like this, where his expression is all we have to go by about what he's thinking.