Ash seeing Azelf and the Lake Guardians being discussed was a great, interesting start. Snowpoint being mentioned because May went there to evolve Eevee and it being revealed Zoe is from there is a big example of how DP’s narrative just feels so thorough and planned, because it’s far from the first time something has been set up like this (Reggie’s badges and symbols being a previous example). There’s a level of intentionality that’s very apparent throughout and it makes the experience so rewarding when you eventually get the payoff. It’s the only Pokémon series to feel that way to me, and that’s a big praise.
On the actual Contest part, it felt good to see Dawn fully getting her grove back and being so adept with Buneary. Ice Aqua Jet was absolutely crazy, even Paul was like the madlad actually did it! Ash not winning didn’t even matter because that combo was just so good even Jessie had to praise him for that. IAJ and Countershield are my favorites of his combo moves; we love to see it.