I still say Hau with Decidueye and Lana with Primarina, and Ash without Incineroar would be a lame way to represent the league.
It's bad enough they screwed Ash over in the Unova league, not having ANY fully evolved starters.
Why screw Incineroar over just because you don't like it? Not to mention, the writers don't really care what people think, and I'm pretty sure Incineroar is more popular or seems more popular than Torracat given all the merchandise it was getting, especially with Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. That may or may not have an effect.
But let's be blunt here, having a meaningless Torracat episode with Time Travel, just to give Torracat a Z-crystal kind of comes off meaningless, especially since they've never bothered to care about Torracat all that much outside of a few focus episodes here and there that come off more like "OH CRAP, WE HAVEN"T DONE ANYTHING WITH TORRACAT IN A WHILE."
So should Torracat remain unevolved, I'm not going to be impressed nor happy, because it'll just be focus Torracat SHOULD'VE gotten a long time ago, shoving something like this at this stage (right before the league) without an evolution, feels like a disservice to Torracat and more importantly to Ash, because I would assume that Ash would only use a Z-crystal per battle. Having Torracat use something like Fightinium-Z in the middle of a random battle would ultimately feel pointless in comparison to Incinium-Z. At least Incinium-Z would actually make sense, if Hau has Decidium-Z and with Lana has Primarium-Z.
I get the whole hypothetical Ash vs Kukui but even that would be off if it was Torracat vs Incineroar, with Torracat using Fightinium-Z after having tanked or dodged Malicious Moonsault, even if Incineroar would be weak to it.
I honestly cannot imagine what narrative benefit it would be, given how everything is laid out and implied to keep Torracat a Torracat, and giving it an episode like this, at this point in time, just for Torracat to get a random Z-crystal, which has to ultimately be pointless since I have a hard time justifying, Torracat by itself being the main Pokemon of a battle, whilst Incineroar makes more sense. Especially if we're going with the argument that Ash is only maybe going to use 3-4 Z-crystals.
Why would Torracat be favored over Meltan or rather Steelium-Z. And if Meltan evolves, the whole Steelium-Z is going to be even more problematic. And what about Rowlet and it's Z-move, which seems to be in conflict with Mallow's Z-crystal. Wouldn't Rowlet need a new Z-crystal?
Or are we arguing that's why Torracat is getting a Z-crystal, so that Rowlet nor Meltan/Melmetal have to use a Z-crystal, and be the focus, which then brings up the questions "Why now? Why all of a sudden? Why the sudden decision to put Rowlet and Meltan on a backburner just to give Torracat something? Isn't it a little too late to suddenly put Torracat up there with Pikachu and Lycanroc?" I mean at least with Incineroar I would get it, it's a fully evolved starter and has its own exclusive Z-move, but Torracat over Rowlet/Meltan who actually have access to a Z-crystal? Suddenly NOW is the time you want to give Torracat a random unrelated Z-crystal, despite shoving a million fire type attacks. Sure maybe if I could believe they'd give Ash a Firium-Z, but then again "Why now? Why all of a sudden just right before the league?" I feel like its a little too late to care SPECIFICALLY about Torracat's development when a lot of this should've happened a LOT sooner, but hey let's make it so we DON'T have a lot of battles between the really important plot battles.
I don't know at this point, it only makes sense to evolve Torracat if they suddenly want to give the Pokemon some actual development. Just a Torracat? Should've happened A LONG time ago, not just suddenly right before the league. At least Incineroar would justify the Pokemon's lack of focus, because it gives justified focus to a technically NEW Pokemon that couldn't have gotten a specific focus SOONER.
But for the people who ONLY like Torracat, ONLY want Torracat, how do you justify the treatment of Torracat this late into the series, only best case scenario throwing a Z-crystal just to give it something before the league?
And that's ignoring the worst case scenario, of absolutely positively NOTHING happening at all. No Z-crystal, no evolution, just simply a Torracat-centric episode.
I thought it was pretty obvious Bouncesweet would evolve back then, they were kinda limited to what they could do with the thing given it's lack of arms and feet. In all honesty they should have just started with Steenee and showed Bouncesweet off via flashbacks.
Obvious it WAS going to evolve, not necessarily obvious it was going to evolve when it did.
Besides, it's evolution was spoiled in the preview, Dusk Form Lycanroc was technically going to be a surprise (we only knew for sure it was going to evolve, and it was implied to be a new form), but had Pokemon Sunday (or whatever its called these days, I've forgotten), had to completely spoil it. But it would've been the first time we would've saw the Pokemon evolution.
So in terms of Pokemon, I honestly think that's the only surprise evolution you are going to get. Is if the preview/title/summary/VA list doesn't explicitly spoil it, and its evolution in the episode is the first inkling something like that was going to happen.
I honestly cannot think of any evolution that fits that criteria, even Monferno's evolution was spoiled in the title, even if the episode aired and it was the first time in the TV anime series we saw Infernape. Most everything else was spoiled in some fashion.
Incineroar could theoretically come off as a surprise evolution, assuming the VA list nor the preview spoil it, or any future title/summary before next week's episode airs. Assuming it does evolve.