I thought the way the totem battle was decent enough. It's definitely refreshing than gym battles.
Don't worry. An Ash's Noivern will he not be. Well, right now, it has that status.
Anyway this episode was pretty good, though I'll need subs to get the gist of all of it since there was a lot of heavy conversation scenes. After the complaints of lack of battling it seems we're getting a small marathon of official battles, and they're showing Ash's skill level. It did seem like they might have been some 'dodge' spamming here, though there was at least actual strategy to balance it. Pikachu using Quick Attack almost came off as a cool advantage play on how slow most of the Alolan Pokemon are.
The side plot was a clever way to include both Totem Pokemon from the two games. Liked how Gumshoos was almost playing the role of a gym leader. Ash worrying he was too hard on it, only for it to roughly shove him off and do a 'Stop pitying me and take your damn badge already!' act. Ash still seemed to get on it's good side by pointing out some fresh Ratatta meat though.
Actually, now that you mention it, I don't think I once heard Ash say, "Kawase!" ("Dodge!"), which is a nice change. Instead, he was specific: he told Pikachu to evade and Rowlet to fly up. I suppose that's in the realm of "dodge spamming," but it's strategic dodge spamming, and he only did it once.
Even 'Dodge left/right' or 'Dodge with Fly/Dig' is at least a less laughable command than what simply amounts to 'Don't get hit!' so yeah. This is a good sign if so, 'Dodge' spamming in the anime got really cheap and dull after a short while, so even just a small upgrade to the command like that sticking would make all the difference and make the trainers look far more clever.
Oh, Ash. Don't be stupid. You don't have enough strength to...
Uh... Well, used to have enough strength.