Opinionated Guide to Avatar: The Last Airbender


The Painted Lady

I was joking! I also said to use spirit magic and made funny noises.

In our seven episode arc of character stories, this is our first Katara story. Yes, first; of the Gaang, she is the only one who gets two stories. And she even manages to Katara-theft her way into another character's story.

I think the writers were a little too in love with this character for her own good.

Anyway, we open with the Gaang riding Appa who's swimming through an incredibly muddy river. It turns out that it's polluted. Oh dear God, please don't become an environmental episode.

So the Gaang needs food, but first we introduce Sokka's schedule. This is a timetable that Sokka has assembled designed to get the group to the rendezvous point on time. Of course, this schedule being a vital component to saving the world, it is naturally played entirely for laughs. Anyway, Aang suggests stopping at a nearby village on the river for food.

The village is quite literally on the river; it's built into the middle of it. They take a ferry over, driven by a random eccentric character. The village apparently hasn't been doing well since the Fire Nation Army built a factory up-stream from them that has been polluting their river. This killed off the fishing, so they've been struggling to survive.

Obviously, leaving to find a place that can actually support them didn't occur to anyone. Obviously, it must be about the poor, downtrodden working people being beaten down by the unfeeling machine of Firelord Ozai. It has nothing to do with their idiotic refusal to find a place where they can actually survive without starving to death.

And before you say anything, yes, I know that they shouldn't have to leave their village because Ozai's an ass. But wanting something will not make it so. Their choices, the things they can actually control are: stay and die, or leave and live. This isn't a hard choice.

When they arrive, the villagers are clearly impoverished and malnourished. Katara naturally thinks they should do something. When Sokka says that the have actual stuff that needs doing, Katara tries to guilt-trip him. Sokka counters by saying that they'll be helping everyone by taking out the Firelord.

If this were a good episode, this comment would have been overheard, thus quickly leading to the villagers attacking them. Sadly, this does not occur.

Eventually, they get Katara to calm down. After a bit of Komedy! with the food salesman, they purchase a few fish to eat. One of the children of the village comes up to Katara, wisely picking who's the most likely to give him something. She hands over one of their fish.

Cut to the Gaang's campsite, where Toph and Katara use their bending to purify some water. Sure, why not. Sokka starts grousing about the schedule. Naturally, this is again played for Komedy!. However, the writers do take possession of Sokka to let us know that they're aware that eclipses last only eight minutes. That was nice of them to tell us. Anyway, after Sokka says taht they'll be leaving early in the morning, we get a lingering shot of Katara, looking thoughtful. Oh dear; Katara has a plan.

Cut to the morning, and Katara says Appa's sick. Sokka freaks out due to the schedule, which everyone gives him a look for. Aang isn't sure Appa's sick, until Appa opens his mouth and reveals his purple tongue, causing Aang to freak out. There's actually a subtle clue here as to what's going on, as Momo jumps on the purple tongue and licks it. So the Gaang decide to head back to down to find some medicine.

Right, because impoverished villages often have medicine lying around.

When they get to the village, people seem happier. The store owner tells them that they were given food that night by the titular Painted Lady. Naturally, Katara asks who's taking credit for her actions. Oh sorry, spoiler alert. Wait... that's not a spoiler because everybody knew that, since it's completely obvious. Moving on.

So Katara asks who the Painted Lady is. The Painted Lady is apparently a river spirit who watches over the village sometimes. He even shows them a wooden statue of her. Anyway, when Sokka asks for medicine, he tells them that they don't have any. Apparently, it all goes to the factory workers.

So, the villagers have medicine, but they're forced to send it to the factory. Where does the medicine come from? Do they make it? If so, are they not paid for it? And if not, why not; the rest of the Fire Nation seems to be operating under capitalism. And wouldn't it be a bad idea to have the people who are making your medicine starve to death?

Anyway, without medicine, Katara points out that they will have to stay another night.

Cut to that night. We see mist rise up and a figure looking very much like the veiled Painted Lady gliding across the water to reach the village. She reaches a building where a bunch of sick people are lying. She touches them and there's a bright blue glow.

OK, so now Katara's healing bending can: heal acute injuries, diagnose medical and spiritual conditions, heal mental distress, and heal people suffering from random illnesses (rather different from acute injury). Oh, and raise the dead, assuming she has access to fancy "spirit water". People sometimes call Aang "Kung-Fu Action Jesus," but Katara's the one who's most acting like him. Neither Jesus nor Katara had to have any actual training to do these things, after all; they're both just really talented. Or divine. Or something.

After our Lady and Savior has lain her hands upon the downtrodden, the Painted Lady leaves, but the kid from earlier spots her and thanks her. We then get the reveal that it's Katara.

I have to give props to the episode for not trying to pretend like we're idiots or something. This is just the end of the first act, so it's not like they dragged this out for dramatic effect.

Sadly, that's pretty much the only props this episode gets.

Anyway, cut to the next day. The Gaang are again in town, as Appa's still sick. However, the villagers are celebrating, erecting statues of the Painted Lady and so forth.

Katara starts praising herself by proxy, saying how a village can be helped by a single person. Sokka correctly points out that the Painted Lady will have to keep coming back, or else everything will go back to how it was. Naturally, this simple truth is met with petulance by Katara. Sokka says that they can't fend for themselves; then he says that the Painted Lady would have to destroy the factory for that to matter.

When I first saw this scene, I was 100% certain that Sokka knew what Katara had been up to, and this was his way of tacitly supporting her actions as well as telling her what she needed to do next. It would have been a great character bit for Sokka, showing how well he can read his sister. Sadly no; he's entirely clueless.

While Sokka and Aang engage in some Komedy! around spirit magic, Katara turns towards the factory, looking determined. That night, we get a bit of padding, watching Katara put on her Painted Lady outfit and makeup. Where she got this from is not explained. Aang spots her as she's leaving, which leads to more padding, as Aang tries to follow her and talk to her. This chase goes on for a solid minute. Then, we get another thirty seconds of padding before he figures out that it's Katara.

Apparently, Katara wasn't dressed as the Painted Lady on her first night; someone spotted her and thought that's who she was. So she decided to use a disguise. Also, she turned Appa's tongue purple with berries. Naturally, after lying to them and throwing the entire "save the world" plan into jeopardy, Aang is totally fine with it. He even decides to help with that destroying a factory thing Sokka suggested.

So we get scenes of the duo destroying the factory from the inside. Katara eventually floods it.

But when they return to camp, they find that Sokka and Toph are waiting for them: the jig is up. Now, you might think that it was Bending Daredevil's ability to detect lying that tipped them off, since Katara lied to them quite a lot over the past few days. Nope; it would seem that Toph was getting into the berries Katara used on Appa, and Sokka noticed her tongue. He then declares that they're leaving.

Cut to a Fire Nation soldier standing atop the ruin of the factory, looking out at the village. Ominous music plays.

As the Gaang is getting packed, we hear the sound of... steam-powered motorboats. Sure, why not. When Katara confesses that she destroyed the factory, Sokka freaks out. When she tries to pin the blame on him, he uses the page quote and points out that she just set the Fire Nation army on the village. She asks what she was supposed to do and he says that they should have just left.

Then, Katara says, "No! I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me." I quoted that for the last word: "me." She didn't say "people who need help." See, it's got nothing to do with what the people need; it's all about Katara. She's doing this because of her self-admitted belief that these people need her. Not help in general, but people who need her specifically. Aang, Toph, Sokka, no, they don't need them. They need her and what she can do.

The arrogance, it burns!

Anyway, Katara says she's going to go stop them. Naturally, rather than let her go down there alone and face the consequence of her actions, Sokka pusses out and decides to help. Because, as he says, "I'll never turn my back on you." Which is probably why she acts the way she does, Sokka. Good job teaching her that all she needs to do to make you do what she wants is to just go do it and you'll follow along like her faithful pet.

... I'm not gonna say it. I'm saving it ;)

Anyway, we get a scene where the soldiers accost the villagers. They claim innocence, saying that it was the Painted Lady. Naturally, the soldiers aren't buying it, so they start the attack. But then a gust of wind puts out their fires.

The Gaang all do their best to make the Painted Lady's intro as ethereal as they can. When she does arrive, in a cloud of mist, she (with Aang under the walkway helping out with some airbending) effortlessly takes them out, and they scurry away in their steam-powered motorboats.

After the fight, as the village is praising her, the ferryman from before notices that some of makeup came off during the fight and recognizes her. They also figure out that she's just a waterbender. When they turn on her, Sokka gets up and rightfully tells them off.

Then Katara gives a speech about how she was wrong to impersonate someone. Though she doesn't say she was wrong to destroy the factory and piss off the Fire Nation army. Then she talks about how they can't rely on the Painted Lady, and they have to help themselves.

Toph, hiding in the crowd, suggests that they clean the river. And so they do. Because that's totally possible. And totally necessary, since the factory's no longer producing pollutants, and the pollution will have been washed downstream in a day or so. Therefore, after a final bit of Komedy!, we get a montage of the various people using nets to pull sludge out of the water, Katara and Toph purifying it with bending, and so forth.

Granted, this does nothing for all the nasty toxins that are embedded on the river's floor. You know, the ones in the sediment that will take months or years to slowly trickle out and poison the fish/people. But who cares about those, the episode's over! And the Gaang can leave, secure in the knowledge that they taught this village how to fend for themselves.

Wait a minute. The only reason the cleaning process worked was that the factory was destroyed; it wouldn't have done any good otherwise. And that was caused by Katara and Aang, two powerful benders. So the villagers should fend for themselves... after some generous benefactors come over and solve their problems for them.

Also, won't Firelord Ozai, or one of his underlings who deals with this, be kinda pissed? I guess the villagers will have to spontaneously develop firebending skills to stop that battalion of firebenders when they show up to kill them all for destroying Fire Nation Army property.

Oh that's right; the episode ends with Katara at night, looking out over the water, and the Painted Lady appears to her to thank her. I'll just assume that the pollution prevented her from manifesting earlier; otherwise, she was being a colossal dick for not helping. Anyway, the Painted Lady can protect the village now. Because the way we fend for ourselves is to get behind the most powerful person around and tell them to deal with the people who want to kill us.

Or something.

My God, this was a silly episode. Much like The Waterbending Scroll, Katara is allowed to get away with bloody murder. She lies to them, tricks them, could possibly have outed them to the populace (and rumors of waterbenders and earthbenders roaming the Fire Nation are exactly what the Gaang wants to avoid), and almost got a village massacred through her short-sightedness. Are there any consequences for this? Do any of the characters trust her less? Does anyone think differently of her? Does anything happen from this at all?

Of course not; it's a Katara episode.

What's worse is that we don't see anything of Azula's Angels + 1. A few scenes with them could have broken up some of the padding that this episode had. But there's something worse than that lurking here.

Scheduling Conflict

The worst thing about this episode is this. The fundamental conflict in this episode is based on doing the morally correct thing in the short term vs. the long term needs of the Gaang. Ignoring the fact that the Gaang just flew halfway around the world overnight, this episode sets up Sokka's schedule as a significant issue for the Gaang. Not following the schedule may mean missing the rendezvous date and thus losing their best chance to take out Ozai.

This would have made a great conflict. Can the Gaang afford to help random people if they're on a tight timetable? Imagine what would have happened if Katara's screwing around here had lead to them missing the date. Or even if it came close to it; if there was some tension about them reaching the rendezvous on time. Maybe they just barely arrive, possibly having to take larger risks (flying more and faster on Appa) and were discovered. Perhaps they have an entire episode where they have to hunt down the messenger that's going to spoil their plans.

But of course, we can't have anything like that. Sokka's schedule is barely mentioned again. Not only that, every following episode will have the Gaang basically screwing around as though they have all the time in the world. And not only that, but they reach the rendezvous point three days ahead of schedule.

So, not only do the writers basically throw away a perfectly good source of conflict and tension, they retroactively render all of Sokka's comments about how they can't stop and help these people as BS. There was never any conflict here; it was just a bit of Komedy! and Sokka needlessly being an ass.

Because Katara is always right, and Katara always gets her way.

Told you I was saving it ;)


As much as I actually agree that this episode was a display of Katara being a self-righteous Mary Sue who gets away with it, the whole rant on the "I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me" was REALLY nitpicky. You know arrogance wasn't the intent of the line; it was just phrased wrong. She was basically saying that if she has the opportunity and the ability to help people out, she will not pass it up. With great power comes great responsibility and all.
ManwiththePlan 16th Aug 11
This is the same guy who took an offhanded joke comment from Toph and used it to say there was a characterization shift later in the episode. I've learned to gloss over the nitpicks because there are a lot more solid arguments in this liveblog.
Wackd 16th Aug 11
The Irony is lost on you I see.
JusticeMan 18th Aug 11
I actually liked this episode. Not one of the better ones, but I did like it. Still, your criticisms about it cutting into the schedule of the war, or how the heroes put the village in danger, are spot on, and I missed both of those when I was originally watching it.
BonsaiForest 10th Nov 11
What I find funny is when Katara says she will never turn her back on people who need her, most people will point at her leaving Jet. I remember her being determined to abandon the people of Ba Sing Se.
Scabbard 15th Jul 12

Who's interested in an episode-by-episode calculation of exactly how much time passed in the show, including the first half of Season 3?

Before anyone says it's impossible to accurately calculate the passage of time in Avatar The Last Airbender, I'm going to agree with you; it is impossible. Using the lunar calender, that is. The phases of the moon change according to the plot and are very inaccurate, but that just means we have to use the solar calender, instead. In other words, we'll have to calculate time according to the solstices, and even according to the solar eclipse and Sozin's Comet.

First of all, exactly when did Sozin's Comet happen? All we ever got on the time was “the end of summer.” And the Western calender and Chinese calender have very different views on when the seasons start and end, and we don't know which calender Roku was using when he said that. The Western calender names the solstices and the equinoxes as the beginning points of the respective seasons, but the Chinese calender has them as the mid-points of the seasons, because of China's location. The end of summer according to the Western calender would be September 22-23, when the autumnal equinox occurs and marks the beginning of the autumn season. But, in the Chinese calender, the end of summer happens earlier than that, around August 7, about six and a half weeks after the summer solstice, which would be June 21-22. If we wanted to more or less satisfy both definitions of the end of summer, we could pick the mid point between the different dates as the “end of summer” as used by Roku; August 31-September 1.

Now, let's say that that is when Sozin's Comet occurred. Let's count back from that date, shall we? Between Aug. 31st-Sep. 1st and the summer solstice, June 21-22 (a.k.a. The Avatar And The Fire Lord), would be 68-69 days. Almost 2 ½ months or 10 weeks. Between the summer solstice and the winter solstice, which is about December 21-22 (a.k.a. The Spirit World part 2: Avatar Roku), would be 182-183 days. 6 ½ months or 26 weeks. Which also includes the time skips that occurred between the three seasons, however long they were.

So let's add it up. About 2 ½ months + 6 ½ months = about 9 months, from the winter solstice to Sozin's Comet. If we were to add an extra month or six weeks to that number for the first seven episodes of Season 1 that took place before the winter solstice, that would be 10 ½ months at the most. On average, that would be 4.8 days per episode for all three seasons, if they each covered that much time and there weren't any time skips between seasons. If we used the Chinese calender and started earlier than August 31, with Aug. 7 as the date of Sozin's Comet and counted back to Dec. 22 from that day instead, then added six weeks for the first episodes, that would give us about 9 ½ months instead, leaving us with average 4.3 days per episode. If we started from a later date, with Sep. 21 (the day or two before the autumn equinox) as Sozin's Comet and did the same thing, that would be 11 months and seven days, with an average of 5.3 days per episode.

In other words, no matter which calender you use, the time that passed in the cartoon between The Boy in the Iceberg and Sozin's Comet was less than a year. Having clarified that, let's focus on the time that passed during the first half of Season 3, which is what you have a problem with in this article.

The Awakening – 2 days. The Headband – 2 days. The Painted Lady – Approx. 1 week. This episode is tricky, because they could've spent anywhere between one day to several days cleaning the river at the end of it. However, only four days passed before that, and if we say it took three days to clean up the river as much as they were able to, then that would be a week, so let's just go with that. Sokka's Master – 2 days. The Beach – 1 day. Azula mentions them having to stay at Ember Island for a week, and since at least her and Zuko were back at the capital by the next episode, then we need to remember to add in this minor time skip. The Avatar and the Fire Lord – This is also tricky, as we don't know how much time passed between Roku telling Aang to go to his island during the Summer Solstice and the actual Summer Solstice. But, since Zuko read Sozin's last testimonial during the solstice, and it took him at least a day to figure out that that was what the letter was saying to do, with some more time passing after the solstice itself showing Zuko confronting his uncle about the letter, let's just say 3 days for this episode, to be safe. The Runaway – This one is easy. The episode specifically states two days passed before when the episode started, so all we have to do is add another day for Katara and Toph's scam attempt and subsequent events. 3 days. The Puppetmaster – 2 days. Technically 3 nights and 2 days. Nightmares and Daydreams – 3 days. Day of Black Sun parts 1 and 2 – Both episodes happen over the course of 1 day.

So, including the assumed week that passed between The Beach and The Avatar And the Fire Lord, how much time passed during the first half of Season 3? I got 33 days including The Awakening and The Headband, and The Day of Black Sun two-parter after Nightmares and Daydreams. From just The Painted Lady to Nightmares and Daydreams, however, it's only 18 days. That doesn't count any time that passed in between those episodes except for the one week Azula mentioned, but let's add, say, one day between each episode. Number of episodes = 7. Days between episodes = 6. 18 days + 6 offscreen days between the Painted Lady and Nightmares and Daydreams = 24 days.

So that's about how much time passed in the first part of Season 3, accounting for overhead.

Having figured that out, how much time did Team Avatar have to spare for things like the Painted Lady episode during that part of the story, anyway, if they had any time to spare at all? That answer will take longer to answer, because we'd have to start back at the beginning of the series and count forward, but I'm game.

Let's say that Sozin's Comet takes place on the last day of summer according to the Chinese calender, August 6, which is the earliest it would have happened. Not only is the Chinese calender the more likely candidate than the Western Calender is, considering the Asian influence of the Avatar world, but it would also give Team Avatar the tightest deadline plausible to defeat the Fire Nation before Sozin's Comet. Using the dates and calculations we figured out using the Chinese calender before, with the extra six weeks tagged onto the front of it to be safe, The Boy In The Iceberg/The Avatar Returns happened about Nov. 10th.

So, six weeks pass. They visit the Southern Air Temple, all the spots marked on Sokka's map, Kyoshi Island, la la la la, until they end up at Hei Bai's forest two days before the Winter Solstice, December 20th, give or take. Let's say that the actual Winter Solstice occurred on Dec. 22.

Okay, so after the vagueness of how much time had passed before, now we can get someplace. Now we have a definite, real-world, astronomical event that canonically did happen during the story, to mark the passage of time with from here to Sozin's Comet. First, Season 1:

The Waterbending Scroll – 2 days. Jet – 3 days. The Great Divide – 2 days The Storm – 1 day. Technically 1 day and 1 night. The Blue Spirit – 2 days The Fortuneteller – 2 days (doesn't seem like two days at first glance, but the ash and smoke from the erupting volcano can make it look like night had fallen again and that three days passed instead of two). Bato of the Water Tribe – 2 days The Deserter – 2 days. The Northern Air Temple – 1 day. Technically 1 night and 1 day. The Waterbending master – 4 days Siege of the North 1 and 2 – 3 days

Total = 24 days. Like before, let's add in 1 day offscreen that happened between episodes, also taking into account times where we know more than a day passed since the previous episode. Two days passed between The Northern Air Temple and the Waterbending Master. Between The Waterbending Master and the Siege of the North, however, is difficult. There couldn't have been one day between them, because there's no way Katara could've picked up enough Waterbending to shoot to the top of Pakku's Waterbending class with only one day's training. If it weren't for the moon phases being messed up, we could compare the current moon phase with the phases seen during the Waterbending Master (which would be about three weeks.) So let's say half that time passed between the Waterbending Master and The Siege of the North, 11 days.

Offscreen days = 21 days. 21 off screen days + 24 on-screen days = 45 days since the Winter Solstice, December 22. That would place the day after the Seige of the North at Feb. 6, right around when the Chinese define the beginning of the spring season.

Now for the time skip that happened between Team Avatar being at the North Pole and them being somewhere off the Earth Kingdom coast at the beginning of Season 2. Iroh mentions being on the raft him and Zuko escaped the North Pole on for three weeks, and assuming some time had passed between those three weeks and perhaps the two of them having to reach the actual Fire Nation colonies on foot, let's say four weeks have passed since Feb. 6th and the Siege of the North, which places us at March 6th as we begin Season 2.

The Avatar State – 3 days The Cave of Two Lovers/Return to Omashu – 2 days The Swamp – 2 days Avatar Day – 2 days The Blind Bandit – 2 days Zuko Alone (assuming that this episode didn't occur at the same time that The Blind Bandit did) – 2 days. The Chase – 2 days. Bitter Work – 1 day. The Library/The Desert – 2 days The Serpent's Pass/The Drill – 2 days City of Walls and Secrets – 2 days Tales of Ba Sing Se – 2 weeks; see notes for next episode. Appa's Lost Days – The episode specifies that four weeks passed between Appa getting captured by the Sandbenders and eventually ending up at and getting captured again at Ba Sing Se. The episode shows that both The Serpent's Pass episode (shown by the Gang sleeping at the camp they'd made there for the night and Zuko and Iroh being on the ferry) and probably part of City of Walls and Secrets (as shown by the shot of Aang sleeping in Ba Sing Se when we find out that he's not the one blowing the bison whistle that Appa was answering to) happened during this episode. If so, then Appa would've been captured by Long Feng the very night before the Earth King's party, allowing him to use Appa as blackmail for Aang. And that's assuming that he wasn't messing with Aang's head and didn't actually capture Appa until during Tales of Ba Sing Se. The Serpent's Pass episode had already come and gone halfway during this episode, but Appa didn't go to Ba Sing Se then. At least 5 days passed between the scenes that showed those episodes and when he actually did go to Ba Sing Se itself. From this, we could say that Tales of Ba Sing Se happened over a course of approximately between one and two weeks. Lake Laogai/The Earth King – 3 days The Guru/The Crossroads of Destiny – Aang said he wouldn't be back for a week during the Guru, but it's safe to say that he flew as fast as he could back to Chameleon Bay to get Sokka because he knew something was wrong with Katara, and got there sooner than that. More than likely both episodes occurred over a week.

So let's add all this up. I know this is getting tedious, but bear with me. On-screen days = 46 days. Off screen days = only 11 (thanks to all the two-parters and simultaneous episodes that happened in this season). Off screen + on screen = 57 days from March 6th, where we've gauged the season started, and a little over 4 ½ months since the Winter Solstice. Now it's about May 2nd as Team Avatar escapes from Ba Sing Se. To be more specific, it's two months before the summer solstice, and 3 ½ months before Sozin's Comet right now.

Now for the second time skip. We really don't have anything definite about this one, outside Katara's offhanded comment about Aang being out for a few weeks. We could try guessing how long it took for Aang's hair to grow out and all, but we don't know how fast his hair grows. Can we just say that four weeks passed here the same as did after Season 1? That would put us at May 30-31 when Aang wakes up at the beginning of Season 3, just short of the summer months. Less than one month away from the events of The Avatar and the Fire Lord, 2 ½ months before Sozin's Comet, and 33 days before the Day of Black Sun, like we'd figured out earlier. So let's see what we get when we add up all of Season 3:

The Awakening – 2 days. The Headband – 2 days. The Painted Lady – 1 week. Sokka's Master – 2 days. The Beach – 1 day. 7 days mentioned by Azula The Avatar and the Fire Lord – 3 days. The Runaway – 3 days. The Puppetmaster – 2 days. Nightmares and Daydreams – 3 days Day of Black Sun parts 1 and 2 – 1 day. The Western Air Temple – 2 days The Firebending Masters – 3-4 days, depending on how long it took for Zuko and Aang to come back from the Sun Warriors. The Boiling Rock 1 and 2 – 3 days The Southern Raiders – 5 days, but let's go ahead and round it up to 7, since Katara and Zuko had to go back and pick the others up before going to the beach house. The Ember Island Players – 1 day Sozin's Comet 1 and 2 – 3 days

On screen days = 53. Off screen days = 14 (again, less than season 1 because of the two part episodes, and including the week we'd already counted after The Beach). 53 + 14 = 67 days, between The Awakening and Sozin's Comet. 2 months and 11 days to be exact. Total days from the Winter Solstice, Dec. 22, to Sozin's Comet, Aug. 6th = a little over 8 months.

So, how much time did Team Avatar waste before Nightmares and Daydreams, if they did? We've already agreed that 33 days passed between The Painted Lady and Nightmares and Daydreams, and that's including the off screen days we added for overhead. On average, that would be 6.6 days per episode. So is that how many days each episode covered? No, it's not. Did Team Avatar waste time pussyfooting around like they did before Nightmares and Daydreams? They ran a bigger risk of getting caught, yes, but did it really cut into their time, necessarily? No, it didn't. They had enough time to spare, Sokka was just overreacting like he does a lot of the time. Heck, if they really had stayed on a tight schedule while doing everything that they did before going to the rendezvous point, they would have gotten there even earlier than four days.

And all of this, of course, is assuming that both of the time skips really did cover four whole weeks apiece, that it really did take Katara one and a half weeks to become Pakku's star pupil during Season 1, that the Tales of Ba Sing Se really did last for two whole weeks, and that Zuko Alone happened after The Blind Bandit, instead of during it. Any variation of these in any combination would've added even more overhead to the first half of Season 3 then we've already got.

Omen 31st Jul 12
Correction: My bad. Only 24 days had passed between The Painted Lady and Nigthmares and Daydreams. 24 days divided by 5 episodes = 4.8 days average per episode inbetween the two episodes.
Omen 1st Aug 12