"Lightning is a pure expression of firebending, without aggression. It is not fueled by rage or emotion the way other firebending is."
In the aftermath of the previous episode
, both groups of main characters take time to recuperate. Zuko aids Uncle Iroh in recovering from his wound at Azula's hands, and Iroh tries to teach him to generate lightning; when Zuko is unable to achieve the necessary mental calm, Iroh instead teaches him a technique to redirect
lightning, which he invented by observing Waterbenders. Aang also begins lessons, learning Earthbending from Toph. It's very difficult for him because Earth is an Airbender's polar opposite
; Airbenders go with the flow by nature, while Earthbenders tend towards directness and stubbornness. Thus, the title of the episode refers to both Aang and Zuko struggling to master attitudes and techniques that are psychologically and elementally opposite to their normal mindsets.
Meanwhile, Katara continues some of Aang's training as a counterpoint to his difficulty with Earthbending, whilst Sokka carries on the meat-and-sarcasm tradition by trying to hunt a baby sabretooth moose-lion.
- Angrish: Sokka's reaction to Toph waking him up. In the script, he had actual lines, but the writers thought the VA's improvised Angrish was funnier.
- Bilingual Bonus: The title is a rough translation of what "kung fu" literally means.
- Bottle Episode: the animated nature of the show makes it less obvious, but it's one of the few (if not only) episodes in the whole run that involves no guest voice actors or characters.
- Butt Monkey: Sokka ends up trapped in a hole in the ground up to his fingers, left totally helpless all day long and late into the evening trying to get out. Although it never comes up, imagine if he had been holding in an urge to take a leak...
- Cool Teacher: Oh, Uncle Iroh.
- Cub Cues Protective Parent: Sokka finds a baby saber-toothed moose-lion cub, and inevitably it's mama is near, and has to be fought off by Aang.
- Die or Fly: Invoked by Toph when she rolls a huge boulder down a cliff at Aang to try and get him to earthbend. Aang subverts the invoking by jumping out of the way. Played straighter later in the episode, when successfully stopping an angry Sabertoothed Mooselion gives him the proper "stand your ground" mindset needed for earthbending.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Toph comes across like this.
- Foil: Aang to Zuko. Both are subjected to the same bitter work, but Aang succeeds where Zuko succumbs to his own sense of victimhood.
- To a lesser extent, Katara and Toph as well, as their teacher tropes show.
- Gilligan Cut:
Katara: I've been training Aang for a while now. He responds well to a positive teaching experience. Lots of encouragement and praise. Kind words. If he's doing something wrong, maybe a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Toph: Thanks, Katara. A gentle nudge. I'll try that.
- Ignored Epiphany: Sokka, of course, neither gives up meat and sarcasm after being saved.
- Instant Armor: Toph does this with rock while trying to teach Aang how to earthbend.
- Mama Bear: The mother Sabertoothed Mooselion.
- Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Katara comes across this way, advocating a very supportive and affirmative teaching style for Aang. Subverted in that it actually is appropriate for his childish personality.
- No Antagonist
- Nothing Personal: Sokka tells this to the creature he wants to eat.
- Off Model: Despite the fact that she's blind, Toph leaves a hole for her eyes when suiting herself in rock armor, rather than for her mouth to breathe. The creators admitted this was an animation error.
- Plot Parallel: Between Zuko and Aang.
- Rage Against the Heavens: Zuko's final scene. Either a Tear Jerker or Narm, make up your own mind.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: During Zuko's Rage Against the Heavens.
- Teach Him Anger: Toph's strategy for teaching Aang to "stand his ground" like an Earthbender is to keep pushing his buttons until he gets mad enough to stand up to her. It works.
- Training Montage: Aang learning earthbending!