Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "Nightmares and Daydreams"

"During the meeting, I was the perfect prince. The son my father wanted. But I wasn't me."

The Gaang land on an island uninhabited by anything except koala-sheep, four days ahead of the invasion rendezvous. The only thing to do now is to get some rest, but Aang's anxiety over the invasion causes him to have a nightmare about facing Ozai (as a giant Fat Bastard), who points out that Aang isn't wearing pants. He bolts awake and decides to train until sunrise. When the other heroes wake up and Aang stresses over being underprepared (particularly in firebending), Sokka re-assures him that the eclipse will disable firebending anyway. Aang still decides to spend the rest of the day training, and when he goes to sleep that evening (after irritating Toph with an endless stream of "Good night" wishes to everyone), he dreams that he once again confronts Ozai- having chained his pants in place to ensure he doesn't forget them - only to learn that Ozai is going to administer his mathematics test, which Aang completely forgot he was supposed to take. When he wakes up from this nightmare, he tries to resume his training, but Katara talks him into going back to sleep.

The next morning, Ozai appears and announces that Aang overslept and missed the invasion. He then flies away on a fire-breathing hippopotamus-cow, causing Aang to wake up from the nightmare. Toph assures him that the invasion is still two days away, but Aang is more concerned with what he saw as premonitions for how his teammates will meet their demise in the invasion and tries to persuade them to prepare for them, in spite of their insistence that dreams aren't necessarily predictive. He finally concedes that he needs to find a way to relax, but a yoga session with Katara in a hot spring reminds him of the heat given off by firebending, a psychiatry session with Sokka as Wang Fire goes off the rails almost immediately, and a back massage on a grid of logs that Toph sets to vibrating by earthbending leaves him bruised (while her suggestion of acupuncture causes him to scream and flee- no wonder, given that her idea of acupuncture involved a porcupine).

That evening, Aang thanks the other team members for their help, but immediately has a surreal, terrifying nightmare where he faces Ozai during Sozin's comet (which crashes to earth), while Katara, Toph, and Sokka meet bizzare and horrific demises and Ozai bends reality around him. Once he wakes up, decides there's only one solution: stay awake until the invasion. The following morning, he finally plucks up the nerve to tell Katara he loves her, and they kiss... and it turns out to be a daydream, the subject of which he shies away from relating to the real Katara. He goes back to training, but his sleep deprivation is causing him to hallucinate, imagining Momo and Appa talking to him and arguing about whether he should get some sleep before donning samurai garb and fighting each other, to the cheers of crowds of koala-sheep, while Guru Pathik floats by with six arms singing a song about chakras. Aang declares that he needs to jump into a cold waterfall.

As dusk falls, Aang returns to the campsite to find a rock covered with fluffy koala-sheep wool that his friends made for him, reasoning that he really needs a good night's sleep before the invasion. They assure him that he's up to the challenge of fighting Ozai, and he lies down and promptly falls asleep... dreaming that this time, it is Ozai who suddenly discovers he is not wearing pants during their fight.

In the episode's B-plot, Zuko is trying to settle into life as the Fire Prince, having his every whim catered to and a crowd of adoring fans, but being unable to do anything or go anywhere without guards. As he spends the day (and, it appears, the night) with Mai, she reveals that there is a war meeting coming up, and apparently no-one thought to tell Zuko about this. He confronts Azula, who naturally knows about the meeting, but says that it was probably simply assumed that Zuko would be there. Sure enough, on the day of the meeting, Ozai refuses to start until Zuko is in the room, literally at his right hand. Afterwards, Mai asks Zuko how the meeting went, and he says he actually felt wanted by his father for the first time in years... but despite being the perfect prince he's always aspired to be, he didn't feel like himself. Now, more than ever, he is conflicted over who and what he really wants to be.

Tropes:

  • Advice Backfire: Sokka's attempts to reassure Aang do not go well:
    Sokka: Of course you're stressed; you've gotta fight the Fire Lord: the baddest man on the planet! And you'd better win, or we're all done for...
    Katara: Sokka! That's not helping!
  • Afraid of Needles: Aang, when Toph suggests acupuncture with a porcupine-like creature. The fact that the creature's needles have Audible Sharpness probably doesn't help matters.
  • Anime Hair: Aang in his dreams.
  • Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag: Happens within the episode. Aang briefly hallucinates that Momo is able to talk - then returns to his normal chattering. Then Appa shows up, standing on two legs and talking to Momo, and Momo talking back to him. Then Momo puts on a robe, Appa puts on samurai armor, and they engage in a sword fight. When Aang's hallucinations end, they're back to normal animals.
  • Anxiety Dreams: Aang, of course.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Parodied.
    Dream!Ozai: Really? How do you plan on doing that when you're not even wearing pants?
  • Big Damn Kiss: Subverted. Aang finally tells Katara that he loves her and kisses her, thus letting her kiss him back. But as they get ready to make out some more...Katara's voice asks Aang what he was doing, and he looks up to see her standing there. It Was All Just A Dream, indeed.
  • Big "NO!": Dream!Ozai in Aang's last dream.
  • Breather Episode: A lighthearted bit of sleep deprivation comedy before the very dramatic Day of Black Sun.
  • The Cameo: Guru Pahtik reappears as one of Aang's hallucinations, with six arms, and singing about chakras.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Aang, when waking from his last nightmare, complete with scream.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The content of the war meeting go unrevealed for this episode, though whatever it was prompted Zuko to finally make a Heel Realization. The audience finally finds out what went on in the finale, and boy howdy is it a doozy.
  • David Vs Goliath: Aang hallucinates a battle between Momo the small lemur and Appa the giant bison.
  • Daydream Surprise: Sorry, Kataang fans, gonna have to wait a little longer for the real deal...
  • Fangirl: Not surprisingly, Zuko now has in-universe ones trying to get his attention (and possibly other things) when he steps outside the palace. One of these manages to get close, before being dragged off by the guards.
  • Funny Background Event: When the Gaang makes Aang a bed for him to sleep on, there are some naked koala-sheep next to Sokka.
  • Get Ahold Of Yourself Man:
    Katara: Aang, I know you're trying to help, but you really need to get a grip.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Nightmares, funny stuff, Kataang Ship Tease, hallucinations... hold on, did Zuko spend the night on Mai's couch?
    • Mai suggesting ways for Zuko to relieve stress, like... ordering servants around, or taking a palanquin ride.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The A-plot is Aang having a Sleep Deprivation Samba due to anxiety over the coming invasion causing nightmares. The B-plot focuses on Zuko and Mai cuddling adorably... and Zuko attending an offscreen war meeting wherein something happens that will have a large effect on the finale, and which provokes Zuko's Heel Realization.
  • The Insomniac: Aang, and the lack of sleep makes him crazy.
  • A Load of Bull: Aang hallucinates that Appa stands on his hind legs, tells Aang that he needs to take care of himself, and then dons samurai gear, wields three swords, and fights Momo.
  • Mood Whiplash: While most of Aang's nightmares are played as comedy, some of them are actually pretty dang frightening. Not to mention the snapback after the aforementioned Kataang Ship Tease.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Aang's most humiliating nightmare. In his final dream, he turns it around on Dream!Ozai.
  • No, You: In Aang's final Ozai dream, the giant Ozai figure tries to tell Aang he isn't wearing pants (again), but Aang turns it on him and says that Ozai's the one not wearing pants, much to his horror.
    Dream!Ozai: My royal parts are showing!
  • Potty Emergency: How Aang predicts Toph drinking water would bring about a loss in their battle in one of his dreams.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: All of Aang's dreams, as well as his hallucinations. There's such things as Ozai the giant Villainous Glutton, Aang as an anime Shout-Out, giant eyes opening up in the air, Aang suddenly not wearing pants, Ozai taunting Aang about missing his math test (causing Aang to fall into a giant abacus), Momo being a giant attempting to grab Aang and Appa, Toph not having eyes, there being a random ocean under the Fire Lord's palace, Appa and Momo talking, Appa and Momo swordfighting while sheep cheer them on, and a six-armed Guru Pathik sitting on a cloud and singing about how everyone loves chakras, not to mention the lines of rocks that act like snakes.
  • Road Trip Across the Street: Zuko takes a palanquin to Mai's house, which is just across the street from the palace. Granted, he tried to be nonchalant and just walk over, but his servants insisted otherwise.
  • Ship Tease: Aang to Katara- "Baby, you're my forever girl."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Sokka refers to Fire Lord Ozai as "the baddest man on the planet", which was the tagline for Mike Tyson during his prime.
    • The three get-ups Aang wears in his Fire Lord dreams are homages to Dragon Ball Z, Trigun, and wuxia films.
    • Hallucination!Momo looks a lot like Usagi from Usagi Yojimbo.
  • Spit Take: Aang yells at Toph to stop drinking water and she immediately spit-takes in surprise, all over Katara (who subsequently waterbends to dry herself).
  • Suddenly Voiced: Momo and Appa both talk during one of Aang's hallucinations.
  • Surreal Horror: Aang's last nightmare features the rest of the Gaang dying in various horrible ways before the comet hits the ground and turns it into a scorched wasteland.
  • Surreal Humour: Aang's first two nightmares have the traditional not-wearing-pants scene, and then the Fire Lord asking if Aang had prepared for... his math test.
  • Sword Fight: Aang hallucinates one between Appa and Momo.
  • Twitchy Eye: Aang develops one while suffering from insomnia.
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