"Come on, a day at the theater? This is the kind of wacky time wasting nonsense Iíve been missing."The episode begins with Aang and Zuko practicing firebending in the courtyard of the Fire Lord's vacation house (from The Beach). Katara finds it weird that they're hiding from the Fire Lord in his own house, but Zuko reassures her that the royal family hasn't been there for a long time- not since the family was actually happy. It's the last place anyone would think to look for them.They are then interrupted by Sokka, who brings news- there's a play about the Gaang's adventures, called The Boy in the Iceberg. The Ember Island Players will be performing it. Sokka's excited, but Zuko not so much- his mother used to take him to see them, and they butchered Love Amongst the Dragons every year. Katara is not sure it's a good idea, but they end up going to see the play anyways.That night, the Gaang file into a booth, and Zuko puts a stop to Aang's plan to cuddle up to Katara by sitting between them. Toph complains that since they're sitting in the nosebleed section, she can't use her tremor sense to see. Katara reassures Toph that she'll tell her what she's missing as the theater darkens and the curtain is raised.Onstage, Player Katara and Player Sokka paddle in a canoe through the waters near the South Pole. Player Katara melodramatically bemoans never finding anything fulfilling when doing this, and Player Sokka says that all he wants is a 'full feeling' in his stomach. They have a small argument about it. Meanwhile, in the audience, the real Katara and Sokka are none-too-impressed with how they're being portrayed. Sokka complains that Player Sokka's jokes are lamer than his, though Toph thinks that Player Sokka has the real Sokka pegged.Back onstage, Player Katara makes a melodramatic speech about hope before bursting into tears. Katara is annoyed by this portrayal, though everyone else is quite amused. Just then, a glow appears on stage. It's from the Aang-frozen-in-an-iceberg prop. Player Katara notes that it's someone frozen in ice, and Player Sokka wonders who the boy in the iceberg could be. Player Katara uses her waterbending (the only time she will in the play) to crack the iceberg and free Player Aang, as the real Aang leans forward in anticipation.Player Aang turns out to be fun-loving, an incurable prankster who pranks Sokka a few seconds after meeting him... and a woman. The real Aang, watching, is annoyed and confused. Player Aang is soon followed by a puppet version of Appa, who flies around the iceberg before settling behind Aang.
Player Katara: An airbender! My heart is so full of hope that it's making me tearbend! *weeps*The next scene has Player Zuko and Player Iroh on their ship, searching for the Avatar. Player Iroh invites Player Zuko to try some cake, but Player Zuko (whose scar makeup is over his right eye instead of his left) is too busy searching for the Avatar to restore his honor to have time to stuff his face. When Player Iroh proceeds to gobble down the cake, Player Zuko comments that Player Iroh sickens him. The real Zuko thinks that Player Zuko is too stiff and humorless, though in Katara's opinion he's pretty true to life.
Zuko: How could you say that?
Player Zuko (In response to Iroh's suggestion to forget about the Avatar and get massages): How could you say that?At the Southern Air Temple, Player Aang finds a flying rabbit-monkey (well, a puppet) and names it 'Momo'. At Kyoshi Island, Player Sokka (in Kyoshi warrior garb) asks Player Suki if the dress makes his butt look fat (the real Suki thinks it's Actually Pretty Funny). In Omashu, Player Bumi subjects Player Aang and Player Sokka to challenges if they want to leave and save Player Katara from being encased in crystal. The Gaang also escapes from pirates after Katara for stealing the waterbending scroll, which she did because it gave her "so much hope!" (Zuko does not show up).The episode then cuts to the play's rendition of . Zhao's role is played by Player Zuko. He's finally captured Aang when the Blue Spirit comes out of nowhere, hammily introduces himself as 'the scourge of the Fire Nation', beats Player Zuko in a fight, and saves Player Aang. The real Zuko and Aang, who know full well that the Blue Spirit was actually Zuko himself in disguise, exchange looks.The play has another major break from reality when Player Jet comes onto the scene. Player Jet floods a town to impress Player Katara (which in reality he did to get back at the Fire Nation, and which caused Katara to turn against him), and she snuggles up to him and murmurs "Oh, Jet, you're so... bad". Toph (who wasn't there) finds it funny, but the real Katara is understandably disturbed.The Gaang then come across the Great Divide, the biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom.
Player Sokka: Eh, let's keep flying.The episode then skips ahead to the play's covering of The Siege of the North pt. 2. Player Sokka tearfully pleads for Player Yue not to sacrifice herself, since she's the only one who ever took his mind off of food. She still must bid him goodbye to take care of her 'important moon duties'. Suki giggles, but Sokka's almost in tears. Player Aang gets to stomp on miniature fire nation ships while dressed up as the enraged ocean spirit and holding a doll of Zhao.The curtain comes down on Act 1, and the Gaang, sans Toph, are unimpressed.
Zuko: So far, this intermission is the best part of the play.
Sokka: Apparently, the playwright thinks I'm an idiot who tells bad jokes about meat all the time!
Aang: At least the Sokka actor kinda looks like you. That woman playing the Avatar doesn't resemble me at all!Katara is fine with it. After all, they're not accurate portrayals- it's not like she's a preachy crybaby who can't resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time (right?). Toph says that though it may hurt, what they're seeing on stage is the truth.Well, time to see how well she sticks to that, since next up is her introductory scene. Player Aang flies through the theater, or 'all over town', but can't find an earthbending master. Player Toph, a huge and muscular man, comes out from a trapdoor under a rock and declares that you don't find Earthbending masters in the sky, you look underground. Katara tries to use Toph's eariler words against her, but Toph is ecstatic and declares she wouldn't have cast it any other way. Onstage, Player Toph explains that though he's blind, he can still "see"- via Make Me Wanna Shout.The next scene is back with Player Iroh and Player Zuko. Player Iroh wants to have a talk with Player Zuko- about his hair, which now goes down to his shoulders. Player Iroh declares that Player Zuko's hair is out of control, and Player Zuko suggests that it's time they split up, but they're back together in the next scene, which is a rendition of The Chase. Player Azula gets away by pointing at a random direction and declaring that Zuko's honor is there. Everyone looks, and Player Azula escapes through a hidden door. She later menaces Ba Sing Se with her drill, while Player Aang throws prop boulders at her. It's supposed to be a dramatic scene, but the audience is bored almost enough to fall asleep.Speaking of ruined dramatic scenes, the next one is about Jet's brainwashing and death. Except Player Jet's brainwashing means he has googly eyes and staggers around mumbling gibberish about serving the Earth King. A stagehand throws a prop rock on him, and he has to move to get under it as it floats down. Except he doesn't quite make it and his legs are still sticking out, and he pulls them under the prop.
Zuko: Did Jet just... die?
Sokka: You know, it was really unclear.The play continues on to Zuko and Katara's imprisonment together. Here, it's significantly more Zutara-ish, as Player Katara declares she's had eyes for Player Zuko "since the day you first captured me" and states that she sees Player Aang as a little brother. The real Katara and Zuko are uncomfortable with this and inch away from each other, and the real Aang is upset. When Player Katara and Player Zuko cuddle, he gets up and leaves the theater.Aang thus misses the scene where Player Zuko is forced to choose between Player Azula and Player Iroh, or between "your nation" and "a life of treachery" in Player Azula's words. Player Iroh encourages Player Zuko to choose treachery as "it's more fun". Player Zuko walks over to Player Iroh, but then pushes Player Iroh over and walks back to Player Azula.
Player Zuko: I hate you, uncle! You smell, and I hate you for all time!Back in the theater box, the real Zuko is quite upset. While he didn't actually say that, he might as well have. On stage, Player Mai and Player Ty Lee fight the Earth King's guards. Player Mai points a knife (which she kept in her hair) at a guard, and a stagehand carries it over to its target. Player Ty Lee kisses her finger and touches the other guard, who comically locks up and falls over. Player Mai and Player Ty Lee pose, and then Player Aang drops to the stage in front of them.
Player Aang: Avatar State, yip yip!At that point, the stage glows dark, and her arrow and eyeshadow glow. She closes her eyes to simulate the Avatar State's Glowing Eyes of Doom, and floats up above the stage (via a rope a stagehand affixes to her back). The impressive display is interrupted by Player Azula, who shoots Player Aang with lightning (actually a light blue ribbon). She, Player Ty Lee, and Player Mai do an Angels Pose.
Player Azula: The Avatar is no more!In the second intermission, Suki ribs the rest of the Gaang about them losing so much (and Sokka points out that she was taken captive by Azula). Katara wonders where Aang is, and decides to check outside. Aang is out on the balcony, sulking. The rest of the Gaang are back in the corridor in front of the theater. Sokka asks Suki to take him backstage, since he wants to give Player Sokka some new jokes. Suki reminds him that she's an elite warrior who's trained many years in the art of stealth- so sure, she can get him backstage!When they've left, Toph complains that everyone's getting all worked up about their portrayals. Zuko then tells her that she doesn't get it- she has no real emotional baggage and no moments in the last year that she's utterly ashamed of. Her character is just a male, musclebound version of herself making quips and beating bad guys. But with Zuko, the play is basically mocking the lowest points of his life and the worst decision he ever made. Iroh was always on his side, always believed in him, and always loved him. And Zuko repaid all this by betraying him.
Zuko: It's my greatest regret. And I may never get to redeem myself.Toph responds by saying he has redeemed himself to Iroh. How does she know? Well, back when she temporarily left the Gaang and met up with Iroh, she had a long conversation with him. And all he would talk about was Zuko. It was kind of annoying, sure, but also really sweet. All Iroh wanted was for Zuko to find his own path and see the light. Now that Zuko's with the Gaang, he'd be proud. She promptly punches Zuko, as that's how she shows affection. A kid in an Aang costume then runs by and tells Zuko that while his Zuko costume is pretty good, his scar is on the wrong side.
Zuko: The scar's not on the wrong side!Backstage, Sokka confronts Actor!Sokka. He introduces himself as a 'big Sokka fan', and says that the actor isn't representing Sokka quite as well as he could be. Actor!Sokka is dubious and thinks he's just another fan with "ideas", but Sokka gets him to hear him out and gives him a few more jokes, as well as advice on how to properly portray Sokka. Actor!Sokka thinks that the jokes are pretty funny, and takes the advice.
Actor!Sokka: Who are you, anyway?
Sokka: I'm just a guy who likes comedy.Outside with Aang and Katara, Aang questions whether Katara really feels the sentiments expressed by Player Katara- specifically, that she and Aang are Like Brother and Sister. Katara points out that it was a fictional version of her who said that, but Aang still worries that she really feels that way, since she hasn't seemed to reciprocate his feelings after their kiss at the invasion. Katara is still unsure of her feelings towards him. After all, they have more important things to worry about. Aang gives her a quick kiss, but given that she just said she was unsure of how she felt, she's not appreciative and goes back inside. Aang berates himself for being an idiot.Later, Aang goes back into the theater, and Sokka gives him the rundown about what parts of the play have gone on without him- they went to the Fire Nation, Player Aang got better, Player Katara was the Painted Lady, Player Sokka got a sword, and Combustion Man died. They're currently at the point of the invasion. In this version, Aang and Katara's kiss was replaced by Player Katara declaring that she and Player Aang are Like Brother and Sister, and Player Aang saying she wouldn't have it any other way. This is followed by Player Sokka putting the real Sokka's advice into action, much to his fellow actors' annoyance, the audience's amusement, and the real Sokka's glee.The play then cuts to Aang and company making it to the Fire Lord's palace, but finding that the royal family was in hiding. There's no secret bunker in this version, so Player Aang just makes it to the palace and finds that nobody's home- except for Player Zuko, who declares he wants to join them. The play's Gaang shrug and let him join, and they run off stage.
Sokka: I guess that's it. The play's caught up to the present now.Suki points out that the play's not over. Though the final confrontation with Ozai hasn't happened yet, the play gives predicting the future a go. Sozin's Comet (a paper lantern) is high overhead, and Player Ozai declares that with it, the Fire Nation cannot be stopped. Player Azula runs onstage to tell him that Player Aang and Player Zuko haven't got the message- they're trying to stop him (what happened to Player Katara, Player Sokka, and Player Toph is unknown). Player Ozai orders Player Azula to take care of Player Zuko while he faces the Avatar. Player Ozai then does a Smoke Out.Player Zuko and Player Aang arrive onstage, and Player Aang goes to fight the Fire Lord while Player Zuko fights Player Azula. The pair engage in Ham-to-Ham Combat before moving on to regular combat, using ribbons to represent firebending. Player Azula uses one last giant firebending attack that completely engulfs Player Zuko.
Player Zuko: HONOR!The audience cheers, and the real Zuko is understandably freaked out. Onstage, Player Aang confronts Player Ozai. She may have mastered all four elements, but she's too late. The comet has boosted Player Ozai's power to the point where he's unstoppable. Player Aang and Player Ozai fight. Player Aang puts up a good show (and despite saying she's mastered all four elements, only uses airbending), but eventually Player Ozai sends a incredibly large burst of fire at her (represented by a large sheet of red silk that wraps around Player Aang), and Player Aang gives a Big "NO!" and dies. Player Ozai celebrates his victory, and the audience cheers.Later, as the Gaang walk back:
Zuko: That... wasn't a good play.
Aang: I'll say.
Katara: No kidding.
Toph: You said it.
Sokka: But the effects were decent.The actors in the play have a Character Sheet.
- The Abridged Series: Their show is a vastly condensed version of Aang's journey, gleaned largely from second-hand accounts (surprisingly accurate ones), though with a Twist Ending that's "Fire Nation friendly", you might say.
- Adapted Out:
- Notably, Zhao isn't mentioned at all throughout the play, with Zuko taking his place during the events of The Blue Spirit, meaning that Zuko gets attacked by his own secret identity. A tiny doll of Zhao does appear at the end of the first act to be grabbed by Aang-as-enraged Ocean Spirit, though.
- Long Feng and his conspiracy also don't appear in the play. While Jet is still brainwashed, it appears to have been the Earth King's (or someone loyal to him) doing.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted with every single character, as none of the Ember Island players are as attractive as their real life counterparts.
- Adaptation Decay: The play is this to the actual story.
- Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Because Zhao was Adapted Out and Zuko took his place, the events of The Blue Spirit were Zuko in a secret identity attacking himself in order to free Aang, his own prisoner, so he, instead of himself, could capture Aang.
- Addiction Displacement: Actor!Iroh loves cake rather than tea.
- Affectionate Parody: The play is completely mocking the show itself, pointing out things that were ambiguous, as well as some of the less appreciated characterization, but all in good fun.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Actor!Katara falls for Jet, and then Zuko, much to Aang's horror.
- Angels Pose: The actresses for Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee do one at the end of the second act of the play in reference to their Fan Nickname "Ozai's Angels."
- Ascended Meme: Everything in this episode.
- Bad "Bad Acting": The actors in the play.
- The Bad Guy Wins: As it was written by a citizen of the Fire Nation as propaganda, the play ends with the Fire Nation as the victors.
- Bare Your Midriff: Suki starts with this and stays in her Fire Nation disguise until the last episode.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-Universe. Actor!Aang invokes the Avatar State by saying "Yip yip". In reality, that's how Aang gets Appa to fly. The Avatar State just happens whenever you piss Aang off too much.
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: If you haven't noticed all the lampshades hung on this page already; the more you've seen of the show, the funnier this episode will be.
- Breather Episode: Lampshaded by Sokka.
- And it's the last breather you're gonna get: The next four episodes are all parts of the movie-length finale.
- And you might not even get that. Nickelodeon skips this episode when re-runing the series on Nicktoons in order to have an even number of episodes to easily fit into 1-2 hour blocks.
- Call Back: Toph and Zuko discuss the time she met Iroh, when Zuko's feeling down.
- Character Exaggeration: The play versions of the characters are all exaggerated versions of them, mostly based on their pre- character development selves. Aang is annoyingly cheerful and childish, Sokka is shallow comic relief and just makes bad jokes about eating note , Katara is an emotional wreck who keeps launching into speeches about hope, and Zuko has his angst and focus on his honor dialed up to eleven. Toph is rendered as a Boisterous Bruiser (played by a muscular man, no less) who does nothing but take down bad guys and make quips, which the real Toph thinks is awesome.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Aang storms off from the play when actor Zuko and actress Katara become a couple.
- Creator Cameo: Playwright Pu-on Tim is the episode's writer, Tim Hedrick.
- Critical Research Failure: In-Universe. The writer manages to get Zuko's scar on the wrong side.
- Then they called Momo a 'flying monkey-rabbit' (he's a flying lemur).
- They also failed to grasp Toph's tremor sense.
- The aforementioned scene where Zuko and the Blue Spirit were different characters.
- Crosscast Role: The actors for Aang and Toph are both in these.
- Decomposite Character: Zuko and the Blue Spirit are seperate characters in the play. The author probably never knew who the masked man was. Thanks to Zuko taking over Zhao's role for that sequence, they end up fighting each other.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The play is written by an Earth Kingdom playwright for a Fire Nation audience. Hence, both Team Avatar and the Fire Nation people watching it have different perceptions of it. The latter view the protagonists as the villains of the story and cheer when they're defeated at the end, while the former looks at it as a Downer Ending.
- Development Gag: Toph was originally designed as a muscular man (her original design being the Earthbender from the opening). Then the creators thought it would be funnier if she were a little girl and it changed. Toph's portrayal in the play is as a muscular man.
- Discontinuity Nod: "The Great Divide" is treated as such:Actor!Aang: Look, it's the Great Divide ó the biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom!(Beat)Actor!Sokka: Eh... let's keep flying.
- Do I Really Sound Like That?: Everyone but Toph feels this way about their portrayals in the play.
- Downer Ending / Sudden Downer Ending: How the play ends for the Gaang, after being a lot Lighter and Softer compared to canon until then.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jet's "death" gets mercilessly lampshaded. He just randomly falls over, and a "rock" falls on top of him. The Gaang (and Zuko in particular) have no idea what they just saw.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Zuko feels this way when his portrayal hits a little too close to home.
- Easily Forgiven: Player Zuko in the play's third act.
- '80s Hair: Actor!Zuko in the second act. It's why he and Iroh split up, since Zuko refuses to talk about it.
- Evil Is Hammy: Played with by the Show Within The Show. The actor character playing Ozai on stage is even hammier than the other actor characters playing the other Avatar characters on stage. To the Real Life audience, this might seem like a straight example of this trope, but to most of the in-universe audience, it would seem like an Inverted Trope since said audience is mostly composed of Fire Nation citizens who think of Ozai as the hero.
- Face Heel Revolving Door: The Gaang in-play. The Fire Nation audience cheers whenever Azula and Ozai triumph, but they also seem to greatly enjoy the antics of The Gaang in the first two acts otherwise, likely considering them Affably Evil, or a gang of Harmless Villain buffoons.
- Facepalm: Suki, when Sokka gives Actor!Sokka some of his jokes.
- Famous Last Words:
- "Must...serve...Earth King! Must...destroy! *babbles incoherently* - Player Jet.
- "HONOR!"- Player Zuko.
- "Noooooooooooooooooo!"- Player Aang.
- Foot Popping: Player Katara does this when she and Actor Zuko embrace.
- Foregone Conclusion: The show is terrible, and the Ember Island Players apparently butchered other shows too.
- Foreshadowing: The Boy in the Iceberg's version of the climax is a lot like how it would actually play out, except for the Sudden Downer Ending. It takes place during Sozin's comet, and Zuko fights Azula in a firebending duel (and the real Azula would have facial expressions mirroring Player Azula's) while Aang fights Ozai alone.
- Forceful Kiss: Aang plants one on Katara out of frustration at her for not responding to his feelings.
- Hands Play in Theater: The page image for this trope is Sokka and Suki (Type A). Aang wants to do it with Katara, but Zuko ends up sitting between the two (Subverted Type B).
- Headdesk: Aang bangs his head on the balcony banister after being too forward with Katara. ("I'm such an idiot!")
- He's Just Hiding: In a nod to Jet's ambiguous death, Sokka and Zuko were unsure over whether Jet actually died in the play or not.
- Hypocritical Humor: Sokka complains that his portrayal does nothing but make bad jokes about eating meat... while eating meat. Katara, meanwhile, gets stared at when she claims she's not "a preachy crybaby who can't resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time".
- Subverted with Toph, who if anything laughs even harder at her own portrayal (as a huge dude).
- Insult Backfire: Toph earlier says that what she heard onstage was the truth. But when she finds out that her actor was a big tough dude, Katara tries firing an Ironic Echo in her direction. Instead, Toph says that she wouldn't cast herself in any other way.
- Large Ham:
- All of the actors to some extent, but whoever's playing Ozai really likes hamming it up.
- Katara quickly gets quite sick of her stage counterpart's constant wailing.
- Which gets better when you know that it's Grey DeLisle (i.e., Azula) doing the voice.
- Lighter and Softer: Than the main series. Until the ending, anyway, in which both Zuko and Aang are murdered.
- Like Brother and Sister: Aang and Katara are presented like this in the play to an insanely explicit degree, which of course freaks out Aang, who wonders if Katara really thinks of him as such.
- Meaningful Name: Lampshaded by Actor!Toph."My name's Toph, because it sounds like 'tough', and that's just what I am!"
- Mind Screw: Sokka has a moment like this when he thinks since the play has recapped everything up to the invasion, it must be over, even though it isn't.Sokka: But that means... (eerie music starts playing, and the screen goes purple) We're in the future!
- Mood Whiplash: Toph and Zuko talk about his relationship with Iroh, with Toph mentioning her meeting with Iroh, and then she randomly punches him. Because that's how Toph shows affection.
- MST: The real Gaang's commentary on the show and the Avatar Extras.
- My Greatest Failure: Zuko gets to see all his lowest moments thrown back in his face, and exaggerated for comic effect. He takes it pretty hard.
- Mythology Gag: The poster for the play is actually an exaggerated rendition of the cover art for Season 1 Boxed Set.
- Never Say "Die": This tendency within the show is mocked in the play.
- Noodle Incident: "They butchered 'Love Amongst the Dragons' every year!"
- Other Me Annoys Me: Most everyone dislikes their interpretation, except for Toph who is the only one who actually likes her interpretation.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The kids think Real!Zuko has the scar on the wrong side of the head from watching the play.
- Recap Episode: The play recaps the rest of the series, if not very accurately.
- Recurring Extra: Lampshaded. The Cabbage Merchant is called a "surprisingly knowledgeable" source for the play.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Aang storms out towards the end of the second act, upset at a love scene between the stage versions of Katara and Zuko.
- Self-Parody: The play is one big parody of the whole series.
- Ship Sinking: Actors Aang and Katara agree to be "just friends", much to Real!Aang's dismay.
- Shirtless Scene: Aang and Zuko get one while practicing their firebending at the beginning of the episode.
- Shout-Out: Aang being portrayed by a woman who's a clever trickster? Sounds a lot like Peter Pan.
- Show Within a Show: The Boy in the Iceberg. Another play called Love Amongst The Dragons is mentioned.
- Stylistic Suck: The Boy in the Iceberg is So Bad, It's Good on purpose.
- Title Drop: In-universe.Actress!Katara: "Who is the boy in the iceberg?"
- Twist Ending: From the Gaang's point of view, with the play's end being that they all die and the Fire Nation conquers the world.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Part of Aang's reaction to the platonic Kataang portrayal played on stage was because Katara had yet to reciprocate a reaction to his Now or Never Kiss from "The Invasion".
- Villain Protagonist: In the play, the Gaang are the bad guys, but they still get the focus.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: In-Universe: The stage show has some impressive visuals for a play, including quite a bit of wire work and some cool bending duels. Sokka calls this out as the one good thing in the show.
- When He Smiles: Zuko smiles when Toph tells him that Iroh would be proud of him. It's totally adorable.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: The Gaang kinda wished they didn't...
- Your Costume Needs Work: A kid dressed up as Aang tells Zuko "Your Zuko costume is great, but the scar's on the wrong side." Which is also the current page quote for the trope. Zuko takes offense.Zuko: The scar's not on the wrong side!