Recap: Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Ember Island Players"

"Come on, a day at the theater? This is the kind of wacky time wasting nonsense Iíve been missing."
Sokka

The Gaang decides to take a break from training and planning to see a play- about themselves. Being Fire Nation propaganda, they discover the play features a warped plot and Flanderized versions of themselves acted by a bunch of hams. It all seems like harmless fun at first, but the play brings up old wounds, and our heroes find themselves questioning their past actions. It finally ends on a dark turn, reminding them all of the dangers they face in the upcoming weeks.

The Gaang REALLY didn't like the show (except maybe Toph). The actors in the play have a Character Sheet.


Tropes:

  • The Abridged Series: In-Canon at that!
  • 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 Zuko gets attacked by his own secret identity.
    • A tiny doll of him does appear at the end of the first act to be grabbed by Aaang-as-enraged Ocean Spirit
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Inverted with every single character, as none of the Ember Island players are as attractive as their real life counterpart.
  • Adaptation Decay: The play is this to the actual story.
  • 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: Pretty much 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.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Suki starts with this and stays in her Fire Nation disguise until the last episode.
  • 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
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The play is written by Fire Nation playwrights 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 look at it as a Downer Ending.
  • Development Gag
  • 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!
    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!: A Gaang member feels this way when a portrayal hits a little too close to home.invoked
  • '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 that 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.
  • Face Palm: Suki, when Sokka gives Actor!Sokka some of his jokes.
  • Fandom Nod: The play makes many references to fandom, such as the prevalence of the Zuko-Katara ship, Jet and Combustion Man's death, and a bunch of other in-jokes.
  • Foot Popping: Actress 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.
  • 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. invoked
  • Hypocritical Humor: Sokka complains that his portrayal does nothing but make bad jokes about eating meat... while eating fire flakes. 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the main series.
    • Until the ending anyway, in which both Zuko and Aang are murdered.
  • Large Ham:
    • All of the actors to some extent, but whoever's playing Ozai really likes hamming it up.
    • Katara gets sick real quick of her stage counterpart's constant wailing.
      • Which gets better when you know that it's Grey DeLise (ie, Azula) doing the voice.
    • HONOORRRR!
  • 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: Played straight and inverted, 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
  • 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
  • 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 is a clever trickster? Sounds a lot like Peter Pan.
  • Show Within a Show: The Boy in the Iceberg and another called Love Amongst The Dragons.
  • 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".
  • 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!
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: The Gaang kinda wished they didn't...

Alternative Title(s):

Avatar The Last Airbender The Ember Island Players