Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Great Divide"

"Harsh words won’t solve problems; action will."

The eleventh episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In it, the gang come across a giant canyon, the titular Great Divide. For most people, it's near-impossible to cross, and they need a intelligent Earth Bending guide who knows the area- but they're not everyone. On the back of Appa, they should easily be able to fly across.

However, just as they are about to leave, two groups of refugees shows up; one perfectly manicured and dressed in white, they other dressed in dirty brown rags. They learn that these tribes, the Gan Jin and Zhang respectively, have been fighting for centuries, and refuse to travel with each other. However, there is only one guide across the canyon; but they cannot afford to wait, not with the Fire Nation army at their heels. Because of this, Aang opts for them to travel on foot as peacekeepers, so that both groups of refugees can make it through. To do so, they empty their sacks of food (as it can attract predators) and set off on their journey.

However, the animosity between the two tribes continues, and is only increased when the guide breaks an arm. Furthermore, Katara and Sokka, who were already fighting in a normal brother/sister spat, now begin to take sides. Finally they split up, Sokka traveling with the Zhang, Katara with the Gan Jin; Aang travels in the middle with Appa, trying to watch over both. That night, both tribes tell their stories for why there is such bad blood between them. Both centers around the story of Gin Wei who attempted to complete the sacred ritual of carrying the sacred orb. In the Gan Jin version, Gin Wei, the tribe's ancestor was attacked by Wei Gin, the founder of the Zhang tribe, who stole the orb and destroyed the ritual. However, the Zhang version of the story say that Gin Wei was found passed out, and that Wei Jin tried to help by carrying the orb back and to find a healer among Gin Wei's people; however, once there, he was arrested as a thief.

Both Sokka and Katara are shocked by the stories, and that the other tribe could be so low. That doesn't stop them from getting anxious when the leaders of each tribe take out a supply of food, since that was expressly forbidden by the guide. However, each tribe leader explains that they knew the other tribe would immediately assume that they'd bring in food, and so bring some anyway- and since they shouldn't starve while the other has food, they could therefore bring some too. Besides, it's not like they'll actually be attacked, right?

Which of course means the very next day they are stormed by giant bug monsters.

Aang fights them off using his bending, before finally berating everyone for bringing food with them- were they completely insane?!? If they're going to get out of the canyon, they need to work together. Eventually they do manage to travel to the other side, though the animosity was far from extinguished, since each tribe still harbours bitter feelings for the injustices done to their ancestors.

But wait- Aang knew Gin Wei and Wei Gin, being one-hundred years old and all. He explains the true story; that they were actually brothers, and only young ones at that. Very young; we're talking toddlers here. And the Redemption Ritual was just a game. They've literally been fighting over nothing! With this realisation, the Zhang and Gang Jin join together, becoming a single tribe.

Katara and Sokka also realise how stupid they've been, and reconcile. But they can't help but be amazed that it just so happened that Aang knew the true stories of the brothers. Truth is - he didn't! He just made the 'real' story up so they would stop fighting.

Tropes: (YMMV items are HERE)

  • An Aesop: Several, the main one is the page quote, it becomes Arc Words for the episode. Also if the trained wilderness survival expert, and your guide through dangerous terrain tells you not to bring food along, because it will attract dangerous predators, listen to him! The final aesop at the end of the episode is that it is ok, sometimes even good to lie, if the lie is done with the intention of stopping a destructive conflict. Aang happily admits to lying to The Zhang's and Gan Jin's about knowing Jin Wei and Wei Jin. Katara approves, Sokka is shocked and disappointed.
  • Accidental Aesop: In-Universe, The Gan Jin's and The Zhang's interpret what Aang says as a good reason to Duel to the Death. Aang experiences a Hope Spot, when it seems the two tribes will try to work out their differences and get along, before they try to kill each other. Aang then immediately flip-flops, and says "I take it back, harsh words aren't so bad"
  • Art Shift: All of the flashbacks are in a different style, most obviously the one Aang gives.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The Zhang, what with wearing animal furs and eating food with their hands.
  • Big Eater: The entire Zhang tribe has this in spades
  • Bilingual Bonus: Zhang means dirty in Mandarin, while Gan Jin means clean.
  • Blatant Lies: Aang lies about the source of the conflict between the two tribes to get them to make up. When he admits such to Katara and Sokka, they're floored.
    Katara [amused]: You did not. That is so wrong.
  • Breather Episode: Set between the dark "Jet" and the whammy "The Storm".
  • Double-Meaning Title: The Great Divide refers to both the canyon and the conflict between the tribes.
  • Filler: To the point where you can skip this episode without having the impression that you have missed one. This only happens once more in the show, with "The Painted Lady."
  • I Know You Know I Know: The Zhang's reasoning for bringing in food is that Gan Jin will bring in food on the suspicion that the Zhang will bring in food.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Canyon Crawlers are a mix between spiders and crocodiles
  • No Antagonist
  • Plot Parallel: Between Sokka and Katara regarding their stance on the tribes and their war.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Both the tribes have different reason to why they have been feuding for so long. The Gan Jins claim that the forefather of their tribe, Jin Wei, was attacked while transporting a sacred orb during their redemption ritual by a thief, Wei Jin, from the Zhangs. The Zhangs claim that their ancestor, Wei Jin, saw Jin Wei passed out on the ground and was returning the sacred orb to Jin Wei's tribe when they wrongfully imprisoned him for twenty years. Aang goes on to claim that Jin Wei and Wei Jin were actually two twin brothers playing a game, when Wei Jin got a penalty and spent two minutes in the box. In the end, Aang admits that he made his version up to stop the dispute.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The Zhang as the slobs, and the Gan Jin as the snobs. Their names actually reflect this, as Zhang means dirty in Mandarin, and Gan Jin means clean.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: The Canyon Guide quits at the end of the episode. Ironically, there isn't any supervisors he can say this to, it's coupled with Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: While season one seems to consist of many unrelated stories, everyone and everything encountered does go on to play a larger role in the story. Except these guys. You can skip the entire episode without missing anything.