Recap: Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Painted Lady"

"I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me!"

When the Gaang comes upon a fishing village that has been having hard times due to the pollution from a local factory, Katara cannot resist helping the villagers in the guise of the local river spirit, the Painted Lady.


  • An Aesop: "You can't wait around for someone to help you. You have to help yourself."
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Katara. The page quote is the defining statement of her personality. (It's even her quote on her character sheet listing.)
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    Sokka: (when he finds no fish to catch in the polluted river) Normally my fishing skills are off the hook! (nobody reacts) Get it? Like a fishing hook?
    Toph: Too bad your skills aren't on the hook. (everyone laughs)
  • Filler: One of only two episodes of the show that you can skip with no problem (the other being "The Great Divide").
  • God Guise: Katara
  • Green Aesop
  • "I Was Just Joking..."
    Sokka: ...I also said to use spirit magic and made funny noises! (facepalm)
  • Left the Background Music On: The ominous Painted Lady music comes from Sokka playing the flute.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Whenever the gang are walking on the wooden streets of the town, Toph (who can't "see with her feet" here) is always seen holding hands or arm-in-arm with Aang or Sokka.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Destroying the factory just gets the soldiers stationed there mad at the villagers.
  • Real After All: The Painted Lady. Whether she would have done the same thing Katara did, had the pollution not kept her from acting, is unknown, but she is at least quite grateful.
  • Scarecrow Solution
  • Shout-Out: When Katara, disguised as the Painted Lady, begins approaching Fire Nation soldiers, a child says "She's com-ing!" in the exact same tone as the line "They're he-re!"
  • Sleeping Dummy: Katara stuffs her sleeping bag with grass to sneak away from the group.
  • Spit Take: Aang has this reaction when Sokka announces they might have to take potty breaks and food breaks at the same time.
  • Split Personality: Dock/Xu/Bushi
  • Ungrateful Bastard/ What the Hell, Townspeople?: Subverted, for once. The villagers are plenty mad that the local girl is a waterbender and has been masquerading as their patron goddess, until Sokka calls them out on it and points out that now the village is safe and can grow prosperous again.
  • Word of God: In the commentary for Book 2 of The Legend of Korra it's stated that the Painted Lady was human once, and although the spirit world isn't an afterlife for everyone, some people with spiritual connections can generate a spirit with their personality and appearance, though it becomes more spiritlike as time passes.