Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Swamp"

"Time is an illusion and so is death."

Our heroes are peacefully journeying across the Earth Kingdom, flying blissfully along on Appa, when suddenly a whirlwind comes out of nowhere. Trapped in the freak storm, Appa loses control, heading straight for the large banyan swamp beneath; the trio falls out, just barely landing in a non-lethal way. Separated from the humans, Appa and Momo become trapped in the trees' vines. Almost immediately the whirlwind disappears.

Spear-headed by Momo, the two animals attempt to escape the vines, only for Appa to constantly get re-trapped whenever he attempts to fly. Eventually they get down to the water-ways, Appa with no choice but to simply swim along. It isn't long until they attract the attention of two hillbilly hunters, who realize that the animals would make some good eating, and use water-bending to propel their canoes in a hunt after them.

The trio begins to wander through the swamp, Sokka taking the 'whack things with a machete' approach to clear the way. Katara and Aang, however, are a little more leery, due to the mysterious nature of the swamp, and the distinct feeling that there's something strange about it. That very night their suspicions are confirmed that night, just as Sokka lights a fire. The forest comes and attacks; vines reach out and grab them, assailing them from all sides. In the attack the three become separated, and are left to fend for themselves in the swamp.

However, the physical is not the only thing to fear. Katara sees her mother in the distance, and runs after her, only to discover it was nothing but a trick of the light; she breaks down crying. A mysterious pale spirit calls out to Sokka, who brushes it off, until finally Yue materializes fully before him. She accuses him of letting her die, as it was his fault that she had to sacrifice herself. Aang meanwhile finds himself chasing after a strange girl among the trees. She's young and bare-footed, accompanied by a flying-boar, and Aang desperately tries to reach her, but her taunting laughter seems impossible to reach. Finally he comes running face first into Katara and Sokka.

Thankful to have found each other again, they discover they're at a base of a ginormous tree, larger than any they've ever seen. Before they can truly recuperate they're attacked yet again; this time by a creature made purely of vines and weeds. They fight valiantly against it, but it has the ability to heal instantly, simply gathering more weeds when parts of it are lopped off. They manage to catch a glimpse of a person inside the beast, and it is revealed that it is nothing more than a water bender controlling the water inside the plants. The man reveals himself to be Huu, who was merely trying to defend his home from people like Sokka who carelessly destroy it.

He continues to explain that this is a sacred swamp. The tree they're at is the central tree, but all trees are actually part of a single organism, all connected by an extensive root system. This, Huu says, is a metaphor for life. All people, spirits and animals are connected, part of the web of life; "Time is an illusion, and so is death." This why people see visions of loved ones, as the barriers of time no longer apply. Aang surmises that he didn't recognize the girl, unlike Sokka's and Katara's visions, so she must be someone he will meet.

Aang also realizes that using the connection system and his Avatar powers, he can use it to find where Appa and Momo are. Guided by the swamp, they quickly find the animals, and a quick battle ensues to protect them against the swamp hillbillies. The swamp's inhabitants stop fighting, however, when they discover Katara is also a water-bender, as they thought they were the only ones in the world with that ability, meaning they must be related. Thus the Gaang earns a place to rest for the night and some new allies. They settle down for sleep that night, confident that there was nothing truly malevolent or unnatural about the swamp, after all.

Then the audience sees a single vine move of its own accord, swatting a bird.


  • Alice Allusion:
    Aang: I heard laughing and I saw some girl in a fancy dress.
    Sokka: Well, there must be a tea party here and we just didn't get our invitations!
  • Asshole Victim: The guy who forces Iroh to sing and dance for a gold coin. While Zuko doesn't kill him, he at least jumps him and takes his swords.
  • Bullet Dancing: One man wants Iroh to sing and dance for a gold piece. Iroh starts singing and the man swings his dual swords at the old man's feet to make him dance.
  • Continuity Nod: An elbow leech attaches to Sokka's elbow. In the previous episode, a purple pentapus (or two) attached to his face.
    "Why do things keep attaching to me?!"
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: The Screeching Bird which reappears at the end.
  • Deep South: The swampbenders.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: Averted.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The barefooted girl with the flying-boar.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Sokka, to a hilarious extent. He sees a vision of Yue, fights a giant tentacley vine monster, and a tornado appears out of nowhere, and yet he's still convinced there's nothing strange about the swamp. When Aang points out he used the tree's connecting power to find Appa and Momo, Sokka shrugs it off as "avatar stuff".
  • Foreshadowing: The mask cart that passes Iroh and Zuko in the opening scene bears the Blue Spirit mask. At the end of the episode, Zuko reassumes his Blue Spirit alter-ego.
  • Genius Loci: The titular swamp, compete with World Tree.
    Katara: Something about this place feels... alive.
    • Becomes mild Foreshadowing when it's revealed in The Legend of Korra that the Swamp is full of Spirit Vines and practically a shard of the Spirit World.
  • Mistaken from Behind: A variation. While lost in the swamp, Katara has a vision of her dead mother facing away from her. Thinking the vision is real, Katara runs up, puts a hand on her mother's shoulder to spin her around...and suddenly it is not her mother at all, only a tall stump sticking out of the water.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Zuko stealing the broadswords from the SOB who forced Iroh into Bullet Dancing.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: Katara and Sokka endure this. Katara thinks she sees her dead mother, only to sadly discover that it was an illusion. Sokka sees Yue out in an open area and hears her claim that he didn't protect her before she fades away.
  • Security Cling: Aang and his friends do this a couple of times.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Ziggzagged. There is a separate subplot with Zuko and Iroh, but they're only seen at the beginning and end of the episode (and Iroh is seen only at the beginning). A more played straight version is the trio's fight with the swamp monster contrasted with Appa and Momo's flight from the local waterbenders.
  • World Tree: The entire swamp is one giant Banyan tree, with a central trunk the size of a mountain.
  • The Worm That Walks: Huu's swamp monster disguise.