Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Waterbending Master"

"You want to learn to fight so bad, study closely."

After the journey to the Northern Air Temple, the group lurks around the waters surrounding the North Pole, seeking out the Northern Water Tribe. They are found by a group of waterbenders from the tribe, who show them the way. Upon arriving, the gang is welcomed warmly by the citizens of the Northern Water Tribe, and the chief of the tribe throws a huge party in celebration. Sokka meets Yue, an attractive princess whom he falls for. Aang and Katara seek to learn waterbending from a master named Pakku, but he refuses to teach Katara due to sexist customs. Katara proves herself worthy, both by demonstration of technique and by invoking the memory of Pakku's beloved ex-fiancee—Katara's own grandmother, who could not stand to live under the Northern Water Tribe's misogyny—and Pakku relents. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao hires the pirates from "The Waterbending Scroll" to assassinate Zuko; hearing his nephew was killed, Iroh agrees to assist Zhao with an attack on the North Pole. But Zuko has survived, and, with Iroh's help, sneaks aboard Zhao's lead ship as his fleet departs.

Tropes:

  • Arranged Marriage: Why Yue is so distressed about feeling affection for Sokka. It is also the backstory between Pakku and Katara's grandmother Kanna, though she escaped it by fleeing to the Southern Water Tribe.
  • Berate and Switch: At the end, Katara enters Pakku's training area and he angrily demands to know what she thinks she's doing, making it seem like he hasn't changed his attitude towards women one bit. Turns out, he's actually just calling her out for showing up late.
  • Big Eater: Iroh briefly tears up when mentioning Zhao's taken the ship's cook as well.
  • Bullet Time: During Katara and Master Pakku's fight scene.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The necklace Katara's been wearing this whole time is actually her grandmother's (would-be) betrothal necklace from Pakku.
  • City of Canals: The Northern Water Tribe's city.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: While Master Pakku is definitely a huge jerk to his students and something of a sexist bastard, he becomes a much better person after his fight with Katara and goes as far as happily agreeing to teach her, whereas earlier he flatly refused. He is still a bit of a jerkass to his other students, even though he becomes much nicer and grandfatherly to Katara.
  • Determinator: Katara won't stop fighting as long as she can move. So, Pakku uses ice spears to imprison her and end the battle.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Sokka falls into the water while talking to Yue. But according to him it was Worth It.
  • Fist of Rage: Katara clenches her fist before announcing that she is not apologizing to Master Pakku for her behavior.
  • Flaunting Your Fleets: At the very end of the episode, there is a pan-up from Zhao's ship to the fleet he has gathered for the invasion of the Northern Water Tribe.
  • Foreshadow: Yagoda does this when she realizes that Katara is Kana's granddaughter by looking at her face and her necklace.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Young, eager, skillful Katara, though she impresses Master Pakku with her fighting abilities, had no real chance against a true Master of the craft.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Gender flipped. Sokka tells Yue that he's surprised that a princess noticed a southern peasant.
  • Karma Houdini: The Pirates get paid to kill Zuko, carry out the job, & even though they fail to achieve their mission since Zuko survives, neither he nor Iroh track them down for revenge.
  • Leitmotif: The song Iroh sings on the ship's music night ("Four Seasons") becomes the love theme for Sokka and Yue.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Pakku finally realizes what his demeaning view of women cost him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Zuko while Zhao gazes upon his broadswords; the same broadswords he wielded as the Blue Spirit.
    • Pakku also has this reaction when one of Katara's ice discs get a little too close to his face.
  • Old Master: Master Pakku. As seen later on, he was still holding back against Katara when she faced him.
  • Ramen Slurp: Master Pakku slurps up some noodles (and some sort of tentacle) with waterbending while training Aang.
  • Reality Ensues: Katara may be pissed, and skilled enough to prevent it from being a Curb-Stomp Battle, but she is still no match against Master Pakku.
  • Shown Their Work: The night sky has stars that match the constellations in a star map in "The Desert."
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Happens to Katara during her fight with Master Pakku.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The Northern Water Tribe's whole attitude. Katara's having none of it. And nor did her grandmother.
    Katara: Aren't you gonna fight!?
    Pakku: Go back to the healing huts with the other women where you belong.
    • Possibly gender-inverted as well. While it's not explicitly stated, it's implied, by the fact that not a single male waterbender healer was seen until The Legend of Korra, that the ban went both ways, and men were not allowed to learn healing in the Northern Water Tribe either.
  • Tasty Gold: Trope Namer, with the pirates Zhao hires to blow up Zuko's ship.
  • Tongue-Tied: When Sokka first talks to Yue, he asks if they could "do an activity together".
  • Took a Level in Badass: Katara's obviously been Level Grinding over the course of the season, but in this episode we find out just how good she's gotten. Master Pakku still mops the floor with her.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The A story is the Gaang's experience with the Northern tribe, the B story is Zhao's attempts to murder Zuko and recruit Iroh. No direct interaction, but the Fire Nation's army is headed to the Northern city...
  • Whip It Good: Katara uses a water whip to strike Pakku and finally get him to fight her.
  • You Go, Girl!: Katara's plot follows this standard trajectory.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/AvatarTheLastAirbenderTheWaterbendingMaster