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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "City of Walls and Secrets"

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Jet is brainwashed by the Dai Li.

"You want a show? I'll give you a show!"
Zuko
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Finally arriving in Ba Sing Se, Team Avatar tries to get to the Earth King in order to tell him of their plan to invade the Fire Nation and get his support. However, they find themselves hindered by their tour guide Joo Dee, and soon realize that Ba Sing Se is not the idyllic capital they were led to believe.

Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh try to acclimate to their new life as refugees in Ba Sing Se, while Jet tries to expose them as Firebenders.


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Tropes:

  • Arc Words: "There is no war in Ba Sing Se..."
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all his contentions with Iroh, Zuko protects him from Jet so that his uncle isn't forced to firebend in self-defense.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Inverted. During their swordfight, Zuko and Jet end up with their backs against each other's, each turned and trying get around the other's defenses.
  • Bait the Dog: Long Feng is very courteous to Toph and Katara and being an excellent host. Guess who runs the Government Conspiracy?
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: A rare subverted example. Toph tries to intimidate the guard to let her and Katara enter the party but her attempt fails.
    Toph: Look, the Pangs and the Yumsoon-hans are waiting in there for us. I'm gonna have to tell them who didn't let me in.
    Guard: Step out of line, please.
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  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: The Gaang's guide Joo Dee constantly gives them the runaround, evasively dodging their attempts to get an audience with the Earth King, and silently strong arms anyone from mentioning where Appa is. Which is just one of many ways Long Feng keeps the Earth King from finding out about the war.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The Dai Li watch every person of note in the city for any sign of dissent or speaking out of the party line, such as mentioning that there is a war occurring or that there are criminal elements within the city. Those who don't toe the line are taken away and brainwashed into compliance.
  • Blatant Lies: "There is no war in Ba Sing Se".
  • Blowing a Raspberry: Katara and Toph at a guard who previously denied them entry to the party after Long Feng gets them in.
  • Bullet Time: During Jet and Zuko's fight when Zuko cuts the blade of grass in Jet's mouth with his sword.
  • The Caligula: Hinted at; who throws a party for their pet bear?
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes Jet's claims that Zuko and Iroh are Fire Nation. They might have listened if he hadn't publicly attacked them, at which point the authorities dismissed him as crazy.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower:
    • Zuko and Iroh can't firebend without exposing their identities. Fortunately, Zuko can fence and he doesn't need to win, just stall.
    • Done while undercover at the party when Aang accidentally causes a woman to spill her drink on herself and attempts to dry her off with airbending. This causes everyone to recognize him. Comes with a Letting the Air Out of the Band effect.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Ba Sing Se itself. It looks beautiful at first glance, but after only a few minutes there, the problems start to show.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Jet's attempts to expose Zuko and Iroh are...poorly thought out. It ends with him attacking them in the middle of the tea shop they've just started working at, ranting about them being firebenders, causing property damage that isn't going endear him to the shop owner or any bystanders, and getting arrested by the Dai Li.
  • Downer Ending: The Gaang is unsuccessful in getting to the Earth King, they now have a new enemy to contend with, and Jet has been brainwashed.
  • Elemental Rock–Paper–Scissors: Aang and Sokka are seen playing this. Earth beats Fire.
  • Evasive Fight-Thread Episode: Quite a bit of hype was made over the swordfight between Zuko and Jet. It's interrupted by the Dai Li before either of them wins.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The Earth King.
  • Foreshadowing: Joo-Dee keeps shaking her head at everyone who may know where Appa is in the city, while still giving her eerie smile. It turns out that Long Feng knows that's one of the reasons the Gaang is there, and intends to use a threat of kicking them out of the city without him as a way to keep them in line.
  • Government Conspiracy: Run by Long Feng, head of the Dai Li.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Subverted. Toph criticizes Aang and Sokka's attempts to pass themselves off as members of high society, while picking her nose and burping. Katara calls her out on this, and Toph then makes it clear that out of everyone in the group, she is the only one who knows formal etiquette and "proper society behavior." She just chooses not to use it most of the time.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Jet finds out that Zuko's a skilled swordsman, and doesn't need firebending to win a fight.
  • I Will Show You X:
    Zuko: (to Jet) You want a show? I'll give you a show!
  • Kidnapped from Behind: The Dai Li silently abduct Toph and Katara who were standing right beside Aang without him noticing, until Long Feng enters the room and tells him they're gone. He directs Aang to follow him to a private room to negotiate terms for their release.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Zuko lowers his swords when the Dai Li order him to stand down. Jet...doesn't, leading the Dai Li to handcuff him with rocks and confiscate his weapons.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: After observing Zuko and Iroh all day in order to get evidence to prove they're firebenders, Jet gets frustrated attacks the tea shop in order to make them reveal their bending. It doesn't work out for him.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Averted, as the Gaang is quite weirded out to learn the Earth King's pet is just a bear, without any other animal thrown in.
  • Mundane Utility: Jet tries to invoke this by attempting to trick Iroh into heating his tea through firebending. Iroh just borrows some sparkrocks from the neighbors, no doubt keeping in mind Zuko's fury the last time he instinctively heated his tea.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Jet's attempts to expose Zuko and Iroh are not helped by his increasingly paranoid behavior and poor choice of wording:
    Jet: I saw him heating his tea!
    Guard: ...He works in a tea shop.
  • Obviously Evil: The Dai Li are such obvious villains that it's no surprise they turn out to be evil.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Katara and Toph try to slip away from Long Feng during the party, only for him to reappear in front of them in the time it takes Katara to turn her head, visibly startling her.
  • Oh, Crap!: Joo Dee’s face when Team Avatar is exposed at the party just screams this.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When she fails to get Aang to leave the Earth King's party without him being noticed, Joo Dee's smile practically melts off her face as everyone's attention is turned to the Avatar. Whatever her orders were, it is clear that this marks the moment she failed tremendously.
  • Overly Polite Pals: Aang and Sokka briefly as they try (and fail) to behave like high society folk.
  • Police State: Courtesy of Long Feng and the Dai Li, who are more concerned with keeping order than worrying about the war.
  • Princess for a Day: Katara and Toph, of the non-royalty variety. Downplayed with Toph, who actually is a member of a very wealthy and prominent family, but was posing under an alibi. Katara is technically a princess already too, but never acts it.
  • Puppet King: It's revealed that the Earth King is a figurehead for Long Feng. Lampshaded by Katara and Toph.
    Karata: So the king is just a figurehead.
    Toph: He's your puppet.
  • Reality Ensues: Jet storms into a teashop to accuse the main tea maker and his nephew of being firebender fugitives. Then he gets into a sword fight with said nephew, in view of two city guards and the shop owner. When the Dai Li come to break up the skirmish, the owner rightly says that Jet assaulted two of his employees and caused property damage; this is backed up by the guards, leading to Jet's arrest.
  • The Reveal: The episode ends with the Gaang learning the true nature of how Ba Sing Se works.
  • Scenery Porn: After a long journey, the Earth Kingdom capital is finally shown in all of its glory, and then some. More than anything else, it's huge.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: The Dai Li's main method of preserving the peace.
  • Serious Business: Iroh has very high standards when it comes to tea.
    Iroh: This is nothing more than hot leaf juice!
    Zuko: Uncle, that's what all tea is.
    Iroh: How could a member of my own family say something so horrible?!
  • Shame If Something Happened: Long Feng makes an implicit threat to have Appa killed if the Gaang didn't stop trying to alert the king.
    Long Feng: I understand you've been looking for your bison. It would be quite a shame if you were not able to complete your quest.
  • Ship Tease: When Aang sees Katara all dressed up, he blushes and tells her that she looks beautiful.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stepford Smiler: The first hint that something is very wrong in Ba Sing Se is the permanent rictus on Joo Dee's face. The mask slips when she realizes Team Avatar is at the party, at which point she panics.
  • Sword Fight: Between Jet and Zuko, as Jet attempts to out Zuko and Iroh as firebenders.
  • Tempting Fate: Sokka wonders how hard it could be to find a giant bison in the city, before seeing how big the place really is. And right after he warned the others about Tempting Fate, because "Weird stuff happens to us".
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Toph isn’t too thrilled to be back in a city, or as she calls it, “just a bunch of walls and rules.”
  • Thoughtcrime: "There is no war in Ba Sing Se".
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Gaang's efforts to reach the king are contrasted with Jet trying to expose Zuko and Iroh as firebenders. Ultimately, neither succeeds.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Jet makes the mistake of assuming that Zuko isn't too much of a threat without his bending. He was wrong.
  • Villain Ball: Long Feng grabs it by telling the Gaang that he has no intention of allowing them to see the King, and that war will never come to the city. He could'be easily promised that he would tell the king or the generals on the outer walls, and they would've trusted his word.
  • Villain Has a Point: Even though it's revealed that Long Feng and the Dai Li are controlling the life of the city and the Earth King, spreading word about a war would ultimately bring about panic and ruin the economy and traditions of the city.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Openly stated by Sokka that unusual things happen to them in defense of his theory that a "giant, exploding Fire Nation spoon" or "an ocean of killer shrimp" may attack Ba Sing Se. Shortly after he says this, a vacant-looking fellow sucking on a corn cob plants himself next to Sokka.
  • Wham Episode: Ba Sing Se isn't the great utopian city it was made out to be, Jet is taken by the Dai Li to be brainwashed, and the Gaang still have no way of finding Appa.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Said verbatim by Jet when the Dai Li drag him away to prison.

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