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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "Imprisoned"

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Katara tries to convince the Earthbenders to fight back.

"We can't abandon these people. There has to be a way to help them."

Our heroes befriend a young earthbender named Haru. However, Haru has to train in secret, as his village is under the control of the Fire Nation, who have outlawed earthbending for fear of a rebellion. The gang encourages him to improve his skills; however, he is found out, and taken by the Fire Nation into slavery. Katara pretends to be an earthbender in hopes to orchestrate a rescue, and she, with back-up from Aang and Sokka, must somehow get the imprisoned to help themselves.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Achilles' Heel: There's no earth on the earthbender prison rignote ... except for the coal used in the furnaces.
  • Acting Unnatural: When the Fire Nation soldiers barge into Haru's house after the Gaang has followed him home, everyone assumes an exaggerated pose as if they were in the middle of spirited conversations.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The prison inmates have their spirits broken and seem hopeless to motivate to break out.
  • Ash Face: Aang after earthbending the rubble from the ocean ground into the prison.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Katara and Sokka when they're trying to get Katara arrested for earthbending and speak in the most stilted tone possible. Frankly, it's nothing short of a miracle that the Fire Nation mooks actually buy it.
    Katara: I'll show you who's boss! EARTHBENDING STYLE!
  • Bad Boss: The Warden throws the Captain overboard for not caring if the supposed flying creature they saw (in this case, Appa) was a buffalo or a bison. The next comment implies that he's done this before.
  • Big Eater: Appa, naturally. When staying with Haru and his mom, Aang says he'll try to stop Appa from eating all their hay. Cut to Appa casually chewing on an entire bale, pausing to look at Aang, and then going right back to the hay.
  • Bonding over Missing Parents: Katara and Haru.
  • Captured on Purpose: Katara gets captured by the Fire Nation to rescue Haru, after he is captured because the Fire Nation learns that he can earthbound and Katara feels guilty for encouraging him to do so.
  • Comically Missing the Point: (Regarding the difference between buffalo and bison) the Warden will DECIDE WHAT THE POINT IS!
  • Correlation/Causation Gag:
    • Momo tries to open a nut by knocking it against a rock, seemingly causing a very loud thump (which is actually Haru practicing his earthbending nearby).
    • When Katara stages her fake earthbending to get arrested. It takes an unexpected turn when the guard's first reaction is to attribute the earthbending to Momo instead.
      Guard: That lemur is earthbending!
      Sokka: No, you idiot, it's the girl!
  • Cool Old Guy: Haru's father, Tyro. He once led the earthbenders of his village against the Fire Nation, taught Haru everything he knew about earthbending, and resumes his fight against the Fire Nation once his faith is restored.
  • Cut Apart: Fire Nation troops walk around menacingly as the Gaang sleeps, the troops then knock on a door... which is opened by Haru.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: When it looks like giving the earthbenders' coal has done them no good as their spirits are broken, the Warden delivers a cutting speech to Katara about how badly she's failed. Cue Haru stepping up and using his bending to prove the Warden wrong. He is attacked in turn, and shielded by his father's bending. And with that, their spirits are restored.
  • Description Cut: Aang and Sokka agree that their first approach to Haru should be slow and cautious. Cut to Katara walking straight up to him and saying hello.
  • Dirty Coward: The warden in the end.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The warden has a prisoner put in solitary confinement for a week for coughing during his speech. Later on, he throws his captain of the guard overboard for not caring if a flying animal he supposedly saw was a buffalo or a bison.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Fire Nation's Secret Police disappearing potential threats within a particular ethnic group and forcing them into prison camps does not bring about positive comparisons.
  • Dramatic Drop: Katara drops what she's doing (a perfectly nice ceramic jug of water) when she realizes that Haru's been arrested and taken prisoner for illegal earthbending.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Warden has a deep voice and is a cruel, arrogant tyrant to both his prisoners and his subordinates.
  • Extranormal Prison: The prison is built out on the water and completely out of metal, so the earthbenders have nothing to fight with. But as the Gaang demonstrates, that's not what's really keeping them there.
  • Father to His Men: Even when his spirit is broken, Tyro continues to look out for the well-being of his fellow earthbenders, still holding a degree of leadership over them.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Warden and basically every other Fire Nation character here fail to notice the explicitly Water Tribe outfit that Katara wears, despite her not exactly doing much to conceal it.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The warden initially tries to present himself as a friendly Punch-Clock Villain who prefers to think of his prisoners as "guests". However, he drops his kind demeanor very quickly, ordering a prisoner thrown in solitary for coughing during his speech.
  • Foreshadowing: We see Zuko take Katara's lost necklace at the end of the episode, which will become a plot point later in the season.
  • Hope Bringer: We see this part of Katara here. She restores hope to a battered people who thought they had no fight left in them.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: No, seriously, lay off Sokka with the ear jokes.
    Katara: [pretending to argue] Watch where you're going, you large-eared cretin!
    Sokka: What did you call me?
    Katara: A large-eared cretin! Look at those things. Do herds of animals use them for shade?
    Sokka: You better back off! [sotto voce] Seriously, back off.
  • Karma Houdini: The old man who sells Haru to the Fire Nation is never seen again.
  • Large Ham: George Takei as the warden.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Metal is purified stone, yet the earthbenders can't work with it. This means they can only affect rocks and dirt in their natural state.note 
  • The Mutiny: After the Defiant Stone Throw from Haru, the other earthbending prisoners rally to his side and defeat the prison guards.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Haru uses his earthbending to save an old man from a cave-in. Later that night, the old man rats him out to the Fire Nation and gets him arrested.
  • Out of Focus: Zuko only shows up in The Stinger.
  • Papa Wolf: Haru's father, Tyro. He hasn't practiced earthbending since he was captured by the Fire Nation. However, when the warden shoots a fireball at his son, he doesn't hesitate to shield Haru with a layer of coal and he rallies the other prisoners into fighting back.
  • Pet the Dog: Very small, almost non-existent, but the Fire Nation soldier that extorts Haru's family lets them keep the copper pieces instead of taking them too, though that could just be because they have little value.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Tyro gives a simple but effective one when the earth benders get ready to rebel against their jailors:
    Tyro: For the Earth Kingdom... ATTACK!
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Tyro does one as he's about to throw the warden of the prison overboard.
    Warden: No! Please! I can't swim!
    Tyro: Don't worry. I hear cowards float.
  • Prison Episode: Two-thirds of the episode takes place on a prison rig designed to hold earthbenders.
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: The Gaang hatches a plan to get Katara arrested for earthbending. When Katara says the cue, "I'll show you who's boss... earthbending style!", Aang is distracted by a butterfly and doesn't perform his part. She then repeats the cue, angrily, "I said, 'earthbending style!'", causing him to wake up and make with the fake earthbending.
  • Rousing Speech: Katara attempts this twice with the earthbender prisoners. The first time doesn't go so well; the second time seems to fail at first, but then Haru steps up...
  • Secret Police: The Fire Nation chillingly comes in the night to disappear earthbenders.
  • Shame If Something Happened: The Fire Nation tax collector makes a number of suggestive comments about how his firebending might get out of his control if Haru's mother doesn't pay up.
  • Special Guest: George Takei voices the Warden.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: The prison rig is in the middle of water and made entirely of metal, making it perfect for holding earthbenders. Or it would be if not for the fact that the furnaces are powered by coal.
  • Taken During the Ending: After Team Avatar and the earthbenders escape from the prison, Katara realizes her necklace is gone. At the end of the episode, Zuko is seen at the prison and he finds Katara's necklace and holds on to it.
  • Tell Me Again: Both times the Gaang do the trick with the air vents, they go over the plan just before they do it for the audience's benefit, even though they've clearly already discussed it and started making preparations.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: When the Fire Nation soldiers see the rock levitate (due to Aang pushing air through vents), they think that it's Momo who is the earthbender. Sokka has to spell it out.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: We get to see a montage of how the heroes plan to get the coal to the surface.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The guy who Haru saves with his earthbending turns him in to the Fire Nation. What a bastard.
  • Verbed Title: "Imprisoned"
  • Villains Want Mercy: So warden, you have been an asshole to your prisoners the entire episode. Do you think they care about whether you know how to swim or not?
  • Villain of the Week: The Warden this episode.
  • Wardens Are Evil: The warden is a Bad Boss who throws subordinates overboard, delights in crushing the spirits of those in his custody, and on top of it all is a Dirty Coward.


Video Example(s):


Earthbending Style

The Gaang tries to trick Fire Nation guards into thinking Katara is an earthbender. Unfortunately, Aang misses his cue.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (24 votes)

Example of:

Main / RepeatedCueTardyResponse

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