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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "Nightmares and Daydreams"

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The surreal nature of Aang's daydreams threaten to overwhelm him.

"During the meeting, I was the perfect prince. The son my father wanted. But I wasn't me."
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The invasion is four days away, and Aang begins to feel nervous about confronting the Fire-Lord. Feeling that he is unprepared, he trains constantly and loses sleep, causing him to hallucinate and have nightmares. After three straight days of insomnia and increasingly bizarre Sleep-Deprivation Sambas, it takes the collaboration of Sokka, Toph, and Katara to get him to finally sleep and feel confident about facing Fire Lord Ozai.

Meanwhile, back at the Fire Nation Capital, Zuko has trouble re-adjusting to his old life. Despite Mai's best efforts to calm him down, he can't shake the feeling that the Avatar is alive, his father still doesn't trust him, and that something is just wrong. He almost misses a war meeting because he thinks Ozai doesn't want him there, but eventually attends when it turns out that Ozai was actually waiting for him. However, something in the meeting hits him hard and finally drives in the realization that he's been working towards since the start of the show- his path was not honorable, and he didn't really want Ozai's approval.

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Tropes:

  • Advice Backfire: Sokka's attempts to reassure Aang do not go well:
    Sokka: Of course you're stressed; you've gotta fight the Fire Lord: the baddest man on the planet! And you'd better win, or we're all done for...
    Katara: Sokka! That's not helping!
  • Afraid of Needles: Aang, when Toph suggests acupuncture with a porcupine-like creature. The fact that the creature's needles have Audible Sharpness probably doesn't help matters.
  • Anime Hair: Aang in his dreams.
  • Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag: Happens within the episode. Aang briefly hallucinates that Momo is able to talk - then returns to his normal chattering. Then Appa shows up, standing on two legs and talking to Momo, and Momo talking back to him. Then Momo puts on a robe, Appa puts on samurai armor, and they engage in a sword fight. When Aang's hallucinations end, they're back to normal animals.
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  • Anxiety Dreams: Aang, of course.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Parodied.
    Dream!Ozai: Really? How do you plan on doing that when you're not even wearing pants?
  • Audible Sharpness: Momo's sword makes this noise.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: When Aang demands more practice and asks Katara to hit him, she refuses. Then Toph is about to volunteer until Sokka gives her a nudge.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Subverted. Aang finally tells Katara that he loves her and kisses her, thus letting her kiss him back. But as they get ready to make out some more...Katara's voice asks Aang what he was doing, and he looks up to see her standing there. It was merely a Daydream Surprise.
  • Big "NO!": Dream!Ozai in Aang's last dream.
  • Breather Episode: A lighthearted bit of sleep deprivation comedy before the very dramatic Day of Black Sun.
  • The Cameo: Guru Pahtik reappears as one of Aang's hallucinations, with six arms, and singing about chakras.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Aang, when waking from his last nightmare, complete with scream.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The content of the war meeting go unrevealed for this episode, though whatever it was prompted Zuko to finally make a Heel Realization. The audience finally finds out what went on in the finale, and boy howdy is it a doozy.
  • David vs. Goliath: Aang hallucinates a battle between Momo the small lemur and Appa the giant bison.
  • Daydream Surprise: Sorry, Kataang fans, gonna have to wait a little longer for the real deal...
  • Does Not Like Shoes: All (current) members of Team Avatar spend the entire episode barefoot.
    • Note that the episode spans 4 days, and Aang is the only one that puts on any kind of footwear (his Fire Nation boots) - but he is only seen wearing boots in the opening and closing scenes. All other times he is barefoot for 4 consecutive days like the rest of his friends.
  • Dream Episode: Aang finds himself too stressed to sleep, and gets sleep-deprived. Then, he starts hallucinating surreal stuff like dancing rocks, or Team Pets Appa and Momo talking and walking like humans.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Aang finally gets a good night's sleep.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: Aang develops them due to his sleep deprivation.
  • Fangirl: Not surprisingly, Zuko now has in-universe ones trying to get his attention (and possibly other things) when he steps outside the palace. One of these manages to get close, before being dragged off by the guards.
  • Freudian Couch: There's a scene where Aang is lying in the grass with his head rested on a sheep and Sokka talking to him like a shrink.
  • Funny Background Event: When the Gaang makes Aang a bed for him to sleep on, there are some naked koala-sheep next to Sokka.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!:
    Katara: Aang, I know you're trying to help, but you really need to get a grip.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Nightmares, funny stuff, Kataang Ship Tease, hallucinations... hold on, did Zuko spend the night on Mai's couch?
    • Mai suggesting ways for Zuko to relieve stress, like... ordering servants around, or taking a palanquin ride.
    • After daydreaming about kissing Katara, Aang snaps back to reality and when asked what his daydream was by Katara herself:
    Aang: ...living underwater?
  • Grapes of Luxury: The Fire Lord has them in Aang's first nightmare.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The A-plot is Aang having a Sleep Deprivation Samba due to anxiety over the coming invasion causing nightmares. The B-plot focuses on Zuko and Mai cuddling adorably... and Zuko attending an offscreen war meeting wherein something happens that will have a large effect on the finale, and which provokes Zuko's Heel Realization.
  • The Insomniac: Aang, and the lack of sleep makes him crazy.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Azula pointing out that Zuko wasn't formally invited to the meeting because, as prince, he's just expected to be there. She doesn't mind tweaking him by saying she was invited, but she ends up being right about him being needlessly paranoid.
  • A Load of Bull: Aang hallucinates that Appa stands on his hind legs, tells Aang that he needs to take care of himself, and then dons samurai gear, wields three swords, and fights Momo.
  • Mood Whiplash: While most of Aang's nightmares are played as comedy, some of them are actually pretty dang frightening. Not to mention the snapback after the aforementioned Kataang Ship Tease.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Aang's most humiliating nightmare. In his final dream, he turns it around on Dream!Ozai.
  • No, You: In Aang's final Ozai dream, the giant Ozai figure tries to tell Aang he isn't wearing pants (again), but Aang turns it on him and says that Ozai's the one not wearing pants, much to his horror.
    Dream!Ozai: My royal parts are showing!
  • Potty Emergency: How Aang predicts Toph drinking water would bring about a loss in their battle in one of his dreams.
  • Properly Paranoid: Given his history, Zuko expects not being invited to the meeting to be some kind of trick or setback at his expense. Subverted in that he's completely wrong. They even waited for him to show up before starting the meeting.
  • Real Dreams Are Weirder: All of Aang's dreams, as well as his hallucinations. There's such things as Ozai the giant Villainous Glutton, Aang as an anime Shout-Out, giant eyes opening up in the air, Aang suddenly not wearing pants, Ozai taunting Aang about missing his math test (causing Aang to fall into a giant abacus), Momo being a giant attempting to grab Aang and Appa, Toph not having eyes, there being a random ocean under the Fire Lord's palace, Appa and Momo talking, Appa and Momo swordfighting while sheep cheer them on, and a six-armed Guru Pathik sitting on a cloud and singing about how everyone loves chakras, not to mention the lines of rocks that act like snakes.
  • Reality Ensues: The closer Aang gets to a pivotal battle that his friends expect to determine the course of the war, the more he feels the pressure and panics.
  • Recurring Dreams: Aang is repeatedly dreaming of facing the Fire Lord and failing to defeat him.
  • Road Trip Across the Street: Zuko takes a palanquin to Mai's house, which is just across the street from the palace. Granted, he tried to be nonchalant and just walk over, but his servants insisted otherwise.
  • Ship Tease: Aang to Katara - "Baby, you're my forever girl."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Sokka refers to Fire Lord Ozai as "the baddest man on the planet", which was the tagline for Mike Tyson during his prime.
    • The three get-ups Aang wears in his Fire Lord dreams are homages to Dragon Ball Z, Trigun, and wuxia films.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Aang is unable to sleep due to stress over the impending attack on the Fire Nation, which causes him to have Anxiety Dreams.
  • Suddenly Voiced: When Aang hallucinates them talking, Dee Bradley Baker (who normally does the animals noises) gets to demonstrate what Momo and Appa would sound like if they could actually talk.
  • Too Important to Walk: The Fire Nation Royals. Leads to a Road Trip Across the Street for Zuko.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Zuko gets everything he wanted for two seasons: the respect of his people, assorted perks that come with being royalty, sitting by his father's side during war planning. It doesn't make him the slightest bit happy, and he realizes why that is.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Aang's reaction to finding out his Ship Tease example was another dream.

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