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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Beach"

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Azula, Ty Lee, Mai, and Zuko bond after wreaking havoc on Chan's house.

Azula: My own mother...thought I was a monster...

A fairly typical Beach Episode, except for the fact that it's the villains that we get to know better: Zuko, Azula, Mai and Ty Lee retreat to the royal beach house on Ember Island for a well-earned vacation. The four attempt to socialize with other Fire Nation teenagers, with decidedly mixed results, and then end with the traditional heart-to-heart around a beach bonfire. In the secondary plot, Combustion Man attacks the Gaang for the first time.


  • A Day in the Limelight: Usually, Team Avatar gets the A-plot and the Fire Nation characters the B-plot. In this episode, it's the other way around.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Who are you angry at?" After much prodding, Zuko answers with the above quote.
  • Beach Episode: The episode is called the Beach, and features Zuko, Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai all enjoying a nice vacation.
  • Berate and Switch: Ty Lee gives Azula advice for picking up guys:
    Ty Lee: If you want a boy to like you, just look at him and smile a lot, and laugh at everything he says, even if it's not funny!
    Azula: That sounds shallow and stupid. Let's try it!
  • Brain Bleach: Zuko, and the audience, have this reaction to the Fan Disservice mentioned below.
  • Breather Episode: This episode serves as one for the Fire Nation teens, as rather than see them fight or scheme, we get to see them actually relax and socialize (or try to at least).
  • Cerebus Retcon: The episode is this for Azula; especially later in the series. What starts off as funny becomes harsher in hindsight as all of her cruelty and her inability to socialize normally paints the image of a woman who literally cannot fathom any way to be loved or respected for who she is; taking up the mantle of a monster because that's what she believes her mother thought of her as.
  • Campfire Character Exploration: The fire team discusses their flaws around a nightly campfire.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Aang using rock armor, from his training with Toph to fend off the Combustion Man.
  • Could Say It, But...: Both Mai and Azula's revelations about what hurt them come out in this format.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: Mai covers Zuko's eyes when Lo and Li reveal themselves in their bathing suits.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Zuko comes off as one when he shoves a guy several meters into a wall (and breaking a vase) for talking to Mai.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Combustion Man's attacks allow him to easily counter anything Aang and his friends throw at him and force them to run instead of fighting him.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chan was somewhat of a jerk to Zuko and Azula, but did that really justify them trashing his house and possibly burning it down?
  • Dissonant Serenity: The villains, as depicted in the final panel (and on this page). Keep in mind that that's a Fire navy admiral's house that's going up in flames behind them.
  • Disturbed Doves: Zuko calls some just by taking off his shirt. For a Kuai Ball Game.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Azula's cringeworthy attempt to compliment Chan on how "sharp" his clothes are ends with her doing this.
    Azula: That's a sharp outfit, Chan. Careful, you could puncture the hull of an Empire-class Fire Nation battleship, leaving thousands to drown at sea. [Beat] Because — it's so sharp!
  • Dude Magnet: Ty Lee, to her surprise. She starts attracting a couple of guys' attention at the beach itself, but she finds herself surrounded by several guys at Chan's party. When they start asking her which one she likes, she knocks them out and cartwheels away.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Turns out the fire team is four pretty screwed-up teenagers, and that makes them who they are.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Mai is revealed to be this. Her ordinary outfit is so concealing that it takes changing into her beach outfit to show how how pale she is.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Zuko and Mai's fight is basically this trope. Zuko is all emotion and he lets his temper and impulses get away from him. Mai is all stoicism to the point where she doesn't care about anything and can't express any emotion. Eventually they come to understand each other, with Zuko learning to think more calmly and rationally and Mai learning to be more free to express her feelings.
  • Epic Fail: Azula manages to get a kiss, but her attempt to seal the deal afterwards is a spectacular example of this. Her earlier attempts at flirting were likewise fairly atrocious.
  • Estrogen Brigade: Zuko has in-universe fangirls here.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mai, whose apathetic demeanor doesn't rub well with Ty Lee's bubbly and optimistic personality, tells Zuko to lay off her when he verbally attacks her over it (ironically in an attempt to defend Mai).
    • Azula, of all people, feels bad for making Ty Lee cry and apologizes to her.
  • Evil Is Petty: Azula destroys a sand castle built by kids on the beach. And Chan's house, after he rejects her.
  • Fan Disservice: Lo and Li in their bathing suits. It's bad enough that Mai covers Zuko's eyes.
  • Fanservice: Quite a lot.
  • Favors for the Sexy: Ty Lee gleefully milks this trope for all its worth.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: Zuko sends Ruon-Jian flying across the room with just a palm strike.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: During Zuko's flashback to his time on Ember Island as a child, you'll see him playing with another boy and an adult man, most likely Lu-ten and Iroh.
  • Freudian Excuse: All four of the fire team tell theirs.
    • Ty Lee grew up with six sisters, all of whom look the same, and she felt as though she had no identity. So to help her establish an identity, she ran off and joined the circus, which she admitted in "Return to Omashu" made her really happy.
    • Mai and Azula both deny that they have one, before going into it. Mai grew up as the only daughter of a rich Fire Nation family and lived by very strict rules (sitting still, behaving, and not speaking unless spoken to) for the sake of her father's political career. Because of her family's strictness, she grew up not expressing herself or interacting that much with kids her age. Azula's is more subtle as she acts like her life was perfect, but she seems to focus on how her mother thought she was a monster. While she admits it was true, Azula was still hurt by how her mother saw her.
    • Mai also calls out Zuko on his, pointing out that even though, yes, his life has been pretty terrible, it doesn't excuse how he's been acting. Though in Zuko's case, he believes that most of the problems in his life are resolved, but he's still just as moody and conflicted as ever, if not more so. In fact, angsting about his father's approval doesn't even come into it, and he realizes his anger comes from something else.

  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Zuko's temper, never that great at the best of times, is even worse than usual in this episode, compounded by his internal angst, feeling snubbed by Ozai in getting sent to Ember Island, to Mai's attitude. Towards the end he finally gets called out for his constant flaring up at the slightest provocation.
  • Huddle Shot: Used when Azula gathers her team to beat the opposition at a game of kuai ball.
  • Idiot Crows: A dove version flaps by Chan's head after he's stunned by one of Azula's pickup lines.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Played with. Azula doesn't really want to be normal, since she usually loves the attention and praise she gets from being Princess, but she doesn't tell Chan and Ruan-Jian who she and Zuko are out of a sudden intrigue to see what it's like to be normal.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Ty Lee is one of a family of seven sisters, all of whom look a lot like her. It's not hard to see why she wants to stand out.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment/Insult Backfire: Affected at first, Ty Lee tearfully rebukes Zuko calling her a "circus freak" and says she considers it to be a compliment due to her previous living a life of no identity.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Ty Lee warns Zuko that being constantly angry is bad for his skin. She realizes a second too late that this is a really stupid thing to say to a guy whose own father burned a big chunk of his face.
  • Instant Armor: Aang uses the assemble-rocks trick he learned from Toph whilst dealing with Combustion Man.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Li and Lo provide the page image, posing in front of a painting of them in their youth..
  • It's All Junk: Ty Lee is pretty shocked that Zuko would throw his family portrait into the fire like mere kindling. From where Zuko stands, however, it's a symbolic acknowledgment that his childhood isn't worth looking back on.
  • Kick the Dog: There is a lot of mean-spirited and spiteful lashing out in this episode as the fire team's suppressed emotional baggage comes up.
    • Before that Azula makes her presence on the beach known by stomping some kids' sand-castle.
    • Azula gets rather nasty at Ty Lee and says that the boys she was surrounded by don't actually like her, prompting Ty Lee to cry. This one is so harsh that for once, Azula actually apologizes.
  • King Incognito: To blend in with the other kids, Azula and the other never reveal their real names or status. Even at the end, while trashing Chan's house, they still don't.
  • Large Ham: Azula is in particularly fine form this episode. Like Jack DeSena was during The Desert, Grey De Lisle seems to be having a great time in this episode.
  • Literal-Minded: When Azula hears the words "from dusk 'till dawn", she takes it to mean the party really lasts that long.
  • Little "No": Asked if it's his father that he's so angry about, Zuko says "No!" in a startled, pleading way - he's so desperate for Ozai's approval that being angry at him is unthinkable.
  • Mandatory Line: Sokka gets exactly one line of dialogue today.
  • Misery Poker: The Fire nation group each take turns voicing their respective Freudian Excuse in response to some criticism from the others. There's not much of a contest, as the girls' stories of various forms of emotional abuse and neglect can't really compete with Ozai emotionally abusing and permanently disfiguring Zuko.
  • Mood Whiplash: We go from the Fire kids and their attempts to have a normal day at the beach to the Gaang nearly getting blown to pieces by Combustion Man, to the Fire kids trying to fit in at a party, to them somberly dwelling on their issues... to them busting up the house the party's at for fun.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Zuko.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ty Lee seems to delight in being such in this episode. So much so that the others accuse her of being an Attention Whore. She does get overwhelmed at one point when a group of boys try to pressure her into choosing one as her favorite.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Combustion Man intercepts a letter to the Firelord revealing that the Avatar is still alive (and his general location). As dangerous as the hitman is, things would have been vastly worse otherwise.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Although it's really more like "No Guy Wants The Sociopath"; it's not Azula's fighting skills that scare the boys off, it's the fact she's Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training and her malicious persona shines through, making her come off as creepy, menacing and awkward all at the same time.
    Azula: For some reason, when I meet boys, they act as if I'm going to do something horrible to them.
    Ty Lee: But you probably ''would'' do something horrible to them...
  • No Social Skills: Azula. She has an amazing capacity to lead, to subvert loyalties, to understand other people and sway their opinions and is overall a master of manipulation... but normal social interactions are utterly beyond her. Although she refuses to admit it, she is quite insecure about it as well.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The two Fire Nation guards are bored with their job and one exclaims that nothing happens. Cue the Avatar coming down the waterfall.
  • Not So Above It All: Azula shows this big-time. Mai is a lesser example.
  • Not So Stoic: Azula looks genuinely sad when asking Zuko if he's mad at her. She already knows he is - for manipulating him into betraying Iroh and serving as her scapegoat - but knows it's not the source of his brooding.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the Gaang notices the scary hitman with metal limbs who can shoot fire with his mind.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Azula is most unlike her manipulative self in this episode.
    • She actually feels guilty when she makes Ty Lee cry and apologizes to her for it. Ty Lee's reaction is that Azula never apologizes for her actions.
    • Normally, Azula is fine with pressing Zuko's buttons and taunting him about his insecurities. She finds him brooding in their old summer home, and her expression changes. Azula, rather than mocking her brother, gently leads him away, saying this place doesn't have good memories. Zuko is too angry to notice.
    • A more minor one comes from Mai, who is notoriously reserved in her emotions. When confronted on why she's so unfeeling, she finally lashes out, screaming at Azula of all people to leave her alone. On top of that, she sounds genuinely hurt during her constant arguments with Zuko, finding his worsening anger to be too much even for her to bear.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Mai takes one to the beach with her (and has Zuko to carry it).
  • Pet the Dog: Azula apologizes for accidentally upsetting Ty Lee in this episode, and even brings Zuko back from their family's former home when he wanders off. She also is surprisingly mild about it when she asks Zuko if she's the one he's angry at, as if the prospect is actually upsetting to her.
  • Rule of Symbolism: During the campfire scene, Zuko takes his family's portrait and tosses into the fire without a second thought. It's a powerful representation of how disillusioned he is with pretending his family is perfect, or even normal. Interestingly enough, Azula doesn't stop him from doing it either, though one could make the argument she realized that years ago.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Azula does this when Zuko and Mai make up, before sarcastically congratulating them all on their "performances" of their sob stories. However, by this point it's quite clear that she's using her sarcasm as a defense mechanism.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Combustion Man. He manages to find the exact location of Aang and his friends and attempts to kill them.
  • Sherlock Scan: Azula notices that one of the kuai ball players hesitates with her left foot, and suspects it's due to an old injury that weakens her left side in the game. Whether or not she's right is unclear, as the game is such a Curb-Stomp Battle it doesn't make much difference whether they exploit that weakness.
  • Shirtless Scene: Zuko gets one with Disturbed Doves.
  • Shout-Out: Everyone asking Zuko what's really bothering him is similar to the one in The Breakfast Club.
  • Squee: Zuko's fangirls during his Shirtless Scene.
  • Stepford Snarker: Both Azula and Mai are revealed to be this.
  • Stunned Silence/Sweat Drop: After Azula announces her plan with Chan to become "the strongest couple in the entire world." He doesn't seem that enthused.
  • The Tease: Azula calls Ty Lee this.
  • The Reveal: At a campfire, the group vent about their past. Ty Lee initially joined the circus to escape her previous life, where she had virtually no identity of her own due to being one of many identical sisters. Mai's Emo Teen attitude is due to her strict political life. Zuko remains frustrated even after being welcomed back to the Fire Nation. And Azula reveals that her and Zuko's mom sees her as a "monster".
  • Tempting Fate: Katara assures Toph that there are walls all around their swimming pool so no one would see Aang's tattoos. Cue Aang going down the waterfall and being noticed by the Fire Nation guards.
  • Trash the Set: The Fire kids trash Chan's beach house at the end of the episode.
  • Tuckerization: Chan got his name from an Avatar writer, May Chan.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Ozai used to be a good father (or at least passable) during Zuko's flashbacks at the beach.
  • Twisted Echo Cut: When Lo and Li shout "Time to hit the beach!" the scene cuts to the Gaang taking a swim.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Azula's reaction to winning a game of kuai ball. It's obvious that despite being a brilliant commander, she can't turn that mindset off.
    Azula: YES! We have defeated you for ALL TIME! You shall never rise from the ashes of your shame and humiliation. [Beat] Well, that was fun.
  • Unwanted Harem: Not unwanted at first, but Ty Lee's admirers fighting for her attention soon start to make her nervous to the point she knocks them all out to have some peace.
  • Villain Episode: The A-plot of this episode centers on Zuko, Azula, and her minions.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Although it's a wonder how nobody appeared to know that Zuko and Azula were the prince and princess of the Fire Nation. Maybe it's down to having no television or tabloids, and official paintings of royals are often highly idealized.
  • Walking Swimsuit Scene: From almost every girl at the beach, particularly Azula and Ty Lee. Fans who got a tour of the studio claimed to have seen concept art of the swimsuits that were far more revealing, possibly as a ploy to get the Nickelodeon execs to accept these still fairly daring designs instead.
  • Wasted Beauty: This episode perfectly demonstrates why Azula is this. She gets called by Ty Lee the "most beautiful, smartest, perfect girl in the world" a statement she acknowledges. But when it came a time Chan gets attracted to her and gains interest, she then repulsed him with her We Can Rule Together quote below, which then leaves him in one of the most iconic Stunned Silence moment and quickly excuses himself.
  • We Can Rule Together: Azula suggests this to Chan. As a pickup line.
    Azula: Together, you and I will be the strongest couple in the entire world!
  • Woman Scorned: The end result of the party. Once the four of them have been kicked out, Azula decides after the events of the campfire to get revenge on the kids.
  • You Monster!: Azula thinks that her own mother thought of her as one.
    Azula: She was right, of course, but it still hurt.


Video Example(s):


Avatar - The Beach

A fairly typical Beach Episode, except for the fact that it's the villains that we get to know better: Zuko, Azula, Mai and Ty Lee retreat to the royal beach house on Ember Island for a well-earned vacation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / BeachEpisode

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