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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Blind Bandit"

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"The Blind Bandit" holding up the Champion's belt.

"My daughter is blind. She is blind and tiny and helpless and fragile. She cannot help you."
"Yes, I can."
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As the gang journeys into the Earth Kingdom proper, Aang's search for an Earth Bending teacher becomes more and more pressing. He enrolls in an Earthbending school, to little success; however, other students mention an underground Earthbending tournament, "Earth Rumble Six." Hopeful this might yield results, they go to find the show, watching a string of fights, each one being dominated by 'The Boulder', a tall, muscled man- perfect as a teacher. However, even he is defeated by the true champion; The Blind Bandit. Said champion is a young girl, barely twelve, and a member of the richest family in the area, and exactly the same girl that Aang saw in his vision. And she really is blind, but all the better a bender for it.

Aang is sure that this girl, Toph Beifong, is destined to be his teacher; however, her own reluctance and her father's resolute belief that his daughter is helpless poses something of a problem...

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  • Absentee Actor: Zuko and Iroh do not appear.
  • Aerith and Bob: Poppy Beifong's name stands out compared to her husband and daughter's Chinese names. She's also the second female character to have a name which is not only traditionally Western, but a flower (after Lily in "The Cave of Two Lovers").
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Professional Wrestling.
  • Art Shift: In the montage of The Boulder's victories during Earth Rumble Six.
  • Badass Boast
    Toph: I've beaten you all before and I'll do it again.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Sokka gets the ransom note. "I can't believe it...I HAVE THE BOULDER'S AUTOGRAPH!"
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Katara is generally nice. However, when a pair of rude boys insults Aang, she follows after them and freezes them. The next they meet, she glares at the boys and they recoil in fear.
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  • Big "NO!": Sokka when The Boulder loses to Toph.
  • Bullet Time: Used during Toph's fights, to illustrate just how good she really is.
  • Butt-Monkey: As is par for the course, Sokka is the target in this episode. Twice.
    • When Toph sends the Gaang flying, Katara and Aang land on bushes. Sokka lands on the ground.
    • A moment earlier, when the Gaang are climbing over the wall into Toph's home, Aang lands gracefully on his feet. Katara jumps down and is helped by Sokka and Aang. In between these two, Sokka just crashes to the ground.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Boulder. In a twist, he's voiced by Johnson's "Rock n' Sock Connection" tag-team partner Mick Foley.
  • Catch and Return: One baddie (named The Gopher) throws a rock at Toph but she catches it and throws it back at the attacker.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Toph versus anyone in this episode. She's not even seriously threatened when it's six on one. Although special mention does have to be made of her opening fight with the Boulder, which ends in her victory literally before the guy can even make two steps.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Unlike the other Earthbenders, Xin Fu is actually able to put up a fight against Toph. He puts her on the defensive for awhile, but we know he's screwed the minute Toph senses where he lands after he dodges her attack.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Toph, displaying one of her primary character traits.
  • Description Cut:
    Poppy: Poor Toph, she must be so scared...
    Toph: (cut to her suspended in a cage) You think you're so tough? Why don't you come up here so I can slap that grin off your face?
    Xin Fu: I’m not smiling.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Toph taught herself earthbending as a means of seeing the world and getting some freedom. She's stunned when the Avatar says he wants her to teach him, though at first she dismisses his requests.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Aang jumps into the wrestling ring to talk with Toph and ask for her to become his earthbending teacher. She thinks he's another opponent trying to trash-talk her, and is angered and humiliated when he defeats her by accident. This leaves a bad impression on her and she refuses to teach Aang until the end of the episode.
  • Disability Superpower: Toph can't see. Her heightened sense of touch and bending abilities, however, allows her to sense vibrations in stone and pretty much see everything in 360 degrees. Aang does manage to confuse her at a few points by using his airbending to float above the ground.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Toph taunts the Boulder because she doesn't want him to pity his opponent for being blind. She wants the fight to be fair because her parents have a habit of treating her with kid gloves.
  • Editorial Synaesthesia: Vibrations are invisible, but during one of the fight scenes, we see vibrations depicted as waves, in order to illustrate how Toph is perceiving it.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The Boulder expresses concerns over fighting a blind girl. Subverted as he quickly changes his mind once Toph mocks him by saying he’s scared.
  • Eye Am Watching You: Katara does this gesture to the two students after they tell her about the Beifongs.
  • Footsie Under the Table: A hostile variant happens with Toph and Aang when the gang is visiting the Beifongs for dinner.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Parodied with Fire Nation Man in the Earth Rumble. He has a Russian accent, wears red, carries a Fire Nation flag, and sings the Fire Nation anthem.
  • Foreshadowing: When the trio try telling Toph why they think she should be Aang's Earthbending teacher, at no point does Toph actually question their story, or claim it's not true. It'll be several episodes before her abilities as a Living Lie Detector are established.
  • Forgot the Disability: When Toph asks for her championship belt back, Sokka casually tosses it to her from atop Appa, causing it to land on her head and knock her over.
  • Gilded Cage: Toph calls her father out for keeping her locked in like in a prison.
    Toph: I'm 12 years old, and I've never had a real friend.
  • Groin Attack:
    • The Boulder ends up in a painful splits in the wrestling match.
    • Also when Toph "gets even" with Aang. Near the end of the episode, when Toph runs away from home to join the Gaang, she asks Aang to get down off Appa. When Aang landed, Toph used Earthbending to punt him into a tree; in a Rewatch Bonus, one can see the rock emerging from the ground hit Aang between the legs.
  • Hitler Cam: Used when Toph first appears at Earth Rumble 6, only for the camera to immediately cut to a wide shot showing she's tiny.
  • Ignored Epiphany:
    • Lao Beifong realizes just how strong and capable his daughter really is. His response? To double-down on being overprotective and order that she be guarded around the clock.
    • Master Yu proudly admits that Toph is an amazing Earthbender. It doesn't stop him from going after her with a dangerous man to get a bounty.
  • I Have My Ways: Katara is asked how she got information from the uncooperative boys and replies suggestively, "A girl has her ways." Cut to the two boys covered up to their necks in ice. And frozen to the wall. Feet first.
  • Jerkass: Lao Beifong, considering his Ignored Epiphany above. He doesn't care that Aang sacrificed himself to get Toph away from her kidnappers as long as Toph is safe, never mind the fact he's the Avatar, the world's hope.. He deludes himself that Toph should still be confined and bans the Gaang from his home. When Toph obviously runs away, her father hires two guys to get her back, deluding himself that Aang "kidnapped" her.
  • Kayfabe: Sokka seems to completely buy into the Earth Rumble 6 storylines, including Fire Nation Man's supposed citizenship. Katara, on the other hand, is so skeptical of everything that she doesn't initially believe Toph is really blind.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Xin Fu cracks his neck before going into his fight with Toph.
  • Little Miss Badass: Toph immediately cements her status as one.
  • Logical Weakness: Toph's ability to sense vibrations only works if she is in physical contact with the ground (specifically it has to be earth or stone). She can't detect airbending, which is how Aang sent her flying in one blast.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • 'Toph' means 'Fragile Lotus', which accurately describes her parents' attitude towards her.
    • "Toff" is a British slang for someone with aristocratic background which in fact Toph descended from.
    • It also sounds like "tough," which will be Lampshaded in a later episode.
  • The Nicknamer: Toph develops this reputation when she nicknames the Boulder "the Pebble" and Aang "Twinkletoes."
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!:
    Boulder: The Boulder feels conflicted about fighting a young, blind girl.
    Toph: Sounds to me like you're scared, Boulder!
    Boulder: The Boulder's over his conflicted feelings...
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Several Professional Wrestlers, most obviously "The Boulder". Bonus points is that the person who voices "The Boulder" is Mick Foley, who wrestled with The Rock on occasion (even winning the Tag Team Championships together)
  • One-Hit Polykill: Near the end of the episode, Toph beats The Boulder, The Big Bad Hippo, and the Headhunter by shifting the disc the former two are standing on so that the Headhunter, who's swinging through the air, crashes into them.
  • Overprotective Dad: Lao Beifong. He's so concerned for his daughter's safety that she's not even allowed to walk around the grounds of the family house without escort, and the rest of the world doesn't even know she exists. Even after seeing her defend herself, he instead believe he had given her "too much freedom" and becomes even more restrictive of her life, forcing her to finally run off and join Aang.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Toph spends the second half of the episode in her night clothes, only changing back into her 'Blind Bandit' gear when she runs away in the final scene.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: The episode revolves around an underground Earthbending ring, which is portrayed very similarly to pro wrestling. While there are some implications that the matches are fixed, Toph is so powerful that she ends up beating her opponents anyway.
  • Scooby Stack: Played straight when Aang, Katara, and Sokka all peer out from behind a bush whilst sneaking around the Beifong estate. Then lampshaded when the camera flips around to show how ridiculous they look all schmooped up together.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Fire Nation Man is also a clear reference to Nikolai Volkoff with the use of his Fire Nation flag and his obnoxious national pride.
    • Also the use of a giant badger mole to clean the ring of earth debris echoes the use of an ice resurfacer (aka a Zamboni) in hockey.
    • The Hippo is clearly King Hippo from Punch-Out!!
  • Somebody Else's Problem: Toph initially declines the request to train Aang, saying that it's not her problem if the Avatar fails to save the world. She goes back on it after her father not only lays down more strict rules, but kicks the Gaang - possibly the only kids around her age she's ever even met - out of his house.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: Toph takes out several of the Earth Rumble wrestlers by conjuring up a cloud of dirt and sneaking up on them. In this cloud, they can't see her, but she can still "see" them.
  • Sucky School: Master Yu's earthbending school is an unsubtle parody of American martial arts "McDojos", which are more interested in getting money out of students and flattering them with fake "belts" than in actually training them.
  • Testosterone Poisoning
    Katara: [sighs] This is just going to be a bunch of guys chucking rocks at each other, isn't it?
    Sokka: That's what I paid for.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry:
  • Third-Person Person: The Boulder takes issue with this TvTropes entry!
  • The Worf Effect: The Boulder is clearly a skilled Earthbender and fairly easily defeats the other fighters. Toph comes along and defeats him even more easily.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Zigzagged. The Boulder hesitates when he sees his opponent is a "blind girl" and says as much. When she insults him however, he prepares to bring it. Too bad she has the jump on him.

 
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Earthbending Demonstration and Duel

Toph teaches earthbending philosophy to Avatar Aang / a duel between Toph (the Blind Bandit) and other professional earthbenders.

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