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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Blue Spirit"

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The Blue Spirit is surrounded by Fire Nation soldiers as Aang runs for the gate.
"If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends too?"
Aang to Zuko
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Sokka suffers from an illness due to his exposure to the elements during the storm. When Katara begins to contract the illness as well, Aang goes to a nearby herbalist institute in hopes of finding a cure for his friends. On his way to collect the remedy the herbalist recommends, Aang is kidnapped by a group of Fire Nation Yu-Yan archers, commanded by the newly promoted Admiral Zhao. However, a masked marauder, the titular "Blue Spirit," rescues Aang from Zhao; the "Blue Spirit" is knocked unconscious during the escape, and Aang discovers that he is Prince Zuko. Aang offers him friendship, but departs when he is rebuffed.


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Tropes in this episode include:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Blue Spirit cuts through the chains and shackles holding Aang with his swords.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The sewers at the fortress are huge, making it easy for the Blue Spirit and Aang to escape.
  • Anaphora: Zuko says one in a situation of despair:
    Zuko: "My honor. My throne. My country. I'm about to lose it all..."
  • Arrow Cam: When the Blue Spirit is struck down by the Yu-Yan archer.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Aang and the Blue Spirit protect each other's backs while mowing down dozens of enemy spearsmen and archers.
  • Badass Normal:
    • The Blue Spirit outfights and outwits quite a few firebenders while freeing Aang, with nothing but his swords and a bucket of water.
    • The Yu-Yan Archers are a ridiculously skilled group of marksmen who are able to capture the Avatar alive, without a scratch on him.
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  • Becoming the Mask: Aang hoped that Zuko would have become this. It didn't quite work that way.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Aang is rescued from Zhao, and both Sokka and Katara get better, but Aang's attempt to connect with Zuko and maybe even forge a friendship fails.
    Sokka: Aang, how was your trip? Did you make any new friends?
    Aang: No, I don't think I did.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: What Momo hears when Katara speaks to him.
  • Brought Down to Badass: The Blue Spirit is actually Zuko, who just isn't using his firebending to avoid revealing his identity.
  • Ceiling Cling: The Blue Spirit does this to evade the guard inside the fortress.
  • Chirping Crickets: Done with a defrosting frog.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Sokka's illness makes him more than a little loopy.
    • The eccentric herbalist counts as well.
      Aang: ...You're insane, aren't you?
      Herbalist: That's riiiiiiight!
  • Cold Sniper: The Yu-Yan Archers: always silent, unfazed by pressure and emotion, with legendary accuracy and extremely effective.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When Aang and the Blue Spirit are cornered, Zhao gives the order to his men to leave the Avatar alive. Cue the Blue Spirit immediately holding his swords up to Aang's throat, effectively taking him hostage.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Iroh playing the tsungi horn in front of the jeweled monkey statue, both bought in "The Waterbending Scroll."
    • Both Sokka and Katara get sick after surviving the storm.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Zhao receives word of his promotion to Admiral just as he's trying to recruit the Yu-Yan Archers, allowing him to make his request an order. How lucky can a guy get? Played with, though, as there's no established reason why the original commanding officer of the archers should have outranked Zhao (though they may have been equally ranked). The writers could have given Zhao the authority from the beginning, simply by making the original CO someone lower ranked than Zhao. They created a contrived problem, and moments later presented a contrived solution.
  • Defiant Captive: After Zhao makes it clear that he will keep Aang alive to prevent another long search for the Avatar, Aang spitefully knocks him down by blowing a gust of wind at him.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Katara and Sokka are sick and feverish after being out in the storm from the previous episode, and Momo and Appa are left to look after them as Aang goes out by himself to get some medicine. It predictably goes wrong and he ends up captured by the Yu-Yan Archers, necessitating the Blue Spirit's rescue.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Aang is shocked to see Zuko beneath the Blue Spirit's mask.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: This episode contains several relatively normal-looking animals, in contrast with the series' normal Mix-and-Match Critters; Miyuki is a Persian-looking cat and Momo brings a dead mouse.
  • Elite Mooks: The Yu-Yan Archers. They take down the Avatar (albeit one that has barely begun his training) with ridiculous ease.
  • Enemy Mine: Zuko helps Aang escape from Zhao so that Zuko himself can capture the Avatar.
  • Fanservice: Downplayed; there's a brief scene of Zuko lying in bed shirtless, and while it's clear that he's very fit and muscular, too much of him is hidden by the blanket to have the scene appeal that much to the Female Gaze.
  • Face Palm: One of Iroh's opponents makes this expression when he makes a winning move in a game of Pai Sho.
  • Fights Like a Normal: As the Blue Spirit, Zuko relies on his normal fighting skills in order to keep his identity a secret from Zhao, Aang, and the audience.
  • Find the Cure!: Aang goes in search of a cure for Sokka and Katara’s fever.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Zhao's victory speech, he states that the Fire Nation will finally breach the "impenetrable" walls of Ba Sing Se and use Sozin's Comet to burn the Earth Kingdom capital city to the ground. This foreshadows both the Fire Nation's unsuccessful attempt to pierce the walls of Ba Sing Se with the Giant Drill, and Fire Lord Ozai's plan in the four-part Series Finale to use Sozin's Comet to have a fleet of airships incinerate the entire Earth Kingdom.
    • Zuko's increasing disillusionment with the Fire Nation and eventual Heel–Face Turn is foreshadowed in this episode by how he literally turns his back on his country's flag while trying to get some sleep in his cabin.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Variation; the Yu-Yan Archers tie rope to arrows, fire them as a modern character would fire a grappling-hook pistol, and use them to Building Swing as a testament to their immense skill at archery.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: As their feverish delusions clear up, Sokka and Katara are disgusted when they realize that they're sucking on defrosting live frogs.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Yu-Yan Archers. Aside from being capable of Splitting the Arrow and Multishotting as described below, Zhao boasts that they could shoot a fly and pierce its body without killing it.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Blue Spirit successfully takes out a firebending guard by quickly dousing his fire with a bucket of water before knocking the man unconscious by kicking him off his feet and whacking him in the head with the bucket.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Aang: ...You're insane, aren't you?
    Herbalist: That's riiiiiiight!
  • Introverted Cat Person: The herbalist lives alone with her pet cat Miyuki after her peers left years ago.
  • Kick the Dog: After Aang's captured, Zhao asks him what it's like to be the last of his people just to rub it in.
  • Left the Background Music On: The atmospheric background music as Zuko returns to his ship turns out to be Uncle Iroh playing the tsungi horn.
  • Leitmotif: Zuko's tsungi horn theme first appears here. In future episodes, it will play whenever Zuko switches between his normal identity and his alter ego as the Blue Spirit.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The hilarious conversation between Aang and the crazy herbalist quickly segues into an incredibly tense and creepy chase sequence where Aang is easily defeated by the Yu-Yang Archers.
    • After a very intense escape full of action, we have a very quiet, melancholic, and even sad scene with Aang reminiscing after a long-gone friend he had, wondering if he and Zuko could've been friends in different circumstances.
    • At the end of the episode, Aang sadly contemplating his failed attempt to befriend Zuko is contrasted with humor when Sokka and Katara realize that they have frogs in their mouths and spit them out in disgust.
  • Multishot: During their training, a Yu-Yan Archer is shown shooting four arrows at once, each of them hitting the bulls eye of a different target.
  • New Era Speech: Zhao gives one to a raving crowd.
    Zhao: We are the sons and daughters of fire, the superior element! Until today only one thing stood our path to victory, the Avatar. I am here to tell you that he is now my prisoner! This is the year Sozin's Comet returns to grant us its power! This is the year the Fire Nation breaks through the walls of Ba Sing Se and burns the city to the ground!
  • Ninja: The Blue Spirit. He sneaks into the fortress with very few guards seeing him, defeats the ones who do, then binds and gags them.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Aang saves Zuko in hopes that it might somehow make them friends. All he gets for his trouble is Zuko blasting fire at him, and the likely prospect that Zuko will only continue to hunt him and his friends down.
  • Oh, Crap!: One poor group of Fire Nation soldiers sees Aang blast their companions off the next ladder over, then look up to see him standing right over them.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Zuko rescues Aang from the prison in order to prevent Zhao from getting the glory of capturing him.
  • Pinned to the Wall: Aang is pinned down to a tree trunk by the archers' arrows.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Zhao refrains from executing Aang because the boy's death will simply lead to a new Avatar emerging someday. Zuko becomes aware of this and exploits it to get out of the fortress.
  • Putting on the Reich: Zhao's New Era Speech is practically one long homage to Triumph of the Will, complete with Zhao preaching about how "fire is the superior element!" in a similar vein to the Nazi belief that the mythical Aryans were the ostensible Master Race.
  • Rain of Arrows: Going down on Aang.
  • Rank Up: Zhao gets promoted from Commander to Admiral at the start of the episode.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Near the end of the episode, as he lies in bed, Zuko glares at the prominent Fire Nation flag on the wall of his cabin and turns away from it as he tries to sleep. This is an almost literal metaphor for how Zuko is starting to turn his back on his country.
  • Save the Villain: Aang rescues an unconscious Zuko from Zhao's soldiers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • invoked According to the Avatar Extras, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was used as a reference for the stairs of the herbalist institute.
    • On a similar note to the above, Rambo was used as a reference for the scene of Aang jumping off the cliff to escape the Yu-Yan Archers.
    • The scene in which Aang asks Zuko if they could have been friends if they knew each other in a previous time is almost exactly the same as Session 8 "Waltz for Venus" from Cowboy Bebop.note 
  • Sick Episode: Sokka is feverish and ill due to the rain. Katara later contracts his sickness. The plot revolves around Aang trying to cure them.
  • Splitting the Arrow: While the Yu-Yan Archers are shown at a firing range, one of them splits an arrow, then splits that arrow, and finally the third arrow in succession, so each is embedded in the other.
  • Stab the Scorpion: It looks like the Blue Spirit is about to kill an enchained Aang, but then it turns out that he was using his swords to cut the chains and free him instead. Plays out as a Pseudo-Crisis.
  • Starts Stealthily, Ends Loudly: When the sneaky escape of the Blue Spirit and Aang is foiled, they have to start an open fight with the guards.
  • Talking Your Way Out: Aang tries this... unsuccessfully.
    Aang: Untie me, and I'll fight you right now!
    Zhao: Uh... no.
  • Tempting Fate: As a guard in a small lookout reads Aang's "Wanted!" Poster, he notes that the Avatar can create tornadoes and run faster than the wind. The other guard dismisses it as Fire Lord propaganda, right before seeing Aang zipping by a la Road Runner, knocking down the lookout.
  • That's an Order!: Zhao gets to do this when a messenger hawk arrives just after Colonel Shinu has denied his request to use the Yu-Yan Archers.
    Zhao: News from Fire Lord Ozai... It appears I've been promoted to Admiral. My request is now an order.
  • Trick Arrow: The Yu-Yan Archers use rope arrows to pursue Aang down a cliff, and a net-arrow to trap him.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: The Blue Spirit is treated as an entirely new character until the unmasking scene.
  • Underside Ride: The Blue Spirit sneaks into the fortress by clinging to the underside of a supply cart. After the guards verify that there are no stowaways inside the cart, the Blue Spirit climbs into it just before they check underneath.
  • Villainous Rescue: Zuko kidnaps Aang from Zhao.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: For Zuko as he awakes under a tree after being saved by Aang.
  • Wham Shot: When the Blue Spirit gets hit by an arrow and you can just barely see Zuko's scar from behind the mask.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Aang was the only one to discover the Blue Spirit was Zuko and could've left him to his fate. But after a moment of hesitation, he takes Zuko with him, saving him from being discovered as the Blue Spirit and healing his wound. While Zuko has a funny way of showing gratitude, no one can deny that Zuko wouldn't be alive if it weren't for Aang.

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