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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Cave of Two Lovers"

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Shrouded in darkness, Aang and Katara share a kiss as they try to find their way out of the tunnel.

"Love is brightest in the dark."

In order to slip through Fire-Nation-controlled territory and reach Omashu, our heroes join with a group of wandering nomad hippies to take a dangerous pass under the mountains. This pass has a seemingly innocuous name, the Cave of Two Lovers, but as ancient legends say death awaits all that go in there, and that the tunnel paths constantly shift.

The advent of badger-moles (the actual source of the shifting paths) splits the Gaang down the middle: Katara and Aang become separated from the others. While Sokka attempts to use his intellect to find a way out (and escape the hippies, whose mellow harshes him the heck out), Katara and Aang wonder why the legends claim that "love will light the way". After all, it's not like two of them like each other or anything. Nope, nothing of the sort...



  • Aerith and Bob: Chong’s wife, Lily, stands out as one of the handful of Western names in the entire franchise.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Played for laughs.
    Chong: Sokka, I hope you learned a little something about not letting the plans get in the way of the journey.
    (Later that day in the next scene.)
    Sokka: The journey was long and annoying, but now you get to see what it's really about: the destination.
  • All Myths Are True: The old story about a Secret Passage through the mountains turns out to be true. It was a "real legend" after all.
  • Art Shift: The legend of the two lovers is told in a series of abstract watercolor images.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The aspect ratio changes from 4:3 to 16:9 for when Katara retells the story about the Star-Crossed Lovers Oma and Shu.
  • Bait the Dog: Zuko during his time with Song's family seemingly bonds with her over the fact that they have both been scared by firebenders and starts to see that the people of the Earth Kingdom are good people and perhaps not deserving of being subjugated by the Fire Nation. Then he steals the families ostrich-horse on the grounds that they are about to be even more kind to him and Iroh.
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  • Bat Scare: The wolf-bats give the group a good scare.
  • Big Eater: Zuko refuses Song's offer of dinner, but then Iroh is tempted by the mention of roast duck.
  • Big "NO!": When Sokka finds he's trapped in a cave with the nomads.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: When Katara asks Chong if the Cave of Two Lovers is real or a legend, he answers that it's a real legend.
  • Character Development: This seems to be the first time Zuko realizes how much Fire Nation's war has hurt innocent people.
  • Commonality Connection: Song shows her scar to Zuko to show him that she understands his pain.
  • Compliment Backfire: Aang accidentally does this to Katara:
    Aang: What? I'm saying I'd rather kiss you than die. That's a compliment!
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The eye-patch wearing Fire Nation commander from "Jet" shows up again.
    • Iroh shows a fondness for roast duck, as he did all the way back in the first episode.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Did Aang and Katara kiss? According to Mae Whitman (the actress who plays Katara), they did.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Aang tries to play off Katara's suggestion to kiss to see if that will show the exit out of the tunnel. It doesn't go so well. ("No, I was just saying if it was a choice between kissing you and dying...")
  • Diving Save: Aang does this to get Katara out of the way of falling rubble.
  • Epic Fail: Zuko's attempt at fishing doesn't go well, netting only a single minnow that barely fits on the end of the spear he used.
  • Facepalm:
    • The answer to Katara's question to Sokka, "Why is your forehead all red?"
    • Sokka, when the nomads try to beat the cursed labyrinth with a love song.
  • Fake First Kiss: Though it's ambiguous whether they actually kissed or not.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Without so much as a backwards glance, Zuko abuses Song's hospitality by stealing her ostrich-horse.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Played for Laughs: when Iroh accidentally poisons himself, he and Zuko have a choice between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation for getting help. If they are discovered, the Earth Kingdom will kill them, but the Fire Nation will give them to Azula. They decide possible death is the better option and head for a nearby Earth Kingdom town for the cure.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: One scene has the wolf-bats fleeing from the badgermoles.
  • Game Face: Downplayed with Iroh turning around to show his swollen face. Zuko freaks out nonetheless.
  • Gilligan Cut: Aang initially declines to go through the cave, stating that Appa hates being underground and that they needed to do what made Appa happy. Cut to...
    (an extremely large number of Fire Nation catapults shooting at them while flying)
    Appa: (*roaring in distress*)
    All three main characters: AAAAHHHHH!
    (cut to them returning to the nomads, singed)
    Sokka: Secret love cave, let's go.
  • Hands-On Approach: Early on, Aang gets a Crush Blush when Katara stands behind him to show him the Octopus Form.
  • Heel Realization: Zuko gets one of these when Song tells him her father was taken by Fire Nation troops, then again later when she shows him the burn scars on her right leg.
  • Held Gaze: Happens between Katara and Aang in the cave as they look at each other and the lights go out since "love is brightest in the dark".
  • Hidden Buxom: During her and Aang's waterbending training, Katara removes her Water Tribe tunic and gets into the river in what is presumably her underclothes, which consists of shorts, a knee-length split skirt, and a rather form-fitting tank-top. She doesn't come anywhere close to Gag Boobs territory, but it is the first time they show definition to her bust.
  • Idiot Ball: Iroh loves tea, but making a tea out of a potential poisonous plant is just not worth it.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Zuko doesn't take to being on the run with no money very well, though Iroh seems cool with it.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Aang manages to piss Katara off this way when they talk about kissing. He doesn't mean any ill intent with his comments, it's just the result of him trying to play off his attraction to her.
  • Involuntary Group Split: A cave-in causes Aang and Katara to be separated from Sokka, leaving Sokka with the hippie musicians.
  • Ironic Echo: To "The King of Omashu".
    Sokka: I present to you, the Earth Kingdom City of O...
    (camera pans to show Omashu, under Fire Nation control)
    Sokka: ...oh no.
  • Kick the Dog: Zuko deciding to steal the family's ostrich-horse after they had shown him and Iroh kindness. Iroh even calls Zuko out for this one but reluctantly still goes along with it.
  • Know Your Vines: Uncle Iroh faces this problem multiple times. "Delectable tea, or deadly poison?"
    • "These are baccui berries, known to cure the poison of the white jade plant. That, or macahoni berries that cause blindness."
  • Leitmotif:
    • Aang and Katara's love theme makes its first appearance.
    • In something of a Call-Forward, an instrumental version of "Leaves from the Vine" plays when Aang and Katara approach Oma and Shu's tomb. Which is thematically appropriate, as both Iroh and Oma built new lives following the death of a loved one in war.
  • Luminescent Blush: Aang and Katara multiple times each throughout the episode, fueling the Ship Tease.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Iroh very calmly explains that the White Jade Bush's poison will eventually suffocate him if left untreated.
  • Metaphorically True: Song says the Fire Nation has hurt Zuko, based on his scar. Technically she's not wrong, even if you read "Fire Nation" as "Fire Nation Army".
    • Also, Zuko's father is fighting in the war. Zuko just left out his father is the commander-in-chief of the Fire Nation forces.
  • Mobile Maze: When the group winds where they started, Sokka concludes that the cave walls must have shifted. The real reason turns out to be the badgermoles.
  • Mood Whiplash: The lighthearted moment when Sokka wants to present the city of Omashu to his friends quickly turns into a bleak one when they see the city under Fire Nation control.
  • Music Soothes the Savage Beast: Sokka and the nomads manage to tame the hostile badgermoles with a tune.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Chong.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: The nomads.
  • Only Sane Man: Sokka amongst the group of hippie nomads, much to his chagrin.
  • Oven Logic: When it's established that the torches last two hours each, Chong's wife Lily lights five of them saying they are now good for 10 hours.
  • The Pollyanna: The nomads, to Sokka's chagrin, sing to him about not letting the rocks get him down. He tries to walk away from them.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: An in-universe example- after one of the two lovers of the cave died in the war, and the surviving woman used her earthbending to end the hostilities, the people built a new city in their honor which they named after their names put together, the very city the Gaang was trying to reach: Omashu.
  • The Power of Love: The torches only last that long.
  • Quizzical Tilt: The badgermole tilts its head in surprise when Sokka accidentally hits a string of the guitar. Apparently, the animals are music lovers.
  • Ship Tease: Read the title.
  • Shout-Out: To Bob Dylan of all people.
    Chong: The tunnels, they're a'changin'!
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Oma and Shu, complete with Feuding Families.
  • Stealth Insult: Both Zuko and Iroh deliver them to each other when they make up fake names in Song's house. Zuko says his name is Lee and his uncle is "Mushi" (the Japanese word for insect). Iroh gives him a Death Glare and says that "Lee" was named after his father so he's called Junior.
  • Stylistic Suck: The hippies' song about the secret tunnel.
  • Tentative Light: When Aang and Katara are separated from the others, their torch is burning down to nothing.
  • Time Skip: Given how much Zuko's hair has grown out, it would seem at least a month or so has passed since the ending of "The Avatar State".
  • Too Dumb to Live: Lampshaded by Song as her family when they treat Iroh for making tea from a poisonous bush. They tell him that the tea could have killed him. Iroh acknowledges their point with a self-deprecating smile.
  • Tonight, Someone Kisses: Subverted. Aang and Katara lean in as their candle goes out... at which point the cave's luminescent crystals kick in and the camera pans back down to the two, leaving us unsure whether they did or not.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The A story is the Gaang making their way through the cave, the B story is Zuko and Iroh befriending Song and her mother. No interaction.
  • Unlikely Spare: Chong drops his lute while fleeing the badgermole, which Sokka accidentally uses to play music. After realizing that Music Soothes the Savage Beast, Chong pulls out another lute from his clothes, and belts out more music.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of the episode, the Gaang make it to Omashu... only to discover the city under Fire Nation control.


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