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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Deserter"

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Aang attempts to convince a reluctant Jeong Jeong to teach him firebending.

"Only a fool seeks his own destruction."

A visit to a local Fire Nation village ends in disaster in 'The Deserter', when Aang displays his air bending. They manage to escape with a sympathetic former Fire Nation soldier named Chey, who says he's a friend with the fearsome Jeong-Jeong; the very first person to ever desert the Fire Nation Army (and live). Realizing this might be his only chance to ever master firebending, Aang seeks Jeong-Jeong to teach him. However, the deserter's jaded outlook and Aang's own impetuous nature works against this plan, and Zhao is still out to capture him.



  • Answer Cut:
    • When Sokka wonders where they are gonna get masks for disguise, the camera pans to the right to reveal a mask vendor pitching his festival masks.
    • While Jeong-Jeong lectures Aang about "a pupil once who had no interest in learning discipline," the camera cuts to Admiral Zhao. Aang realizes this when he fights Zhao later.
  • A Pupil of Mine, Until He Turned to Evil: Downplayed with Zhao; Jeong-Jeong describes him as always having possessed the wrong temperament for firebending, but their relationship only ended because Zhao became bored. When they're reunited, Jeong-Jeong even encourages his old student not to throw his life away fighting the Avatar.
  • Back from the Dead: Avatar Roku briefly appears before Jeong-Jeong to strong arm into teaching Aang fire bending.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Played with. Though Jeong-Jeong subscribes to this belief, claiming that firebending is an exclusively destructive ability, he and some of his disciples actively show this to be untrue. It is later reinforced in the show that firebending does not make you evil and that firebending itself is not just destruction.
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  • Badass Boast: Avatar Roku gives an impressive one to Jeong-Jeong
    "I mastered the elements a thousand times, in a thousand life times!"
  • Berserk Button: Aang telling Zhao that Zuko is a more formidable opponent enrages Zhao into attacking with his largest fire blast yet.
  • Big Brother Instinct: When Aang accidentally burns Katara, Sokka tackles him to the ground, demanding that he never hurt her again.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Appa coming for the rescue when the Gaang is chased through the streets by a group of Fire Army guards.
  • Continuity Nod: The Blue Spirit is now on wanted posters, alongside Jeong Jeong.
  • Deadly Dodging: Aang uses this to get Zhao to destroy his own boats.
  • Easily Forgiven: Aang's accident with firebending is fairly quickly forgotten when Katara heals herself, and Zhao suddenly attacks. However, Aang doesn't forget his terrible mistake, and he resolves to never firebend again, even though his duty as the Avatar demands mastering it.
  • Foreshadowing: Chey idly posits that Jeong-Jeong is a former admiral. The Fire Nation's present-day admiral turns out to have some history with him, and shows up later as the villain of the episode.
  • Healing Hands: Katara discovers that some Waterbenders have this power, and that Jeong-Jeong is jealous of their ability to heal.
  • Heroic BSoD: Aang goes into one after hurting Katara; he vows to never use firebending again, even though as Katara reminds him, he has to master all the bending disciplines eventually.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Aang is pretty easily able to use Zhao's lack of self-control to get him to set his own boats on fire.
  • Idiot Ball: Aang's shenanigans with the magician at the Festival.
    • A non-comedic example: Aang's cocky stunts at firebending, trying to stick it to Jeong Jeong for making him wait to learn how to use it. Aang learns just what happens when you have no self control- you burn the hands of the girl you love, send her off crying in horrible pain, and her brother knocks you to the ground. Aang takes the lesson very deeply to heart.
    • And Zhao, of course, failing to notice that he was burning down his own ships.
      • To top it all off, while his ships are burning and sinking while he's standing atop one, he explodes with fury and incinerates said ship altogether.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When the Fire Army officer assures Zhao that the festival went off without a hitch, a burning beam crashes down behind him.
  • I Will Show You X:
    Zhao: "I'll show you wild!"
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Turns out Jeong-Jeong trained Zhao before Aang.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Aang's terrified and grief-stricken reaction to burning Katara, driven in deeper with Sokka's agressive retaliatory tackle.
    • To some extent, Zhao, for brazenly torching his own boats in the heat of battle... and after realizing the Avatar duped him like a dung-flinging ape, he blows his stack.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: As usual, the Gaang gets away with wearing their usual clothes... with hoods. No one seems to notice their clothes are out of place—the thing that finally gives them away is Aang's airbending in public.
    • Sokka even lampshades it.
  • Refusal of the Call: Jeong-Jeong wants nothing to do with the Gaang....until Avatar Roku shows up.
  • Shout-Out: The entire episode comes across as one to Apocalypse Now - the reclusive deserter hiding in the wild, his small but loyal band of followers, his talkative and worshipful tagalong...
    • Not to mention riverboats, a tribe attacking said riverboats with spears, a public show that goes sideways, a lot of fire, and monologues about the horror man is capable of.
  • Smoke Bomb: Chey uses them for distraction.
  • Training from Hell: At least that's how Aang feels about his firebending training.
  • Trash Talk: Employed by Aang to goad Zhao into overuse of his firebending.
    Aang: Is that all you got? Man, they'll make anyone an admiral these days!
    • And the killer:
    Aang: I don't know why, but I thought you'd be better than Zuko!
    • After tricking Zhao into setting his boats on fire:
    Aang: Have a nice walk home!
  • Underestimating Badassery: Zhao dismisses Jeong-Jeong's warning he is not ready to face the Avatar, saying he can handle a child. Cue Aang inflicting him a very humiliating defeat without even actually fighting back.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Aang, the Blue Spirit, Jeong Jeong and Chey. Aang keeps his as a souvenir. They don't have the stereotypical layout, but an image on the left, with text on the right.
  • You Are Not Ready: Jeong Jeong makes it clear that Aang is not ready for Firebending.
    Jeong Jeong: Are you deaf? How can I teach you if you refuse to listen? Before learning Firebending, you must learn Water and Earth. Water is cool and soothing, Earth is steady and stable. But Fire... Fire is alive. It breathes, it grows. Without the Bender, a rock will not throw itself! But Fire will spread and destroy everything in it's path if one does not have the will to control it! That is its destiny! You are not ready! You are too weak!


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