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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Drill"

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The Fire Nation moves to puncture Ba Sing Se's defenses.

"You shouldn't give 100% of your energy into any one strike. You've gotta be quick and accurate. Hit a series of points, and break your opponent's stance. And when he's reeling back, you deliver the final blow. His own weight becomes his downfall. Literally."

Aang and his friends have finally reached Ba Sing Se, only to discover that the city is under attack from the Fire Nation, led by Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee, who are using a giant drill. Initially, the commanding general in charge of fending off the attack is reluctant to accept the team's help, but after Mai and Ty Lee quickly dispatch the general's "Terra Team", he changes his mind. Seeing that outer attacks have no effect on the drill, and using Ty Lee's chi-blocking as inspiration, Team Avatar goes inside the drill to take out its weak points and hopefully bring it down before it breaches the city's outer wall.

Meanwhile, Zuko, Iroh, and the Freedom Fighters reach Ba Sing Se as well. Jet is set on getting Zuko (or as Jet knows him, "Li") to join the freedom fighters. However, when Jet sees Iroh warm up a cold cup of tea, he realizes Zuko and Iroh are firebenders...



  • Armies Are Useless: The Earth Kingdom army is helpless against the Drill, and even the elite Terra Team of skilled military earthbenders is taken down single-handedly by Ty Lee and Mai. Leaving it up to Team Avatar to save the day.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: Sokka's "Now Aang just needs to—duck!" when Lee and Mai attack the group.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Drives a good half of the plot.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted: By the end of the climactic battle, everyone (excluding Mai) is covered in slurry.
  • Big "NO!": Played for laughs. Iroh gives one when Zuko knocks the freshly heated tea out of his hand.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: During their fight, Azula has Aang fully disabled but instead of taking the chance to kill him with a final blow, she takes her time leaning him against a wall which Aang uses to regain his powers and free himself from her clutch. It's possible though that she wanted to capture him alive.
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  • Brain Bleach: After Zuko sees Uncle Iroh flirt with a large woman to get the ferry tickets: "I'm gonna forget I saw that." Complete with Face Palm.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ty Lee, naturally. "Look at that cloud. It's so...poofy. Poof!"
  • Combat Pragmatism: Toph elects to slow the drill from the outside as she can't earthbend from within. This becomes much less of an issue for her later on, however.....
    • Katara traps Ty Lee by bending the liquefied slurry back into the rear of the drill, which further destabilizes the entire works from within when Aang busts its outer shell.
  • Covered in Mud: All characters involved in the fight over the drill get eventually covered in slurry.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ty Lee and Mai, two teenaged girls against General Sung's top team of earthbenders.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Sokka leaves himself wide open to attack when Ty Lee flirts at him. Katara pulls him out before anything bad happens, though.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Mai: "We lost."
  • Drill Tank: Obviously.
  • Eureka Moment:
    • Sokka has one when Katara describes Ty Lee's method of attack against the Earthbenders, with which he deduces that they can take the drill down the same way by attacking its pressure points from the inside out in the same manner as Ty Lee.
    • Aang has one, complete with Idea Ding, when he realizes that they only have to destabilize the beams to some extend for the whole structure to collapse.
  • General Failure: For the commanding General of an outer wall that's successfully resisted siege for a hundred years, General Sung seems remarkably incompetent. Word of God says that he was only recently promoted to General and hadn't had much experience yet.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Sokka to General Sung, spoken word for word.
  • Idiot Ball: Zuko is shocked that his wise uncle would give them away by Firebending in public.
    Zuko: (whispering through clenched teeth) What are you doing firebending your '''tea?!''' For a wise, old man, that was a pretty stupid move!
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Aang and Azula are fighting on top of the drill, when boulders start raining down on them.
    Aang: (shouting to the general on top of the wall) General Sung! Tell your men to stop dropping rocks down here!
    (cuts to the top of the wall)
    General Sung: Soldiers! Whatever you do, don't stop dropping rocks down there!
  • It Will Never Catch On: A meta example. Katara is confident that the name "Team Avatar" will not catch.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: Toph elects to slow the drill from the outside as she can't earthbend from within.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Aang is the first of the group to spot the drill from high above. When he returns to his mates, he remains vague about his observation ("Something stopped me, something big".) It's only when the entire team reaches the top of the wall, that they see what he was talking about.
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now!: Qin to Azula because he's so confident in the drill. Followed by a Letting the Air Out of the Band. Azula takes the comment as a sign to be even more careful.
  • Oh, Crap!: Qin gets a big one when it's reported that someone has sabotaged the inner workings of the drill and attacked one of his engineers, glancing at Azula who already knows exactly what is happening.
  • Ominous Walk: Azula pummels Aang into near-unconsciousness and then ominously marches towards him while she readies a fire attack, presumably to finish him off.
  • One-Man Army: Ty Lee takes down a good twenty earthbenders by herself.
  • Properly Paranoid: For once, Jet is right on the ball when assuming Iroh heated his tea with firebending.
  • Pungeon Master: While throwing around names for the team, Sokka comes up with this:
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Or, in Mai's case, not even going there.
    Mai: [Azula] can shoot all the lightning she wants at me — I am not going in that wall sludge juice. Ugh!
  • Shout-Out: When Sokka is throwing around names for the team, he suggests "Fearsome Foursome", the name of the legendary defensive lines of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams in the 60's and 70's.
  • Signature Style: The episode was written by J. J. Abrams, and features most of his standard tropes, such as superweapons (the Drill), new groups (the Terra Team) introduced only to be quickly destroyed, and complicated, perhaps overly complicated, schemes for dealing with rather simple problems (Team Avatar's plan for taking out the Drill).
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Given what has been seen of bending before, the Drill should not be nearly as near-invulnerable to the defenders' efforts as it appears. If Aang can stop rivers of lava and Katara freeze or vaporize large volumes of water, as they have done in previous episodes, they should be able to attack it rather more effectively than they do here.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: A rare example for Avatar: When Aang starts running down Ba Sing Se's outer wall to deliver the final blow, the main theme kicks in to accompany him.
  • This Is a Drill: There's a reason this episode is named "The Drill".
  • Traintop Battle: Azula and Aang's fight on top of the drill. It's a slow-moving vehicle, but still.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: There's the subplot of Zuko and Jet, but it only has two scenes.
  • Victory Pose: A minor example: After Aang is successful he gives a massive goofy grin, which is all you can see of him under the mud.
  • Visual Innuendo: A long, narrow drill, penetrating through a hole that explodes with a goopey mess when it blows up on the inside? Said mess is coated all over everyone by the end, Sokka's trying to brush it off his tongue, the war minister looks at it with disgust as it smears down the watchtower window, it flies up so high it hits Sung from atop the wall, and of course, as it spews out the back of the drill in overflow, Toph says this line:
  • The Worf Effect: Ba Sing Se's Terra Team of earthbenders is dealt with in short order by Ty Lee and Mai.


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