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The Gaang finally gains an audience with the Earth King.

"I want to thank you, young heroes, for opening my eyes. All this time, what I thought was a great metropolis was merely a city of fools. And that makes me the king fool."
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With the return of Appa completing the team at last, Sokka, encouraged by their new turn of good luck, suggests that they hurry to see the Earth King. Toph and Katara disagree, wanting to cut their losses and get out of Ba Sing Se while luck still seems on their side, but when Aang agrees with Sokka, Katara changes her mind, leaving Toph outvoted. After a massive battle, in which the team fights their way past the palace guards and into the throne room, they finally have their audience with the Earth King, only to find that Long Feng has beat them there. With the chancellor throwing doubt on their story, Team Avatar must convince the King that, not only has Long Feng been at the head of a conspiracy to control Ba Sing Se, but that the world is at war.

Elsewhere in the city, Zuko and Iroh return to their apartment, only for Zuko to fall deliriously ill. Iroh explains to him that Zuko's decision to set Appa free has left Zuko at war within himself.

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Tropes:

  • Angst Coma: Zuko falls into an extreme fever, apparently triggered by letting Appa (and, by proxy, Aang) go free.
  • Apologetic Attacker: "Sorry! We just need to see the Earth King!"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Provided by the Earth King: "You invade my palace, lay waste to all my guards, break down my fancy door—and you expect me to trust you?!"
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Zuko has to go through this. Lampshaded by Iroh:
    Your critical decision, what you did beneath that lake, it was in such conflict with your image of yourself that you are now at war within your own mind and body.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Team Avatar versus the Earth King's royal guard. Team Avatar wins.
  • Blatant Lies: When Long Feng tries to explain the Fire Nation drill.
    Long Feng: This is nothing more than ... a construction project.
    Katara: Really? Then perhaps you could explain why there's a Fire Nation insignia on your construction project.
    Long Feng: Well it's imported of course. You know you can't trust domestic machinery.
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  • Cassandra Truth: Played with. On one hand, the Earth King isn't so easily swayed into believing Team Avatar's story about a war going on outside of the city's walls, between the kids' recent shenanigans and Long Feng's influence. But he's not too hard-headed to give them a chance.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Zuko has one of these, due to his fever dreams.
  • Cliffhanger: So things are looking good for Team Avatar! Everything seems to be going their way for once. Right? NOPE. Toph's letter from her mother was a trap set by Xin Fu and Master Yu, the Dai Li are still loyal to Long Feng, and the Kyoshi Warriors are actually Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee in disguise.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Team Avatar completely destroys the Earth King's entire royal guard.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee infiltrate Ba Sing Se dressed as Kyoshi Warriors.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: The Earth King may be naive and sheltered, but (as even Toph acknowledges) he's understandably angry about a bunch of strange children attacking his palace, bursting into his throne room after decimating his guards, and then saying that he needs to trust that they have a good reason for doing it.
  • Evil Chancellor: This episode shows Long Feng trying to manipulate the king into ignoring the warnings about a war.
  • False Start: See Moment Killer below.
  • Fever Dream Episode: Zuko's side of the story.
  • Foreshadowing: The two Dai Li agents briefly hesitate and give each other a knowing look before arresting Long Feng. This is hint that they have not changed their ways and are still feigning loyalty to the Earth King.
    • Katara immediately says Sokka should be the one to go see their father, hinting at her hurt at him which will come to the forefront later.
    • A small one for the sequel series. Long Feng describes Team Avatar as an "anarchist cell" and claims "If you listen to them, you're playing right into your own destruction." In The Legend of Korra, we see exactly that; a diverse group of benders making up part of an anarchist cell manipulate the Earth Queen into listening to them, which directly leads to her demise at their hands.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: In Zuko's fever dreams, a pair of dragons (one red, one blue, and voiced by Iroh and Azula, respectively) act out his inner conflict.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: A group of earthbender soldiers are tossed in the air when Aang lands this way.
  • Group Hug: At the end before the Gaang splits up.
  • Hope Spot: Toph's gotten a letter that her mother wants to mend their relationship, the Earth King is on Team Avatar's side, Ba Sing Se's forces will now join the war, Aang will meet Guru Patik, Sokka will see his father again, and according to a messenger, the Kyoshi warriors have arrived at the city. What could possibly go wrong? (See Cliffhanger).
  • I Can Explain: Long Feng wants the Earth King to believe that the drill is merely a construction project. The Fire Nation insignia puts a spanner in his story though.
  • Impairment Shot: Before Zuko collapses and falls into his Angst Coma, we see the room shaking from his POV.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: The Gaang takes the Earth King to Lake Laogai to the Dai Li base, but find it has been destroyed since they last left.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: The team receives letters that Long Feng had confiscated, each of them pulling the teammates in different directions; they decide to split up.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Long Feng operates out of his prison cell like he would from an office.
  • Moment Killer: As the group is saying goodbye to each other as they split up...
    Aang: Katara, I need to tell you something. I've been wanting to say it for a long time...
    Katara: What is it, Aang?
    Aang: Katara? I--
    Sokka: (giving Aang a noogie) Alriiight! Who's ready for a men-only man trip!
  • Mugged for Disguise: The ending reveals this is why Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee attacked the Kyoshi Warriors.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Politically destabilizing Ba Sing Se may have been the right thing to do, but carries dire consequences that are not easily dealt with.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The Earth King heavily resembles Puyi, the last Emperor of China. Like Kuei, Puyi was made emperor at a very young age and was a puppet emperor during his early childhood and later under the Japanese occupation. Puyi was also trapped for years inside the Forbidden City, similar to how the Earth King never left the palace. The Earth King also wears spectacles, like Puyi did, and clothing based on the Chaofu, ceremonial clothing of the Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty.
  • Offhand Backhand: Aang discharges an earthbender flak attack without looking at the projectile.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The Gaang, by this point utterly fed up with trying to navigate the conspiracies and lies in Ba Sing Se, decide to go directly to the Earth King to explain what's going on. Except that in order to get to him, they have to launch an all out attack on the palace, fight numerous guards, and their enemy Long Feng already got there before them. Understandably, the Earth King isn't inclined to hear them out at first, and when he's calmed down he wants proof before he believes their (apparently) wild claims.
    • Following on from that, when the Gaang take him to see Lake Laogai, they find the entrance has been destroyed and likely the rest of the facility has suffered the same fate. Obviously Long Feng and the Dai Li weren't going to leave incriminating evidence around. However, they're unable to do the same with the Fire Nation's drill, as it's out in plain sight and far too many people know about it already.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Inverted. The blue dragon that Zuko dreams up encourages his violent leaning (and has Azula's voice), while the red one tries to get him to think (and has Iroh's voice).
  • Saying Too Much: Long Feng revealing that the group attacking the palace are the Avatar and his posse, as oppose to some anarchists, leaves the Earth King curious enough to hear them out as oppose to throwing the book at them.
  • Slipped the Ropes: Aang does this as a quick gag.
  • Surprise Slide Staircase: During their assault on the palace, Aang and Toph flatten out the staircase, then make themselves an elevator to ascend to the top while all the guards slide to the bottom.
  • Tempting Fate: At the end of the episode, when things are looking better than they ever did, Sokka proclaims: "Everything will work out perfectly; from now on and forever!" Cue the Dai Li revealing that they're still loyal to Long Feng, Toph being kidnapped by Xin Fu and Master Yu, and the Wham Shot showing Azula and her friends disguised as Kyoshi warriors.
  • Took a Level in Badass: This episode really showcases how good at earthbending Aang has become,to the point where he's able to split rocks in half with his staff. Keep in mind his staff is wooden.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: Long Feng is back from Lake Laogai before the Gaang, though the latter had the advantage of a flying bison. To be fair, there was a short interruption of curb-stomping the royal guard.
  • True Companions: "Split up? But we just got the family back together!"
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Gaang's efforts to persuade the Earth King that they're telling the truth is contrasted with Zuko's fever.
  • Uncertain Doom: That Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee have Kyoshi Warrior outfits indicate they defeated Suki and co. but the exact fate of the latter isn't revealed until later.
  • Wham Shot: The last scene shows that Azula and her friends impersonated the Kyoshi Warriors.
  • You Meddling Kids: This must be Long Feng's thought when getting arrested after the Gaang successfully challenged his story of the drill being a construction project.

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