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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender: "The Ember Island Players"

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The Boy in the Iceberg is a new production from acclaimed playwright Pu-On Tim, who scoured the globe gathering information on the Avatar, from the icy south pole to the heart of Ba Sing Se. His sources include singing nomads, pirates, prisoners of war, and a surprisingly knowledgeable merchant of cabbage. Brought to you by the critically acclaimed Ember Island Players.

"Come on, a day at the theater? This is the kind of wacky time wasting nonsense I’ve been missing!"

The Gaang decides to take a break from training and planning to see a play- about themselves. Being Fire Nation propaganda, they discover the play features a warped plot and Flanderized versions of themselves acted by a bunch of hams. It all seems like harmless fun at first, but the play brings up old wounds, and our heroes find themselves questioning their past actions. The play ends with a speculative battle under Sozin's Comet, where Aang and Zuko are killed as the Fire Nation conquers the planet

The Gaang REALLY didn't like the show (except maybe Toph). The actors in the play have a Character Sheet.



  • '80s Hair: Actor!Zuko in the second act. It's why he and Iroh split up, since Zuko refuses to talk about it.
  • The Abridged Series: invoked Their show is a vastly condensed version of Aang's journey, gleaned largely from second-hand accounts (surprisingly accurate ones), though with a Twist Ending that's "Fire Nation friendly", you might say.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • The scene where Actor!Sokka in a Kiyoshi outfit talks with Actor!Suki, asking if the dress makes his butt look too fat. Suki struggled to hold her laughter in while Sokka looked extremely embarrassed.
    • Sokka presents Actor!Sokka with some alternative jokes during the intermission to use in-character for the final act of the show. While the actor is initially annoyed at having to deal with "another fan with ideas", he's quickly won over by Sokka's puns and uses several of his suggestions onstage.
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  • Adaptational Ugliness: This happens with every single character, as none of the Ember Island players are as attractive as their real life counterparts.
  • Adaptation Decay: The play is this to the actual story.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Because Zhao was Adapted Out and Zuko took his place, the events of The Blue Spirit were Zuko in a secret identity attacking himself in order to free Aang, his own prisoner, so he, instead of himself, could capture Aang.
  • Adapted Out: In-universe:
    • Notably, Zhao isn't mentioned at all throughout the play, with Zuko taking his place during the events of The Blue Spirit, meaning that Zuko gets attacked by his own secret identity. A tiny doll of Zhao does appear at the end of the first act to be grabbed by Aang-as-enraged Ocean Spirit, though.
    • Long Feng and his conspiracy also don't appear in the play. While Jet is still brainwashed, it appears to have been the Earth King's (or someone loyal to him) doing.
  • Affectionate Parody: The play is completely mocking the show itself, pointing out things that were ambiguous, as well as some of the less appreciated characterization, but all in good fun.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Actor!Katara falls for Jet, and then Zuko, much to Aang's displeasure.
  • Angels Pose: The actresses for Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee do one at the end of the second act of the play in reference to their Fan Nickname "Ozai's Angels."
  • The Bad Guy Wins: As it was written by a citizen of the Fire Nation as propaganda, the play ends with the Fire Nation as the victors. Played With in the sense that, In-Universe, this is only the case in the eyes of the main characters. The citizens of the Fire Nation consider it a happy ending.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Suki starts with this and stays in her Fire Nation disguise until the last episode.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-Universe. Actor!Aang invokes the Avatar State by saying "Yip yip". In reality, that's how Aang gets Appa to fly. The Avatar State just happens whenever you piss Aang off too much.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: If you haven't noticed all the lampshades hung on this page already; the more you've seen of the show, the funnier this episode will be.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Could be considered as such with Aang when he frowned and looked at the screen in disgust after Toph said having a buff guy acting as her is better than a "flying bald lady".
  • Breather Episode: Lampshaded by Sokka.
    • And it's the last breather you're gonna get: The next four episodes are all parts of the movie-length finale.
    • And you might not even get that. Nickelodeon skips this episode when re-runing the series on Nicktoons in order to have an even number of episodes to easily fit into 1-2 hour blocks.
  • Call-Back: Toph and Zuko discuss the time she met Iroh, when Zuko's feeling down.
  • Character Exaggeration: The play versions of the characters are all exaggerated versions of them, mostly based on their pre-character development selves. Aang is annoyingly cheerful and childish, Sokka is shallow comic relief and just makes bad jokes about eating note , Katara is an emotional wreck who keeps launching into speeches about hope, and Zuko has his angst and focus on his honor dialed up to eleven. Toph is rendered as a Boisterous Bruiser (played by a muscular man, no less) who does nothing but take down bad guys and make quips, which the real Toph thinks is awesome.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Aang storms off from the play when actor Zuko and actress Katara become a couple.
  • Creator Cameo: Playwright Pu-on Tim is the episode's writer, Tim Hedrick.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-Universe.
    • The writer manages to get Zuko's scar on the wrong side.
    • Then they called Momo a 'flying monkey-rabbit' (he's a flying lemur).
    • They also failed to grasp Toph's tremor sense. Her being cast as a burly guy, on the other hand, makes perfect sense if you consider that the information came from eyewitness accounts, which in the Earth Kingdom would be mostly people who lost to Toph's Earthbending. Who would be able to admit they were beaten soundly by a 12-year-old blind girl?
  • Crosscast Role: The actors for Aang and Toph are both in these. Aang is disappointed that he's played by a woman, but Toph thinks it's awesome how she's casted as a giant muscle man.
  • Decomposite Character: Zuko and the Blue Spirit are seperate characters in the play. The author probably never knew who the masked man was. Thanks to Zuko taking over Zhao's role for that sequence, they end up fighting each other.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The play is written by an Earth Kingdom playwright for a Fire Nation audience. Hence, both Team Avatar and the Fire Nation people watching it have different perceptions of it. The latter view the protagonists as the villains of the story and cheer when they're defeated at the end, while the former looks at it as a Downer Ending.
  • Discontinuity Nod: "The Great Divide" is treated as such:
    Actor!Aang: Look, it's the Great Divide — the biggest canyon in the Earth Kingdom!
    Actor!Sokka: Eh... let's keep flying.
  • Do I Really Sound Like That?: Everyone but Toph feels this way about their portrayals in the play.
  • Downer Ending: How the play ends for the Gaang, after being a lot Lighter and Softer compared to canon until then.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jet's "death" gets mercilessly lampshaded. He just randomly falls over, and a "rock" falls on top of him. The Gaang (and Zuko in particular) have no idea what they just saw. Sokka likewise admits that he had no idea if Jet actually died.
    Zuko: ... Did Jet just... die?
    Sokka: You know, it was really unclear.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Zuko feels this way when his portrayal hits a little too close to home.invoked
  • Easily Forgiven: Player Zuko in the play's third act.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Played with by the Show Within The Show. The actor character playing Ozai on stage is even hammier than the other actor characters playing the other Avatar characters on stage. To the Real Life audience, this might seem like a straight example of this trope, but to most of the in-universe audience, it would seem like an Inverted Trope since said audience is mostly composed of Fire Nation citizens who think of Ozai as the hero.
  • Facepalm:
    • Suki, when Sokka gives Actor!Sokka some of his jokes.
    • Zuko, at the end of the second act, when Player Azula has defeated Player Aang in the Avatar state and declared that he is no more. The rest of the Gaang is similarly deflated by this.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Must...serve...Earth King! Must...destroy! *babbles incoherently* - Player Jet.
    • "HONOR!"- Player Zuko.
    • "Noooooooooooooooooo!"- Player Aang.
  • Foot Popping: Player Katara does this when she and Actor Zuko embrace.
  • Forceful Kiss: Aang plants one on Katara out of frustration at her for not responding to his feelings.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The show is terrible, and the Ember Island Players apparently butchered other shows too.
  • Foreshadowing: The Boy in the Iceberg's version of the climax is a lot like how it would actually play out, except for the Twist Ending. It takes place during Sozin's comet, and Zuko fights Azula in a firebending duel (and the real Azula would have facial expressions mirroring Player Azula's) while Aang fights Ozai alone.
  • Hand Behind Head: Zuko does it when Toph reveals how highly Iroh spoke of him when they met.
  • Handsplay In Theater: Sokka with Suki (Type A). Aang wants to do it with Katara, but Zuko ends up sitting between the two (Subverted Type B).
  • Harmless Villain: The Gaang in-play. The Fire Nation audience cheers whenever Azula and Ozai triumph, but they also seem to greatly enjoy the antics of The Gaang in the first two acts otherwise, likely considering them Affably Evil or this trope.
  • Headdesk: Aang bangs his head on the balcony banister after being too forward with Katara. ("I'm such an idiot!")
  • He's Just Hiding!: In a nod to Jet's ambiguous death, Sokka and Zuko were unsure over whether Jet actually died in the play or not. invoked
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Sokka complains that his portrayal does nothing but make bad jokes about eating meat... while eating meat.
    • Katara, meanwhile, gets stared at when she claims she's not "a preachy crybaby who can't resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time".
    • Zuko is frustrated that the play interprets him as a humorless stiff. It blows up in his face when Katara points out it's somewhat accurate, Zuko expresses indignation, and Actor!Zuko repeats the exact same indignant line a second later.
    • Subverted with Toph, who makes fun of the others throughout the first act enough to make the audience think that she'll really get an embarrassing performer, but if anything she laughs even harder at her own portrayal (as a huge dude).
  • Insult Backfire: Toph earlier says that what she heard onstage was the truth. But when she finds out that her actor was a big tough dude, Katara tries firing an Ironic Echo in her direction. Instead, Toph says that she wouldn't cast herself in any other way.
  • Ironic Echo: While Zuko criticizes the actor playing him, Katara admits that he is spot on and he asks "How could you say that?" Meanwhile the actor playing Iroh suggests forgetting the Avatar and getting massages and actor Zuko asks "How could you say that?!" which is what the real Zuko said.
    Zuko: They make me look totally stiff and humorless.
    Katara: Actually, I think that actor's pretty spot on.
    Zuko: How could you say that?
    Actor Iroh: Let's forget about the Avatar and get massages.
    Actor Zuko: HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT?!
    (Zuko frowns in embarrassment as Katara smirks)
  • Large Ham:
    • All of the actors to some extent, but whoever's playing Ozai really likes hamming it up.
    • Katara quickly gets quite sick of her stage counterpart's constant wailing.
      • Which gets better when you know that it's Grey DeLisle (i.e., Azula) doing the voice.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the main series. Until the Twist Ending, anyway, in which both Zuko and Aang are murdered.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Aang and Katara are presented like this in the play to an insanely explicit degree, which of course freaks out Aang, who wonders if Katara really thinks of him as such.
  • Meaningful Name: Lampshaded by Actor!Toph.
    "My name's Toph, because it sounds like 'tough', and that's just what I am!"
  • Melodrama: The actors in the play ham it up alot.
  • Mind Screw: Sokka has a moment like this when he thinks since the play has recapped everything up to the invasion, it must be over, even though it isn't.
    Sokka: But that means... (eerie music starts playing, and the screen goes purple) We're in the future!
  • Mood Whiplash: Toph and Zuko talk about his relationship with Iroh, with Toph mentioning her meeting with Iroh, and then she randomly punches him. Because that's how Toph shows affection.
  • MST: The real Gaang's commentary on the show and the Avatar Extras.
  • My Greatest Failure: Zuko gets to see all his lowest moments thrown back in his face, and exaggerated for comic effect. He takes it pretty hard.
  • Mythology Gag: The poster for the play is actually an exaggerated rendition of the cover art for Season 1 Boxed Set.
  • Never Say "Die": This tendency within the show is mocked in the play.
  • Noodle Incident: "They butchered Love Amongst the Dragons every year!"
  • No, You:
    Actor!Aang: And now, you're going down.
    Actor!Ozai: No, it is you who are going down.
  • Obsessed with Food: Player Sokka's line "Don't go, Yue! You're the only woman who's ever taken my mind off of food!"
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Most everyone dislikes their interpretation, except for Toph who is the only one who actually likes her interpretation.
  • Peter Pan Parody: Aang being portrayed as clever trickster played by a woman? Sounds a lot like Peter Pan.
  • Propaganda Piece: invoked The episode is a summation about the series in the format of a Fire Nation propaganda theatre show.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: According to Zuko, his mother Ursa took him to see the Ember Island Players production of a romantic story called Love Amongst the Dragons every year. His only complaint was that, in his eyes, the Players "butchered" it every time.
  • Recap Episode: The play recaps the rest of the series, if not very accurately.
  • Recurring Extra: Lampshaded. The Cabbage Merchant is called a "surprisingly knowledgeable" source for the play.
  • Self-Parody: The play is one big parody of the whole series.
  • Ship Sinking: Actors Aang and Katara agree to be "just friends", much to Real!Aang's dismay.
  • Shirtless Scene: Aang and Zuko get one while practicing their firebending at the beginning of the episode.
  • Show Within a Show: The Boy in the Iceberg. Another play called Love Amongst The Dragons is mentioned.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Boy in the Iceberg is So Bad, It's Good on purpose.
  • Take That!: The play towards "The Great Divide" episode, which is considered The Scrappy episode by fans as useless filler.
    Actor!Aang: Look! It's the Great Divide! The biggest Canyon in the Earth Kingdom!
    Actor!Sokka: (looks down. Beat)) Eh. Let's keep flying.
  • Title Drop: In-universe.
    Actress!Katara: "Who is the boy in the iceberg?"
  • Twist Ending: From the Gaang's point of view, with the play's end being that they all die and the Fire Nation conquers the world.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Part of Aang's reaction to the platonic Kataang portrayal played on stage was because Katara had yet to reciprocate a reaction to his Now or Never Kiss from "The Invasion".
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Actress!Azula pulls a Look Behind You on the Actors!Gaang and quickly sneaks out through a prop door.
  • Villain Protagonist: In the play, the Gaang are the bad guys, but they still get the focus.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: In-Universe: The stage show has some impressive visuals for a play, including quite a bit of wire work and some cool bending duels. Sokka calls this out as the one good thing in the show.
  • When He Smiles: Zuko smiles when Toph tells him that Iroh would be proud of him. It's totally adorable.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: A kid dressed up as Aang tells Zuko "Your Zuko costume is great, but the scar's on the wrong side." Zuko takes offense.
    Zuko: The scar's not on the wrong side!


Example of: