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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Headband"

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Aang looks upon his Fire Nation classmates.

"Listen, guys, those kids at school are the future of the Fire Nation. If we wanna change this place for the better, we need to show them a little taste of freedom."

When the Gaang steals Fire Nation clothes to fit in, Aang accidentally enrolls in a school when his clothing turns out to be a school uniform. Claiming he's picking up useful intelligence but really just wanting to be normal, he convinces the rest of the Gaang to let him continue the charade. However, Aang has picked the wrong place to do it: the Fire Nation is high on discipline, low on individuality. Aang attempts to fix this by throwing a secret dance party for his new classmates.


  • Actually Quite Catchy: When the Headmaster and his enforcers crash the dance party, at the end of the I Am Spartacus moment, two of the enforcers are moving along with the music.
  • Assimilation Academy: The Fire Nation school actively punishes those who question things too much. They also don't allow dancing (it's not "conducive to a proper learning environment"). Of course, for most subjects that actually makes a fair bit of sense...
  • Badass Pacifist: Aang gets into a fight with Hide, but rather than actually fight him, Aang easily dodges the bully's attacks and wins without a scratch.
  • Bait-and-Switch Accusation:
    • A village elder approaches Aang with his two henchmen, saying that it's over and they caught him. But then it's revealed that he meant catching him play hooky in his school uniform.
    • Again, when the teacher claims Aang is not from the Fire Nation...(he shrugs)... but from the colonies. Aang agrees with her conclusion in a heartbeat.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Sokka lets out two in succession after Aang reveals where he'd been all day.
    Katara: Where have you been? We've been worried sick.
    Aang: I got invited to play with some kids after school.
    Sokka: (springs up to his feet in shock) After WHAT?!
    Aang: I enrolled in a Fire Nation school, and I'm going back tomorrow.
    Sokka: ...Enrolled in WHAT?! (falls backward in disbelief)
  • Blatant Lies: Master manipulator and liar Azula interrupts Zuko and Mai's mountainside picnic to tell Mai that Ty Lee needs help... untangling her braids. Yeah. Mai doesn't call her on it, but her expression when Azula has her back to her makes it clear she's not happy.
  • Breather Episode: After the brutal Wham Episode that was the Season Two finale and the emotionally charged Third Season premiere, this one provides a much-needed bit of levity with a light-hearted main plot and plenty of humor. At the same time, this is also an Innocuously Important Episode that provides insight to how Zuko was raised, and the decisions he made have plenty to do with the propaganda he grew up with.
  • Bullet Time: Hide's fall during his fight with Aang is shown in slow motion.
  • The Bully: Hide, the star student of the Fire Nation school. His first action is to antagonize Aang and tell him "nice and slow" that "Onji is his girlfriend" before walking off with her. He later attacks and tries to beat up Aang for no reason other than him offering to show Onji some dance movements.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sokka gets smacked in the face when Toph removes the sole of her stolen shoe.
  • Call-Back: Aang uses the name Kuzon while undercover in the Fire Nation school. Aang said he once knew a Fire Nation boy named Kuzon in "The Blue Spirit," and mentions him again when they first arrive at the town in this episode.
  • Clothesline Stealing: Once the Gaang arrives in the Fire Nation, they steal local-style clothes from a clothesline to blend in better. Nice guy Aang is reluctant to steal, even from Fire Nation people. Katara, on the other hand, is so sick of her damaged Water Tribe clothes that she literally jumps at the chance to change outfits.
    Aang: I don't know about this. These clothes belong to somebody.
    Katara: I call the silk robe! (leaps out of hiding)
  • Clueless Chick-Magnet: Aang doesn't seem to realize that he's caught Onji's affections, despite being with someone else.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Zuko spends most of his parts this episode trying to sort out why he's so confused and angry despite having everything he wanted.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Hide makes it very clear that he doesn't like Aang/Kuzon hanging out with his girlfriend.
  • Crossing the Burnt Bridge: After betraying Iroh at Ba Sing Se, then visiting him in prison to angrily double down on that decision, Zuko comes again begging Iroh for help because he's caught in the middle of his own paranoia and his sister's poisonous manipulation and doesn't know how to escape. Iroh refuses to respond, leading Zuko to burn the bridge further and storm off.
  • Crush Blush:
    • Onji blushes when Aang invites her to dance with him.
    • Katara subtly blushes when Aang says "It's just you and me right now." in response to her statement that everyone in the cave is watching their dance.
  • Culture Clash: Aang, a vegetarian, runs into a problem when the Gaang go looking for food in the nearby town, where meat is the only option on the menu.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Aang vs. Hide is perhaps the most one-sided fight in Avatar history. Hide is just a school bully, while Aang is a master bender and martial artist. Aang doesn't so much fight him as dance around his pitiful attacks until Hide overbalances and takes himself out.
  • Dance Line: When Aang/Kuzon throws a secret dance party, everyone else is reluctant to dance, so Aang invites Onji in first and manages to get her to dance and, one by one, the other students join in.
  • Dance Party Ending: Invoked when Aang throws a secret dance party for his class to give them a taste of freedom.
  • Dean Bitterman: The Headmaster, who cracks down on the dance party insurrection.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Sokka wears a fake beard to pose as Aang's father to the Headmaster. He spends the rest of the episode with the beard because it didn't occur to him that he eventually wouldn't need it anymore, glued it to his skin, and now he can't get it off.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Headmaster warns "Kuzon's parents" that he would be sent to "reform school" if he acts up again. He clarifies that he would actually be sent to the coal mines.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The dance between Aang and Katara puts them in all sorts of positions, nearly has them kiss each other and ends with both of them panting and sweating.
  • Double Take: One student, Shoji, gives a silent-yet-surprised expression when he sees one part of the cave close via earthbending.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Aang/"Kuzon" is asked a pop-quiz question at a Fire Nation School by his tutor about how Fire Lord Sozin fought off the Air Nomad army, he argues that the Air Nomads didn't have a standing military to speak of, and the battle was essentially a massacre. The tutor sarcastically asks how he would know better than the Fire Nation textbook—was he perhaps there to see it, a hundred years ago?
  • Dressing as the Enemy: The Gaang steals Fire Nation clothes with the intention of blending in with normal Fire Nation folks.
  • Eye Am Watching You: The school bully does this gesture to Aang, signaling him to stay away from his girlfriend.
  • Go to Your Room!: Said word-for-word by Sokka — while disguised as Wang Fire, "Kuzon"'s father — when Aang suggests making a secret dance party.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Katara sure isn't happy about Aang showing Onji his dance moves.
  • Hate Sink: Hide. From his possessiveness of the local Nice Girl to his abuse of his status of "star student" all the way to his ratting out Aang's dance party, it's clear we're not supposed to like him.
  • I Am Spartacus: The students at the dance all don headbands to keep the headmaster from finding "Kuzon".
  • I Can't Dance: The students never danced before Aang's party.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: How Zuko justifies his actions to Iroh, and even tells him that he wouldn't be in the situation he's in right now if he had helped him out against the Avatar.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Aang's reason for wanting to continue at the school for a while. It's his first taste of being a regular kid in a hundred years.
  • I Need to Iron My Dog: Inverted when Azula sends Mai away from her intimate moment with Zuko by telling her that Ty Lee needs help untangling her braids.
  • I Regret Nothing: Zuko tells this to Iroh regarding his actions in Ba Sing Se. It's quite clear that he's more trying to convince himself.
  • Irony: One gets the feeling that the Fire Nation school is meant to mold its students to fall into line and be like-minded. Towards the end, in order to let Aang escape, the students all wear headbands, showing the Headmaster and his two goons what really happens when you try to make everyone just the same.
    • As noted here, "Wang Fire" bears a remarkable similarity to a young Fire Lord Sozin.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Mai and Zuko
    Mai: (Watching the sunset together at a romantic picnic): Orange is such an awful color.
    Zuko: You're so beautiful when you hate the world.
    Mai: I don't hate you.
    Zuko: I don't hate you, too.
  • Jaw Drop: One of the Fire Nation kids has this reaction when he sees Aang earthbend while he's fleeing.
  • Karma Houdini: Hide. Despite being the sole instigator of their confrontations, and Aang doing everything possible to avoid any actual damage, he still manages to pin the blame for their "fight" squarely on Aang by taking a dive in front of the headmaster, after having the entire student body witness the event from start to finish. Nobody calls him out on it.
  • Large Ham: Sokka, in his "Wang Fire!" disguise, talks in a boisterous and over-the-top manner.
    "Wang Fire": Don't you worry, Mr. Headmaster. I'll straighten this boy out something fierce. (to "Kuzon") YOUNG MAN, AS SOON AS WE GET HOME, YOU'RE GOING TO GET THE PUNISHMENT OF A LIFETIME!
  • Laugh of Love: Two Fire Nation girls giggle when Aang, while dancing, gets very close to them before leaping away.
  • Mating Dance: The Kataango. Sultry smiles, "come hither" looks (Katara, in particular, is described in one YouTube comment as giving Aang "the Nala eyes"), wild yet synchronized gyrations complete with lips passing within inches of each other, loads of gasping and sweat, ending in a dip. Also doubles as a Dance of Romance.
  • Mistaken from Behind: In the cave, the headmaster mistakes a pupil for Aang when approaching the kid from behind.
  • Moment Killer: Zuko and Mai are kissing when Azula interrupts them. They try to resume, but Azula sends Mai away telling her that Ty Lee needs help untangling her braids.
  • Mood Whiplash: We go from Aang teaching the Fire Nation kids how to dance, to Zuko breaking down, to Aang and Katara dancing at one point. The last scenes have the Gaang making a getaway from the school headmaster and talking about the great time they had, to Zuko hiring an assassin to eliminate the Avatar.
  • Mugging the Monster: Hide challenges "Kuzon" to a fist fight. Hide does not know that "Kuzon" is Aang the Avatar. He is lucky that Aang is a pacifist, or Hide would've suffered much worse than being unable to land a single hit and over-balancing himself into a fall.
  • Nice Guy: Shoji, one of the students at the school, is very friendly and outgoing. After the first day, he invites "Kuzon" to play a game of "hide and explode" with several other students. He later helps Aang escape by putting on a headband, being the very first one to do so. He sees Gaang off and sends a wink their way.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • As the Gaang are going over the clothing left unattended, Aang is reluctant to take someone else's stuff. It's Katara who makes the first move.
    • The headmaster brings two goons with him to the secret dance party. At the end of it, they're starting to dance to the beat as well.
  • Oh, Crap!: Shoji, one of the students Aang befriends, covers for the Gaang to flee. He's winking at Aang, who gives the Fire Nation salute...before earthbending a barricade to cover their escape. Cue a Jaw Drop.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Sokka and Katara pretend to be Aang's parents. Sokka the teenage boy just glues a bunch of hair to his face and Katara the teenage girl stuffs her midsection to mimic a baby bump, and that allows them to pass as having a child who's almost a teenager himself. Not to mention the two of them are clearly a different ethnicity from their "son".
  • Pet the Dog: Two mild examples:
    • Ms. Kwan begrudgingly allows "Kuzon" to keep his headband, despite it being against school rules, when he claims it's to hide an embarrassing scar.
    • The Music Teacher shows a considerable level of patience with "Kuzon" when he catches him dancing in class. When "Kuzon" asks about self-expression, he is moved by the supposed love for his nation and allows "Kuzon" to march in place in lieu of dancing if he felt the urge, rather than punishing him for insubordination.
  • Pillow Pregnancy: Katara's "Sapphire Fire" disguise includes one of these, possibly to make herself seem older and more maternal.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Toph punches out the bottom of one of the shoes she steals so that she will still be able to "see" with her feet.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The schoolteachers may be true believers in Fire Nation dogma whose job it is to mold children into future servants of the state, but they cut "Kuzon" some slack (especially the Music Teacher) since he's supposedly from the overseas colonies and doesn't know all the ropes yet, showing that they aren't mindlessly sadistic. Not the Headmaster though, since he's clearly a bully who plays favorites.
  • Ringer Ploy: All of the students at Aang's secret dance party end up putting on headbands to allow him to escape.
  • Ship Tease: Aang and Katara's dance; after they flee the hideout, she kisses him on the cheek as a thank-you for the fun party.
  • Silent Treatment: Iroh is so disappointed in Zuko that he just turns his back on him and doesn't say a word to him when Zuko visits him in prison.
  • Species Surname: Sort of. Sokka and Katara disguise themselves as Fire Nation citizens and need fake made up names, so they both have the surname of Fire, named right after the element and the nation. Sokka calls himself Wang Fire, and his "wife" Katara is named Sapphire.
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: Aang's use of Fire Nation slang from a century ago earns him a bemused reaction from a citizen.
    Aang: Flameo, hotman!
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Although Sokka criticizes Aang's decision to attend a Fire Nation school, he still admits that his noodle-drawing of Fire Lord Ozai is "impressive".
  • Taught to Hate: The episode's central theme is that is the Fire Nation people are not born evil, only raised and taught to be evil through corrupt education. Aang's plan in the episode is to defy this trope by introducing his Fire Nation classmates to the art of dancing and freedom, planting the seeds of hope and resistance against the corrupt system in the future.
  • Teacher's Pet: Headmaster's Pet in Hide's case, but same principle. Hide is a star student and therefore gets special treatment from the headmaster because he's a snitch. Hide also loyally serves the headmaster and rats out Aang's secret dance party.
  • Traitor Shot: The look that Mai gives Azula after she separates her and Zuko oozes this. Not something you normally see from the villains!
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Sokka acts unnecessarily stealthy when the group enters Fire Nation territory.
  • Villain Has a Point: Azula warns Zuko about visiting Iroh in prison. Regardless of his reasons, she points out that sneaking out at night to visit a traitor looks highly suspicious.
  • Watching the Sunset: Zuko and Mai when they had a kiss. They even provide the page image.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: After finding from the headmaster that Aang kept causing problems at the academy, Sokka’s anger towards Aang was very genuine, because Aang kept trying to draw unnecessary attention, which they cannot afford while in hiding.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: To Footloose, with Aang holding a "super secret dance party" for his new friends at school.
  • With My Hands Tied: Aang fights the bully with his hands behind his back.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Clearly, Fire Lord Sozin rewrote history such that the Air Nomad Genocide was a fair battle against a military of equal might rather than an ambush.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Hide pretends to be hurt in front of the headmaster, even though he started the fight and Aang was dodging his attacks more than fighting back.
  • Written by the Winners: The Fire Nation school depicts their war with the Air Nomads as a noble war against a powerful military rather than the genocide of a peaceful, non-militarized people.
  • You Just Told Me: Azula uses this against Zuko to confirm her suspicions about him.
    Azula: So, I hear you've been to visit your Uncle Fatso in the prison tower.
    Zuko: That guard told you!
    Azula: No. You did. Just now.


The Headband

Whatever you say, "Wang Fire".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / GoToYourRoom

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