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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Southern Air Temple"

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Aang shows Katara and Sokka a statue of Monk Gyatso.
"Monk Gyatso and the other airbenders may be gone, but you still have a family. Sokka and I, we're your family now."

Aang decides to visit his old home, 'The Southern Air Temple' to see how things have changed in one-hundred years. Sokka and Katara, however, are incredibly apprehensive, knowing that the Fire Nation completely wiped out the Air Nomads in the first year of the war; afraid of hurting Aang, Katara actively tries to hide this information from him. Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh dock at a Fire Nation harbor to repair their boat, and the damages draws the interest of Commander Zhao, who's curious about what the banished prince seems to be doing, exactly.



  • Backstab Backfire: Zhao to Zuko after the Agni Kai.
  • Bad Liar: Zuko and Iroh struggle to come up with a convincing story to give to Zhao as to why their ship was so damaged.
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: Momo's first appearance.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Aang names the lemur Momo after it steals a peach. If you don't speak Japanese, it's a weird non sequitur, but actually "momo" is Japanese for "peach."
  • Conspicuous CG: The airball goal posts, and the seal to the Air Sanctuary.
  • Contemplative Boss: The leader of the Fire Nation troops when looking out of the window with his arms crossed behind his back.
  • Cooldown Hug: At the end, Aang snaps out of his angry Super Mode when Katara takes his hand.
  • Cool Old Guy: Monk Gyatso.
  • The Day the Music Lied: As Momo appears in the Air Sanctuary, the Fire Nation leitmotif plays.
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  • Failed a Spot Check: Sokka fails to notice the dead Fire Nation soldiers, and Gyatso's body, until he's right on top of them.
  • Follow the White Momo: Aang discovers Gyatso's body chasing after Momo who disappeared into a cave.
  • Foreshadowing: The explanation for how Zuko got his scar is hinted at, with Iroh telling him it was the result of an Agni Kai.
  • Funny Background Event: While Zhao tries to interrogate Zuko about what happened to his ship, Iroh knocks over a rack of weapons in the background.
  • Genocide Backfire: So, not only did the Fire Nation extermination of the Air Nomads manage to miss the one person they wanted to kill, it's also made him severely pissed. Give them credit though; one-hundred years is longer than this trope usually takes to come into effect.
  • Heroic BSoD: Aang's reaction after discovering that not only has his entire people been wiped out, but Monk Gyatso in particular. Of course, being the Avatar, his BSOD creates a monstrous wind storm that threatens to throw his friends off the mountain.
  • Hot-Blooded: Zuko tries to attack Zhao in his tent when Zhao takes charge of the hunt for the Avatar. He's also the one who declares an Agni Kai.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Zhao is a grade-A asshole, but he isn't wrong about the Fire Lord not particularly wanting Zuko back.
  • Last Stand: We see the remnants of Gyatso's. He took dozens of firebenders (later revealed to have been boosted by Sozin's Comet) down with him.
  • Match Cut: One of many in the series. The face of Monk Gyatso's statue changes to a live version of him as a transition to a flashback and again back to present time.
  • Mentor: Monk Gyatso's role (too bad he succumbed to the Mentor Occupational Hazard). The statues also hint that this is the role of the past Avatars.
  • Missing Mom: Katara mentions her mother's death at the hands of the Fire Nation.
  • Mood Lighting: The flashback scenes to the happy times at the Southern Air Temple are depicted in golden colors while the present has a bluish tint.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Aang recognises Roku's statue on seeing it, despite there being no writing to identify him. He even admits he doesn't know why.
  • One Liner Name Oneliner: Aang to Appa when reaching the Southern Air Temple.
    "We're home, buddy. We're home."
  • Our Doors Are Different: The gate at the temple has a complicated opening mechanism ensuring that only airbenders can enter. It didn't stop the firebenders though.
  • Pie in the Face: Throwing pies at meditating monks was one of Monk Gyatso's training methods for improving young Aang's airbending aim, and because it's hilarious.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Iroh gives one to Zhao when the latter tries to attack Zuko when his back is turned.
    Iroh: So this is how the great Commander Zhao acts in defeat. Disgraceful. Even in exile, my nephew is more honorable than you.
  • Repeat Cut: Three takes of Zuko getting knocked back by Zhao, and three more of Zuko turning the tables. Note that this is the closest the series ever approaches to using Stock Footage.
  • Shirtless Scene: Zuko and Zhao for the Agni Kai, which helped launch the show's Estrogen Brigade Periphery Demographic.
  • Sword over Head: Zuko to Zhao after winning the Agni Kai.
  • Team Pet: In addition to Appa, this episode sees the addition of flying-lemur Momo to the gang.
  • Title Drop:
    Aang: I really am the last airbender.
  • True Companions: Katara pulls Aang out of the avatar state by telling him that they're his family now.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The first of these episodes. The A story is the Gaang reaching the Southern Air Temple, while the B story is Zuko's rivalry with Zhao. There's no interaction.
  • Unexpectedly Abandoned: Aang is disappointed when finding the Southern Air Temple abandoned.


Video Example(s):


Firebending Demonstration and Duel

General Iroh demonstrates firebending form for Fire Prince Zuko / a duel between Zuko and Admiral Zhao

How well does it match the trope?

4.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / PlayingWithFire

Media sources:

Main / PlayingWithFire