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Recap / Avatar: The Last Airbender "The Waterbending Scroll"

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The scroll laid out for Aang and Katara to see.

"I'll save you from the pirates."
Zuko, menacingly to Katara

The gang stops in a village for supplies, although they are running dangerously low on money. However, while shopping, they come across interesting merchandise sold by pirates who style themselves as 'high-risk traders'. Among their wares is an expensive scroll diagramming waterbending forms, which Katara steals to help both herself and Aang learn waterbending. To her annoyance, it seems Aang quickly surpasses her in the skill, and her jealousy begins to take control. Meanwhile, Iroh goes shopping for his missing Pai Sho piece, and Zuko catches wind that the pirates are after a familiar-sounding trio, and so they join forces.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Actor Allusion: Dante Basco very narrowly dodges getting stabbed to death by a sword-wielding pirate captain a second time.
  • Badass Normal: None of the pirates appear to have bending abilities, but they're all highly skilled with their weapons.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Most of the people seen in the town appear to be criminals.
  • Batman Gambit: Sokka pulls a brilliant one when he tells the pirates that Aang is the Avatar and the Fire Lord would pay them handsomely if they handed Aang over to him personally. As expected, this turns Zuko and the pirates against each other, allowing the trio to escape.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Appa swoops in at the last second to save the trio from the Inevitable Waterfall.
  • Breather Episode: A lighter episode which provides a break from the previous two-parter, especially with the darker "Jet" to follow.
  • Butt-Monkey: While Aang and Katara practice water-bending, Sokka gets to brush Appa's toes. And then he gets splashed by Aang's waterbending.
    Sokka: My life was hard enough when you were just an airbender!
  • Catch a Falling Star: Appa catching the heroes falling from the waterfall.
  • Chase Scene: After Katara steals the scroll, the pirates chase the trio through the market.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Aang's bison whistle is introduced as quick gag in the shopping sequence, and is used again at the very end to call Appa and have him save the characters from falling off a waterfall.
  • Continuity Nod: Zuko mockingly shows Katara her mother's necklace that she lost back in "Imprisoned."
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Zuko and Iroh's inclusion in this episode would not have happened if Iroh had just reached up his sleeve while looking for his Lotus Tile.
  • Crisis Makes Perfect: Katara struggles to perform the Water Whip move, but when she is attacked by a pirate later, she executes it perfectly, sending the attacker overboard.
  • Defiant Captive: When Katara is captured, she refuses to tell Zuko where Aang is.
  • Evil Old Folks: The pirate captain looks to be about Iroh's age. One of the minor pirates in his group also appears to be an older man.
  • Foreshadowing: Iroh explicitly states that it is his Lotus Tile from his Pai Sho board that's missing.
  • Fruit Cart: The Cabbage Merchant's cart is once again a victim of a chase scene. The merchant is able to grab the cabbages after Katara and Sokka bump into it, and Aang vaults over it only to throw it at the pirates.
  • Funny Background Event: Iroh imitating the weird grin of the monkey statue while Zuko is first talking to the pirates.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Katara can still read the waterbending scroll at night when she tries to practicing some moves.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Subverted. Iroh interrupts the fight between Zuko and the pirate leader to tell them that they are so busy fighting that they can't see their ship setting sail. Zuko mistakes this for a cryptic saying and starts berating Iroh for it, but the latter clarifies that he's being very literal — their ship's unmoored and drifting away.
    General Iroh: Are you so busy fighting, you cannot see your own ship has set sail?
    Prince Zuko: We have no time for your proverbs, uncle!
    Iroh: It's no proverb!
    [Zuko and the pirate captain see the trio sailing away in the pirate ship. Zuko then spots the pirates giving chase in his boat.]
    Zuko: Hey! That's my boat!
    Iroh: Maybe it should be a proverb...
  • Inescapable Net: The pirates easily capture Aang with a net. Justified as the blast of air that he tries to divert it with just passes through.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: The reason our heroes don't get to keep the boat. Although Aang and Katara manage to stop the boat at the top of the falls with their new waterbending skills, the pirates are giving chase in Zuko's boat and crash into it, sending both boats over. But Appa arrives in time to catch the Gaang as they fall. (How the boats got up the waterfall in the first place after traveling upriver from the sea goes unexplained.)
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Katara is struggling to perform the water whip, Aang unintentionally upsets her by saying that she'll get it and demonstrating the move flawlessly. Aang meant to sound supportive of Katara and help her with the move, but Katara took offense to his ability to perform waterbending more quickly and efficiently than her.
  • Instant Expert: To Katara's annoyance, Aang gets the hang of waterbending very quickly.
  • Ironic Echo: The pirate barker denies having stolen goods, prefers to think of it as "high-risk trading". After stealing the Waterbending Scroll, Katara makes the same remark.
  • It's All My Fault: Katara says it after stealing the scroll leads to the trio getting captured.
    Aang: No, Katara, it isn't.
    Iroh: Yeah, it kind of is.
  • Jerkass Ball: Katara snaps at Aang for being a fast learner in waterbending, forgetting that, as Avatar, it's his job and destiny to learn all 4 elements.
    Katara: Will you please shut your air hole!? Believe it or not, your infinite wisdom gets a little old sometimes! Why don't we just throw the scroll away, since you're so naturally gifted?
  • Lint Value: Aang tries to haggle for the waterbending scroll. He offers one copper piece. Then, okay, how about two copper pieces?
  • Meaningful Background Event: When the pirates storm en-masse out of their ship, Katara nervously edges backwards.
  • Mood-Swinger: Katara swings from flipping out at Aang's easy mastery of Waterbending, to sincerely, tearfully saying, "I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over me," to angrily declaring, "No more apologies!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After yelling at Aang and seeing him cry, Katara immediately feels bad for what she said and apologizes sincerely. Then she does the same for Momo, who had been whipped earlier by a failed water whip. And the look that Sokka gives her after she yells at Aang clearly says, "What the heck is wrong with you?!"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Katara's late-night practicing (and angry muttering) is what alerts the pirates and Zuko to her location, something that she's all too aware of.
  • Obviously Evil: The "merchants" are very obviously pirates in at best minimal disguise. Lampshaded by Sokka.
    Sokka: Wait a minute... sea-loving traders, with suspiciously acquired merchandise, and pet reptile birds? You guys are pirates!
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: The poor cabbage merchant from "The King of Omahsu" returns in the port town just in time to have his cart toppled again and bemoan how this keeps happening to him.
    Merchant: My cabbages! This place is worse than Omashu!
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Katara rationalizes that it was okay to steal the scroll since the pirates clearly already stole it themselves.
  • Pirate Parrot: The pirate captain has a brightly-plumed reptile-bird as a Shoulder Pet, which Sokka lists among the evidence that the "high risk traders" are really pirates.
  • Recurring Extra: The Cabbage Merchant returns. He should've stayed in Omashu.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: In Zuko's subplot, Iroh lost his Lotus Tile and they go on a quest to look for another one. At the end, when Zuko loses his boat, Iroh tries to amuse Zuko by revealing that the Lotus Tile turned out to have been up his sleeve the whole time, making his quest to get another tile pointless. Of course, it doesn't work, and Zuko angrily throws the tile into the river.
  • Ship Tease: It's widely agreed that this episode is when the concept of "Zutara" really took off.
  • Shut Up and Save Me!:
    Aang: Hey, you did the Water Whip!
    Katara: I couldn't have done it without your help!
    Sokka: [being restrained by three pirates] Will you two quit congratulating each other and help me out?!
  • Smoke Bomb: Used by the pirates to distract the Fire Nation troops.
  • Spoof Aesop: The lesson is, "stealing is wrong... unless it's from pirates!"... which, if nothing else, refreshingly keeps the episode from being Anvilicious.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal: First it's Katara who reveals the scroll she has stolen from the Pirate ship, and at the end it's Sokka revealing the scroll when everyone thought it was gone.
  • Talking Your Way Out: When Sokka and Aang are captured by the pirates, who are working with Zuko in return for getting the waterbending scroll back, Sokka convinces the pirates that Aang, as the Avatar, is worth more than the scroll, causing a fight between Zuko and the pirates while the trio escape. Zuko sees what he's up to as soon as he starts talking, but is unable to persuade the pirates not to listen.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • When the pirates kidnap Aang, Sokka complains about being passed over. He's immediately after kidnapped as well.
      [Pirates throw a net over Aang and drag him away]
      Sokka: Oh, what? I'm not good enough to kidnap?
      [Pirates throw a net over Sokka and drag him away]
    • Zuko bursts out laughing when the pirates' ship is stolen by Aang, Katara, and Sokka. Mere seconds later, he learns that the pirates have stolen his own ship in turn.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: When the ship is about to go over the waterfall, Aang's response is to start blowing on the silent whistle he bought at the market. Sokka complains that this is no time for flute practice. It turns out the whistle is a bison call, summoning Appa to the rescue.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Sokka doesn't approve of his little sister snapping at their friend on the basis of a flimsy excuse.
    • He also gets upset with Katara for stealing the waterbending scroll, which is why the pirates chased them.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Sokka and Katara bump into the cabbage cart, but then the merchant grabs the cabbages before they hit the ground. Then Aang jumps through the cart without disturbing the cabbages, only to hurl it at the pirates.

 
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"It's no proverb!"

Iroh gets between a fight between Zuko and a pirate captain to chastise him for fighting while his own ship has set sail. Zuko thinks he is just reciting a proverb... he isn't.

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