"The Spirit of Competition" is the fifth episode of The Legend of Korra, which aired on Nickelodeon on 5 May 2012.
The team practices in the gym, working together like pros. Asami comes in, clutching a set of new uniforms emblazoned with the Future Industries logo. Everyone thanks her, although some more enthusiastically than others. While Mako and Asami call each other "sweetie" and nose rub, Korra barely conceals her jealousy. Bolin seems rather pleased for his brother, but he seems a lot more pleased to be alone with Korra. He asks if she wants to hang out, but Korra shrugs off his advances.
Later that day in their loft, the brothers are getting ready for the match tomorrow. Bolin asks his brother what he thinks of Korra as a romantic interest. Mako doesn't really think Korra is good girlfriend material but Bolin disagrees and decides to ask Korra out. Mako warns him that dating in the team can cause turmoil, and it would be better to keep his head in the game right before the tournament. Bolin dismisses his advice.
Meanwhile, it seems winter has come to Republic City, and Air Temple Island is covered in a delicate layer of snow. All clad in fur, Korra, Jinora and Ikki bring fruit to feed the ring-tailed flying lemurs.
Jinora innocently teases Korra about her crush on Mako, which the Avatar denies she has. Hypothetically, if she did, what should she do? Jinora and Ikki have interesting opinions on how to woo someone. Pema has been listening in and is amused. She understands what Korra is going through, since she had the exact same problem with Tenzin. Pema says that for a long time she said nothing, being too afraid of rejection, but she couldn't see her soulmate spend his life with the "wrong" woman, and confessed her love.
In the first match of the tournament, the Fire Ferrets are set against the opposing team, the Red Sands Rabbaroos. Showing perfect coordination and teamwork, they easily push their opponents back, securing their victory. As Bolin laps up the cheers from his adoring fans, Mako and Korra head backstage, and Mako apologizes for not being kinder to Korra. He says that she's really pulled through, and that they have been working great together on the field. Korra responds that she thinks they've been working well together off the field, and thinks they should hang-out more. Y'know, doing something other that saving kidnapped family members? Mako seems awkward, so Korra just spits out:
Mako does not appreciate the sentiment. He says that he's in a relationship with Asami, and that just isn't appropriate. Disheartened and rejected, Korra accepts. She turns away as Asami comes running in, wrapping Mako in a victory hug.
Bolin asks Korra out. His exuberance is infectious, so Korra accepts. Still hugging his girlfriend, Mako stares after them, with what could possibly be jealousy. Bolin and Korra have dinner at Narook's Seaweed Noodlery and meet Tahno. Korra and Bolin avoid trouble with him, then continue their date. After the date, Korra finds Mako waiting for her. He asks her what kind of game she is playing with Bolin to get back at him, which makes Korra call his reaction jealousy, to which he says he is just concerned about his brother. This argument has an effect in their next match against the Boarcupines as the team does not seem to connect well between each other. The Fire Ferrets barely win the round, needing Bolin to break a tie.
On a dock outside the Pro-bending Arena, Mako and Korra converse about their conflicted feelings. Mako confesses his feelings toward Korra, but says that he really likes Asami too, so it is complicated. Korra kisses Mako and he kisses her back. Both realize Bolin had been watching. A heartbroken Bolin runs off crying.
The next morning, Mako finds his little brother at the noodle place. Bolin had been gorging on noodles and is hysterical. Mako has to carry Bolin to the arena.
Later that night, the Fire Ferrets have their semifinal match against the Buzzard Wasps. The Fire Ferrets start off losing, with Bolin injuring his arm. He and Mako are knocked into the water below and apologize on their ride back up. The team forgives each other and agree to remain on friendly terms. They win the match. Asami enters the room and congratulates everyone, and Korra heals Bolin while apologizing for hurting his feelings. Moments later, the team find that the White Falls Wolfbats had just curb-stomped the opposing team, who are being carried of by paramedics.
Tropes in this episode:
- Absentee Actor: This is the first episode where Tenzin hasn't made an appearance. Pema talks about how they got together, though.
- Agent Peacock: Tahno looks like a mere dandy, but he is a brutally effective pro-bender.
- Alliterative Name: The Future Industries Fire Ferrets, Red Sand Rabiroos, White Falls Wolfbats, and other teams.
- Amazon Brigade: The Red Sand Rabiroos◊ are an all-female pro-bending team.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Bolin asks Mako what he thinks of the idea of asking Korra out. Mako responds that he likes her, but he's already in a relationship, prompting Bolin to clarify that he meant he (Bolin) would be asking her out.
- Balloon Belly: Bolin and Pabu after about six bowls of noodles.
- Breather Episode: While Episodes 3 and 4 were dark and dramatic, setting up the threat of Amon; this one focuses more on the Love Triangle and Tournament Arc. It's the only Breather Episode of the entire Book.
- Burping Contest: Korra and Bolin get into one on their date, much to the horror of the other patrons in the restaurant. Korra seems to come out on top.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ikki's romantic advice to Korra? Make a magical love potion made of rainbows and sunsets that makes true lovers sprout wings and fly into a magical castle in the sky where they get married and eat clouds with spoons and use stars as ice cubes in their moonlight punch forever and ever and ever. Yeah.
- "The Volcano is starting to make more sense."
- Comfort Food: Bolin takes Korra to a Sothern Water Tribe restaurant for the food that she grew up with. Later, when he catches Korra and Mako kissing, he spends the entire night gorging on their noodles.
- Continuity Nod:
- The announcer advertises "Flameo" Instant Noodles, a reference to the outdated slang Aang tried to use.
- Korra takes a leave of absence from Tarrlok's anti-Equalist task force after her encounter with Amon in "The Voice in the Night".
- Apparently, one of the traits Korra inherited from Aang is interpreting "I'm confused right now" to mean "shut up and kiss me."
- When the match is on the line, Korra again breaks out the air dancing to dodge the opponents' attacks.
- Creator Cameo: The guy who tries and fails to greet Mako was voiced by Joaquim Dos Santos, the director of the episode and co-executive producers (the character speaking at all actually started when he noticed a background character looked disappointed).
- Curb-Stomp Battle: The Wolfbats' off-screen victory, lampshaded by Korra on how the match barely started.
- Double-Meaning Title: The competition is either the Pro-bending tournament or Bolin and Mako fighting for Korra.
- Down to the Last Play: Happens in the Fire Ferrets' second tournament match.
- Driven to Suicide: In-Universe. Jinora relates a story she read in a historical novel where a princess was unable to be with the man she loved, so she burned down an entire country via dragon and then jumped into a volcano.Jinora: It was so romantic!
- Drowning My Sorrows/Drunk on Noodles: Bolin spends the whole night binge-eating tons and tons of noodles after he witnesses Korra kissing Mako, and Mako has to actually carry him home in the morning.
- Feud Episode
- Forceful Kiss/"Shut Up" Kiss: Korra does this to Mako after he starts awkwardly babbling about his confused romantic feelings, but he still likes Asami. He kisses her back.
- Girly Run: The way Bolin runs away after seeing Korra and Mako kiss. He really doesn't take it well.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Mako gets this way when Bolin and Korra go on a date. He later accuses her of leading his brother on just to get back at him for rejecting her earlier, and she correctly guesses that his anger is actually due to jealousy.
- There's also the implication that Korra may have gone out on a date with Bolin due to her own Green-Eyed Monster towards Asami and Mako.
- Holding Your Shoulder Means Injury: Bolin performs this after getting smacked by a stray earth disk. Unusually, it actually is his shoulder that's injured, complete with ugly bruise.
- Huddle Shot: Used when Mako tries to build up the team's confidence for the upcoming tournament.
- Hypocrite /Irony: Mako warned Bolin of dating within the team yet proved to be just as guilty of already having feelings for Korra and kissing her back.
- Just Friends: Bolin takes Korra out on for a night on the town in the hope of winning her over. They both have a great time, but she's just not that into him and they agree to stay friends by the end of the episode.
- The same happens with her and Mako, though he's clearly still confused about his feelings.
- Lame Comeback:
Mako: See, I told you dating a team mate was a bad idea.Bolin: You're a bad idea!
- Bolin after Mako drags him out of the noodle shop. Justified in that Bolin is "drunk" at the time.
- Love Confession: Korra to Mako. It doesn't go the way she hoped.
- Love Dodecahedron: Mako and Bolin are both attracted to Korra. She likes Mako, but he also likes his girlfriend Asami.
- Rather interestingly, the episode seems designed to deal with all the aspects of this in one fell swoop, rather than dragging them out.
- Pema also mentions that she was in a Love Triangle with another woman over Tenzin.
- Making a Splash: Korra only waterbends in this episode, whether for the usual offense or healing as along with the focus on the Water Tribe-style noodles is the focus on Korra's culture according to Word of God.
- The Medic: Unsurprisingly, Korra learned how to heal with waterbending from Katara.
- Men Don't Cry: Averted by Bolin. His reaction when he sees Korra kissing Mako is to sob in the most overblown way imaginable and run away. And then when Mako tries to snap him out of it, he breaks into Inelegant Blubbering.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Korra, when she realizes she has hurt Bolin and Mako.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Jinora's idea of a romantic setting went into such territory with the idea that burning down a whole country and jumping into the volcano at the end as a testament to love, which was said with a smile on her face.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: All we hear of the Wolf-Bats fight is some noise of the hits and the buzzer going off every few seconds. When we look back at them, they won their match in the first round and their opponents are being carried out on stretchers.
- One-Hit Poly-KO: Korra pulls off her own hat trick in the final match when she's all that's left of the Ferrets when things are perfectly lined up. It's interesting to watch Korra, not previously known for subtlety, carefully maneuver her opponents into a perfect line before hitting them at once with a large column of water. This is perhaps showcasing her developing abilities thanks to Tenzin's training and her pro-bending practice.
- Over-the-Shoulder Carry: This is how Mako carries Bolin home.
- Product Placement: In-universe. The Fire Ferrets are billed as the "Future Industries Fire Ferrets" and wear the corporate logo on their uniforms.
- Misaimed Marketing: The announcer uses Bolin throwing up last night's meal as the perfect time to advertise "Flameo Noodles".
- Reality Ensues: It turns out that confessing your feelings for someone when they're already in a relationship with someone else and are confused about their own feelings doesn't magically make everything turn out all right.
- Shaped Like Itself: Flameo noodles are advertised as the "noodliest noodles" in Republic City.
- Sickeningly Sweethearts: Mako and Asami. They shamelessly call each other "sweetie" and share a nose kiss, right in front of Bolin and Korra.
- Smug Snake: Tahno.
- Snow Means Love: The romantic discussions take place when it's snowing out.
- Take That!: Tahno, the sleazy waterbender of the Wolfbats pro-bending team, calls Korra the "Ohvatar". He is also a very pale waterbender, looking almost Caucasian. Pretty much confirmed as a Take That! at a certain live-action movie.....
- Tastes Like Diabetes: In-Universe, Ikki's opinion on how to woo a Love Interest.Ikki: The best way to woo a boy's heart is to brew a love-potion made of rainbows and sunsets which make true lovers sprout wings and fly into a magical castle in the sky, where they get married and use clouds as spoon and stars as ice cubes in their moonlight punch, for ever and ever and ever!Korra: The volcano is starting to make more sense to me now.
- Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Jinora, though the romance in question seems to be more along the lines of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
- Tournament Arc
- '20s Bob Haircut: One of the girls sitting with Tahno has this style◊, which makes sense for the Roaring Twenties.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Though the Fire Ferrets have to put up one hell of a fight to win.
- Unnecessary Roughness: A helmet of the adversary of the Wolfbats was pierced. This is specially true in light that strikes to the head are only allowed by waterbenders, indicating that Tahno is not a gentle fellow. Korra also gets a yellow fan (equivalent to yellow card) for bouncing an enemy pro-bender up and down on a water column and then splashing the referee.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: After he takes a clay disk to the overstuffed gut, we don't see Bolin "lose his noodles," but we hear him retching, and the entire arena can see the poor guy throw up.
- Made even worse when the announcer chooses this moment to advertise "Flameo noodles"
- What the Hell, Hero?: Mako snaps at Korra for upsetting Bolin by kissing him (Mako) in front of him. However, she throws it right back at him for kissing back.
- Your Cheating Heart: While Korra initiated the kiss, Mako clearly reciprocated before being caught by Bolin while Asami's still in the dark about it.