ATLA 1-9: The Waterbending Scroll

Katara steals the titular scroll from pirates, which leads to trouble.

Last time on Avatar: Aang was warned about Ozai’s comet-related plan by Roku.

 

“Nice Puddle”

Aang is worrying over what Roku told him as Appa flies peacefully near some mountains.  Sokka is up front while Katara is on the ‘saddle’ with Aang.  She calms him down and offers to show him what little she knows.  Her brother cracks, “Maybe we could find you a puddle to splash in.”

Cut to him saying the section header when they’ve found a sizable river and a nearby waterfall.  The other two humans are excited, Appa does a belly flop, and Momo is annoyed by the ensuing splash.  Aang suggests that Sokka could clean out between Appa’s toes while he and Katara water-bend.  Despite pointing out the unfairness of him doing work while they, in his eyes, play, Sokka agrees.

Zuko is training when the ship changes course.  It turns out Iroh had the captain do so as he’s lost his lotus tile for Pai Cho, which is a game.  As Zuko literally breathes fire out of frustration, Iroh comments serenely, “I’m lucky to have such an understanding nephew.”

While Iroh’s comment is amusing, it is true that Zuko has given in to the detour even if he’s not happy about it.

Sokka is cleaning out the gunk between Appa’s toes as Katara demonstrates a basic move (pushing water back and forth).  Aang gets it very quickly and points out that she had to figure out water-bending on her own while he has a great teacher in her.

Next Katara ‘streams the water’ and Aang gets it just as fast and with more flair.  Annoyed by Aang, Katara then shows a move she hasn’t quite mastered yet… but Aang causes a huge wave that soaks Sokka and Appa as well as sends their supplies down the river.  Frustrated, Sokka sinks back down into the river.

Pirated Scroll

So they head over to a nearby port town where there are many tough-looking guys.  Evidently they only have three copper pieces left from the money King Bumi gave them off-screen.  Two, after Aang bought a flying bison whistle.

They find a ship boasting “curios” even though neither Aang nor the guy ‘advertising’ next to the ship knows what they are.  The guy in question is called Pirate Barker Oh in the art book, whose appearance was inspired by a co-worker of sorts, who was stationed in Seoul and was the creators’ karaoke buddy whenever they visited.  The hold is indeed full of “rare or unusual objects” as my dictionary defines ‘curios’.  The captain, who has a reptile bird, offers money for Momo which Aang refuses.

9Trio

Katara finds a water-bending scroll, which the captain got “up north” for ‘free’ but has a seller in the Earth Kingdom willing to pay two hundred gold pieces.  But Katara wants it since it could teach her more moves.  And Aang, but at this point she’s more interested in learning for her own sake.  Sokka clues in that these sailors are pirates.  Aang’s efforts to haggle for the scroll go very poorly.

The trio leaves the ship, but then the pirates chase after them.  The guys have no idea why, but from the get-go Katara knows even if it’s not yet spelled out for her companions or the viewers.  In the midst of the chase scene, there’s the second cameo of the cabbage merchant.  Aang ultimately uses his glider to help get him and the siblings out of town.

Back at the waterfall, the guys are annoyed and confused.  Katara reveals she stole the scroll to her brother’s consternation even after she points out the pirates likely stole it first.  Aang decides as long as they have the scroll they might as well learn from it.

Zuko’s ship has reached the port but when he learns Iroh hasn’t found a lotus tile he grumbles, “It’s good to know this trip was a complete waste of time for everyone.”

But Iroh did get a lot of bargains, including an instrument to play on the ship’s music nights.  The duo is in the pirate ship hold when Zuko overhearing a pirate reporting to the captain they didn’t catch up to the Water Tribe girl or the little bald monk she was with.  Aw, no mention of Sokka?  Amusingly, Iroh likes the stone monkey statue with ruby eyes and necklace unlike Katara, who was creeped out by it when she was in the pirate ship’s hold.  He even mimics its smile!

Knowledge and Power

Katara tries the Water Whip shown on the scroll but just hurts herself.  Sokka is amused, since he’s aware she wants to learn from the scroll for herself.  Her second attempt gets Momo hurt.  Then Aang shows her how the move ought to be done.  Katara verbally lashes out in response, leading Sokka to be disapproving and for Aang to be visibly hurt by her words.

Apologizing, Katara hands over the scroll and is upset with herself.  Sokka gets her to apologize to Momo but presses his luck too far when he asks for an apology to him as well.

Zuko’s mini ship and the pirate ship are going up the river.  When the captain wonders about checking deeper into the woods for their quarry, Zuko points out they’ll be close to the water since they stole a water-bending scroll and likely want to use it.

As the guys sleep, Katara sneaks off with the scroll even after she encounters a seemingly judgmental Momo on her way away from their campsite and back to the water.  She’s noisy as she practices, leading Zuko and the pirate captain to hear her.  She’s attacked by a pirate and then literally ends up in Zuko’s clutches.

9Zuko&Katara

“I’ll save you from the pirates,” he ‘assures’ her.  Apparently this moment kick-started a lot of Zutara shippers, but I’m not seeing it.  She’s mad and scared while he’s trying to be intimidating (and it’s mostly working).  Just look at the above screen-cap: this is not even a slap-slap-kiss scenario.  Katara gets tied up to a pole; Zuko admits he needs to capture the Avatar in order to regain his honor and shows he has her necklace.  But she refuses to say anything about her friends.

Zuko threatens to burn the scroll to get the pirates to work with him.  Sokka and Aang get captured by the pirates and tied up.  They’re brought back to Zuko and the others at the river’s edge.  Katara admits, “Aang, this is all my fault.”

“No, Katara, it isn’t,” he tries to reassure her.

“Yeah, it kind of is,” Iroh counters.  Well, he’s not wrong…

There’s a standoff.  Sokka brings up that Aang is the Avatar.  Zuko is aware that Sokka is trying to drive a wedge between the two groups but Aang isn’t.  When Sokka’s plan works, the pirates decide to leave with Aang.  This causes a fight to break out between the pirates and the Fire Nation soldiers.

None of the pirates seem to be benders, which is interesting.  Or maybe they’re deliberately not bending in front of Fire Nation soldiers as to not attract the full attention of the Fire Nation Navy given the frequent captures of earth-benders.  But they’re likely not benders, as they didn’t bend when chasing the trio earlier either.  Smoke bombs are used heavily by the pirates.  Momo bites through Katara’s ties to her gratitude.  An attack accidentally frees Aang.  Zuko is fighting the pirate captain and Momo gets chased by the reptile bird when the lemur gets ahold of the scroll.

Sokka uses a fallen blade to cut his bonds and calls for Aang.  When the younger boy clears the smoke around him in an effort to find his friend, Aang sees he’s surrounded by foes so he brings the smoke back in to conceal himself.

On the Water

Katara nears the pirate ship with the goal of getting it into the water so they can escape.  But it’s firmly ‘docked’ on the bank.  Aang has the idea of him and Katara doing the first move she showed him on a large scale together in order to get the ship back into the water.

Iroh gets between the captain and Zuko, telling them, “Are you so busy fighting you cannot see your own ship has set sail?”

9UpsetTrio

“We have no time for your proverbs, Uncle!”

“It’s no proverb,” Iroh refutes, pointing out that the pirate ship leaving.  Zuko laughs until he sees that the other pirates have taken his ship to take chance.

“Maybe it should be a proverb,” muses Iroh before Zuko calls for him to follow.

Sokka is trying to figure out how to steer the ship when it’s boarded by angry pirates.  Repeating Aang’s earlier advice to herself, Katara gets the Water Whip right in order to stop a pirate.  She and Aang exchange kudos.  Sokka is unimpressed by their behavior as he’s still fighting two pirates, telling them, “Will you two quit congratulating each other and help me out?!”

Momo is still being chased by the reptile bird but he manages to wrap up his foe in a small black flag on the pirate ship.  Aang uses air-bending to take two more pirates, but the ship is nearing a waterfall.  His first reaction is to use his flying bison whistle, which does distract a pirate long enough for Sokka to throw him overboard.

Aang and Katara work together, using water-bending to halt the ship at the edge of the waterfall.  Sokka points out that the Fire Nation ship is approaching, so they end up jumping down the waterfall.  The ship does crash into the rocks at the falls’ base, but Appa comes to the trio’s rescue.  Sokka and Aang are grateful in particular towards the flying bison.

Zuko is upset over the day’s events and his mood darkens further when Iroh reveals that evidently the lotus tile was up his sleeve the whole time.  So he tosses it aside, but I bet his uncle manages to find it before they leave.

Katara fully apologizes to Aang.  At some point, Sokka did manage to retrieve the scroll and wants his sister to vocalize what she’s learned from this experience before he hands it over.  She grabs it, but does acknowledge, “Stealing it wrong.  Unless it’s from pirates.”

Aang is amused as Appa continues flying.  On a meta level, I certainly enjoyed the twist on spelling out the moral of the episode.  Hopefully Katara has indeed grown aware not to measure her abilities by comparing them to the Avatar’s.

Conclusion

Iroh and Sokka brought a lot of humor to this episode, which already had plenty of heart and action.  However, Iroh is truly wise as well as a wise guy, while Sokka does his best to be responsible and wants his little sister to be responsible as well.  Katara’s self-esteem took a hit when Aang turned out to be better at learning water-bending than her.  While never spelled out, it’s certainly implied here that the Avatar is the most powerful bender in the world and quite possibly is a faster learner with each incarnation.

The page on this episode in the art book is devoted to the pirates (black and white sketches as well as full-blown art) as well as a finished design of their ship.  It was definitely cool to see that this world does indeed have pirates.  It’s even possible there are more pirates than usual given the war.  Also, I wonder if they’re a mix of Fire Nation, Water Tribe, and Earth Kingdom natives looking at their clothes’ colors.  Looking at the opposite page, the captions there spell out that next episode’s characters’ Earth Kingdom roots despite their mixed-culture attire.  So maybe the pirates are truly a motley crew.

I’m betting it’s fifty-fifty whether or not Iroh knew all along where his lotus tile was.

 

Next time on Avatar: The trio meets Jet and his followers.

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