The Gaang takes a detour through the titular locale on their way to Omashu.
Last time on Avatar: Aang learned more about the dangers of the Avatar State.
Down to his underwear, Sokka is floating on a giant leaf with Momo curled up on his stomach on a body of water. Katara and Aang are similarly stripped down for water-bending practice. They’re practicing “octopus form”. When she comes over to help him with his stance, Aang blushes.
Aang successfully defends himself in it from Katara’s icicles, earning her approval.
A group of hippie nomads show up, their leader being Chong. The other two given names are his wife Lily and later a chubby guy named Moku. Aang approves as he’s a nomad. Chong approves of Sokka’s underwater, making the teen understandably awkward.
Elsewhere, Iroh is entranced by a flower. Zuko returns, having failed to find any food and hates being a fugitive. Then he notices his uncle is being odder than usual.
“You’re looking at the rare white dragon bush. Its leaves make a tea so delicious, it’s heartbreaking. That, or it’s the white jade bush, which is poisonous.”
“We need food, not tea. I’m going fishing.” The teen walks off.
“Hmm, delectable tea or deadly poison?”
Appa’s fur is being braided and decorated with flowers by some of the nomads while Aang likes their stories and songs. Sokka claims to her annoyance that since she’s busy he’ll have to be the wet blanket. He goes on to point out, “We need to get to Omashu. No sidetracks, no worms, and definitely no rainbows.”
Chong points out that he clearly has “destination fever” whereas the nomads prefer the journey itself over the destination. Katara refutes that he’s right. The nomads know a song about a “secret tunnel” that leads to Omashu based off of a “real legend”.
Sokka thinks they should fly and Aang agrees that Appa prefers not to be underground. But after running into a blockade full of trebuchets that aimed fireballs at them, they return to where the hippies are lounging about. All three are covered in soot as Sokka says, “Secret love cave, let’s go.”
Zuko returns, having caught a very tiny fish on his long pointed stick. His uncle has a growing rash but has found either healing “pakui berries” or deadly “makaola berries”. Tossing aside the branch, Zuko is his usual upset self and wants to get help for his uncle. Iroh points out that they’re “enemies of the Earth Kingdom and fugitives from the Fire Nation”.
“If the Earth Kingdom discovers us, they’ll have us killed.”
“But if the Fire Nation discovers us, we’ll be turned over to Azula,” counters Iroh. As seen above, Zuko has been growing out his hair. This is the start of his many hairstyles.
“Earth Kingdom it is.”
Secrets and Darkness
As the group travels through a canyon, it’s revealed that the cave is actually a labyrinth and an off-handedly mentioned curse upsets Sokka. Chong and Lily clarify and then Moku points out smoke in the distance. He thinks it’s a campfire but the siblings realize it’s the Fire Nation following them.
Aang knows that he believes in love when he looks at Katara’s back. Appa is not happy about entering the cave.
A tank nears the cave entrance. One of them knows the song and opts to bring down the entrance, believing the mountain will handle the rest. Appa paws at the rockslide, upset.
The nomads are blasé while Sokka wants to make a map. The flying bison remains out of sorts.
Iroh is being treated by a young nurse while Zuko is awkward. He claims his name is Lee and Iroh is “Mushi”. His uncle gets back at him by claiming Zuko is typically called ‘Junior’. Song, the nurse, offers to come to her home for dinner with her mom. Zuko tries to refuse but Iroh wants some roast duck.
Sokka realizes that his map isn’t working because the tunnels keep changing.
Song and her mom have dinner with the duo; it’s revealed that Song’s dad was captured by the Fire Nation years ago. Zuko admits he also hasn’t seen his father in years. Iroh is silently awkward when Song asks if he’s off fighting in the war.
A wolf-bat attacks the group and Appa freaks out when a torch hits his foot, causing a rockslide. Aang air-bends the nomads out of the rubble’s way and then tackles Katara out of the way. The two of them and Appa are on one side, while Sokka and Momo are with the nomads.
Sokka is scared for his little sister and Aang as well as miffed to be stuck with the nomads.
After dinner, Song goes to sit next to Zuko. He won’t let her touch his scar and then she reveals her less severe scarring on a leg.
The nomads continue to make music while Sokka’s grumpy.
Elsewhere in the cave system, the trio finds what seems to be a blocked off exit. Appa charges at the circular ‘door’ to roll it away, revealing a tomb on the other side. There are two burial spots as this is where the titular two lovers were laid to rest.
Katara looks at the images and along with the captions she can recount the story of how they met, why they were divided, and how they were the first earth-benders by learning it from the badger-moles. One day the man died in the war. The heartbroken woman used her abilities to declare the war over and the villages worked together to create the city of Omashu, which is their portmanteau couple name.
“Love is brightest in the dark,” Katara reads by a bas relief of them kissing.
Sokka is trying to get them out. Moku is grumpy while Chong’s big idea is to play a love song, making the teen face-palm.
Katara has her own crazy idea: she and Aang could kiss to see if that’ll help them get out. Aang is awkward and generally acts like a preteen boy, upsetting Katara and then Aang’s upset with his words as well.
The nomads, still playing their love song, and Sokka head down a passage. Momo is anxious.
Iroh thanks the mom for the dinner while Zuko is irritable. Iroh wants him to thank the nice people and he does so. As it’s night, there are lots of fireflies. Song brings up how there’s now hope because the Avatar has returned; Zuko is very aware of that fact.
Zuko spots their critter and decides to steal it over Iroh’s objections. Song sees this through a crack in the door and is understandably saddened.
Aang and Katara are worried because their torch is dying. They move in towards each other as the light dies. Suddenly there are green glowing crystals embedded in the ceiling.
Momo freaks out and more wolf-bats fly overhead past the group. A pair of intimidating badger-moles shows up, but it turns out they are “music lovers” so Sokka ends up leading the group in song.
It’s now clear that Oma and Shu followed the crystals in the dark to find each other in the cave system and they hug. Aang is awkward while Katara’s focused on getting out. Once outside, Appa is elated.
Aang asks after Sokka and moments later the badger-moles emerge. Sokka is on one while the nomads are on the other. Katara’s relieved to see him and he gets down to ask, “How did you guys get out?”
“Just like the legend says: we let love lead the way,” Aang explains.
“Really? We let huge ferocious beasts lead our way.”
The badger-moles go back into the caves. Momo, in a moment of utter cuteness, goes over to Appa to tell him about all his experience down in the cave system.
To Katara’s confusion, Sokka’s forehead is all red. Chong comes over to tell the siblings, “Nobody react to what I’m about to tell you. I think that kid might be the Avatar.”
The nomads decline to come along to Omashu. Chong talks to an annoyed Sokka about the episode’s moral. The nomads leave, continuing to play music. Katara briefly blushes.
The group treks up a hill. Sokka calls their journey “long and annoying” as they reach a crest… only to discover that Omashu has been conquered by the Fire Nation.
There are in fact three downer endings in this episode. One, Zuko opts to take advantage of Song’s kindness by stealing her and her mom’s critter because he hates charity and sympathy, both of which he sees exclusively as pity. Two, Omashu has been conquered by the Fire Nation. Three, in the back story where Oma and Shu didn’t get to live a long and happy life together. Though I do appreciate that Oma didn’t go all murderous when her love was killed and instead compelled peace to end bloodshed.
Chong is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, who also voices Appa and Momo. The art book includes black-and-white sketches of Chong and Moku along with captions for their costuming details. The nomads are mostly there as comic relief and to contrast to Sokka’s focus on getting places instead of enjoying the journey to said places. Then again, maybe Sokka got enough of that last season when he, Katara, and Aang literally went from the south pole to the north pole.
Badger-moles are introduced here as the original earth-benders. So the Water-benders learned from the moon and the Earth-benders from the badger-moles. That leaves just the origins of air-bending and fire-bending to be revealed in-show.
There’s some background design artwork as well as art of the cave on the episode’s other page in the art book. As always, the animation is gorgeous and I liked the stylistic departure of the Oma and Shu story.
I appreciate that it’s depicted as acceptable that although interested in the concept of love, neither Katara nor Aang are ready to have a romantic relationship. Aang at least is crushing on Katara; I’m less sure how she feels about him at this point.
Next time on Avatar: Omashu has been conquered by the Fire Nation.