Katara works secretly to help out a downtrodden fishing village.
Last time on Avatar: There was a secret dance party!
Stuck in the Mud
Appa is trudging through mud, in which Aang and Momo are basically playing ‘Marco Polo’. Rejoining his friends on the sky bison’s back, Aang informs them that the river is polluted (after air-bending the mud off himself and then the others). Sokka is failing to catch any fish and makes a pun which the other three don’t appreciate. However, Aang and Katara approve of Toph’s responding snark. Changing the subject, Sokka rolls out his giant scroll that’s his “master schedule”. But then a village is spotted up ahead, which is floating in the river’s middle.
Aang hides both Appa and Momo under moss on a nearby ridge. The group goes down to a bank where they find the ferryman Dock. Katara lies that they’re from an Earth Kingdom colony. As he ferries them towards the village, Dock explains they were a thriving fishing village until the factory for army metal moved in a few years ago. Suddenly I’m having déjà vu for “The Scouring of the Shire”.
Once she gets a close-up look at how woebegone the village is, Katara wants to stay and help. Sokka wants to focus on the big mission. When she’s annoyed by that sentiment, he clarifies that they’ll be helping everybody by taking out the Fire Lord and they can’t stop to assist every village they go. Toph covers his mouth and points out he needs to be quieter about their plan of “taking out the Fire Lord”. Sokka remains concerned while Katara seems to accept that they need to move on.
The merchant Xu is really Dock with a different hat. Although the food is gross, they still buy some. When Sokka asks Xu about getting Dock to give them a ride back, the man reverts to being Dock. Katara gives a small boy a fish and she wants to help more. The boy goes to give the fish to his ailing mother.
The quartet are camping that night; Sokka is scheduling away since the eclipse is a few weeks away and only lasts for eight minutes. Grumpily, Sokka tries to find a way to ensure the schedule’s success and wants to leave soon.
The next morning, Appa is apparently sick. Sokka is furious at his schedule being ruined. Aang, Katara, and Toph are unimpressed so he claims to also be worried about the sky bison. Appa’s tongue is colored purple.
The people in the village are visibly happier when the Gaang show up. Xu tells Sokka about the Painted Lady, a river spirit who helped them last night, including a visual aid in a figurine of her. The teenage boy is glad that the village was helped. Unfortunately, it turns out that all medicine goes to the factory. Katara suggests they stay another night to let Appa recover. Sokka opts to buy the two-headed fish to his friends’ disgust.
Disguised as Her
With lots of mist, a disguised Katara goes to the village that night. She goes to the sick-house to heal the patients there. The boy from before follows to say “thank you” as she silently leaves.
Dock is polishing the Painted Lady figurine when Sokka and Toph up. Xu gets them more food and talks more about the Painted Lady. A statue of her is being raised up now. Sokka points out to his friends that these are short-term effects and that the factory needs blown up to cause a permanent change. Both he and Aang get silly on the subject, aggravating Katara. She goes to the edge of the village, looking determined.
That night, Katara stuffs her sleeping bag with greenery and gets dressed up as the Painted Lady before leaving the campsite. Momo wakes up and accidentally wakes up Aang. Tying on his headband, Aang goes after the ‘spirit’. Katara bolts so Aang happily gives chase, even as he grows confused. Hei Bai is mentioned as a friend of his as they reach the village.
Katara keeps going towards the factory. Aang finds her and lifts up his headband to reveal his tattoo as confirmation that he’s the Avatar. She tries to fake a ‘spirit’ voice while Aang already realizes she’s pretty… and then clues in that it’s Katara. She admits what she did to Appa (thankfully, nothing serious). Aang thinks she’s awesome.
Her plan is to destroy the factory. Although aware that her brother was “just kidding”, Katara realizes that he was right. They work together to sabotage the factory, with multiple explosions occurring as they leave. The slurry stops pouring into the river as well.
As Aang and a normally dressed Katara return to the campfire (it’s past dawn now), Toph and Sokka are aware and annoyed. They’ve found the berries Katara has been feeding Appa- Toph sticks out her tongue, which is now purple as well.
The army personnel was angry about their factory’s destruction. They get on what the art book terms jet skis to head towards the village; Aang telling Toph what they see. An upset Sokka demands, “What did you do?”
Katara admits, “I kind of destroyed their factory.”
“It was your idea.”
“I was joking! I also said to use spirit magic and made funny noises.” Sokka momentarily face-palms as seen above before continuing, “Did you even think this through? The army’s going to blame the villagers. They’re headed there right now to get revenge.”
“Well, what was I supposed to do?”
“Leave! Do nothing.”
“No! I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me. I’m going down to the village, I’m going to do whatever I can.”
She storms off, but Sokka decides to come with her, saying, “You need me. And I will never turn my back on you.”
“Sokka, you really do have a heart.”
The siblings hug as the other two approach. Aang wipes his teary eyes, while Toph just shoves him aside. The quartet is on a ridge.
The soldiers have arrived and think the villagers sabotaged the factory. Dock and Xu try to say the ‘truth’ that it was the Painted Lady. The lead soldier sets stuff on fire and the group is ready to destroy the whole village. But two of them keep failing to light a giant orb (presumably to be ejected to set more stuff on fire). The soldiers grow uneasy, with the young boy certain that the Painted Lady is coming.
Appa is making noises and Toph makes ‘stomping’ via a boulder. Sokka plays an instrument to enhance the eeriness, making everybody in the village uneasy.
Katara (in her Painted Lady disguise) and Aang (hidden from sight) are badasses together, causing most of the soldiers to retreat on their jet skis. The head soldier stands firm and fire-bends at her. Aang and Katara use teamwork to continue being awesome. Scared off, the head soldier gets picked up by a jet ski that returned for him (I hope that soldier got a promotion).
Sokka and Toph take a wooden boat to the village to retrieve them. The villagers are cheering when Katara returns, but grow angry when they realize she’s a water-bender. Sokka goes to his sister’s defense. Katara acknowledges the villagers’ point but admits she just wanted to help them. However, the villagers also have to help themselves.
Using a funny voice while in the crowd, Toph suggests they can clean the river, to which the villagers agree to. Bushi is the third brother in a third hat who’ll help clean the river. Aang tries to point out that the trio are all the same guy. He and Sokka get angry at the man’s denial, while Katara is just baffled.
There’s a montage to show the river being cleaned (with some water-bending assistance). That night, Katara goes down to the riverside. The real Painted Lady shows up to say “Thank you” before retreating back into mist/the Spirit World. The teenager smiles.
Short-term and long-term effects were discussed here. Sokka was focused on the long-term goal of defeating the Fire Lord to restore the world’s balance, while Katara wanted to help people immediately. Both are necessary, although the episode sides more with Katara (as does Aang). This episode showcased that both siblings want to help others, if in different ways.
There was a minor environmental message in there, about how the factory’s pollution was affecting the river and its inhabitants. Just like last episode, the show is demonstrating how there are many in the Fire Nation who are negatively impacted by the war just like in the Water Tribes and Earth Kingdom (and the Air Nomads got wiped out).
I think this was the first episode that didn’t include Zuko in some capacity, which is interesting given its parallels to “Zuko Alone”. This episode had a happier ending, mostly because Sokka stepped up to defend his sister while Zuko was, well, alone. There’s probably a subtle message about the importance of teamwork and cooperation in there.
The subtitles used ‘Shoe’ but the art book refers to that aspect of the villager as Xu in a caption. There’s a lineup of the villagers and the Gaang, as well as designs for the “riverboat and Fire Nation jet ski”. The top of the page has multiple images of Katara in her Painted Lady guise. The facing page has two images of the factory and a rough sketch of the village.
Aang hasn’t been practicing his water and earth bending much this season, has he? Is he still recovering from his burns or have they just been too focused on hiding instead of training?
While I did enjoy this episode, there’s not an awful lot to say about it. The messages were pretty well-spelled out in it, the action sequences remain gorgeous, and Sokka continues to be hilariously snarky (but also has brains and a heart, both displayed here).
Next time on Avatar: Sokka finds himself a mentor in Piandao.