ATLA 3-7: The Runaway

Toph earns money by scamming the scammers to Katara’s annoyance, but the two girls end up bonding.

Last time on Avatar: Roku and Sozin’s intertwined backstories were revealed.


Cheating the Cheaters

There’s a brief scene of Katara seemingly betraying Toph to a town’s authorities before cutting to “three days earlier”.  Out in their camp near the town, a blindfolded Aang is training in using earth-sense like Toph does.  However, Katara and Toph end up fighting each other opposed to training Aang.  Sokka cries out “Sneak attack” as he charges to Aang’s amusement.  The two girls end up doing a mud fight, leading Aang to point out that they’re supposed to be training him.  Katara leaves to clean up while Toph then rallies the guys to head to town for some fun.

Sokka wants a messenger hawk, but they only have a single silver piece left.  Toph has a plan to hustle the hustlers, which ends with the trio gleefully returning to their camp with lots of supplies.  Aang and Sokka explain what happened, leading Katara to worry about it becoming a habit.  Although Aang ‘avatar promises’ that it won’t, a montage of them doing scams ensues.

Back at the campsite, Katara is worried about them attracting attention to themselves.  Yeah… it’s definitely telling about where the group’s priorities have to be when that’s her biggest concern.  She then psychoanalyzes Toph, but I suspect she’s more projecting about the younger girl missing her parents than having made a deduction.  When Katara brings up their previous encounter with Combustion Man, Sokka suggests “Sparky-Sparky Boom Man” as a nickname.  Toph stomps off, leading Sokka to leave to spend money.

Sokka buys ‘Hawky’, warning him that they already have a lemur in ‘Team Avatar’.  The teen nearly misses the wanted poster for Toph.  Aang and Katara are training in the nearby river (?) when Sokka returns to their camp.  He attempts to show her the poster, which calls her the Runaway in a title drop, forgetting that she’s blind.  After he explains the poster, Toph is more excited than anything else.  Sokka is concerned about the extra attention as they’re supposed to be lying low, but she manages to bribe him into staying quiet.  Katara and Aang show up, the former rueful about Hawky.  Momo instantly goes on the offensive, leading to a fight between the two critters.

Team Mom

Later, Katara bends some soup into Appa’s mouth.  That’s not only neat, but it helps showcase how bending can be practically used given how often it’s depicted as part of fighting.  Aang is at the camp, while Sokka and Toph return after more scamming.


The teenage girl tries to show Toph the wanted poster, making the younger girl annoyed because she’s blind and can’t see it.  It turns out Katara went through her stuff, eventually admitting that she did so because she knew something was up and not because it was ‘messy’.

Katara and Toph get into a fight, ultimately stomping off in opposite directions.  After some time, Sokka reveals his ‘plan’ to Aang, pleasing the younger boy.  Sokka uses Hawky to send a message to Katara with Toph’s signature.  His sister yells at him as she sees right through the plan, tearing up the note before leaving.  Aang suggests doing the inverse, but Sokka rightfully suspects they’d run into “a similar problem”.

Under a ridge, Katara is moping in some water (and I think she might be naked… were the censors asleep?!).  Sokka and Toph end up on the ledge above, the former admitting that his sister has her flaws but was strong and responsible following their mother’s death.  He confesses that nowadays, when he tries to remember his mother’s face all he can see is Katara’s.  Admitting that Katara can be motherly but that makes the other girl compassionate and kind, Toph adds that she cares more about the real her than her biological mother.  Toph punches Sokka in the arm and warns him against telling Katara any of this.

I have to wonder if Sokka predicted where his sister would go and thus set up this situation.  It’s not impossible, but as seen in the previous scene, usually he’s not that subtle with his plans.  However, that same scene has Sokka acknowledge he needs to do this without Hawky so maybe this was Sokka’s plan.

As they all return to the camp, Toph tries to apologize to Katara but the other girl reaches out by offering to pull a scam with her.  Both guys are overwhelmed/baffled, ending up on the ground.

Bending Power!

There’s a brief voiceover prior to the opening scene being shown again.  However, Toph gets put in a wooden cell while Katara is confronted by the Combustion Man while trying to obtain the reward money.

Aang and Sokka leave to check on the girls, leaving Appa in charge.  When the other two critters start growling, one growl from the bigger creature shuts them up.  Heh.

Katara and Toph are grumpy in the wooden cell, the latter having realized that they’re the bait for trapping Aang.  The older girl grouses before admitting that she wanted to prove that she was “fun” too.  The girls end up bonding.

The town is seemingly abandoned, with Combustion Man up on a roof.  Aang and Sokka narrowly avoid his first attack, the man coming down to attack again.

Toph admits that she left her meteor bracelet back at their camp out of fear it’d be taken from her.  Katara brushes sweat off her brow, causing an epiphany.  She starts to run in place to create sweat to bend (by cutting through the wooden boards, they can therefore escape).

“Katara, you’re a genius!” declares Toph.  “A sweaty, stinky genius!”

The guys are fleeing from Combustion Man, Aang suggesting that they split up.  But Combustion Man obviously focuses on the preteen and he ends up thrown at the Ozai statue, therefore weakened.  Katara comes to Aang’s rescue by freezing some water (sweat?) around their foe’s head.

The group flees, Toph using a boulder to block a blow.  A bit of rubble hits his tattoo, causing Combustion Man to briefly be unable to use his special type of bending.  Sokka gets inspired to dub their new foe by the name I’ve already been using for him.  They fly off on Appa.  That night, Toph wants Katara’s help to send a letter to her parents.  They use Hawky to send the letter… and apparently forgot to check with Sokka first.


A solid episode where Toph and Katara bonded and learned to understand each other better.  I suspect after these events that Toph will be more cautious in how frequently she ‘scams the scammers’ while Katara will be less rigid in what the others find fun.  Sokka highlights to Toph (and the viewers) how fast his little sister had to grow up following the death of their mother.

It’s not brought up, but Sokka only really had to try to be a man after his father’s departure only a few years ago.  Out of the main cast, I suspect that Katara and Zuko had to grow up the fastest- but none of them got a normal childhood or teenage-hood.  Particularly as Zuko is at most seventeen and he’s the oldest.  Speaking of whom, Zuko and the other Fire Nation teens didn’t show up at all here.

The Combustion Man got his name in the show proper at last, and the viewers at least saw that he has a weakness.  But to the Gaang, he’s still an enigmatic, nigh unstoppable threat.

That tongue-in-cheek gag is the only moment where Katara really ‘mothers’ Aang and this episode highlights that being maternal is Katara’s default behavior towards people she cares about.  Overall, this episode was largely a ‘breather’ episode.  This season has been having a lot of those as the show builds up to the invasion on the day of the eclipse- mostly to flesh out various characters and to set up for the series finale.

This episode only got one page in the art book.  There’s a black-and-white design of the Ozai statue (and how it functions), three posters and their translations (amusingly enough, the authorities think Toph isn’t really blind), some sketches of the Town Authority’s facial expressions, and at the bottom is a “background design” of the town.


Next time on Avatar: I’m not watching and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!


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