Chapter Seven:
The Spirit World (Winter Solstice part 1)

Written by: Aaron Ehasz
Head Writer: Aaron Ehasz
Directed by: Lauren Macmullan

Voices provided by:
Aang: Zach Tyler Eisen   Katara: Mae Whitman   Sokka: Jack DeSena
Prince Zuko: Dante Basco   Uncle Iroh: Mako  Appa: Dee Bradley Baker
Old Wanderer: James Shigeta   (village) Leader: Mike Hagiwara  
(Earth Kingdom) Captain: Andre Sogliuzzo

Episode Recap

The sound of chirping echoes in the treetops. A red ribbon hawk flies overhead but flies further off when Appa’s shadow lingers above the clouds. Katara gazes down in awe at the clouds, wondering what it would be like to land in a big soft cottony heap. Sokka suggests that she should try it, and at this comment, Katara glares at him and sarcastically says he’s hilarious. However, Aang does follow Sokka’s advice and jumps off of Appa with his glider in hand. Katara and Sokka hurry to the look over the side with worried expressions as Aang falls through the clouds. But a few moments later, Aang flies up behind them and lands safely on Appa’s back. “Turns out clouds are made of water” he says, dripping wet. He uses his airbending to dry himself off, and this causes Momo’s huge ears to fluff out (lol).

Appa is soaring through the sky when Katara spots a large scorched patch of land. The companions descend and observe all the chopped, charred trees and listen uneasily to the unearthly silence. Sokka points out fire nation footprints and begins to yell in outrage, but Katara silences him when she sees Aang looking at the ground in distress. Aang falls to the ground and picks up the blackened dirt left after the destruction and blames himself for what happened, since it is his duty to protect nature. But he doesn’t know how to do his job. Katara says that’s why they’re going to the North Pole, to find him a teacher. But Aang replies “Yeah, to find a Waterbending teacher. But there’s no one who can teach me how to be the Avatar. Monk Gyatso said that Avatar Roku would help me.” Aang says despairingly. The three are stumped in finding a way to contact Avatar Roku since he died over 100 years ago.

Elsewhere in a forest, we watch as Zuko strides through some trees, shouting Uncle Iroh’s name. He spots the fire nation clothing hanging on a branch and notices his uncle in a hot spring. Zuko tells his uncle that they are closing in on the Avatar, but Iroh nonchalantly puts this thought aside and asks for his nephew to come and join him and relax. When Zuko urgently tells his uncle to get out of the hot springs, Iroh stands up and Zuko looks away and tells his uncle to meet them at the ship within thirty minutes or he’s leaving without him.

In an attempt to cheer Aang up, Katara throws an acorn at Aang’s head as well as Sokka’s. Katara kneels down next to Aang and holds up the acorn and places it in his hand, saying, “These acorns are all over place. That means the forest will grow back. And all the birds and animals that lived here will come back.” Aang smiles and thanks her. The three gaze up when they see an old man with a cane approaches them. He said he saw a flying bison, and thought it was impossible, but after pointing out Aang’s tattoos, the old man tentatively asks, “Are you the Avatar, child?” Aang looks at Katara who nods her head, and then turns back to the old man and agrees. The old man then says that his village desperately needs his help.

They arrive at his small village near sunset. Some of the houses have been destroyed, and Aang is taken to the largest building near the back. Once there, they meet with the leader of the village, but he is not sure that Aang can help them. The old man says that Aang is their only hope, and he tells them their situation. “For the last few days at sunset, a spirit monster comes and attacks our village. He is Hei-Bai, the black and white spirit.” Sokka asks why it attacks them, and the leader answers that they don’t know. But for the past three nights, it has abducted one of their own. They are especially fearful because the Winter Solstice draws near. The old man explains that during this time, the natural world and the spirit world grow closer and closer until (on the day of the solstice), the line between them blurs completely.

Aang is a bit uncomfortable about what to do. He has no knowledge on the spirit world, but the old man assures him, “Whom better to resolve a crisis between the spirit world and our world than the Avatar himself? You are the great bridge between man and spirits.”

After all the explanations, Katara pulls Aang aside and asks him if he is alright with helping this village. Aang is at first uncomfortable, but says he has to try, and maybe whatever he has to do will just come to him. Katara says she believes in him and Sokka says “Yeah… we’re all gonna get eaten by a spirit monster.”

At the hot springs, Iroh has snoozed off and is awakened by a meadow vole. The meadow vole leaps up and down, trying to warn Iroh, but an upward landslide traps Iroh in his place. Earthbenders approach the imprisoned man and recognize his clothes as a fire nation soldier. “He’s no ordinary soldier. This is the Fire Lord’s brother, the Dragon of the West. The once great General Iroh. But now, he’s our prisoner.” Says the captain of the group, and Iroh glares from his spot.

The sun is beginning to sink behind the mountains. Aang walks alone into the center of the village calling out for the Hei-Bai spirit and saying that he wants to help stuff. Katara and Sokka watch him from the window of the main building, Sokka grumbling about how they can’t just sit here and cower while Aang waits for some monster to show up. The old man tries to comfort him by saying that if anyone can save them it’s Aang, but Sokka says that Aang still shouldn’t have to face this alone.

The sun has set, and there is still no sign of the Hei-Bai spirit. With a dramatic thrust of his hand toward the village entrance, Aang hereby asks the spirit to please leave the village in peace, then spins his staff overhead and pounds it to the ground. After another few moments of silence, Aang, figuring that it’s all settled then, begins to walk back. But out of the shadows outside the village gates, a large black and white spirit appears and follows Aang.

Aang tries to introduce himself, but the Hei-Bai spirit lets out a powerful roar (which appears as a blue and white beam) and begins to wreck havoc on the village houses. Meanwhile, Sokka and Katara are waiting inside, watching Aang alone trying to talk to the spirit. Sokka is anxious to go out and help Aang fight this monster, but the old man tells Sokka that only the Avatar stands a chance against the Hei-Bai. Katara reassures him that Aang will figure it out.

The Hei-Bai continues to destroy the village while Aang, ineffectively, tries to talk the spirit into stopping. Finally raising his voice at the spirit to turn around and face him, Hei-Bai slams into Aang, sending him flying into another building. Fed up with waiting, Sokka rushes out and throws his boomerang, which does very little damage to this huge spirit monster. Aang tells Sokka to go back, but he tells them they’ll fight it together. Aang tries to tell him that he doesn’t want to fight it unless he has to, but Hei-Bai comes up behind them and captures Sokka. Aang takes flight on his glider and follows Hei-Bai as it runs out of the village. Katara runs to the gateway where she watches them disappear within the deep folds of the forest.

The sky is tinged a darkening blue, and Zuko goes to the hot springs where he finds his uncle missing. He spots the earth shaped into jagged peaks inside the hot spring and realizes his uncle has been captured by earthbenders.

Aang is gliding through the forest. As the trees start to thin out, Aang reaches out his hand to grab Sokka’s, but at that moment, the spirit monster, along with Sokka, disappear. Aang plummets down in front of a statue of a bear and awakens underneath the moonlight. “I failed,” Aang says disheartened.

The earthbenders who have captured Iroh are using lanterns to guide their way, and are riding atop armored ostriches. Iroh, bound by ropes and chains and wearing only a cloth, rides along on one of the ostriches. He asks where he is being taken to and the captain answers him in riddles. “A place you’re quite familiar with, actually. You once laid siege to it for six hundred days, but it would not yield to you.” Iroh respectfully recognizes it as the great city of Ba Sing Se. The captain quips that it was apparently greater than he was, and Iroh retorts that he acknowledged his defeat at Ba Sing Se. He goes on to ramble about how after 600 days he and his men were tired, and saying he is still tired, falls off of the ostrich’s back. The earthbenders surround him and get him back on his feet. They are unaware of the fact that he left a sandal on the trail, and at this Iroh smirks.

Back at the village gateway, Katara has been waiting for Sokka and Aang to return, and holding Sokka’s boomerang in her hand. The old man comes up to her and says he’s sure they’ll come back. She says she knows, but when she makes no attempt to leave, the old man places his shawl-coat over her shoulders. She tells herself that everything will be okay, but then turns to the side in despair. The old man tries to reassure her by saying that her brother is in good hands, and that he would be shocked if the Avatar would return without him.

At this Aang reaches the entrance and apologizes to Katara, saying he lost him. It is daybreak now, but Katara and the old man take no notice of Aang, who is still in shades of blue. Frustrated, Aang waves his hands in front of the man, but it has no reaction. It’s then Aang sees that he is transparent when the sun’s rays shine through his arm. With shock, he realizes, “I’m in the spirit world!”

Finding a sandal on the path, Zuko sniffs it once and immediately cringes from the stench, yet recognizes it as being his uncle’s. He hops back onto his komodo rhino and continues on his way.

Katara still waits tiredly at the entrance, while Aang promises her that he’ll figure this out. Apparently, Appa can’t see Aang either when he walks up to Katara to cheer her up. Together they walk back into the village and Aang sighs, “What am I suppose to do?” H then calls out into the forest, “Avatar Roku! How can I talk to you?” At that moment, he hears a noise and sees a dragon flying towards him. Aang tries to use his glider to get away, but falls immediately to the ground. He then tries to use airbending, but nothing happens. Aang realizes that he has no control of the elements in the Spirit World.

The dragon lands and approaches Aang, who backs away in fear when he extends a whisker to Aang’s forehead. An image immediately appears telepathically in Aang’s mind. He sees Avatar Roku riding the very dragon in front him. Aang now realizes that the dragon before him is Avatar Roku’s animal guide, like Appa is to Aang. He tells the dragon that he needs to save his friend, but he doesn’t know how. He asks if there is any way for him to talk to Roku, and the dragon lowers his neck to the ground. Aang climbs up behind the dragon’s head and they take off quickly.

Uncle Iroh looks up in the sky and sees Aang riding this dragon. He lets out a gasp, which alerts his captor’s attention. When the captain asks him if there is a problem, Iroh complains about his shackles being too loose. The captain gazes confusedly at Iroh’s requests and he goes on to explain how his old joints are sore and the shackles jangle around and bump his wrists. The captain agrees and orders the corporal to tighten the prisoner’s shackles. Iroh cleverly heats the shackles with heat from his nostrils and holds the corporal’s hands there, making him scream in agony. Iroh jumps off the back of the ostrich, shoots out flames from his feet to startle the ostriches, and begins to roll over the side of the pathway. In all the confusion, the captain spots Iroh as he rolls over the edge.

Aang is taken to a crescent-shaped island with a volcano and temple. The dragon leads him through the temple and up through the ceiling to a huge, richly designed statue of Avatar Roku. Aang still is bursting with questions to ask, and Roku’s dragon gives him an image of a comet. When Aang asks the dragon when he can see Roku, he shows the days passing by and the light from the red gem window shining on different places at his feet and on the statue. Aang understands now that he has to talk to Roku on the solstice and that the symbol in front of him is the Chinese character for winter. But he tells the dragon that he can’t wait that long to save his friend, and so they leave the island.

Iroh is rolling down the cliff, bracing all injuries along the way. Before he gets too far, the Captain sends dirt over the fire general’s body to stop him in place. The three earthbenders surround the trapped man and decide to punish Iroh, since he is too dangerous to simply be carried to the capital.

Katara and Appa are now searching for Aang and Sokka through the skies. But not finding anything, Katara decides they’re best hope is to just wait for them back at village. Zuko happens to spot them in the sky. He looks in front of him at the footprints he’s been following and then back at the flying bison.

Aang soars on the back of Avatar Roku’s guide through the burnt forest, when he sees his body sitting cross-legged on top of the bear statue. Aang braces for impact as the dragon slams into the statue, disappearing. Once back in his body, Aang looks around at the destroyed trees. He leaps down and gazes at the bear statue more closely before flying off on his glider.

The sun is beginning to set, and Katara is overjoyed to see Aang gliding back, but worried when she does not see Sokka accompanied with him. Aang regretfully says he’s not sure. Night begins to transcend.

Iroh is forced to place his shackled hands on a boulder where they are to be crushed. The captain earthbends another boulder above Iroh’s hands and forces it down, but before it reaches them Zuko intercepts and kicks the boulder aside (man he’s strong). He splits the chains bounding Iroh’s hands with his heel and the two ready their stance. Iroh compliments Zuko on his excellent form, and Zuko replies that he taught him well. The captain calls out reason, “Surrender yourselves. It’s five against two. You are clearly outnumbered.” Cunningly, Iroh replies, “Ahh… that’s true; but you are clearly outmatched.”

A fight between the Earthbenders and Firebenders takes place. Iroh uses the now broken chains to break the rocks thrown at him. Zuko swiftly dodges the boulders aimed in his direction and takes out two soldiers with firebending kicks. A large boulder is thrown at Iroh, but he uses the chains to grab hold of it and swings it back at the Earthbenders. Only the captain remains, and easily avoids and counteracts Zuko’s fire attacks. He raises two giant columns of earth high above him, but Iroh’s chains wrap around the Earthbender’s ankles and pulls him down, and the earth buries him. Together, Iroh and Zuko make a great team in taking out the earthbenders. When the fight has ended within a few short minutes, Zuko places his shoulder on his uncle’s shoulder and says, “Now, will you please put on some clothes!” (He still has the cloth around his mid section).

Aang is again waiting at the village’s entrance, as Katara and the villages watch from the main building. With no response, Aang begins to walk back as wind swings bell chimes hanging on a village house. Suddenly Hei-Bai makes its appearance once more as it crashes through a house. Katara yells out to Aang, telling him to run, but Aang runs up to the beast before he reaches the building they are in and touches the spirit’s forehead. He sees an image of a panda and recognizes it as the spirit of this forest. He understands that it is angry because of the burned forest and the spirit’s lost home. After soothing Hei-Bai, he holds up an acorn to show that the forest would return someday. He places this on the ground and the spirit picks it up between his fingertips and leaves through the gateway, transforming into a panda. Upon leaving, bamboo sprouts out, and the abducted people (including Sokka) walk out of it.

Katara spots Sokka and rushes to him. Sokka confusedly asks what happens, and Katara explains that he’s been in the spirit world for the past 24 hours. The village leader thanks Aang greatly and asks if they can do anything for him. Sokka mentions the necessity of supplies and money, and the villagers gladly prepare it. While they are preparing, Aang tells Sokka and Katara that he figured out a way to contact Roku’s spirit. There’s a crescent-shaped island with a temple, and if he goes there on the solstice, he can speak with him. But Katara exclaims that the solstice is tomorrow, and Aang says that’s not the only factor that hinders them. “The island (where the temple is) is in the fire nation.”

-- Recap by Daxiaoqiao