Book Two: Earth  -  Chapter One:
The Avatar State

Written by: Aaron Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch Ehasz, Tim Hedrick, John O'Bryan
Head Writer: Aaron Ehasz
Directed by: Giancarlo Volpe

Voices provided by:
Aang: Zach Tayler Eisen   Katara: Mae Whitman   Sokka: Jack DeSena
Prince Zuko: Dante Basco   Uncle Iroh: Mako   Appa/Momo: Dee Bradley Baker
Master Pakku: Victor Brandt   Princess Azula: Grey DeLisle   Captain: Robin Atkin Downes   Avatar Roku: James Garrett   General Fong: Daniel Dae Kim  

Episode Recap

Steadily, the obscure images come into focus. Aang is at the Southern Air Temple where he finds his own self looking at the skeleton of Monk Gyatso, the guardian who cared for Aang 100 years ago. The ‘other Aang’ turns around and glares with his eyes and tattoos glowing from being in the Avatar State. Suddenly they are outside, and a powerful sphere of energy surrounds the ‘other Aang’. Katara and Sokka are watching from behind the rocks, when the other Aang releases the energy and blows everyone away.

The winds from his avatar self blow Aang into the Fire Temple on the crescent-shaped island previously visited in Episode 8. Aang watches as the door opens to reveal his other self once more in the Avatar State. The Avatar lashes out and the floor splits open beneath Aang. He lands on a Fire Navy ship in the North Pole when the Ocean Spirit faces him with the water encasing his avatar form. With a slice from the Ocean Spirit and his Avatar self, Aang springs awake. After he catches his breath, Aang makes his way up the ladder. Katara awakens by the sound and follows suit.

She follows him to the deck of the Water Nation boat and asks Aang if he wants to talk about it. Aang tells her no, saying it was just a nightmare. He continues to tell her how he was in the Avatar State, but he was outside his body watching himself. “It was scary. I was scary.” She comfortingly puts her hand on his shoulder.

The next day, the three travelers are given gifts from Master Pakku. Katara receives an icicle-shaped amulet filled with sacred water from the oasis, and is capped with a crescent-shaped lid. Aang is given a box of scrolls that will help him in his waterbending training. Lastly, Sokka comes up beaming, expecting similar gifts, but instead he receives a pat on the shoulder and told to take care of everyone. Afterwards, Master Pakku instructs them to head east to the Earth Kingdom Base where General Fong will provide them escorts to King Bumi in Omashu. There, Aang will be safe and able to learn Earthbending. As the three travelers (and Momo!) take off on Appa, Katara shouts back to Master Pakku to “say ‘Hi’ to Gran-Gran!” for her.

Pink cherry blossoms fall lightly on a town located on top of a river, where Uncle Iroh receives a well-deserved massage after “three weeks without food and water and sea vultures ready to pick out their liver.” Zuko is sitting down and leaning against the wall while wearing a ‘China Man’s’ hat. Uncle Iroh comes up to him and says, “It’s the anniversary, isn’t it?”

“Three years ago today I was banished. I lost it all. I want it back. I want the Avatar; I want my honor, my throne.” Zuko concludes sentimentally, “I want my father, not to think I’m worthless.” (~_~)

At this, Uncle Iroh attempts to cheer Zuko up by saying that why would his father banish him if he didn’t care, but Zuko stands up and walks off. Iroh glances towards the masseurs and mutters that that came out wrong. ^^;

And now, a new character enters the Avatar story. We see a large Fire Nation ship and on it two long rows of soldiers bowing down, facing each other. The door opens and a covered sedan chair is carried out by four men. Two of them pull back the front curtain and an attractive girl in Fire Nation apparel steps out. She motions for the soldiers to rise, and narrates on how her brother and uncle have disgraced the Fire Lord and brought shame to all of them. “You may have mixed feelings about attacking members of the royal family, I understand. But I assure you, if you hesitate, I will not hesitate to bring you down. Dismissed.”

As the soldiers depart, the captain comes down and reports to Princess Azula that the tides will not allow them to dock before night fall. She acts obtuse and asks him to explain. Then she asks him, “Do the tides command this ship?” At first the captain does not understand, but Azula makes her point quite clearly in her next few words. All you need to know is that when Princess Azula’s eyes are set on the goal, it doesn’t matter if she has to throw a few men overboard.

Meanwhile, Appa soars through the sky and Sokka points out the Earth Kingdom Base. A circular stone wall surrounds it with a pagoda in the center. When they land, they are greeted by General Fong and his 20 men who address them with respectful titles. Fireworks then burst into the sky from green capsules shot by Earthbender soldiers.

In a dimly lit room at the top of the pagoda, General Fong divulges his knowledge about the Northern Water Tribe attack and how Aang single-handedly took out the Fire Navy fleet. His point is that he believes Aang is ready to face the Fire Lord. Aang has this flabbergasted look on his face and Katara backs him up by saying that Aang still has to master all four elements. General Fong persists, saying that with Aang’s powers to wipe out hundreds of battleships in minutes, he can defeat the Fire Lord now.

Sokka interrupts saying that Aang can only do that when he’s in the Avatar State. General Fong says he’s well aware that Aang’s eyes and tattoos glow and when he is in that state, he possesses unbelievable power. He continues, saying that with that power leading the way, as the “ultimate weapon”, the Earth Kingdom soldiers could go straight to the heart of the Fire Nation. Aang hesitates, saying that he doesn’t know how to get in or out of the Avatar State, and General Fong quickly says; “It’s decided then. I’ll help you figure out how to get into the Avatar State and then you’ll face your destiny.”

At this Katara counters back, saying that they already have a plan. Aang will face his destiny his own way. General Fong says that while they take their time learning the elements, the war goes on. Aang is brought to a window and General Fong shows him the wounded soldiers returning from the infirmary. “Those are the lucky ones. They came back. People are dying, Aang. You could end it. Now.”

Nearing sunset on the Fire Nation ship, Azula trains on the deck while two identical old ladies with their gray hair in buns scrutinize her movements. She shoots a beam of lightning into the open air and one of the ladies says, “Almost perfect.” While the other lady states “One hair out of place.” A crazed look enters Azula’s eyes as she glares at the misplaced hair and says, “Almost isn’t good enough,” and pushes the hair back. (Such a perfectionist). She does the lightning attack once more and Iroh wakes up in the place he and his nephew are staying at.

It is dark at the Base, and Aang tells General Fong that he’s in -- that he’ll fight the Fire Lord in the Avatar State. He returns to bed and tells Katara and Sokka. Katara strongly disagrees that this is not the right way, but Sokka reminds her of how incredible Aang was when he took out the Fire Navy. She argues that the right way takes practice and discipline, but Sokka counters with “Or, he could glow it up and stomp that Fire Lord!” Katara shouts that if they want to throw away everything they’ve worked for then fine, and exits the bedroom angrily. Aang calls after her that they don’t have time to do things the right way, but to no avail.

The next day Aang goes through several tasks, all of which don’t succeed. He is given this rare chi-enhancing tea that is supposed to increase his strength ten-fold, but instead it increases his energy and chattering. “I guess he could talk the Fire Lord to death…” Sokka mutters. For the second task Sokka tries to shock Aang into the Avatar State. Katara covers Aang’s eyes with her hands and when she moves he sees Sokka with Momo’s head screeching at him. Although it scares Aang, he doesn’t turn glowy. Sokka ends up losing balance and falls to the side. The third task is a ceremony. Aang is wearing a ceremonial piece of clothing from each of the bending nations, including an Earth Kingdom hat and a Water Tribe robe. An old man mixes the four elements of earth, water, fire, and air into a bowl and splashes it onto Aang, who says it’s just mud. “…Well, do you feel anything?” The old man asks. A moment of silence impends until Aang ends up sneezing, and the mud splatters all over Katara, Sokka, and General Fong. “We have to find a way.” He says.

Back at the tranquil village, Uncle Iroh drops his bag and shells pour out onto the wooden table. He picks some of them up saying how he’ll enjoy them for years to come, but Zuko scolds him because they have to carry everything themselves now. Across the room Azula’s voice is heard greeting them. The two turn around and Zuko asks her what she is doing here. She walks toward them, saying how ‘in her country’; pleasant hellos are exchanged before asking questions.

“Have you become uncivilized so soon, Zuzu?” She asks, and Zuko yells to not call him that. Uncle Iroh enters the conversation in a more respectful tone, but she crushes one of his shells, saying it must be a family trait to get straight to the point. She tells them that she came with a message from home. There are rumors of plans to overthrow their father, and that family are the only ones you can really trust. The mood changes when she says, “Father regrets your banishment. He wants you home.”

At this unexpected news, Zuko’s expression softens and he looks out of the window, deep within his thoughts. But Azula is impatient for an answer and when Uncle Iroh tells her that Zuko simply needs a moment, she snaps at him. She continues to prod Zuko for an answer, but sees that he needs more time. She tells him that she’ll come back for them tomorrow.

Aang and Katara are gazing out at the mountains at the sunset, leaning against the parapet. Katara asks if he remembers when he saw Gyatso’s dead corpse at the Air temple. How traumatic it must have been for him, and how she saw him get so upset that he wasn’t even himself anymore. “I’m not saying that the Avatar State doesn’t have incredible - and helpful - power, but for the people who love you, watching you be in that much rage and pain is really scary.” At these words, Aang thanks her, but still continues to go on with the training for the good of the people who die every day. “I’m already a hundred years late. Defeating the Fire Lord is the only way to stop this war. I have to try it!” Katara resigns and tells Aang that she won’t be coming to watch the next day.

It is nighttime at the village, and Zuko is ecstatic and packing his stuff for the next day. But his blissful mood makes him blind to Iroh’s advice, “I think it may not be for the reasons you imagine. In our family, things are not always what they seem.” Zuko bursts out in rage and calls his uncle a lazy, mistrustful, shallow old man who’s always been jealous of his brother. In order not to increase Zuko’s ire, Uncle Iroh says no more.

Back at the Base, Aang’s dream continues. This time, he sees himself in the water typhoon shown in Episode 2. Aang is knocked overboard by his avatar self and the avatar turns and glares at Zuko. A look of fear enters Zuko’s eyes, and he attempts to escape when his avatar self slashes out at him, causing Aang to spring awake. He then wakes up Sokka and tells him that he doesn’t want to bring on the avatar state, and asks if he thinks the General will be mad. Sokka says, “what can the General say? You’re the avatar; who knows better than you.” But Aang still looks a little unsure.

Cherry blossoms fall gently on the stone steps as Zuko descends the next day. He sees the ship in the port and Uncle calls down to him to not leave without him. Zuko has this joyful look on his face (don’t see that often ^_^) when he hears his uncle’s call. “Family sticks together, right?” Uncle places a hand on Zuko’s shoulder and a memory of his father doing the exact same thing while they look out over the hill enters his mind. (The same memory shown in Episode 12) “We’re finally going home,” Zuko says and gazes down at the ship once more along with his uncle. But as Zuko continues down the steps Iroh looks at the ship suspiciously.

At the Earth Kingdom Base, Aang tells General Fong that he has decided not to go through with the tasks anymore. The benevolent face of General Fong looks disappointed and asks him once more if he is certain. Aang tells him that the only way that he can only reach the Avatar State when he’s in genuine danger. General Fong says he was afraid of this, and Aang is completely taken by surprise when he sends his desk flying into Aang who is sent out of the top of the pagoda. Aang airbends to soften his fall and rolls out of the desk’s path just before it crashes to the ground. General Fong then gives the order for his soldiers to attack the Avatar.

Aang looks around at the gathering soldiers in disbelief, when General Fong jumps out of the pagoda and uses earthbending to land safely. Aang asks him what he’s doing, and he says, “We’re about to get results.” Desperately, Aang dodges giant coin-shaped stones (the ones with the square hole in the middle) that are sent at him from every direction.

Sokka is being held captive in the pagoda by two soldiers, but kicks back with his heels to force the men to drop and release him.

Meanwhile, Aang air scooters and dodges stones and earthen walls jutting out of the ground. He scooters up the wall surrounding the city, but two Earth soldiers riding ostriches pursue. As the air ball runs out he continues running up the wall, but the two soldiers swing their weapons ahead of him and he back flips onto the ground once more. He dodges their attack again and runs across the field where a stone coin rises up around him and he’s pulled in front of General Fong. The general yells to him that he can’t run forever, and Aang shouts back that he can’t fight forever.

At the port, sentries filed in two lines meet Zuko and Iroh. They walk in between the still sentries, Iroh gazing warily from one guard to another. The two stop before the ship and respectfully bow when Azula welcomes them. The captain asks her if they are ready to depart, and Azula sweetly says, “Set our course for home.” At the word “home,” Zuko repeats it reminiscently. Azula’s plan would have gone perfectly had it not been for the captain who orders the men to take the “prisoners” home. After a moment of silence and a deathglare to the captain from Azula, Iroh leaps at the soldiers, sending one guard after another into the water. “You lied to me!” Zuko shouts to Azula in rage, and he battles his way up onto the deck of the ship.

As Aang continues to dodge the giant stones sent at him, Katara lies in her room when she hears the ominous shuddering. Wanting to make sure Aang is okay, she gets on her feet and exits. When she reaches the bottom of the outside stairs, she meets up with Sokka and he tells her what’s going on. Together, they enter the fight. Sokka manages to mount onto an ostrich. Katara uses the water from her gourd, but ends up being surrounded by the giant stones.

It’s her against General Fong. She sends a stream of water towards Fong, but is countered by dirt rising from the ground, which turns into mud instantaneously. Ruthlessly, General Fong sinks Katara’s feet into the ground. This action makes Aang throw air at the General, but he evades it by sending up an earthen wall. Sokka attempts to rescue his sister, but General Fong sinks the ostrich’s feet and he is sent flying off and into the square hole of the coin.

By now, Katara has sunk almost halfway into the ground and Aang is begging the General to let her go. He remains implacable and says to Aang that if he were in the Avatar State, he could save her. Tears stream out of Aang’s eyes as he says he’s trying. Now only Katara’s head is above the ground, and Aang is on his knees shouting that the General doesn’t have to do this. “Apparently, I do.” He says, and Katara is completely sinks into the earth. Aang attempts to grab her before she sinks, but he is too late. His whole body shakes uncontrollably and when Aang turns around, his eyes and tattoos are glowing and a look of hatred and rage shows clearly on his face. The general grins with delight and triumph that it worked, but his expression changes when he is sent flying into the wall.

At the port, Zuko is successful on reaching the deck. He kicks out both ways, sending the two guards overboard. He steps towards Azula and dagger-like flames appear behind his fists. On the dock, Iroh is fighting more of the guards and sending each of them into the water. He looks toward the ship and shouts, “Zuko! Let’s go!” before continuing to fight.

On deck, Zuko sends a flurry of firebending slashes at Azula, who dodges each attack easily with that smirk on her face. To add salt to the wound, Azula tells Zuko that their father blames Iroh for the loss at the North Pole, and that he believes Zuko to be a “miserable failure for not finding the Avatar. Why would he want you back home, except to lock you up where you can no longer embarrass him.” She grins maliciously, and enraged Zuko persists in his offensive slashes. Azula continues to dodge his attacks, and scratches his forehead with her long nails. They battle up the steps until Azula decides to stop toying with him and grabs his wrist. They look at each other; Azula with her confident grin, and Zuko wondering what her next move will be. Rapidly, she sends a bolt of lightning shooting out of her fingertips that sends Zuko flying onto the bottom deck. Zuko hazily looks up at Azula, who is bending more lightning around her for a stronger attack. But before Azula finishes off her brother with another bolt, Iroh absorbs the bolt and directs it into a cliff. He throws her overboard (Yay ^_^) and he and Zuko run faraway from the boat.

A dirt tornado surrounds Aang and General Fong calls out to him, explaining that it was all at trick to trigger his avatar state. Katara is brought out of the earth, breathing heavily and Aang descends down, sending a powerful earth force that obliterates the area.

Suddenly his spirit separates from his body and rises into the sky where he’s picked up by Avatar Roku on his dragon. “It is time you learned,” Avatar Roku states.

The two are taken among the yellow clouds and Avatar Roku explains to Aang the purpose of the Avatar State: it is a defense mechanism, designed to empower him with the skills and knowledge of all the past Avatars. “At the Avatar State, you are at your most powerful.” When he explains the glow, four images are shown: one of Kyoshi levitating gargantuan statues; another showing a Waterbender sending a tidal wave; a third showing an Airbender directing wind powerfully against grass and trees; and a fourth showing a firebender sending magma flying out of volcanoes.

“But, you are also at your most vulnerable.”

Reincarnations of his former self are shown among the clouds. The previous avatars then line up and one by one disappear. Avatar Roku explains that if Aang is killed in the Avatar State, the reincarnation cycle will be broken and the Avatar will cease to exist.

So now Aang understands the importance and caution he must take when he is in the Avatar State. His spirit descends down into his body that is surrounded by an air shield, and Aang gazes shamefully at the devastation he has caused. Katara runs to Aang and comforts him and he apologizes to Katara, hoping that she will never see him like that ever again. But General Fong comes up at that moment, and tells Aang that his avatar state was almost perfect and that they just need to find a way to control it (can you believe him?). In his fervor, General Fong doesn’t notice Sokka riding on an ostrich and knocking him unconscious from behind. Sokka asks if the other soldiers have a problem with that, and they quickly shake their head no. The three are ready to depart for Omashu.

In the tranquil village, Azula holds up a wanted poster with the faces of Zuko and Iroh and warns the villagers that if anyone were to harbor these traitors, they would face the Fire Lord’s wrath.

Between the sakura trees, Zuko and Iroh still run onwards until they reach a glade. Here they kneel down to rest by the river. Solemnly, Zuko takes out a knife engraved with symbols on the blade and waits a moment, before cutting his hair. With that one cut, he has thrown away his honor, his throne; everything that he had been fighting for in the past since his banishment. He passes the knife to Uncle who understands as well. Both drop their cut hair into the river and the two stand together in the glade; two outcasts; two refugees.

-- Recap by Daxiaoqiao