Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: Book 2—”Avatar Day,” “The Blind Bandit”
I don’t know if these two episodes just caught me in a really good mood, but damn, “Avatar Day” and “The Blind Bandit” is the best one-two punch I’ve experienced from this show so far.
Aside from a few Zuko scenes, there’s nothing about “Avatar Day” that appears as if it will have much impact on the season arc. It’s very monster of the week-y. But it’s also the funniest ATLA episode to date, and that includes secret tunnellllllllll. I laughed so many times, and not in an Internet way where you type “LOL” but really you’re just staring at the screen with a slightly bored expression on your face.
Writer John O’Bryan, I’ve got your back.
We start with a spider making a web in Sokka’s mouth while he sleeps—Jesus Christ, what kind of show IS this?!
Momo tries to catch and eat the spider, which leads to the Sokka line “What are you doing in my mouth?!” I’ll take lines from the ATLA porn parody for $200, Alex.
I’m not apologizing for that, and you can deal.
Team Avatar is attacked by Fire Nation soldiers on rhino… things… and they manage to escape, but they have to leave Sokka’s boomerang behind. That upsets him, because it diminishes his identity as BOOMERANG GUY. Oh, also, you do not attack Aang with dynamite.
The village Aang, Katara, and Sokka have escaped to happens to be celebrating Avatar Day, which is great and wonderful! Until it turns out Avatar Day is a day to burn the Avatar in effigy because 300-some years ago Avatar Kyoshi killed the town’s great leader, and everyone’s buzz is still a little harshed over it.
Not Aang but Katara immediately jumps into “OH, FUCK NO!” mode and douses the flames. Then Aang reveals himself as the Avatar, which is a leeeettle awkward. He pinky swears that killing isn’t his thing at all. Katara backs him up, saying it’s really shitteous to question the Avatar’s honor like that (Zuko in the background: HONOR!!!). Aang, determined that people not think he was a murderer in a past life even though the only people who think that are clearly flipping insane (seriously, this is a village of weirdos), agrees to stand trial against the advice of Sokka and Katara, who rightly point out that he kind of has better things to do. Aang wins Sokka over by appealing to his inner CSI fan and promising his bud that he can be the detective in charge of proving his innocence. Meanwhile, Katara:
While Aang’s locked up in prison, Katara and Sokka visit the scene of the crime, where they discover evidence pointing to Kyoshi not having killed the old leader. But it’s all circumstantial, so they’ll have to zip over to Kyoshi Island to get more definitive proof. And Sokka has a bubble pipe:
Over at Kyoshi Island, whom should we see again but FOAMING MOUTH GUY…
…who’s very disappointed and ashamed when he founds out Aang isn’t there. Sokka asks after Suki, who left to fight the war after Team Avatar inspired her. Man, Sokka just can’t catch a break in the romance department, can he? His first girlfriend turns into the moon, and now this. Not to get into specifics (except for the specific fact that Kyoshi had the BIGGEST FEET OF ANY AVATAR), but Katara and Sokka find pretty solid evidence that Kyoshi couldn’t have killed leader dude, even though Katara keeps inadvertently stepping on her brother’s A-HA moments!
Meanwhile, Aang’s been chilling in prison, where he’s living with a whole bunch of really scary-looking dudes… who, it turns out, just want to give him advice about his crush on Katara. They’re all softies. Also, there’s this brilliant sight gag where Aang nonchalantly removes the stocks he was put into. I love this episode.
When Katara and Sokka get back to the mainland they’re told that evidence is great and all, but really the Mayor just decides who’s right and who’s wrong. Aang fails at being his own defense attorney, because a public speaker he is not, so in a last-ditch attempt for her friend not to be sentenced to death, Katara dresses him in Avatar Kyoshi’s old clothes in the hopes that it might get her to… IDK, appear or something. It’s the POWER OF STUFF.
Kyoshi does appear at the last minute… to tell the assembled crowd that she did kill the great leader, so HUH? WHAT NOW?! WHAT.
Basically, the so-called great leader was actually a tyrant who tried to conquer Kyoshi’s home, so she was like FUCK NO and used her fans and bending powers to CARVE HER HOMELAND OFF FROM THE MAINLAND and form Kyoshi Island.
In the process the great leader accidentally suffered a Disney Death,aka falling off a cliff, so we get Kyoshi being able to say she killed him in this big climatic moment without Nickelodeon having to give us a hero who straight-up murders a dude, even a bad one.
Aang is found guilty and sentenced to being boiled in oil. Only then the Fire Nation soldiers from earlier show up, and Mr. Mayor decides if Aang saves the village they’ll be even. Aang (wearing Kyoshi’s makeup the whole time, which is a lovely detail), Katara, and Sokka take care of business, Sokka retrieving his boomerang in the process (“You do always come back!”). The day is saved, and the Mayor decides to turn Avatar Day into a celebration of the Avatar.
And now that I’ve gone through all the fun shit that happens this episode, it’s time for Real Ultimate Sadness. We see that Zuko’s taken to robbing people so that he and Iroh can live a life on the run that’s somewhat in keeping with the level of luxury they’re accustomed to. Z-Dawg. You’re forgetting the “give to the poor part.” Iroh points out that there’s “simple honor in poverty” and begs his nephew not succumb to despair.
Zuko thinks about the Wise Sick Beats his uncle just dropped and comes to the conclusion that they should no longer travel together. What?! No! I know this is all part of Zuko figuring out what path his life should take, and now that he’s heard what Iroh has to say it probably is good for him to have some time to himself. But it still hurts!
“The Blind Bandit”
AKA “OK, let’s see why everyone flips their shit over this Toph girl.”
Their Avatar Day misadventures over, Team Avatar has renewed their hunt for an earthbending master for Aang. They come across this guy named Master Yu, but since his method of choice for getting students is handing out flyers with coupons on them, it’s a fair bet that he’s probably not up to the task of teaching the Avatar.
Aang goes to a lesson all the same and hears two teenagers—I’ll call them Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee—talking about an earthbending tournament. They’ve very helpful and tell Team Avatar that the tourney’s taking place on the island of Nunya… NUNYA BUSINESS.
Katara vows to find out where the tournament’s being held, and you think she’s going to use her Feminine Wiles, but really she just beats the dudes up. That’s one of the things I love about this episode: Katara spends the whole time intimidating teenage boys, while Sokka suffers through continual shopping anxiety. ATLA doesn’t care for your gender stereotypes, thanks.
The trio goes to the tourney, which is basically a WWE match. Needless to say, Sokka’s digging it. We meet THE BOULDER (of “is conflicted” fame), who proceeds to wail on everyone he goes up against. Until, that is, it’s time for him to go up against the reigning champion, “The Blind Bandit,” a 12-year-old blind girl named Toph.
There’s that famous exchange (“THE BOULDER feels conflicted about fighting a young, blind girl!” “Sounds to me like you’re scared, BOULDER!” “THE BOULDER is over his conflicted feelings?), and then Toph takes THE BOULDER out in like two seconds. Aang is convinced that Toph is meant to be his earthbending master, because she “listens to the Earth” in a way that no one else he’s seen does. Oh, and also because the vision he saw in “The Swamp” was of her. That vision had a pet flying boar, and
Aang Katara uses that knowledge (and the aforementioned power of intimidating teenage boys) to figure out that the mysterious “Blind Bandit” must be one of the rich and powerful Bei Fong family, whose crest is a flying boar.
Does this mean we don’t actually to get see a flying boar ever? I’m sad.
But before that, at the earthbending tournament, Aang challenges Toph to a fight, because it’s his best way to talk to her. He uses his airbending skillz to float above the ground, meaning Toph doesn’t “hear” him. So he beats her pretty quickly, leaving her not too keep on helping him out.
But anyway. As previously explained, Team Avatar tracks Toph to a mansion, where her family keeps her hidden from the rest of the world. Their efforts to sneak in aren’t so successful when “I speak to the Earth” Toph is around, and she tells them to GTFO because she literally does not give even a tenth of a shit whether Aang learns earthbending or not. She then does a “weak little girl” routine and calls in the guards, saying she thought she heard someone prowling around and she’s sooooo scaaaaaared.
But Aang’s not ready to give up. Oh, no. Behold: His “I have a plan” face.
From there we meet Toph’s father, who’s convinced that his daughter’s a weak little girl who can’t engage in any sort of behavior that’s too dangerous for her delicate constitution, including any earthbending that’s above the most basic level. Hah. Toph is less than impressed with his fatherly devotion (see top pic).
This happy family time is interrupted by an unannounced visit from Aang, who’s discovered that a perk of being the Avatar is that he can welcome himself to any rich dude’s house he wants. As long as said rich dude isn’t a firebender, I guess. There’s a supremely awkward dinner where Aang keeps hinting at Toph’s earthbending prowess and Toph keeps using said earthbending prowess to kick him from all the way across the table. Oh, and then Aang sneezebends.
After dinner, Aang and Toph have a slightly more amicable chat, and Toph explains that she became The Blind Bandit to cope with the way her parents treat her like she’s helpless. Aang asks her to come with them, but she says she can’t leave her parents, because… well, they’re her parents. And she’s 12. She kind of has a point there, Aang. Anywhoodle, the conversation is put on hold when THE BOULDER and the Ringmaster, both convinced that Toph threw her fight with Aang earlier, show up and kidnap them.
They leave a ransom note, and Sokka’s thrilled he has THE BOULDER’s autograph, while Toph’s mom is in a panic about how terrified her daughter must be. Cut to Toph telling the Ringleader she will SMACK HIS FACE OFF HIS FACE, GOD DAMMIT. Her parents show up with the ransom, so she’s free, but Aang’s going to get sold to the Fire Nation. Katara and Sokka can’t fight the army of WWE earthbenders by themselves, so Toph has a choice: She can reveal her earthbending powers to her parents and help Aang, or she can keep on the way she has been.
Not surprisingly, Toph chooses the former and delivers a beat-down of epic proportions in front of her shocked parents. She earthbends the SHIT out of them like it’s nothing, while her dad sits chewing his nails on the sidelines and Katara and Sokka break Aang out of his cage. Master Yu is like HOLY SHIT, YOUR DAUGHTER IS THE BEST EARTHBENDER I’VE EVER SEEN.
After the fight, Toph explains to her parents that she loves fighting, and she loves being an earthbender, and she hopes they can accept her for who she really is. So of course her father insists that she needs more protecting and orders that she be guarded 24/7 “for her own good.” These are not your garden variety overprotective parents here; they’re so worried about their child being hurt that they hide the fact that she even exists from the entire world. She doesn’t have any friends. She can’t leave the house. That’s messed up. It’s abusive.
So Toph escapes that situation, running off in the dead of night to tell Aang “Oh, yeah, my dad totally changed his mind and let me, his twelve year old daughter whom he wouldn’t even let out of the house before now, go with complete strangers on a quest to end a war.” And Aang buys it, because it probably does’t even occur to him that A) Toph is totally lying, or B) Toph’s father really isn’t that understanding. Aang. I love that you are an idealistic little cupcake, but you might want to work on your perceptiveness a little bit. Surely either Katara or Sokka have to think something about this is fishy, right?
And, of course, it is. We end the episode with Papa Toph telling the Ringleader and Master Yu that the Avatar kidnapped his daughter. He has a shit-ton of gold, and he’s willing to authorize whatever behavior to bring her back.
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