Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Waterbending Scroll
March 16, 2015 6:07 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

Arrr! Aang, Katara, and Sokka, encounter enterprising pirates while looking for supplies in an Earth Kingdom town. Amongst their stolen wares for sale is a precious waterbending scroll replete with waterbending forms ripe for learning by Katara and Aang. Anxious to develop her skills, Katara takes drastic action to procure it. Meanwhile, mutiny occurs on Zuko's ship as General Iroh countermands an order by directing the ship to the nearest port for the emergency acquisition of a precious item. Also, Momo receives an apology.

Stealing is wrong, except when stealing from pirates.

Never be so busy fighting that you do not see your own ship set sail. - Maybe a proverb.
posted by Atreides (15 comments total)
Also: My cabbages! This place is worse than Omashu!

I like this one because along with pirates and pai sho tiles and that adorable little air bison whistle, it's all about how Katara is trying to figure out this whole waterbending thing herself, and that it's difficult when she's the only one and then Aang just moseys on over and figures out stuff she's been working on months to master. It's about perfection and teaching and accepting that, sometimes, someone's just better at things than you are, and that's cool.

And keep track of that white lotus pai sho tile. Don't lose it in your sleeve like Uncle Iroh.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:23 AM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

and accepting that, sometimes, someone's just better at things than you are, and that's cool.

And humbling. Ugh. So damn humbling. I'm not sure if it is that part of the episode that makes me dislike it or the stealing thing, even when it is from pirates.

Iroh definitely redeems it, though.
posted by jillithd at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2015

I did like how Katara didn't have all the answers this time - she did something stupid, and had to face the consequences of that.

But, still, the stealing thing did seem out of character for her. I don't want her to be little Miss perfect or little Miss moral - it's much better that all the characters have their rough edges - but I didn't (heh) buy this particular facet of her personality. Maybe it was the compounded effect of the scroll theft with her anger at Aang, but overall it was uncomfortable and a little strange.

Sounds like I agree with jillithd overall - Iroh (who loves to shop!) definitely saves this from being a mediocre episode. (Plus Momo, "the real victim here".)

Best animal to Appa, because he is the cutest when having his paws cleaned.
posted by minsies at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2015

I really didn't like this episode the first time I watched it because Katara's behavior gave me serious embarrassment squick. This time around I really enjoyed it because I could sit back and appreciate all the little details. Like Aang and Katara getting adorably excited over the waterfall, Iroh, attention to finances and Sokka's callback to Bumi, Iroh, Aang haggling, Iroh, first mention of the tsungi horn/music night -- okay, that's also Iroh.

Katara's actions do make sense to me. Waterbending isn't just an as-yet untrained skill for her like it is for Aang -- it's a huge part of her personal and cultural heritage that she hasn't had access to thanks to the depredations of the Fire Nation. As she points out, she stole from people who had already stolen the scroll from members of her sister tribe and were going to profit off that theft, so by taking it back she's actually positioned herself as morally superior (to be honest I don't think she's wrong, but regardless it seems pretty in character). Her behavior towards Aang is pretty immature for her age, but she was the only girl and only bender in her village and so far as we know has never had to compete in skills against anyone in her entire life, much less in something that's a huge part of her identity.

Speaking of maturity, Zuko seems especially teenager-y this time around and it's hilarious. He's technically the captain of a warship and he acts like a kid with a new driving licence whose dad is making him drive him to the mall. Then there's his totally unconvincing attempt to turn Katara to the dark side, and his literally pointing and laughing at the pirates losing their ship... I need a gif of that.
posted by bettafish at 5:56 PM on March 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I didn't have any issue with Katara being upset with Aang - that was completely justified, I think. It was just the stealing that didn't work for me. It may have been having both those incidents in one episode that was the issue, though, rather than the stealing itself.
posted by minsies at 11:35 PM on March 16, 2015

...he acts like a kid with a new driving licence whose dad is making him drive him to the mall.

Oh my GOD, Uncle, why are you doing this? I was going to go out! And meet girls!
posted by Katemonkey at 12:04 AM on March 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

> Iroh definitely redeems it, though.

> ... okay, that's also Iroh

Really, what isn't made better with the inclusion of Iroh? He's serious, sage, subversive and silly (aaaaa...alliteration!), often in turn, sometimes at the same time.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 AM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ah, the white lotus tile, underestimated by many but part of an effective end game strategy. But we probably won't hear about it again, huh?

I don't really like that Katara steals the scroll either, but she's been right and mature so much in the early episodes that I feel like this shows what her price is, and that she's not going to just be a dull voice of reason at all times. The Gaang all need to look out for each other to get anywhere.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:25 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh my GOD, Uncle, why are you doing this? I was going to go out! And meet girls!

Does Zuko even know whether he likes girls? I mean, he's been on a boat of all dudes for like three years and he seems kind of a late bloomer to start with. Also, Iroh is the greatest of great characters, but can you imagine how completely unhelpful his version of the Talk would be?

Great, now I'm trying to translate "hunting the Avatar" to a high school AU scenario. Halp.
posted by bettafish at 2:09 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Did someone say Zuko's on a boat?
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:06 PM on March 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

bettafish: Zuko's trying to to recruit Aang onto the high school gymnastics team to take advantage of his mad skills. Ozai kicked Zuko off the team and he can't return unless he gets Aang, who happens to be on the gymnastics team for the school across town...
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:09 PM on March 17, 2015

Can we make this a Bring It On fusion as well? Where Aang transfers Southern Water High School, but they don't have a gymnastics team, they only have an award-winning cheer team, and Katara and Sokka, not just siblings but also co-team captains, want him on the team so they can find new styles of cheers and win the Nationals?
posted by Katemonkey at 1:35 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm with bettafish, I thought the theft was in character for Katara because the waterbending scroll went straight to the topic that one, is a defining trait of who she is as a person, and two, it was fueled by her resentment and jealousy over Aang's ease of picking up the style. Incidentally, the reverse, a water bending master trying to master simple air bending techniques results in the exact opposite experience (see Korra - season 1). Katara is not just a waterbender, she's also the last one of the Southern Water Tribe, hence her abilities have an even deeper meaning than simply being personally able to bend. She has the weight, very likely self-imposed, to master the art for her tribe and people. Douse that flaming passion with the oil of someone mastering in a a few minutes what you labored over hours to achieve and it's going to drive you a bit out of character.

As the show progresses, we see Katara kind of react this way again, going to the extreme because of personal feelings of being inadequate, which again, also result in problems, too.

If Bryke came out tomorrow and said, "Instead of another Avatar based show, we're just doing to do a spin off on Iroh," I don't think I would complain.

And for those interested, my longer recap which is fuzzy due to writing it delayed...boo being busy and tired!
posted by Atreides at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, an Iroh spinoff would be great but on the other hand given Korra's probable lifespan and the rate of technological advancement in LoK, we could be looking at Avatar... in... SPACE! for her hypothetical successor. Tough choice!

Okay so Zuko is trying to poach Aang from Southern Water High School for Caldera Academy? And Toph is a wrestler for Gaoling High, obvs.
posted by bettafish at 2:11 PM on March 18, 2015

The subtext in the lotus tile conversation... since that plotline takes a while to come to fruition, I'm curious how much was intended/planned and how much is just happy coincidence, but it works both ways.
posted by Kosh at 4:25 PM on March 19, 2015

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