Alright enough of that back to what you're actually here for.
Previously, Azula and Suki traded bad quips, Long Feng was a manipulative bastard, Zuko had an Iroh-aided epiphany, Long Feng got thrown in a lake, and Aang and Appa had a happy reunion.
Currently, I would be surprised if Aang and Appa have been more than a foot away from each other since they evacuated the lakeshore for the small island they're on now. Sokka says now is the time for action. "We're on a roll!" Katara: "One hour of dumb luck does not a roll make." Sokka: "We can build on it!" He exposits, for those of you who weren't paying attention, that they need the Earth King's support if they're going to invade the Fire Nation at the eclipse. Toph doesn't think they'll get it. "Things don't usually go that smoothly for our little gang." But Sokka has a hunch! So does Katara. It's called "move in the general direction of 'away' as quickly as possible and don't look back". Toph: "I'm with Sweetness." ...I'm awarding that the Best Toph-Created Nickname Ever award, if only for the subtle lesbian undertones. Aang says there's nothing stopping them from telling the Earth King the truth now, about the war and Long Feng's little conspiracy party. Katara shows signs of relenting. Oh, sure, as soon as the Avatar throws his hat in, you're all compliant. Typical. Toph doesn't trust this new, positive Sokka. "Long Feng brainwashed you, didn't he?!" "Brain" is the operative word here, honey, I think he's safe. Aang spots some boats moving across the lake that Sokka says must be the Dai Li, looking for them. They turn to Katara. "Well?" Katara: "Let's fly!" Which sounds kind of epic and badass, until you realize that's what they were going to do regardless. It's that kind of vague Choose Your Own Adventure segue.
To topple a manipulative shadow king, go to page 57.
To get the hell out of Dodge, go to page 63.
They take off towards page 57, Toph screaming over the wind that they need a new saddle as quickly as possible. "Riding bareback is terrifying!" ...nope, not touching that one. Katara says they need to be careful, because Long Feng has probably already warned the King about them. Sokka: "Why would you assume that?" Rock: "SURPRISE!" They get a few more "surface-to-air rocks" lobbed at them, which Aang fends off in that awesome Batman sucker-punch kind of way. When an entire...platoon? Is that the term? I fail at military jargon. A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE get ready to fire rocks at them, but Aang lands in front of them and makes the bricks of the walkway ripple outward, toppling them like dominoes. Appa takes care of their leader with a well-placed growl, and they start fighting their way up the path. Toph and Aang lead the way, Toph looking...tinier than usual. Seriously, is it just perspective, or is she more midgety than usual here? Katara is apologizing to every soldier she hits, since they are technically the good guys. Easily manipulated good guys, but good guys. They reach a moat, and get two giant motherfucking statues thrown at them. Toph and Aang make a shell out of the walkway, and the statues crumble. (I think they were of badgermoles. That's weird.) Katara freezes herself a ramp, launches herself over the moat, and takes out the entire row of guards with a well-placed whip, landing in a crouch. All the guards, I should mention, have the exact same groan when they fall over. I'm just saying. She takes out the guards at the top of the stairs the same way, and Aang freezes them in the moat as he leaps over. But soldiers are pouring out of the palace like clowns, hurling rocks at them as they go. Toph: "Your stairs are my bitch." She flattens them out into a steep slope that the soldiers go sliding down, and she and Aang start Earthavating the Gaang up. Sokka: "Seriously, we're actually on your guy'ses side!" That wasn't an awkward sentence at all. I could be wrong, but I think this is first instance of a well-intentioned siege on the good guy's castle I've ever seen.
They make it into the...lobby? I'mma call it a lobby. Half a dozen soldiers come rushing at them, and Toph pins them to the ceiling hard enough to crack it. Which I'm guessing means they all have at least a couple of bruised ribs, as well. Sokka: "Toph, which way to the Earth King?" Toph: "How should I know? I wanted to go to page 63!" So her Daredevil powers are useless here. Good to know. Sokka tries the age-old tactic of "open every door until you find something interesting". Which...he does. Concubines? In my Avatar? It's more likely than you think.
Lower Ring. Zuko and Iroh come dragging into their apartment, Iroh telling Zuko that he did the right thing in letting Appa go. Zuko: "Does doing the right thing usually give you a second apartment? 'Cause I'm seeing two apartments." He passes out, breaking a vase along the way (what, was the "thud" of dead weight hitting the floor not dramatic enough; you needed a crashing noise too?). Iroh rushes to his side and - oh, goddammit, show, could you possibly give me the B-plot in more than minute-long intervals? I feel like we're back at the first season finale.
The Gaang is now standing in front of a pile of rubble. Why is there rubble? I don't know. Sokka climbs over it to find a pair of doors that invokes a heavenly chorus. I'm guessing that's the place, then. He takes a flying side kick at it and...falls. Pushing doesn't work, either. This just makes me think of the giant throne room doors in Mickey's castle in Kingdom Hearts, and the fact that there was a smaller door within them for people to actually walk through. One of my favorite moments in the game, for some reason. Back in the show, Aang Airbends the door open, sending Sokka flying in to land on his face. Sokka: "A little warning, next time?!" They run forward, only to be met with Long Feng and several Dai Li agents. Aang: "Our inexplicably large eyebrows need to talk to you." Long Feng: "They're here to overthrow you!" Why would they be talking to him if they were here to overthrow him? I mean, there's three Benders there; five if you count Aang's Avatarliness. One well-placed rock spike and boom, overthrown. The King says his piece: "You invade my palace, lay waste to all my guards, break down my fancy door, and you expect me to trust you?!" Toph: "...he has a good point." Not helping, Toph. I mean, I'm laughing, but that's probably not helping, either. The King tells them that if they're good guys, then they need to drop their weapons. Which they do, 'cause they are. Aang: "See? We're friends, your Earthiness." King: "We are not amused." Aaand the Dai Li guys cuff them with rocks, and Lex Luthor smirks evilly as he tells them to lock the Gaang up. Sokka is shocked, shocked that the King still doesn't trust them. Never mind that it was Long Feng that gave the order. Long Feng: "Make sure the Avatar and his friends never see daylight again." King: "You're the Avatar?" Sokka: "No, the kid at the end." Aang lifts his arms in recognition, un-bending his cuffs while he's at it. Were Aang more of a...Toph, that would have been a tip-off to Long Feng. "I can get out of these at any time. Bring it, motherfucker." Long Feng asks why it matters, since they're enemies of the state. So the King isn't brainwashed. I guess that makes sense, given their trigger phrase. "Earth King, you have invited yourself to Lake Laogai." "I am honored to accept my invitation." As the King is admitting that Long Feng might have a point, the bear totters over and licks Aang. King: "Bosco seems to like him. I'll hear what he has to say." Long Feng: "I knew I should have turned that thing into jerky."
Aang steps forward and gives it to the King in a nutshell: about the war being kept secret from him, and about the conspiracy to control the kingdom. The King doesn't believe him. Aang: "He stole our sky bison! He brainwashed our friend!" Long Feng: "LIES DAMNED LIES." The King says that the claims are a little hard to swallow, even coming from an Avatar. Long Feng tells him that the Gaang is part of an anarchist cell. The King says he has to trust his adviser, and the Gaang gets dragged out. But not before Sokka says he can prove Long Feng is a lying liarpants. "He said he's never seen a sky bison. Ask him to lift his robe." Long Feng: "I WILL NOT. Perv." Aang plays the street vent to his Marilyn Monroe, and the Appa-sized bite mark is shown to all. Long Feng: "IT'S A BIRTHMARK. Thanks for showing everyone." Given the size and proportionate force of Appa's jaws, that should have broken his leg. I'm just saying. The King says there's no way to prove where the marks came from. But of course there is! They compare the mark on Long Feng's leg to Appa's gigantic tooth, and it's all done in this lighthearted sort of way that feels really out of place with what they're discussing. King: "That pretty much proves it." Gaang: "Hooray!" King: "But it doesn't prove this crazy conspiracy theory!" Gaang: "Aw." See? They're discussing treason, brainwashing, and murder (JET'S MURDER, in case you forgot), all in this kind of giggly, "look at Appa pantsing Long Feng" sort of way that makes it kind of uncomfortable to watch. The King says the matter is worth looking into, and the Gaang decides that they'll take what they can get (you can actually hear Sokka say "we'll take it" while they're talking over each other) as Long Feng skulks off. This is seriously bugging me now. He should at least be limping!
On the floor of their apartment, Zuko is doing the groaning, sweating, fevering thing. He tries to sit up and get water, but Iroh tells him to stay under the blankets. Worst part of being sick ever is trying to sweat out a fever. Ugh. Iroh tries to give Zuko some water, but he just grabs the bucket and downs it, pouring it all over himself in the process. Did I mention he's shirtless? And yet I can't find this sexy at all. Stupid brain fever.
Deciding that Zuko has had entirely too much screen time, the plot yanks us back over to the Gaang as they ride the train with the Earth King. Who has never ridden a train before. "I didn't realize it would be this...public." It might help if he wasn't standing in the middle of the aisle. But then again, all the seats are taken, and no one thinks to go "hey, guy who runs my shit, want my seat?" It's just disrespectful, is all I'm saying. Katara asks if he's ever been outside the Upper Ring. King: "I've never been outside the palace." Oh, crap, am I going to have to make more Jasmine references? He points at Appa, flying beside the train. "Now that's the way to travel." Sokka says they're taking him to the secret base under Lake Laogai. "You're about to see where all the brainwashing and conspiring took place." Oh wait no he's not, because you guys didn't think that Long Feng could possibly think to go ahead of you and destroy the evidence. The Earth King says that the destroyed tunnel seems "awfully convenient", and I just want to take the back of my hand to pretty much every character on screen right now. He heads back to the train (his guards walking in front of him, because the suspected terrorists are the ones you want at your king's back), but Aang stops him, saying they have more sure-fire evidence that the war exists. King: "No Earth King has ever been to the Outer Wall!" ...that's a really dumb tradition. He tells Aang to stfu and stfd, but Sokka bribes him with riding on Appa and he relents. This guy just flip-flops between reasonably competent to almost infantile. He screams his head off for a minute (Toph: "First time flying?") and says that he hopes what Aang is telling him isn't true. Aang says he wishes it wasn't.
Oh hey it's that guy. Zuko's having a nightmare, in which...he's Fire Lord. And his face is in one piece. This doesn't seem so ba - OH SHIT DRAGONS. Red and blue dragons curl around the pillars of his throne, the blue one speaking with Azula's voice. "Are you planning to retire soon, my lord?" Zuko says he's not tired. Azula says he should be, and that he should rest. Just close his eyes and give in to it. But the red dragon interjects with Iroh's voice, telling him he should get out of there, and not listen to the blue dragon. "Go! Before it's too late!" The blue dragon continues hissing in his ear, sleep now, Fire Lord Zuko. The room vanishes, his throne crumbles, the soldiers fall away, just empty suits of armor. The blue dragon reappears in the darkness. "Sleep...just like MOTHER!" The dragon lunges at him, the vision changing to Ursa, calling out for Zuko to help her. He seems to get swallowed up by the floor and - we're back in the apartment. Thank god, Grey Delise was starting to scare the hell out of me. Again.
The Gaang (and the Earth King) has reached the outer wall, where Aang points out that "it's still there". "It", of course, being the drill. Unable to really clean it up, they've just put a wall around it in the meantime. Sokka explains that it was built by the Fire Nation to break through the walls of Ba Sing Se. From atop said wall (no, not that one) the King says he can't believe he never knew. Which is of course the perfect time for Long Feng to pop up and "explain" everything! "This is a construction project!" Katara: "Then why is there a Fire Nation insignia on your 'construction project'?" I would have gone with "why do you need a drill to do construction on a rock wall when you have that nifty kung-fu magic going for you", but that's probably just me. Long Feng says it's imported, which threw me off until I remembered that he was still trying to get the King to believe there was no war. When he gets no response other than an icy stare, Long Feng tries to discredit them by saying they're children. The King has a long moment of decision, and then..."Dai Li! Arrest Long Feng. I want him to stand trial for crimes against the Earth Kingdom!" Fuck yeah, Earth King. Except for the part where the Dai Li are eating out of Long Feng's manicured hands, but still. Fuck yeah. They arrest him (with metal cuffs - why didn't they use those against Toph and Aang earlier?) and drag him off while Sokka enthuses that "Long Feng is long gone! Ha, yeah, I've been waiting to use that one."
Throne Room. There is a giant badgermole behind the throne. I've been trying to figure out what it was for like ten minutes now and I just realized - badgermole. The King thanks the Gaang for opening his eyes. "All this time what I thought was a great metropolis was merely a city of fools. And that makes me the king fool." Bosco: "It's okay. I still love you." He has a brief shell-shocked moment about the whole war thing, before Sokka says he thinks the King can help them end the war. Aang explains about the comet and Sokka explains about the eclipse and the girls just kind of...are there. The King says that an invasion would require moving troops out of Ba Sing Se, leaving the city completely vulnerable. Sokka: "You're already vulnerable!" He gives a rousing speech about taking the offensive and giving the city a fighting chance, which would have been more stirring to me if I hadn't been wondering why he had to move his hands around so much. There's talking with your hands and then there's having spasms. The King gives them his support, and they have a brief celebration before a general walks in. Hey look, it's General Crazypants! He apologizes to the King for the interruption, and the King introduces him as the leader of the Council of Five. Crazypants doesn't even acknowledge the others. Rude. He says they found something interesting in Long Feng's office.
Turns out Long Feng was intercepting their mail, as Toph's mom sent a letter saying she was in the city, and wanted to see her. I smell shenanigans. Toph's mom was too old-school to travel without her husband's permission, and I'm pretty sure her husband would not have given his permission. Aang gets the scroll that was attached to Appa's horn, but no mail for Katara and Sokka. Just an intelligence report that there is a small fleet of Water Tribe ships protecting the mouth of Chameleon Bay - led by their dad, Hakoda! Glee! Glee for everyone!
Except Zuko. He's still kind of dead. As he pours tea, Iroh tells him that it's not a natural sickness, that it's being caused by the conflict within himself. Letting Appa go, abandoning the persona of the Blue Spirit, was so at odds with how he sees himself that his body is actually trying to reject the entire idea of it. Zuko: "What does that even mean?" Iroh says he's going through a metamorphosis. "It will not be a pleasant experience. But when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be."
Back in Long Feng's office, Aang says that there's a guru living at the Eastern Air Temple. Sokka: "What's a guru? Some kind of poisonous blowfish?" Ahaha...ha...see, 'cause, fugu....never mind. Aang says the guru can teach him to master the Avatar State. Katara's still gleeful that she knows where her dad is. Toph: "I know what you mean. My mom's in the city, and from her letter it sounds like she finally understands me!" SHENANIGANS. Katara says they have to split up. This is the moment it dawned on me that Long Feng is a manipulative bastard. This is his Xanatos Gambit! This is him knowing those meddling kids and their bison wouldn't let him get away with it! But the Gaang has no such revelation, even though Aang is against splitting up now that they've finally gotten "the family back together". (Referring to them as a family made me smile, not gonna lie.) Katara points out that he has to learn to control the Avatar State. Aang offers to drop her off at Chameleon Bay to see her dad. Sokka says he'll stay behind to help the generals plan the invasion, but Katara says he should go to Chameleon Bay. While I'm all for Sokka seeing his dad again, it still makes more sense that the Idea Guy stay behind. But Sokka jumps at the offer, calling Katara the nicest sister ever.
Out in the courtyard, Katara is saying goodbye to Appa when Aang approaches her, with that plinky lute music in the background, like in the cave that one time. "I need to tell you something. It's something I've wanted to tell you for a long time. Katara, I - " Sokka: "COCKBLOCK'D." He literally comes running across the courtyard at them. It has to be intentional. Not even Sokka is that thick. "Who's ready to get going on a little men-only man-trip?!" Or maybe he's just gay. Katara certainly thinks something's up. The Earth King wishes them a safe journey and they climb onto Appa as a soldier informs him that there are three warriors from Kyoshi there to see him. Sokka: "That's Suki! *falls*" Picking flowers and falling off his horse. Preacher was right. (I don't even care if no one gets the reference. The Last Mountain man was a kickass book.) He vouches for the Kyoshi Warriors to the King, who trusts his word. See, this is what got him in trouble in the first place - see for yourself first, you twit. Katara gives Aang a hug and a kiss on the cheek, making him all blushy. Toph, in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, says she's going to miss them. Aang and Katara hug her. Sokka abstains. Well, he tries to. Sokka: "Okay, we love each other. Seriously. Stop it." These guys need to stop being so damned cute, already.
As Sokka and Aang fly off, Zuko wakes from what was most likely another nightmare and gets up, probably to get rid of some of that water he was pouring down his throat earlier. Iroh, I should point out that in lieu of going to bed and just leaving the door open or something, Iroh is in a meditative pose right next to Zuko. Where he's been every time we've seen him. Can I have an Iroh for my birthday? Zuko splashes some water on his face and looks in the mirror to see - holy crapbiscuits! No, seriously, what? (PS: notes, time capsule.) Zuko wakes up for reals this time, screaming in extreme freaked-out-ness. I cannot blame him in the least. He sits there hyperventilating for a second...then reaches up and touches his scar.
Sokka tells Aang that a little positive thinking does wonders. "We got the King on our side, we got Long Feng arrested, and when we get back, Suki's waiting for me." Aang: "Yeah...girls are waiting for us. Thanks, positive attitude." If positive attitude is a chick magnet then Aang should be beating them off with his glidey-stick. I'm just saying. Sokka: "Everything is gonna work out perfectly!" NO! YOU FOOL!
In prison, Long Feng gets his meal. It's decidedly nicer than jail food should be. The Dai Li agent says through the door that while the military and the Council of Five are loyal to the King, the Dai Li are loyal to Long Feng. Long Feng just smiles and digs in.
Toph takes a bracing breath and knocks on the door of a house in the Upper Ring. It opens...and she walks in. YOU FOOL! The house is barren, and a metal cage not unlike the one she was kidnapped in falls down around her. Those Two Guys drop from the ceiling, sounding vaguely menacing. Called it.
The King sits at the top of the stairs, ready to greet the Kyoshi Warriors. I guess those three are the only ones who got away from the Teen Girl Squad. They kneel in front of the King as he welcomes them, the lead one saying they are the Earth King's humble - oh shit. Abort! Abort! Abort!
I blame Sokka.