Previously, there was some dude squatting at the Eastern Air Temple who sent Aang a letter that Long Feng hid from him, Zuko became the beautiful butterfly he was always meant to be, Long Feng was arrested but that means jack because the Dai Li are still loyal to him, Toph's shenanigan-senses failed magnificently, and the Teen Girl Squad managed to infiltrate Ba Sing Se because the Earth King, much as I love him, is functionally retarded at ruling a city-state.
Currently, Iroh is making breakfast. Zuko, apparently having just woken up, asks what that smell is. Iroh calls it "juk". "I'm sure you wouldn't like it." Zuko: "Actually, it smells pretty good." He holds out his bowl while Iroh eyes him suspiciously, saying he seems different somehow. Zuko: "We have a new place, new stuff, today's the opening of your tea shop...I feel pretty okay." Aki: "It's like you can actually hear the shit hurtling towards the fan."
Appa lands in what I assume is Chameleon Bay, given the overwhelming presence of Water Tribe blue. Aang: "You haven't seen your dad in over two years! You must be so excited!" Sokka: "Yeah. Excited's the word." Aang tells him not to be nervous, that his dad'll be glad to see him. The reassurance actually brings a little smile to Sokka's face. I love their little family. Sokka asks if he's nervous to see the guru. Aang: "Nope. I will do whatever it takes to control the Avatar State. Anything and everything. I will not back out no matter what." Sokka climbs down and Aang yipyips off, leaving Sokka to walk down to the shore alone. He approaches the camp like a man facing execution, until one of the men offers him his hand. Then the rest of the warriors gather around him, commenting on how he's grown and what not before clearing a path for him to enter the main tent. Hakoda, Bato, and some other men sit around a large map, and Hakoda doesn't notice anyone's entered until Bato (and his scarred arm - yay continuity!) nudges him. Sokka: "Hi, dad." And then they hug, because you are never too old for dad-hugs. Never. I may or may not have a giant sappy grin on my face.
In front of the giant badgermole, the King is being a twit. "Look, Bosco! The Kyoshi Warriors are here to protect us! Aren't you excited?!" Bosco: "You are a very unique form of stupid." He tells the "warriors" (which, in case you weren't paying attention, are really the Teen Girl Squad in stolen uniforms) all about the little conspiracy they had going. Azula: "It's terrible when you can't trust the people closest to you." Notes, time capsule, etc. Earth King: "But there is good news! We're going to invade the Fire Nation! On the Day of Black Sun!" He just sounds so excited. It's his first invasion and all. Azula's eyes widen at the mention of the Day of Black Sun, which really needs an abbreviation if we're going to keep talking about it, and she says it sounds like a "fascinating and brilliant plan". Knowing the Earth King, he told them all about it. I never thought I'd want Long Feng back.
Elsewhere, Katara is with the Council of Five, planning said invasion. Momo just wants to play with the little chess pieces. Katara: "We could send Momo in to do some damage!" Council of Five: "We are not amused." Katara: "....sorry." The General gives Katara the very important super-secret scrolls to take to the Earth King for approval, and she just wanders off on her merry way, without an escort or anything. They sure are putting a lot of faith in her. I'm not saying it's misplaced, but we're biased, we've seen her fight. The generals haven't. I mean, a pair of soldiers, at least. Come on, show.
Aang and Appa are flying through the mountains, towards the familiar sight of the Eastern Air Temple. They find the Guru atop the same stone pedestal Appa left him on, and given his ability to wait Appa out, I would not be surprised if he's been there that whole time. The Guru says he was a "spiritual brother" to the Air Nomads, which I assume means he's not an Airbender but subscribes to their newsletter, and that he was a personal friend of Monk Gyatso. ...okay, how old is the Guru? He does not look over 100 years old. "Neither does Aang!" "Shut up, Tiny Voice, that's a special case and you know it." This immediately gets him Aang's trust, who asks how he can help him master the Avatar State. The Guru says he has to maintain personal balance before he can balance the world out, and the personal balance begins with drinking something a stranger hands you in a wooden bowl. No, Aang! Stranger danger! Stranger danger! REMEMBER THE TEA. But Aang takes it, and it's gross, because it's onion and banana juice. Which is gross. *clutches coffee protectively*
Look, it's Those Guys. Uncle is insisting they turn right, Shin Fu is insisting they go straight, and Toph is insisting they let her out to pee. Uncle almost lets her out, but Shin Fu is well aware that that is the oldest trick in the book and stops him. Toph keeps banging on the side of her cage, and Shin Fu tells her to cram it. "You might think you're the greatest Earthbender in the world, but even you can't bend metal." Toph: "...bend metal, huh?"
Ba Sing Se, Teen Girl Squad Headquarters. Azula says they've been "presented with an extraordinary opportunity". Ty Lee: "Mai gets to wear makeup that's not totally depressing?" Well, sort of. Azula has no time for this foolishness. Azula is srs bznss. "I'm talking about conquering the whole Earth Kingdom." See, for a hundred years now, the Fire Nation has been trying to break it down from the outside. But the TGS is on the inside, and what's more, they're the Earth King's honored guests. Azula: "And we can take it by ourselves." Ty Lee: "Gosh, you're so confident. I really admire that about you." Got a little something on your nose there, 'Lee. Azula says they're in a perfect position to organize a coup and overthrow the Earth King. It's not that impressive, sweetie. I mean, have you met the man? "Whoever controls the Dai Li controls Ba Sing Se." Okay, I want to make a Dune reference and I haven't even seen (or read) it.
Eastern Air Temple. The Guru is telling Aang that in order to master the Avatar State, he has to open all the chakras. Okay, that is not even remotely what I meant by Naruto Syndrome, show. Guru: "Aang. Tell me everything you know about chakras." Aang: "What's that taste like?" Guru: "...oh." He starts with the basics, comparing the flow of energy through the body to the flow of water down a creek, where is pools in several areas, like the chakra points on the body. "However, life is messy, and things tend to fall in the creek. And then what happens?" Aang: "The creek can't flow?" Guru: "Precisely. But if we open the paths between the pools - " Aang: "The energy flows!" And another Dune reference pops into my head. They sit on a plateau within the cave as the Guru continues explaining about chakras. Namely, that there are seven of them, and they have specific purposes that can be blocked by a certain "emotional muck". "Be warned - opening the chakras is an intense experience, and you cannot stop until all seven are open." Aang: "There's nothing that could ever possibly make me want to back out of doing this."
They start with the "Earth chakra", at the base of the spine. Close enough. "It deals with survival, and is blocked by fear." Wait, what? I admit to not exactly being a scholar of Hinduism, I can do a cursory Google search, and nothing I found says anything about survival. The closest thing I found that would make sense in this particular context is that the god associated with this particular chakra, Ganesha, is "reputed to be a remover of obstacles", and is invoked at the beginning of any new venture. "Aki", you're probably saying at this point. "It's just a show, you should really just relax." And I should. But dammit, I am a half-assed scholar of cultures, and this show does such a good job of getting it right that it throws me off to see it be so very wrong. (Besides, fear could very easily be an obstacle to starting a new venture, there was no reason to change it.)
Alright, I'm done, those of you who are here for the sex jokes can come back in the room.
Aang focuses on what he's most afraid of, flipping through images of the Blue Spirit, losing Katara, and himself in the Avatar State before settling on Flo as his own personal boogey man. He flips the fuck out for a minute before the Guru tells him his vision isn't real. "You are concerned for your survival. But you must surrender those feelings." I think I'd prefer if the savior of the planet stayed concerned with his survival, actually. We'd like him to be alive for the whole final showdown deal. But he concentrates real hard for a second and Flo whooshes off somewhere, complete with little "ding" noise. Guru: "Achievement unlocked!"
Next up, waterfall! I guess 'cause it's the next part of the stream? I don't know. Now they're dealing with the water chakra (ohhh, okay, waterfall, gotcha). "It deals with pleasure, and is blocked by guilt." This actually makes a whole lot of sense, given the kind of pleasure this chakra deals with. (You'll also note the Guru says nothing about where this chakra is located. That's because "it's in your balls" isn't exactly TVY7 language.) He tells Aang to focus on everything that makes him feel guilt. "What do you blame yourself for?" Aang: "Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?" He focuses on running away from the temple, and how many people he's hurt while in the Avatar State. The Guru tells him to accept that those things happened, but not to dwell on it and let it take over his life. "If you are to be a positive influence, you need to forgive yourself." Aang takes a deep breath, and...achievement unlocked. What the what? I thought this was going to be an intense experience! I take more time leveling up on City of Heroes than this. (Okay, yes, 24-minute episode, I'll hush.)
Suddenly, Chameleon Bay! (Guess why they call it that. Guess.) Sokka apparently got his scienceyness from his dad, as Hakoda has invented something called a "tangle mine". It's filled with "skunkfish" (which I am nominating for best hybrid animal so far) and seaweed. The seaweed tangles in the Fire Nation ships' propellers, and the stink makes them jump overboard. Hakoda: "I call it the stink 'n' sink." Sokka finds this hilarious. Bato despairs at his
At a very snazzy building in the Upper Ring, Zuko and Iroh are being tea masters. "Follow your passion," Iroh tells him, "and life will reward you." Let's wait and let Zuko find a new passion first. I still don't trust this new anti-angstmuffin. Iroh says he's very thankful. Zuko: "You deserve it. The Jasmine Dragon will be the best tea shop in the city." Iroh: "No - I'm thankful because you decided to share this special day with me. It means more than you know." And then they hug. No, no, let me rephrase. Zuko initiates a hug. There would be MANLY TEARS flowing all over the place, but I'm still trying to convince myself this isn't some new manifestation of the Royal Family Crazypants Syndrome. Zuko: "Now let's make these people some tea!" Iroh: "TEAAAAAAAA."
On a cloudy mountaintop at sunrise, the Guru is explaining the Fire chakra to Aang. There seems to be a theme with these locations - Earth chakra was unlocked underground, Water chakra behind a waterfall, and now the Fire chakra in the face of the morning sun. (There's also a huge deal with Firebenders and Agni Kai and the sun, but I already feel like I need to make a bibliography for this damn thing.) The Guru tells Aang that the Fire chakra is located in the stomach. Aang: "My Fire chakra would like to eat something other than onion and banana juice." Guru: "Hahahaha - no." The Guru says that the Fire chakra deals with willpower, and is blocked by shame. Being that both these words actually show up in my cursory Wikipedia search, I'm giving this one a thumbs up. (Though shame is closely linked with guilt, so this might be a touch redun - I'll shut up.) When asked what his biggest disappointment in himself is, Aang flashes back to (ironically enough) when he Firebended for the first time, and burned Katara. He tells the Guru he's never going to Firebend again, and the Guru tells him he doesn't have a choice. "You are the Avatar, and therefore you are a Firebender." And that is all it takes for him to open his Fire chakra. That's it. An entire season now, he's been swearing off Firebending on account of hurting one of his best friends and the love of his life and one well-placed proverb completely removes all doubt he might have had on the matter. Okay, fair enough, he doesn't exactly look happy about it, but it should still be blocked! There should be meditation! You can't unwillingly open a chakra! IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.
Okay. Okay. I'm good. I'm fine. Sorry. I have long-standing, deep-seated resentment towards this part of the show. I probably should have warned you guys about that. But I'm good now. Honestly.
The Guru even notes that the chakra opened "less like a flowing stream, and more like a burping bison". To which Aang replies with a belch. "Tastes like onions and bananas. But strangely something else. ...pickles?" The Guru just shrugs. I am confused and afraid.
So we're gonna go over here to the palace, where nothing is confusing or frightening at all! Oh, wait, it's Mai and Ty Lee. I take it back. Mai says she's tired of wearing "this girly disguise". How is it less girly than the giant effing robes you were wearing before? Is it because it's a skirt? This series has really weird definitions of "girly". Mai: "I don't see how anyone can fight in this." Ty Lee: "Maybe that's why it was so easy for us to beat up the Kyoshi warriors and take their clothes!" Hidden Dai Li Agent: "AHA." They continue on this way for a bit (Mai: "If I have to clean up one more pile of bear poop, I'm gonna throw up."), Ty Lee essentially spilling the entire plan to capture the Avatar and then vacate the city entirely, leaving it in peace. Oh, silly Ty Lee. You and your - wait, what? The Hidden Dai Li Agents smirk triumphantly and scramble off somewhere, as Azula comes out from behind a pillar and congratulates them. "I'm sure the Dai Li will deliver the message."
Back at the temple. The "fourth" chakra - which is the Air chakra, I don't know why they couldn't just call it the Air chakra - is located in the heart, deals with love, blocked by grief. (Also false. Repentance, yes. Grief, no. Also deals with making decisions outside of karma or fate, which is an interesting tidbit that I actually understand why they didn't put it in.) As the Guru says this, Aang sees a statue of a female Airbender, possibly even Sister Iio, and is made sadfaice. Guru: "Lay all your grief out in front of you." Oh dear. We could be here a while. He envisions what might possibly be every single Air Nomad ever, led by Monk Gyatso. Aang smiles, happy to see his people again. ...and then they start disappearing. Going up in smoke, one by one. The Guru's voice says that Aang has "indeed felt a great loss. [...] The Air Nomads' love for you has not left this world. It is still inside of your heart, and is reborn in the form of new love." And the clouds around Aang form Katara's face, as she was when he first saw her, waking up in the snow. When the chakra dings open, Aang is crying, and asks very softly for some onion and banana juice.
Under the watchful eye of a statue of whom I can only assume was the last Airbender Avatar, the Guru describes the fifth chakra, "the Sound chakra". "It deals with truth, and is blocked by lies - the ones we tell ourselves." That...that's just...okay. It does deal with "choosing between right and wrong", so I can see where that would come in. Benefit of the doubt, show. (Sound is involved nowhere, however.) Aang remembers Katara asking why he never said he was the Avatar (Doesn't that count as a lie he told someone else?) The Guru tells him he has to accept that he's the Avatar, and he promptly does. "Very good," the Guru says proudly. "You have opened the chakra of Truth." Wait, I thought this was the Sound chakra! ARRRRRRRGH.
And now it is sunset. It really seems like they're trying to rush through these. They're on the Light chakra, in the center of the forehead. "It deals with insight, and is blocked by illusion." You are one chakra too early, good sir. The Guru says the greatest illusion in the world is the illusion of separation. "Things you think are separate and different are actually one and the same." Which is very much in line with the actual chakra's dealings. Thumbs up again, show. The four nations are one people, who just happen to be in tune with different elements. Which, in fact, aren't as separate as we'd like to think. The Guru, as we see Toph banging away on the walls of her metal cell: "Even metal is just a part of Earth that has been purified and refined." Toph's Daredevil powers pick out the bits of Earth in the metal. Aw, hell. A deep, focusing breath, and - FUCK YEAH, TOPH.
Katara has apparently taken all goddamn day to get to the palace, orders STILL IN HER HAND, and she decides to stop for tea instead of delivering this VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE. And guess - go on, guess - which tea shop she stops at? Oh, yes. The Jasmine Dragon. This is going to end magnificently. She sees Zuko and Iroh being completely normal, brewing tea, etc, but I don't think we can really blame her for FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT and hightailing it out of there.
On top of one of the towers (again, can the Guru fly?), Aang is preparing to open the last chakra, which will allow him to control his actions while in the Avatar State, which he'll be able to enter at will. Aang: "I'd like to state again that there is absolutely nothing that could make me back out of this." The Guru describes the "Thought chakra", located at the crown of the head. "It deals with pure cosmic energy, and is blocked by earthly attachment." Ehn, not so much with the earthly attachment, but this is leading into a plot point so I'll hush. Aang focuses on Katara as what's attaching him to this world, all her Waterbender-y, shiny, maybe-kisses. Guru: "Now let all of those attachments go." Aang: "Bitch say what." He says he can't let Katara go, that he loves her (D'AWW), and the Guru says if he doesn't, he can't receive the pure cosmic energy. Aang, doing the BEST IRONIC JAZZHANDS EVER: "Why would I choose cosmic energy over Katara? How could it be a bad thing that I feel an attachment to her? Three chakras ago that was a good thing!" Heh. Also, I'm glad he's having trouble with this part. I mean, it took us fifteen minutes and one minor breakdown on my part, but finally, there is CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The Guru just keeps saying he has to learn to let go, and -
Speak of the devil. Katara is high-tailing it to the King's chambers, where the not-Kyoshi warriors are waiting. Katara says she's glad Suki's there, because the Fire Nation has infiltrated the city. Katara says they have to tell the Earth King about Zuko and Iroh, and Azula promises to let him know. Katara sees her eyes, all Fire Nation golden-brown, and somewhere, you can hear the product finally hitting the fan. Ty Lee jumps forward and Hyuugas the crap out of Katara's shoulder. She falls, and...well. That's not an unsettling image at all. The girls stand over her, while Azula decides it's time for a family reunion. Momo runs for it.
Aang wants very badly to back out. But the Guru convinces him (without really trying to be convincing - what's in that onion-banana juice, anyway?) to try again. He sees Katara, floating off into the distance, and a sort of cosmic footpath appears, leading up to a giant glowy version of himself. ...okay, seriously, what is in the onion-banana juice. He reaches the giant glowy Aang, and his own tattoos start glowing. But then, by virtue of being connected with universe (I guess), he sees Katara chained to a wall somewhere, struggling to get loose. Aang: "...to hell with it." He runs for it, and giant glowy Aang fades, and the cosmic footpath starts disappearing behind him, and he falls back into his own body with the singular thought of getting to Katara. He starts roof-sliding away, but the Guru tells him he's locked the chakra. "If you leave now you won't be able to enter the Avatar State at all!"
Aang keeps going, and flies off on Appa as quickly as he possibly can.
Toph, having spent some hours whaling on the side of her cage, has managed to bust out of it. Uncle: "It's another one of her tricks!" Shin Fu: "There's a giant hole in the box! How is that a trick?!" Toph: "It's not. It's the real deal." She throws them in the cage, bends it shut, and leaps atop it to declare herself the greatest Earthbender in the world before using massive mounds of Earth to propel herself across the countryside back towards Ba Sing Se. Fuck. Yeah. Toph.
(Shin Fu: "I'm going to be stuck in here with you forever, aren't I." Uncle: "...I have to go to the bathroom.")
Chameleon Bay. As Sokka gets ready to board a ship with his father, he says he's looking forward to proving what a great warrior he is. Hakoda says he already knows. "Why do you think I trusted you to look after our tribe?" Aki: "D'AW." They go to board the ship...and Appa growls behind them. Aang gives Sokka a quietly terrified look. Sokka: "This can't be good news." He looks back as they fly off, and we see Hakoda just smile up at them.
Azula is allowing two Dai Li agents to escort her down to Long Feng's cell. She yells at him, saying he "will not treat a Kyoshi Warrior this way!" Long Feng: "But you're not a Kyoshi Warrior, are you, Princess Azula of the Fire Nation?" Somehow the "of the Fire Nation" seems redundant. Just me? Long Feng says he's willing to make a deal with Azula so he can get control of Ba Sing Se back, seeing as how the Earth King trusts her, and will give her the Avatar in return. Somehow. Azula...agrees to this. I am confused and afraid. Mostly afraid.
In the Jasmine Dragon, Zuko is sweeping up when Iron receives a missive from the palace. It turns out they've been invited to serve tea to the Earth King. Oh, no. No no no. Can't you hear it, Iroh? LISTEN TO THE THUD-WHIR-SPLAT. *facepalm* Oh, Iroh.
Azula is led away from Long Feng's cell, smiling a secret smile, and I'm just going to stay behind my couch for the entirety of the next episode. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.
A FINAL NOTE ON CHAKRAS:
I am well aware that I could be talking out of my ass about this whole thing. But the fact that these three sites often agree with each other and not the show kind of grates on me. If you're going to use the nature of chakras, but change things significantly (and even straight-up invent some, I am looking at you Sound-or-maybe-Truth chakra), give it a different name. Then people who study and practice the system won't flip out on you. Just saying.