While "school" won't be as much of an issue in a couple of weeks, and "real life" was mostly due to my brother graduating high school (valedictorian, fuck yeah), the "health" shenanigans continue, and I don't know how that's going to affect updates. I'll keep you apprised.
Previously, everybody stole some clothes (just in case you forgot that they're supposed to be hiding out), Zuko made Iroh cry, and there was some nonsense about a White Lotus something, I don't even.
Currently, meteors! Toph is chilling with the rest of them despite not being able to, y'know, see the meteors everyone else is oohing and aahing at. "You see nothing once, you've seen it a thousand times." A meteor shoots low over their heads, and Sokka comments that she's "never not seen anything like this". Diagram that sentence, I dare you. The meteor lands not too far away (what must that have looked like to Toph?), and they hop on Appa's back to go check it out. Turns out it flattened the Stargate, and Sokka's stuck there to develop a relationship with a local widow and create a plot thread that will be referenced exactly once in the next seven seasons of the show.
Or. Y'know. It starts a fire that threatens a nearby down. Katara: "Generic cry of alarm!" Aang: "Equally generic reassurance!" Katara starts Bending water out of a nearby stream while Aang and Toph Earthbend a ditch to keep the flames from spreading. Sokka: "WHAT DO I DO." Aang: "LOOK AFTER MOMO." Sokka ignores his dismay long enough to give Momo a comforting pat on the head. Everyone runs around doing their great big fancy Bending things while Sokka and Momo sit and watch. Aang uses Bending (and SCIENCE!) to turn Katara's water into snow, effectively dousing the fire. Sokka gets buried in a snowpile. "Oh look, it's just like home."
The Tower. Iroh is - NOOOO IROH. WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIIIIIM. The guard (or rather warden, as the credits tell me - Warden Poon. Stop giggling.) comes in with his food, a bowl of what I'm assuming is gruel. He drops it on the floor and kicks it over to Iroh, where it spills all over the floor and Iroh dives for it like a starved dog. Oh, Iroh. Come here. I'll hug you. (Just, uh, stop drooling first.) Warden Poon proceeds to verbally berate him, calling him a pig and a disgrace and spitting on the floor before leaving. As soon as he's gone, Iroh sits up, smooths his hair back, and eats his gruel like a dignified person. (Though admittedly still with his fingers.) Oho, Iroh. I see what you're doing here. (I still want to hug you.)
The Town That Almost Wasn't. Over lunch, the Gaang comments that the people have no idea how close they were to getting burninated. Toph: "The worst thing about being in disguise is we don't get the hero worship anymore! I miss the love." That's right, she wasn't there for Avatar Day, was she? (Lucky.) Sokka has no sympathy for them. Katara notes that he hasn't touched his food. (Smoked sea slug, apparently. ...yum?) Sokka: "You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff, like putting out forest fires, and flying around, and making other stuff fly around...I can't fly around, okay? I can't do anything." The others immediately try to remind him of his Badass Normal status, Katara pointing out that he reads a mean map and Aang saying he keeps their morale up, inadvertently insulting Katara in the process. Sokka says he appreciates the effort, but he's still a Depressed McDepressederson. "I'm just the guy in the group who's...regular." Aw, Sokka. Every group needs that guy! You are an integral part of the team! Come here, I shall hug you. Katara says she knows what will cheer her big gay brother up - SHOPPING!
They take Sokka to a weapon shop, where he decides he wants to pick up something to "reinvigorate [his] battling". He tries a pair of nunchucks, which he ends up bonking himself with and falling into a rack of spears. Truth in Television - my brother once came in bleeding down his forehead from whacking himself with nunchucks. Aang shows off...this thing to Katara (it even comes with a badass guitar riff!), saying all he needs is a "wind sword" to complete it. A wind sword, of course, is where Aang takes a sword hilt and Bends air out of the end of it. Aang then proceeds to fall over backwards. According to the TOTALLY FLIPPING SWEET ART BOOK (ignore the next few sentences if you'd rather read it for yourself), this little number was a poke at all the things about anime that Mike and Bryan don't particularly care for. I'm guessing they're not huge shonen fans.
Sokka tries out a number of weapons - a naginata he ends up helicoptering into the ceiling, a club he can't even lift, a pair of dual swords he...I don't even know what he's doing there, some kind of chain weapon he wraps himself up in, and a floppy sort of spear - before he drops the dagger-thing (I know it has a name, damned if I know what it is) he was picking his teeth with to ogle a sword on the wall. It's fairly intricately carved, and Sokka lets out an admiring "OOOOOH!" before running over to get his grubby fingerprints all over it. The shopkeep comes over to exposit that it's an original by Piandao, the greatest swordfighter and craftsman in Fire Nation history. "He lives in a big castle up the road from here. ...okay, that's all the information I'm here to dispense, I'll just leave now." Go after him, Aang, if you talk to him twice he'll give you a potion! But Aang is too busy having epiphanies. He says that's what Sokka needs, is a master. The rest of them had masters to teach them - Sokka needs someone to help him hone his Badass Normality. Toph offers that she was taught Earthbending by badgermoles. ...wait, what? I mean, it explains a lot, but...what? Sokka admits that it would be nice to be a master swordfighter. "Alright, I'll talk to him." What about your schedule, Sokka? Your all-important schedule you were being such a dick about last episode?! (That's the other reason I don't like network-mandated episodes. They're a large cause of character and plot inconsistencies.)
The Tower. Iroh is laying on his back in his cell when - SUDDENLY, SITUPS.
Over the river and up the hill, to Piandao's castle we go. Sokka gets impatient with the doorknockers until a butler that sounds frighteningly like Alan Rickman opens the gate. Sokka says he wants to train with the master, and the butler tells him that Piandao turns almost everyone away. "What did you bring to prove your worth?" Sokka: "Shit, I'm all out of string!" Butler: "Let's get this over with." He leads Sokka across the courtyard and into Piandao's study, where he's either painting or doing calligraphy. Sokka introduces himself, and Piandao comments on the oddness of his name. Sokka: "Not in the colonies! Where I'm from! Which is the colonies! Because I'm a colonist!" Piandao goes on to say he probably already knows Sokka's story: "You've come hundreds of miles from your little village where you're the best swordsman in town, and you think you deserve to train with the master." Sokka points out that he's been all over the world, and Piandao gets a very "not this shit again" tone to his voice. Sokka says that he knows he has a lot to learn, that he's not sure if he's worthy, and Piandao decides that he is indeed going to take him as a student. Sokka: "*THE HAPPIEST FACE*."
In the courtyard, Sokka has been given a spiffy robe and Piandao is telling him the same thing Suki told him about the fans - think of the sword as another part of your body. Sokka: "Like a second head!" Piandao: "More like an extra-long, really sharp arm." I get the feeling Piandao used to be very Sokka-ish, himself. Sokka himself looks absolutely enthralled by Piandao's speech. He's so excited to be around the stabby things. It's adorable.
The rest of the Gaang, however, is bored out of their skulls. Toph: "I already picked my toes - twice!" Apparently the second time is for the "sweet picking sensation". I'm gonna try not to think about that too hard. "Besides, it's so hot today..." Katara tries to make a joke about how hot it is, but it falls flat. Aang: "I guess the jokes don't run in the family." Katara: "Oh, everybody's a critic."
Let's check in on Iroh. Iroh is still doing situps. Only he's upside down. Hanging from the ceiling of his cell. By his feet. WHY SO AWESOME, IROH?!
Piandao is trying to teach Sokka calligraphy. This can only end in tears. He tells Sokka writing his name is stamping his identity on the paper, just as using a sword is stamping his identity on the battlefield. ...if his identity is "gushing stab wounds", yeah. "Remember: you cannot take back a stroke of the brush, or a stroke of the sword. So no pressure." Sokka, in his pondering, gets ink on his face. When Piandao points this out, Sokka has An Idea. He decides to stamp the paper in an entirely different sense. Piandao is starting to regret his new student. But look! Fat's a Battle Butler! He and Sokka are in sparring pads and wielding wooden swords. Sokka lunges, only to get his sword knocked away. He runs for it and Fat chases him, smacking him in the backs of the legs occasionally.
Piandao is now leading Sokka through some tall grass. Blindfolded. ...should I be concerned? He says landscape painting teaches a warrior to hold the lay of the land in his mind. "In battle, you only have an instant to take everything in." He fwips Sokka's blindfold off, and lets him get a split-second glimpse of this before yanking him around to sit in front of a small desk."Now paint it." And he's not allowed to peek, either. He comes up with....THIS! Piandao: "You added a rainbow. I'm not sure how, seeing as how I only gave you black ink, but okay."
Back in the courtyard, Sokka is managing to hold his own against Fat, until Piandao calls his name. Fat moves around behind him and kicks him into the dirt. Piandao: "Pay attention to what you're doing." Sokka: "You're an ass." They move from that to rock gardening, which apparently is supposed to teach him to manipulate his surroundings to his advantage. (Oh hai, lionturtle.) Sokka comes up with a comfy, moss-covered chair. Fat: "MY GARDEN." Sokka: "Mind grabbing me a cold drink?" Fat: "I. BUT. I. YOU." Piandao: "I'll take mine with a lemon." While Piandao enjoys his fruity drink, Sokka manages to disarm Fat in what was no doubt a grudge match for the honor of Fat's garden.
The Tower. Iroh is doing pushups, shoving himself far enough off the ground to clap in between. This gets Poon's attention, but before he can bear witness to the awesome might of Iroh's training regimen, Iroh moves so that he's sitting in the corner, seemingly catching bugs. This is that scene YTV decided would make an awesome promo for the third season. Jerks.
Katara and Aang are trying to read a map. Toph is mocking them. "You noodlebrains don't know what you're doing. I miss Sokka." Katara is struck with inspiration. "If y'miss him so much...WHY DON'T YOU MARRY HIM?" Silence. Sorry, Katara.
Piandao tells Sokka he's had a good first day. Sokka is surprised. "I thought I messed up every single thing we worked on!" Piandao: "You messed things up in a very special way. You're ready for your own sword." Sokka wants one of his. Piandao isn't sharing. But he's going to help Sokka make his own! Sokka hits the fiftieth Happiest Face of this episode. So the next day, Sokka examines various metals, before asking if he can bring back a metal of his own. Piandao agrees, and Sokka goes to find the rest of the Gaang. He is immediately tackled, and Aang commands him to say something funny. Sokka: "Funny how?" Aang and Katara promptly crap themselves laughing. Sokka asks Toph what the hell she's been feeding them. Toph: "They missed you or something. I didn't care." But she's blushing when she says it. So cute. Sokka: "I really only came here to ask you guys to help me move." Move a meteor, in fact.
The Tower. Iroh stands on his head...and then does pushups. FUCK YEAH IROH.
Toph rock-punts the meteor up the hill, going nuts on the gate that Piandao was apparently standing right behind. "Who's this?" Sokka: "These are just my Fire Nation friends. From the Fire Nation. Good Fire Nation folk." He asks if he can make a sword out of a meteor. Piandao is enthusiastic about this idea.
Sokka then proceeds to strip mostly naked and shovel coal as we get a sped-up, highly simplified look at the sword-making process. The meteor is bashed, the rocks put in what looks like a wooden bucket but I doubt actually is, as Fat proceeds to put it in the fire. Sokka spends the night next to the furnace, making sure it stays burning, and in the morning the resulting molten concoction is poured into the mold, which Piandao hammers into shape and plunges into water to solidify.
In the main chamber, with the others behind him, Sokka kneels in front of Piandao as he speeches a little, saying Sokka seemed unsure and down on himself. "But I saw something different in you right away. I saw a heart as strong as a lionturtle, and twice as big. And as we trained, it wasn't your skills that impressed me. ...no, it certainly wasn't your skills." Ice burn, Piandao. "You showed something beyond that." And as he unsheathes Sokka's sword, revealing it to be pitch-black and freaking awesome: "Creativity! Versatility! Intelligence! These are the traits that define a great swordsman. And these are the traits that define you." Not as catchy as "meat and sarcasm", but still nice. He says Sokka is more worthy than any man he's ever trained. Sokka: "I'm sorry, Master. You're wrong." He proceeds to spill the beans, that he's from the Southern Water Tribe and that he lied to Piandao so he could learn from him. "I'm sorry." Piandao: "I'm sorry, too." And he proceeds to try to cut Sokka's head off. The others try to help, but Sokka holds them back. "This is my fight. Alone." Piandao's eyes narrow with what might be respect.
The Tower. Poon: "I'm here to deliver your daily dose of verbal abuse!" He drops Iroh's tray on the floor with a snarled "look what you've become". When he leaves, Iroh stands up with his apple in hand. "Yeah. Look at what I've become. Pansy-ass motherfucker." He proceeds to do one-handed pullups from the top of his cage. I'll say it again: Fuck. Yeah. Iroh.
Back at Piandao's Castle (why does that just make me think of Eureka's Castle? ...did I just date myself with that?), Sokka and Piandao are having a standoff. The colors have all gone weirdly dark for some reason, I'm guessing to do with the storm clouds in the background. Piandao moves first, and Sokka manages to block pretty well until he gets shoved back against a bridge. He jumps across the railings of the bridge, dodging, and Piandao praises him. "Using your superior agility against an older opponent. Smart!" Sokka gets pinned against a wall, which Piandao slices the shit out of, until Sokka uses it as a launchpad to drive himself forward and get up on top of the other wall. Again with the praise: "Good use of terrain! Fighting from the high ground!" Sokka pins Piandao's sword for a moment, but gets tossed into this bamboo forest. He runs through, slicing at the trees, and I wonder how many times you can slice bamboo with a sword and it still hold an edge. He tries to fwap Piandao with a branch, but it just gets sliced. "Yes! Use your surroundings! Make them fight for you!"
They make it back out into the courtyard, and after a brief game of Sword Limbo Sokka throws dust into Piandao's eyes. "Very resourceful!" he growls. No, seriously. Robert Patrick, I love you, but my god, man. He turns his head to listen, and Sokka tries to tiptoe to a better position, but the ONE TWIG in the ENTIRE FIRE NATION is under his foot, and Piandao of course hears it. He charges, and Sokka blocks, getting his sword tossed aside before he knocks Sokka onto his back, aiming his sword at his face. Aw crap, he's gonna match Zuko now, isn't he. The rest of the Gaang immediately intervenes, but he stands down. "Good work, Sokka." Sokka: "Bitch say what." Piandao says he's "a little old to be fighting the Avatar". Aang: "How did you know?" Piandao: "Oh, I've been around a while." He reveals he knew from the beginning that Sokka was Water Tribe, and suggests a better Fire Nation cover name. "Try Lee. There's a million Lees." He doesn't need Lee; he has WANG FIRE.
Katara asks why he would agree to train someone from the Water Tribe. Piandao: "The way of the sword doesn't belong to any one nation. Knowledge of the arts belongs to us all." He retrieves Sokka's sword, handing it to him and saying that if he stays on the path he's on, he'll become an even greater master than Piandao. They bow to each other and the Gaang leaves, Fat running after them to hand Sokka a small coin purse, "something to remember [Piandao] by". Inside is a White Lotus tile.
OH HEY DOOR.
Sokka gives Toph a chunk of the meteor, saying she's probably never had a chance to Bend "space earth" before. She ends up making this. (That cap was a lot funnier when it had the Nick logo in the corner.) Katara says she doesn't think there's such a thing as "space earth", being that if it's from space it's not really earth. Sokka: "Must you ruin everything?!" Katara: "I can't believe I missed you."
...given that my own personal Sokka is going to college in a few months, that one hit a little harder than it should have. Oof.
Number of times I said "Piandao" in this recap: 50.