- This article is about the episode. For the article about this location the title references, see Lake Laogai.
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Finally having had enough of the rules of the city, the group decides to go against the law to find Appa. As they do so, the gang meets Jet again. They find Smellerbee and Longshot and realize Jet was brainwashed by the Dai Li. They travel to Lake Laogai in the hopes of finding Appa. Instead, they encounter Long Feng, who mortally wounds Jet. Elsewhere, Zuko finds Appa and discovers that Aang is in the city. However, with encouragement from his uncle, Zuko decides to free the sky bison and give up his Blue Spirit guise once and for all. After an intense battle on the surface, Aang and Appa are reunited.
The episode begins at Team Avatar's house in the Upper Ring of Ba Sing Se. As Sokka is attempting to draw pictures of Appa for posters which Aang will distribute throughout the city, the Avatar and Katara burst in with a professionally-made poster, featuring a much better picture of Aang's pet than Sokka's crude drawings, which cause Katara to nearly burst out laughing. The group plans on spreading the flyers all over the city, hoping someone will have some information.
Meanwhile, Iroh's tea-making skills have earned him renown throughout the city, so much so that a rich patron is willing to give him his own tea shop in the Upper Ring of the city, much to the dismay of his present, now former, employer. While this is a dream come true for Iroh, Zuko is much less enthusiastic. He goes outside to sulk, and when one of Aang's flyers falls into his hand, he is now faced with another opportunity to capture Aang.
Later, Aang returns home, impatient to see if the flyers have had any success. Katara tells him to be patient, and seconds later there is a knock on the door. Aang excitedly thinks it is someone with information on Appa; instead, it is Joo Dee. She explains her mysterious disappearance at the Earth King's party as having taken a short vacation to Lake Laogai. Joo Dee informs the group that dropping flyers without clearance is against the rules. Angrily, Aang disregards the rules and yells at Joo Dee, saying that he intends to find Appa, and that she should stay out of his way. Toph is elated at the opportunity to break the rules, and expresses her joy by destroying a wall of their house with earthbending. The group heads out, with two Dai Li agents secretly watching their every move.
Elsewhere, Long Feng is disappointed in Joo Dee's second failure to control the Avatar and his friends. She worries that the group no longer trusts her, and rightly so. Long Feng simply says, "The Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai." Joo Dee's pupils dilate, and she all-too calmly accepts the invitation. Long Feng tells her to await further orders. As she leaves, Long Feng himself reveals that he, too, is worried that the Avatar may disrupt his control over the city and the king. A Dai Li agent asks if they should take care of him, but Long Feng says no, intending to deal with the "problem" quietly.
Back at their apartment, Iroh is still excitedly mulling over names for his new tea shop. Zuko informs Iroh that the Avatar is in the city and searching for his bison. Iroh warns Zuko that further pursuing the Avatar in Ba Sing Se could jeopardize their attempts at rebuilding their lives. Zuko is still set upon reclaiming his believed destiny. Iroh tells him that he should take the time to think about what that means.
Out in the city, the gang is setting up more posters when Katara is approached by Jet. He tells her that he wants to help, but Katara is understandably furious with him, and attacks. Jet deflects her attacks and tries to prove his honesty by dropping his hooked swords. The others arrive, drawn by the noise of her attack, to find Jet pinned to the wall. Toph, reading Jet's heartbeat and breathing patterns, pronounces that he is telling the truth. Katara is still distrustful, but agrees to let him help in the search. Jet leads them to a large empty warehouse, where he says they may have been holding Appa. Toph confirms it by finding a tuft of Appa's fur. An old man who is sweeping comes in and says that he is glad that he does not have to clean up after the creature's droppings. The old cleaning man says that the creature was sent off to Whaletail Island, a journey which could take weeks or months for Team Avatar as it is located down near the South Pole. He said the bison was bought by some wealthy noble for a zoo perhaps. Aang immediately wants to set off and Jet offers to come along. However, Katara forcefully says no.
On their way out, the group is sidetracked when Smellerbee and Longshot happen to come across them. Katara once again turns on Jet, as he had claimed to have left his gang behind. Jet insists that he has been living a peaceful life in the city, but Smellerbee says that he was arrested by the Dai Li a few weeks beforehand. Toph says that they are both telling the truth, even though their stories do not match. Sokka quickly realizes that the reason Toph can tell that neither of them is lying is because they both think they are telling the truth. Jet has been brainwashed to quickly and quietly get the Avatar and his friends to leave Ba Sing Se without talking to the Earth King about the War, which was Long Feng's plan.
That night, a Dai Li agent is walking alone down a street when he is bumped aside by the Blue Spirit, Zuko in disguise. He chases the spirit down an alley and attacks him, knocking the head off a decoy. Zuko quickly captures him, demanding that the agent tells him what he needs, and if he is denied, the Blue Spirit implies that he will cut off the agent's head.
Meanwhile, the group, Longshot, and Smellerbee are holding Jet. Katara guesses that Jet and the old man were used to try to lead them away from the city on a false lead. Aang, realizing that Appa may be held in the same place they brainwashed Jet, tries to get him to remember where he was taken. When trying to remember the night his home was attacked proves too painful, Katara uses her healing to try to help him out. Jet remembers that he was taken to a secret facility beneath the water of a lake. Sokka remembers what Joo Dee had said about her "vacation", where she said she went on vacation to Lake Laogai jogging more of Jet's memory. The base is under Lake Laogai.
The group makes their way to the lake the next day and Toph quickly finds and uncovers an underwater tunnel. They go inside, quietly making their way through the dark corridors. In one room, a group of women is being "conditioned" to be Joo Dee clones. Jet leads the group to a cell he thinks will be big enough to hold Appa, which he opens. Inside his cell, Appa gets up as his cell door is opened. However, it is not Jet who opened this door, but the Blue Spirit.
Meanwhile, the gang find themselves confronted by Long Feng and several Dai Li agents, having entered another cell. A battle quickly breaks out. Long Feng escapes the room, with Aang and Jet in hot pursuit. Long Feng tries to make one last bargain with Aang, but he and Jet refuse. Instead, he extends the same invitation to Jet that he did to Joo Dee. Jet's pupils dilate, and he attacks Aang.
In Appa's cell, Zuko, again disguised as the Blue Spirit, is suddenly confronted by Iroh, who asks who could be behind that mask in a tone that implies he already knows the answer. Then Iroh scolds Zuko for not planning ahead, particularly mentioning the time when they were at the North Pole, in which he would have died had the Avatar's friends not come along. He pleads with Zuko to look inside himself for once and find his own destiny, not the one forced on him by his father. Zuko throws his mask and swords to the ground in anger.
Elsewhere, Aang is trying to get Jet to snap out of his trance, while avoiding his attacks. He finally gets through to him by reminding him of his past as a Freedom Fighter. Jet recovers, and Long Feng tells him to finish Aang. Jet quickly hurls one of his hooked swords at Long Feng's head, who dodges and retaliates with a crushing blow. Long Feng escapes as the others enter the chamber. Katara tries to heal Jet and realizes just how badly he was injured. Smellerbee asks them to go on ahead, saying they will be fine. Katara tells them that they cannot just leave them there, but Longshot speaks for the first and only time and tells Aang and his group that they should go and find Appa, and leave Jet to Smellerbee and himself. Jet tries to assure Katara that he will be all right, but as they leave, Toph sorrowfully tells Sokka that Jet was lying. Smellerbee starts crying, and Longshot is shown notching an arrow.
They finally reach Appa's cell, only to find the chains broken and Appa gone. Thinking that the Dai Li have taken him, they rush back to the surface, only to find themselves surrounded by Long Feng and Dai Li agents. Momo suddenly takes off into the sky, where Appa then comes down and breaks through two of the earth walls the Dai Li had created. Toph and Aang take this opportunity to take out the remaining Dai Li on the middle wall and fling them into the lake. Long Feng tries to attack Appa, only to have his foot caught in Appa's mouth, and gets tossed into the lake, skipping across the surface. Aang and the others joyfully reunite with their flying friend, before quickly making their escape from the island on Appa. With teary eyes, Katara stares into the water below. Aang senses her pain and comforts, including her in a group hug. Together they sail off for a nearby island, supporting one another through this tragedy.
Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh leave the base, barely missing the fighting. Zuko acknowledges his uncle's words, dropping the Blue Spirit mask into the water. He stands looking at it, as it sinks into the darkness.
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- Main article: Transcript:Lake Laogai (episode)
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Jet's death is depicted in the play in "The Ember Island Players" in which a hollow boulder prop lands on top of him. When Zuko asks if Jet died, Sokka replies that "it was really unclear"—a reference to Internet fan discussions of the unclear nature of Jet's fate in this episode, but later confirmed during the San Diego Comic-Con.
- This is the second episode in which Jet and Aang battle, the first being "Jet" when Aang fought Jet to get his glider back.
- When Zuko attempts to capture Appa, Iroh interrupts him and says, "This is exactly what happened when you captured the Avatar at the North Pole! You had him, and then you had nowhere to go!" Later Iroh states, "If his friends hadn't found you, you would have frozen to death!" Both are referring to the events of "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
- The marks resulting from Appa biting Long Feng in this episode serve as evidence in the episode "The Earth King" to prove to Earth King Kuei that Long Feng lied about never seeing a sky bison before.
- This is the last time Zuko is seen as the Blue Spirit, as he throws the mask into Lake Laogai.
- This is the first time Zuko speaks while disguised as the Blue Spirit.
- This is the only episode in which Longshot speaks.
- Toph's ability to tell when someone is lying is introduced.
- When Iroh serves Quon tea, the latter is only accompanied by one other man. When he stands to compliment him on the brew, there are two men with him.
- When Toph says, "Why, because you think I can't put up posters on my own?" she takes Sokka's brush and wipes a long streak of glue across the wall, but when she says, "It's upside down, isn't it?" the streak is gone.
- When Zuko enters his apartment for the first time in the episode, he unties the strings on his robe to pull out the missing Appa flier, but after the screen looks away from Zuko and shows Iroh talking, the two strings are tied again.
- When Team Avatar discovers Jet, everyone's mouths drop in surprise, including Toph's. However, Toph does not know who Jet is at this point; she joined the group long after the team's encounter with Jet and even asked Katara who he was along their search for Appa.
- When Katara attacked Jet with water by the stream, the rest of the missing Appa posters were missing.
- When Katara is attacking Jet, in one scene, the hooks of his sword are on the hilt.
- When Jet says, "Katara, I've changed", his swords are missing.
- Jet throws his swords on the ground to show Katara he does not want to fight, but after she pins him to the wall and the rest of Team Avatar arrives, his swords are missing.
- When Old Sweepy is complaining about his lack of vacations, Aang's staff cannot be seen, but when Sokka says, "Let's get moving", Aang's staff is perpendicular to the ground.
- Toph was able to tell that Katara was lying about Jet being her boyfriend or at least harboring feeling for him, but when Old Sweepy said Appa had been transported to Whaletail Island and had been taken away, Toph did not detect that he was lying. This could be explained by the fact that he was brainwashed and believed his claim was true, as Jet did later on, or Toph was not paying attention to his breathing and heartbeat.
- At one point during the battle, Jet yanks Toph to safety after the latter is grabbed by a Dai Li agent's rock glove, and the two land behind Longshot. A few frames later, however, Toph cannot be seen standing with Jet and Longshot. Moments later, when Jet and Aang begin to chase Long Feng, Toph can be standing behind the two once more.
- After Long Feng brutally strikes Jet, he is seen earthbending up into a pipe. When the group enters the room, the rock pillar that Long Feng made has disappeared.
- When Jet is dealt his fatal blow, his swords fall to his sides, but after the rest of the group finds him, his swords are gone.
- When Aang and Jet chase Long Feng into a room, he stands in front of the door, but when he commands Jet to fight Aang, he is on the other side of the room.
- When Longshot readies his bow for any approaching Dai Li agents, a door is there, but when Long Feng left shortly before, it was not.
- When the team is flying on Appa in their final scene, Momo is missing.
- "Lake Laogai" won the Primetime Emmy Award for Individual Achievement Award.
- The two questions Uncle Iroh asks Zuko to ask himself, "Who are you" and "What do you want" are prominent philosophical questions from the sci-fi series Babylon 5 designed to represent order and chaos respectively.
- The basic plot of this episode is similar to X-Men 2. There was a government conspiracy, the Dai Li's leader is secretly controlling the Earth Kingdom, that both the "good guys", Team Avatar, and "bad guys", Freedom Fighters, agreed was bad, and thus teamed up to infiltrate a secret government base hidden under Lake Laogai, which they found the location of by probing a brainwashed friend's mind. One of the characters, Jet, dies, and the bad guys, Iroh and Zuko, escape.
- When Sokka tries to convince Katara to kiss Jet to reinstate his memory, Aang expresses apparent jealousy, stating it is a bad idea.
- This is the only episode in which Uncle Iroh reprimands Zuko.
- While trying to regain his memory, Jet has a flashback to his childhood in which it is revealed that the Rough Rhinos were responsible for the destruction of his hometown and the murder of his parents.
- When Aang is yelling at Joo Dee in defiance of the city's rules, he is briefly shown as a chibi.