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Team Avatar and Tenzin's family travel to the Southern Water Tribe to attend the Glacier Spirits Festival. While there, Korra's uncle, Unalaq, attempts to persuade Korra to let him advise her about the spirits, but both Korra's father and Tenzin assert that she needs to focus on her airbending. However, during the festival, Korra discovers that it was her father and Tenzin rather than Aang who kept her locked away, and after a dark spirit attacks, Korra breaks off her studies under Tenzin and takes up Unalaq as her instructor.
Two Southern Water Tribe fishermen stand on their boat. The elder fisherman warns the other of dangerous spirits lurking in the waters, and walks off with an eerie smile. A squid-like spirit with tentacles suddenly attacks the ship, kidnapping both fishermen.
In Republic City, Bolin is encouraging the new Fire Ferrets that this match will be better than their previous ones, but does not seem very confident. The Fire Ferrets enter the Pro-bending Arena and assume their fighting stance, but as soon as the bell rings to signal the start of the match, all three Fire Ferrets are promptly knocked off the stage. Their swift defeat by the Rhino Lions broke the record for fastest defeat in the history of the sport. As Bolin climbs back out of the water, he wonders where Mako is when he needs him.
Meanwhile, Mako is driving a motorcycle in pursuit of some members of a bending triad in a truck. In an effort to fend off the incoming police officer, two triad members in the back throw water on the road and the waterbender of the two freezes it instantly. Mako, who had been temporarily blinded by the mist, rides his motorcycle over the ice and starts slipping. However, before he falls down, he melts the ice with his firebending, enabling himself to get his vehicle back under control. The maneuver made him swerve to the side, where a parked vehicle was blocking his path. As opposed to stopping, he uses it as a ramp and propels himself in the air, sailing over the triad's truck. He flips in midair and aims a fire blast at the hood of the truck, frying the motor and causing it to explode. He lands smoothly as the truck flips over and explodes. As the triad members crawl out, dizzied by the impact, he casually walks over to them and mocks them by saying that it "looks like [they were] having car trouble, good thing the police are here."
Asami Sato lands one of the biplanes her father had manufactured for the Equalists. As she jumps down from the plane, she happily announces to a Future Industries employee that the modifications she made to the planes have made them suitable for shipment. The man has less good news, as he tells her that, due to Hiroshi's participation in the Anti-bending Revolution, no one wants anything to do with Future Industries, putting the company on the verge of bankruptcy. Asami waves away the concern, stating she is aware of the problem and has a plan to fix it: she will go to the South Pole to meet someone who could revive their ailing company. However, as she walks away from the man, the confident look on her face falters and is replaced by one of worry.
At Air Temple Island, Korra is in the midst of an air scooter race with Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo. The four carelessly make their way across the island, nearly running over Pema and Rohan. As they reach the finish line, Korra is in second place after Ikki, and subsequently enters the Avatar State to give her airbending an extra power boost, and she pulls ahead, winning the race before Ikki, Jinora, and Meelo, who finished last. Bumi, who now lives on Air Temple Island after retiring from the United Forces, declares Korra to be the winner, although Ikki throws a tantrum at the Avatar, stating that the use of the Avatar State to win a race is cheating. Korra responds by giving her a raspberry.
Tenzin overhears the conversation, and castigates Korra for abusing her newfound power, stating that it is not a toy. Korra argues with Tenzin, believing she knows best when it comes to the Avatar State since she is the Avatar. She also announces that she has mastered airbending, despite Tenzin's complaints. Bumi is quick to support her. Turning his attention to his elder brother, Tenzin asks if it is not too late for Bumi to rejoin the United Forces. Bumi tells him that his resignation papers have already been processed and now the airbender will be seeing more of his brother around.
Tenzin refocuses on Korra, and tells the Avatar that she needs to learn more about airbending, and proposes a trip to visit all the air temples. His children get excited, but Jinora and Ikki quickly get into a fight over what style of tattoos they are supposed to have. Tenzin quickly breaks up the fight and promises that they are going to have a good time on this trip. As the United Republic Council was disbanded in the wake of the Anti-bending Revolution, Tenzin now has more time to teach Korra and to spend with his family. However, his more relaxed attitude prompts Bumi to start teasing him about being "vacation Tenzin", as the former commander cannot believe his younger brother can relax. Korra declares that they are all going to the Southern Water Tribe's Glacier Spirits Festival before going to the air temples, earning the joy of the airbender kids while Tenzin displays a defeated face. Bumi takes advantage of the moment to tease Tenzin some more, joyfully pointing out that the airbender cannot tell him not to come since their mother invited him.
On the ship taking the entire party to the Southern Water Tribe, Mako recounts his capture of the triad criminals, and is particularly proud of his line "Looks like you were having car trouble, good thing the police are here." Korra asks if he wrote that himself, to which Mako proudly states that he did, before pulling out a list of different lines he wrote himself. Korra points out one she likes, and Mako says he will use it next time. He also proudly informs Korra that Chief Lin Beifong says he may be promoted to a detective soon.
As the ship arrives at the Southern Water Tribe, Avatar Aang's sons are reunited with their only sister, Kya. The eldest of the siblings immediately starts to tease Tenzin for being scared she will beat him up, to which Tenzin responds that he is not afraid of her anymore. Korra's parents are also at the docks, and introduce themselves to Mako. Bolin is excited about the large crowd that is present to greet them, but Korra corrects him and says they are there for Unalaq and his children, the twins Desna and Eska, pointing them out to the earthbender. Bolin immediately expresses his infatuation over both twins until Korra tells Bolin that Desna is male.
As the two parties move to meet each other, Unalaq seems disappointed that the Glacier Spirits Festival is not as it used to be, and describes the deep spiritual roots it once had. He asks Korra if she will have him as her spiritual guide and mentor, but Tonraq and Tenzin interject, insisting that the Avatar is busy with airbending training. Korra notices the tension between her father and uncle, which appears to be rough and one of a mutual distrust. When Korra learns about the attacks on sailors, she becomes more interested in fighting spirits than learning more advanced airbending techniques, adding to her already apparent disinterest in the training.
In a nearby house, Asami takes Bolin to accompany her when she meets Varrick, a rich businessman whom she believes can help her save Future Industries. She tells Bolin he is her assistant and that he should not speak at all. As they make their way through the large crowd surrounding Varrick, who is sitting down on a pillow, the businessman asks about his levitation. Despite Asami telling him not to speak, Bolin promptly tells him that he is not levitating at all. Varrick appears to be mad about this revelation, but instead fires his levitation instructor, and tells Bolin that he likes his style. He proceeds to show Bolin what appears to be the first moving picture; it is of an ostrich horse. The businessman quickly loses interest, dismissing the moving picture as "old news", and shows off a showgirl named Ginger. Asami approaches Varrick and inquires about the deal, prompting a close proximity stare down between the two of them. It does not last long, as Varrick breaks the eye contact after a few seconds, saying that he agrees, promising to finalize the details later at the banquet, prompting a pleased Asami to hug Bolin.
Later, during the Royal Feast, Unalaq expresses yet again his disappointment over the lack of spirituality at the Southern Water Tribe, saying he plans to change that in the future, much to Tonraq's displeasure. Meanwhile, Korra finds out that is was not Aang's last wish to have her locked away in the Southern Water Tribe compound to focus on her bending training, but rather her father and Tenzin's. Upset about the revelation, she wishes she could have had more control over her life.
Inside the dining room, Tenzin is eating with his siblings, both of whom are teasing him, particularly about "vacation Tenzin", much to his embarrassment.
After dinner, Bolin, Mako, and Korra attend the festival. Mako and Korra are feeding each other cotton candy, which causes Bolin to feel uncomfortable. He tells Korra he is going to make a move on her cousin Eska, to which Korra retorts that she has always found the two rather creepy.
Bolin begins talking to the twins, though Desna does not seem to like Bolin. Eska, however, seems more keen toward Bolin and grabs him by the hood, telling him that he amuses her; she drags him away, telling him to win her something at the games.
Meanwhile, Korra and Mako play a water shooting game, where the goal is to squirt water from guns into a chibi Aang's mouth. During the game, the two start talking about Korra being locked away, prompting her to get upset, and she angrily but unintentionally bends a ton of water into Aang's mouth, causing her to win the game and a stuffed Appa toy. Mako says he supports her, and Korra asks if he really thinks so. When he answers that he does not know, but rather supposes he should support her no matter what he thinks or believes about the situation, convinced that is what she would want him to do, Korra gets mad and throws the stuffed animal at him. Mako calls after her, questioning if he should be supportive or tell her what he thinks.
During the night after the festival, Naga wakes up and begins howling outside of the tent Korra is in. Korra runs outside to calm the polar bear dog down, albeit with little success as Mako and Bolin are also awoken by the howling. However, Naga had meant to warn them, as Korra spots a Dark Spirit in the distance. The spirit quickly makes its way toward the Avatar and attacks her, prompting Mako and Bolin to run toward them. The spirit pins Korra against a wall, but is distracted by Mako and Bolin's attacks. Their bending only seems to further anger the spirit, however, who swiftly defeats them. Korra begins to attack the spirit, and is assisted in her endeavor by her father, who encases the spirit in ice. However, the spirit breaks free from the cage and launches both Tonraq and Korra away. Tenzin arrives and attempts to speak to the spirit, asking why it is angry, but to no avail as he is immediately batted away.
After Korra recovers, she enters the Avatar State, which catches the spirit's attention. The spirit makes its way toward Korra once more, who lifts herself into the air to dodge its attack, and firebends at it. Seemingly unaffected by the attack, the spirit grabs Korra with a tendril and brings her to the ground. As the spirit is about to deliver the final blow, it is suddenly put into a trance-like state when Unalaq encircles it with water. The spirit changes color and starts to glow, eventually disappearing.
Later on, Unalaq offers again to become Korra's spiritual adviser and she accepts, saying she needs to learn how to fight spirits rather than focus on her airbending. She subsequently breaks off her ties with Tenzin, who is hurt by her actions, but retains a respectful attitude toward her and her decisions. At Katara's request, Kya and Bumi agree to accompany Tenzin in his mission to tend to the air temples. Meanwhile, Korra asks Mako if she made the right decision; however, he is unsure, but he says her heart is in the right place. Unalaq approaches and comforts Korra, stating that he has great plans for her.
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Also starring:
- John Michael Higgins - Varrick (first appearance)
- Kiernan Shipka - Jinora
- Darcy Rose Byrnes - Ikki
- Logan Wells - Meelo
- Alex McKenna - Senna
- Lisa Edelstein - Kya (first appearance)
- Richard Riehle - Bumi
- Aubrey Plaza - Eska (first appearance)
- Aaron Himelstein - Desna (first appearance)
- Jeff Bennett:
- Kevin Michael Richardson - Old salt (only appearance)
- Sean Gantka - Greenhorn (only appearance)
- Additional voices:
- Jeff Bennett
- Dee Bradley Baker
- Kevin Michael Richardson
- J.K. Simmons
- Sean Gantka
- Main article: Transcript:Rebel Spirit
- Lin Beifong is reinstated as Chief of Police of Republic City.
- Mako becomes a police officer.
- Bolin becomes the captain of the Fire Ferrets, and leads two new members who replaced Mako and Korra.
- Asami is now the new president of Future Industries, following the arrest of her father.
- The United Republic Council is disbanded in favor of the election of a president.
- Bumi retired from the United Forces and lives on Air Temple Island with Tenzin and his family.
- Tonraq and Tenzin are revealed as the individuals who decided to isolate Korra in the Southern Water Tribe compound, as opposed to Aang.
- In the booth where Korra wins a plush Appa, there are six players with water guns, but only five targets.
- The new members of the Fire Ferrets resemble Mako and Korra, although the elements they bend are opposite to those of the players they replaced.
- The moving picture Varrick showed to Asami and Bolin is similar to Sallie Gardner at a Gallop, a sequence of photographs depicting a galloping horse considered as the first film.
- Tenzin's attempt to reason with the dark spirits is a nod to how his father, Aang, tried to talk to hostile spirits in the original series.
- "Rebel Spirit" is the first episode in the Avatar series to play a scene between the intro and the title card.
- This is the first episode of The Legend of Korra not to be written by either Michael Dante DiMartino or Bryan Konietzko.