- This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Piandao.
|"We've all had masters to help us get better. You should see if you can study with Piandao."|
|— Aang to Sokka.|
After the rest of Team Avatar saves a town from destruction by a meteorite, Sokka feels left out as he is the only person in the group unable to bend. He finds a swords master named Piandao to help further his skills as a warrior, forging his own sword out of the meteorite. He and his friends realize just how important he is to their group. Meanwhile, Iroh devises a plan to escape prison and starts bodybuilding in secret.
The episode opens with Aang, Katara, and Sokka, watching a meteor shower. Toph naturally cannot see anything, but chooses to "watch" it with them nonetheless. One meteorite falls to Earth and impacts close by, starting a forest fire near a village. Fighting the fire, Aang and Toph begin to build trenches around it while Katara flies on Appa to a nearby creek from which she waterbends to dispose of the fire. Sokka, however, is merely placed in charge of Momo and does nothing to contribute, much to his dismay as even Momo manages to help out by snuffing more ember fires than him.
Meanwhile, Warden Poon goes to give Iroh his food in prison. The guard mocks a markedly disheveled Iroh as he scrabbles for the gruel, even scooping what had fallen onto the ground into his mouth. As soon as the guard is gone, he becomes more collected, wipes the sweaty hair out of his face and calmly finishes his meal in peace, only eating out of the bowl.
While Team Avatar is dining in the town, Sokka expresses how he feels useless for not being able to bend or fight as well as the others, stating that he cannot "fly around" like the rest of them. The group tries to console him and takes him shopping at a weapons store. Katara is seen trying on leather gloves, and Aang tries on some very intimidating but heavy armor. After trying many weapons and injuring himself a few times, Sokka sees a priceless sword that he falls in love with. The shop owner informs him that it was forged by the Fire Nation's most renowned swords master, Piandao, who happens to live in a castle nearby. At Aang's suggestion, Sokka decides to seek the tutelage of the master because every other member of their group was formally trained by a real master of a bending art; Aang by Monk Gyatso, Katara by Master Pakku, and Toph by badgermoles, the original earthbenders.
Iroh is shown once again, lying on the ground deep in thought. Suddenly his eyes widen and he begins explosively doing bent-knee sit ups before the camera cuts away to the group.
Sokka travels to Piandao's dojo, only to be informed by Fat that the master turns away almost everyone. During the interview, Sokka humbly admits his own unworthiness to Piandao. However, this is exactly what Piandao was looking for, and the swordmaster quickly decides to take Sokka under his wing. Piandao teaches Sokka that a sword is an extension of imagination and creativity, and charges him with tasks such as landscape painting and calligraphy, and has him practice against his underling.
Meanwhile, Iroh is still being mocked by the guard. The scene cuts to the group missing Sokka, trying to make jokes in his absence. They have no success, and when Katara tries, Aang even says, "I guess the jokes don't run in the family." Back at the prison, Iroh is training in the guards' absence, having upgraded to a more difficult variation of sit-up, the straight-legged inverted sit-up, and clapping push-ups. He keeps up the facade of loneliness and desperation in front of the guard to hide his exercises in preparation for his break out.
In the meantime, Sokka's swordsmanship greatly improves, to the extent where he finally beats Fat while taking a new approach at some of the challenges set before him. By this time, Piandao believes Sokka to be worthy enough to choose a steel to make his own sword. Unsatisfied with the samples of metal before him, Sokka remembers the meteorite and gets Aang, Katara, and Toph to help him haul it up to the castle to use to make his sword. Aang and Katara are both overjoyed to see him again, while Toph claims that she did not care, turning away to hide the blush on her cheeks. They haul the meteorite up, with aid from Toph's earthbending. They are addressed at the door by Piandao, asking about Aang, Katara, and Toph, whom Sokka claims to be friends from the Fire Nation colonies from the former Earth Kingdom.
Still, Iroh is seen training whenever not under watch, being able to perform difficult exercises including but not limited to inverted crunches, inverted push-ups, and one handed pull-ups. By this time he seems to regain much of his strength.
After spending a full night forging his sword, being made in a traditional Chinese fashion of melting, pouring into a mold, shaping, and quenching, the swords master presents Sokka a very unique, all black sword, claiming to have never seen such a creative, imaginative student or blade. Sokka refuses, though, and confesses to actually being from the Southern Water Tribe. The master attacks him, and they engage in a duel. Aang and the others try to intervene, but Sokka tells them to stand back, feeling he needs to fight the battle on his own.
Meanwhile, still keeping his jailer unaware, Iroh has managed to recondition his body to be more formidable than ever before.
As the duel between Sokka and Piandao moves outside, Sokka uses the techniques he has learned—coupled with his youth and agility—to gain the upper hand, something the master points out several times. In the end, the swords master finally gains the upper hand, but sheaths his sword before delivering the final blow. He reveals that he had known Sokka is from the Water Tribe all along just from his name and also notes that Aang is the Avatar. Nonetheless, he claims that the art of the sword does not belong to any one nation and gives Sokka his sword back.
After leaving his castle, Fat runs after Sokka, giving him a bag as the swords master's gift. Inside the bag is a Pai Sho tile: the white lotus. As the doors to the master's home close, they notice that the symbol of the white lotus can be seen surrounding that of the Fire Nation. As they leave, Sokka gives Toph a remaining piece of the meteorite, calling it "space earth". Happy with the gift, Toph easily forms the meteoric iron into various shapes between her hands, such as a sphere, a spiral, a star, and a "splat".
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Also starring:
- Additional voices:
- Dee Bradley Baker
- Greg Baldwin
- Main article: Transcript:Sokka's Master
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire
- A meteorite that large in reality would have destroyed everything for miles around; however, the meteorite collision that occurs at the beginning of the episode causes minimal damage.
- In the scene when Sokka is down about not being special, in one shot, the symbol on Aang's headband is missing and in another, Toph's nose is missing, when her hair is clearly away from her nose.
- When Sokka runs into the store, Toph is rendered in front of Sokka, even though she is farther away.
- In the store, the sword on the wall looks absurdly long from a distance. When Sokka takes it off the wall and unsheathes it, it is a normal, manageable size.
- When Sokka paints a Z-shaped ink pattern on his face, the dot of ink he had unintentionally gotten on his face earlier can still be seen, but by the time he smiled, the dot was gone.
- The ink Sokka spread on his face was in a Z-shape. When he was finished smearing it onto the paper, the ink should have been all over his face, but it was still in the same Z-shape as it was before.
- The ink Sokka purposely put on his face would not be enough to cover the area that was on the paper. His face would have to be completely covered in ink for this to work.
- Sokka's landscape, in addition to the added rainbow, oddly completely omits the waterfall itself. It is also painted in color, despite him only being given black ink.
- When Piandao tells Sokka he is ready for a real sword, part of the yellow rim on the bottom of his collar is missing.
- During the shot of the group standing outside the gate with the meteorite, Toph's shirt is missing but still retains her shoulder garments.
- In reality, it would take months and even up to a year in some cases to produce a Chinese or Japanese sword due to the intricate and time consuming phases of production.
- When Piandao strikes at Sokka after apologizing, Sokka unsheathes his sword to block. However, when the camera cuts to Sokka's face, the sword is back in its sheath.
- Iroh seems to have no scar or wound from when Azula struck him in the chest in "The Chase".
- When Sokka runs away during his fight with Piandao, he has no sword, but a few seconds later, he is cutting the bamboo with his sword.
- The waterfall Piandao has Sokka paint is heavily based on the Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland, famed for its rainbows. Prior to beginning the final season, the show's creators traveled around Iceland, gathering inspiration for what the Fire Nation landscape would resemble.
- Sokka's painting was created by the daughter of Aaron Ehasz, the head writer of the series.[source?]
- When Toph is playing with the meteorite rock at the end of the episode, one of the shapes she forms is a "splat". This is a reference to the Nickelodeon logo at the time of the episode's airing.
- The armor that Aang wears in the weapon shop is inspired by an early toy design of Aang with an armor suit. Additionally, the left gauntlet of the armor is similar to the right gauntlet design of the Soul Calibur character Nightmare.
- The white lotus appears a number of times in Piandao's castle, as do designs inspired by the lion turtle.
- Piandao suggests Sokka to use the name "Lee" while he is in the Fire Nation, as Lee is a common name. This is the same name Zuko used while living in the Earth Kingdom during the second book, while he was trying not to be discovered as being from the Fire Nation.
- What Piandao tells Sokka about imagining the sword as part of your own body mirrors what Suki told him about the fan in the first season. Zuko said something similar to Lee in "Zuko Alone", adding that his two swords are not separate, but two halves of the same deadly weapon.
- Robert Patrick, Piandao's voice actor, played the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-1000 could literally make its arms into swords, paralleling what Piandao says to Sokka when comparing the sword to a "long, very sharp arm".
- This is one of only six episodes in season three that does not start with the prefix "the".
- Piandao is based on Sifu Kisu, the fighting instructor for the show.
- The weapons store shopkeeper resembles Iroh and is even voiced by the same voice actor.