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In Honor of Mako
"The Tales of Ba Sing Se"
Information
Series

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Book

Earth

Episode

35/61

Original air date

September 29, 2006

Written by

Joann Estoesta, Lisa Wahlander, Andrew Huebner, Gary Scheppke, Lauren MacMullan, Katie Mattila, Justin Ridge, Giancarlo Volpe, Elizabeth Welch Ehasz (story editor), John O'Bryan (story editor)

Directed by

Ethan Spaulding

Animation

DR Movie

Guest stars

Mako (Uncle), Melinda Clarke (Madame Macmu-Ling), Marcella Lentz-Pope (Jin), Andy Morris (Kenji), Quinton Flynn (Mugger), James Sie (Cabbage merchant)

Production number

215

Episode guide
Previous

"City of Walls and Secrets"

Next

"Appa's Lost Days"

Transcript
"The Tales of Ba Sing Se" is the 15th episode of Book Two: Earth of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the 35th of the overall series. It debuted on September 29, 2006.

Overview

A set of vignettes about each of the main characters' adventures in Ba Sing Se, providing a glimpse of their personalities and private lives. Katara and Toph have a girls' day out; Iroh helps people in town before celebrating the birthday of his dead son; Aang helps a zookeeper build a new zoo; Sokka accidentally ends up in a poetry club; Zuko goes out on a date; and Momo searches Ba Sing Se for Appa.

Synopsis

The Tale of Toph and Katara

Katara and Toph at spa

Katara and Toph enjoy a mud bath.

The story opens at Team Avatar's home in Ba Sing Se. The whole group is busily cleaning themselves up for the day, with the exception of Toph, who has yet to wake up. When Katara wakes her, Toph presents herself with her hair a mess and her body covered in dust, which she calls a "healthy coating of earth", and considers herself to be ready. Katara suggests they have a "girls' day out" and takes her to the Fancy Lady Day Spa. Although reluctant at first, Toph agrees, but warns her that the attendants had better not touch her feet. They walk in, and after being forced into having a foot massage that turns into a foot scrubbing, Toph earthbends one of the attendants through a wall. The girls later take a mud bath and Toph uses her earthbending to make creepy faces with the mud and scare away the attendant. Afterward, the friends relax in a sauna, using their bending to toss hot rocks and water in a central pit to make steam.

The girls leave the spa with heavy make-up on their faces. Toph comments that while she does not usually do fancy things, it is not something she dislikes. As they cross a bridge, three older girls, led by Star, make fun of Toph's makeup. Toph becomes visibly upset by these remarks and Katara tries to urge her to ignore them. Toph, however, forces a laugh back at the girls and earthbends a hole in the bridge, sending them into the water below. Katara, believing it to be the only appropriate action, finishes with her own parting shot by washing the girls downstream with a large wave.

Katara tries to console Toph as they continue walking. Toph claims that, because she is blind, she does not have to worry so much about personal appearance or the approval of others. Nevertheless, the girls' words still hurt her all the same, and she sheds a few tears. Katara compliments Toph and says she admires her as she is confident, self-assured, and strong, adding that even though Toph will never know what she looks like, she is also really pretty. Toph responds by saying that she would like to return the favor, but does not know what Katara looks like. Katara laughs at this, and the story ends with Toph giving her a friendly, yet hard, punch on the arm.

The Tale of Iroh

Iroh as a civilian

Iroh plays a song.

While strolling through a market, Iroh stops and buys a few things at a street stand, such as a picnic basket. The shopkeeper asks his customer what his reasoning is, and Iroh claims that it is for a special occasion. He aids the shopkeeper by helping a moon flower bloom by moving it into the shade, explaining that moon flowers like partial shade. Continuing his walk, he sees a small boy crying and his mother trying her hardest to calm him. Iroh borrows a liuqin from a nearby shop and sings a song to the weeping child, which tells the tale of a young soldier boy marching home from war. The boy stops crying as Iroh sings to him, and he proceeds to thank Iroh by pulling his beard and laughing.

In a small street alley, Iroh watches some boys playing earth soccer. The ball ricochets off a rock and crashes through a window. He tells them that it is always best to admit your mistakes in order to restore honor. However, when the massive owner shows up in the window saying "when I'm through with you kids, the window won't be the only thing that's broken!", he retracts his comments and tells them to run. After running down an alley, he is threatened at knife-point by a mugger. Unconcerned for his own safety, Iroh tells the mugger that his stance makes him weak to attacks, and proves it by knocking him down and stealing his dagger. Iroh corrects the man's stance and informs him that he does not look like a criminal. The man admits that he is confused with his life and has turned to crime. As the two share tea, Iroh suggests to the man to become a masseur. He comments that no one has ever believed in him, to which Iroh responds that help from others can be a great blessing, the same wisdom he previously offered Toph.

Iroh comes to rest upon a hill with a large tree. He sets up some rocks and pulls out materials from the basket he purchased earlier. The special occasion for which it is needed is a memorial for Lu Ten's birthday, Iroh's only son whom he lost in the Siege of Ba Sing Se. Iroh places a cloth out upon the ground along with a picture of Lu Ten. He lights two incense sticks using firebending, places them in a holder, and wishes happy birthday to his son. He confesses that he wished he could have helped Lu Ten, similar to how he had helped those along his way and that his death helped him become a better person. Iroh starts singing the song he had played earlier for the crying boy, "Leaves from the Vine", though this time, it is broken up by tears as Iroh mourns Lu Ten's death.

This segment of the episode ends with a dedication to Mako Iwamatsu, Iroh's voice actor, who passed away on July 21, 2006, after a long battle with esophageal cancer.

The Tale of Aang

Ba Sing Se Zoo

The newly-built zoo is located in the Agrarian Zone.

Flying high over Ba Sing Se, Aang lands at a small zoo, looking for Appa. Looking around, he sees a wide variety of animals, all of whom are miserable in their small cages. Many of them are also partially starved. The zookeeper tells Aang that the zoo is no longer receiving funding from the Dai Li because it is no longer popular with the children. However, in a circle of troubles, the zoo is also quite filthy; one of the cages shows an animal lying near multiple piles of feces. The keeper would like nothing more than to let his animals run wild in open spaces, and Aang suggests moving the animals to an open area just outside the city.

The animals prove much more difficult to control than Aang originally thought and they end up running wild over the city, terrorizing the citizens. Hog monkeys destroy a shop, various animals attack the citizens, and the cabbage merchant has his cabbages eaten by a rabaroo. After trying to restore order, Aang pulls out his bison whistle and blows a huge burst of air through it using airbending, attracting the attention of all the creatures. He hops on an air scooter as the animals run after him.

Meanwhile, the zookeeper frantically tries to get the guards to open the gate, who refuse until they see the oncoming stampede. Once the gates are open, Aang reaches the other side and hops on his air scooter again. Using his earthbending, he creates a wall around the animals. He continues to earthbend paths, secluded areas, and habitat accessories. The children and their families come flocking to the new zoo, and the zookeeper thanks Aang for his help, also telling him he should have a job with animals. However, the zoo animals were not the only creatures that followed the sound of the whistle, as many domestic cats, dogs, and cat-dogs are also inside the animal pens. The zookeeper advises Aang to stick to saving people.

The Tale of Sokka

Sokka recites haikus

Sokka shows off his poetry skills.

In the peaceful city, Sokka is outside his element of war and battle. His boomerang has become a toy as he walks aimlessly through the streets. He stumbles across the Five-Seven-Five Society, a haiku class full of beautiful girls. While peeking through the window, enjoying the show dreamily, he is suddenly shoved from behind by an ostrich horse and falls in through the window. While explaining the incident to the girls, he accidentally rhymes in haiku: "I am so sorry. Something struck me in the rear! I just wound up ... here." The poetry instructor, Madame Macmu-Ling, becomes upset with the intrusion and giggling of the class. She is also disgusted with the commonplace message his haiku presents and presents the rules of haiku to him in a much more formal tone. Sokka soon gets into a poetry duel with the teacher. After each of Sokka's verses, the girls in the class break into giggling. After several bouts, with Sokka comically winning each one, he mistakenly adds an extra syllable to the final line of his encore, causing the class to become silent and hard-faced. After counting the syllables and realizing his mistake, a guard kicks him out of the class back onto the street, causing Sokka to change his mind about liking poetry.

The Tale of Zuko

Jin with Zuko

Zuko and Jin visit the Firelight Fountain.

Working at the teahouse, Zuko is worried that a young girl has deduced that he is from the Fire Nation. When he tells Iroh about it, Iroh realizes that the girl, Jin, simply has a crush on Zuko. This is quickly proven correct when Jin comes to the counter and asks him out after paying. Iroh quickly accepts on his nephew's behalf, and the two teenagers meet after sundown outside the shop.

Zuko leaves the shop, polished in nice clothes and slicked hair that took Iroh, according to Zuko, ten minutes to fashion. Jin, however, messes it up before they leave. Zuko, not used to something as mundane as a date, is more than a little nervous and makes a few missteps, but Jin seems to take it in stride. She asks Zuko about his life, which causes him to make up a story that he and his uncle were part of a traveling circus before they came to Ba Sing Se. Jin asks him what he performed as, but she stops him because she wants to guess. When Jin guesses "juggling", Zuko flows with it. With encouragement from Jin, Zuko starts and gets himself covered in food, claiming a lack of practice as the problem.

After their awkward dinner, Jin pulls Zuko off to one of her favorite parts of the city, the Firelight Fountain. At night, the fountain is usually lit by lanterns in the evening and causes the water to sparkle. However, when they get there, the lanterns are all dark and unlit. Sensing her disappointment, Zuko tells Jin to close her eyes. Making sure that no one else is around to watch, he quietly lights all the lanterns with his firebending. Jin and Zuko stare into the fountain and Jin reaches out and holds his hand. Slyly, she tries to give Zuko a kiss, but Zuko holds up a coupon for a free tea between them and gives it to her. Nonplussed, she tells Zuko to close his eyes so she could present her gift to him. She kisses him lightly and briefly. Zuko gives her a brief kiss in return, but quickly breaks away and leaves. When Jin asks him the reason, he simply says that "it's complicated" and heads back to the teahouse.

Back at his apartment, Iroh's query about the night is answered only by a slamming of the doors to Zuko's room. Zuko opens the door slightly afterward, however, and tells him it was nice before gently sliding the door closed, leading Iroh to smile.

The Tale of Momo

Momo sad

Momo curls up in a footprint left by Appa.

Momo dreams that he and Appa are eating moon peaches from a tree so high up that it reaches over the clouds. When he is suddenly awoken by a clap of thunder, he instinctively hides in Sokka's bag. When he emerges, he finds a tuft of Appa's hair on his head from inside the bag. Smelling it, Momo realized that the fur is Appa's. Seeing an Appa-like shadow on the ground, he wraps the fur around his wrist and takes off after it, only to find a lone cloud. A similar sighting only turns out to be a cherry tree.

Disappointed, Momo decides to continue searching the city for Appa. He soon draws the attention of a trio of pygmy pumas, which see him as a potential meal. Momo tries to escape, but the cats work together to try to bring him down, momentarily trapping him in a box until he seizes an opportunity to escape. Momo's "escape" only succeeds in landing him among a crowd of people watching a street artist with a pair of dancing monkeys; the man seizes Momo, outfits him with a hat, and places him with the monkeys, thinking him to be a monkey himself due to his shortsightedness, making an amusing trio of small dancing primates. The three cats eventually chase Momo out of the performers' circle and pin him to the ground, but all four of them suddenly find themselves captured by an animal control officer.

The four animals are brought to a butcher, and the man that captured them begins haggling with the owner. The highly intelligent Momo, however, frees himself by using his opposable thumb to remove the skull pin that locks his cage, and starts to run off. However, seeing the three mournful pumas and feeling sympathetic, he frees them from their cages, and all four run off on the rooftops. As the four new devoted friends sit on a rooftop snuggling, one of the pumas removes the fur that had been used to bind Momo's legs, and the three run off down an alley. The cats stop and place the fur in a large three-toed footprint in the street, which was, in fact, made by Appa. Momo notices the print as he lands in it. He curls on top of the tuft of fur and falls asleep, again thinking of his beloved companion, as rain starts to fall.

Credits

Production notes

Transcript

Main article: Transcript:The Tales of Ba Sing Se

Translations

Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar

Series continuity

  • The green bag in which Momo sleeps and finds Appa's fur is the same one Sokka bought in "The Blind Bandit".
  • The paw print to which the pygmy pumas lead Momo the same paw print Appa makes in "Appa's Lost Days".

Goofs

  • When Iroh disarms the mugger, the dagger is blade up in Iroh's hand, but in the close-up, it is blade down. Before the mugger hits the ground, it is blade up again. In the final frame, it is blade down before Iroh skillfully spins it blade up.
  • In the first frames of "The Tale of Aang", when he soars over the Lower Ring, the zoo he will create at the end of the tale is already visible behind the wall.
  • The first frames of "The Tale of Aang" show an overview of the Lower Ring, the same part of the city that was shown in "City of Walls and Secrets". However, now there is a zoo visible behind the wall, whereas there was a monorail track in that spot in the other episode.
  • In the scene where the mother rabaroo hops away, the zookeeper and Aang can be seen far away, with Aang holding his staff, but in the next close-up scene of them, Aang no longer has his staff. However, when the shot slides to the right to show a mother and her son behind Aang looking at their cat, he is holding it again.
  • In a shot of the Five-Seven-Five Society when Sokka falls through the window, seven girls are shown to be part of the club, excluding Madame Macmu-Ling: six girls watching the stage, sitting in two rows of three, and one girl on stage. However, when the girls all laugh after Sokka accidentally apologized in haiku-style, there are eight girls sitting in two rows of four, with the girl that was previously on stage now sitting among them.
  • After Sokka's haiku about a canoe, a diagonal overview of the girls show that the back row now only has two ladies, the front row three, and one empty cushion between the two rows. However, after his haiku about his boomerang, Madame Macmu-Ling returns to her cushion, directly to the left of the front row once again, and the girls are in rows of four again.
  • As Sokka counts the number of syllables in his last "haiku", his left iris is in front as his finger passes by.
  • When Zuko makes his way to Iroh in the workers' area of the teashop, a customer is sitting at a table right next to the counter. When the shot changes to an overview of the shop from the workers' area point of view, the table that customer was sitting at is now empty and the man is sitting at the table next to that.
  • As Zuko slams the doors to his room, a crack near the left handle disappears. When he opens it to speak to Iroh, the doors turn white.

Trivia

  • An uncredited Greg Baldwin provides a solitary line of dialogue for Iroh during the character's tale.
  • When Iroh sings to the crying boy to calm him down, the boy's doll is an Earth Kingdom soldier.
  • In "The Tale of Aang", part of the soundtrack for the end credits can be heard in the background when Aang is looking around in the zoo. The music has only one instrument though, as opposed to the end credits which had many instruments.
  • The hill where Iroh sets the altar for his son is identical to the hill shown in a flashback at the beginning of the episode "Bitter Work".
  • The man who lived inside the house whose window was destroyed by the kids in "The Tale of Iroh" seemed gigantic, as he appeared to be larger than the window into where the ball flew.
  • This is the last episode featuring the cabbage merchant, but he is mentioned in "The Ember Island Players".
  • This is the only episode in Avatar: The Last Airbender in which Sokka is seen with his own facial hair.
  • This is the first time Aang is seen shaving his head. He shaves it again in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 1: The Invasion".
  • The haiku contest Sokka has with Madame Macmu-Ling is an Avatar World equivalent of a modern day poetry slam. The connection between the two is corroborated by Sokka making a reference to a rap song (see below); poetry slams are often influenced by freestyle rapping.
  • "The Tale of Toph and Katara" is the only tale in the episode that focuses on two characters.
  • Madame Macmu-Ling, the instructor of the Five-Seven-Five Society in "The Tale of Sokka", is named after Lauren MacMullan, part of the series' production team, and writer of that segment.
  • The writers for each segment are regular crew members, but, with one exception, has only this episode as a writing credit.
    • Joann Estoesta has eighteen credits as production coordinator
    • Lisa Wahlander has four credits as production assistant, thirteen as martial arts coordinator, some with videographer as well.
    • Andrew Huebner has sixteen credits as production manager.
    • Lauren MacMullan has eight credits as director, three as storyboard, one as character designer, one as historian.
    • Gary Scheppke has nine credits as production assistant.
    • Katie Mattila has eight credits as production assistant, seven as production coordinator, and an additional writing credit for "The Beach".
    • Justin Ridge has eleven credits as storyboard artist
    • Giancarlo Volpe has eighteen credits as director, five as storyboard artist, and one as assistant director. IMDb also has him as an uncredited writer for "The Serpent's Pass" and "The Drill".
  • This is the last time Momo's signature theme is heard.
  • This is the first time that Aang is shown using two bending styles at once, assuming he used only airbending in "The Fortuneteller", during the series. He used earthbending while riding an air scooter.
  • This is the only episode that Team Avatar is seen enjoying their time in Ba Sing Se.

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