|"The Avatar Returns"|
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Upon returning to the tribe, Aang is promptly banished by a furious Sokka for alerting the ship of the Fire Nation prince. Later, Zuko attacks the Southern Water Tribe village and demands the Avatar be surrendered to him. Aang returns to the village where he reveals that he is the Avatar and surrenders himself to Zuko on the condition that the latter leave the village be. Aboard Zuko's ship, Aang frees himself and battles Zuko. Katara and Sokka fly on Appa to save Aang, and the three manage to escape. Katara and Sokka decide to accompany Aang on his travels to the Northern Water Tribe to find a waterbending teacher for both Aang and Katara.
Returning from the site of the shipwreck, Aang and Katara are greeted by many angry faces in the village, their accidental triggering of a flare on the ship having warned the Fire Nation of their presence. Because of the mishap, the safety of the village has been compromised. A bitter argument ensues in which Sokka decides to banish Aang from the Southern Water Tribe for his perceived betrayal. Katara, outraged by the decision, initially decides to leave with Aang to follow her dream of becoming a master waterbender. However, with some persuasion by Sokka and her grandmother, she sadly decides to stay with her family. A downcast Aang and Appa depart from the village, setting course for the Southern Air Temple, where Aang previously lived. Katara, frustrated that they have banished Aang, snaps angrily at her grandmother, leaving Kanna disappointed.
Sokka quickly readies the young children for combat with the Fire Nation. Meanwhile, Aang and Appa, taking a break from their so far young journey, rest on an ice formation. Aang spots Zuko's ship approaching the village and quickly decides to help defend his new friends, leaving a dozing Appa to continue resting in the ice formation.
Zuko's ship quickly arrives at the Water Tribe village, its mere approach collapsing Sokka's makeshift walls and towers. Sokka continues to stand bravely, only balking in order to avoid the ramp that descends from the ship. Zuko quickly descends, accompanied by a few soldiers. Sokka charges at him, but the more experienced Zuko requires only his bare hands to counter Sokka's primitive weaponry, and he is almost dismissive of his presence at first. Zuko demands the location of the Avatar, expecting to find an old man somewhere in the village. He grabs Gran Gran threateningly, and Sokka attacks Zuko again. The two fight briefly where Zuko again uses only his bare hands to render Sokka's attacks useless. Sokka only manages a lucky hit when his boomerang strikes the back of Zuko's helmet, angering the prince, who prepares to deal a deadly strike using firebending.
Aang arrives in the nick of time, riding on an otter penguin, and knocks Zuko off his feet. Zuko is shocked to discover that the Avatar is merely a twelve-year-old boy, rather than the ancient master he was expecting. As he voices this realization, the Water Tribe villagers express surprise as well, as Aang had never told them his true identity as the Avatar. Zuko quickly regains his focus and wastes no time in launching a series of fire blasts at Aang. Aang is able to defend himself with airbending, but soon decides to surrender and stop the battle, realizing that Zuko's attacks would inevitably strike the children he has befriended. Aang surrenders under the condition that Zuko leave the village alone, and Zuko's soldiers take him aboard as a prisoner before setting off for the Fire Nation.
Katara and Sokka, now with the knowledge that Aang is the Avatar, quickly resolve to save him. They ready a canoe to chase after Zuko's ship, and before embarking, receive farewells and encouragement from their grandmother. The siblings soon conclude, however, that their small boat cannot possibly catch the larger, faster Fire Nation ship, until Appa arrives to give them a ride.
On Zuko's ship, the guards escort Aang to the prison hold, while Prince Zuko entrusts his uncle, Iroh, with taking the boy's glider to his personal quarters. Iroh, true to his nature, immediately and casually passes the job on to the nearest guard. While being taken to the prison hold, Aang, with his hands tied, uses airbending to create a powerful gust of wind with his mouth; it successfully disables the soldiers escorting him, and he proceeds to rapidly run through the interior corridors of the ship, seeking to retrieve his staff. Meanwhile, one of the escorts recovers and sounds the alarm.
Katara and Sokka, having started after Zuko's ship, slowly make progress as Appa swims through the water. Sokka eventually remembers Aang's command phrase for Appa to take off, "Yip yip", and the bison quickly launches into the sky, moving quickly once airborne. For a brief moment, Sokka loses his previous cynical and grumpy attitude in a fit of excitement, a moment that passes when he turns to see his sister watching his rare behavior and smiling smugly at him.
Aang continues to run through the ship's many hallways, displaying tremendous speed and agility. He cuts his bonds on the helmet of one of the guards, knocking him down in the process. He looks through several rooms before finally discovering Zuko's personal quarters. Seeing his staff within the room, he runs in to claim his staff, and a waiting Zuko slams the door shut to cut off his escape route. Zuko launches a number of attacks in an attempt at incapacitating Aang, but the airbender easily avoids them before finally launching a short series of powerful gusts that slam Zuko against the room's walls and ceiling, briefly stunning him. Aang heads to the outside of the ship and prepares to make his escape on his glider. However, just as Aang takes off, Zuko is able to leap after him and grab his ankle. Not able to compensate for the extra weight nor break free of Zuko's grip, Aang is unable to remain aloft, and the two crash clumsily downward onto the deck. The two prepare to face off a third time, but are distracted by the sudden appearance of Appa, carrying Sokka and Katara to Aang's rescue. Aang is unable to regain his focus before Zuko quickly launches a series of fire blasts that presses him to the edge of the deck, knocking his staff away. Another two blasts follow, and Aang, while apparently unharmed by the flames, falls overboard into the frigid sea below.
Aang sinks as Katara cries out in dismay, and he appears momentarily unconscious. However, his eyes soon open, and they and his tattoos glow a brilliant white, his expression becoming stern. Aang, in the Avatar State, begins to waterbend the sea around him, pushing himself into the air on a whirling column of water. Zuko, Katara, and Sokka are shocked by this immense display of bending power, and Aang deposits himself on the deck of the ship before bending his liquid platform into a spinning wall of water that sends Zuko and all of his guards currently on deck flying, Zuko himself going overboard. Appa lands on the deck, while Aang, apparently dazed after the massive display of power, collapses.
Katara and Sokka rush to his aid, assuring that he is all right before preparing to leave. Sokka goes to retrieve Aang's staff, only to find Zuko climbing back onto the deck with it. At a great advantage due to Zuko's position, Sokka quickly strikes the prince in the forehead thrice as he did to him earlier, sending him overboard again. Zuko is only barely able to cling to an anchor's chain approximately halfway down the ship's hull. Some of the soldiers recover and begin to approach Katara and the still-exhausted Aang. Katara, although inexperienced at waterbending, is able to freeze the guards in place to stop their approach. All three take off on Appa just as Iroh arrives on the scene. Iroh helps Zuko on-board again, and the two launch a combined fire blast in an attempt to shoot down the escaping sky bison. Aang recovers from his dazed state just in time to turn this attack against the firebenders, using a blast of wind to redirect the fireball into one of the massive walls of ice on either side of the ship. The resulting avalanche buries the front half of Zuko's ship in ice and snow, immobilizing it. Appa flies into the distance, his passengers laughing happily.
Zuko, angry that the Avatar has escaped his grasp, vows not to underestimate the boy again. He instructs his crew to dig the ship out and pursue the Avatar and his friends as soon as possible. The majority of his crew is either frozen solid or helping to thaw other crew members.
As Appa flies into the sunset, Katara excitedly asks Aang how he was able to earlier execute incredibly powerful waterbending techniques, a capability Aang himself is unable to understand. She questions Aang as to why he did not initially say that he was the Avatar when Katara asked him about the legend. Aang sadly and simply replies that he never wanted to be the Avatar, indicating the duty was impressed upon him against his wishes. Katara reminds Aang of the world's need for the Avatar, stating that he must master the bending arts of water, earth, and fire. She muses that they might find a waterbending teacher at the North Pole, and Aang quickly brightens up, suggesting they learn waterbending together. Along with Sokka, who decides to come along under the excuse of this being an opportunity to defeat firebenders, they decide to journey together.
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- Main article: Transcript: The Avatar Returns
- This is the first episode in which Aang waterbends, albeit while in the Avatar State.
- This episode includes the only time in the series when Iroh attacks Aang.
- This is one of the few episodes where Prince Zuko is shown wearing a Fire Nation helmet.
- Aang's suggestion to fight firebenders with fun foreshadows the events in "The Headband", when he uses fun to weaken the Fire Nation's control over their youth.
- When the soldiers take Aang onto their ship, Katara is seen shedding tears, mirroring what her grandmother did when the firebenders took Hama away.
- Aang reveals that he is the Avatar.
- When Aang is banished from the Southern Water Tribe, Katara grabs him and says that she is banished too. From the side shot, she grabs him and he is on her left side, but when the shot changes to the front, he is on her right-hand side.
- When Sokka waits for Zuko's ship, it cracks the ice behind Sokka and there are igloos. In the next frame, the igloos disappear.
- As Sokka looks up at Zuko's ship right before its ramp opens, he is not wearing his gloves. This is fixed in the next shot.
- Just after Zuko breaks Sokka's spear, Sokka's left leg appears to switch places with his right.
- The pieces of Sokka's spear seem to vanish after Zuko breaks them off.
- When Aang sleds into Zuko, Sokka disappears from in front of Zuko. When Aang turns to speak to the villagers, Sokka appears next to Katara.
- When Zuko orders his men to surround Aang, the man on the far right side and the one on the far left are walking into the head of the man below them.
- After Zuko nods in agreement in response to Aang's offer to give himself up, the parting in the orange portion of Aang's shirt becomes misshapen for a few frames.
- After Zuko leaves the village, several children are shown repairing a broken tent that was harmed by the Fire Nation; however in earlier shots, the Fire Nation do absolutely nothing to the tent, which is shown stable in the background.
- In the Finnish dub, Zuko implies that Ozai was raised by monks.
- When Zuko jumps onto Aang's glider and they crash onto the ship's deck, Aang's staff goes flying toward the bow, but when he stands up, it is in his hand.
- When Aang first comes out of the water in the Avatar State, the arrow on his head is not glowing.
- When Aang shows Katara and Sokka the map, he hops down from his spot on Appa, and his staff lands behind him. However, when the screen goes to a close-up, the staff is missing.
- In the ending, when Aang says, "Because I never wanted to be," for a split second when he turns his head, his arrow points at his right eye, at the tip at his brow. This is kept in a panel for the Cine-Manga.
- When Aang fights Zuko in the village, this is technically the first time he has actually had to fight or defend himself, as opposed to before the war when he just trained with other airbenders.
- This is the only episode to have no opening sequence.
- This episode has the longest recap out of all the other episodes in the series.
- This is the first of three episodes in the series to have a name that starts with "The Avatar"; "The Avatar State" and "The Avatar and the Fire Lord" are the other two.