- This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Zuko.
|"He was one of the best friends I ever had, and he was from the Fire Nation, just like you. If we knew each other back then, do you think we could have been friends, too?"|
|— Aang to Zuko.|
Zhao is promoted to admiral and enlists the help of a group of professional archers called the Yuyan Archers. Meanwhile, Sokka and Katara become sick due to being exposed to a storm previously, so Aang goes to an herbalist to find a cure. After finding it, Aang is caught by the Yuyan Archers and imprisoned by Zhao. A warrior with a blue mask rescues him, and they escape together. Aang discovers the warrior is none other than Zuko and wonders if the two of them could be friends. Zuko attacks, but Aang escapes and cures his friends.
The episode opens with a messenger hawk approaching a Fire Nation fortress, Pohuai Stronghold. In the courtyard, several highly proficient archers practice their skill, while, above them on a parapet of the stronghold, Commander Zhao and Colonel Shinu are observing them and vehemently arguing. Colonel Shinu has denied Zhao's request to use the group of advanced bowmen, whom he identifies as the Yuyan Archers, in the commander's quest to capture the Avatar, deeming it to be a "vanity project" of Zhao's rather than a part of the Hundred Year War. As they debate the use of the archers, a hawk arrives with news from Fire Lord Ozai that Zhao has been promoted to admiral. With his newfound authority, he informs Colonel Shinu that his request is now an order; Shinu bows in submission and leaves. Unbeknownst to Zhao, a figure clad in dark clothes and a blue mask is perched on the roof above him and has heard the entire conversation. Silently, the figure retreats into the shadows and disappears.
Meanwhile, in the ruins of Taku, Katara is caring for an ill and delirious Sokka; talking nonsense, he is convinced that Appa can talk and he himself can earthbend. According to Katara, this illness has resulted from his exposure to the storm that he was recently caught in. Aang comes back from an unsuccessful hunt for ginger root, but returns with a map to a herbalist institute on a nearby mountain. Katara states that Sokka is not in any condition to go there, declaring that all he needs is some rest, just as she begins to cough herself. Despite Katara's protests that she is fine, Aang realizes she has the same illness as Sokka and decides to travel to the herbalist alone. However, lightning flashes across the sky, so Aang decides to go by foot instead of using his glider and begins running very fast with the aid of his airbending.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Jee is going over a map with Prince Zuko to make plans to continue the search for the Avatar. Suddenly, the ship is overshadowed by a large Fire Nation Naval ship, spurring Zuko to wonder what they want. Uncle Iroh, in the middle of a Pai Sho game, jokingly speculates that they want to play Pai Sho, but it is revealed that it is to inform Prince Zuko and his crew that all information regarding the Avatar is to be reported to Admiral Zhao, revealing to all present crew members that Zhao has been promoted and is now in charge of the search for the Avatar. Zuko informs the Fire Nation soldier that he has no information to provide and orders them to get off his ship and let them pass. Zuko and his crew are promptly informed that Zhao is not permitting the passage of ships in or out of the area and Zuko again demands that the soldiers get off his ship. Iroh, seemingly indifferent to the conversation, declares enthusiastically that he has won the pot in his Pai Sho game, but encourages his opponents in an effort to get them to play again.
In the forest, Fire Nation lookouts are hiding in a concealed blind-like structure. As one of the guards reads the wanted poster for the Avatar and comments that it is "pretty amazing" that the Avatar can create tornadoes and run faster than the wind, the other soldier, who was peering through a telescope, dismisses the claims as Fire Lord propaganda. When Aang soon after speeds by, unknowingly wreaking havoc on the outpost, the soldier blows a signal horn to alert others of Aang's presence.
Meanwhile, a sick Sokka implores his sister to get him some water. Katara, weakened by the rapid onset of the sickness herself, instructs Momo to take her water skin to the river and fill it with water. However, the winged lemur does not understand her, simply hearing a jumble of unintelligible noise. Nonetheless, he departs with the water skin.
On the other side of the valley, Aang reaches the herbalist institute and immediately commences to relay his problem to the elderly herbalist, who is busy gathering ingredients. As Aang's explanation starts to become panicked, she calmly tells him to settle down, noting that his friends would be just fine. She begins to tell him her life story: she has lived atop the mountain for forty years. The institute used to be a lively place, though now, she and her cat, Miyuki, were the only ones left. Despite Aang's nonplussed reaction, she continues to reveal that wounded Earth Kingdom soldiers still frequent the institute and it is due to her remedies that they are all able to recover quickly. Not really interested in what the herbalist has to say, Aang asks if she is almost finished with the concoction she was making and is told that it only needed one more ingredient. The elderly woman promptly starts to peruse her vast garden at a leisurely pace, causing him to grow impatient.
On the deck of his ship, Zuko is angrily practicing his firebending, when his uncle approaches him, asking if he is all right since he has not given the crew an order in over an hour. Zuko promptly declares his indifference about the matter. Iroh tries to instill hope in his nephew, saying he could still capture the Avatar before Zhao, though the prince questions how that could possibly happen given the man-power at Zhao's disposal and voices his despair over the imminent loss of his honor, throne, and country.
At the institute, the herbalist finds the final ingredient for her concoction, much to Aang's relief. The moment she drops the plum blossom in the bowl, Aang grabs it expectantly and thanks her for the potion, only to be swatted away from it by the wooden-spoon-wielding herbalist. As she angrily asks him why he did that, Aang reveals his intention to bring the cure to his friends, eliciting laughs from the elder, who calmly explains that what she has made is dinner for Miyuki, not a cure. She tells him that all his friends need to do is suck on some frozen wood frogs, which he can find in the swamp below; she explains that their skin has medicinal properties, but only when they are frozen. As Aang departs for the swamp below, two arrows pin the cuffs of his boots to the ground. Deflecting several other arrows with airbending and freeing himself, he finds himself staring at the Yuyan Archers, who have tracked him down. Aang promptly tries to make a break for it, though finds him path thwarted several times. He manages to evade their arrows, though is forced to jump down the side of the mountain. As he crashes through the forest, the Yuyan Archers use a roped arrow to ensure their own safe descent. Reaching the swamp, Aang starts his hunt for the frozen frogs, while evading the arrows to the best of his abilities. However, while he is distracted with gathering the frozen frogs, he is eventually pinned to a tree by the archers and taken as a prisoner.
Aang is brought back to Pohuai Stronghold, where he is kept secured in a large room, his arms and legs are shackled to two posts to keep him from bending, and the room is guarded by four men. Zhao enters the room and wastes no time pointing out that Aang's century-long game of hide and seek with the Fire Nation is over. An angered Aang challenges him to a duel, though he declines and asks instead how if feels to be the only airbender left and whether or not he misses his people. He ensures that Aang would not be killed like they were, since that would only result in his reincarnation as the next Avatar and require the Fire Nation to hunt him down again. Instead, he will keep him alive, "but just barely." As Zhao turns his back and walks away, Aang airbends with his mouth, sending the momentarily inattentive firebender flying off his feet; Zhao slams into a wall and falls briefly to the floor. Getting to his feet, Zhao declares that Aang can blow all the wind that he wants, as his situation is futile, since there is no escaping Pohuai Stronghold and no one is coming to rescue him.
A feverish Sokka asks an equally ill Katara for water again, to which she assures him that Momo should return soon. When the winged lemur returns, however, he did not fill the water skin, though brought them a dead mouse, which he drops on Katara's chest, much to her disgust. Katara pleads with him again for water and Momo departs, leaving Katara to wonder what is keeping Aang.
Outside the Fire Nation fortress, the figure with the blue mask waits patiently, hidden in the shrubbery. When a supply cart passes him by, he nimbly rolls underneath the cart and grabs hold, letting himself be transported to the stronghold. As the cart is halted at a checkpoint, a Fire Nation guard inspects the interior of the vehicle. When he moves to look underneath the cart, the masked figure moves to the other side of the wagon and hides inside, thus gaining access to the heavily guarded fortress. After the cart stops to unload, the figure stealthily sneaks out and makes his way up a nearby staircase.
Meanwhile, Zhao addresses his troops, informing them he has captured the Avatar, whom he describes as the Fire Nation's final hurdle in their quest for victory in the war. He predicts the Fire Nation will take the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se that year, burning it to the ground with the strength of Sozin's Comet. While the majority of the troops are gathered in the courtyard to listen to the speech, the masked figure sneaks past them. Scaling a wall, he manages to reach the inner ring of the fortress and continues his way to the main tower via an underground sewer.
Aang tries to free himself from his chains, though the shackles securing his arms and legs hold strong. As he pants due to the effort, he discovers that the frozen frogs he had gathered begin to thaw out; to his distress, they wriggle out of his clothes and make their way, still partly frozen, toward the door as he yells out his anguished objections. They escape under the door and the guards on the other side watch them in confusion. As the guards behold the frogs, the helmet of a Fire Nation soldier rolls down the hallway toward them. When one guard investigates alone, the other three suddenly see a flame erupt from the hallway and hear the muffled sounds of combat and of chains being strung up. When two more guards follow after him, they find their companion strung up with his hands to the ceiling. The masked figure, clinging to the ceiling, wraps a chain around a hand of each guard and drops down, simultaneously pulling the guards up. The last guard standing in front of Aang's cell, having heard the scuffle, takes his horns to sound the alarm, though before he could blow the instrument, it is knocked out of his hands by a well-aimed knife. Noticing a figure running toward him, he firebends, though the masked man extinguishes the fire by throwing water and proceeds to sweep the legs from underneath the guard with the bucket.
Inside his cell, Aang hears the scuffle and eyes the door with apprehension as the lock is being turned. He gasps as a masked figure enters and unsheathes his dual broadswords. Swinging the weapons, the man advances on Aang, who screams. To Aang's surprise, however, the figure slices through his bonds, freeing him. As the figure retreats without saying a word, Aang asks him who he is, what is going on, and wonders if the man is there to rescue him. The figure does not respond, though opens the door and signals for the Avatar to follow him, leaving Aang decides that the person means him no harm. Exciting his cell, Aang passes by the tied up guard and notices his partially frozen frogs are making their escape through another hallway. Trying to gather them, Aang is pulled away by the masked stranger, though protests loudly that his friends needs to suck on the animals.
Back with Katara and Sokka, Momo has brought many items to Katara, ranging from fans to pottery to jewelry. His latest addition is a tiara, which he places on Katara's head. With a voice weak from her illness, she reiterates that they desire water. Giving up on Momo, she rolls around and pleads for Aang's swift return. Completely delusional, Sokka asks Katara who the "Aang kid" of whom she speaks is, while referring to her as "Your Highness", much to her annoyance.
The masked stranger and Aang sneak out of the tower via the sewer system of the fortress. Surveying the courtyard, the man gestures for Aang to follow him out while the guards have their backs turned.
Meanwhile, Zhao, walking through the hallways, is dictating to his assistant that he wants his speech and testimonies from all high-ranking officers present at its delivery to be sent to the Fire Lord. His train of thought is interrupted, however, by the muffled moans of the overpowered guards strung from the ceiling. He quickly makes his way to Aang's cell and finds that it is completely deserted save for a thawed wood frog that croaks at him. Furious, he runs off, his assistant trailing him, asking if he should postpone sending his message to the Fire Lord.
While Aang and the masked figure are scaling the wall via a rope that the stranger left their earlier, an alarm is set off, which draws attention to their attempt to climb the wall. A guard atop the wall promptly cuts the rope, sending them tumbling down. At the last second, Aang breaks their fall with airbending, securing a safe landing. The masked figure, unsheathing his swords, points to the open gates and they make a run for them, but Zhao appears on the balcony, bellowing that the Avatar has escaped and orders all the gates to be closed immediately. Aang, running past the stranger and telling him to remain close to him, uses his airbending to clear away several guards blocking their path. Aang smoothly runs through the closing doors, though the masked figure is forced to stop and defend himself as several guards surround and assault him. Aang realizes that the stranger is no longer following him and takes the spear from a guard attacking him, breaks off the sharp spearhead, and utilizes the stick as a staff. He promptly charges the soldiers attacking the masked figure and uses his airbending to incapacitate them. Wasting no time, he hurls the stranger atop the first of the fortress walls, where more soldiers immediately swarm him.
Before a new battle can ensue, Aang propels himself in the air by twirling the stick in a helicopter fashion and grabs hold of the masked figure with his legs. The figure defends them against all the spears thrown at them, but Aang is unable to sustain the twirling motion and they crash atop the next fortress wall, Aang losing his staff in the process. More guards come up to attack the duo, though they manage to dispose of them; the masked figure throws one of the soldiers over the wall, while Aang blows the others away with airbending. More troops use bamboo ladders to scale the wall, but again Aang blows them off. He takes the ladders and calls to the masked figure to get on his back. They use the three ladders like stilts to go from the second wall to the third and final wall. However, a soldier manages to light the last ladder on fire, forcing Aang and the masked figure to jump off in hopes that they will make it over the wall. However, their grip does not hold and they both fall to the ground just in front of the main gate.
As firebenders come to attack the duo, Aang pulls the masked figure behind him and blocks the benders' attacks with airbending. Zhao tells the men to stop, for the Avatar needs to be captured alive. Suddenly, the masked figure puts his broadswords to Aang's neck, threatening to kill him. Zhao orders the gate to be opened and they let the pair out; the masked figure takes Aang with him, his swords still around his neck. With the two slowly edging out, Zhao goes onto higher ground and has an archer knock out the masked figure with a single shot.
After the masked figure falls to the ground, Aang sees a small part of the face below, creating a dust cloud as cover while he removes the mask to reveal Zuko. At first, Aang is shocked and afraid, beginning to run, but stops to look back at Zuko. As the dust clears and the guards approach the area, both Aang and Zuko have escaped, which frustrates and infuriates Zhao.
Later, as Zuko regains consciousness, Aang tells him a story about Kuzon, someone he befriended in the Fire Nation one hundred years earlier, and wonders if he and Zuko could have been friends, had they had met each other before the war. Zuko responds by attacking Aang with firebending, which Aang easily avoids by hopping from tree to tree, leaving Zuko alone in the forest.
Aang goes back to the swamp to collect frozen frogs, as Zuko heads back to his ship. His uncle asks him where he has been, to which the Fire Nation prince simply replies that he is going to bed and asked for no disturbances. The Avatar subsequently returns to his friends, puts the frogs into their mouths, and sits down on Appa's tail to rest. Sokka asks Aang if he made any new friends, to which Aang responds that he does not think he did and turns on his side. At the same time, Zuko looks at the Fire Nation flag and also turns away to his side. Sokka and Katara begin to feel better, but are shocked as they realize they are sucking on frogs and quickly spit them out, disgusted and confused.
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- Main article: Transcript: The Blue Spirit
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water
- Zuko disguises himself as the Blue Spirit for the first time, although the name is not actually mentioned in in-episode dialogue or text until "The Waterbending Master". He adopts the same identity in "The Swamp", "Avatar Day", and "Lake Laogai".
- A wanted poster for the Blue Spirit is prominently placed next to the festival poster in the beginning of "The Deserter".
- In the episode "The Western Air Temple", Zuko refers to the events of this episode, saying that Aang had once suggested that they could have been friends. Aang also makes reference to these events when Team Avatar is deliberating whether or not to accept Zuko.
- In Zhao's victory speech, he states that the Fire Nation will finally breach the "impenetrable" walls of Ba Sing Se and use Sozin's Comet to burn the Earth Kingdom capital city to the ground. This has a couple foreshadowing elements for later events in the series:
- The Fire Nation successfully penetrates the walls of Ba Sing Se in the episode "The Drill", but ultimately fails to invade and take over the city. Instead, it is because of Princess Azula infiltrating the city and instigating a coup that the city is finally conquered by the Fire Nation.
- The speech hints at the events of the third season finale, where in "Sozin's Comet, Part 1: The Phoenix King" it is revealed that Phoenix King Ozai's plan is to indeed use the comet's firebending-enhancing power to destroy Ba Sing Se and literally burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground to win the war once and for all.
- When Iroh plays the tsungi horn as Zuko returns, the bejeweled monkey statue that he was eyeing in the pirate's store in "The Waterbending Scroll" can be seen. It can also be seen in "The Runaway" while Sokka and Aang are contemplating how to get Toph and Katara to be friends again.
- In "The Western Air Temple", Aang and Sokka refer to the events of this episode, with Sokka claiming that the frog gave him a wart on his uvula, which he called his "throatal flap". Katara insists, however, that it was psychosomatic, meaning it was all in his head.
- During "The Ember Island Players", in the scene where the Blue Spirit rescues Aang, the enemy he faces is Zuko rather than Zhao.
- A copy of the Blue Spirit mask appears on a merchant's cart in the beginning of the episode "The Swamp". Zuko keeps this particular copy and later disposes of it in the episode "Lake Laogai", where it sinks to the bottom of the lake.
- Zuko cooperating with Aang foreshadows him joining Team Avatar in the third book.
- The crown which Momo brings to Katara when she tells him to search for water makes a reappearance in "The Swamp".
- The idea of sucking on frogs for medicinal purposes very likely traces its origin to real-world toads such as the Colorado River toad, which secrete a psychoactive hallucinogenic venom through their skin. In the 1970s, rumors were widely propagated of hippies and other teenagers sucking on or licking these toads to get high, but these rumors were never found to be true. Also, the practice would not actually work for humans, because the human digestive system cancels out the venom – it would have to be injected, inhaled, or smoked in order to have an effect.
- The scene in which Aang asks Zuko if they could have been friends if they knew each other in a previous time is almost exactly the same as Session 8 "Waltz for Venus" from Cowboy Bebop. In it, Roco asks Spike, "If I had met you earlier in my lifetime, do you think that we would've been friends?" As it happens, the creators are fans of the show; they would later name Wulong Forest after the show's currency.
- When Katara gives Momo her pouch for water, Momo later comes back without it. Instead, he returns with a meadow vole, which means he had left it somewhere. However, Katara has it in later episodes.
- When Momo is sent to get water, he brings back various objects. These objects are seen scattered around Appa when Aang returns, but when he and his friends wake up, all of the castoffs have disappeared.
- While the four soldiers are guarding the entrance to Aang's prison cell, a Fire Nation uniform helmet haphazardly rolls across the corridor floor, landing before their feet. However, when the scene cuts to a wide-view of the corridor several moments later, the helmet is nowhere to be seen.
- As Aang and Zuko are utilizing the final bamboo ladder as a stilt to traverse the courtyard, a soldier sets the ladder ablaze, forcing them to abandon it. The ladder should have subsequently collapsed to the ground; however, it simply disappears.
- When Aang gives Sokka and Katara the frozen frogs, Katara still has the crown that Momo brought on her head, but the next scene of her spitting out the frog shows her without the crown.
- Zhao's speech implies that, in the Fire Nation, both men and women can be in the army.
- This is Michael DiMartino's second favorite episode out of three because of the mysteriousness of the Blue Spirit involved. He also likes the episode for its use of action and the surprising twist at the end.
- The tsungi horn is played whenever Prince Zuko switches to his Blue Spirit alter ego. The instrument used for the sound effect is the Duduk, which the Tsungi horn is based on.
- This is the first episode in which a character gets sick.
- In the Avatar Extras bonus commentary, one of the commentary bubbles states that this episode was originally called "The Red Spirit", with the mask being red, appropriately. During some airings of this episode, the title is mistakenly given as "The Red Spirit" and still appears as so on program guides of several broadcasting networks, such as DIRECTV.
- In the film prequel manga "Zuko's Story", Zuko was robbed by a thief named Hong Shen who posed as the Red Spirit, taking on a Robin Hood-esque persona. The Red Spirit's mask design and clothing were identical to those that Zuko wore in the show, although Zuko's Blue Spirit persona corresponds to what it was in The Last Airbender. Incidentally, Mike and Bryan got the idea of Zuko basing his Blue Spirit persona on a preexisting figure during a post-season two interview.
- In production, the creators dropped the Red Spirit idea because the initial design made Zuko look like "an ancient Korean version of Spiderman", and, as addressed by Anthony Lioi, made it appear as though he was associated with the Fire Nation, giving away his identity too easily.
- In the Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when Aang is running up the stairs to the herbalist, one of the commentary bubbles states that the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is used as reference for that scene.
- In the Avatar Extras bonus commentary, one of the commentary bubbles states that the mask Zuko wears when he is the "Blue Spirit" is actually an Earth Kingdom theater mask similar to the two frowning and smiling masks displayed in real life acting theaters.
- In the Avatar Extras bonus commentary, when Aang jumps off the cliff is running from the Yuyan Archers, one of the commentary bubbles states that the movie "Rambo" was used as reference for that scene.
- This is the first time a character goes by another alias to achieve a plot-twisting goal. The second is in the episode "The Painted Lady" from the third season, when Katara dresses as a local spirit to help and save the Fire Nation village of Jang Hui.
- In The Last Airbender, the Blue Spirit mask also comes with hair, unlike the one in the television show.
- The small speech given to Zuko by Aang, which he repeated later on, is a slight foreshadow into how the relationship between the two will end up by the end of Book Three.
- In "The Siege of the North, Part 2", one of the faces worn by Koh bears a strong resemblance to the Blue Spirit mask.
- It was revealed in The Search Part 1 that Ursa kept a collection of theater masks hidden behind a painting, one of the masks being identical to the mask of the Blue Spirit.
- The Search Library Edition elaborated on this passing illustration, revealing that the mask in Ursa's room was truly the one Zuko wore in "The Blue Spirit". He found it there when he went looking for clues as to where his mother had gone.
- As Nickelodeon only ordered thirteen episodes of the original series, the creators designed this episode knowing that they needed something exciting, along the lines of a series finale. As a result, knowing that they had created a rivalry between Zuko and Zhao, they thought that "if Zhao captured Aang, no one would be more motivated to rescue him than Zuko".
- The production team intended to have Aang suspended in the air, shackled on all four limbs, but Standards and Practices did not allow it. They managed to do it to Korra in "Enter the Void", however.