Azula betrays Long Feng and assumes leadership of the Dai Li. While Team Avatar attempts to stop her, Zuko, after some deliberation over the consequences of his actions, betrays his uncle's trust and chooses to attack the Avatar. Aang is fatally injured by Azula while in the Avatar State, but Iroh intervenes and gives his friends enough time to escape. With the Earth King overthrown, Ba Sing Se falls to the Fire Nation. Katara uses the spirit water to heal Aang and he survives.
The episode begins with Sokka and Aang both hurrying back to Ba Sing Se on Appa; as they fly along, they spot Toph, who is earthsurfing toward the Royal Palace as quickly as she can. They pick her up and fly to Ba Sing Se, trying to get there quickly to see whether Katara is in danger or not for in the previous episode, Aang had a vision that she was in trouble. When asked if he has mastered the Avatar State, Aang lies to the others, saying he has.
Meanwhile, deep underground, Azula — who has been in control of the Dai Li by Long Feng for the planned coup — works quickly to establish her position of leadership and make them fear and obey her. She tells them all that soon the Earth King will lock them away, just as he did to Long Feng. This inspirational fear is shown later on when one of the agents visits Long Feng and, when asked about Azula, says that she is both terrifying and inspirational.
Iroh and Zuko arrive at the Earth King's palace by the esteemed invitation they received to serve him tea. While waiting for the king, the two become somewhat apprehensive. A group of Dai Li agents surrounds Iroh and Zuko, and it is soon revealed to be a plot by Azula. Zuko takes a defensive stance; however, Iroh takes a different approach. He calmly asks Azula if she ever heard why he earned the nickname, "Dragon of the West", to which Azula just waves him off and says she has no time for lengthy anecdotes. However, instead of a verbal narrative, Iroh sips his cup of tea and suddenly begins to breathe fire, attacking the Dai Li agents surrounding him and Zuko. The two begin their escape, dodging projectiles of earth fired by the Dai Li. Iroh destroys a wall with a blast of lightning and leaps out of the palace, landing on the ground and urging Zuko to escape with him. However, Zuko decides to quit running away from his sister and turns to fight Azula. Iroh is clearly displeased at Zuko's decision, but quickly gets up and flees the scene. Zuko challenges Azula to an Agni Kai, which she rejects. He attempts to attack her, but Dai Li agents soon capture and arrest him.
Meanwhile, the gang arrives at the palace and confronts the Earth King, who assures them that nothing is amiss: Katara is fine, and after the meeting with the Council of Five, she decided to go with the Kyoshi Warriors. They are unaware, however, that the warriors are actually Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai in disguise. When the team goes to their house, they find it empty and they realize Katara is indeed in danger.
As the gang searches the empty apartment, Toph senses someone at the door. She identifies the person as an old friends of hers, Iroh, and invites him in much to the surprise of Aang and Sokka. He tells them that Azula has captured Zuko, and he pleads with them to help rescue him. Sokka grows defensive; however, after Aang puts the whole image into perspective, Sokka changes his mind and the gang heads outside. Once there, they trap the captured Dai Li agent caught by Iroh in a wedge of rocks, and after Sokka's questioning, the gang learns that Katara is being held in a secret underground cave known as the Crystal Catacombs.
Katara stands in a dark, crystal-lit cave when suddenly a light shines down from above. The entrance opens and Zuko is thrown into the cave. As he comes to, Katara takes a defensive stance. Initially furious to see him, she tells him that all he cares about is capturing the Avatar, and how spreading war and hatred is in his blood. When she says that he does not know the pain of the Fire Nation killing her mother, Zuko apologizes, and says that this is something they both have in common, softening her slowly.
Outside the palace, the gang discovers that there is indeed a huge underground city. They decide that Toph and Sokka should go to warn the Earth King about the coup, and Iroh and Aang go to rescue Katara and Zuko. Traveling down a tunnel to the prison, Aang mentions that Toph says Iroh gives great advice and tea. The Avatar also tells the former general of the events when he met Guru Pathik. When Aang questions his choice and says how he doubts his abilities without the Avatar State, Iroh suggests that Aang was very wise to choose happiness and love over power and perfection, which are both overrated in Iroh's opinion.
Outside of the palace, Sokka and Toph soon see General How, but before they can say anything, the Dai Li place him under house arrest. At that same moment, every general in the Council of Five is arrested. The two make it into the Throne Room in an attempt to warn the Earth King about the coup. Upon seeing Sokka, Ty Lee starts to flirt with him, but he says that he is involved with Suki. Before she can respond, Toph recognizes Ty Lee and throws her to the side with some rocks. Mai, realizing that their identities are now known, throws a hail of ornate shurikens at Toph, who blocks them with a wall of earth. Ty Lee begins to "fight" Sokka, commenting that it is like they are dancing as he dodges her strikes. However, the fighting is in vain, as Azula soon has the king at flamepoint. Sokka and Toph surrender and are disabled by Ty Lee.
Long Feng appears and immediately orders the Dai Li to arrest Azula; however, to his shock, they do not comply. Azula happily explains the situation to Long Feng; the Dai Li agents do not know which of them is more powerful and who will take the throne. She correctly guesses that he is lower class by birth, but had managed to get his power through incredible work all his life through conniving and trickery; however, she declares that she has "divine right to rule" and confidently takes the Earth King's throne. Long Feng surrenders, bowing to Azula, admitting that she had beaten him at his own game.
Down below in their prison, Katara apologizes to Zuko for how she yelled at him and tells him that for a long time, whenever she saw the face of the enemy, she saw Zuko's face. He turns away, touching his scar, assuming she was referencing his scar, a mark he feels once symbolized his banishment, and his "destiny" of chasing the Avatar forever. However, he has gained Katara's trust to the point where she offers to heal his scar using the water from the Spirit Oasis. Zuko allows her to touch the scar, but before she can do anything, Aang and Iroh burst through the prison wall. Thrilled to see her friend, Katara rushes over to Aang and wraps her arms around him, while Iroh makes his way over to a confused Zuko and bestows an embrace upon him as well.
Zuko and Aang exchange glares, and Zuko grows angry that Iroh was with the Avatar. Iroh sends Katara and Aang off to help Sokka and Toph. Katara despondently glances one last time at Zuko, before rushing off with Aang. Iroh explains to Zuko that he is a different and changed man, stronger and wiser than ever before. He tells Zuko that it is time for him to choose the path of good. Before Zuko can reply, a mass of crystals springs up and immobilize Iroh, and Azula and a couple of Dai Li agents emerge from the shadows. She says that she expected this sort of treachery from Iroh, but not from her brother. She feeds him tales of how this is the most glorious day in Fire Nation history, and that if he joins her, Zuko will gain back his father's love and honor. Iroh begs Zuko to not listen to Azula, telling him that the kind of redemption Azula is offering is not the redemption for him, but Azula continues to plot, telling Zuko how she has planned everything, and that they will only win if he joins her. Iroh begs even more, for Zuko to look deep inside his heart and see what he truly wants. Azula sends the Dai Li away and tells Zuko that he can choose whatever he wants, and she walks away, leaving him to ponder his options.
Azula catches up to Aang and Katara rushing to save Toph and Sokka from their imprisonment and shoots a bolt of fire at them. A battle ensues between Aang, Katara, and Azula, and just as Aang and Katara have her cornered, Zuko shows up. After a brief moment of dramatic tension, Zuko begins fighting on Azula's side, to everyone's amazement. In the midst of the battle, the two pairs switch off, with Zuko fighting Katara, each using element whips on opposite sides of a river. Katara expresses her anger and disappointment in Zuko about how she thought he had changed. He replies inscrutably, "I have changed." Aang and Azula charge at one another, Azula sends a blast of fire, sending Aang soaring into the air.
Meanwhile, Toph, Sokka, and the Earth King escape from their cell through Toph's ingenious metalbending. Back at the palace, Ty Lee and Mai have been tasked with guarding the king's pet bear. Mai is lounging, bored, on the steps to the throne while Ty Lee amuses herself, trying to teach Bosco how to walk on his front legs. In an instant both her hands and feet are bound to the floor by Toph's earthbending, and she and Sokka prepare to take on Mai. Mai in her nonchalance just says to take the bear and the king reunites happily with his pet.
Underground, the fight continues, with Katara taking on both Zuko and Azula, but she is unable to handle the both of them on her own and gets knocked out when a blast from Azula slams her into a wall of crystal. Shortly thereafter, Aang manages to stand back up from being thrown earlier. He slams into the ground, creating a tidal wave of earth barreling toward Azula and Zuko, but he is stopped by the Dai Li. Soon they are joined by dozens of Dai Li agents, and Katara assumes the octopus stance – water shaped like octopus tentacles. Horribly outmatched, Aang realizes there is no other choice and does the only thing he can think of—creating a quick crystal shelter with earthbending, he meditates and decides to try to release his attachment to Katara in order to enter the Avatar State. He rises into the air, but before he can let go of Katara and gain control of the Avatar State, Azula shoots him down with a lightning bolt to the back. At that moment, the Avatar Spirit falls from the plane of existence. As Aang falls back to the ground, Katara creates a huge wave through waterbending and manages to scatter the Dai Li, Zuko, and Azula, catching him before he hits the ground. Holding him in tears, she is defenseless, but Iroh suddenly appears. He tells the two to escape, and that he will hold off Azula and the others as long as he can. Once they escape, Iroh surrenders himself to the Dai Li and glances at Zuko, quickly turning his head in shame.
The entire group manages to escape and while flying away on Appa, Katara uses her Spirit Oasis water to heal Aang, who initially appears dead. With a quick flash of light, nothing occurs, and Katara begins to cry and holds Aang close. Aang's tattoos glow momentarily and he opens his eyes and smiles at her weakly. Overwhelmed and relieved that he is okay, Katara hugs him closer.
Meanwhile, in the palace Zuko frets over betraying Iroh. However, Azula reassures him by telling him that it was actually his uncle who betrayed them, not the other way around. Zuko asks Azula about returning to the Fire Nation, raising his doubts about being accepted and having his honor restored since he does not have the Avatar. Azula again reassures him by saying that he has restored his own honor, though Zuko still seems unsure. Azula is firmly in control of the city, and as the Earth King, Bosco, Momo, and Team Avatar fly atop Appa's back over the Outer Wall and out of the city, the Earth King looks back and sadly proclaims, "The Earth Kingdom ... has fallen."
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- Main article: Transcript:The Crossroads of Destiny
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Two: Earth
- In this episode, the first part of Zuko's dream, shown in "The Earth King", is fulfilled when Zuko has to choose between following his uncle's path or Azula's. The argument bore great similarities to the dream argument between the Red and Blue Dragons.
- This episode shows the witness of Iroh's betrayal to the Fire Nation, the same thing happened in "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
- When Aang, Sokka, and Toph return to the apartment, the damage Toph did to the house is still being repaired.
- When Zuko speaks with Iroh in their new tea shop, "The Jasmine Dragon", there is a small wooden table next to them with some tea equipment such as cups and a teapot on it. When Zuko ends the conversation and Iroh replies, the table no longer has anything placed on it.
- When Iroh pours tea for the Dai Li, a coloring error on the cups makes it look like they have holes in the sides.
- In the part where Aang is about to go with Iroh to find Zuko and Katara, the green squares on Iroh's sleeves are missing.
- When Aang earthbends into the catacombs with Iroh, Katara is seen charging toward him with her amulet in her right hand. In the very next scene, the amulet has disappeared entirely and is in neither hand.
- When Azula talks to Zuko, both wristbands cover most of her arm and her hand. When she puts her arm up, the part covering her left arm disappears but in the next two frames, it is back.
- At the start of the fight, after Azula blocks the wave that Katara summons, a far out shot is shown of water under and around Katara but when it shows a close-up shot of Aang and Katara, there is no water under or near Katara.
- When Aang emerges from the crater while Zuko and Katara are fighting, his clothes are fairly clean, but when Aang faces Azula his clothes are suddenly tattered and blatantly dirty.
- When Katara was fighting Azula, her entire body, save for her head, was covered in water, but when she caught Azula's arm and leg, only her arms are covered in water.
- When Katara trapped Azula using her waterbending, Azula's bangs were shown to be sliced by the attack. In the next few frames, they are her regular length.
- During the fight, when Zuko and Azula attacked Katara together and sent her flying into a gem, the water that Katara was bending disappears from the ground.
- When Katara is thrown back by Azula's fire blast, her water skin can briefly be seen, however, at no point during her imprisonment nor during any point of the battle did Katara have her water skin.
- When Aang sees Katara fighting the Dai Li before he enters the Avatar State, she is shown fighting them with an octopus form. However, they are not fighting at all and are not even in any combat stance.
- When Aang rises from the crystal shell in the Avatar State, his belt is missing in the first frame.
- When Aang enters the Avatar State and rises up in the air, the back of his head is not glowing.
- When Azula and Zuko were walking to Katara, Azula's hair falls down at the moment Iroh shoots a blast of fire.
- At the end, when Azula explains to Zuko that he had restored his own honor, Zuko stands beside Azula sitting on the throne and Zuko's mouth can be seen moving as well as Azula's as Azula speaks
- In some scenes the wraps around Sokka's arm disappear.
- Even though Azula says the Earth King and the five generals must be taken out simultaneously, Sokka and Toph reach the Earth King after seeing the coup take place, meaning that the coup was not at the same time, as the Earth King was taken much later than the five generals.
- Katara uses the octopus fighting form in battle for the first time.
- Zuko mentions his mother to someone for the first time in the series.
- Katara manages to overcome Azula, the firebending prodigy, twice in the series: here in "The Crossroads of Destiny" and again in the series finale.
- Some satellite services, such as DirecTV, list this and the preceding episode in the guide as 'The Guru; The Crossroads of Destiny'.
- During Katara and Azula's fight, after Katara entangles Azula's arm and leg, Zuko saves his sister with the same firebending move she performs in the opening credits.
- The way Katara holds Aang after he is struck down by Azula's lightning greatly resembles La Pieta, a famous sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus after he is brought down from the crucifix. This also emphasizes how Aang's fatal injury by Azula and subsequent revival by Katara parallels the Christian story of the world's savior dying and being resurrected.
- This is the first time Aang uses the Avatar State without bending any element.
- The Dai Li agent with the scar on the right side of his face, which Azula stops to face during her speech to mention how she will fix any disloyalty, is the same agent that is questioned by Iroh, Sokka, Toph and Aang. This possibly suggests that since Azula is a "people person", she knew that particular Dai Li Agent would be a problem.
- Katara becomes the first person to touch Zuko's scar other than Zuko himself. Mai is the second.
- This is the first time anyone of Team Avatar calls Iroh by his name.
- This is the only book finale in which Ozai does not speak nor appear.
- This episode aired in the US along with "The Guru" as the one hour season finale of Book Two.
- Iroh is generating lightning (offscreen) for the second time in the series, to break down a wall while trying to escape the Dai Li. The first time was a demonstration in "Bitter Work". He has never been seen using it in combat.