- This is about the episode. For the spirit, see Painted Lady.
The gang journeys to a Fire Nation village populated by sick and starving people. Wishing to aid them, Katara disguises herself as the Painted Lady, the river spirit of the village, healing the town's sick and providing food while they sleep. Aang discovers the secret identity that Katara has adopted, and they destroy the nearby factory that has been polluting the river, prompting soldiers to attack the village. Katara reveals herself as the Painted Lady, saves the villagers with the help of her friends, and is thanked by the real Painted Lady afterward.
The group floats downstream on Appa in the middle of a sludge-contaminated river. With little chance of catching any food, they decide to buy some in the village of Jang Hui. This conflicts with Sokka's "master schedule", which details every minute up to the day of the invasion.
The village is located in the middle of the river, which has been polluted by a nearby military factory. They are ferried to the village by Dock, a rather eccentric man. The village is in a deep depression with many villagers having fallen ill and a lack of food due to the polluted water. Katara wishes to help these people, but Sokka argues that the importance of their overall mission overrides all other situations that may arise. They purchase food from Xu, a shopkeeper who happens to bear a strong resemblance to Dock, save for the hat he dons. Before they leave, Katara gives one of the fish they bought to a small child; seeing him give it to his sick mother, she wishes she could do more.
That night, Sokka attempts to rearrange their schedule, and mentions that the duration of the solar eclipse is only about eight minutes. In the morning, Appa is found lying on his side, looking rather sickly. His tongue has become purple, causing concern among the group. Katara suggests that the village might have herbs to provide a remedy for him.
Upon arrival at the village, they find the residents to be in much better spirits. According to Xu, a legendary local river spirit known as the Painted Lady came overnight and supplied the villagers with food. Due to a lack of medicine, as the factory uses it all, Katara suggests letting Appa rest for another day.
That night, a thick fog shrouds the village. The Painted Lady arrives and heals several of the sick. The child Katara helped earlier thanks her and she leaves across the water.
The next day, Appa still appears sick, so they return to the village. The town is in even higher spirits, and the villagers have erected a large statue of the Painted Lady in gratitude for healing their sick. Xu/Dock suggests that perhaps the Painted Lady could heal Appa. Sokka skeptically notes that the Painted Lady's work will be all for nothing unless she continually helps them, because as long as the factory is still there, the village is doomed; he jokingly suggests that she use her "spirit magic" to blow it up.
The Painted Lady actually turns out to be Katara. The next night, she once again assumes her disguise, but as she leaves, Momo wakes up, rousing Aang in turn. Seeing the Painted Lady, he tries to appeal to her for help, but she runs away. Aang chases her all the way to the village. At one point, she halts, thinking she has lost him, however, Aang suddenly appears out of nowhere and tells the "spirit" that he is the Avatar. He compliments that she is very pretty for a spirit, stating that other spirits he has met are not very attractive.
He begins to recognize the "spirit", eventually airbending the hat off her head, where he finally finds out Katara's secret: Appa's "illness" was the result of her feeding him berries that stained his tongue. Katara sadly confesses and apologizes for delaying their travels to help the village. Aang, however, likes the idea and praises Katara as a secret hero. Together, the two infiltrate the factory and wreck it, stopping the output of pollutants.
In the morning, the two arrive back at the camp to find Sokka and Toph waiting for them, having found out the truth themselves. As they prepare to leave, they see a squad of Fire Nation troops heading toward the town on jet skis, and realize that the army must believe the villagers had sabotaged the factory. Katara is determined to stop them, and despite their argument, Sokka readily agrees to help her upon realizing that she is set on helping.
At the village, General Mung accuses the residents not only of destroying the factory but of stealing the food and medicine that Katara, as the Painted Lady, had given them as well. The soldiers begin to attack the village, but gusts of wind extinguish the fires they ignite. Suddenly, a large mist begins enveloping the town. With help from Appa, Toph, and Sokka providing spooky sound effects, Aang and Katara stage an encounter with the Painted Lady to defeat the troops and drive them away.
The villagers praise the Painted Lady, but Dock notices her smudged face paint and recognizes her as Katara. He quickly realizes that she is a waterbender, and upon this realization, the villagers become outraged. Sokka immediately comes to her defense, stating that they should be thanking her instead since she destroyed the polluting factory and got rid of the Fire Nation. Katara calms her brother and apologizes to the villagers for having deceived them, though justifies her actions by noting that she had to do something to help them. When she concludes that the villagers cannot wait around for someone to help them but need to do so themselves, Dock agrees with her, though is unsure how to proceed from there. As Toph, from among the villagers, suggests that they clean the river, he immediately jumps on that idea along with the other villagers. He goes on to thank Katara for all her help, though ends up annoying Sokka when he tells him that while he is good at keeping secrets and will thus not tell anyone about Katara's identity as a waterbender, his "brother" Xu is not. When Katara asks him if he will help them clean, he declines, though directs him to his other "brother" Bushi, who loves to clean rivers. Switching his hat, he introduces himself to the group again, prompting Aang to proudly announce that he knew all along that Dock, Xu, and now Bushi were the same person who just changed his hat and assumed a different identity. Bushi is undeterred, however, and confides in Aang that the actions he described were typical behavior of his "other brother" Dock, whom he deems to be crazy, much to Aang's irritation.
All the villagers subsequently set out in boats to clean the river; Team Avatar helps out too, with Katara lifting the water with her bending to enable Aang and Toph to use earthbending to extract the dirt from it. After the river was cleaned, Team Avatar returns to their camp on the shore. At night, Katara makes her way to the river to freshen up, where a thick mist and the real Painted Lady appears. The spirit smiles and thanks her before disappearing in the fog again, leaving a slightly baffled though pleased Katara.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Painted Lady
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire
- When Momo finally catches Aang at the beginning of the episode, when he says, "You found me, buddy!", Appa seems to be "lagging".
- When the gang first visits town to buy fish, Xu hands Katara the fish. When she takes the fish, her bracelets are missing. In the next scene, when she gives the little boy a fish, she can be seen wearing them.
- The layout of the town changes from scene to scene. For instance, when Katara gives the little boy her fish, to the right of Xu's shop there is a platform with a ramp that is inclined up, but when Sokka buys the two-headed fish the ramp is level with the water.
- When they go to the village for the third time to buy food, the three coins Toph puts down are all silver, but one of them is rectangular with a slit in one end like a gold piece, instead of pentagonal like the usual Fire Nation silver piece. The animators either colored the gold piece wrong, or drew the third silver piece incorrectly.
- When Katara is running from Aang while dressed as the Painted Lady, the reflection of the moon is a crescent moon, but when Aang discovers that Katara is the Painted Lady, the moon behind her is full.
- When Katara takes off her hat after Aang discovers her secret identity, her top-knot is missing.
- In the scene where Aang and Katara are destroying the factory, Katara bends clean water and floods the factory, even though the river was shown to be polluted.
- When Sokka first defends Katara after the villagers realize she is a waterbender, he stands directly in front of her, but the next scene shows him standing somewhat to her right.
- Toph suggests cleaning the river from among a gathered crowd of villagers. However, when the scene changes to an overview shot and the villagers disperse, she is nowhere to be seen.
- It was stated in Avatar Extras that the Painted Lady is a Water Spirit, and that the Moon Spirit and Water Spirit are closely related. This means she is related to Princess Yue.
- Her mysterious and ominous appearance is somewhat similar to Princess Yue's appearance as the Moon Spirit.
- This episode is similar to "The Blue Spirit" in that a main character adopts a mysterious identity to sneak out at night.
- The position of the hands on the statue of the Painted Lady is the Vitarka Mudrâ, the gesture of discussion and teaching that can be seen on some real-world statues of Buddhas.
- In the episode "The Ember Island Players", Aang is seen wearing a hat identical to the one Xu wears.
- When following Katara, disguised as the Painted Lady, Aang mentions that he is friends with the panda spirit Hei Bai, who appeared in the season one episodes "Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirit World" and "The Siege of the North, Part 2".
- This is the first time Aang is seen wearing his uniform band correctly as a sash, not as a headband.
- This is the third time a character uses water to cut through metal. The first instance occurred when Koizilla (Aang and La) destroyed one of the Fire Nation ships in "The Siege of the North, Part 2", and second was in "The Drill" when Aang and Katara weakened the braces of the drill that broke through Ba Sing Se's Outer Wall.
- Katara's statement to the villagers that they have to help themselves is similar to the statement she made in "Imprisoned" to encourage the prisoners on the prison rig to fight back against their captors.
- This is the first episode in which female firebenders, other than Princess Azula, are shown.
- Katara is the third character in the series to undergo another alias to achieve a goal. The first person was Zuko, who disguised himself as the Blue Spirit in the first season to capture Aang from Zhao; the second was Toph, who became the Blind Bandit to escape her parents' restrictions.
- Sokka's "master schedule" is actually a production schedule that was used by animators to plan out the episodes and the seasons.
- The writers wanted to create this episode to show that the war's negative impact extended even to the Fire Nation's own citizens.
- The story idea presented in this episode concerning Katara helping the people of Jang Hui was originally pitched as "Katara as Robin Hood".
- This is the first episode in which the duration of the eclipse, eight minutes, is mentioned.