- This article is about the episode. For the location, see Southern Air Temple.
|"This place used to be full of monks and lemurs and bison. Now there's just a bunch of weeds. I can't believe how much things have changed."|
|— Aang to Sokka and Katara.|
Aang suggests a visit to the Southern Air Temple, where he tells stories of his old mentor, his friends, and the games he used to play. Upon discovering Gyatso's skeleton and that the Fire Nation eradicated his people, Aang becomes angry and enters the Avatar State, alerting the world of the Avatar's return. Aang is comforted by his friends, who tell him they are his family now. Meanwhile, Zuko and his uncle, Iroh, run into Commander Zhao, who learns that the Avatar has been found. Zuko challenges Zhao to a duel over the right to track the Avatar, which Zuko wins.
Katara and Aang are packing up their campsite while Aang excitedly tells her about the astounding beauty of the Southern Air Temple; being the only home he has known, he is eager to return to it. However, Sokka remains in his sleeping bag; Aang tries to convince him to get up, but Sokka ignores his request. Too anxious to wait, Aang picks up a stick and slides it across Sokka's sleeping bag, telling Sokka in a frantic tone that there is a prickle snake in his sleeping bag. Terrified and screaming, Sokka leaps to his feet, still in the sleeping bag; only when he topples back to the ground face-first does he realize that he has been tricked. Katara suppresses a laugh as Aang declares that they can leave, since Sokka is now wide awake.
Off the coast of the southwestern Earth Kingdom, Prince Zuko docks at a Fire Nation controlled harbor, his ship needing substantial repairs after his recent encounter with Aang. Zuko wants the repairs done quickly so they will not lose the Avatar's trail, and warns his uncle not to mention the Avatar himself during their stay so that no other firebenders will realize what has happened. Zhao walks up to Iroh and Zuko, welcoming them to his harbor, while informing them about his promotion from a captain to a commander. Seeing how damaged their ship is, Zhao inquires as to the cause, and Zuko and Iroh invent a story about a collision with an Earth Kingdom ship. Unconvinced, Zhao invites the pair of them for a drink. Zuko attempts to reject the offer, but Iroh scolds Zuko and, telling him that he owes Zhao a certain measure of respect, accepts the invite on behalf of his nephew.
Nearing the Patola Mountain Range, a hungry Sokka finds out that Aang used all the blubbered seal jerky he had brought to start their campfire the night before, leading him to remark that it was "no wonder the flames smelled so good." Katara is trying to keep Aang from getting too excited about their visit to the air temple, and she tells him to expect the possibility that his people have been killed by the Fire Nation. However, Aang refuses to entertain the possibility. He believes that reaching an air temple is utterly impossible without the use of a flying bison and maintains that since the Fire Nation had no such assistance, they would not have been able to reach the temple. Approaching the top of the mountain, which pierces the clouds below, they look down on the Southern Air Temple.
Over tea in his tent, Commander Zhao outlines the Fire Nation's plan for conquering the Earth Kingdom to Zuko and Iroh. When Zuko voices his bitter skepticism of the plan, calling his father a fool for believing the Earth Kingdom will capitulate quickly, Zhao inquires about the prince's search for the Avatar, to which Zuko replies that he has, thus far, been unsuccessful. The commander remarks he did not expect anything different, but he persists in his pursuit of information from Zuko, unsatisfied by his answer. After a brief, heated exchange, the prince rises and attempts to leave, only to be detained by Zhao's guards at the entrance to the tent. One of Zhao's soldiers walks in and reports that he interrogated Zuko's crew and found out that the latter had the Avatar, but let him escape. Smiling smugly, the commander asks the defeated prince to explain how his ship was damaged again.
Sokka, still hungry, is berated by Katara for being one of the first outsiders to see an airbender temple and thinking only about food. Aang starts to give Katara and Sokka a tour of the temple, but failing to see any other airbenders causes him to quickly become disheartened. To take his mind off it, Sokka volunteers to play a game of airball with him. As Sokka cannot bend air, Aang subsequently defeats him soundly in the game, the ball, propelled by airbending, hitting Sokka in the stomach and sending him flying backward into a pile of snow at the base of a very short abutment of earth. Lying on the ground, Sokka happens upon an archaic Fire Nation soldier's helmet; after pointing it out to a shocked Katara, they agree to show it to Aang. However, as Aang begins to walk over, Katara suddenly changes her mind and waterbends a mass of snow downward, covering the helmet and Sokka with snow. She subsequently tells Aang that the reason she called him over was to show him her snowbending. Believing the misdirection, Aang comments positively on Katara's ability to bend snow before eagerly resuming the tour, wishing to show them the rest of the temple. As Aang moves out of earshot, Sokka, clearing the snow from his face, tells Katara that trying to shield Aang from the reality of the genocide committed against his people is a mistake, to which Katara replies sadly that Aang would be devastated if he knew firebenders invaded his home. Following Aang, they come to a tall statue of an airbender monk; Aang, bowing respectfully, introduces the man as Monk Gyatso.
In a flashback, Gyatso is teaching a disinterested Aang the secrets of making fruit pies. When Aang tells a curious Gyatso that he thinks the monks may have erroneously identified him as the Avatar, Gyatso tells Aang that the only mistake the monks made was telling him of his true identity before he reached the age of sixteen. He reassures Aang, saying that he will be fine,and that he must focus on the present, he also tells Aang that once he is old enough to enter the air temple sanctuary, he will meet someone who will help him to become a better Avatar. A reassured and much happier Aang assists Gyatso in airbending the freshly baked fruit pies, sending them soaring through the air and directly onto the other elder monks' heads while they are meditating. The monks are promptly pounced on by winged lemurs, which slurp the pie off the monks' heads. The master and student laugh at their little prank, and Gyatso congratulates Aang on his perfected aim.
Returning to the present, Aang presses onward toward the air temple sanctuary, recalling Gyatso's words about the mysterious entity within; he tells his friends that there is someone whom he is ready to meet. Arriving at the grand, ornate doors to the sanctuary, Katara expresses doubt that anyone could have survived in the temple for a hundred years unaided; Aang offers the incidence of his own survival as a rationale for the possibility. As Aang wonders excitedly if the person inside can help him understand and teach him about being the Avatar, Sokka offers a hopeful conjecture that the person within may have food, particularly cured meats. He runs at the doors, briefly becoming irrational in his desire for food, and slams himself into them, failing to open them even after several more tries. Aang bends two focused currents of air into the large doors' ornate locking mechanism, causing the locks to disengage and the doors to open slowly. Aang walks into the darkened temple as Katara and Sokka follow him.
Zhao seems appalled by the fact that a twelve-year-old boy bested Zuko and his crew, and he refers to the prince as "more pathetic than [he] thought." Zuko furiously states that he underestimated his opponent once, and he tries heatedly to convince Zhao that he will not let it happen again. When Zhao, disregarding the plea, replies that he will be taking over the hunt for the Avatar himself, dismissing Zuko as a mere teenager, Zuko leaps at Zhao in rage and has to be restrained by the guards. Zhao orders for Zuko and Iroh to be kept in his tent and leaves. Zuko kicks a table in anger; Iroh placidly asks for more tea.
The air temple sanctuary is filled with hundreds of statues. While Sokka, still hungry, is thoroughly disappointed at the lack of food, Katara and Aang notice a pattern in the line of the statues: they are arranged in the Avatar Cycle: air, water, earth, and fire. Putting two and two together, Katara realizes that they are statues of previous incarnations of the Avatar, Aang's past lives. Aang singles out the last statue in the line and gazes into the statue's eyes, going into a kind of trance. A gentle shake from Katara breaks him out of it, at which point Aang recognizes that the statue depicts Avatar Roku, the Avatar immediately preceding him. Sokka recognizes Roku as a firebender by his robes and top-knot, citing this as the reason he did not trust Aang when they had first met.
Suddenly, the three of them hear a humming noise from the entrance, an indication that someone else is nearby; the noise causes the group to take cover behind the statues. Preparing to fight a firebender, Sokka jumps out, trying to catch the intruder off-guard; when Aang and Katara peer out from behind their statues, they find themselves looking down on a solitary lemur. Upon this discovery, a slight conflict of interests arises: Sokka, still focused on his hunger, wants to eat the lemur for dinner; Aang, on the other hand, wants to keep the lemur as a pet. This prompts a race to see who can be the first to catch the lemur. Katara stays behind in the temple sanctuary while Aang and Sokka run after the lemur, each trying to trip up the other. The lemur flies out from the window, and Aang, determined to catch the animal, jumps off the temple balcony after it.
Meanwhile, Commander Zhao re-enters his tent, telling Zuko and Iroh that he and his search party are almost ready to embark on their search for the Avatar. Zhao also says he plans to have his guards release Zuko and Iroh once his ship has left. Still infuriated, Zuko reiterates his belief that he is going to capture the Avatar before Zhao can; the commander laughs at the thought of a banished prince competing with himself, who has hundreds of warships at his disposal. Zhao demeans Zuko by telling him that, if he truly loved him, the Fire Lord would let him come home without the Avatar, and he goes on to state that all Ozai sees in his son is failure, citing Zuko's scar as proof. Zuko, goaded beyond rationality by rage and disgust, challenges Zhao to an Agni Kai at sunset, to which Zhao accepts. After Zhao leaves the tent, telling Zuko to prepare to be humiliated, Iroh reminds Zuko of his last duel with a firebending master, prompting Zuko to say he will "never forget" that fight.
After landing on the ground below, Aang pursues the lemur toward the tattered ruin of a tent. Poking his head inside the tent, Aang, to his horror, finds a number of Fire Nation soldiers' bodies scattered in the snow; walking farther inside, he finds the skeleton of Monk Gyatso. Seeing his former master and father figure's skeleton, he breaks down, falling to his knees in tears. An unfortunately nave Sokka, still searching for the lemur, finally catches up to Aang and playfully asks whether Aang caught the lemur; when he sees Aang on the ground, he goes on to say that he did not actually intend on eating the animal. Only then does he notice the skeletons all around them and understand why Aang is upset. Sokka tries to comfort Aang, but the latter, overcome by emotion, suddenly enters the Avatar State, the sudden glow of Aang's tattoos and eyes causing Sokka to gasp and reel away from him in fright.
Within the temple sanctuary, Katara is looking at the statue of Roku when its eyes suddenly begin to glow white. Continuing to watch in shock as the eyes of all the Avatar statues begin to glow in the same manner, the string of lights spiraling into the darkness above her, Katara realizes Aang must be the cause, and she races out of the sanctuary to find him. In coincidence with the occurrence in the sanctuary, the Avatar temples in the other three nations around the world simultaneously experience similar events, their own Avatar statues and murals glowing spontaneously as well. In the Fire Temple, the Fire Sages prepare to inform the Fire Lord of the return of the Avatar.
Aang, meanwhile, begins to bend a windstorm around himself, still deep in the Avatar State; Sokka is blown backward off his feet as the gale intensifies, and the tattered tent is obliterated by the blast of wind. Katara, walking with an arm protecting her face as she struggles against the wind, asks Sokka, sheltering behind an outcropping of rock, what happened in a yell, and he yells back that Aang found out that firebenders killed Gyatso. As Katara, realizing that he indeed triggered the Avatar State, resolves to try to calm him down, Aang's rage escalates to the point that the sphere of air containing him begins to float upward, coming to a halt a short distance off the ground, and Katara subsequently begins making her way through the blinding whirlwind toward Aang.
Meanwhile, as the sun sets over the Fire Nation port, Commander Zhao and Prince Zuko are in a large courtyard, ready to duel; the two combatants are crouched back-to-back, with some distance between them. Iroh counsels Zuko to remember his basics, as they are his greatest assets, but Zuko seems not to heed his uncle's wisdom, instead stating, simply and forcefully, that he will not allow himself to lose. As he assumes his stance, Zhao, doing the same, taunts Zuko, saying: "This will be over quickly." Seeing the opponents ready for battle, a soldier looking down on the proceedings from the courtyard wall sounds a gong, and the match commences.
The two opponents stare fiercely into each other's unblinking eyes for a brief moment, waiting for the other to strike; it is Zuko who begins the duel. As the duel progresses, Zhao seems more than a match for Zuko, effortlessly avoiding and nullifying all of his fire blasts. As the prince catches his breath, Iroh continues to advise Zuko to remember his basics. Zhao throws his own volley of fire blasts; Zuko is able to block each attack, but he is slowly forced back with every parry he makes. For the final blast, Zhao, using both fists, sends a ball of fire that connects solidly with Zuko, knocking him to the ground. Pressing his advantage, Zhao leaps into the air, covers the distance separating him and Zuko, and prepares a finishing blast aimed directly for the prince's exposed face. An instant before contact, Zuko rolls out of the way, rises with a kicking flourish, and knocks Zhao out of his stance.
With new-found vigor, Zuko releases a series of low attacks that cause Zhao to retreat, finishing him with a jet of fire from a full body kick. Zhao expects Zuko to administer a final, devastating blow to mark his victory, but the latter's fire blast lands beside his face instead; when Zhao insults him for what he perceives to be cowardice, Zuko promises that he will not show restraint, should Zhao seek to get in his way in the future. As the victorious prince walks away, a beaten and furious Zhao sends a jet of fire at Zuko's back. Iroh intervenes, however, stopping the attack with his bare hand and throwing the commander to the ground. As Iroh stands over Zhao, Zuko tries to attack Zhao once more, but his uncle tells him not to taint his victory by retaliating. Iroh lectures Zhao about the dishonor he has brought upon himself through his actions and states that his nephew, even in exile, has proved himself to be more honorable. He politely thanks Zhao for sharing his tea and turns away from him, leaving the defeated commander to pick himself up; he groans as he watches them go. After leaving the arena, Zuko asks Iroh if he truly meant what he said, to which his uncle responds, "Of course. I told you ginseng tea is my favorite." As the two walk back toward the ship, the faintest of smiles crosses Prince Zuko's lips.
Shouting over the deafening wind, Katara attempts to console Aang by relating to him the fact that she lost her mother and goes on to state that, even though his people are gone, he has found a new family: herself and Sokka. The words seem to reach Aang; slowly, the wind dies and he descends back to the ground, though his eyes continue to glow. Sokka, joining his sister, reinforces her statement with the promise that neither of them will let anything happen to him. Katara takes Aang's hand and he finally leaves the Avatar State, looking visibly sad for a brief moment before collapsing into Katara's arms. He apologizes for his outburst and Katara tells him that there is no need to be sorry. Aang admits that Katara was right about the firebenders' invasion of the temple and concludes with great sadness that, if one temple was successfully attacked, the others must have fallen as well. With this, Aang realizes that he truly is the last of the airbenders.
Some time later, Aang, Katara, and Sokka stand in the sanctuary. Aang stares at Roku's statue once more; after she asks him if he is ready to leave, he wonders aloud to Katara about how a past life, being dead, could help him, to which Katara replies, "Maybe you'll find a way." Suddenly, the lemur reappears with a variety of fruits and lays them in front of Sokka, who, having been hungry for an extremely long time, wastes no time in devouring them eagerly. The lemur subsequently climbs onto Aang's shoulder. Later, as Katara and Sokka finish packing behind him, Aang stands overlooking the silent remnants of the deserted temple with Appa and the lemur; he tells them that the three of them are now the temple's only living remnants and that they have to stay together. Calling out to the siblings, Aang introduces the lemur to them as the newest member of their group and Katara, approaching him, asks what its name will be. The lemur promptly leaps off Aang's shoulder, stealing the moon peach Sokka was eating and returning with it to Aang. Fitly, the young Avatar names the lemur Momo as he and Katara laugh at Sokka, who, unaware for a moment that his food is gone, takes a bite of nothing but air.
Later, as night falls, the gang departs from the temple on Appa. His face sad, Aang leans on the pack at the back of Appa's saddle, taking a final, wistful gaze at what was once his home as it is concealed by swirling clouds.
- Written by:
- Directed by:
- Additional voices:
- Dee Bradley Baker
- Bruce Locke
- Main article: Transcript:The Southern Air Temple
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water
- Aang reveals that Monk Gyatso was his airbending teacher.
- It is revealed that Roku was one of Aang's past lives and the Avatar immediately before him.
- Zhao reveals that Zuko was banished.
- Iroh refers to Zhao as a firebending master.
- It is revealed that Katara and Sokka's mother was killed by the Fire Nation. Although her passing was already stated by Katara in "The Boy in the Iceberg", the cause of their mother's death was unknown.
- When Katara is about to tell Aang about the monks as they are flying to the temple, there is no arrow on Aang's right hand. This happens a second time just before Sokka's stomach growls with hunger.
- When Iroh is looking at the weapons in Zhao's tent, he knocks them over. The weapons can be seen upright again, however, a few scenes after they were knocked down.
- Right before Sokka asks where he could get something to eat, when Aang is running ahead of Katara and Sokka, Aang's mouth is moving as if he is saying something, but no words are coming out.
- In Aang's flashback with Monk Gyatso, when Gyatso is talking, one of the beads on his necklace suddenly changes from brown to red, right when he says, "... when you're old enough to enter the ..." (after "the"). At the same time, the rest of the beads move slightly. However, in the next shot, it is brown again.
- When Aang opens the door to the sanctuary, the camera flashes back to look down the corridor and both Katara and Sokka have vanished.
- In the air temple sanctuary, the Avatar statue next to Roku is a male earthbender, not Avatar Kyoshi. However, when Aang walks past the set of four Avatars that Katara used to identify the sanctuary as full of Aang's past lives, Kyoshi (identified by her fans) appears where the male earthbender was. This is also notable because it is the only time the statue of a female Avatar appears in the sanctuary at any point during the episode.
- In the Hebrew dub, when Katara notes the arrangement of the statues in the air temple sanctuary, she says "water, air, earth, and fire", while it should be "air, water, earth, and fire", since the first Avatar at whom she points is an Air Nomad and the second one is a Water Tribe native.
- When the gang sees Momo entering the temple's sanctuary, Sokka warns the others that it is a firebender and everyone hides behind the statues. However, Aang should not have believed this claim since he was convinced that no firebender could ever come to an air temple in the first place..
- When Katara is next to the statue of Roku, his headpiece is missing. In the next scene, it reappears.
- In this episode, Aang goes into the Avatar State and everyone around the world can see he has returned because various items begin glowing. However, they should have already known because he had also been in the Avatar State in "The Avatar Returns" to escape Zuko and when he first appears in "The Boy in the Iceberg".
- After Zuko knocks Zhao down, he stands beside him. However, when the angle changes, he is standing in front of him.
- When Katara calms Aang out of the Avatar State, the arrow on his head shown from the back is not glowing.
- This is the only episode in which the title screen, which denotes the chapter and book, does not have a plain white background. Instead, the episode featured an animated sunrise as the background of the title screen.
- A very old Nickelodeon website separate from the one commonly used on this wiki for referencing called this episode "Aang Goes Home".
- In some early advertising of the episode, the preview shows the scene in which the group first sees the Southern Air Temple. In the preview, Aang calls it the "Jongmu Air Temple", while it is the "Southern Air Temple" in the actual episode.
- According to the Avatar Extras, the writers contemplated on an entire episode dedicated to the fact that Momo was the reincarnation of Monk Gyatso, but decided against it.
- Zhao's act of lashing out after admitting defeat in this episode is a foreshadowing of the Book One finale, in which he does the same thing – when Iroh convinces him to release the Moon Spirit, he releases it, only to kill it immediately afterward.
- After the flying lemur steals a peach from Sokka, Aang says he will name the lemur "Momo". Momo, apart from being the Japanese equivalent of "Fido" in terms of popular pet names, translates into "peach".
- This is the second time Aang is seen entering the Avatar State, and the first time he does so in anger.
- This is the first episode in which Iroh's name is explicitly stated, as in the previous two episodes, Zuko was the only person seen speaking to Iroh, and only ever referred to him as "uncle".
- During the Agni Kai between Zuko and Admiral Zhao, the music playing is in the style of Raga, a type of music that originated in India and the Arab world.