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The Southern Air Temple

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This article is about the episode. For the location, see Southern Air Temple.
Southern Air Temple outlook
"The Southern Air Temple"

Avatar: The Last Airbender





Original air date

February 25, 2005

Written by

Michael Dante DiMartino

Directed by

Lauren MacMullan


DR Movie

Guest stars

Mako (Uncle), Jason Isaacs (Commander Zhao), Sab Shimono (Monk Gyatso)

Production number


Episode guide

"The Avatar Returns"


"The Warriors of Kyoshi"

"The Southern Air Temple" is the third episode of Book One: Water of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the third of the overall series. It debuted on February 25, 2005.


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.


Aang fools Sokka

Aang fools Sokka into believing that there is a prickle snake in his sleeping bag.

Katara and Aang are packing up their campsite with Aang excitedly talking to her about the astounding beauty of the Southern Air Temple, the only home he has known, which he is planning to visit. However, Sokka wants to sleep a bit longer. Too anxious to wait, Aang picks up a stick and slides it across Sokka's sleeping bag, telling Sokka there is a prickle snake in his sleeping bag. Terrified, Sokka leaps up screaming, and upon falling to the ground, realizes that he has been tricked. However, now that he is wide awake, the team is able to leave.

Off the coast of the southwestern Earth Kingdom, Prince Zuko docks at a Fire Nation controlled harbor, his ship needing substantial repairs from his 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 their mission during their stay so that no other firebenders will begin looking for him. 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 what had happened, with Zuko making up a story about crashing into an Earth Kingdom ship. Curious, Zhao invites the pair of them for a drink. Zuko attempts to get out of the situation, but Iroh, scolding Zuko and telling him that he needs to show Zhao some respect, accepts the invite on behalf of his nephew.

Nearing the Patola Mountain Range, Sokka finds that all the blubbered seal jerky he had brought was used by Aang for 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 tells him to expect the possibility that his people have been killed by the Fire Nation. Aang is convinced she is wrong on the grounds that reaching an air temple is impossible without a flying bison, and the Fire Nation could not possibly accomplish that. They reach the top of the mountain, which is above the clouds, and look down on the Southern Air Temple.

Commander Zhao Southern Air Temple

Zhao is eager for information on the Avatar.

Commander Zhao is explaining the Fire Nation's planned victory to Zuko and Iroh over tea in his tent, with Zuko voicing his doubts that the plan will work. Zhao asks about Zuko's search for the Avatar, to which Zuko replies that he has been unsuccessful thus far. Zhao remarks he did not expect anything different. The Fire Nation prince subsequently gets up to leave, but the commander's guards stop him. 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, giving Zuko no other choice but to tell Zhao the truth.

Sokka is still very hungry, and is berated by Katara for being one of the first outsiders to see an airbender temple and only thinking about food. Aang begins to give Katara and Sokka a tour of the temple, but becomes disheartened almost immediately. Seeing his home abandoned, he realizes how much things have changed, and in order to cheer him up, Sokka volunteers to play a game of airball with him. Aang uses airbending to propel the ball, which bounces off the totems and hits Sokka's stomach, subsequently going through the goal and knocking the latter down into a pile of snow. Lying on the ground after being creamed, Sokka spots a Fire Nation helmet and points it out to Katara, and they agree to show it to Aang. However, when Aang begins to walk over, Katara changes her mind suddenly and covers the helmet with snow. After commenting that Katara's ability to manipulate snow is impressive, Aang wants to show them the rest of the temple. Sokka discourages Katara from protecting Aang from the reality of what happened to the temple as she just did, to which Katara points out to Sokka that Aang would be devastated if he knew firebenders invaded his home. They come to a statue of an airbender monk, which Aang introduces as Monk Gyatso.

Aang and Gyatso

Aang and Gyatso prepare to launch fruit pies with airbending.

In a flashback, Gyatso is teaching Aang how to make fruit pies, but Aang is not listening, as he is thinking about how he has become burdened with the knowledge that he is the Avatar. Gyatso reassures Aang that he will be fine, saying he must focus on the present, and 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. Gyatso has Aang do some airbending target practice by blowing the freshly baked fruit pies through the air and onto the other elder monks' heads while they are meditating. They are promptly pounced on by winged lemurs, slurping 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 makes for the air temple sanctuary, telling his friends that there is someone whom he is ready to meet. Katara is doubtful that anyone has been survived in the temple for a hundred years, but Sokka hopes that the person in there has some food, particularly cured meats. To get into the sanctuary, Aang airbends two currents into the ornate locking mechanism, causing it to open the doors. Aang begins to walk into the darkened temple with Katara and Sokka following him.

Commander Zhao is appalled that a twelve-year-old boy bested Zuko and his crew. Zuko passionately states that he wants to continue his hunt for the Avatar and shall not underestimate him again. When Zhao replies that he will be taking over the hunt for the Avatar, dismissing Zuko as a mere teenager, Zuko leaps at Zhao in rage, but is held back by the guards. Zhao orders for Zuko and Iroh to be kept in his tent and leaves. In anger, Zuko kicks a table as Iroh asks for more tea.

Aang and Momo

Momo joins the group.

The air temple sanctuary is filled with hundreds of statues, and Sokka, still hungry, is thoroughly disappointed at there not being any food. Katara and Aang notice a pattern in the line of the statues, as they are arranged in the Avatar Cycle: air, water, earth, and fire. From that, Katara figures out that these 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 the trance, at which point Aang recognizes that the statue is of Avatar Roku, the Avatar before him. Sokka recognizes Roku as a firebender by his robes and top-knot, finding the reason he did not trust Aang when they had first met. The three of them hear a humming noise from the entrance, indicating that someone else has just come in, causing the group to hide behind the statues. Preparing to fight a firebender, they reveal themselves to see it is just a lemur. Desperately hungry, Sokka 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 catch the lemur first. Katara stays behind in the temple sanctuary while Aang and Sokka run after the lemur, each trying to trip the other up. The lemur flies out from the window, and Aang jumps off the balcony of the temple in his determination to catch the lemur.

Meanwhile, Commander Zhao and his search party are almost ready to set sail on their search for the Avatar, and plan to release Zuko when his ship is out at sea. Zuko states that he is going to capture the Avatar before Zhao, who laughs at the thought of a banished prince competing with a commander who has hundreds of warships at his disposal. Zhao demeans Zuko by telling him that his father would let him come home without the Avatar if the Fire Lord really loved him, going on to state that all Fire Lord Ozai sees in his son is failure. Zuko challenges Zhao out of pure rage and disgust to an Agni Kai at sunset, to which Zhao accepts. After Zhao leaves the tent, Iroh reminds Zuko about how his last duel with a firebending master turned out, prompting Zuko to say he will "never forget" that fight.

Aang loses control

Aang enters the Avatar State after finding Gyatso's skeleton.

After landing safely, Aang follows the lemur and discovers a room where many Fire Nation soldiers' bodies lie, centered around the skeleton of Monk Gyatso. Seeing his former master and father figure's skeleton, his laughter stops, and he starts crying. Sokka finally catches up to Aang and questions whether he caught the lemur, going on to say that he did not actually intend on eating it, before noticing why Aang is upset. Sokka tries to comfort Aang, but the latter suddenly enters the Avatar State and creates an air sphere around himself, violently blowing Sokka backward.

Back in the temple, Katara observes that the eyes of all the Avatar statues begin to glow in the same brilliant white color as Aang's tattoos when he went into the Avatar State back on Zuko's ship. Realizing Aang must be the cause of this, she runs out to find the boys. At this moment, the Avatar temples in the other three nations around the world simultaneously experience a similar event, as their Avatar statues and murals start to glow as well. In the Fire Temple, the Fire Sages hasten to inform the Fire Lord that the Avatar has returned.

After finding a windswept Sokka, Katara is informed that Aang found out that firebenders killed Gyatso. Aang's anger has escalated so that he now floats within his air sphere. Katara subsequently starts to make her way toward Aang in order to calm him down.

In the meantime, Commander Zhao and Prince Zuko are ready to duel. The two combatants begin back to back. Iroh counsels Zuko to remember his basics, as they are his greatest assets, but Zuko does not appear to heed his uncle's wisdom, instead simply stating that he will not lose and assumes his stance. Zhao claims that the duel will end swiftly, and also assumes his stance. The two opponents stare deeply and fiercely into each other's eyes. The gong sounds and the match commences.

Zuko and Zhao Agni Kai

Zuko and Commander Zhao fight an Agni Kai.

Zhao seems more than a match for Zuko, effortlessly avoiding and nullifying all of his fire blasts. As he catches his breath, Iroh continues to advise Zuko to remember his basics. Zhao proceeds to throw his own volley of fire blasts. Zuko is able to block each, but is slowly forced back with every parry. For the final blast, Zhao uses both fists, forming a blast that connects and knocks Zuko to the ground. Pressing the attack, he leaps into the air, covers the distance between him and Zuko, and prepares a finishing fire blast aimed directly for the prince's 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 strike him once more to mark his victory, but the latter releases a fire blast past his face instead, promising next time Zhao is in his way, he will not hold back. As he is walking away, Zhao sends a jet of fire at Zuko's back, enraged at his defeat, which Iroh swiftly stops with his bare hand. After throwing him to the ground, Iroh lectures Zhao about how dishonorably he has acted, and that his nephew is more honorable even in exile. The elder is still polite enough, though, to thank Zhao for the tea. After leaving the arena, Zuko asks Iroh if he really meant what he said back there, to which his uncle responds that "ginseng tea is [his] favorite." As the two walk back toward the ship, the faintest of smiles crosses Prince Zuko's lips.

At the air temple, Katara attempts to console Aang by imparting how she felt when she lost her mother, and even goes on to state that though his people are gone, he has a new family: her and Sokka. The words seem to reach Aang, who falls out of the Avatar State and slowly descends back to the ground. Sokka backs Katara's statement with the promise that neither will let anything happen to him. With this, Aang finally comes to the conclusion that he is indeed the last of his kind.

Katara comforts Aang

Katara comforts Aang after he learns of the extermination of his people.

Just before they leave, Aang stands before Roku's statue once more, wondering how his past life can help him if he is dead. Suddenly, the lemur reappears with a variety of fruits and lays them in front of Sokka, who does not waste any time to wolf them down, as he had been hungry for an extremely long time. The lemur subsequently climbs onto Aang's shoulder, and after realizing that the lemur, Appa, and himself are the last survivors of the Southern Air Temple, the young Avatar names the lemur Momo, the newest addition to their family. Night falls as the gang flies off on Appa. Deep with thought, Aang takes one last gaze at his old home before it fades behind the clouds.


  • Additional voices:

Production notes


Main article: Transcript:The Southern Air Temple

Series continuity

  • Momo joins Team Avatar.
  • Aang recognizes Roku's statue, but was not sure how he knew Roku's name. However, in "Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirit World", he mentions that Gyatso told him that Roku would help him. Aang had probably never seen Roku before, however, meaning that he knew the name matched this Avatar.
  • This episode primarily takes place in the Southern Air Temple in the Patola Mountain Range, locations number 41 and 48 respectively on the map of the World of Avatar.

Character revelations

  • 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".[1]
  • 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.


  1. archives. Nickelodeon. Retrieved on January 1, 2013. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006.

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