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The Waterbending Master

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This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Pakku.
Pakku waterbends
"The Waterbending Master"

Avatar: The Last Airbender





Original air date

November 18, 2005

Written by

Michael Dante DiMartino

Directed by

Giancarlo Volpe


JM Animation

Guest stars

Mako (Uncle), Jason Isaacs (Admiral Zhao), Jon Polito (Chief Arnook), Victor Brandt (Master Pakku), Johanna Braddy (Princess Yue), Lucille Bliss (Yugoda), Byron McKittrick (pirate barker), Keone Young (Captain Li)

Production number


Episode guide

"The Northern Air Temple"


"The Siege of the North, Part 1"

"The Waterbending Master" is the 18th episode of Book One: Water of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the 18th of the overall series. It debuted on November 18, 2005.


The group finally arrives at the Northern Water Tribe, where they are warmly welcomed. The chief of the tribe throws a huge party in celebration of the Avatar's arrival at the North Pole. Sokka meets Princess Yue, with whom he falls in love. Aang and Katara seek to learn waterbending from a master named Pakku, but he refuses to teach Katara due to sexist customs. Aang tries to teach Katara in secret, but is caught and removed as Pakku's student. Determined to gain respect, Katara challenges Pakku. Though she loses, Katara proves to be the granddaughter of the woman Pakku was in love with, so the latter decides to teach her, as well as take Aang back as his student. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao hires pirates to assassinate Zuko. Zuko survives and sneaks aboard Zhao's lead ship as Zhao readies for an attack on the North Pole.


The episode begins with Sokka complaining that Appa is flying too slowly; Aang defensively replies that they should all climb on Sokka's back and he could fly them to the North Pole. Katara tries to lighten the situation by remarking that they are all tired and cranky as a result of flying for two days straight. Just as Sokka is voicing his doubts about finding the Northern Water Tribe, Team Avatar is attacked by a group of waterbenders, who, upon discovering that Aang is the long-lost Avatar, lead the team to the tribe. While touring the city by gondola, Sokka sees Princess Yue for the first time and develops a crush on her.

Northern Water Tribe

The Northern Water Tribe largely consists of a substantial city.

At a Fire Nation navy base, Admiral Zhao figures out that since that the Avatar is traveling north, he must be traveling to the Northern Water Tribe to look for a master to teach him waterbending. One of his advisers eagerly remarks that they should just "go get him", but Zhao replies that a massive invasion force is required, as he knows that the Northern Water Tribe is a powerful nation, and the reason that they have survived one hundred years of war is because the frozen tundra is treacherous and the landscape itself is an icy fortress.

Outside the great palace of the Northern Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara are celebrated as family from the Southern Water Tribe, and Aang is honored as a special guest. The sixteenth birthday of the princess, Yue, is also celebrated, as it is the coming of marrying age. The waterbending master, Pakku, and his students perform elaborate waterbending moves for entertainment, which delights Aang and Katara. Sokka, meanwhile, is far more interested in the food at the banquet and Princess Yue, who is sitting next to him. He breaks an awkward silence by telling Yue that back in his tribe he is "kind of like a prince [himself]". Upon hearing this, Katara amusingly asks what he is the prince of. Embarrassed, Sokka replies that he is the prince of a lot of things, shooing Katara away for interrupting the conversation who leaves with a final mocking. He goes on to tell Yue that he will be in town for a while and awkwardly asks if she would like to "do an activity" with him.

After the waterbending performance is over, Aang is introduced to Master Pakku. Aang expresses that he is looking forward to Katara and himself learning waterbending after a few days' rest. Master Pakku is unimpressed with his work ethic, telling Aang that he will receive no special treatment just because he is destined to save the world, so if he is interested in learning waterbending, he will be ready at sunrise the next day.

Zhao recognizing Zuko's sword

Zhao recognizes Zuko's swords as being the Blue Spirit's.

Interrupting music night on Zuko's ship, Zhao arrives, taking command of the soldiers under Zuko and inviting Iroh to join him as general. While he briefs Zuko and Iroh, he recognizes the two broadswords on Zuko's wall as the same ones used by the Blue Spirit to save the Avatar at Pohuai Stronghold. When asked about them, Zuko quickly tells Zhao that he is not skilled with broadswords and they are antiques, merely for decorative purposes. Zhao addresses Iroh, asking him whether he has heard of the Blue Spirit. Iroh replies that he has just heard rumors and does not believe in his existence. Zhao assures Iroh that the Blue Spirit is indeed real and a criminal and enemy of the Fire Nation, but has a feeling that he will be brought to justice soon.

As Katara and Aang approach the palace the next day, Katara expresses her joy at being able to learn from a real master, saying she has waited for this day her whole life. However, she is shocked to learn from Master Pakku that it is forbidden for women to learn waterbending. He advises her to go to the healing huts and learn from Yugoda to use her waterbending to heal. Although Aang initially refuses to learn from Master Pakku due to this, Katara urges him to return by saying that he cannot risk his training for her. With that, Aang begins to reluctantly learn from Master Pakku. Sokka, in the meantime, makes plans with Princess Yue to meet on a bridge above the canal.

At the Fire Nation camp, Admiral Zhao is talking to a group of pirates, who previously had an encounter with Zuko, for the mission he has in mind. He offers to pay the pirates a large amount of gold to assassinate Zuko. Meanwhile, Katara reluctantly goes to healing classes, filled with young girls and taught by an old woman, while Aang learns waterbending from Master Pakku. He becomes frustrated when he is criticized for his technique, and Master Pakku mockingly says that this move may be too advanced and Aang should try an easier one.

Yugoda with Katara

Katara finds out from Yugoda that her grandmother came from the Northern Water Tribe.

After the healing class, Katara thanks Yugoda, who notices her betrothal necklace and asks her who she is marrying. Katara tells her she is not ready for marriage, and the necklace is rather a family heirloom passed from her grandmother to her mother and eventually to her. Yugoda states she recognizes the carving and tells Katara she is the spitting image of Kanna, Katara's grandmother, revealing that Kanna was her old friend. Much to the surprise of Katara, Yugoda also states that Kanna was born in the Northern Water Tribe, going on to tell her that Kanna had an arranged marriage with a young waterbender, but mysteriously left the Northern Water Tribe without saying goodbye.

When Iroh informs Zuko that the crew wished him a safe journey, Zuko bitterly reveals his disappointment that they left, saying, "Good riddance to those traitors." Iroh invites him for a nightly stroll to clear his head, but Zuko remains sulking in his room. While Iroh is out walking, the assassination plan is put into action by the pirates, who plant explosives in Zuko's ship. Zuko, becoming alert after hearing a noise outside his room, goes to investigate, looking out the window to see the pirates' iguana parrot watching him, and he recognizes it just as the lit fuse reaches the explosives. In the split second that the flames rush at Zuko, he puts up a fire shield that barely saves his life. Iroh, hearing the explosion and seeing the flames, rushes back to the docks to see the smoldering remains of his nephew's ship.

Sokka attempting to woo Yue

Sokka attempts to woo Yue with a carved fish figurine.

Sokka meets with Princess Yue on the bridge, presenting her with a carved fish, which she mistakes for a bear. Suddenly, Yue tells Sokka that she made a mistake inviting him there and runs away, leaving Sokka looking devastated as he throws his carving into the water. Later, when the gang meets in their living quarters, they are all unhappy with their situations. Sokka is confused and upset by Yue's mixed messages, and Aang and Katara are unhappy that Katara is not allowed to learn waterbending. Sokka suggests that Aang teach Katara everything he has learned in the day to Katara at night, and this makes Katara excited, as the plan allows her to learn waterbending while providing Aang a companion to practice with. She subsequently states that Sokka's idea would make everyone happy, to which he remarks that he is still displeased. Katara dismisses this by saying that Sokka's never happy and rushes outside with Aang to begin practicing.

Aang teaches Katara what he had learned, showing her a move that is all about "sinking and floating". Katara manages to learn the move with much ease, but suddenly the water she had been bending begins to writhe around her in a complex stream. Aang exclaims how amazing it is, but Katara is equally as surprised, saying it is not her manipulating the water. They look up to the bridge above them to see Master Pakku, angered by Aang's disrespect of his orders, his teachings, and his entire culture. Aang hastily apologizes, but Master Pakku declares that he will not teach Aang anymore, stating that he is no longer welcome as his student before swiftly walking away.

The next day at the palace, Katara pleads with Chief Arnook to make Master Pakku take Aang back as his student. Arnook suggests that if Katara swallows her pride and apologizes, Pakku might continue to train Aang. Try as she might, Katara, angered by his pomposity and condescending attitude, instead challenges the waterbending master to a fight. She gestures emphatically as she does so, causing her to unintentionally waterbend huge cracks in the ice floor and smash two pots, stating that she will not apologize to "a sour old man" like Pakku.

At the Fire Nation camp over a cup of tea, Iroh tells Zhao of the attack on Zuko. Zhao is "devastated" by the news and smiles slyly when he hears that no trace of the attack was linked back to him. Iroh takes Admiral Zhao's offer of serving under him as general of the fleet.

Katara vs Master Pakku

Katara fights against Pakku.

Katara goes to wait outside for Master Pakku, who simply strolls past her, further angering her with patronizing comments. Katara, her temper pushed to the breaking point, forms a water whip and slaps Master Pakku on the back of the head. He turns around and agrees to the fight, telling her if she wants to learn so badly, she should study closely. The fight begins, and Katara proves to be much more skilled in waterbending than previously known. She demonstrates powerful techniques and advanced forms, despite lacking any formal training. The two are able to manipulate the water and snow around it with ease, using basic and advanced waterbending moves. Master Pakku grins and smirks as he attacks, but starts to realize Katara's talent after barely dodging an ice disc launched by her. After a few moments of violent waterbending, Katara gains the upper-hand as she topples ice-obelisks over Master Pakku, who disappears in a cloud of mist. However, Master Pakku quickly emerges and performs a waterbending move that renders Katara helpless, and she is beaten. Her grandmother's necklace, which fell off during the fight, is picked up by Pakku, and he reveals that he made it for Kanna sixty years earlier.

On one of Zhao's ships, General Iroh walks past a Fire Nation soldier, stopping to say quietly that their plan is working perfectly and that Zhao does not suspect a thing. The soldier takes off his face plate to reveal that he is an injured Prince Zuko. Zuko thanks his uncle for his help, and returns his faceplate. Iroh tells him to stay hidden until they reach the North Pole, as there he will have a chance of capturing the Avatar before Zhao does. Wishing his nephew luck, they continue on.

Fire Navy

Zhao's fleet prepares to invade the Northern Water Tribe.

Master Pakku tells Katara that her grandmother was arranged to marry him sixty years prior, but left for the South Pole before they could. Katara understands that her grandmother refused to let the tribe's customs rule her life, and this revelation makes Princess Yue, who is standing nearby, burst into tears and run away. Sokka follows her and finds her on the bridge where they had met earlier. Yue weeps softly while Sokka tells her he wants nothing but to tell her that she is beautiful and that he never would have thought she would even notice a guy like him. Yue expresses that he does not understand, but Sokka believes he does: she is a princess and he is just a Southern Water Tribe peasant. He turns to leave, but Yue kisses him, making Sokka happy but extremely confused. Yue explains that she has fallen for Sokka, but they cannot be together, and not for the reason Sokka thinks. She sadly pulls down the furs about her neck to reveal a betrothal necklace, confessing that she is engaged. She apologizes and leaves Sokka alone on the bridge. The next morning, Aang practices a form with the waterbending master, and the latter sarcastically remarks about Aang's ability. Katara subsequently shows up, and Pakku encourages her to come train, accepting her as a student. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao's enormous invasion fleet has mobilized and set a course for the Northern Water Tribe.


  • Additional voices:

Production notes


Main article: Transcript:The Waterbending Master
Main article: Transcript:The Waterbending Master (commentary)

Avatar Extras

Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water


  • When Team Avatar first enters the Northern Water Tribe, there are two boats waiting to greet them in the river behind the giant wall of ice, but in the next scene, the two boats turn into one single boat.
  • The man ferrying Yue is first seen with brown hair, but appears with gray hair in the following frames.
  • Katara's gloves disappear after she addresses Chief Arnook.
  • When the broadswords are first seen on Zuko's ship, from a long shot there is a sheath hanging under them. After Zhao picks one up, the sheath is gone.
  • When Sokka asks Yue on a date and falls into the canal, his legs are a few inches above water when he stands back up. However, when the frame switches to above his head, the water is up to his heels.
  • When Sokka and Yue meet on the bridge, a crescent moon can be seen in the background. However, only a few days later, a full moon gives advantage to waterbenders during the Siege of the North.
  • After Katara is told by Chief Arnook to apologize to Pakku, she accidentally waterbends huge cracks in the floor and shatters two vases. However, when she walks out of the palace, there are no cracks and the two vases are restored again.
  • Zuko removes his faceplate to speak with Iroh aboard Zhao's ship. In the next scene, however, both of his hands are empty.


  • The song played by Iroh is titled "Four Seasons". Its melody is used many times in this episode as well as the two-part season finale.
  • According to the DVD commentary for this episode, Master Pakku's waterbending trick of trapping Katara in a cage of icicles was inspired from a scene in House of Flying Daggers.
  • Toward the end of the battle with Katara, Pakku bends water up in the air and converts it into a stream of icicles, trapping Katara and thus preventing her from waterbending. Later, Katara uses a similar technique against Combustion Man in "The Western Air Temple".

Start a Discussion Discussions about The Waterbending Master

  • Thoughts on Katara.

    130 messages
    • Well, in a world women doesn't have periods that argument is really invalid. I would imagine women in the Avatar World menstruate, but few stor...
    • Conzpirazy wrote:How did a troll this bad turn into a debate this heated? No kidding. What the hell are we doing still talking about this? Mov...
  • I've had an epiphany.

    5 messages
    • MerlinTheFairyFox wrote:Watch your tongue. Why? 
    • Onomatopoeia wrote:For awhile I just assumed people always support Katara despite her being an unlikeable bitch Read that, and LMAO, and thou...

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