- This article is about the episode. For the titular character, see Zuko.
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After deciding he would be better off on his own and leaving his uncle, Zuko continues his journey alone and ends up in an Earth Kingdom town, where a young boy named Lee brings him home for dinner and subsequently bonds with the banished prince. Zuko helps defend the family from rogue Earth Kingdom soldiers who terrorize the town and has flashbacks of his youth when his mother was still around. Zuko's identity as the Fire Prince is revealed when he firebends, and the boy and his family reject him because of it.
Zuko is traveling by himself through semi-arid terrain on his ostrich horse. With a very gaunt appearance and an empty stomach, he suddenly stops at the smell of something; he looks over to find a man cooking a large piece of meat over an open flame. Zuko puts a hand over his gurgling stomach and moves the hand to his sword hilt. However, upon seeing that the man is traveling with a pregnant woman, he continues on. Now more tired and dehydrated than ever, Zuko is struggling to maintain his consciousness. His vision becomes blurred as he presses on and he closes his eyes. A woman walking down a dark hallway with a hood appears. Zuko opens his eyes again, but keeps his head down.
Finally, Zuko arrives in a village. On his way in, he passes some Earth Kingdom soldiers, who lock eyes with Zuko for a moment. He dismounts his ostrich horse and walks over to a man standing behind a counter, wanting to purchase some water, a hot meal, and a bag of feed. As he extends his hand forward revealing a small number of coins, the man tells him that he does not have enough for a hot meal, but he can give Zuko two bags of feed. As the man goes to retrieve Zuko's feed, two boys hiding beside the counter throw an egg at the soldiers just behind Zuko, and run for cover. Thinking Zuko had thrown the egg, the soldiers angrily confront and interrogate him. Zuko covers for the boys, saying he saw nothing, and suggests that a chicken may have flown over. As the vendor brings Zuko's feed out, the leader of the soldiers takes it and thanks Zuko for his "contribution".
As Zuko remounts his ostrich horse, the boy who threw the egg pops up from behind the animal and thanks him for covering for him. Zuko does not reply, and begins moving forward on his mount. The boy follows him, and offers to take him to his farm and feed the ostrich horse in return for not ratting him out. Zuko accepts, and allows the boy, Lee, to lead him.
Zuko and Lee approach a large farm full of several kinds of hybrid pigs, that oink loudly as the two approach the house. Lee casually remarks that the noise is good because no one can ever sneak up on them. As the boy goes to put Zuko's ostrich horse in the barn, his father, Gansu, approaches the prince. When Gansu inquires if Zuko is a friend of Lee, Lee recounts Zuko's small confrontation with the soldiers. Lee's mother, Sela, comes, asking for the newcomer's name. Unable to give his usual false name, Lee, or his real name, Zuko stutters for a moment before Lee's father comes to the rescue, saying that "He doesn't have to say who he is if he doesn't want to".
The family explains how the real soldiers, like Lee's older brother, Sensu, are fighting in the War while those thugs stay to "protect" the village. Sela asks if Zuko wishes to stay for dinner, but he declines her offer. Understanding that he is too proud to accept any help, she says that Zuko can help Lee's father fix the roof of the barn and that later they will eat, an offer Zuko accepts.
Zuko sets to work, wildly hammering on the roof at about six bent nails. Behind him, Lee is asking him rapid-fire questions. His father silences the boy, but he persists and asks Zuko how he got his scar. At this the banished prince accidentally hammers his own thumb, momentarily distracted. Lee's father tells him it is not polite to ask so many personal questions, and that Zuko's past is not his business. As Zuko continues hammering, he is thrown into a memory.
A young Prince Zuko and his mother are sitting by a small pond in a garden on the palace grounds, feeding turtle ducks. Zuko offers to show his mother how Azula feeds them and throws a large piece of bread at one. His mother berates him for it, as the mother of the turtle duck comes forward and bites down hard on Zuko's ankle. He yells in pain as his mother helps detach the small creature. He angrily asks why the duck bit him, to which Ursa replies that mothers are protective, and will "bite back" when their young are in danger, and pretends to bite Zuko. They laugh briefly before returning their gaze back to the pond.
As Zuko and his mother walk back through a courtyard, young Princess Azula is attempting a cartwheel, but falls to the ground with a thud. Behind her Ty Lee runs forward and performs the move with ease, topping it off with several somersaults, causing Azula to push her over in jealousy and laugh. A young Mai sits uninterested against a tree watching them; she turns, sees Zuko walking through the garden, and diverts her gaze again, now blushing and smiling to herself. However, Azula notices this and whispers to Ty Lee, "Watch this." Ty Lee giggles as Azula runs up to her brother and mother, asking if Zuko would come play with them, stating that it is important for siblings to spend time together. After a small argument between Zuko and Azula, their mother makes him go and play with the girls.
Azula explains the tactic of the game: one player tries to knock an apple off of the other person's head. She sets an apple on a very bored-looking Mai's head and sets it ablaze. Zuko rushes forward trying to knock the burning apple off of her head, but trips, crashing into Mai, and they both fall into the fountain, landing on top of each other. Ty Lee comments on how cute they are together; Mai, angered, says, "You two are such - ugh!" while Zuko storms inside to dry off, passing his mother and shouting, "Girls are crazy!"
Zuko's mother informs him that she has received a letter from his uncle in Ba Sing Se. In the letter, Iroh says that "if the city is as magnificent as its wall, Ba Sing Se must be something to behold." Continuing, he hopes they can come and see it one day, if he does not burn it to the ground first, to which Zuko and Azula burst out in laughter. He has also sent gifts for his niece and nephew. For Zuko, a pearl dagger that belonged to the general who surrendered when Iroh broke through the Outer Wall. The inscription on the dagger reads Never give up without a fight. Azula, instead, receives an Earth Kingdom doll, much to her displeasure.
Azula comments that if Iroh did not make it back from the siege, her father would be next in line to be Fire Lord. Her mother scolds her for saying such a thing, as Zuko asks her how she would feel if Iroh's son, Lu Ten, wanted their dad to die. Azula simply retorts that she thinks "[their] dad would make a much better Fire Lord than his royal tea-loving kookiness" and sets her new doll ablaze.
The focus shifts back to the present day, where Zuko is sleeping soundly on a pile of hay in the family's barn. Lee sneaks in, takes Zuko's swords, and silently slips out as Zuko's eyes open. Lee takes the swords outside where he begins to hack wildly at a field of sunflowers, pretending to fight an enemy. From behind him, Zuko appears and says he is holding them the wrong way, explaining that he has to think of the swords as one whole rather than two separate blades. Lee heeds Zuko's comments and his motions become more fluid. Walking back to the farm in the moonlight, Lee states that Zuko would have liked Sensu as he used to share things with him just as Zuko was doing.
The next day, Zuko mounts his ostrich horse and prepares to set off, when Lee's mother gives him some food for his journey. At that moment, dust kicks up in the distance, and the soldiers from the village come with grave news: Sensu's battalion has been captured. Zuko is brought back to a memory of his cousin's death. He and Azula are playing together in the garden while their mother is sitting near the pond. A servant delivers a message to her; she reads it and looks up, a tear drips down her face as she informs her children that their cousin did not survive the battle.
Back in the present, Lee's father declares he is going to the front to look for Sensu. Lee asks if Zuko will stay in his father's absence, but he declines and gives Lee the pearl dagger his uncle had given him when he was a kid. As Zuko rides off, he is thrown into another memory: Zuko is practicing with his knife while Azula watches from a chair, commenting that he is wasting all his time playing with knives while he is not even that skilled, to which he replies with anger. Ignoring her brother's outburst, she casually informs him that Iroh is coming home, calling him "a quitter and a loser".
Their mother enters the room and tells them their father has requested an audience with their grandfather, Fire Lord Azulon. Azula disrespectfully inquires why Ursa does not just refer to Fire Lord Azulon as "grandfather" as "he isn't exactly the powerful Fire Lord he used to be". When she continues saying that someone was probably going to take his place soon, Ursa scolds her once again for her brazen and callous speech and wonders to herself, "What is wrong with that child?" In the Fire Lord's war room, Ozai is asking Zuko and Azula how their great-grandfather Sozin won the Battle of Han Tui. While Zuko stammers for an answer, Azula answers correctly. Pleased with his daughter, Ozai asks her to show her grandfather the new moves she demonstrated for him.
As Azula gracefully performs her firebending forms, a smile creeps across Ozai's face. He states that "she is a true prodigy, just like her grandfather for whom she's named." As Azula resumes her seat beside Zuko, she whispers that he "will never catch up". Eager to prove his sister wrong, Zuko rises to demonstrate what he has been learning, and instantly, the smile on Ozai's face turns into a frown. As Zuko stumbles with the same form, Azula smirks viciously. Zuko falls to the ground after trying again to no avail. Zuko sadly says that he failed, while Ursa comforts him, saying that she loved watching him perform.
Impatient that Zuko is wasting his time, Azulon dismisses Ursa, Zuko, and Azula, and asks Ozai to tell him what he wants. As they make for the door, Azula grabs Zuko's hand and leads him behind a curtain from where they eavesdrop on their father and grandfather's meeting. Ozai comments that with Lu Ten gone, Iroh's bloodline has ended and that no one really knows when he will return to the Fire Nation, whereas he is present, and his children are alive, leading up to his request to cheat on Iroh's birthright in his favor. Unhappy about his youngest son's arrogance and lack of respect for his brother's loss, the Fire Lord tells Ozai that Iroh has suffered enough, but his punishment has scarcely begun.
As the Fire Lord's flames rise, a frightened Zuko runs away before hearing the punishment Azulon would give Ozai, while Azula remains behind with a sadistic smile on her face. In his room, Zuko, lies on his bed, frightened of what he just saw. Azula enters with an evil smirk, singing that their father is going to kill Zuko. She reveals that Ozai is to sacrifice Zuko so he may know the pain of losing a firstborn son. Zuko refuses to believe her, and when he remarks that their "dad would never do that to [him]", Ursa enters the room demanding to know what is going on. Seeing Azula's smug face, she pulls her away angrily, saying that it is time for a talk. Zuko remains in bed chanting, "Azula always lies" to himself.
In the present, Zuko is lying on grass, eyes closed and repeating those same words, when Lee's mother pulls up in a cart, informing him that when the soldiers from the village came back demanding food, Lee pulled a knife on them. The men took him away, remarking that if he was old enough to fight, he is old enough to join the army. She begs for his help through her tears. Zuko agrees to help, and rides up to the soldiers; on the town square, Lee, tied to a pole, is extremely happy to see Zuko. At Zuko's arrival, the soldiers all stand up, ready to face him.
Zuko dismounts and removes his straw hat, ordering the soldiers to release Lee. The leader bursts out laughing before harshly inquiring who Zuko is. Zuko calmly replies that his identity does not matter, and that the soldiers are not soldiers but bullies abusing their power. The leader asks the other soldiers if they are going to let Zuko insult them like this, implying that they should attack him.
One rushes forward, but is knocked off his feet with a quick hit from Zuko's sword hilt, without even removing the sword entirely from its sheath. The next one runs at Zuko; without much effort, Zuko ducks under the spear, and pushes the man backward on the ground by placing his hand on his. The third runs at him and Zuko performs a front kick, breaking the man's spear, scaring him into running away. The leader, the only one left, pulls out two large hammers, a motion mirrored by Zuko, who pulls out his swords. The leader smacks the ground with his hammers and sends a rock pelting toward Zuko, who breaks it easily with his swords.
The next few blows appear more difficult to block, and Zuko is hit in the stomach by a rock; however, he does not give up, but charges the leader, under cheers from an elderly spectator. Zuko's advance is halted by three quick boulders coming his way. He is barely able to block the rocks that are flying toward him, and he is finally hit with an earth pillar that knocks him airborne and back about ten feet. He hits the ground hard and is blasted into another memory. Zuko is sound asleep in his room when his mother gently wakes him. She tells the half-asleep Zuko that everything she has done has been to protect him, and that no matter how things may seem to change, he is never to forget who he is. She hugs him a last time and disappears down a dark corridor.
Back in the present, Zuko is lying on the ground, seemingly passed out. The soldier moves forward for the final blow when Zuko opens his eyes and suddenly firebends. He uses his swords to guide his flames and creates a furious ring of fire around him as he jumps up. Lee and the villagers look at him, terrified. Zuko wastes no time and charges the soldier, sending blasts of fire toward him as he swings the blades. The man makes a feeble attempt at earthbending a wall to block the attack, but to no avail, and is knocked back against a house.
Lying defeated amidst a pile of debris, the soldier asks Zuko who he is, a question Zuko answers by telling everyone his full title and royal heritage. The crowd erupts in nervous whispers, horrified by Zuko's revelation as a firebender and prince of the Fire Nation. The man who had been cheering Zuko accuses him of being a liar, as he once heard that Zuko was not a prince but an outcast. Zuko ignores the man and retrieves his dagger from the pocket of the defeated soldier. He walks toward Lee, now untied by Sela, but his mother steps between them and tells Zuko not to come a step closer. Obeying, Zuko kneels and offers the dagger, but Lee rejects the offer, telling the firebender that he hates him.
Zuko is now haunted by his turbulent past, reliving another memory. He wakes suddenly from his bed yelling for his mom. He runs down the hall only to find his sister Azula playing with his knife. He asks her about their mother, to which she replies that nobody knows and casually adds that their grandfather had passed away last night. Zuko tells Azula that she is sick, takes back his knife, and runs to find his mother. He finds his dad instead at the pond, standing silently and staring into the distance. When Zuko demands to know where his mother is, Ozai does not reply, and Zuko bows his head.
The Fire Sages hold a special funeral ceremony for the late Fire Lord, retelling his past accomplishments and family ties as a eulogy. Ozai, Zuko, and Azula are present, all donned in white robes. After the sages cremate Azulon's body, the Head Sage coronates Ozai as the new Fire Lord according to what he said was Azulon's dying wish.
Returning to the present, Zuko is riding away from the village on his ostrich horse, his round hat back on his head, with either side of the street lined with villagers. An Earth Kingdom flag flies in the breeze on the left of the frame. Some villagers, including Lee, look at Zuko with dull hatred as he rides into the fiery red sunset.
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- Additional voices:
- This is the only credit for Elijah Runcorn as the young Zuko.
- Main article: Transcript:Zuko Alone
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Zuko's dagger was first seen in "The Avatar State" when Zuko and Iroh cut off their topknots.
- Zuko's mother, Ursa, is seen for the first time.
- The pregnant woman and her husband, whom Zuko decides not to rob, would later be escorted to Ba Sing Se by Aang and friends in "The Serpent's Pass".
- This is the first and only episode in which Team Avatar does not appear.
- Zuko is shown fighting without using his firebending for the second time, the first time being in "The Blue Spirit".
- When Ursa tells Azula "it's time for a talk", Ursa grabs Azula's right arm with her left hand. When they move past Zuko her right hand is grabbing Azula's right arm.
- When Sela asks for Zuko's help to get her son back, Zuko's swords disappear in several frames.
- Also, the hat that Zuko wears is lying on his chest when Sela approaches him, but when the frame switches, he is wearing the hat with it tied around his chin. However, after he tells her he will get Lee back, the straps are not tied, made obvious by the straps blowing in the wind.
- In addition to that, the river is flowing toward the right when it is first shown, but is flowing toward the left when it is next seen.
- In this episode it states that Azulon ruled for twenty-three years; however, for this to be correct, Sozin would have had to remain Fire Lord for roughly seventy years after his death at the age of 102, according to nick.com.
- When Zuko beats the earthbender and reveals his identity, a man in the crowd shouted that Zuko's own father burned him. However, in "The Storm", it was implied that this fact was not publicly known, as Zuko's own crew, who had been traveling with him for nearly three years, was under the assumption that he got his scar in a training accident.
- "Avatar Extras" stated that this episode is the series' equivalent to a western, being similar in many ways to the 1949 western novel, Shane, and its 1953 film adaptation.
- The doll given to Azula has the same hairstyle and headband as Toph.
- Ursa states that Zuko is "someone who keeps fighting, even though it's hard". That same message is meant by the inscription on the dagger Iroh sent him. Zuko heeded these words carefully, as he mentioned to Aang in "The Siege of the North, Part 2", "I've always had to struggle and fight and that's made me strong. It's made me who I am."
- This is the only episode in which Zuko uses his swords to augment his firebending.
- When Zuko explains to Lee that the dual swords are but two parts of one whole, he holds them up in front of his face, visually dividing it in two. Though he is talking about the dual swords, it is also a subtle commentary on his own division and his inner conflict. The concept of the two sides of Zuko symbolized by the scarred and un-scarred sides of his face is used again in "The Crossroads of Destiny".
- The fact that the dagger says "Made in Earth Kingdom" is a nod to how most modern day products have "Made in China" somewhere on them as the Earth Kingdom is largely based on China.
- At the pond, Ursa explains to young Zuko, "If you mess with [a mother's] babies, they're going to bite you back." This foreshadows the "vicious, treasonous things" she does to save Zuko's life, as is later learned in "The Day of Black Sun, Part 2: The Eclipse".
- Before "The Awakening", this episode provided the closest and clearest glimpse of Fire Lord Ozai's face, albeit at a distance and not very visible. The aforementioned episode was the first time a close-up of Ozai's full face was observed.
- This episode is the first in which Zuko shows real mercy to someone else, when he decided not to rob the pregnant Ying and her family.
- This episode's title "Zuko Alone" references that Zuko is the only major character appearing in it, except for flashbacks.