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'The Tales of Ba Sing Se'
Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes
Episode nos.Season 2
Episodes 15
Directed byEthan Spaulding
Written byThe Tale of Toph and Katara
Joann Estoesta and Lisa Wahlander
The Tale of Iroh
Andrew Huebner
The Tale of Aang
Gary Scheppke
The Tale of Sokka
Lauren MacMullan
The Tale of Zuko
Katie Mattila
The Tale of Momo
Justin Ridge and Giancarlo Volpe
Production code(s)215
Original air date(s)September 29, 2006
Episode chronology
Previous
'City of Walls and Secrets'
Next
'Appa's Lost Days'
Avatar: The Last Airbender (season 2)
List of Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes

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'The Tales of Ba Sing Se' is the 15th episode of the second season of the animated TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. It features six short vignettes of several main characters as they go about an average day in the Earth Kingdom city of Ba Sing Se. It serves as a filler episode and does not focus on the main plot, except for the winged lemur Momo's tale.[1] 'The Tales of Ba Sing Se' is a break from the previous dark, plot heavy, episodes, and focuses on character development.

The first tale is of Katara and Toph, who spend a day at the spa. The sage, yet comedic Iroh's tale is next; he helps various residents of Ba Sing Se, before making a tearful tribute to his son, who died in combat trying to take the city of Ba Sing Se. Aang helps a zookeeper, though not without causing some trouble. Sokka inadvertently enters a Haiku contest. The generally brooding Zuko goes on a date. The last tale centers on Momo, who searches for Aang's lost pet skybison, Appa.

The episode is widely acclaimed, and considered to be one of the best episodes in the series. The tale of Iroh has been especially well reviewed, and is a fan favorite. The episode was dedicated to Iroh's voice actor Mako Iwamatsu, who had died before the episode's release.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The Tale of Toph and Katara[edit]

The story opens at the location of the protagonist's house in Ba Sing Se, the whole group cleaning themselves up for the day aside from Toph who has yet to wake up. When Katara wakes her, Toph presents herself with messy hair and covered in dust, considering herself ready. Katara suggests they have a 'Girl's Day Out,' and takes her to the Fancy Lady Day Spa. Toph agrees, as long as they don't touch her feet. This request is denied and Toph sends one of the attendants through the wall during a pedicure. The girls then take a mud bath where Toph uses her Earthbending to make creepy faces with the mud and scare away the attendant. The two then relax in a sauna, using their Bending to both feed the fire and create the steam.

The girls leave the sauna now with make-up on their faces. As they cross a bridge, three older girls make fun of Toph's make-up. Toph is upset by these remarks and Katara tries to urge her to ignore them. Toph, however, laughs back at the girls and then Earthbends the rock of the bridge from under them, dropping them into the water. Katara finishes with her own parting shot by waterbending the girls downstream.

Katara tries to console Toph as they continue walking on. Toph claims that because she is blind, she does not have to worry so much about personal appearance or the approval of others, the words of the girls still hurt her all the same, and she sheds a few tears. Katara compliments that Toph is not only confident and self-assured, but also pretty. Toph proclaims she would like to return the compliment but has no idea what Katara looks like. Katara laughs at this and the story ends with Toph giving her a friendly punch on the arm.

The Tale of Iroh[edit]

While strolling through a market, Iroh stops and buys a few things at a street stand. Iroh purchases a picnic basket and when the owner asks, Iroh claims that it is for a special occasion. He then aids the shopkeeper by helping a Moon Flower bloom by moving it closer to the shade. Continuing his walk, he sees a small boy crying and his mother struggling to calm him. Iroh borrows a liuqin from a nearby shop and sings a song to the weeping child. The song tells the tale of a young soldier boy marching home from war. The boy stops crying as Iroh sings to him and he then proceeds to thank Iroh by pulling his beard and laughing.

In a small street alley, Iroh watches some boys play a form of soccer that employs Earthbending. When the ball gets repelled off a rock and crashes through a window, he tells them that it is always best to admit to mistakes in order to restore honor. However, the massive owner appears in the window, and Iroh retracts his comments and tells them to run. After running down an alley, he is threatened at knife-point by a mugger. Unconcerned for his own safety, Iroh tells the mugger that his stance makes him weak to attacks and proves it by knocking him down and stealing his dagger. Iroh demonstrates a proper stance, which the man mimics, and comments that the would-be mugger does not look like a criminal. The man admits that he is confused with his life right now, and as a result has turned to crime. Iroh and the man share some tea as Iroh suggests that the man would become a good masseur. The man, more optimistic, comments that no one has ever believed in him, to which Iroh comments that help from others can be a great blessing. Iroh gave the same wisdom to Toph in the episode 'The Chase.'

Iroh comes to rest upon a hill with a large tree. He sets up some rocks and pulls out materials from the basket he purchased earlier. The special occasion it was needed for was a memorial for the birthday of his deceased son, Lu Ten. Iroh places a cloth out upon the ground along with a picture of Lu Ten. He then lights two joss sticks with Firebending and places them in a holder. Iroh says happy birthday to the image, and expresses regret over having not been able to help his son, as he had helped those he met along his way. Iroh then starts singing the song he had played earlier for the crying boy, though this time, it is broken up by tears as Iroh mourns Lu Ten's absence.

This segment of the episode ends with a dedication to Mako Iwamatsu, Iroh's voice actor, who passed away on July 21, 2006 after a battle with esophageal cancer.[2][3]

The Tale of Aang[edit]

Flying high over Ba Sing Se, Aang lands at a small zoo looking for Appa. Looking around, he sees a wide variety of animals, all of whom are miserable in their small cages. Many of them are also partially starved and hungry. The Zookeeper tells Aang that the zoo is no longer receiving funding from the Earth Kingdom because it is no longer popular with the children. However, in a viscous circle, nobody comes to the zoo because it does not receive the funding and is quite filthy (one of the cages shows an animal lying near multiple piles of feces). The Keeper would like nothing more than to let his animals run wild in open spaces. Aang suggests moving the animals outside to an open area just outside the city.

The animals prove much more difficult to control than Aang originally thought and they end up running wild over the city, terrorizing the denizens. Hog-monkeys destroy a shop, various animals attack the citizens, and the Cabbage Merchant has his cabbages eaten by a Rabaroo. After trying to restore order, Aang pulls out his Bison whistle and blows a huge burst of air through it using Airbending. He then hops on an air scooter as the animals run after him.

Meanwhile, the Zookeeper frantically tries to get the guards to open the gate. They refuse until they see the oncoming stampede. Once the gates are open, Aang reaches the other side and hops on his air scooter again. Using Earthbending, he creates a wall around the animals. He continues to Earthbend paths, secluded areas, and habitat accessories. The children and their families come flocking to the new Zoo, and the Zookeeper thanks Aang for his help. The Zookeeper tells Aang he should have a job with animals. However, the zoo animals weren't the only creatures that followed the sound of the whistle, as many cats, dogs, and half cat-half-dogs are also inside the animal pens. Afterwards, the Zookeeper decides that Aang should stick to saving people.

The Tale of Sokka[edit]

In the peaceful city, Sokka is outside his element of war and battle. His boomerang has become a toy as he walks through the city. Sokka finds a haiku class full of pretty girls. While peeking through the window, enjoying the 'show', he is shoved from behind by an ostrich horse and winds up inside. While explaining the accident to the girls he accidentally rhymes in haiku. The instructor becomes upset with the intrusion and disruption of the class. She is also disgusted with the common place message his haiku presents and presents the rules of haiku to him in a much more formal tone. Sokka soon gets into a contest with the teacher, (which seems to parody a rap battle) both of whom speak only in haiku.

After each of Sokka's, the girls in the class break into giggling. After several bouts, with Sokka comically winning each one, he eventually messes up and adds an extra syllable to the final line, causing the class to become silent and hard faced. After counting the syllables and realizing his grave error, Sokka is ejected from the room by a very large guard into the street. Sokka changed his mind about liking poetry in the end.

The Tale of Zuko[edit]

Working at the teahouse, Zuko is worried that a young girl has made him out as being from the Fire Nation. When he tells Iroh about it, Iroh realizes that the girl, Jin, simply has a crush on Zuko. This is quickly proven correct when Jin comes to the counter and asks him out after paying. Iroh quickly accepts on his nephew's behalf. They meet after sundown outside the shop.

Zuko leaves the shop, polished in nice clothes and slicked hair that took Iroh ten minutes to fashion. Jin, however, messes up the hair before they leave. Zuko, not used to something as mundane as a date, is more than a little nervous, and makes a few missteps, but Jin seems to take it in stride. Such an example is when a waiter comes up and asks if Zuko's 'girlfriend' would like anything, he shouts, 'she is not my girlfriend!' causing Jin to start gobbling her food with haste.She asks Zuko about his life, which causes Zuko to make up a story that he and Iroh were part of a traveling circus before they came to Ba Sing Se. Jin asks him what he performed as, but she stops him, because she wanted to guess. When Jin guesses 'juggling,' Zuko flows with it. With encouragement from Jin, Zuko demonstrates and gets himself covered in food claiming a lack of practice as the problem.Jin pulls Zuko off to one of her favorite parts of the city, the Firelight Fountain. At night, the fountain is usually lit by lanterns which cause the water to sparkle. But when they get there, the lanterns are dark and unlit. Sensing her disappointment, Zuko tells Jin to close her eyes. Then, making sure no one else is around to watch, he quietly lights all the lanterns with his Firebending. Jin and Zuko stare into the fountain and Jin reaches out and holds Zuko's hand. Slyly, Jin tries to give Zuko a kiss, but as she tries, Zuko holds up a coupon for a free tea between them and gives it to her. Nonplussed, she tells Zuko to close his eyes so she could present her gift to him. She then kisses him lightly and briefly. Zuko kisses her in return, but quickly breaks away and leaves. When Jin asks him what was wrong, he simply says that it's complicated and continues to leave.

Zuko returns to his apartment. Ignoring Iroh's questions regarding the date, he disappears into his room. Iroh looks disappointed until Zuko opens his door and says,'It was nice,' before sliding his door shut.

The Tale of Momo[edit]

Momo dreams about eating a peach from a tree in the clouds with Appa, but wakes up when he is startled by a loud rumbling of thunder. He leaps into Sokka's bag and comes up with a tuft of white fur on his head. Smelling it, Momo realizes that the fur is Appa's. Seeing an Appa-like shadow on the ground, he wraps the fur around his wrist and takes off after it, only to find a lone cloud. A similar sighting only turns out to be a cherry tree.

Disappointed, Momo decides to continue searching the city for Appa. Unfortunately, he soon draws the attention of a trio of Pygmy Pumas, which see him as a potential meal. Momo tries to escape, but the cats work together to try to bring him down. Momo manages to run into a crowd of people, but he is quickly grabbed by a man, fitted with a hat, and set out with a pair of dancing monkeys. He performs some weird new-age techno sort of dance to a flying lemur theme-song remix. The cats chase him out of the crowd and pin him to the ground, but all four of the animals suddenly find themselves captured.

They are brought to a butcher and the man that captured them begins haggling with the owner. Momo frees himself using his opposable thumbs and starts to run off. However, upon seeing the three pumas saddened by their fate, he frees them from their cages and all four run off on the rooftops. As they sit on a roof, one of the pumas removes the fur tied to Momo to lure him to follow them and the three run off down an alley. The cats stop and place the fur in a large three-toed footprint that appears to be Appa's. Momo lands in the print and notices the shape. He curls on top of the tuft of fur as rain starts to fall.

Momo's tale is the only one that focuses on advancing the main plot of the series, through his search for Appa.[1]

Production[edit]

Avatar The Last Airbender Season 1

Guest stars[edit]

  • The scene in which Iroh speaks with the Earthbending children about their soccer accident is voiced by Greg Baldwin, who went on to replace Mako as the voice Iroh in Book 3.

Translations[edit]

  • The characters before each story's start read, in order, '卡塔拉與托夫的故事' (Katara and Toph's story), '安昂的故事' (Aang's story), '索卡的故事' (Sokka's story), '艾洛的故事' (Iroh's story), '蘇科的故事' (Zuko's story), and '模模的故事' (Momo's story). For Katara and Toph, the English version is written as 'The story of Toph and Katara,' but the Chinese translation put Katara's name (卡塔拉) before Toph's (托夫).
  • The sign on the spa which Katara and Toph visit reads'貴婦美容院', which translates as 'Noble Lady's Beauty Parlor'.
  • The Chinese characters on Lu Ten's picture (艾洛将軍得勝再見忠心的兒子路騰), when read in the traditional right and vertical way, roughly translate as 'General Iroh, I will see you again when victory is obtained. Your loyal son, Lu Ten.' '路騰' ( Lù Téng ) means 'road to gallop over.'
  • The sign in front of the zoo Aang visits reads '快樂動物園', which translates as 'Joyous Zoo'.
  • The sign outside of the hall in 'The Tale of Sokka' reads '五七五會社', which translates as 'Five-Seven-Five Society'.
  • In 'The Desert', Zuko's name was listed on a Fire Nation wanted poster in Chinese as '祖寇' (zǔ kòu) which translate as 'ancestor robber.' Here, his name is written as '蘇科' (sū kè) on his segment's title card which translate as 'resurrect rule.' The differentiation in writing can be attributed that the former considers him a traitor to his people, aka 'ancestor robber,' while the latter seems to a possible foreshadowing of Zuko's coronation, aka 'resurrect rule.' The character 蘇 (sū) is also used in Fire Lord Sozin's name.

Reception[edit]

The episode received overwhelmingly positive reviews (with 'The Tale of Iroh' alone receiving universal acclaim), and is considered by both fans and critics as one of the best episodes of Avatar.[4][5][6]

The Mary Sue described the episode as highly emotional.[1]

The Daily Dot reviewed it as the 'best episode of Avatar', noting that it is a much needed break in an otherwise dark period of the show. The episode falls in the middle of the protagonist's search for the skybison Appa, and provided character building in a lighter atmosphere. The Daily Dot picked Zuko, Momo, and Iroh's tales as the best, noting that Iroh's was 'especially memorable'. Iroh is often a comedic relief to the brooding Zuko, but the Daily Dot noted this episode provides another, more emotional side of Iroh. The episode also explains why Iroh is going to such great lengths to try to save his nephew Zuko, so that he will not die in war like his son did.[7]

CBR noted that 'The Tales of Ba Sing Se' was an example of the great filler episodes in Avatar, and a departure from the generally bland filler episodes in many TV shows. CBR especially praised Iroh's tribute to his son as an example of Avatar's character building, and described it as 'the most touching and memorable tale'.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ abc'Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: 'The Tales of Ba Sing Se''. themarysue.com. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  2. ^Director: Ethan Spaulding; Writers: Joann Estoesta, Lisa Wahlander, Andrew Huebner, Gary Scheppke, Lauren MacMullan, Katie Mattila, Justin Ridge, Giancarlo Volpe (2006-09-29). 'Tales of Ba Sing Se'. Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 2. Episode 15. Nickelodeon.
  3. ^'Mako, 72, Actor Who Extended Asian-American Roles, Dies'. The New York Times. July 25, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  4. ^'The Best 'Avatar' Episode to Try Out If You've Never Seen 'Avatar''. Observer. 2020-05-15. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  5. ^'The 15 Best 'Avatar The Last Airbender' Episodes, Ranked'. /Film. 2020-05-15. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  6. ^Avatar: The Last Airbender - 'Tales of Ba Sing Se' Flashback Review - IGN, retrieved 2020-07-16
  7. ^'Revisiting the best episode of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender''. The Daily Dot. 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  8. ^'Avatar: The Last Airbender Perfected the Filler Episode'. CBR. 2020-07-10. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
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