Iroh spends this episode, when we see him, pretending to be a fool when guards are nearby and working out furiously when they aren’t.
And that is one buff old man.
But that’s neither here nor there as this is a Sokka-based episode. As the Aang Gang gets a good night’s sleep, a meteor comes down and starts a fire. Said fire could burn down a nearby village, so the kids swing into action. Aang and Toph make a trench to act as a firebreak while Katara bends some water from a nearby river to put out the flames. Sokka…gets to watch Momo and occasionally put out a small fire when something sparks off. In the end, the village is saved, but Sokka is feeling a bit useless. As the only member of the group who isn’t a furry animal and can’t bend, what does he bring to the table besides sarcastic comments and the ability to read the map? He’s feeling a bit down.
He cheers up a bit when the group goes weapons shopping. And that’s when he sees…this really awesome sword.
And the guy who made it, Master Piandao, is a master swordsman and blacksmith. Aang thinks what Sokka needs is a master to teach him some new skills, and since Katara and Toph both had those too, it sure seems like a good idea. All Sokka has to do is ask the old man. What’s the worst that can happen? He’ll say no, right?
And…Piandao doesn’t say no. Quite the contrary, he’s impresses a bit when Sokka asks for lessons because it seems unlike most, Sokka admits he doesn’t really know anything and he’s not already a sword master.
And Sokka, well, he does pretty good with his lessons while his friends struggle to read a map or (in Katara’s case) make a good sarcastic comeback. Piandao keeps giving Sokka various mundane tasks, but he always explains what each one has to do with being a swordsman, so that puts Piandao one up on Mr. Miyagi. Signing his name means he has to make the right mark with his brush. Sokka uses his face. Knowing the lay of the land is important to know terrain, so Sokka, when pressed, paints a childlike view of a massive waterfall but he added a rainbow. Moving a rock garden around shows how a swordsman knows how to make the terrain his own. Sokka makes a lounge chair and asks the horrified butler for a cool drink (and then Piandao does too).
And, to Piandao’s credit, he seems to accept all of Sokka’s odd behaviors. The last step is apparently to forge his own sword. And when Sokka asks if he can bring his own material, Piandao says that’s great and Sokka comes back with the rest of the Aang Gang and that meteor. Yes, Sokka is doing well, gaining praise for his creativity and versitility.
And then, feeling guilty, he confesses he’s not some kid from the Fire Nation colonies as he claimed. Now he has to fight Piandao.
And…it’s a weird fight. Piandao praises Sokka’s maneuvers the entire time, even though Sokka can’t win this one. But that just set up the real lesson that Piandao was well aware the entire time that Sokka wasn’t from a Fire Nation colony because Sokka gave his own name and it isn’t a common one. The duel was actually the final lesson. Sokka gets a sword, a white lotus symbol (hmmm), and a suggestion for a better alias in the future. Piandao even knew Aang was the Avatar, so he’s an ally.
Well, that was cool. I wouldn’t mind seeing Piandao again. I mean, he had the white lotus symbol and…wait, wasn’t Iroh a member of the White Lotus? I mean, they said as much in the “previously on” segment…