Well, if anything, this chapter gave Azula a major defeat she probably didn’t see coming.
So, let’s review: Hakado is among the latest prisoners. Sokka, Suki, and Zuko are working together to get him and themselves free. Sokka, and only Sokka, is not currently a prisoner because he still has his guard’s uniform. Their ally Chit Sang was recaptured, and it looks like the Warden (Mai’s uncle) is going to torture the necessary information out of Chit Sang to find out who is behind the botched escape attempt.
By the time Chit Sang says anything, Sokka and Hakoda already have a new plan. And this one, though not as detailed, is a good one. There’s a gondola that goes back and forth. Grab a high-value hostage, namely the Warden, and take the gondola across. The hostage ensures no one will cut the line and doom everyone inside. Do it after starting a prison riot for cover. And fortunately, Chit Sang continues to cover for Sokka because he really wants out of that prison. That’s a good thing because he knows how to start a riot by simply holding up another prisoner and shouting “riot” a couple times.
However, there are some problems. Zuko finds himself face to face with the last person he wanted to see: Mai. Her uncle is the Warden after all, and breaking up via a note really made her mad. Considering her usual emotional range is nearly nonexistent, that’s saying something.
And if Mai is there, Azula (and Ty-Lee) can’t be too far behind.
Now, the plan starts to go off without a hitch. Suki grabs the Warden, the other guards get out of the way, and Sokka and company get onto the gondola. Zuko stays behind for a second to wreck the gondola controls before leaping to the car, Sokka catching him, a favor Zuko will return later. Zuko did have to lock Mai in a cell to escape, but at least this time he more or less apologized.
That doesn’t stop Ty-Lee and Azula from getting to the gondola themselves, letting Suki rematch Ty-Lee and Sokka and Zuko to double-team Azula. Heck, the Warden even orders the line cut, knowing he himself would die if it did. So, how can all this lead to a loss of a major proportion for Azula? Her brother and one of Aang’s top associates would be dead along with a couple other perennial pains?
Oh, that’s simple: Mai covers for Zuko. Sure, she’s mad at him, but when asked why by a furious Azula, the answer was simple: she loves Zuko more than she fears Azula.
Oh, and then Ty-Lee sides with Mai. Ty-Lee was far too nice to be a cartoon villain anyway.
All that means Sokka and Zuko can escape to the mainland (leaving the Warden behind) and even taking Azula’s airship back to the Western Air Temple. Mai and Ty-Lee go off to prison themselves, but the real loser is Azula because, well, she has no one left to help her. Sure, she may be fiercely independent in many ways and far too used to getting her own way, but when the closest things she had to friends utterly reject her, and her brother, someone she sees as inferior, is clearly making new and better ones, well, quite frankly, the girl had it coming.
Also it means Sokka returned Hakoda to Katara by episode’s end, and maybe that Chit Sang guy will help out in some other way. So, nice ending to a story that barely featured the series’s title character.