Jul 29 2010 12:29pm

Avatar Rewatch: “The Cave of Two Lovers” (episode 202)

Welcome to the Avatar: The Last Airbender MUSICAL EPISODE!

Many people think this episode is cheesy and a waste of time, but this episode has some major moments in it that resonate throughout the rest of the series. It also has an abundance of cute Appa moments, so I have a soft spot for this episode.

This episode follows the Aang gang as they journey through a secret mountain tunnel to Omashu with a group of singing travelers. We begin the episode with Aang and Katara practicing their waterbending. I think this is important simply because it reminds the viewer that they are still learning, even if they are becoming quite badass. Octopus Aang is pretty awesome.

When the Gaang meets up with the travelers led by the strumming Chung (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker…better known as the voice of Appa and Momo) and his gal, Lily, Sokka initially refuses their offer to walk through the SECRET TUNNEL. But after a quick mid-air altercation with the Fire Nation, Sokka accepts that he will have to walk through the “stupid love tunnel.”

When the Gaang reaches the tunnel, the Fire Nation barricades them inside the mountain, rather than follow them into the labyrinth of caves. The aftermath of this moment is important because it showcases Appa’s issues with being in tight spaces. Just something to think about for the future…

Over time, the Gaang ends up getting separated, leaving Aang and Katara on their own with Appa while poor Sokka gets stuck with the singing travelers. (“Don’t let the cave in get you down…SOKKKAAAA!”)

Aang and Katara’s journey through the caves takes them to the tomb of two lovers. Then, we are shown in lovely watercolor the legend of the two lovers. They were the first two Earthbenders, having learned from the badger moles in the caves. Katara awkwardly suggests that the two of them should kiss in the dark. Aang doesn’t quite know how to respond. Aang’s crush on Katara has always been clear, and in the fortuneteller episode in Book One Katara seemed to consider that she might end up with Aang. In this episode, Katara’s suggestion of the kiss comes from a place of logic. We kiss, we get out. Poor Aang would love to kiss her, but doesn’t want his true feelings known. Resulting in what I feel is such a middle school conversation about kissing. “What? I said I would rather kiss you than die? That’s a compliment!” Oh, Aang, you have zero game. Ultimately, the two of them do kiss and the way out of the cave is lit by crystals.

Sokka doesn’t have it so easy. His group is attacked by the badger moles, but lucky for them, badger moles appear to be fans of music. My favorite exchange of the whole episode is the Gaang’s discussion of the ways the escaped. Aang says love led the way. Sokka? “We let huge ferocious beasts lead our way!” Did anyone else notice that Appa and Momo had a tiny reunion of their own? It is moments like that when the details of the show really stand out to me.

A few thoughts on the Zuko/Iroh plot line. After Iroh’s pathetic boy scout skills result in rashes, the two of them end up in a Earth Kingdom village where Zuko meets a young girl who also has been burned by the Fire Nation, literally. This is the point in the Zuko/Iroh arc where Zuko finally begins to see the havoc the Fire Nation brings to the rest of the world. He will continue to make observations like this over the rest of the season. Despite having obviously been moved by his interactions with this Earth Kingdom family, in the end he still leaves and steals their ride! Oh, Zuko, when will you learn?

Another thing to consider is that this is a show that features a lot of combat and violence, but all of the conflict in this episode is resolved through love and music. Isn’t that nice?

This episode really sets us up for the world of season 2. Episode 1 gave us our villain, now we have the setting. I think season 2 is my favorite season because it is so green and because I think earthbending is the way to go. We leave the Gaang outside of a Fire Nation-occupied Omashu. Where is King Bumi? Will the singing on this show ever be in tune? (Hint: NO). Come back next week to find out.

Attention First-Time Avatar Watchers: Our posts will be spoiler-free (except for the episode we’re discussing), but be aware that spoilers for future episodes may abound in the comment thread below. We wanted to keep the comment threads future-spoiler-free as well, but it will likely prove impossible and it would impede our ability to analyze the series in retrospect.

Up next: Return to Omashu!

Jordan Hamessley is an assistant editor at Grosset & Dunlap/PSS at Penguin Books for Young Readers where she edits the Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Dinosaur Train publishing programs, as well as developing original series. She is also an assistant editor for Lightspeed Magazine. She can be found on Twitter as @thejordache.

Avatar: The Last Airbender Rewatch on ‹ previous | index | next ›
1. Neenie
This episode gets a lot of hate from a certain less logical subset of fandom, but it is definitely one of the most rewatchable episodes of the show.
The jokes come fast and furious, the courtship aspect of Aang and Katara's relationship continues in all of its glorious teen awkwardness (including Katara's use of the Hands On Approach while waterbending half-clothed), the art is breathtaking, and Zuko starts seeing that maybe it is not all about him (okay, not really).
In addition, we get that lovely Oma/Shu motif that forms the backbone of the Katara/Aang love theme. 'The Avatar's Love' remains one of the most beautiful love themes in recent television, up there with 'Roslin and Adama' from BSG and 'Close Your Eyes' from Buffy.
Lisa Keefe
2. fledge
I've always liked this episode. Yes parts are cheesey for adults, but kids gobble that kind of stuff up! (I was that kind of kid) Parts of this show appealed to the adult me too. I really love the watercolor artwork telling the legend of Oma and Shu. Besides being beautiful artwork, I love that it doesn't play down a child's ability to follow that story presentation medium.
I have to admit it was also very entertaining to watch Sokka have a gradual melt-down to near full out tantrums in that cave. :D
3. TomR(mac)
I loved the moment at the end when Katara asks Sokka about the red mark on his forheard and than the musical hippy comes up and says something to the effect of "Don't freak out but I think that bald kid is the Avatar". Leading to Sokka to preform a truely epic facepalm.

I always thought that at the moment of the kiss it wasn't the kiss itself that turned the crystal rocks all glowey to lead them to the exit, my thinking is that all they needed to do was just turn out the lights/torches and those things would just glow no magic love kiss required.

Although I think it's good that we never did actually see any kiss at all so who are we to say it did or didn't happen.
Adam Bodestyne
4. thanners
I enjoyed this episode when I watched it. Laughed a lot, while also feeling so, so embarassed for Aang. He's about as smooth with girls as I am, so I got a great laugh out of it.

TomR(mac) @ 3: I've been under the impression when watching this episode that the kiss didn't actually happen. Nearly, but not. It was one of those "curse the poor timing!" type moments.

The Zuko/Iroh sections were pretty good, too. Their interaction with eachother continues to be enjoyable to watch, and their earlier sections in the episode were quite funny.
5. laotsekung
loved this episode - not just for the wonderful singing (in its earnest disregard for being in tune) and reminds me of Iroh's later song about his son. Also the mjr point with Avatar for me was DESPITE the fighting ultimately it is Aang's non-violence that triumph's, in the face of his friends and allies extolling violence. A great underlying theme for ANY series.
And of course the Appa/Momo Bromance.
7. nofrigatelikeabook
I loooove all the Sokka moments in this episode, especially Sokka's reaction to being stuck with the hippies: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

Random fun fact: The hippie Moku is voiced by one of Dante Basco's brothers, Dereck Basco.

Neenie @ 1:Not being fond of Kataang does not make a person "less logical."
8. Teddroe
This is one of my least favorite episodes, but I think that says more about the quality of the rest of the show then about this episode. Mostly I'm lukewarm towards it because it doesn't advance the plot much, nor the characters with the possible exception of Appa. And I didn't really find the hippies all that funny. But whatever.

On an unrelated note, I relatively recently rewatched (hey that was alliterative!) the Southern Air Temple, and I started to question Sozin's logic with the genocide. Maybe I missed something; maybe someone here can clue me in. It goes like this.

So the impetus given for Sozin's genocide was that he wanted to prevent the avatar from being (re)born, right? But Aang was already twelve when the Fire Nation attacked, so that can't be right. So the goal was to kill the Avatar before he became powerful? Ok, but then why not just invade and kill all the 12-year-olds? I suppose one could argue Sozin was just an evil dude who didn't want to waste time, but even assuming his forces killed the nascent Avatar (which is fair, because they somehow killed every single other Air "nomad"), what next? The Avatar should be immediately reborn to the Water Tribe, right? So why didn't he kill all of them? Also, by his own logic as I understand it, to prevent the Avatar from being reborn/becoming powerful, he's going to need to kill every person in the Earth Kingdom before the Avatar goes back to the Fire Nation. So why didn't he?

What did I miss?
9. Neenie
Teddroe @ 8: I always took the raids on the Southern Water Tribe as the Fire Nation trying to root out the next Avatar, hence why they were targeting benders. Same thing for those floating camps in Imprisoned for the Earthbenders. Plus, if the Air Nomads (and the sky bison too)are wiped out, there is no one to teach the next Avatar airbending and the cycle is screwed.

nofrigatelikeabook @ 7: I never said anything about shipping preferences defining someone as being less logical (multishipper, personally). I'm all about respecting the narrative the storytellers are crafting instead of lambasting everyone because the storytellers didn't change their story to suit your preferences. The inability to just accept and enjoy the story instead of treating every instance as a personal offense (Aang's solution in SC, the romances, Zuko's family) is what I find completely illogical.
10. nofrigatelikeabook
Neenie @ 9: Cool. I couldn't glean that from your first statement. I'm a Zutara fan, but that in no way hinders my love for the show. It makes me sad when people start bashing others for their personal preferences.
René Walling
11. cybernetic_nomad
@Teddroe: If there's one thing history teaches us, it's that genocide takes time. One simple attack is not enough. It's not inconceivable that it started around the time Aang was born and was still going on more than a decade later, remember, (IIRC) the war started when Roku was till alive and later, the monks told Aang he was the Avatar at a younger age than usual, due to the war.
Another thing history teaches us, it's that it's real hard to achieve 100% success rate with genocide. The world is a big place, I still expect some air nomads to be around somewhere isolated and hard to get to.
Michael Ruiz
12. orionmax
Iroh: This is either the White Dragon Lily bush, whose leave make a tea so delicious it's heart breaking...or its the White Jade bush, which is poisonous. *DUN*
Hmm, delicious tea...or deadly poison..
I love Iroh. Easily my favorite character.

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