The Painted Lady
Written By: Josh Hamilton
Directed By: Ethan Spaulding
Storyboard By: Oreste Canestrelli, Miyuki Hoshikawa, Dean Kelly, Tomihiro Yamaguchi, Ethan Spaulding
Animation By: Moi Animation
Transcribers: Avatar_Mom, dragonofthewest
["Previously on Avatar" sequence includes clips from "The Awakening" and "The Headband".]
(The episode opens with Appa, the kids in his saddle, slogging his way down the course of a sludge-infested river somewhere in the Fire Nation. Aang and Momo are frolicking in the putrescent water.)
Aang: (playing hide-and-go-seek) Momo! (He ducks underwater before Momo sees him, resurfacing nearby.) Oh Momo! (He ducks again, surfaces again, and the lemur finally spots him.) Ah! Ha ha, you found me, buddy. (It seems to finally dawn on Aang that he is swimming in toxic filth. He airbends himself up into the saddle.) Hey guys, I think this river's polluted.
(He bends the residual goop off himself, sliming the rest of the gang in the process. Another blast of air and everyone's clean.)
Sokka: (fishing pole in hand) Well, that explains why I can't catch a fish around here. Because normally my fishing skills are... off the hook! Get it? Like a fishing hook?
(The sound of chirping crickets is actually audible...or maybe that's birdsong. Either way, the joke is a flop.)
Toph: Too bad your skills aren't on the hook. (Toph's sally is more successful; the kids laugh, except Sokka, who scowls.)
Katara: It looks like we'll need to go somewhere else to get food. (A long scroll of paper unrolls in front of her.) Assuming that'll fit into Sokka's master schedule.
(The camera pans outward to reveal the end of the scroll in Sokka's hands. He is studying it intently.)
Sokka: Hm...it's doable. But that means only two potty breaks today!
Aang: Hey, maybe we can get food there.
(He points to the little village of Jang Hui, just visible down river.
Cut to a secluded spot in the nearby uplands, where Aang is covering Appa with a blanket of turf. Momo is already similarly concealed.)
Aang: Now you look just like a little hill with horns. Bye buddy!
(Appa grumbles. The kids head out.
Cut to a shot of the kids standing on the cliffs that overlook the river, surveying the scene.)
Toph: I don't feel anything. Where is this village?
Sokka: It's in the middle of the river!
Dock: Sure is! (Pan down to reveal the village eccentric in his boat.) My name's Dock. Mind if I ask who you are?
Katara: We're, um, from the Earth Kingdom colonies.
Dock: Wow... colonials! Hop on; I'll give you a ride into town.
(They hop, and Dock proceeds towards the village.)
Katara: Why do you guys live on the river?
Dock: Because we're a fishing town. At least that's how it was before the factory moved in. (Cut to a shot of the ominous-looking Fire Army munitions factory, visible through a gap in the cliffs.) Army makes their metal there. Moved in a few years ago and started gunking up our river. Now our little village is struggling to survive.
(They arrive in town and Aang waves goodbye as the kids head out to explore.)
Aang: Thanks for the ride!
(A montage of village life, which is stricken with poverty and enforced idleness.)
Katara: Look at this place. It's so sad. We have to do something to help.
Sokka: No, we can't waste our time here! We have a bigger mission that we need to stay focused on. These people are on their own!
Katara: These people are starving, but you turn your back on them?! How can you be so cold and heartless?
Sokka: I'm not turning my back, I'm just being realistic! We can't go around helping every rinky-dink town we wander into. We'll be helping them all by taking out the Fire Lord!
Toph: (slapping her hand over Sokka's mouth) Hey, loudmouth! Maybe we should be a little quieter when we talk about taking out the
Sokka: (a little quieter) Come on, Katara, be reasonable about this. You know our mission has to come first.
Katara: (relunctantly) I guess so.
Aang: Let's just get what we need and go.
(They approach the counter of an outdoor market stall, staffed, to all appearances, by the same aged fisherman who gave them a lift into town.)
Sokka: Hey, Dock. You work here too?
Dock: I'm not Dock, I'm Xu. Dock's my brother.
(The kids are baffled.)
Aang: But we just saw you. You're even wearing the same clothes. The only difference is your hat.
Dock: Dock works on the
docks, that's why they call him "Dock", and I work in the shop, that's why they call me "Xu".
Aang: I don't get it.
Dock: Me neither. (He pulls out a crate filled with rancid grey seafood.) What can I getcha? Hey, I'll give you a special deal. If you buy three fish, I'll throw in a clam for free.
(The kids are revolted by the foul haul...but they do need to eat.)
Sokka: We'll just take the fish. Mind telling your brother we need a ride back to shore?
(Dock ducks beneath the counter; when he reappears, he is wearing his original headgear.)
Dock: Hey, colonials. My brother says you need a lift.
(As they turn away to follow him, an urchin runs up to Katara.)
Boy: Can you spare some food?
Katara: (sadly, giving him a fish) I wish I could spare more.
(The boy runs away and she watches him give the fish to a sick woman, presumably his mother.
Cut to the kids' campsite back up on the cliffs. While the benders of the group bend the pollution out of their cooking water, Sokka ponders his schedule.)
Sokka: Our detour into town today has completely thrown off our schedule. It's gonna take some serious finagling to get us back on track.
Toph: (sarcastically) Finagle away, O schedule master.
Sokka: Well, for starters, it looks like we'll need to wake up forty-three minutes earlier every day.
Katara: Forty-three minutes?
Sokka: Look, we only have a few weeks to get to the Fire Lord in time for the invasion and the eclipse - which, by the way, only lasts for eight minutes. And we just lost a whole day. So if we want to make up the time and stay on schedule, we have to wake up early!
Toph: Well,I'm not waking up early.
Sokka: Or we could just cut out all of our eating breaks.
Katara: No way.
Toph: Forget it.
Sokka: I got it, how's this From now on, we'll take food breaks and potty breaks at the same time.
Sokka: Hey, it might be gross, but it's efficient. Either way, we have to leave here first thing tomorrow morning.
(Close-up of Katara's face - she can't get the villagers' plight out of her mind.
Cut to the campsite, the following morning. Appa is lying on his side, groaning, while Katara ministers to him.)
Aang: What's the matter, Katara?
Katara: I think Appa's sick.
Sokka: What, Appa's sick? That's awful!
Toph: Wow, Sokka, I didn't realize you cared so much.
Sokka: Of course I care. I might as well just throw our schedule away now. (The rest of the gang gives him the evil eye and he quickly changes his tune, rushing solicitously to Appa's side.) And I'm concerned because my big, furry friend doesn't feel well.
Toph: He must have gotten sick from being in the polluted water.
Aang: He doesn't look sick. You okay, buddy? (He pulls Appa's tongue out.) His tongue is purple! That can't be good. Katara, can you heal him?
Katara: It looks like he needs some medicine. Maybe we can find the right herbs in town.
(Cut to the village, which has experienced a renascence over night, bustling and prosperous.)
Toph: Is it just me, or does this place seem different?
Aang: Yeah, are the people...happier?
(The urchin from the previous day runs by, bouncing a ball, and Katara smiles to herself. The kids walk up to Dock's market stall, where, by his hat, he is currently inhabiting his "Xu" persona.)
Sokka: Hey, Xu, what's going on with everyone today?
Dock: Ah, something amazing happened last night. Food was delivered to our village by a mysterious and wonderful person...the Painted Lady.
Katara: The Painted who now?
Dock: The Painted Lady. (He plunks a statuette of the Lady down on the counter: she is a heavily draped damsel with elaborate eponymous face make-up and capped with a wide-brimmed conical hat.) She's part of our town's lore. They say she's a river spirit who watches over our town in times of need. I always thought she was just a legend. Until now.
Sokka: See, we don't need to help these people, they already have someone to help them. All we need is medicine for our sick friend.
Dock: Medicine? Sorry, all the medicine we have goes to the factory. That's why there's so many sick people in our village.
Katara: Looks like we need to stay another night so Appa can rest.
Sokka: (exasperated) I guess you're right. You got any more food to sell?
Dock: (a piscine monstrosity in each hand) Would you like the
one-headed fish, or the two-headed fish?
Sokka: (mulling it over briefly) Two-headed! (The kids are revolted.) What? You get more for your money that way.
(Cut to the village, late that night. A mysterious figure, resembling Dock's Painted Lady statuette, glides over the water on a carpet of fog and enters the village. She steps into a dwelling, presumably an infirmary, where several people are sleeping on the floor, and bends over each of them in turn, Healing them. Her last patient is the mother of the urchin seen earlier, her son sleeping at her side. He wakes as the Painted Lady turns to go and silently follows her out the door.)
Boy: Thank you, Painted Lady.
(She stops, startled, acknowledges him with a nod, and glides away into the night.)
(The village, the next day. Dock is polishing his Lady figurine with a rag as Sokka steps up to the counter.)
Sokka: Hi, Dock. Is Xu around?
Dock: Let me check...(He runs around the shop and ducks beneath the counter to switch hats.) Hey there! Back again, are ya?
Toph: We need more food. Our friend is still sick and we can't leave until he's better.
(Dock obligingly presents them with a platter of noxious clams.)
Dock: Oh, well, that's too bad. Maybe if you guys are lucky, the Painted Lady will visit you in the night, and heal your friend.
Sokka: (the eternal skeptic) And maybe she'll cook us a midnight snack, and we'll all have a sing-along.
Dock: (oblivious to sarcasm) Yeah, may be! You know, last night she visited us again. Healed most of our sick folks.
Aang: Is that why this place seems so festive?
(We see the villagers erecting a large statue of the Lady in the town square, to cheers and applause.)
Dock: Yep, it's all because of the Painted Lady.
Katara: Can you believe how much an entire village can be affected by one lady? I mean... spirit?
Sokka: Well, I hope she returns every night. Otherwise this place would go right back to the way it was.
Katara: (indignantly) Why would you say that? Look how much better off these people are.
Sokka: Yeah, now, but without her they wouldn't be able to fend for themselves. If she really wanted to help, she would use her spirit magic to blow up that factory. (He makes gestures to indicate explosive spirit magic.) Oooooo... pow.
Aang: Spirit magic doesn't work that way, Sokka. It's more like...(He does an elaborate dance to one-up Sokka) Woooooo....
(Katara stalks off angrily as the boys ham it up together.)
Aang and Sokka: Wooooooo.....
(Cut to the campsite, that night. Katara slips out of her sleeping bag and stuffs dried grass into it to disguise her absence. She dons a makeshift Painted Lady costume, wrapping a ragged gown around her, painting her face in a bended ice mirror and finishing off with a wide conical hat similar to the Lady's, but with a diaphanous white veil covering her face. She glides away toward the village, but not quietly enough: she wakes Momo, and he wakes Aang.)
Aang: What's the matter, buddy? (He spots Katara just as she is slipping out of sight.) It's her! (He runs after her.) Hello, Painted Lady spirit! (Katara, shocked, begins running away, but she is only barely able to keep ahead of a determined airbender.) Excuse me, I don't mean to bother you, but my friend's sick and we're on kind of a tight schedule. Wait, but I'm the great bridge between your world and mine. I know Hei Bai, we're close personal friends. (He chases her across the landscape, over the river and into the village. Running along a rooftop, he shouts to her...) Heeeyy!!
(...but, distracted by the vocalization, he runs into a roofpole. Katara continues on through the village, across the river and onto the opposite riverbank. She stops to catch her breath, turns around...and there's Aang.)
Aang: My name's Aang. I'm the Avatar.
Katara: (in a ridiculous fake voice, and attempting to hide her face) Well, hello, Avatar. I wish I could talk, but I am very busy.
Aang: Yeah, me too. I hate that. (He takes a peek under her hat brim.) You know, you're really pretty for a spirit. I don't get to meet too many spirits, but the ones I do meet...not very attractive.
Katara: (chuckling nervously) Thank you, but...
Aang: (suspiciously)You seem familiar, too.
Katara: A lot of people say that.
Aang: No...you really seem familiar.
Katara: Look, I really should get going...
(She turns to leave, but Aang sends her hat flying with a blast of airbending. She frantically pulls it back onto her head but...)
Aang: Katara !
Katara: (defeated) Hi, Aang.
Aang: You're the Painted Lady ! But how?
Katara: I wasn't at first, I was just trying to help the village. But since everyone thought that's who I was anyway...I guess I just kind of became her.
Aang: So you've been sneaking out at night? Wait...is Appa even sick
Katara: He...might be sick of the purple berries I've been feeding him, but, other than that, he's fine.
Aang: I can't believe you lied to everyone so you could help these people.
Katara: I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have.
Aang: No, I think it's great! You're like a secret hero.
Katara: Well, if you want to help...there's one more thing I have to do.
(Cut to the factory. The two are standing beneath it staring up at its menacing expanse.)
Aang: You want to destroy this factory?
Katara: Yes. Sokka was just kidding, but he was right. Getting rid of this factory is the only way to help these people permanently.
(They enter the factory and hard-core bending-assisted mayhem ensues. The carnage ends with a shot of explosions rocking the building and the kids running out. The sun is rising as they return to the campsite.)
Aang: (triumphantly) Ha ha! (He imitates the sound of an explosion.)
Katara: Shhh, we don't want to wake Sokka. (It is a little late for this; Sokka and Toph are waiting for the pair as they walk into camp. Katara is all innocence.) Hi! Sokka! We were just...out on a...morning walk!
Sokka: Oh, really? A morning walk? (He dumps the dry grass from her sleeping bag onto the ground.) I know you're the Painted Lady. I know you've been sneaking out at night, and I know you've been lying about Appa and feeding him purplizing tongue berries! (Toph sticks out her now-purple tongue and holds up a bag of berries as evidence.) Katara, what you did put our whole mission in jeopardy. We're leaving right now. (He turns to Aang.) And how long did you know about this?
Aang: Hey, I just found out this morning.
(Cut to a shot of the menacing General Mung emerging from the smoking ruins of the factory and looking vengefully towards the village.
Cut back to the campsite, where the kids are packing. A strange sound fills the air and they look up to see a detachment of Fire Soldiers on jet skis racing down the river towards the village.)
Toph: What's going on?
Aang: Fire Nation soldiers are heading to the village.
Sokka: (to Katara, angrily) What did you do?!
Katara: (guiltily) I...kind of destroyed their factory.
Sokka: You what?!
Katara: It was your idea!
Sokka: I was joking. I also said to use spirit magic and made funny noises. Did you even think this through? The army's gonna blame the villagers. They're headed there right now to get revenge.
Katara: Well, what was I supposed to do?
Sokka: Leave! Do nothing!
Katara: (dramatic close-up) No. I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me. (She gets up to leave.) I'm going down to the village, and I am gonna do whatever I can.
(Sokka, after a moment of soul-searching, gets up and follows her.)
Sokka: Wait. I'm coming too.
Katara: I thought you didn't want to help.
Sokka: You need me, and I will never turn my back on you.
Katara: Sokka. You really do have a heart. (They hug.)
Aang: (overcome) He really does have a heart, doesn't he?
(Wiping away tears, he turns to Toph for confirmation. The earthbender, however, has a low tolerance for this kind of girly twaddle and socks him in the chest, felling him to the ground. The act ends with a shot of Fire Army jet skis bearing down on the village.)
(General Mung is addressing the gathered villagers.)
General Mung: I thought we could live as neighbors, in peace. But I guess I was wrong. You steal our food, our medicine...and then you destroy our factory.
Dock: (popping out of the crowd) We didn't do any of that. (popping out in a different place wearing his Xu hat) Yeah, the Painted Lady brought us food. She's the one that healed our sick, not your medicine.
General Mung: Oh, right, the mysterious Painted Lady did it. And I suppose she drew the army emblem on your containers, too. This is a town of thieves and liars! (He bends a fireblast, destroying a house.) Where's your Painted Lady now? We're going to cure the world of this wretched village. (The Fire Soldiers begin demolishing the town. Two of them light a large flammable ball perched on a buoy in the river, but a mysterious gust of wind from nowhere blows the fire out, twice.) Light it again!
(They do, and it is blown out again. Eerie flute music begins floating over the water.)
Female Fire Soldier: Look at that! Where's it coming from? (She refers to a heavy fog that is rapidly pouring in.)
Male Fire Soldier: I don't know. Something strange is going on. (An ominous growling noise echoes over the river.)
Boy: It's the Painted Lady. She's coming.
General Mung: There is no Painted Lady!
Female Fire Soldier: What is that sound?
(A repetitive thudding noise, as of giant footsteps, has begun. Pan over the river to the further bank where we see that the thudding is caused by Toph elevating and dropping a large boulder, Appa is doing the growling, and Sokka is manning the flute.)
Male Fire Soldier: Maybe it is her.
(The fog parts dramatically to reveal Katara in full Painted Lady regalia. She pauses a moment for the theatrical effect and then rushes toward the Fire Soldiers in a burst of waterbending. She alights on the dock and slowly approaches them.)
General Mung: Do something! (He pushes his minions forward. As they timidly draw near, they are rattled by a blast of airbending. Aang is hiding beneath the dock.) Stand your ground! (Katara waterbends two jet skis into a nearby cliff. As she raises her hand to wreak further damage, the Fire Soldiers jump into the remaining jet skis and speed off, leaving Mung to hold the fort.) I'll take care of you myself.
(He bends a arc of fire at Katara. Aang, still concealed beneath the dock, sends Katara flying into the sky on a column of air; the flame passes harmlessly beneath her. For good measure, Aang rends the dock in two with a blast of wind, sending Mung flying into the river. As he flounders, Katara rises out of the polluted water before him and raises her arms threateningly.)
Katara: Leave this village and never come back.
(He swims desperately away from her. A stray jet ski passes by and he clambers into it; the ski buzzes off. Sokka and Toph row towards the village as the people applaud Katara.)
Boy: I knew you'd come.
Dock: Thank you!
Random Villager: Painted Lady, you're the best!
Dock: Me and my brothers really owe you a lot. (Looking at her, he has a shock of recognition.) Hey, wait a minute! I know you! You're not the Painted Lady, you're that colonial girl!
Boy: Yeah, you're the lady that gave me a fish.
Dock: You've been tricking us. You're a waterbender!
Random Villager: She's a waterbender! How dare you act like our Painted Lady?
(The crowd surges forward in anger. Sokka runs forward to intervene.)
Sokka: Maybe she is a waterbender, but she was just trying to help you. Because of her, that factory won't be polluting your river, and the army is gone. You should be down on your knees thanking her.
Katara: Sokka, it's okay. (to the villagers) I shouldn't have acted like someone I wasn't, and I shouldn't have tricked you. But I felt like I had to do something. It doesn't matter if the Painted Lady is real or not. Because your problems are real, and this river is real. You can't wait around for someone to help you. You have to help yourself.
Dock: She's right, but what should we do?
(Toph, who has hidden in the crowd, pops out and makes a suggestion in a disguised voice.)
Toph: Maybe we can clean the river.
Dock: Yeah, we can clean the river! (The crowd cheers this idea.) Thank you. You know, you're not so bad for a waterbender.
Sokka: You wouldn't mind keeping that a secret, by the way, would you?
Dock: No problem. Keeping my mouth shut is a personal specialty. My brother Xu, on the other hand, hoo! He's a blabbermouth.
Katara: So, Dock, are you gonna help us clean?
Dock: No, ma'am. I'm going to get my other brother, Bushi. He loves cleaning rivers. (Dock brazenly switches hats right in front of them.) Alright, I'm Bushi! Let's get some river cleaning done.
Aang: Aha, I knew it! I knew you were the same guy. You're the shop owner and the boat guy.
Dock: Oh, you must be talking about my brothers, Dock and Xu.
Aang: (exasperated) No, I just saw you! You switched hats and called yourself a different name!
Dock: Oh, you know who does that? My brother Dock. (conspiratorial whisper) He's crazy.
(Aang fumes. It's hopeless - Dock has been drinking industrial sewage for far too long.
The afternoon is spent cleaning the river, with extensive bending help from the kids. By sunset, the river is blue and pristine.
Nighttime, back at the campsite. Katara has gone down to the river as the others sleep. Suddenly an apparition appears before her...the Painted Lady is "real" after all.)
Painted Lady: Thank you.
(She recedes into the fog and disappears. Katara smiles.)
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