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"Original Airbenders" is the seventh episode of Book Three: Change of The Legend of Korra and the 33rd of the overall series. It aired on Nickelodeon along with "Old Wounds" on July 18, 2014.


Tenzin's attempts to train the new members of the Air Nation meet with little success. Things become more complicated for the airbending master as Jinora, beginning to exercise her independence at Kai's advising, demands her airbending tattoos. When a group of bison rustlers kidnap Kai and Jinora, along with several bison calves, the new airbenders are forced to put their abilities to the test.


At the Northern Air Temple, Tenzin tells the story of the ancient monk Tang Xu's historic fast, inciting boredom from most of the airbending recruits apart from Otaku, who excitedly participates during the lecture due to being an Air Acolyte. Unfazed, he attempts to continue, but is interrupted by Bumi, who entertains his fellow students with Bum-Ju's help by imitating a spirit. Following his lecture, Tenzin guides Oogi through the air, amazing the recruits, who ask when they will be provided with their own flying bison. Tenzin states that riding a bison takes years of training, much to the students' dismay, and points out that there are not enough bison in the temple to accommodate all of the students. Kai notices a herd of bison flying nearby and suggests using those, prompting Tenzin to explain that a wild herd would require a great deal of training.

As Tenzin attempts to resume his lesson, Meelo, Kya, Pema, and Ikki arrive at the temple with more airbenders from Air Temple Island, drawing the students away from their lecture in favor of meeting the new recruits. After dismissing his class, Tenzin asks his wife and sister about the state of Air Temple Island, to which Pema responds that Zaheer infiltrated the grounds. Kya states that she attempted to subdue the airbender to no avail and that he fled the scene with a locket bearing the image of Guru Laghima.

Korra and Tenzin radio

Avatar Korra offers advice to Tenzin over the radio.

Soon after, an Air Acolyte informs Tenzin that Korra is on the temple radio, prompting him to retreat from the courtyard to speak with the Avatar. Korra reassures her airbending master that she is safe in Zaofu, informing him that Opal will be arriving at the temple soon for training. Tenzin expresses his frustration over being unable to reach his students, and Korra advises him to seek help from his children, as well as to trick Bumi into taking more initiative. Tenzin remarks that Korra is becoming a wise Avatar, to which she replies that conflict resolution is what she does.

Kai and the baby bison

Kai meets a baby flying bison for the first time.

Elsewhere, Kai takes a hesitant Jinora to observe a herd of flying bison. She eventually relents, and while the two glide toward the valley floor, she explains that baby calves do not fly during their first week. She warns Kai to be careful around the calves, as mother bison are highly protective of their young; when one charges him, she saves him. Kai thanks Jinora, asking why she does not have the tattoos of an airbending master, to which Jinora replies that her father is not yet convinced of her readiness to receive them. Kai encourages her, opining that she is as talented as Tenzin, and more spiritually aware than him.

Back at the temple, Tenzin approaches Bumi, who is speaking with a number of other airbenders. Tenzin flatters his brother on his leadership skills and asks how to be more like him, prompting him to explain his tactics of military-style discipline. Tenzin thanks his brother for his help; taking Bumi's words to heart, Tenzin abruptly wakes all the recruits before dawn the next morning and takes them on a ten-mile hike. After reaching a frigid plateau, Bumi exclaims that he would go back to sleep if he was not so cold, prompting Tenzin to respond by teaching the recruits meditation and proper breathing technique, which allows airbenders to warm themselves. Bumi attempts to reason with his brother but is dismissed, prompting him to dejectedly return to meditating along with the others.

Later in the morning, Tenzin teaches the recruits to maintain their "heaven and earth" balance by standing on top of a narrow pole, an activity which most of the students struggle to complete. Jinora expresses concern over how much her father is working his students, but Tenzin brushes the apprehensions aside, instead urging an alarmed Otaku to ignore the ring-tailed winged lemurs crawling on his body. Following this, he takes the airbenders to a courtyard where he begins to shave Daw's head, claiming that a bald head allows an airbender to feel the wind around him more effectively. The other students express their reluctance to shave their heads, to which Tenzin responds that doing so is a personal choice, to Daw's dismay.

Disgruntled airbenders

The new airbending recruits became incredibly dissatisfied with Tenzin's teaching methods.

Continuing his training, Tenzin orders the recruits to complete an extensive obstacle course, much to Jinora's disappointment. Although many of the recruits struggle through the course, they eventually finish it, leaving Bumi as the last person on the field. Tenzin threatens to have every student repeat the course if his brother does not finish, which leads Bumi to quit out of frustration. Bumi's departure sets off a wave of complaints from the recruits, causing Tenzin to leave Jinora as a master in frustration. Jinora inquires whether taking leadership means that she will get her tattoos; the question infuriates an already aggravated Tenzin, who insists that Jinora is not ready. Offended, Jinora regurgitates Kai's compliments to her, stating that she is just as skilled an airbender as her father, and more spiritually capable than he will ever be; she storms off, telling him to lead his own class, and Tenzin leaves Ikki and Meelo in charge.

Kai and Jinora captured

Kai and Jinora are captured by bison rustlers after going to find the baby flying bison.

Kai seeks Jinora out and apologizes for the incident, offering to take her to see the bison calves in order to cheer her up. The two fly down to the valley, but find that the bison, as well as spirits, are inexplicably gone. Moments later, Jinora and Kai are ambushed by bison rustlers, who take the two airbenders back to their camp. Alarmed by the presence of new airbenders, the group's leader, Ganbat, instructs his men to pack up their belongings, and that the two airbenders will be taken to Ba Sing Se to be sold along with the "rest of the fresh meat".

In the temple, Tenzin unsuccessfully tries to meditate and is approached by Pema, to whom he expresses his frustrations. Pema talks with her husband, recalling that she left her home to join the Air Acolytes; she tells him that the sudden change initially overwhelmed her, and it took her some time to adjust. Pema urges Tenzin to be more patient with the recruits, as they are in a similar situation, reminding him that their airbending ability has not automatically made them Air Nomads. Tenzin agrees and leaves to apologize to Bumi, but his brother refuses to speak to him and walks off. Unfazed, Tenzin asks the other recruits if they had seen Jinora, only to be informed that she flew off with Kai, much to his discontent.

Back in the campsite, a caged Jinora chastises the bison rustlers for poaching the endangered flying bison. Ganbat dismisses her protests, as the beast are highly valuable due to their rarity, noting that the Earth Queen pays generously for flying bison steaks; he even goes so far as to claim that her desire for exotic meats led her to eat her father's bear. As he walks away, Kai asks Jinora to call for help using a spiritual projection, but she explains that it is too cramped and noisy to meditate properly. Instead, Jinora calls on a spirit to send for help.

Bison rustlers

Kai managed to pick the lock to his cage and escape.

The spirit flies to the temple grounds and finds Bum-Ju, who informs Bumi of the situation. Bumi rallies the airbenders for a rescue mission and eases their concerns over not being ready. The group sets off to the valley on two flying bison and prepare for an ambush near the camp. Bumi deduces that the men who took Jinora and Kai are bison rustlers, alarming the recruits, who are reluctant to fight; Bumi reminds them that they must stick together as airbenders. In his cage, Kai manages to pick the lock and escape, but is caught by a poacher as he attempts to free Jinora and the other bison. Before he can be subdued, the airbenders appear and defeat the majority of the bison rustlers except for Ganbat; he attempts to escape on his truck with Jinora and three calves. As Kai pursues the truck, Tenzin, who is searching for Jinora on his own on Oogi, is surprised by three adult bison flying past him quickly; seeing that they are pursuing Ganbat's truck, he investigates more closely and realizes that Jinora is trapped in the cage along with the calves. Tenzin uses Oogi to ram the truck off course, and a wild bison knocks it back with an air swipe, ending the chase. Ganbat surrenders, but Kai angrily continues his own attack, throwing Ganbat around for a few moments before Tenzin stops him; he explains that airbenders do not attack defenseless foes, but compliments Kai on his technique nonetheless.

Tenzin and Bumi reconcile

Tenzin reconciles with Bumi and assures him he is part of the Air Nation.

In the valley, the rustlers are locked in their own cages by Bumi and the other airbenders, who remind the poachers never to mess with an airbender's bison. Daw explains the advantages his shaved head gave him in battle and encourages the others to shave their heads, much to Tenzin's amusement. Tenzin then confronts Bumi; the old master compliments his brother's leadership and connection with the spirits, stating that he reminded him of their father, Aang. Bumi apologizes for his behavior, explaining that he was afraid of not being able to measure up and that he never felt as if he were a part of the Air Nation, despite being Aang's son. Tenzin reassures his brother that he is now, before going to Jinora, who is playing with bison calves. Kai exclaims that the wild bison appear friendlier, to which Tenzin replies that they recognize their own kind as the original airbenders. Jinora apologizes for running off, and Tenzin is happy that no one was hurt and admits that he was needlessly harsh in answering her request, explaining that it is hard for him to see that his daughter is growing up. As a compromise, he promises to consider giving Jinora her tattoos; the two watch as the bison calves take their first flight.


Production notes[]


Main article: Transcript:Original Airbenders
Main article: Transcript:Original Airbenders (commentary)

Series continuity[]

  • As per the restoration of the air temples commissioned by Avatar Aang, the technological advancements that the mechanist installed in the Northern Air Temple have been removed in favor of renovating the Northern Air Temple to its more traditional appearance.
  • Korra's line of "Conflict resolution, it's what I do" is reminiscent of Aang's line "Helping people ... that's what I do" in "The Puppetmaster".
  • Tenzin's realization of his impatience reminds him of Korra's during her first day of training in "A Leaf in the Wind".
  • The lead bison rustler references Earth King Kuei's pet bear, Bosco, who first appeared in "City of Walls and Secrets".
  • Kai urges Jinora to project her spirit, which she used to save him from the Earth Queen's Temple in "In Harm's Way".

Character revelations[]

  • Bumi has won the Admiral Tung Natural Leadership Award twice in his career as naval commander.
  • Earth Queen Hou-Ting and other upper-class citizens of Ba Sing Se pay big money for sky bison steaks and other exotic meats.
  • Bosco was eaten by Hou-Ting after Kuei's death.[1]


  • When Tenzin wakes the airbenders up, Yung does not have his petit goatee.
  • When Kai completes the final obstacle, all the airbenders are shown in clean clothing. In the subsequent shot when Bumi quits after plunging into the mud, several are seen covered in mud.
  • After Bumi falls in the mud, the part of his poncho that is draped over his head is red. In the next scene, it is its usual orange again.
  • Ganbat is seen wearing a seatbelt, though when the bison blasts his truck, he flies out of the vehicle.


  • Bumi's antics during Tenzin's lecture mirrors that of Sokka's when he attempted to shock Aang into the Avatar State in "The Avatar State" by using Momo's head as his own.
  • Tenzin's obstacle course was based on the obstacles used in the American game show, Wipeout.[2]
  • Meelo's mantra of "leave no airbender behind" reflects a line in the Soldier's Creed, which is most commonly quoted as "leave no man behind".
  • The mother sky bison which charged at Kai is similar in appearance to Appa's mother, particularly in that they both are missing the tips of their right horns.
  • When animating the cages on Ganbat's truck, Studio Mir rigged the vehicle's CG model so that the cages would move around individually while the vehicle was in motion.[2]
  • This is the first episode in which Mako appears without any lines.