|"Once Aiwei knows we're onto him, we lose our advantage. I say we stake out his room and when he leaves for this meeting, we follow him."|
|— Mako to Korra.|
"The Stakeout" is the ninth episode of Book Three: Change of The Legend of Korra and the 35th of the overall series. It was released on Nick.com for online viewing on August 1, 2014 and aired on Nicktoons on October 6, 2014.
Tracking Aiwei to the Misty Palms Oasis, Team Avatar conducts a stakeout to listen in on Aiwei during his meeting with Zaheer. Discovering the meeting is to actually take place in the Spirit World, however, Korra confronts the pair there and learns about the Red Lotus from Zaheer. In the physical world, Team Avatar is split up, and both sides are captured by different enemies.
Searching for signs of Aiwei in the Earth Kingdom, Naga leads Team Avatar to a desert village. They enter a tavern, where Bolin notices a poster with his image, which he believes to be a promotional shot for his movers; Mako corrects him, realizing that it, and the three others next to it, are wanted posters issued by the Earth Queen herself. The firebender reads aloud the poster's declaration: they are wanted for crimes against the Earth Kingdom, namely, the group's liberation of the airbenders. Korra angrily remarks that the airbenders are not Hou-Ting's property and verbally threatens the queen before Asami stops her; she has noticed several of the customers eyeing them suspiciously, and urges them to leave the tavern.
Meanwhile, at Suyin Beifong's estate, Lin approaches her sister and demands to know the whereabouts of Team Avatar, remarking that she has been ready to leave for half an hour. Suyin casually remarks that the Avatar is searching for Aiwei, much to Lin's frustration. Suyin urges her sister not to be overly dramatic and insists that it is impossible for her to control Korra's every move, prompting Lin to storm off and angrily assert that she can try.
As Team Avatar heads deeper into the Earth Kingdom, Naga finds Aiwei's abandoned jeep behind a boulder in a vast rock quarry. Korra thanks the polar bear dog, but sheepishly admits that she forgot to bring treats as a reward, prompting Naga to turn around and slap her in the face with her tail. Mako decides to investigate the nearby Misty Palms Oasis with his brother, while Korra and Asami wait by the jeep in order to minimize the risk of drawing too much attention. Bolin excitedly pulls out a pair of yellow ponchos for him and his brother to wear as disguises, and launches into an overly detailed description of their undercover identities. He narrates his story as a United Forces operative named Ting-Ting, but is interrupted by Mako who reroutes the former's focus on searching for Aiwei.
Upon entering the Misty Palms Oasis, Bolin and Mako approach a tavern owner and inquire about Aiwei. Although the tavern owner recalls encountering Aiwei the night before, he denies knowing where the man headed afterward, prompting the two brothers to search elsewhere.
Back by the jeep, Asami asks Korra whether she is okay; Korra replies that she is frustrated by not knowing what Zaheer and his group want from her. Asami expresses her uncertainty about the ordeal as well, but presents Korra with a note she found stashed away in the jeep; the note requests that the recipient rendezvous with the writer at Xai Bau's Grove after sundown. After concluding that the grove is the location of Aiwei and Zaheer's meeting, the two begin to search for the grove on a map, but are interrupted by a number of bird-like spirits, which they hurriedly swat away.
Outside another tavern, Bolin notices two individuals eyeing him from a distance and tells Mako that they seem to be bounty hunters. Assuming that they have been discovered, Bolin and Mako flee and hide in an alley; while hiding, Bolin sees Aiwei, and they follow him to the Misty Palms Inn.
Mako returns to inform Korra and Asami of Aiwei's whereabouts, while the two reveal Aiwei's plan to rendezvous with Zaheer at Xai Bau's Grove. Asami expresses her frustration over not being able to find the grove on the map, prompting Korra to suggest that they directly confront Aiwei for answers. Mako reasons with her and recommends a stakeout, which would allow the group to follow Aiwei to Zaheer.
Team Avatar enters the inn and Mako requests a room, but is immediately denied by the innkeeper, who reasons that a room had been trashed by the last teenagers accommodated. Shortly after, the two alleged bounty hunters appear, prompting the members of Team Avatar to prepare for a confrontation. However, the duo reveals that they are merely seeking out Bolin, as they are big fans of The Adventures of Nuktuk: Hero of the South. The two urge Bolin to sign autograph their mover poster and give the earthbender a handmade Nuktuk doll. Unaware that the group included a mover star, the innkeeper retracts her decision and offers Team Avatar any room. Mako insists on renting the room across from Aiwei's, despite the innkeeper's warnings that it is too small to accommodate four guests.
In the overcrowded room, Mako and Korra begin to watch Aiwei's room for any signs of activity, watching him peek from his window. Bolin and Asami play Pai Sho to pass the time. The latter two immediately begin to disagree about the nature of gameplay involved in Pai Sho: Asami prefers a slow, methodical approach, while Bolin relies more on a fast-paced, random chance. The two consult the rulebook and find that there are multiple ways to play the game, as a game of strategy and chance, prompting Bolin to insist that Korra, as the Avatar, standardize the rules. Korra sarcastically promises to consult the issue after she restores the Air Nation and figures out the motives of her pursuers. Mako asks Korra how she would act if they should confront Zaheer, to which the latter states that she would "make him talk". Mako remarks that the four criminals remained silent during their thirteen years of imprisonment, and expresses his uncertainty over Korra being able to intimidate them with her bending. He suggests that the group spy on them instead, noting that Zaheer and Aiwei are more likely to talk freely if under the impression that they are not being watched. Bolin remarks that the plan bears similarity to the objective of Pai Sho, particularly in knowing one's opponents in order to defeat them. He proceeds to play numerous games of Pai Sho with Asami; much to Bolin's frustration, Asami wins most of them.
After several hours, Bolin is nearing a move which would finally allow him to win a game, but Pabu runs across the board and scatters the tiles before he can make the final move, much to his ire. Restless over waiting for Aiwei, Korra decides to confront him directly only to find him meditating in his room. She concludes that the spirits she and Asami encountered earlier were trying to tell them that Xai Bau's Grove cannot be located on a map: the grove, she realizes, is located in the Spirit World. Korra decides to meditate into the Spirit World to search for Aiwei herself, while Mako and the others watch her body to ensure it remains safe.
In the Spirit World, Korra watches as Zaheer berates Aiwei for the group's failed kidnapping attempt in Zaofu. Aiwei assures the airbender that all incriminating evidence was burned in a fire, but Zaheer merely dismisses him as a loose end and hurls him into the Fog of Lost Souls. Zaheer returns to the grove, where he confronts Korra; to her great surprise, he promises to answer any questions she might have for him. She asks who Zaheer and his group are; he responds that they are members of the Red Lotus, a secret society dedicated to restoring freedom to the world. When Korra asks if they are related to the White Lotus, Zaheer explains that the Red Lotus is a reflection of what the White Lotus was intended to be: The Red Lotus was founded by a former White Lotus member named Xai Bau, who felt the White Lotus had lost its true purpose after the Hundred Year War when they came out of hiding to openly serve the Avatar, seeing this as essentially reducing itself to a group of glorified bodyguards who served "corrupt nations". Brushing off the explanation as a "great story", Korra notes that it does not explain why they tried to kidnap her as a child. Much to her shock, Zaheer reveals that it had been Unalaq's idea.
While he talks to Korra in the Spirit World, Zaheer's physical body rests in a hideout with his three companions. Without leaving the Spirit World, Zaheer speaks to them, telling them where Korra is and instructing them to ambush her. P'Li instructs Ghazan and Ming-Hua to go in search of the Avatar, while she remains to safeguard Zaheer's body.
Back in the grove, Zaheer recalls that he met Unalaq as a teenager after they both joined the society, and they learned about Raava and Vaatu as well as Avatar Wan's decision to split them, an act he describes as "foolish". Korra defends Wan by pointing out that he was attempting to restore balance in the world, prompting Zaheer to reference the closing of the spirit portals, a decision with which Korra herself disagreed. Processing the new information, Korra concludes that the Red Lotus intended for her to open the portals and release Vaatu, an assertion which Zaheer confirms. He adds that the order could also have taught her so much more, though Korra dismisses the notion as an attempt to brainwash her into following their orders. Zaheer insists that all he wanted was to show the Avatar a better path for the world.
Back at the inn, Mako notices Ming-Hua and Ghazan searching the grounds and orders Asami to get Korra to safety while he and Bolin occupy the two benders. Ming-Hua notices Asami flee the inn on Naga and attempts to pursue the mount, but finds herself quickly under attack by Mako. Bolin attacks Ghazan with a series of earth columns, which the latter seamlessly melts into lava, forcing the two brothers to back away.
Still skeptical about her uncle being a Red Lotus member, Korra asks Zaheer why, if his story is true, Unalaq was not imprisoned. Zaheer reveals that Unalaq was not with them the night of the attempted abduction and covered up his involvement afterward, leading Korra to note that Unalaq betrayed them both. Zaheer agrees, recalling that the Northern Chief allowed their imprisonment to further his own pursuits; while it had been part of the Red Lotus' plans to free Vaatu, they did not intend to create a Dark Avatar by merging with the spirit. He claims that the true mission of the Red Lotus is the same as Korra's: to restore balance to the world by bringing the spirits back and eliminating the existence of nations and governments. As proof of their worthlessness, he references Korra's recent experiences with a "moronic president" and a "tyrannical queen". While Korra admits that she does not necessarily agree with the decisions of certain political leaders, she maintains that eliminating them is not the answer either; Zaheer promptly recalls the Air Nomad genocide at the hands of a Fire Lord whose insatiable desire to dominate the world nearly destroyed it. He states that true freedom can only be achieved once oppressive governments are removed from the equation. Korra remarks that Zaheer's plan will only plunge the world into chaos, and he replies that chaos is their goal, as disorder itself, he claims, is the natural order of the world. To support his point, he recites a quote—"New growth cannot exist without first the destruction of the old"—and asks Korra if she knows who said it; she is unpleasantly surprised to learn that its source is Guru Laghima, an airbender.
Back at the inn, Ming-Hua pursues Mako, while Bolin attempts to defend himself against Ghazan's attacks. Mako slices one of Ming-Hua's water tendrils and attempts to fire a blast, but is pinned against a wall and promptly slammed into a room. Meanwhile, Ghazan fires three lava projectiles toward Bolin, who jumps into a pool of water for safety. Ming-Hua tells Ghazan to pursue Asami as she is capable of handling the two, before using waterbending to trap Bolin in an orb of water and clutch Mako with an ice claw. Outside the Misty Palms Oasis, Asami is suddenly trapped in an earth prison, halting her escape.
In the Spirit World, Zaheer claims that he is destined to destroy the world and plant the seeds of a new world. Korra urges him to make a positive difference in the world as an airbender. Zaheer compliments Korra for being a wise woman, but states that change is inevitable and thus cannot be stopped even by the Avatar. Frustrated, Korra asks Zaheer what he plans to do with her if he does manage to capture her. Zaheer ambiguously replies that she will know that for herself soon, believing that the Red Lotus has captured her by now; having said this, he disappears. Alarmed, Korra also returns to the physical realm, only to find herself restrained by a straitjacket and muzzled. She is being held in a room with Asami, who reveals that they were captured not by Zaheer, but by the Earth Queen's forces, who intend to take them back to Ba Sing Se. Back at the Red Lotus' hideaway, Ghazan tells Zaheer that the Earth Queen's forces apprehended the Avatar before he could reach her. Zaheer orders Ghazan and Ming-Hua to load Bolin and Mako, now their hostages, into their truck; he intends to follow the Avatar to Ba Sing Se.
- Janet Varney - Korra
- David Faustino - Mako
- Seychelle Gabriel - Asami
- P.J. Byrne - Bolin
- Henry Rollins - Zaheer
- Mindy Sterling - Beifong
- Anne Heche - Su
- Dee Bradley Baker:
- Jeff Bennett - Radio broadcaster
- Grey DeLisle-Griffin:
- Maurice LaMarche:
- Tavern owner
- Peter Giles - Ghazan
- Kristy Wu - P'Li
- Andrea Romano - Innkeeper
- Matthew Willig - Muscly man
- Main article: Transcript:The Stakeout
- Main article: Writing in the World of Avatar
- Team Avatar is wanted in the Earth Kingdom due to their liberation of the Earth Queen's elite airbending army in "In Harm's Way".
- The mugshots used in the wanted posters are the same mugshots obtained by the Metalbending Police Force from the various instances when the members of Team Avatar were arrested.
- Korra was arrested for causing significant damage to commercial property while fighting against members of the Triple Threat Triad in "Welcome to Republic City".
- Asami and Bolin were arrested by Tarrlok during a lockdown of the Dragon Flats borough in "When Extremes Meet".
- Although Mako was also arrested in the incident above, his mugshot was taken from his arrest for allegedly bombing the Southern Water Tribe Cultural Center and stealing Future Industries property in "The Guide".
- Lily and Macao ask Bolin to sign the same poster which was plastered over the Pro-bending Arena during the finale of The Adventures of Nuktuk: Hero of the South in "Night of a Thousand Stars".
- The book in Team Avatar's room was the same book in Lu and Gang's drawer in "Peacekeepers".
- This episode explains why the group wanted to attack President Raiko and how Zaheer knew of Korra's whereabouts in "Old Wounds".
- Zaheer references Avatar Wan's severance of Raava and Vaatu in "Beginnings, Part 1" and his decision to close the spirit portals in "Beginnings, Part 2".
- Zaheer references Korra's decision to keep the spirit portals open in "Light in the Dark".
- Zaheer references the Air Nomad Genocide and attributes it to the Fire Lord's desire for world dominance, which was further explained by Sozin himself during a flashback in "The Avatar and the Fire Lord".
- Unalaq, now revealed to be a member of the Red Lotus, already expressed the organization's philosophy to do away with the nations of the world in "Harmonic Convergence".
- The members of Team Avatar are wanted in the Earth Kingdom.
- Zaheer, P'Li, Ghazan, Ming-Hua, and Aiwei are revealed to be members of an organization called the Red Lotus, a splinter faction of the Order of the White Lotus.
- Unalaq used to be a member of the Red Lotus, but betrayed them in 158 AG to pursue his aspirations of becoming the Dark Avatar.
- The Red Lotus attempted to kidnap Korra when she was five in order to use her to open the spirit portals and release Vaatu.
- Aiwei and Zaheer have the ability to meditate into the Spirit World.
- This episode was originally scheduled to air on Nickelodeon on July 25, 2014, before the show was moved from the channel's lineup to digital release.
- This is the first episode of the Avatar franchise to only be released digitally during the respective book's initial run.
- Korra's gesture toward the tavern patrons recalls a similar gesture made by Katara and Sokka to two teenagers in "The Blind Bandit".
- Τhe man on the cover of the book Bolin found in a drawer at the Misty Palms Inn largely resembles Bruce Lee.
- Korra's appearance while muzzled and restrained in a straitjacket resembles Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs.
- Trendacosta, Katharine (July 25, 2014). Creators of The Legend of Korra Explain the Show's Not-Cancellation. io9. Retrieved on July 26, 2014.