|"Storm clouds are gathering ... We need you, Aang."|
|— Monk Gyatso speaking about the imperiled state of the world.|
Sokka accepts a job from a local fisherman to make money and the man accuses Aang of abandoning the world. In the large, ensuing storm, Aang recounts to Katara the events of his dark past. After being told he was the Avatar, Aang was ordered to be separated from his mentor, Monk Gyatso. Upset, Aang ran away from his home where he encountered a deadly storm, causing him to fall into the water, activating the Avatar State, trapping him within an iceberg. Meanwhile, Iroh tells the ship's crew Zuko's story. After speaking out of turn at a war meeting, Zuko was punished by being forced to fight an Agni Kai against his own father. His refusal resulted in him getting his scar and being banished for perceived cowardice. Meanwhile, Aang learns that Sokka and the fisherman are trapped in the storm; he rescues them, earning him the fisherman's respect. Zuko spots them, but lets them go, instead opting to escape the storm.
Aang has a dream in which he, Katara, and Sokka fly through clear, sunny skies; Sokka is using Aang's glider, Aang is riding on Appa, and Katara is riding a larger version of Momo. Katara says, "We need you, Aang", to which he responds happily, "I need you, too." Suddenly, the dream takes a dark turn and Aang, panicking as the sky blackens around him, finds himself alone on Appa. The form of his past guardian, Monk Gyatso, appears before him and asks him why he disappeared. Aang replies that he did not intend to vanish and reaches out to his mentor, but Gyatso's body dissolves into dust before him. With the voices of Katara and Gyatso repeating the mantra "We need you, Aang", he and Appa are swallowed by storm, which causes them to crash into the sea. While they sink into the darkness, lightning splits the sky, and the silhouette of Fire Lord Ozai surrounded by flames appears for a fraction of a second. Aang, gasping for air, jolts awake, causing his companions to stir from their slumber as well. He apologizes for the disturbance, explaining that he had a nightmare, though he does not elaborate any further.
The next morning, Aang, seeing the perfectly clear skies above, remarks about how smooth their flying should be and Katara informs him that, since there is no food left, they will have to fly to the closest market. Sokka proceeds to dramatically tell them that he had a dream the previous night in which "food eats people" and claims that it means they should avoid the market, to Aang and Katara's annoyance.
Meanwhile, at sea, Iroh predicts that there will be a terrible storm and advises they alter their course for the sake of the crew, but Prince Zuko shouts back that the safety of the crew does not matter when the Avatar is at stake. Noticing Lieutenant Jee overheard his statement, he walks up to him and tells him straight up that capturing the Avatar is more important than anyone's individual safety. As the prince retreats inside the ship, Iroh tells Jee that Zuko did not mean what he said, arguing that the young prince was merely "worked up".
At a harbor town, a woman selling fruit snaps at Katara that the watermelon she is holding is "perfect", though she is not convinced due to a swishing noise made by the fruit when shaken. Despite Aang agreeing with the saleswoman, Katara puts the melon down, stating that she just remembered they were out of money, much to the vendor's annoyance, who takes the rest of her produce out of Sokka's hands and kicks him. Contemplating what they could do next to get food and money, they overhear an argument between an elderly fisherman and his wife. As the woman declares that it is too dangerous to go out as there is a storm brewing, Aang becomes uneased and suggests that they find some shelter. Just like the fisherman, however, Sokka does not believe that a storm is coming. When the argument between the elderly couple boils down to the woman refusing to accompany her husband and the fisherman declaring he will find someone else to help him and pay that person double, Sokka readily volunteers and is hired on the spot; however, when Sokka reiterates the promise of a double wager, the fisherman acts like he never said that.
Meanwhile, out at sea, Zuko's ship is approaching ominous storm clouds. As Zuko emerges on deck once again, Jee sarcastically comments how surprising it is that Iroh had been right after all about the weather. Zuko instantly turns on his lieutenant and demands respect lest he teaches it to him. Not taking Zuko's comment kindly, Jee snaps at him that he knows nothing about respect, based on the way he talks to his crew and his "esteemed uncle". He declares Zuko to only care about himself and being a "spoiled prince", a comment Zuko answers with an Agni Kai challenge. As the two lock arms, smoke already erupting from Zuko's hand, Iroh breaks them up, trying to defuse the situation by noting that they are all just tired from being at sea so long and hungry. He offers them a bowl of noodles, and they separate. As the crew retreats inside, Zuko snaps at his uncle that he does not need his help to keep order on his ship. When Iroh places a comforting hand on his shoulder, he shrugs it off and walks to the front of the bow to gaze out over the stormy waters ahead of them.
At the harbor town, Aang, looking at the approaching gray clouds, tells Sokka, who is loading the ship, that going out at sea may not be a good idea. Although Sokka acknowledges the bad weather, he argues that since he has given the fisherman his word, he must go through with the fishing expedition in spite of the brewing storm. When the fisherman's wife states that the "boy with the tattoos" is right, the fisherman realizes that Aang is the Avatar. Aang and Katara smile at the recognition, but the fisherman promptly scolds Aang, accusing him of turning "his back on the world" by disappearing for a hundred years. Although Katara instantly comes to his defense, proclaiming that Aang would never turn his back on anyone and is the bravest person she knows, Aang is shaken by the accusation and backs away. Without giving an explanation, he flies away on his glider. The fisherman yells after him that he should keep flying, a comment for which Katara reprimands him. Not wasting any more time, she jumps on Appa and commands the flying bison to follow his master. Emerging from the belly of the ship, Sokka complains that his friends have left without saying goodbye. As the fisherman acknowledges that it was not a polite thing to do, Sokka launches into a rant about previous impolite gestures by them but is promptly interrupted by the old man, who orders him to go below deck.
As rain is pouring down, Katara eventually finds Aang in a small cave. As she enters, he apologizes for having run away. Although Katara accepts his apology, declaring the fisherman to having been out of line, Aang sadly notes that he was right to say the things he had said. When Katara wonders why he would say that, Aang declares he does not want to talk about it, though Katara deduces that it has to do with his dream and urges him to open up to her.
After Katara gets a fire going, Aang begins to tell her the story of his childhood, starting with the day the monks told him he was the Avatar. A flashback shows a lively Southern Air Temple, where Aang is showing his friends how to use his air scooter technique. At that moment, Gyatso and the other elder monks tell him to follow them as they need to speak with him. In their meeting room, they tell Aang that he is the Avatar. As proof, they show him the four toys he picked from thousands when he was younger, revealing them to be the Avatar relics, toys that have belonged to previous Avatars, his past lives. Although Aang notes that he chose them because they "seemed fun", Tashi says that he picked them because they seemed familiar to him. Gyatso admits that they normally would have waited to tell him about his Avatar destiny until he turned sixteen, though because "storm clouds are gathering", signs of an imminent war, they need the Avatar.
On Zuko's ship, in the belly of the vessel, Jee sits around a small fire with several members of the crew, ranting to them about Zuko. When he rhetorically asks who Zuko thinks he is, Iroh, standing just outside the circle, announces his presence to them by asking if they want to know. Calm rather than upset, Iroh enters the circle and begins explaining why Zuko is how he is. In a flashback to the Fire Nation Royal Palace, a younger, scarless Zuko makes his way to the Fire Lord's War Room. When he is denied entry, however, he explains to Iroh that he simply desires to learn as much as he can so he could be a great ruler of the Fire Nation one day. Iroh yields to the prince's arguments, though warns him not to speak as the old generals are sensitive. When one of the generals suggests using an entire division of inexperienced new recruits as a distraction, allowing the rest of the army to attack from the rear, an outraged Zuko speaks up in harsh opposition against the plan, asserting that sacrificing a group of loyal soldiers is an act of betrayal. Interrupting his story, Iroh comments to the crew that Zuko had been right, though since it was not his place to speak out, there were "dire consequences" to be faced.
Inside the cave, Katara asks why Aang was not excited that he was the Avatar. Aang admits that he did not know how to feel about it, though only knew that after he found out about it, everything started changing. To make his point, Aang recalls how he returned to the courtyard to find his friends all whizzing around on air scooters. Being told that the other children made up a game to play with the air scooters, Aang readies his own scooter, though as he does so, the other monks dismount and tell him that him being the Avatar would give an unfair advantage in any team he would be on. Although he argues that nothing has changed, he is not permitted to play with them. Saddened, Aang retreats to inside the temple where he plays a game of Pai Sho with Monk Gyatso, although his heart is not in it. Gyatso uses his airbending to pull Aang's robe over his head, allowing him to switch two tiles on the board. His cheating is quickly discovered, however, much to their joined amusement. At that moment, Tashi enters to room, scolding Gyatso for playing games with Aang as the Avatar should be training instead. As Aang stands to follow Tashi to be tested on some high-level airbending techniques, Gyatso stops him, noting that as long as he is Aang's guardian, he would be deciding when Aang would train and play. Tashi scoffs but leaves Aang to continue his game of Pai Sho with Gyatso.
Continuing with his story, Iroh recalls how the Fire Lord became angry with Zuko for his outburst and declared the prince's challenge of the general to be an act of "complete disrespect", something that needed to be solved via an Agni Kai. Zuko accepted the challenge, though as he prepared to fight in front of a large, gathered crowd, he discovered that his opponent was to be his father and not the old general.
A saddened Aang confides in Katara that just when he started to feel better, something worse happened. The flashback resumes in the meeting room at the temple, where Tashi, annoyed over having been told off by Gyatso, took the matter to Monk Pasang. Although Gyatso argues that Aang needs to grow up as a normal child, Pasang decides that Aang would be sent to the Eastern Air Temple to complete his training there, away from Gyatso. Unbeknownst to them, Aang is perched on the roof of the room and overheard everything.
Back in the cave, Katara sympathizes with Aang, though he turns away from her, raging about the monks' decision and involuntarily entering the Avatar State, sending powerful currents of air through the cave. He instantly calms down, however, and apologizes for his outburst. When Katara notes that he has the right to be angry after the monks sent him away like they did, he sadly continues his story, noting that events occurred differently. He admits to having been afraid and confused, so he decided to run away. By the time that Gyatso came to his room, he had already fled the temple and was bracing a terrible storm on Appa. He notes that he never saw Gyatso again, as he had been thrown into the waters, where he had frozen himself in the iceberg from which Katara rescued him a hundred years later. As the flashback ends, Aang continues that the Fire Nation attacked the temple afterward, displaying guilt over not having been there to protect his people when they needed him the most. He concludes that the fisherman was right for saying that he turned his back on the world. Katara tries to console him, stating that he is being too hard on himself and that even though he had run away, it was meant to be; if he had stayed, there was a good possibility he had been killed with the other airbenders. She ends by emphasizing that the world needs him now and that he gives people hope.
Iroh reveals to the crew that when Zuko saw that he had to duel his father, he begged for mercy, refusing to fight him. Zuko tries to convince Ozai that he only "had the Fire Nation's best interests at heart" and apologizes for having spoken out of term. Nonetheless, Ozai demands that he fights for his honor. Zuko falls to his knees, emphasizing that he is a loyal son. although Ozai orders him to rise and fight, Zuko prostrates himself more to his father, declaring that he will not fight. Unfazed by his son's pleas, Ozai notes that "[Zuko] will learn respect and suffering will be [his] teacher", a statement Zuko takes in with tears in his eyes. Iroh admits that he looked away while Ozai scarred Zuko's face, unlike Azula or Zhao. As the flashback ends, Jee demurely reveals that he always thought that Zuko had been in a training accident. Iroh angrily notes that it was no accident and wraps up the story by saying that Ozai banished Zuko, because he had shown "shameful weakness" by refusing to fight; only by capturing the Avatar is Zuko allowed to return home with honor. Jee finally understands Zuko's obsession with capturing the Avatar and Iroh adds that the Avatar is Zuko's source of hope.
Meanwhile, in his own quarters, Zuko is meditating in front of four candles, which rise and fall on the rhythm of his breathing, while brief flashes of Zuko's youth appear; Zuko and Azula running over a meadow with Ozai behind them; Ozai placing a hand on Zuko's shoulder; Zuko, without his scar, looking out over the sea, his father's arm around him and a smile on his face. The face of the happy child changes to that of a scowling teenage Zuko, who suddenly looks up as lightning strikes his ship.
At the cave, Katara and Aang are startled by the fisherman's wife's cries for help. Although Katara rushes to her side and says that she is safe, the woman declares that her husband is not, since he and Sokka are still out at sea, caught in the storm that is evolving into a typhoon. Determined, Aang declares he will find them, and Katara immediately resolves to accompany him, while the elderly woman makes herself comfortable in the cave, noting that she will remain there.
On Zuko's ship, everyone has made it to the bow and Zuko wonders where they were hit. Iroh directs their attention to the crow's nest, where the helmsman is hanging on for dear life. Zuko and Jee waste no time climbing the ladder to save him, despite the ship being dangerously rocked back and forth. Meanwhile, another lightning snakes down toward the metal ship, though Iroh intercepts it and redirects it away from their vessel and into the water, the encounter leaving him smoking. Unable to hold on, the helmsman plummets down, screaming. He is saved, however, by Zuko, who grabs a hold of his hand as he passes him by and lowers him to Jee, who supports the man to safety; the prince and the lieutenant look at each other with a small smile of respect.
Meanwhile, Aang and Katara face the storm, desperately searching for Sokka and the fisherman. When a large wave threatens to swallow them, Aang determinedly uses his staff to spin the water out of the way so Appa can fly through unharmed. As they finally spot the fishing boat, they fly passed Zuko's vessel. Zuko spots them, though when asked by Jee what he wants to do, he orders his men to let him go and set course for safer waters instead. As Iroh advises to head to the eye of the storm, he smiles proudly at his nephew.
On the fishing boat, which is bobbing and weaving on the rough waves, Sokka and the fisherman are holding on to the ropes for their lives. While Sokka laments that he is too young to die, the fisherman remarks that he is not but still does not want to die either. When Aang jumps aboard, lighting strikes the boat and causes the mast to fall down. Thinking quickly, Aang uses his waterbending to sever the beam in two, saving Sokka and the fisherman, and helps them up on Appa's saddle. Before they can all escape, they are overtaken by another large wave and pulled below the surface. As they float down, Aang sees Sokka, Katara, and the fisherman all holding on Appa's saddle, albeit unconsciously. As he himself is slipping away too, he suddenly grabs hold of Appa's reigns with renewed vigor and his tattoos start to glow as he does so. Pulling himself back atop Appa's head, he smashes his fists together and forms an air pocket around them all, allowing Appa to fly through the water.
On the surface, Zuko's ship has reached the calmness inside the eye of the storm and Zuko apologizes to his uncle. As they keep their course, Appa and his passengers burst through the surface in front of the ship, rapidly rising in the air. Looking over his shoulder, Aang notices Zuko staring after them, though the prince leaves them to fly out of the storm, rising above the clouds.
Back at the cave, the fisherman reunites with his wife, who immediately orders her husband to apologize to Aang. Aang notes that it is not necessary and the fisherman circumvents his wife's wishes by offering them a free fish instead. When Aang announces that he does not eat meat, the fisherman claims that fish is not meat. When Sokka approaches the fisherman, desiring to claim his pay for working on the boat, he receives a fish, much to his horror. While the elderly couple resumes arguing again, Aang approaches Katara and says that she had been right before. He declares that he is done dwelling on the past, as there is nothing to be gained by making guesses about how things could have been different if he had not run away, and announces that he will make the best of the present. Katara is happy to hear that and adds that she does not think he will be plagued by any more nightmares. At that moment, the fisherman approaches them and thanks Aang for having saved his life.
Noticing that the storm has cleared, they walk outside and stare upward at the brightening sky, though Appa promptly shakes the water from his fur, sending a final cascade of water splashing onto them.
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- Main article: Transcript:The Storm
- Main article: Avatar Extras for Book One: Water
- For a split second at the end of Aang's dream, there is a brief silhouette of Fire Lord Ozai. This nightmarish image of Ozai is first seen in "Winter Solstice, Part 2: Avatar Roku" when Aang learns about Sozin's Comet and again in "The Guru" when Aang must confront and overcome his greatest fear: fighting the Fire Lord.
- This episode reveals how Aang was trapped in the iceberg, where he was initially found in "The Boy in the Iceberg".
- This is the episode that reveals how Zuko got his scar and why he was banished from the Fire Nation.
- This is the first of three times in the series where Aang has continuous nightmares. The second time is in "The Avatar State" and the third time is in "Nightmares and Daydreams".
- During one of Aang's flashbacks to his life before being trapped in the iceberg, two airbenders are seen playing the Avatar World's own version of "Rock, Paper, Scissors", the difference being that the four elements are used instead of the familiar stationery. In the three rounds seen playing, two hand forms were shown: a pound fist later revealed to represent earth, and what looked like a "stop" hand or a "eight trigram palm" from Baguazhang. This game is seen again in "City of Walls and Secrets", when it is played by Aang and Sokka. As revealed in the later episode, earth appears to beat fire, which had the hand emulating flames or what looked like a dragon grasp from Northern Shaolin style.
- In the chapter "The Decision" of The Rise of Kyoshi, Kyoshi destroys the clay turtle relic. Avatar Yangchen would later remind her to replace the turtle for the next Air Avatar, meaning it was replaced at some point between 295 BG and 12 BG.
- When Zuko and Iroh are arguing about the storm, right before the picture cuts to the close-up of Iroh's face, Zuko's ponytail disappears.
- In the scene where Zuko tells Lieutenant Jee to show respect, he is wearing his usual turtleneck-like garment under his armor, but in the next few shots it disappears.
- When Aang is hiding in the cave, Katara's shadow should have blocked the shadows of the rain on Aang, but it did not.
- Appa entered the cave with Katara even though he generally hates going underground or in tunnels.
- When a soaked Appa walks into the cave where Aang is hiding, his muzzle is white instead of the usual gray.
- In various camera angle switches, both Aang and Katara are seen in separate scenes nearly pressed up against the rock wall. However, after the camera changes, they are suddenly sitting a good distance from it.
- During Aang's story, in the shot when he is on the air scooter asking if he cannot play, there are six boys standing around him but in the next shot where he walks away, there are only five.
- When Monk Tashi opens the door to find Aang and Monk Gyatso playing Pai Sho, the door remains at his right. When he leaves, however, the door is absent.
- The scene with Monk Gyatso finding the note is shown despite it being impossible that Aang, narrating the story, would know about it, as he was not actually present when it happened.
- In a few scenes, in particular when Aang briefly enters the Avatar State in his anger, Katara's lower kimono no longer has slits that begin at her hips. Instead, it resembles a complete dress with no separation.
- When Zuko intends to enter the War Room, both guards are on either side of the curtain. When the left guard blocks Zuko's path, however, the right guard stands slightly in front of the curtain as well, although he did not move.
- In the side overview of the Agni Kai chamber right before Zuko begs Ozai for mercy, there are only three levels to the arena, although there should be four.
- When Iroh turns his head away the moment Zuko screams in pain, his top-knot becomes see-through, resulting in a part of Bujing's right ear to be visible through it.
- When Iroh tells the soldiers about Zuko's scar, the soldiers believe it was a training accident and seem to be unaware of the events that occurred during the Agni Kai, even though the whole arena was crowded with people. Furthermore, even some people in the Earth Kingdom seemingly know how Zuko was banished and how his own father burned him, so it is strange that the soldiers do not know about it.
- While Aang and Appa are in the ocean, Aang is on top of Appa and goes into the Avatar State. A moment later, Appa is above him instead.
- When the old fisherman's wife is telling the fisherman to give Aang an apology, her hair-clip is in her bun, but usually it is in the rest of her hair.
- No one is seen drying off or even having wet clothing during all the times that people get wet in this episode.
- This is Michael Dante DiMartino's third favorite episode because of how the story goes deep into both Aang's and Zuko's pasts.
- Zuko is seen crying for the first time during this episode.
- When the gang and the fisherman are struggling in the storm, a strange white blob flashes onto the background.
- When Aang asks Gyatso if the Council might have made a mistake when they said he was the Avatar, Gyatso says that, "The only mistake they made was telling you before you turned sixteen", meaning that Avatars are not made aware of their status until their sixteenth birthday. This is further shown in the episode "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", when the Fire Sages told Roku that he was the Avatar on his sixteenth birthday. Avatar Korra is an exception to this rule, since she discovered she could bend multiple elements on her own before she was old enough to have been trained.
- This is the first time Aang goes into the Avatar State twice in the same episode. Once in the cave, when he goes into the Avatar State for a split second, and again when he forms an air pocket around Appa.
- In the scene where Zuko is begging his father for mercy, many of the Agni Kai's spectators are shown wearing green, blue, and yellow, which is unusual seeing that they are Fire Nation citizens.
- The title of this episode, "The Storm", is one of many titles that have multiple meanings; this one has at least three. It refers to the actual storm in which the characters get caught, to the reasons for Aang's "stormy" feelings of guilt and shame, and to Zuko's "stormy" history of how and why he was banished.
- This episode explores the emotional stress that is placed on the Avatar, serving as the first of many episodes that has Aang reluctantly confront his duty as the Avatar.
- When Sokka wakes up from his dream early in this episode, he says, "Momo could talk. You said some very unkind things." This is referenced later when Momo talks and says unkind things in Aang's daydream in "Nightmares and Daydreams".
- It is shown that the four toys Aang chose that determined his destiny are a clay turtle, a string-powered propeller, a wooden hog monkey, and a wooden hand drum. This method is akin to the one used in determining the next incarnation of a Tulku Lama in Tibetan Buddhism.
- The watermelon that the merchant tried to sell to Katara made a "swishing noise", which resembles the merchants of China in the early 1900s who would try to make their melons sound heavier by injecting them with foul water from a river or one of the creeks.