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This article is about the episode. For the location, see Western Air Temple.

"The Western Air Temple" is the 12th episode of Book Three: Fire of Avatar: The Last Airbender and the 52nd of the overall series. It debuted on July 14, 2008.


Zuko follows Aang and his friends to the Western Air Temple, seeking to join their group. There, he desperately tries to prove to them that he has changed for the better. It is only after Zuko helps save them from Combustion Man that he receives their acceptance as Aang's firebending teacher. However, Katara remains doubtful of Zuko's transformation to good and warns him of the consequences of any treachery that he might execute.


After a sore defeat in the Fire Nation on the Day of Black Sun, the elders of the invasion force are now prisoners and the gang travels to the Western Air Temple for refuge. Appa becomes tired from carrying so many people, so they have to walk on foot. When they reach a cliff that descends into a misty canyon below, Toph exclaims that they have arrived at the temple, though no one else sees it. Aang realizes they have indeed arrived, as the temple is built on the underside of the cliff. Even Toph, who remained impassive at every other impressive or unusual thing the team has encountered beforehand, is amazed at the temple.

Zuko and Iroh at the Western Air Temple

One week after his banishment, Zuko traveled to the Western Air Temple to search for the Avatar.

Meanwhile, Zuko, who had followed the group from the invasion in his war balloon, arrives first and descends into the temple. He remembers the last time he had been to the Western Air Temple, a week after his banishment; in a flashback, the banished Prince, freshly burned and bandaged, proclaimed that he would scour the world for the Avatar for the rest of his life. He called his uncle Iroh lazy when he suggested that he rest. Ashamed of the memory, his lament is cut short as he sees Appa fly overhead. Zuko runs off to hide, making camp near the temple in a wooded area, and later practices to a badgerfrog his speech to convince Team Avatar to accept him as Aang's firebending teacher.

While Teo, Haru, and The Duke explore the temple, the gang discusses the next course of action now that the invasion failed. Sokka suggests that since the attempt at a shorter route to winning the war has failed they revert to their old plan of Aang mastering all four elements and facing Fire Lord Ozai before Sozin's Comet arrives. Aang is less than thrilled at the idea, remarking that they do not even know where to find a firebending teacher. Katara suggests looking for Jeong Jeong but Aang doubts they will ever see him again. Thinking it is hopeless for the moment, he uses this as an excuse to run off and fly around the temple, leaving Sokka and Katara to ponder the problem.

The scene fades to Zuko, who is practicing what to say to the gang to convince them he is now on their side, his audience being an impassive badgerfrog. Realizing that this will get him nowhere, Zuko tries a different tack by wondering what Iroh would do. Mimicking his uncle's hoarse voice, Zuko rambles about "looking within [him]self to save [him]self", but finds himself unable to understand his mystical uncle even when pretending to be him. He then switches to Azula, but quickly accepts that threatening to "do something unspeakably horrible" to Aang and his friends will not get him far.

As Aang explores the temple on his glider, the others follow him on Appa, trying to convince him to stop and continue the discussion. They land and find that Zuko has appeared before them.

Zuko wants to join Team Avatar

Zuko tries to explain himself.

As Zuko tries to introduce himself politely, the group prepares to attack him and refuses to put trust in anything he says. Appa, on the other hand, happily greets Zuko by licking his face, much to Aang's surprise. Zuko tries to explain that he has changed for the better and wants to teach Aang firebending. Sokka and Katara continue to point out his wrongdoings such as attacking their village and stealing Katara's necklace, causing Zuko to apologize anxiously. To try and get on their good side, Zuko reveals that it was he who freed Appa from his imprisonment in Ba Sing Se, but no one except Toph believes him. As Zuko continues to apologize, he accidentally reveals he was the one who hired Combustion Man to kill them. Hearing this, the gang resolutely refuses to allow Zuko into their group, threatening to attack if he does not leave immediately. Zuko tries to offer himself as a prisoner but Katara attacks him with waterbending and tells him never to come back.

Back at his camp, Zuko laments over how terribly things went. While at the temple, Sokka and Katara ponder Zuko's motives, ultimately deciding that he cannot be trusted. Aang has more trouble supporting their conclusion, as he recalls the time Zuko risked his life as the Blue Spirit to rescue him from Zhao. Katara refuses to believe that Zuko saved him out of compassion but rather did so for his own benefit. Toph interjects, however, that she sensed Zuko was being sincere and honest the whole time and believes the others are letting their hurt feelings affect their judgment. The others quickly dismiss her statement by noting that she simply does not know what it was like to be constantly chased and attacked by Zuko. Acknowledging that fact, Toph still points out that Aang needs a firebending teacher, though Aang adamantly refuses to accept Zuko. Frustrated at the group's continued prejudice, Toph leaves the temple but not before saying that she wonders who is really the blind one in the team.

Zuko follows Toph

Toph flees from Zuko after he burned her feet.

While sleeping in his tent, Zuko hears someone coming through the bushes. It turns out to be Toph, but unable to see in the darkness, Zuko immediately firebends at the intruder. Toph tries to defend herself, but the soles of her feet are burned as she steps back. Zuko realizes who she is and apologizes, pleading with her to come back. Completely blind, Toph scurries away on her hands and knees in fear; Zuko tries to help her, but she pushes him away with earthbending. As soon as she departs, Zuko shouts in frustration, "Why am I so bad at being good?!"

The next morning, the group wonders about Toph's whereabouts. She earthbends through the wall of the cliff, falling to the ground as she attempts to keep her feet in the air. She admits that she went to visit Zuko the previous night, resulting in his burning her. As Katara begins to heal her feet, Toph explains it was sort of an accident. The gang ignores this and calls Zuko a serious threat.

Unbeknownst to them, Combustion Man appears on a higher ledge of the temple and prepares to attack the group. Zuko arrives and prevents him from getting a clear shot at the gang, redirecting his attack and alarming the others below. They find cover while Zuko tries to prevent the assassin from attacking them further. Zuko's plea to call off the hit on the Avatar causes Aang to take back his refusal of Zuko. Combustion Man instead turns on Zuko and blasts him over the edge of the temple, though he manages to grab hold of a vine below just in time. Aang and Katara use their bending to counterattack Combustion Man; however, their lower position leaves them at a severe disadvantage against him and his barrage of explosions. Unable to get a direct line on them, Combustion Man instead changes tactics and begins targeting the pillars attaching the structure Team Avatar is on to the underside of the cliff above; Toph realizes that he intends to blast the entire building off the cliffside.

Zuko and Aang bow

Zuko is accepted as Aang's teacher.

From behind cover, Katara notes that she cannot attack without exposing herself, nor can she get a good angle from the low ground. Inspired by the mention of angles, Sokka estimates Combustion Man's position based on the angles at which the next two straight-line attacks are coming from. Sokka throws his boomerang, curving it around a corner, where it hits the Combustion Man square on his forehead tattoo and knocks him off his feet when he turns toward the sound coming at him, blocking his chi and leaving him disoriented. Sokka is disappointed when the assassin manages to get back up, and they hurry back to cover. Combustion Man tries another attack, but his blocked chi instead causes the very air around him to explode violently, also causing the lower half of the structure he was standing on to detach from the rest and plummet into the misty canyon below. The only thing left of Combustion Man is his metal arm, which falls spinning into the depths as well.

Zuko reconvenes with Team Avatar, allowing Aang to thank him for his help. A more confident Zuko tries again to reconcile with the group, admitting that the hardships he had endured since his banishment have helped him realize that his honor could only be restored by doing the right thing. He affirms that he wants to play his part in ending the Hundred Year War and his destiny is to help Aang restore balance to the world. Turning to Toph, he apologizes for burning her feet, conceding that fire is a dangerous element that he needs to better control to avoid hurting others in the future. Reminded of his own firebending experience that similarly resulted in Katara getting burned, Aang accepts Zuko as his firebending teacher and asks his friends if they will allow Zuko entry into the group. Toph agrees, knowing that she can get revenge for Zuko burning her feet; Sokka accepts him only to help their plan of defeating the Fire Lord; and after a moment of silence, Katara reluctantly agrees, only because it is what Aang believes is right. Zuko enthusiastically promises not to let the group down.

Katara threatens Zuko

Katara threatens to kill Zuko if he harms Aang.

Sokka leads Zuko to his bedroom, where the latter unpacks his belongings. As he leaves, Sokka comments to Aang how weird he finds Zuko's presence. Settled down, Zuko takes out a picture of Iroh and fondly remembers his uncle's advice about destiny. At that moment, Katara appears in the doorway and confronts Zuko in cold fury, reminding him that while he may have convinced the others of his change of heart, he has struggled with doing the right thing before. She makes clear his place on the team with a death threat that should Zuko show any act of treachery or otherwise make her think he would hurt Aang, she will not hesitate to kill him. She leaves the room, slamming the door behind her and leaving a shocked Zuko to ponder.


Production notes[]


Main article: Transcript:The Western Air Temple
Main article: Transcript:The Western Air Temple (commentary)

Avatar Extras[]

Main article: Avatar Extras for Book Three: Fire

Series continuity[]

  • Many past episodes concerning Zuko's antagonistic relationship with Team Avatar are referenced.
  • Katara makes references to when she and Zuko were imprisoned together in "The Crossroads of Destiny".
  • Zuko references when he freed Appa in "Lake Laogai".
  • Zuko's flashback shows him and Iroh in search of the Avatar in the Western Air Temple, merely a week after Zuko was banished. At this time, Zuko's wound was still healing and he had only begun his search, journeying to the air temples as a starting point.
  • Katara's warning to Zuko mirrors Avatar Roku's warning to Fire Lord Sozin from "The Avatar and the Fire Lord", both speaking of one step out of line resulting in death.
  • This is the first episode Admiral Zhao has been mentioned in since his death in "The Siege of the North, Part 2", aside Wan Shi Tong's allusion to Zhao in "The Library".
  • The method of incapacitating Combustion Man by striking his third eye was used once by Toph in "The Runaway", though she did it accidentally.
  • Aang says that they will not run into Jeong Jeong ever again in this episode, although Team Avatar encounters him alongside other senior members of the Order of the White Lotus in "Sozin's Comet, Part 2: The Old Masters".
  • This is the last time Zuko is seen with his ponytail.


  • When Katara suggests Jeong Jeong as a potential firebending mentor for Aang, there is a railing behind where Aang is sitting. When he lies down, it disappears, and reappears again in the next shot.
  • When Zuko is talking to Iroh in a flashback, Iroh says that it was only one week after Zuko's banishment, but he looks remarkably older than he does in the flashback of his Agni Kai with his father.
  • When Katara is telling the group about being imprisoned with Zuko in Ba Sing Se, Toph is leaning on a pillar in the background, but the shadows on the floor do not line up with the pillar correctly.
  • While Toph is walking away from the group, the fountain in front of Toph does not have any water, when just a few frames earlier it did.
  • Zuko's tunic disappears and reappears several times during the scene where he burns Toph's feet.
  • When Zuko firebends at Toph, she only steps back on her right foot. In the next frame, it shows both her feet burned.
  • When Teo says he wants to ride down to the hall of statues again, he rolls onto the screen with the handbrake of his wheelchair in the down position. When he says that he fixed his brakes, he moves the handbrake into the up position and rolls off screen with the brake still in the up position.
  • When Sokka and Aang help lower Toph's feet into the fountain, Aang's hand appears gloved like Sokka's.
  • When the members of Team Avatar hide from Combustion Man, Sokka throws his boomerang out to hit him. He quickly runs out to catch it, followed by the rest of the gang, including Toph who walks on her own. However. later on in the episode, right after they accepted Zuko into the group, Sokka had to carry her out because her feet are still injured.
  • Several times throughout the episode, Aang's staff is shown without the two bulges at its ends.


  • This episode was part of an event called "Countdown to the Comet". The new episodes of Avatar began airing on July 14, starting with "The Western Air Temple", followed by "The Firebending Masters", "The Boiling Rock" parts one and two, "The Southern Raiders", "The Ember Island Players", and finally "Sozin's Comet" parts one through four.
    • This also was the first episode to be aired after the eight-month hiatus.
  • All four air temples have been revealed as of this episode's airing; the Southern, Northern, and Eastern temples were revealed in "The Southern Air Temple", "The Northern Air Temple", and "Appa's Lost Days", respectively.
  • According to the Nickelodeon website, Combustion Man died after Sokka's boomerang hit his head because the impact closed his third eye chakra, causing him to explode when he tried to use his power.[3]
  • Due to the spread of unaired episode titles onto the web, this episode was called "Zuko's Cool" and "What About Zuko?" while it was being worked on to foil leaks.[4]
  • Although this is Combustion Man's last appearance in the series, his real name was never revealed.
  • Despite what she said, Toph never tried to get back at Zuko for burning her feet.
  • Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino revealed in the episode's commentary that they wanted to add "Teo, Haru, and The Duke exploring the temple to the episode, but time did not allow for this".[4]
    • During their exploration, the three would have found a group of winged lemurs in the temple.[4]


  1. Acastus (December 15, 2007). Episode 312, "The Western Air Temple" Aired Last Night on YTV. AvatarSpirit.net. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020. Retrieved on January 30, 2019.
  2. Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Western Air Temple Episode Trivia. TV.com. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved on January 30, 2019.
  3. From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Character: Demise of Combustion Man.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante & Konietzko, Bryan (May 6, 2008). "The Western Air Temple" commentary. Book 3: Fire, Volume 3 DVD.