Bryan Konietzko – Co-Creator
Michael Dante DiMartino – Co-Creator
This episode had working titles of "Zuko's Cool" and "What About Zuko". They used these goofy and ambiguous titles because some previous episode titles had leaked to the fans, and they didn't want a dead giveaway like "Zuko Joins Aang's Side" getting out. It's been planned since they came up with the character of Zuko, but they chose to place it later in the series than many fans wanted, to keep the tension going. They make a couple of "Zuko's Cool" cracks throughout the commentary.
This chapter is set at the third (and final) air temple that appears in the story. (The first two both appeared in Season 1. A fourth, the Eastern Air Temple, does not appear in the series.) This was the first place Zuko and Iroh searched for the Avatar after Zuko was banished. This air temple is unique in that it suspends upside down from a floating clump of earth, its pagoda structures hanging down like stalactites. The architecture is based on temples of Tibet and Bhutan. They describe the cliffside temples in Bhutan that inspired it.
When Katara rejects Zuko's friendship, one of them suggests that Katara may be speaking for some of the fans when she scolds Zuko for having failed to do the right thing in the past. The other says that would apply to about half the fans, but not the other half. That leads them into joking about ships:
1: 50% of the fans, or whatever the percentage of the Kataang people are.
2: I think it's a 52%-48% split now. The latest polls.
1. Yeah, how's Zutara doing in the Iowa caucus?
2: I think they're ahead of John McCain, believe it or not.
1: I think we've got Oprah backing the Kataang, though. Once Oprah's behind it…
2. It's gonna win.
They mention the movie filming:
1: If they get to make the third movie, Night's going to have a hard time with this location.
2: You don't think they can just build that upside down?
1. Maybe there is an upside down temple somewhere in the world, I don't know. [pause] They can just build a set hanging off a cliff, put some child actors in there, you know. It'll be fine.
*refrains from making bitter crack about the movies*
In this episode it's revealed that Aang never told the others about his encounter with Zuko as the Blue Spirit.
The move Toph uses to throw off Zuko is similar to the one that Long Feng used to kill Jet. The creators suggest a couple of reasons for the difference; the main one is the intentions behind the two moves were different.
They pitched ideas for a side story about Teo, Haru, and The Duke during this time period, but none of them ever took hold.
This is one of the most dialog-heavy episodes, but it's a strong script. It also contains no side characters (or at least, no one-shot side characters).
There's a blooper between this episode and the next one; the fountain that Combustion Man destroyed is suddenly okay again. They suggest maybe Toph used earthbending to fix it.
In the beginning, they expected Sokka would be the prejudiced one, but as the story progressed and the characters grew, it turned out that it made more sense for Katara to take that role. This makes the issue of not truly accepting Zuko a personal one rather than a general anti-Fire Nation one.
Chapter 13: The Firebending Masters: Spoiler comments
The journey to the Sun Warriors' ruins allows Aang and Zuko to bond. Later, Zuko, has similar "field trips" with Sokka and with Katara. Toph complains that she doesn't get one, but she didn't need one, since she had no real grudge against him, no painful history with him that needs to be undone like the others had. All three field trips serve to connect Zuko to one other member of the Gaang by exploring what they have in common and what they can learn from each other. I've already explained the connection between Aang and Zuko in my spoiler-free post, and I'll try to remember to mention this again when I get to Sokka's and Katara's “field trips”.