One of the biggest mysteries of Avatar: The Last Airbender concerns the Order of the White Lotus, a secret society that helps reclaim Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation in the series finale. Iroh, Bumi, Piandao, Pakku, and Jeong Jeong are all members, although most of their affiliations are kept secret until “Sozin’s Comet”. The White Lotus first enters the story midway through Season 2 when Iroh and Zuko are fugitives seeking her help. In fact, this secret society is mentioned much earlier.
In Season 1’s The Waterbending Scroll, Iroh forces Zuko to stop so he can buy a new lotus tile. Iroh, a series Pai Sho Hai, explains that he lost the character and needs a new one to continue playing. Although he refers to it as a lotus tile rather than a white lotus tile, it clearly bears the symbol of society. That makes the way Iroh talks about the play even more interesting.
When Zuko objects to the shopping spree, Iroh explains that he needs a replacement. “Most people think of the lotus tile as insignificant,” he says, “but it’s essential to the unusual strategy I employ. You, like most people, underestimate its value.” While this line may seem unimportant the first time through the show, it takes on much more meaning on a repeat.