This episode went down a totally different route than the one I expected, but that’s okay; as Commodus said, “I rather enjoy surprises” — the good kind, anyway! Rather then delve back into last week’s mysteries, the show shifts its gaze to Hanamiya Nagisa-senpai, who’s been a bit of a mystery all her own, having been relegated to a supporting role in the ensemble thus far. This week she gets top-billing alongside Sou, and it isn’t wasted.
As the club members are talking about their futures after school — something that doesn’t particularly interest Sou — we learn that while Nagisa’s family is fine with her going to college, they’ve still arranged for her to marry the heir to another powerful conglomerate, Reito Hikaru. In a show about lost futures, Nagisa never really had one of her own making to begin with; she was bred to grow up quickly and realize her responsibility as a family bargaining chip; a key resource. This is something no one else in the club has to worry about.
An an effort to assert her own will, Nagisa decides to blow off an arranged meetup with Reito-san, instead hanging out with Sou and learning that they’re alike: like her, he’s so content with the time he’s living on now, he’s loath to even think about his future, let alone set it in stone. When Reito tracks them down by chance, Nagisa pretends she and Sou are dating.
This is a common trope in anime but its particularly effective here, and not just because Nagisa isn’t a tiresome tsundere. “Cornered” by Reito, the ever-shrewd and quick-thinking Nagisa uses Sou as a shield. But she doesn’t mistreat him, and in any case, Sou, who is so flustered when Nagisa says she loves the club and again when she praises him, is just fine hanging out with Nagisa a little more today.
Before he knows it, Sou is in one light, cordial pissing contest after the next with Reito, and while Reito seems to be into the “competition” just as much, he’s a total gentleman throughout, especially where Nagisa is concerned. That’s just as refreshing as Nagisa being so awesomely un-cliche in the way she carries herself and acts towards her two suitors.
Of course, Reito eventually tells Sou he knows he’s not really dating his fiancee. He knows because he’s in the same position as Nagisa: a bird in a cage, raised specifically to forge bonds with other powerful groups. As such, he’s well aware that such birds must assert their own wills from time to time, even if they’re bred to always fall back in line in the end. He is willing to give his life for the good of his family, and he’s confident that Nagisa feels the same way.
Sou is not so sure, though on the rooftop in private, Nagisa says she’s used to it, that there’s nothing to be done. This is bigger than her and Reito, and their futures are fixed so that their respective businesses will thrive long into the future. Sou doesn’t like the resignation one bit, and asks Nagisa to please keep being the freewheeling person he knows and loves, because he and the gang will be there to help her if things don’t work out. Also, after she made him blush all day, finally Sou gets her to blush a little herself, having told her exactly what she wanted and needed to hear.
Then Reito drives Sou and Nagisa home in his E65 BMW (Not a Toyota Century? Not Old Money!), Sou, returns to his dutiful “fiancee” Kaori, like a salaryman having returned home from a long day with a tough client at the office. Only the office was an arcade and his “client” was a friend who needed his support.
We learn the episode’s cold open, in which Nagisa bathes with Yui, actually took place after the long, surprisingly emotional day we just witnessed. Nagisa confides in Yui that today she learned that the future isn’t quite as locked into place as she’d thought; no doubt a point Yui would agree with!