I'm proud to say that I knew the names of all the idols shown in this episode without having to look it up. Even with such a large cast, it didn't take me too long to remember everyone. After Ookami Kakushi, though, I really didn't need such a sad and disjointed episode...

Why is everyone in this anime good at slicing?

This episode, as I had predicted, was not about Takane and instead was about Chihaya. With the entire episode taking place in one specific event - a TV appearance by Chihaya, Takane, Hibiki and Haruka - it was the first to end on a sad note instead of an upbeat one. Memorably, Chihaya did not end the episode by showing some kind of affection to Producer; instead, she went went home alone, and the ED continued the theme. I'm pleased to see an episode that's not happy-go-lucky - the entertainment industry is not easy, and being an idol in Japan is not always perfect and great.

More than the hamster, I think Hibiki is amazing.

The segment before the OP (and right after) set the stage for the foreground story: the girls were at a TV show called Ribbit Ribbit Kitchen, which was a battle-style segment where the girls would be pitted against each other in the kitchen. (It's sad how the girls didn't know that themselves and, instead, Hibiki's hamster had to explain - you read that right.) It also set up a recurring "joke" that would show up throughout the episode: Takane was greatly taken with her frog costume. At any rate, the evidence that this would be about Chihaya was ample: she was the one most affected by the fact that the format of the episode had changed suddenly, leaving no time for singing.

What are they submerged in...?

The show began and it was clear that everyone except Chihaya was pretty fired up. Hibiki won the race to the flag, with her team (consisting of herself and Takane) getting to use the "secret ingredient" of lobster, while Haruka and Chihaya would use shrimp instead. (That doesn't seem so bad. One team getting lobster while the other gets shrimp isn't really that much of a deterrent, is it?) While everyone else was cooking, Chihaya was having a hard time getting into the mood, evident especially when she was unable to perform "banter" with the frog puppet. It was a little surprising that she wasn't that great at cooking, considering how it was revealed that she lived alone. What does she eat? If she doesn't have a lot of money, cooking for herself is a cheaper alternative than even instant ramen, no? (I might be wrong.)

Not even hiding the ecchi nature...

I really had to comment on the fact that the cameramen were almost trained to look for suggestive poses to capture. That was really surprising. I'm aware that sex sells and I know that, with so many idols, such poses would be interesting to the public. However, I wonder about the sense of exploitation. Why do the idols wear such short skirts, especially if some of them are clumsy? Are they also just contributing to the expectations? In that case, are the blushes and attempts to hide themselves a calculated response? I wonder why taking sneaky pictures of a girl's panties in public is so wrong if girls in the media are essentially also subjected to such treatment (and have less recourse). Is it the idea of giving permission, wherein the idols signed up for it but girls on the train didn't? I'm not saying this system is wrong, or that the cameraman was being super sneaky by attempting to get panty-shots; I'm only wondering about the logistics of it.

She's displaying her naivety...

After the less than terrific first half, Chihaya was in a sullen mood and that was Producer's chance to cheer her up. He didn't do a very good job at first, because Chihaya was left wondering what such a show had to do with singing. (She's pretty naive in that sense. Promotions and publicity happens in many different ways. Especially in Japan, singers still go on variety shows to promote their songs and albums, sometimes not really getting to sing.) He later heard her singing (the song that would later be shown in the ED), and vowed to attempt to get more singing jobs for her. It seemed to bring up her spirits, because she tried a lot harder in the second half.

Damn, that actually looks pretty good.

Chihaya's mood in the next segment wasn't that different; she was just more willing to help out. Haruka was still doing the majority of the work (and delegating whatever Chihaya could do to her), whereas Takane and Hibiki seemed to be sharing the workload pretty well. After a mistake of using Worcestershire sauce instead of soy sauce, Haruka saved the dish by using salsa and melted cheese. (I'm really curious what such a thing would taste like...) Chihaya's biggest improvement came when she gave it her all in the mad-dash to the flag, winning over Hibiki this time, and also enthusiastically (albeit a little shyly) yelled out the catch phrase, "I got it, ribbit!" It was a little curious why the secret ingredient that the winners got would be durian, considering they're very smelly and difficult to work with. It's kind of like sabotaging them, isn't it?

The loss was actually not completely foreseeable.

Either way, Haruka managed to make it work and the final set of dishes seemed pretty good on both sides. Perhaps it was because they had the lobster, or because both on their team worked equally hard, but Hibiki and Takane ended up winning. There was a lot of symbolism in such a move, but I had no idea what it really was. On one hand, it could symbolize how they got at least one vote because Chihaya had found the confidence to give it her all. However, because it had happened later than preferred, they didn't end up winning. (This is essentially the idea that consistency is still overall better than sudden bursts of reliability.) On the other hand, it could be that Chihaya hasn't changed enough, so that even her attempting her best isn't good enough in the kind of world she's in. I'm not sure which one it is, if not something else, although I think perhaps it's the latter.

The ED was a little saddening.

This episode really stuck out at the end from the ones in the past; it didn't end with everything having been resolved, or even the main idol feeling better. In fact, by the end, Chihaya seemed as sad as usual. It might be saying that Chihaya's character in itself is forlorn, which is slightly true. I'm glad that they had this kind of episode; losing faith in oneself for longer than the length of an episode is far more realistic. I do hope this gets resolved in a later episode, even in one where Chihaya isn't the focus, although it would be realistic if it doesn't. (I'm sure there are many idols, fledgling and veteran, successful and not, that are in it because they just can't leave.)

I swear, if another anime starts talking to me about "heart"...

This episode pulled me into this anime a little bit more, because it finally gave me a little bit of what I had been hoping for: reality instead of motivational pep-talks. I didn't think that Chihaya would be the one to show it clearly, since she seemed like she was set in her path as an idol due to her love for singing, but it fits her character well. The next episode seems a departure from the sadness (at least, in the foreground) with a trip to both the beach and the onsen. Two birds with one stone, hm?