Hmm, I suppose in any show you’ll have your fair share of clunkers. Not that this episode was bad, but the animation was uneven, Fruhl’s plans felt like a retread, and the story and dialogue seemed to lack the spark the previous episodes have had so far. And with only 2 episodes left, I get the sense that the pace of the buildup might have been too slow, and we’re going to be in for a rushed or truncated resolution. I guess we’ll see.
After his talk with Fruhl and the Innkeeper, Lawrence spends the night tossing and turning, before waking up in a sweat. I wonder if they were head hairs or tail hairs on the cloth she gave Lawrence to wipe himself off with. The 50-man meeting has declared that selling furs is ok, but it needs to be bought using cash. Seeing as how most of the traveling merchants carry that much cash when they travel, Fruhl comes up with a scheme to "sell" Horo, in order to get cash to buy up all furs and control the market. Lawrence, burnt by his last experience, is understandably uneasy about selling Horo – even if the plan is to buy her back.
An interesting development is that the Innkeeper is planning to go on a pilgrimage. I don’t know if the understated premise is that the Innkeeper is going to die, or that this pilgrimage is permanent in some sort of way, but if Fruhl and Lawrence can swing the deal, Lawrence is going to have an opportunity to take over the Innkeeper’s building and set up shop. When Lawrence reveals his hesitation to Horo, she snaps at him, chiding him to chase his dream and take the risk.
Having received Horo’s permission, Lawrence does some detective work around town to find out a little more about Fruhl and her former connections with the church. He learns that the quality of the bishop’s character is perhaps dubious, and that Fruhl was the only merchant to have had some sort of relationship with the town’s bishop. However, Fruhl was cut off, once the bishop was able to set up a strong enough foundation to stand on his own and gain enough support of his own. Even Fruhl later mentions that it was a smart decision on the bishop’s part, as she would’ve taken advantage of their connections had he continued to rely on her. Lawrence’s informant also reveals a surprising bit of information about Fruhl, claiming that he thought she traded in salt, not only stone statues.
Spicy barmaid-chan returns and does not disappoint, quickly picking up on Horo’s scent and inviting her over for a threesome… maybe. In between her advances and flirting, she gives Lawrence some info on the church. They’ve been building up their reputation, but also silencing opposition in the town. All of this seemingly to prepare for the bishop’s ascent to an archbishop position. The town is clearly held captive to the strong influence of the church, and the reason why Fruhl wants to leave the town becomes obvious.
In the end, Lawrence agrees to move forward on the deal with Fruhl, but as they shake hands in agreement, both Lawrence and Horo instinctively notice Fruhl’s shaking hand. I don’t think that either Fruhl or the Innkeeper have any devious plans or double-crosses in mind, but I do think Fruhl’s shaking hand was intended to show the risk of her scheme. When she talks about it, it all seems pretty logical and relatively easy to accomplish. But as we’ve seen plenty of times before, when Lawrence throws himself into some sort of odd arrangement, things are never as simple as they appear to be.
I’m starting to get the picture that Lawrence overvalues the possible benefits and undervalues the possible risks of his deals. On face value, the benefit of this possible deal and a rare opportunity to achieve Lawrence’s dream – to open a store. But there’s two things that I don’t think he’s considering: 1.) his hesitation to leave Horo and let her travel back to Yoitsu on her own and 2.) the church’s heavy influence making this town a risky place for Horo, if she did choose to stay behind with Lawrence. When you take those into account, it means even if the deal is a success, I’d put the likelihood of him opening a store to be less than 50/50. So the real benefit is some additional money in his pocket for the future. However, the risk of this deal – again – is losing Horo and perhaps losing everything he has or being persecuted by the church. Maybe I’m a little conservative, but that seems like a bad deal to me. Limited upside, unlimited downside.
Hopefully they can wrap everything up in the next two episodes, but I get this sneaky feeling that the season might end on a cliffhanger.