As he continues preparing Nodame for the Maradona competition, Etou gets frustrated because she isn’t playing what is written. Nodame seems more concerned about cheating to win, though when she learns that it’s not possible, she is actually relieved. Etou interprets this to mean that she thinks she can win if no one can cheat. Chiaki later gets a text message from her saying that Schubert‘s not easy to get along with. He is at that moment getting ready to start a Rising Star orchestra rehearsal for their next concert and is surprised to find the famed Kai Dowin sitting in as their concertmaster. Kai Dowin’s skill and commanding nature quickly becomes apparent as he begins to instruct the members on how to play. In a private conversation afterwards, Chiaki reveals that he had gotten some instruction from Stresemann, which surprises the elder violinist quite a bit. Chiaki respects Stresemann’s music, but explains that he’s not going to Europe specifically because of him. Chiaki is, however, planning on going next year.
That night, Nodame gets a text message reply from Chiaki saying that she should listen to what Schubert says and face the music. This reminds her of something similar that Stresemann had told her, and Stresemann had also noted back then that Nodame couldn’t be with Chiaki with the way she was. In her subsequent practice, Nodame remembers how Chiaki once showed her that there were no wasted notes and that she could connect them all so that the music flows. The music thus comes together for her, and by the time she performs in the first preliminary round of the Maradona competition, her rendition of Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 16 in A minor D.845 impresses the judges and audience alike. Having passed this round, Nodame text messages Chiaki to tell him the result. Chiaki is at that moment getting dressed for the next Rising Star concert, and he vows to do his best since there’s still something in Japan that he has to do.
As per Kuchiki’s suggestion, the Rising Star orchestra performs a cello concerto, and the concert is once again well received. Afterwards, several musicians show up wanting to join, so Mine and Kiyora run to get Chiaki from his dressing room, but they find that another musician named Noriyuki Takahashi is already there asking to join. Takahashi’s credentials include studying in Paris and placing third in the Buffon International Violin Competition, and he feels that he can do better than Kiyora. To everyone’s shock though, he also develops a bit of a crush on Chiaki after seeing Chiaki in the middle of changing out of his tuxedo. Nodame meanwhile is in the middle of practicing a piece from a sizable list of compositions that she has to prepare and memorize for the second preliminary round. However, she surprises Etou by playing from memory a piece that she already knew: Chopin‘s Étude Op. 10, No. 4. After hearing it, Etou realizes that there’s something about Nodame that captivates people.
During the actual second round, however, Nodame gives Etou a scare by playing the Chopin peace very properly (as opposed to beautifully). She also performs Liszt‘s Transcendental Etude No. 5 “Feux Follets” like she doesn’t want to play, but one judge remains marveled over her and she makes it through the round. At dinner later, Etou’s other student Tsuboi remarks that Nodame already has fans and compliments her on her technique. He thinks that she’s good enough to face the already-popular Segawa Yuuto, though Nodame’s appearance turns dark at the mention of that name. The next day is the third round, which many consider to be about expression, and Nodame will be playing Debussy‘s L’Isle Joyeuse. Kaori tells Nodame is happy and all about falling in love, and to correct Nodame’s misconceptions, Kaori explains that Debussy composed the piece in happiness after abandoning his wife and running away with his new lover. Nodame then gets a message from Chiaki telling her to do her best and promising to come see her in the finals. Her feelings carry her through the performance, and afterwards, one of the judges thinks to himself that Nodame isn’t quite expressing being lost in love like Debussy. He thinks of Nodame still as a little child.
I’m still not entirely clear about why Nodame entered this Maradona competition. It originally seemed like she was doing it because she had been inspired by the first Rising Star orchestra concert, but she later implied to Etou that she really just wanted to win the prize money. Her flashback in this episode to what Stresemann said makes me think now that a big reason she’s doing this is to get herself to the point where she can be with Chiaki. That would seem to be backed up by how she has separated herself from him until she can win this, showing perhaps that she doesn’t currently feel that she can be with him yet. She is, however, channeling her feelings for him into her music, and I would think that she needs to continue to do so in order to ultimately win the competition.