When Tomoya finds Nagisa practicing performing one night outside her house, he warns her to be careful because it’s so late. Nagisa thinks that it’s okay since she can call her father out if anything happens, and when Tomoya then asks her about the play she wants to do, she reveals that it’s a story she heard when she was little. Though she doesn’t know the title, she remembers that it was a very sad fantasy story that takes place on a winter day about a girl who was left alone in a world. Meanwhile, in that world, the girl has finished building another doll made of junk, but when it doesn’t move, she tearfully apologizes to the original one. Back in the real world, Tomoya thinks about this story and gets the feeling that he’s seen something similar, but he doesn’t know when or where. He tries to ask Akio about it, but Akio doesn’t remember ever reading Nagisa such a fairy tale, and he instead sends Tomoya to talk to his wife. Before Tomoya leaves though, Akio instructs Tomoya to tell him anything he finds out first without telling Nagisa. Tomoya then speaks with Sanae, but she doesn’t remember anything about a sad story either. When she asks him if it’s something important, Tomoya realizes that it is. Sanae ends up suggesting that he search their house for a book they could have forgotten about.
At school the next day, Tomoya asks Yukine about such a book, however she doesn’t think that the school has it. He also asks about girls preferring that boys do the confessing, and though Yukine admits that hearing it from someone they like makes them happy, she feels that the timing is important too. Yukine then spots Nagisa looking around in the distance and suggests that Tomoya take part in the same love charm that Sunohara had just failed at. The charm supposedly indicates that the first girl he talks to has feelings for him, but when the first person that Tomoya runs into is Fuuko, he keeps her quiet by having her pretend to be a zombie. Because of this, the first person who actually talks with him is Nagisa, and Tomoya gets embarrassed thinking about her liking him. The two then head to the drama club where Nagisa tells everyone about the story that she wants to perform. What she remembers is that the girl was lonely and had tried to create a friend by using junk to build a doll. Responding to the girl’s desires, the doll started to move, and so the girl wasn’t lonely anymore. Hearing this reminds Tomoya that he does indeed remember the story from somewhere.
Upon arriving home, Tomoya and Nagisa try digging through the storage shed in her back yard for the book, but Akio insists that there’s nothing there and kicks them out of the shed. Akio ends up deciding to tell something to Tomoya that he wants to remain a secret from Nagisa. He also doesn’t want his wife knowing that he told this to Tomoya, and after repeated attempts that each get interrupted in one way or another, he’s finally able to talk to Tomoya privately on the roof of their house. Akio explains that he doesn’t care about what Tomoya is looking for, but it’d be troublesome if Tomoya unexpectedly found something else. What’s really inside the shed is his and Sanae’s past, including old pictures and diaries, and Akio describes it as stuff from when they were chasing their dreams. He then reveals that Nagisa almost died when she was little. This was back over 10 years ago when Sanae was still a middle school teacher and Akio had been able to do what he wanted to do, though he declines to tell Tomoya exactly what that was. Regardless, both he and Sanae were busy with their own lives and couldn’t take time to be with Nagisa.
On one cold and snowing day, Nagisa had come down with a fever. The nursery school was closed and no one could help take care of her, and because of their jobs, Akio and Sanae decided to leave their daughter by herself until Akio could return home. When he rushed back two hours later though, he found Nagisa collapsed outside in the snow, waiting for them. At the time, Akio had thought that God was punishing them for only chasing their own dreams and always leaving their daughter alone. Thus, when Nagisa opened her eyes again, they vowed to always stay by her side and had opened a bakery. The reason Akio thinks that all this would be troublesome if Nagisa found out is because he knows that she’d feel it’s her own fault that her parents had to give up their dreams. When Tomoya suggests that it would still be better to tell her, Akio admits that he’s looking for the right chance, and he comments on how things that are true are always harsh. A little later, Akio is in a much more cheerful mood and brings up the idea of having a picnic the following day. As he watches the Furukawa family plan out what to bring to eat, Tomoya thinks about if normal parents and children are supposed to be like that. He feels that he should pass on this picnic and wonders what his own father is doing.
Early the next morning, Tomoya pays a visit to Sunohara and tells him about the picnic. Tomoya thinks that going would ruin the family togetherness and had left a note behind saying that he had something else to do. Sunohara, however, argues that Nagisa lacks self-confidence and will think that Tomoya is uncomfortable in her house. He suggests that Nagisa is only becoming more self-confident now because Tomoya is with her, and he questions what would happen to this confidence if Tomoya turns away from her. Sunohara then points out that Nagisa doesn’t understand very well how Tomoya feels about her, meaning that his unclear attitude is hurting her, and he has now run away from both his own home and from her home. Hearing all this makes Tomoya decide to go back, and he finds everyone waiting for him. Nagisa never saw the note that he left because Akio claims to have eaten it, and Akio says that they can’t go far for their picnic because it’s so late now. Since it was Tomoya’s fault, Akio makes him join them in a game of baseball with some kids at the local park where they decide to have the picnic. Akio has a habit of asking if the Sanae fell in love with him again when he gets a big hit, and when Tomoya also gets a big hit, and Akio asks his daughter the same thing. She inadvertently admits that she did fall in love with Tomoya again, and both of them end up blushing profusely. Nagisa is up to bat next, and when she manages to get a hit too, she happily runs the bases.
So what was with them showing the title screen at the very beginning of the episode? Usually that happens when they’re going to skip the OP so that they can fit more content in, thus signifying the importance of the episode, but in this case, that title screen was immediately followed by the OP sequence (which also had a title screen). That struck me as really odd. On the plus side though, the animation quality was more or less back to normal this week.
In any case, it’s finally starting to make sense that the girl and junk doll in the other world tie together to main story because they’re what Nagisa wants to do her play about. This is one of the things I’ve spent most of this series so far wondering about, so I’ve been waiting for an explanation of some sort. There is, however, still the question of why it sounds so familiar to Tomoya, and I imagine there’s some supernatural element still to be revealed because that seems like the norm for these kinds of stories. I’ve been told that there’s more to it than this, but that this anime adaptation probably won’t be able to cover it all in the time left – two more regular episodes and an extra summer episode (plus whatever is on the final DVD).