During her New Years shrine visit, Taiga runs into Yuusaku and reveals to him that Ryuuji is sick at home. Yuusaku wants to go see him, but Taiga first puts her hands together and bows to Yuusaku as if she’s praying or about to ask him for a favor. A few days later, after he’s feeling better, Ryuuji gets a chance to speak with Taiga again, and although his thoughts were on how he got rejected by Minori, his more immediate concern is how Taiga is eating ramen again and hasn’t been coming over for dinner. Taiga, however, reveals that she’s doing this for his and Minori’s sake. She suspects that Minori has been misunderstanding the relationship between her and Ryuuji to the point where Minori thinks that Taiga needs him. Because of that, she’s decided to be independent from Ryuuji from now on, and she wants him to not run away and to go ascertain Minori’s true feelings.
The next morning, as Ryuuji is leaving, his mother hands him the signed permission form for the school trip to Okinawa. His thoughts are still on Minori though, and they’re even more so after he gets back the suit he traded for the Santa bear costume because with the it comes the gift he never got to give her. As he’s staring at the hair clip that he wanted to give her, Ryuuji suddenly gets dragged into Taiga’s rampage against Haruta for getting her to say a dirty word. When Haruta notices the hair clip, he takes it, but Taiga quickly rips it out of Haruta’s hair because she feels that it still belongs to Ryuuji. The three are then greeted by Minori, but instead of greeting her back, Ryuuji runs away. Once class begins, everyone finds out from their teacher that the hotel they were going to stay in burned down, so instead of going to Okinawa, they’re now going skiing.
That afternoon, Yuusaku notices that Ryuuji is going home without Taiga, and this reminds Ryuuji of how Taiga is doing her best by herself for his sake. By chance, he runs into Ami on his way home, and she’s not particularly happy to see him, claiming that she hates him because he’s an idiot. Ami is actually meeting with Taiga and has brought a bag that Taiga wanted. After telling Ami about the change to the ski trip, Taiga also makes it clear that she doesn’t want Ami around Ryuuji during the trip. This leads to Ami hearing about how Ryuuji got rejected by Minori and how Taiga feels that this trip will be Ryuuji’s last chance to ascertain Minori’s true intentions. Before leaving, Ami suggests to Ryuuji that it’d be better if he were the only one to get hurt. Taiga and Ryuuji then head home in the same direction, and he gets the opportunity to thank her for what she’s doing. He’s still unsure about Minori’s actual feelings, however Taiga isn’t and believes in Ryuuji as well.
The next morning, Ryuuji sees Minori on his way to school, and this time, he’s able to greet her. When Taiga comes running towards them and tells Minori to grab Ryuuji, Minori does so, but Taiga then dashes past them and throws them her bag. That leaves the two to carry Taiga’s bag to school together, just as Taiga wanted. Along the way, Ryuuji comments on how Minori got her hair cut, and the two start talking about her hair and then her little brother. In class, Yuusaku announces the groups for the trip, and Ryuuji and all of his friends are together. Since they need to make a trip guide, they decide to gather at Taiga’s house to plan things out. During all this, Ryuuji notices that Taiga’s able to speak normally with Yuusaku now, but Taiga turns his attention to helping Minori make tea.
In the kitchen, Minori comments on how it’s strange that there’s usable tableware in Taiga’s home because it wasn’t that way when she last came to Taiga’s house during their first year in high school. She attributes it to Ryuuji, but he explains how Taiga is doing things on her own now. Minori nevertheless thinks that Taiga was able to do it because Ryuuji was there. She also mentions how she’s looking forward to the trip since it’s the last time everyone in their class will be doing something together, and she wishes that they could stay like this forever. Ryuuji, however, realizes that that wouldn’t be any good, and he’s determined to ascertain Minori’s true feelings during the trip. He knows that he has to do his best to tell her his own feelings which got cut off on Christmas Eve.
It’s good to see that the series doesn’t waste any time at this point on people – mainly Taiga – being confused/in the dark about what happened. Granted, we’re only a handful of episodes away from the ending now, so they can’t really afford to waste time, but I’m still glad that Taiga realizes from the get-go that Minori likes Ryuuji but rejected him because she thought Taiga needed him. The characters are maturing, and while I can’t help but think that the fastest solution is for Taiga to have a direct talk with Minori to clear things up, I guess there’s no fun in that, plus Taiga will eventually have to stop relying on Ryuuji anyway. On the other hand, after the end of last week’s episode, I was hoping that Taiga would be more upfront about her own feelings. I’d hate to see the series end without some acknowledgment of that.
Meanwhile, after weeks of being so gloomy, Minori manages to be cute again this episode, making her a lot more likable. I don’t think it’s too late to rehabilitate her character (and in fact it’s a welcome change), but it’s disappointing to see them doing that while at the same time having Ami becoming less and less a viable option for who Ryuuji can end up with. Ami spends most of this episode in kind of a subdued pissed-off mood, and she doesn’t look too happy in the preview either. Speaking of which, it appears that another special event (the school trip) will lead to the next advancement of the relationships. These kids never have a dull moment do they…