Out in the mountains on a reconnaissance mission with Alicia, Welkin realizes that a snowstorm is coming and finds them shelter in an old cabin nearby. As a storm roars up outside, Welkin starts a fire and gives Alicia the only blanket. He begins sneezing himself though, so Alicia shares it with him. Uneasy with the silence, Alicia tries to get Welkin to talk about himself, and he eventually admits that his interest in nature is due to his father who happened to be an insect collector. Alicia knows that it must have been tough being the son of a famous person, but she still thinks that it would be better than not having a father at all. She reveals that she was an orphan and is envious of those who have memories of family, however Welkin explains that his own family situation was complicated. His father was always troubled and had blamed himself for not being able to protect his mother from dying in the previous war. In order to prevent more people from having to be sad, Welkin wants to end the current war as soon as possible.
Welkin then asks about the red scarf that Alicia wears in her hair, so she takes it off and tells him about how it came from her days working in a bakery. She wears it now because she doesn’t want to forget that before she was a soldier, she was a baker. Welkin admires this, and Alicia ends up getting a bit closer to him. She puts her hand on his, but before anything more can happen, Welkin suggests that they sleep. A few hours later, he wakes Alicia up and alerts her to someone trying to enter the cabin. Both of them have their guns ready when an Imperial soldier bursts into the room, but he stops them from shooting by holding everyone hostage with a grenade that he’s pulled the pin out of. With neither side able to trust the other, a stand-off soon forms even though Welkin tries to reason with the man. Things take a turn for the worse after the guy starts coughing up blood, and Alicia tries to help him. He reacts to her movement by shooting at her, but the shots miss her. Despite this, Alicia doesn’t give in to the pressure and makes it clear that she’s concerned about him as a person, not a soldier.
The Imperial soldier finally lowers his gun and allows her tend to his injuries which turn out to be two bullet wounds in his abdomen. He still has his hand on the grenade though as Alicia bandages him up, and he continues to hold onto it afterward. Welkin realizes that they’re in a bad situation because the grenade would go off if the Imperial loses consciousness, and he attempts to figure out a way to save all of them. In the meantime, Alicia surprises the Imperial by giving him both water and the only blanket, and Welkin tries to get the guy to talk about his wounds. Admitting that he’ll likely die, the Imperial laments having it happen in such a place, and he tells the two of how he’s the uneducated third son of a farmer. He explains that in an Empire controlled by nobles, birthright determines everything, however it is still possible to rise up in the world by joining the military and showing your talents. But then the war started, and they were forced to fight, causing him to question what he was trying to obtain that required people to get killed.
Ultimately, this Imperial had deserted, and his wounds were from being shot at by his former friends. Alicia feels that the war is to blame for all this, and after she says this, the Imperial gets their names. He then produces the pin of his grenade and puts it back in, thus ending the threat. Expressing how glad he is that he was able to talk with them, his final wish is for them to remember that he was alive in this world, and he reveals that his name is Michael Weber. He dies shortly thereafter, and Alicia and Welkin give him a proper burial outside the cabin. The next morning, when Imperial forces arrive, they find the grave and Gallian footprints leading away. Their commander decides not to pursue their enemies though because of what they did, even if it was for a deserter. By this point, Alicia and Welkin are on their way back to where Squad 7 was, but they don’t expect anyone to have waited for them this long. Squad 7, of course, is still there, and everyone is reunited.
That was a pretty damn good episode, probably one of the better ones of the series so far. For once there was a cold open, but they still went back and showed how things got to that point. I like how they developed Alicia and Welkin’s backgrounds (Alicia being an orphan raised a flag in my head) and relationship, though it was a little odd seeing Alicia make the first move and having Welkin balk. The subsequent standoff scene with the Imperial was appropriately quite tense, and then the latter half of the episode presented a very human face to the war and shows how cruel it can be. Like last week’s episode, they seem to be emphasizing as well that it’s the higher-ups/nobility who are bad, and not necessarily the soldiers who have to fight the war. Maybe the series will end with the nobles no longer controlling the Empire or something. Anyway, I also thought the music choices were quite strong, particularly when Alicia and Welkin were talking and when Alicia examined the Imperial.
Speaking of nobility though, it looks like Alicia and company will get to meet some next week, though I don’t understand how Jaeger and Selvaria can show up at the same place if they’re on the opposing side. I guess they’re the uninvited guests alluded to in the episode title. But hey, who cares; I’m all for more Selvaria screentime. And finally, as a random side note, this episode prompted me to look it up, and apparently you can indeed put a pin back into a grenade after taking it out under certain circumstances.