While on the surface, he appears the same man, elegant of speech and unperturbed, beneath that veneer Arikoto is a changed man- notice the violence he enacted on his room while Iemitsu was with Sutezo- something one could not imagine the young monk of years ago doing. How much of the good he does- from gifting celebratory meals to staff to making sure the paralyzed Sutezo is cared for- is because he is a genuinely good person or because he wants to keep up a front so no-one will know how the oooku has defeated him? I think it’s becoming more and more the latter case- Arikoto even remarks that his pride stopped him from slashing the doors so no-one would see the fruits of his anger.
Iemitsu for her part has also changed, but hers is more evident from the surface- something even the council notices. She gives wise council confidently and humbly- a change which the council chalks up to being a mother, but which I think comes partly from Arikoto’s influence and partly from maturing into the realization that it does no good to rage against the circumstances. Unfortunately, her position is no different from what any woman’s position would be, historically, being required to act as a baby-making machine to perpetuate the next generation. It was a harsh reality for women under the pressure of procreation.
It’s clear that Kasuga only sees or cares for things at face value when it comes to matters between two people. She handpicked Sutezo for his resemblance to Arikoto, but their personalities are like night and day- Sutezo is rather graceless and effusive compared to the restrained and elegant Arikoto. Sutezo gets the job done and Iemitsu births an heir, a baby girl. It is rather telling that Arikoto and Iemitsu look more like parents together than when Sutezo and Iemitsu are together- ironic given that Sutezo is the father.
I knew Sutezo wasn’t going to last long- he was either going to become victim to Oooku intrigues or somehow otherwise land himself in trouble. My intuition was spot on- Sutezo thoughtlessly leaps for joy (something you should never do in socks on wood flooring) and slips, paralyzing himself in the fall. This turns out to be good news for Arikoto and Iemitsu who are allowed to passionately reunite for a few months before the next breeding stud is found. A very different one at that- one used to working under the hot sun, unlike the monk or spoiled son who came before.
While Iemitsu has already resigned herself to her lot, making a distinction in her mind for sex for business vs. sex for love, Arikoto has not resigned himself, begging Gyokuei to impregnate the shogun on his behalf. If a child is successful from that union, I could see that turning the tables on the internal politics pretty quickly.