It's time for the start of another story arc within Bakemonogatari, and the bad news is that this means we don't really get to see any of Senjougahara at all... not that her presence doesn't still loom large over much of the proceedings, as ever.
This particular episode really focuses almost entirely on building up the required elements for this new arc, which predictably leads to Araragi ending up needing to help some poor girl who has got herself into a suitably bizarre predicament. This all comes from innocuous enough beginnings, with Araragi visiting an abandoned shrine at the behest of Oshino, until he finds that the entire shrine grounds are littered with dismembered snake corpses. To add to the odd qualities of the situation, on his way up to the shrine (with Kanbaru very closely in tow... a little too closely you could argue) Araragi passes a middle school girl on her way down who he thinks he recognises, and later learns to be Nadeko Sengoku, a former friend of his sisters. It is she who is left begging Araragi for help come the end of the episode as the snake-related theme continues.
This developing plot is only somewhat interrupted for a discussion between Araragi and Hanekawa, as the latter helps the former find study books as Arargi looks more aggressively at his future goals in light of Senjougahara's own plans. As per usual Hanekawa is right on the money, as she expresses concern over Araragi getting too close to Kanbaru, and towards his overly kind and passive nature in general and how his actions might be viewed by Senjougaraha. Of course, Araragi doesn't really seem to get it - drifting through life and doing what he thinks is right at the spur of the moment is his "thing", and it appears that even the conclusion of the last story arc is enough to help him realise that sometimes playing the hero can lead to people getting hurt. Hanekawa even seems to test her friend's passive nature; a test with Araragi seems to fail miserably.
While I can't pretend that this was one of the best instalments of Bakemonogatari thus far, it was certainly a functional and relatively entertaining one even if it did lose out a little for being shorn almost entirely of the delights of Hitagi Senjougaraha and her behaviour. The main focus of the story, revolving as it does around snakes and Sengoku, has been set up in a pretty precise fashion, although in a way this was almost eclipsed by Araragi and Hanekawa's conversation, which I can't help but feel was really the most important part of the episode. We're also dealt some great discussions between Kanbaru (who is grown into a pretty fun character in her own right) and Araragi, particular towards the end of an episode which also somehow manages to make full-on fan service feel classy once again. The important thing as far as this story arc is concerned is that I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops, so it's most certainly mission accomplished in that vein.