After avoiding meeting the Elder during Masa's convalescence, a little white lie or five from Ume finally convinces Yaichi to pay the Elder's house a visit... a trip which finally gives us a little insight into the Five Leaves leader's past.
In short, it appears that Yaichi used to work under a man named Kuhei for a group of thieves and the like known as Bakuro - A group which has since seen all of its individuals save Yaichi either imprisoned or exiled, although the rumour is that they will be returning to Edo soon, which would surely be bad news all-round. As for Yaichi himself, he's clearly rather tetchy about this aspect of his past, particular when Masa (as always) put his foot in it by pressing him about it. Yaichi claims to have changed and that he's living for the present and not the past, but can he be trusted? The Elder certainly doesn't seem convinced, warning Masa to be on his guard and to learn what he can about Yaichi to see if he truly has changes his ways and allegiances.
Meanwhile however, Masa is still burdened with his own particular struggles - While he may have recovered in body, his mind is still flagging, and an impromptu face-off with another ronin sees him making a run for it in the face of the laughing and sneering faces of the watching crowd. This in itself gives us a flashback to Masa's past, and a sense of shame which is surely the reason for his unwillingness to return to his home town. Certainly, Masa's inability to fight with people watching looks likely to be a liability to both himself and others, and a real handicap when you consider we've seen him handle situations with a fair amount of skill when he hasn't had the consequences of his rather shy personality to contend with.
After feeling that the last episode of House of Five Leaves was taking things just a little too languidly, this latest instalment felt a tad better - It was never likely to break out into an orgy of action and violence (and indeed I wouldn't want it to), but there was a sense of pacing and progression to this episode that gave it a much-needed shot in the arm, largely via some important character development and progression all around. Those moments of progress have also opened up some interesting new doors for the remainder of the series, which gives me hope that we're going to be seeing far more moments of interest from here on in... with any luck, my hopes will bear fruit this time and we'll see House of Five Leaves continue to move in the right direction.