Courtesy of Kanako's week of revision in an alternate dimension last time around, episode six of Maria†Holic Alive back-tracks to fill in that gap in time and explain in more detail the decidedly odd goings-on of that week... although shorn of its usual protagonist it seems that Matsurika has seen fit to hijack the series for herself, bringing us the first ever episode of Matsurika†Holic complete with altered opening credits.
Despite that rather promising new title, we actually don't get to see any more of Matsurika than usual this episode sadly, as the first half of this instalment focuses first and foremost on that trading card game that becomes the school obsession during Kanako's period away - it's probably no surprise to hear that this is mostly spurred on by Maria in the name of making a hefty profit with a business plan that would leave even Lord Sugar impressed. That aside, we also learn where those weird and wonderful hairdos came from, and also the reason for Kanako's "blinged up" desk via the episode's most hilarious gag where her friends initially decide to spruce up her empty desk by outfitting it with a single flower and a photograph of their missing classmate.
It's this decision which single-handedly powers the second half of the episode, with the misunderstood meaning of those actions (i.e. as a symbol of Kanako's death) setting the scene for lots of the usual blend of concern and lust from Father Kanae, who particularly finds his world turned upside down when a visit to Mariya's home introduces him to Mariya's "brother" Shizu, bringing with it yet another love at first sight moment - on this occasion, one that seems entirely inappropriate for a man of the cloth. Before we know it, Kanae is wandering the school grounds in a bath robe to close out the episode, more confused than ever about his emotions.
While I do wish that this episode really had been an entirely Matsurika-centric one, what we got instead was an instalment which did flag during its second half from Kanako's absence (Kanae's schtick has been over-played for me now) but still had enough great little jokes and one-liners to be thoroughly entertaining more often than not. In particular, the flower on Kanako's desk was the funniest thing I've seen in a while (helped by the delay between my brain comprehending the scene and what it represented) while Maria's Apprentice-esque endeavours in producing and marketing the card game in question hit an amusing peak as she ended up surreptitiously competing with "God" for the rights to it. In a word this episode was, once again: fun.