Despite her best efforts, qualifying for a chance to take on the reigning Queen once again was simply a bridge too far for Chihaya, as her challenge came to a grinding halt against former Queen Yamamoto, teaching Chihaya some more important lessons about playing karuta in the process.
Not that this really helps Chihaya all that much - while previous defeats have still given her an opportunity to focus upon her game, the importance of this particular loss leaves her distraught as she shuts herself away in a nearby cupboard. So upset is she that even her karuta teacher Harada's efforts to save her hair from the perils of her earlier bet with Sudo fall upon deaf ears. It is, of course, Taichi who tries his best to cheer Chihaya up and coax her from her hiding place, as even he has a clear understanding of his feelings towards her now.
Having watched the climax of the qualifiers and seen at close hand the pain that comes from a losing finalist no matter how hard you try to hide it, there's finally an opportunity for some downtime for the members of the karuta club, giving those within it a chance to experience the wider world and get to know some new people via their various class Christmas parties, with Chihaya even finding herself confessed to in an unlikely first for her - needless to say, Taichi was having none of that. Ultimately though, Chihaya realises that there's only one person she'd rather have around her regardless of karuta - although it seems that Arata needs some more karuta practice of his own over and above any other considerations, meaning that he too misses out on the chance to become the year's Master.
I feel like I'm repeating this far too often these days, but this week's Chihayafuru was once again about its small but poignant moments - seeing the defeated wannabe Master contender under Haruda's tutelage break down in tears once his cheerful facade had subsided was genuinely heart-rending and a fantastic depiction of what it's like to lose in the final of a major event, and there were plenty of other small moments that caught the viewer off-guard to raise a smile or tug a heartstring effortlessly. Although this is par for the course with characters we've followed for many months now, to do so with relative strangers as this series does at times is truly impressive, and it's a perfect example of Chihayafuru's understated yet powerful emotional hold upon the viewer that sums up why I love the show to a tee.