Having become so used to seeing Houtarou provide all of the answers without fail throughout this series so far, has he finally gotten something wrong? Mayaka's pointed comment about the lack of a rope in his final concept for how the film production they've been assisting with suddenly gives Oreki a cause for some self-doubt.
It isn't just Ibara who has noticed the discrepancy either - Satoshi gives his friend a surprisingly hard time as he too points to flaws in Houtarou's concept as he notes that the Sherlock Holmes books Hongou had been using as research would have contained nothing akin to the narrative trick used in the finished production. Even Chitanda is on-hand to turn the knife in Houtarou's fragile ego, as she too realises that what they've seen wasn't the ending Hongou desired.
All of this leaves Houtarou feeling rather lost - unsure of how he's gotten things so badly wrong and pondering whether he truly does have any talent for this kind of thing at all, to the point where it overtakes even his usual "path of least resistance" demeanour. It's his desire to escape and move his train of thought elsewhere that leads to his eventual revelation that his perspective on the entire situation has been entirely wrong, and the next day he confronts Irisu to at least try to confirm this suspicions - that the Classics Club were brought in not as "detectives" in an attempt to figure out the true ending of Hongou's story, but as script writers to recreate it in preference to her own, completed attempt. While Irisu is rather evasive, this does at least allow Houtarou to somewhat confirm and cement his updated theories - but is he simply being toyed with in an attempt to teach him a lesson, even after all of this?
Even though its subject matter remains as broadly mundane as ever, by this point in the series I have to confess that I like Hyouka's main cast of characters enough to forgive it its foibles - this episode in particular allowed us to get under the skin of Houtarou and gain a better picture of both his own self-image and what makes him tick, which proves to be a far cry from his outward laid-back attitude. To a lesser extent, we also get to grips with Satoshi's character a little better - after his admission of jealousy last week, his blunt attack on his friend's failure in this instance seems to be something that he almost relishes as a chance to get the upper hand. It's these small but important moments, moved along by that ever-wonderful animation and its occasionally playful framing of things, that are increasingly making this series what it is, and I am (much like Chitanda) curious as to what is coming down the line for this group of friends far over and above the mysteries planted at their doorstep.