As her past quite literally flashes before her (and our) eyes, the aptly named Toki Onjouji continues to push herself to the limit as The Girl Who Leapt Through Tenpai in a desperate big to stop Teru Miyanaga's onslaught.
Despite her physical exhaustion, Toki finds the strength in both her body and mind to break all of the rules surrounding her ability yet further, allowing her to see not two but three turns into the future. This finally gives her the opportunity she needs to steer the game in the right direction and away from the fearsome Teru, even if she needs to employ this skill one final time using almost the last of her energy to ensure that she's capable of doing so.
However, Onjouji can't change the fate of this game alone, and while Hanada's tactics in trying to break down Miyanaga's game are clear to see Toki has no choice but to rely on a massive change of heart and tact from Achiga's Kuro. Can she really discard one of her much-loved dora to put herself into tenpai and declare riichi along with it? Initially, no, but ultimately she realises that now is the time to say "au revoir" to one of her favourite tiles for the greater good, which in turn sees Teru playing right into her hand and landing a big win for Achiga to finally finish the first match-up of these semi-finals. Although Kuro gains the plaudits, it's Onjouji who has quietly saved the day - but at what cost? As her illness comes back to bite her, we're already preparing for the next match, with a chance meeting between the Achiga girls and Nodoka in the foyer only strengthening their resolve to make it all the way to the final.
Come the end of this week's Episode of Side-A, I slumped back in my seat much like the players of its mammoth game - exhausted, slightly tearful but utterly satisfied with what had just taken place. This episode was a distillation of everything that works about Saki at its best - minimal flashbacks, and lots of incredibly intense mahjong that drew you into its grasp with almost terrifying ease before leveraging the fact that you've started to care about not just the game but the characters within that game to boot, which made for some heart-rending stuff towards the end of the instalment. Thank goodness we still have three episodes left to go - ending things here would have been too cruel, although it still feels like three more weeks won't be enough to cover everything.