It's the New Year as Hyouka enters its penultimate episode, providing Houtarou with pretty much the only thing that will spur him into action... an invitation from Chitanda.
Thus, Oreki gets to accompany Eru on her traditional shrine visit (kimono and all) to see in the new year, although for the latter it seems to be more about business than pleasure as she visits those in charge of the shrine to bring them her family's greetings and best wishes. Oh, and sake... can't forget that. After stopping by to say a quick hello to a shrine maiden outfitted Mayaka and draw a fortune, Houtarou's promise of a year of misfortune within that fortune soon looks likely to be rather prescient...
After offering to help out those working at the shrine with a simple errand of fetching something from the warehouse, an unusual mistake on Houtarou's part leaves them searching for said item in the wrong place - more specifically a shed, which they soon find locked from the outside by another member of staff. With nobody else knowing who they are, no cell phones (seriously?!) and Eru insistent that they can't shout for help lest it cause a misunderstanding about their reason for being in the shed in the first place, it's up to Oreki to fathom out a means of escape. Thank goodness for TV dramas about Oda Nobunaga (and no, he wasn't a cute girl in this one) and Satoshi's interest in just such dramas as the day's unlikely saviour.
Although previous story arcs within this series have had their necessary contrivances to build a story and, more importantly, a mystery, I don't think any of those previous arcs have been quite as blatant in dispensing with common sense in the name of fashioning a plot. Are we really expected to believe that Oreki, a 21st century teenager, has gone out without his cell phone, on an evening where he's meeting his friends, no less? This is the most glaring example in an episode where all of the main cast felt like they'd had some level of lobotomy in the name of making a simple situation (being trapped in a shed) into something far more complex. Put simply, it didn't work and ended up being perhaps the weakest episode of the series as a result, a few snappy one-liners and fun moments aside. It's the first major mis-step for a series that has otherwise managed to be fun in spite of its mundane scenarios and forced situations that were at least forgiveable - hopefully it's also the only mis-step as we rocket towards the end of the series, and a Valentine's Day setting.