I’m just going to say it: Episode 8 of “Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020” is the best episode of “Friends” that never made it to air. High jinks, misunderstandings, dating woes — it had everything.
The show starts out typical enough. Kaori and Shohei are on a date wandering around the Shibamata neighborhood before enjoying some tea at Shibamata Taishakuten Temple, allowing us to see a gorgeous shot of the two sitting in front of its Japanese garden.
The pair then finally heads to the Chawari restaurant for dinner, which they have been talking about since episode 3. Kaori chastises Shohei somewhat for being aimless and not picking a career, before he says he’ll be happy doing anything as long as he can support his future family.
That’s when the normal structure of “Terrace House” stops and morphs into a full-blown rom-com. The three girls head out for lunch and seem to be finally getting along. They break the ice about how they all want to be more open with one another, and Risako and Haruka come to an understanding that they may or may not bring up their respective dates with Kenny but it’s nothing personal.
That’s when the girls fail the Bechdel Test — whether women in film can be shown talking to each other about something other than men — for the next six straight minutes as they complain about the boys in the house and their lack of assertiveness. The women are always asking out the men, but do the men ever bother with asking them out? Heck no! Perhaps this part feels a little more “Sex and the City” than “Friends.”
Later at the house, Ruka is on his hands and knees helping Risako fix her skateboard before Haruka and Shohei join in on the fun. Before long, the group is sitting on the living room floor having a powwow when Risako, the queen of subtlety, brings up the girls’ frustrations: You guys suck! Ask us out, already!
While Shohei seems to be attentively listening, you can tell Ruka is furiously taking notes in his head about what he needs to do next to win over the women. The girls reassure Ruka that they’re not too mad at him, however, since he’s the youngest one after all.
The panel finds the whole situation hilarious, and You drops a line that should be memorized by every young person in the dating scene: “It’s a common mistake of well-to-do women to fall for an unremarkable guy.”
Later in the boys room, Shohei breaks the bad news to Kenny: We suck, and the girls hate us. The three men sit on the floor and reflect on their bad behavior. They weren’t asking the girls out because they didn’t want to lead them on or make any assumptions, and now it seems their plan has backfired spectacularly.
As Kenny and Shohei continue to bellyache, Ruka speaks up and says that he’s at fault, too, despite his young age and naivety. He then confesses to Kenny that he has the hots for Kaori and that he’s going to ask her out.
Ruka marches over to the girls room, hovers for a moment before knocking and asking to speak with Kaori. He then stumbles over his words, blurting out that he also likes drawing and wants to go shopping for supplies. At first Kaori is confused, saying she can loan him her things before she catches on and the two agree to go out. He did it!
Ruka returns to the boys room, red-faced and sweaty, and he recaps how scary it was. Then, the camera swings to the girls room where the three wonder aloud if the guys got their message or even care. (Cue laughter from the live studio audience.)
Now that we have our comedic bits, we have to switch back to drama for the ending. Haruka has made soup for Kenny and is patiently sitting at the table like a bored housewife waiting for her overworked husband to come back from the office. And look who finally arrives? It’s … Risako. She asks if she can have some of the soup and crashes Haruka’s dinner with Kenny once he shows up.
Haruka and Kenny flirtatiously talk about how they sometimes feel nervous talking to each other. Haruka says it’s because she doesn’t know him well yet, but Risako butts in and drops another bomb: You’re nervous because you’re interested in him. Haruka playfully pretends to smack Risako before Kenny leaves to use the bathroom. That’s when Haruka (understandably) snaps.
“It was extremely awkward for me,” Haruka says. “Yeah, I really hated it.” That’s when Haruka goes to the boys room, sits down, buries her face in her hands and begins to cry.
Risako: Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral?
This week’s episode sparked a conversation in The Japan Times office: Is Risako committing all of these acts purposefully and maliciously? Or is she just a little careless and featherbrained? Let’s recap using the alignment chart from Dungeons & Dragons.
Chaotic Neutral +1: In Episode 4, she drunkenly blurts out “Date me” to Ruka. Nothing cold or calculated about this — just sloppy. I think she just has no filter.
Chaotic Evil +1: In Episode 7, Haruka and Kenny are sitting on the couch together discussing their upcoming date. Risako plops down on the couch with them, pretends to look for a phone charger, and then breaks up the conversation. She’s sly like a fox.
Chaotic Good +1: While skating with Ruka in Episode 8, Risako gives him a pep talk and says he can totally win over Kaori’s heart. He just needs to act natural and be himself. Hmm … maybe she’s a good egg after all.
Chaotic Good +1: When Ruka is sick in Episode 3, Risako steps up and takes care of him. She buys him medicine and even brings him an apple. She’s unpredictable, that’s for sure.
Chaotic Neutral +1: Risako blurts out that Haruka likes Kenny in the aforementioned Episode 8 scene. To me this felt like her just being absent minded. Since she doesn’t often mince words, this just proves that she doesn’t know when to keep quiet rather it than being an attempt to ruin Haruka.
Winner: Somewhere between Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral. Risako’s heart is in the right place, she just needs to think things through before she speaks her mind.
The Japan Times will be posting weekly recaps of “Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020.” Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. New episodes of “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” stream on Netflix and Fuji TV on Demand (FOD) and air on Fuji TV on Tuesdays.