Part 3 of “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” is not messing around. The most recent episode was filled to the brim with surprising moments and it’s hard to know what to expect in the weeks ahead.

When news broke in October about commentator Yoshimi Tokui’s financial issues, I wondered if he would get kicked off the “Terrace House” panel. Sure enough, he’s missing from the studio this episode. A somber sigh from Yama-chan reflects the mood of the panel and, without going into any details about why Tokui is missing or how long he’ll be gone, they agree to hold down the fort in his absence. Japanese rugby player Yu Tamura is on hand to fill in and he reveals that his Brave Blossoms team members have weekly gatherings to watch “Terrace House” together.

“We giggle and fuss over each episode,” he says to the delight of the commentators, who can’t believe a bunch of burly athletes get as emotionally invested in the show as they do.

And on that lighthearted note, we jump right back into the thick of it with Haruka and Peppe. Last week’s episode ended with a doozy of a cliffhanger regarding Haruka’s decision about whether she’s going to date Peppe or not. The verdict is that she can’t see their relationship progressing after she moves out of the house two days later. That must be tough for Peppe to hear after wooing her with a romantic date at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel and the “are they going to kiss?” moment they shared on the couch during the previous episode.

He holds it together in front of Haruka, but as soon as he gets to the guy’s room, he asks Ryo if they can talk — in English — because he needs to freely express what he’s feeling. Poor Peppe says earnestly that, despite people’s assumption that he has girls swooning over him left and right, he’s actually pretty unlucky in love. “I’m not a playboy,” he says. “When it’s time to make the switch from friend to girlfriend, I’m not lucky. I always get dumped or told, ‘We’re just friends.'”

He may have lost the girl, but Peppe isn’t down in the dumps for very long. The moment he’s been working so hard for has finally arrived — his original manga is making its official debut. Peppe heads to a local convenience store to pick up copies of his freshly published work and he takes in this career milestone by staring at his manga for a while. He can barely stop himself from proudly telling the cashier that he drew the comics, and the cute matronly woman lets Peppe bask in his joy by congratulating him and saying she’ll be his “biggest fan” after she reads his work. It’s easily the best scene of the episode, and the panel instantly falls in love with the sweet lady. Who needs a girlfriend when you have a charming older woman rooting for you?

Point of pride: Peppe checks out his newly published manga on 'Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.' | © FUJI TELEVISION / EAST ENTERTAINMENT
Read it and weep: Peppe checks out his newly published manga on ‘Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.’ | © FUJI TELEVISION / EAST ENTERTAINMENT

Peppe isn’t the only member experiencing a moment of triumph. For the past few episodes, Ruka has been missing in action, leaving viewers wondering what he’s been up to. It turns out he’s been diligently studying English, taking cooking classes and working at the Marvel-themed bar he first visited in Episode 13. Ahead of Haruka’s departure, Ruka puts on his most stylish shirt and cooks a pasta dish entirely from scratch for his roommates before making a big speech, which he has prepared in English. With a lot of encouragement from Ryo and Peppe, Ruka says that he’s been working on improving himself, becoming more independent and mature.

Back in the studio, even Yama-chan — who has arguably been Ruka’s biggest critic — has to admit that the kid has come a long way since entering the house. All of his hard-earned progress has led Ruka to decide that he’s moving out. There are lots of tears and hugs from the roommates, and the next morning the last members of the original cast say goodbye.

After seeing the tearful farewell scene, the commentators are ruffled by Ryo comforting Emika by letting his arm linger on her knee. The panel was already suspicious that something of an intimate nature happened between the two after their sushi date, but Ryo’s wandering hands all but confirmed their hunch. No one is as blunt as You who confidently says, “They’ve had sex, for sure.” Even the usually modest Tori-chan adds to the gossip as the panel revels in their racy speculation about the whole situation. Ryo might surprise them, though. Later on he tells friends from his basketball team that he isn’t interested in Emika or Hana, because they’re too young. Then he makes a bold statement: “The next girl I date, I’m going to marry.”

Can't touch this: While comforting Emika (left), Ryo's arm lingers on her knee — causing the panelists to speculate on their relationship on 'Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.' | © FUJI TELEVISION / EAST ENTERTAINMENT
Can’t touch this: While comforting Emika (left), Ryo’s arm lingers on her knee — causing the panelists to speculate on their relationship on ‘Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020.’ | © FUJI TELEVISION / EAST ENTERTAINMENT

As if two roommates leaving and the strong possibility of the secret hookup isn’t enough to shake up the house, there’s more. On the day of Peppe’s professional victory, Emika and Ryo come home with copies of the manga for Peppe to sign (Hana promises she’ll pick up a copy, too). As a thank you, Peppe pulls a homemade tiramisu out of the fridge, but that isn’t the only bittersweet surprise he has. His work schedule is only going to get more intense so he’s moving out!

Haruka, Ruka, Peppe and even panelist Tokui — that makes four people we lost in one episode. Is this what it feels like to watch “Game of Thrones”? I can’t help but wonder who’s going to disappear next.

The Japan Times is 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.

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