Now, more than ever, I need the sweet escape of TV drama as a reminder of a time when we weren’t in the throes of a pandemic. Although the past few episodes of “Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020” were hard to watch, this episode delivered more than enough heartwarming charm to pull me back into the show.
Kai has seemingly been doing some self-reflection since the “Case of The Costume Incident” because the next night, he sits Hana down for an honest conversation. He apologizes again for ruining her wrestling costume and admits, “I had no concept of thoughtfulness or gratitude for the people around me.” Even though he can’t replace her outfit, he promises to work hard to pay her back. Then, he adds that he would like to revisit the possibility of them becoming close again. Hana accepts his apology but she doesn’t look ready to be friends with him again just yet.
Unfortunately, even if Hana has a change of heart, she’ll be seeing a lot less of him from now on because he’s moving out of the house. After his talk with Hana, Kai goes to the boys’ bedroom, where he tells Toshiyuki and Shion about his decision to leave the show and devote himself to a career in stand-up comedy. Later, the housemates gather in the kitchen and Kai tells everyone the news. He says he wishes they were able to see a better, improved version of him, but he hopes to see them all again after he’s had some time to grow. Kai’s departure the next morning is a somber affair, and even though he gives Hana a colorful portrait that he painted of her, she can’t bring herself to hug him goodbye.
With Kai moving out, the addition of a new roommate is on the horizon. Yume goes out to lunch with some colleagues who grill her on her love life in the house. While tucking into a massive sandwich, she tells her friends she’s partial to Toshiyuki, but she’ll hold off until she has seen the new guy. (Is this what prompts Baba to call her a “thot” later in the studio? Who is writing these subtitles?)
The next scene gives us our first glimpse of Kai’s replacement. He’s introduced with a track from Irish pop rock band Inhaler, and he’s hanging out with “Terrace House” alums Kaito Nakata and Masato Yukawa — both surfers. We don’t see the new guy’s face yet, but we learn that these three are longtime friends, along with fellow show alums Guy Sato and Yosuke Imai (who sadly passed away a year after his season was filmed). Is everyone in this tight-knit group of bros going to appear on the show?
Back to the new guy. He’s a surfer, he travels a lot as a filmmaker and, he tells his surfer buddies, he already has his eye on Vivi and his main goal is to score a kiss on the show. “I’ll try my best and do what I can,” he says.
Yume and Vivi are home alone discussing rollercoasters when the surfer dude makes his official entrance. Reo Kanao is 27 years old and Vivi immediately notes that he is “the embodiment of the surfer archetype” with his bright smile and sun-kissed skin. He makes a great first impression with the girls by talking about his documentary, which is about surfing, environmental issues and the climate crisis, as well as his wish to make deep connections while living in the house.
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I wouldn’t be surprised if Vivi falls for Reo because not only do they have similar knee injuries and dietary preferences to bond over, she is genuinely touched when Reo expresses his gratitude after she cooks him dinner. On top of that, she gets flustered when he looks at her after Toshiyuki asks what kind of girls Reo likes to date.
Reo has no trouble fitting in, bringing a lively, almost festive, atmosphere to the house (he previously told the girls that one of his goals was to bring everyone together). But Toshiyuki puts a damper on the “Kumbaya” mood when he asks how pro surfers make money. Toshiyuki is no doubt wondering if the new guy is going to steal Yume away so Hana laughs at him, saying, “You’re acting like you’re already her boyfriend.”
Right on cue, Yume comes home from a party, and Toshiyuki looks straight at the camera, raises his eyebrows and grins. Jim Halpert he is not, because that glance made me deeply uncomfortable and I immediately screamed. I wasn’t the only one to react that way — the panelists, You and Tori-chan in particular, also had strong responses.
After dinner, the women huddle in their bedroom to discuss the newest housemate. Hana makes an astute observation that “surfers are sexy, aren’t they?” and Vivi jumps on the bandwagon, adding that “I’m a fan of Reo. I already like him a lot.” Vivi is shocked that Reo not only offered her a glass of water but also brought it to her. Other guys don’t do that, she says — Vivi, is your bar that low? Where are you hanging out, girl? The girls agree that Reo is a true gentleman. Toshiyuki might have reason to be worried because, based on this conversation, Yume could be tip-toeing toward Team Reo.
With all the attention on Reo, Shion seems a little jealous. “When I arrived, I didn’t receive a welcome party,” he points out. But suddenly the lights in the kitchen go out and Yume comes in carrying a birthday cake lit up with candles and a sparkler. It’s Shion’s birthday! Everyone sings to him and, as he blows out the candles, Reo hilariously yells, “No welcome party, but we won’t forget your birthday!” The teasing doesn’t stop there. After cutting the cake in half, Hana pushes a plateful into Shion’s face. “Seriously, what is happening?” says Shion as the others cheer. “I’m so happy. It’s too funny.” I’m glad Shion finally got a moment in the limelight with a lighthearted and fun scene. He’s been in the background for the past few episodes.
As if we didn’t have enough evidence already that Reo is a good guy, the episode closes with him sitting outside on the roof, making a toast to the sky in honor of his deceased friend, Yosuke. Hana joins him, asking what he’s doing, and he shows her the key Yosuke used when he was on “Terrace House: Boys x Girls Next Door.”
“He was a close friend of mine,” Reo tells her. “The person who encouraged me to join ‘Terrace House’ was him. But he had to leave to become a star. … The best thing I could do was keep my promise to him and live life to the fullest for the both of us.” He speaks so warmly about his friend, sharing anecdotes about the time they shared. I even surprised myself by tearing up a bit.
More screen time for Reo, please and thank you. He is the calm my nerves need during the age of COVID-19.
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.