(Now that Pitohui’s all caught up with “Refrain”, let’s get back to the story.)
The episode opens on an ecstatic Llenn at finding a replacement for her P-chan, damaged in the first Squad Jam. Shortly after running into Boss (Saki, offline) in GGO, the scene quickly cuts to the excited real-world team of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Club (aka SHINC) that LM beat in the first Squad Jam. Wanting to improve their skills against players like Llenn, they gather at her house to talk videogames.
We finally get to watch as they pair real world persona with their online avatar. Kana, and her plus-sized brunette – Sophie; The blond real world Mi, and Toma, the only member of the team in-game that can drive; Shiori and her avatar Roza; the shy Moe-chan and her blond sassy avatar; Risa and her ghostly avatar Tanya. We finally learn how they got into a game like GGO (escapism, not unlike Karen’s own reasoning, and teambuilding), and Karen breaks the news that she doesn’t think she’d participate in another battle royale for a while.
In a visit to Hokkaido, Karen gets caught up with her friend Miyu over Kareoke. Miyu, like Pito, has had a chance to review the game feed since she saw Karen last, and Karen shares why M split off from her near the end of the game, and both are glad Karen seems rid of him.
Except that she returns home to find M (later introduced as Goushi Asougi) waiting for her in the flesh, that is. While he doesn’t have anything to prove that he really is M, he shares that Pitohui has a death wish linked to the first SAO incident, and that she wants someone to fill that need for her – a true fight of her life.
M explains – If only Pito’s close friend, a worthy adversary, Llenn, were to fight her, then she’ll feel complete in her quest and keep on living. Otherwise, she’ll just take her own life if she’s not taken down by Llenn in-game, and take Goushi’s life as well. And why not seek out a professional? Goushi explains that he deeply loves Pito (in a way that sounds more like obsession, respect, and fear). After his confession, Goushi begs for Karen to help by killing Pito in the next Squad Jam, and eventually she agrees to sign up.
From the point at which M re-enters her world in the form of Goushi, the dramatic music increases, a clear sense of foreboding. Also, there’s the sheer creep factor of having someone you have only met online, twice, waiting for you outside your home. It’s a wonder she agreed to anything at all.