What’s nice about this episode is that we get to see another relay. I’m a huge fan of the amount of actual competitive swimming already in Free! Eternal Summer!
There are two main focuses of this episode: setting up the Samezuka relay lineup for the remainder of the season, and highlighting the bad blood between Sousuke Yamazaki and Haruka Nanase. At the very beginning of the episode, we learn that Rin and Sousuke are still close friends, despite not having seen each other for five years. Sousuke transferred to Samezuka from a school in Tokyo with a strong swim team to, as he says, to relax and take it easy because he’s already been scouted and knows what he’s doing after high school. I anticipate that his real reason for transferring is to keep an eye on Rin—he seems to feel like Rin’s protector or something (more on this later).
Meanwhile, the Iwatobi Swim Club is still looking for new members, and Makoto and Haru are still trying to figure out what to do with their lives after high school. This is obviously going to be a focus for much of the season. Even if this plot point takes a back seat in many of the episodes, it will be an ever prescient problem for the two of them (and Rin), always on their minds.
We get glimpses of the Samezuka team practicing and glimpses of the Iwatobi team practicing, which is always nice. Every bit of actual swimming in this series is a godsend, in my opinion, not least of all because KyoAni does such a great job of animating it.
Samezuka’s team is rounded out by Seijuro Mikoshiba’s younger brother, Momotarou Mikoshiba who, it turns out, was an excellent backstroker in middle school. Thus far he seems a lot like a mini-Seijuro, what with his attraction to Gou Matsuoka and all, but I’m hoping he becomes his own character as the season progresses.
Perhaps the most important development in this episode is that we see Sousuke and Haruka interact. Sousuke seems to blame…something? on Haru and the others. He tells Haru that he saw the relay at regionals last year and saw that they “dragged Rin into it” and threatens him not to “get in Rin’s way.” It’s pretty clear that it’s not just the relay itself that bothers him; something must have happened in the past when it comes to Rin that has made Sousuke angry with Haru. This will definitely need further explanation down the road, as I refuse to believe Sousuke is literally mad about the relay at regionals; after all, Rin was actually happier after swimming with his childhood friends. This is a development definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.