There was really no way this episode was going to live up to the colossal blockbuster that was episode 16, and it didn’t really try. There was considerable buildup to Killua’s quest for six points, as he’s been almost entirely unheard from during the entire trial, but in the end the only real surprise is that he managed to get his tag without killing anyone. His target’s tag and two extras, in fact, as his target is one of three “brothers” who’s been stalking him, waiting for him to slip up (that’ll be a long wait). The fact that no one died is partly due to Killua’s slightly out-of-character restraint, and due to the fact that the leader of the trio, #199, was smart enough to see when he was beaten and give up his tag without a fight. Killua even took the trouble of deceiving the candidate who’d been trailing #197, the youngest of the brothers and the one stalking him, by getting him to chase after the one wrong of Killua’s “extra” tags.
Killua and Hisoka seem to be the most unbeatable figures in this contest, and aside from each other Gon appears to be the only one strong enough to cause either a problem (I don’t know about that “Gittrackur” guy though…) so there was never likely to be much drama surrounding Killua this time. No, the focus quickly shifted to Leorio and Kurapika. As you recall Kurapika already had his six points even with the “blood money” tags he gave to Hisoka, but Leorio is still sitting on three. Kurapika is nothing if not loyal, following through on his pledge to help Leorio, but for four days they have no luck finding his target (or anyone else) until Gon drops in.
This was a quietly important ep for Gon, I think, in that we left him in a pretty bad place last time. He’s sporting a nasty bruise on his cheek and no doubt some serious mental ones, too, but the point of is appearance, I think, is to show that he’s fundamentally unchanged. He did his pouting and his stewing in the tree, but he’s still willing to go to bat for his friends and still possesses abilities that no one else in the group has. He’s man enough to stop feeling sorry for himself and deal with reality, though he’s physically just a kid. In short, he’s over it – though no doubt still nursing a grudge of galactic proportions – and he uses his super-smell to help Leorio track down his target, the young woman Ponzu who uses chemical weapons as her preferred method of attack. Gon finds her in a small cave, where Leorio insists he go in alone and that the others not help him – a condition which they both flatly refuse.
This has to be awfully hard for Leorio. He’s working with three kids, two of them preteens, and they’re all running rings around him. Frankly he wouldn’t be alive without their help, and it doesn’t look like he’d have any chance to get six points without them either. By the time they eventually follow him into the cave, Leorio is already in deep trouble, having been bitten numerous times by poisonous vipers belonging to Bourbon, the snake charmer – who’d apparently set up the cave as a trap and caught Ponzu in the process. I’m not sure just what to make of this scenario, especially when Ponzu says Bourbon is dead and she’s just as trapped as they are. I can only think that she was lured in by Bourbon and killed him using one of her own chemical weapons – not realizing that he’d made it impossible for her to leave without his calling off the snakes.
Things couldn’t look much worse for Leorio. Not only is he riddled with venom – even after Gon tried to suck out the poison – but he can’t leave the cave to seek help, much less try and pass the test. For that matter, if Kurapika and Gon can’t escape they can’t present their tags, either. Gon being a sort of beastmaster himself would seem to be the most likely to be able to deal with the snakes – he’s already shown himself abnormally resistant to Geretta’s toxin too – but if anything, the dramatics of the scenario seem to be demanding that Leorio do something to redeem himself. He’s been pretty much a useless appendage to this point and if he can only pass on the charity of the kids, he’ll be nursing a grudge as big as the one Gon is nursing against Hisoka.