I have a big problem with this episode and this time it's not because it upends the Higurashi status quo. I just find the moral of it pretty reprehensible. Until this episode, Rika didn't know why she was pulled back into the looping week of death, betrayal, and torture. All she knew is that she wanted to escape and return to the new future she had started to experience at her fancy high school. She had experienced a literal century of trauma in the secluded hills of Hinamizawa and when she saw an opportunity to get out, she did.
Well, apparently that's disrespectful. Rika is told this by her tearful best friend and Hinamizawa Syndrome sufferer Satoko as she disembowels Rika and twists her guts. Rika's actions have cursed her by Oyashiro-sama. She didn't appreciate her new freedom appropriately; by staying with her friends in the small, podunk town. Her choice to leave Hinamizawa is treated like its tantamount to abandoning her friendships and memories. The only way to escape her gruesome fate is to apologize.
So my problem here is that I don't think Rika has done anything wrong. There hasn't been much in her behavior that suggested she has grown to look down on her friends, something that would make this plot point sit better for me. Her desire to explore a world outside the one she was trapped in for 100 years is natural and she should get to do nice things for herself. Going beyond your boundaries is a natural part of growing up! That said, I also wouldn't be surprised if this isn't the whole picture. It seems equally possible that there is another looper (otherwise why have the set-up about the sword?) threatening to upend Hinamizawa. The episode closes with Rika confronting Miyo who is still a potential problem.
Personally, it'd be interesting if the show decided to go forward from here by connecting more of the metaphysical elements from Umineko. I'd be disappointed if everything prior to this episode is treated as an alternate branch that rejoins the original narrative, especially given that the anime is just out and out assuming everyone is familiar with Hinamizawa Syndrome and Satoko's injections now. Would it be helpful to anyone if I broke that down or would you rather just go surf the Higurashi wikia?
As an aside: Passione really went all in on the little girl bathing suits, huh? Blech.
My episode rating should only be considered reflective of how I feel about the narrative as it currently stands. I was down with Higurashi's former central moral ("trust your friends and support them") but the extension posited in this episode seems very focused of withholding your own dreams and growth in favor of the collective and to be satisfied with what you have. I just don't jive with that.