Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 3, Episode 5 of HBO's "Game of Thrones," titled "Kissed By Fire."
"I always hated the politics." -- Ser Barristan Selmy
What happens when passion collides with politics? If the two forces come into conflict, which wins out? And how does the clash affect everyone watching it from the sidelines?
This week's exciting episode, "Kissed by Fire," presented the Westerosi with many of those questions. And they generally answered them the same way: Passion beats politics ... which often spells trouble for innocent (and not-so-innocent) bystanders. North of the Wall, Jon surrendered to his lust for Ygritte, defying his oath in the process. Loras Tyrell revealed his secret betrothal to Sansa Stark to a sexy male fling under Petyr Baelish's employ. And Robb Stark, most ominously, let his passion for justice override his desire for military supremacy. Only the characters with the most adamantine wills -- Littlefinger, Olenna, Tywin -- seem to be able to decide how to act without concern for their own momentary pleasure.
The Power Rankings
Using a complex algorithm that takes into account each player's wealth, military might and dominion over lands, along with a "bonus" factor that adjusts for unquantifiable assets that could influence events, we've surveyed the lay of the land to figure out who is winning the game of thrones after the fifth episode of season three of "Game of Thrones," entitled "Kissed By Fire."
1. Tywin Lannister (Last Episode: 1) In his one scene this episode, Tywin continued his habit of modeling excellent fatherhood. He sat his children down in his dark home office in the Red Keep and demanded that they marry nobles several decades younger than themselves, whom they don't love, who would present political advantages for the Lannister family. Tyrion is assigned to marry poor Sansa Stark, who will be the "key to the north" if Tywin can defeat her older brother Robb. This pleases Cersei plenty -- until she learns that Tywin wants her to marry Loras Tyrell, whose position as heir to Highgarden supersedes his homosexuality in Tywin's eyes. She's as upset as she is furious at being asked to marry for political gain again. But Tywin refuses to even acknowledge his children's complaints. "My children ... you've disgraced the Lannister name for far too long," he shouts. If these two marriages happen, the Lannisters will effectively control the entire country. Tywin's not nice, but he is smart.
2. Margaery & Olenna Tyrell (Last Episode: 2) Tyrion approaches the Queen of Thorns early this episode to ask the Tyrells to help pay for the "extravagant" royal wedding. At first, she feigns ignorance about financial matters. But when Tyrion presses his point, she suddenly reveals deep knowledge of the Tyrell contribution to the war effort: 12,000 infrantrymen, 1,800 mounted lances, "2,000 in support" (whatever that means), one million bushels of wheat, half a million bushels each of barley, oats and rye, 20,000 head of cattle and 50,000 sheep. Still, she agrees, eventually, to pay for half the wedding. She can afford it. But that doesn't stop Tywin from planning to foil her grand plan to marry Loras off to Sansa and secure Tyrell control of the north.
3. Daenerys Targaryen (Last Episode: 3) Dany's marching her fearsome army of eunuchs and dragons north -- toward the large slaver city of Yunkai, if a change in the opening credits is to be believed. As they ride, her increasingly devoted underlings get to talking. Sers Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont trade war stories and discuss the notion of loyalty. Selmy opines that both the kings he's served have been corrupt and selfish.
"I want to know what it's like to serve with pride. To fight for someone I believe in," he says. "Do you believe in her?" he asks Mormont, pointing toward Danaerys.
"With all my heart," Mormont responds.
Meanwhile, the Unsullied are electing their own officers from their ranks, at Dany's behest. When they present their chosen general to the Khaleesi, she's surprised to hear that they're all named after vermin. She urges them to pick new names that are less embarrassing. But Grey Worm, the new head of the Unsullied, touchingly refuses, explaining that he's proud to bear the name under which he was liberated by Danaerys Stormborn. Two episodes ago, Barristan Selmy expressed his misgivings about Dany leading a slave army into Westeros rather than an army of free men -- but that scene should quash any lingering reservations.
4. Joffrey Baratheon (Last Episode: 5) We don't see Joffrey this episode, but his position as King is strengthened by Tywin's machinations -- and the fracturing of the Northern army.
5. Robb Stark (Last Episode: 4) This was a truly disastrous episode for Robb. One of his chief vassals, Rickard Karstark, murders two young Lannister hostages as symbolic revenge for Jaime's killing of his sons. Robb orders everyone who helped kill them hanged -- except Lord Karstark. Robb emulates his father by swinging the blade to kill him himself. But not before Rickard accuses him of being a kinslayer, noting that Stark and Karstark have the same ancestors. "You are no king of mine," he says, moments before King Robb cuts his head off, while the ominous music that played as Theon decapitated Rodrik Cassel swells over the sound of the rain. At least Robb manages to execute Rickard with just one swing of his sword. But as a result, the Karstark forces desert him, heading back north to Karhold and halving his army. Robb, feeling cornered and outnumbered by the Lannisters, resolves to march toward the Twins to ask for reinforcements from the powerful Freys -- the people he betrayed by marrying Talisa.
These characters are important, but don't make it to the top five in our Power Rankings -- yet.
Brienne of Tarth & Jaime LannisterThis episode, brought to you by Lovers of Men's Bare Butts. But really -- Jaime, Jon, and Loras all pull down their pants this episode. Locke and his bandits hand over their captives to Roose Bolton, who gives Jaime to the once-maester Qyburn. Refusing anesthetic and refusing amputation, Jaime has his hand cauterized, screaming almost as loudly as he did when it was cut off. Jaime strips down and joins the already naked Brienne in the tub, in a scene that begins in a way that recalls "Cruel Intentions." After he provokes her into standing up, he tells her the story behind how he became the Kingslayer. It's a doozy. He speaks of the mad king, his obsession with burning anyone against him, his paranoia, his order that Jaime bring him Tywin's head, and how he stabbed Aerys in the back and slit his throat to make sure he was dead.
"Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women and children were burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?" he asks Brienne.
Ned Stark finds him there, and judges him as guilty. "By what right does the wolf judge the lion?" Jaime asks, before collapsing. Brienne calls out that the Kingslayer needs help --
"Jaime. My name is Jaime," he says.
Cersei Lannister Cersei commissions Lord Baelish to find out the Tyrell's intentions. But his success ends up being her downfall when she reveals their plot to her father. Because she's to be married off to Loras Tyrell, prompting her to shout, "I'm the Queen Regent, not a broodmare!" Important question: Would you rather be a broodmare or Tywin Lannister's daughter?
Tyrion Lannister This week's episode summary tells us that "Tyrion learns the cost of weddings." This is true, in more ways than one. Following an entertaining conversational tennis match with the Lady Olenna (who, in response to Tyrion's complaints about the costs of weddings, reels off the entire litany of the support the Tyrells are providing the crown). She reminds Tyrion that the common people, lacking distraction, will violently create their own, then dismisses the much-abused Tyrion as a "browbeaten bookkeeper." Tyrion continues on to a meeting with his father and sister where Tywin reveals that he's found out about the Tyrell's plot to secure Sansa (now Winterfell's heir), and his solution -- he's found her a new husband -- Tyrion.
"Joffrey has made this poor girl's life miserable since the day he took her father's head," he says. "Now she's finally free of him and you give her to me? That's cruel, even for you."
Tywin's not having it. This is Tyrion's reward, he says, for his battle service.
Sansa Stark Was there ever anyone as oblivious as Sansa Stark? It's hard being a tween, especially when your new best friend is marrying your psychotic ex-fiancee and your new secret fiancee is sleeping with (and gabbing to) squires. When Petyr asks her if she still wants to leave, she hedges.
"Your hair, it's different," he tells her. "Lady Margaery wears it that way."
She says she wants to wait before escaping King's Landing.
"I want you to know that I'm your friend," he tells her, a little creepily. "Your true friend." Only true friends, after all, mastermind your engagement to the kingdom's favorite disfigured dwarf.
Arya Stark Beric Dondarrion prepares for his duel with the Hound by slicing open his hand and lighting his sword on fire. Clegane, who hates fire, manages to kill Dondarrion, but he doesn't stay dead. "Burn in hell!" screams Arya. "He will but not today," answers the revived Dondarrion. Clegane is led off with a bag on his head, while Dondarrion affirms that in the eyes of his god, he is innocent. Besides, Dondarrion has died and returned six times already. He knows Arya is angry with him, but when she asks if they could bring a headless man back to life, he once again fails to give her the answer she seeks. Arya's Very Bad Day continues as Gendry informs her he'll be staying with the Brotherhood. He's had a taste of democracy now and even Arya's promise that she'll be his family isn't enough to sway him. Joffrey. Cersei. Ilyn Payne. Ser Meryn. The Hound. This is Arya's Christmas list of people she wants dead.
Jon Snow Our Lord Snow is forced to tell Tormund Giantsbane which of the Night's Watch castles are armed, and is warned that his guts will be pulled through his shirt should he be lying. Ygritte, ostensibly seeking to distract him from these worries, pulls Jon into a cave and promptly deflowers him, hitting orgasm while repeating, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." Steamy cave pool makeout sesh ensues. For those who find these scenes over-the-top, it should be noted that Jon and Ygritte's exchange is almost word-for-word faithful to the book's version of the tale (except that in the books, Ygritte has already told the other Wildlings that she and Jon are together.)
Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish Littlefinger deftly masterminds the marriage plot surrounding Sansa while seeming to remain less consequential than he is. Cersei seems to force Petyr to spy on the Tyrells for her, and he complies by sending Loras a frisky "squire" named Oliver. Littlefinger's rewarded with the knowledge that the Tyrells plan to marry Loras to Sansa (not actually possible, at this point, in the books for reasons we will leave unspoiled for non-readers). His information results in a new betrothal.
Stannis Baratheon We finally meet Stannis's actual wife, Selyse, whose deranged zealotry helps explain why Dragonstone seems so bleak and Stannis so stressed. Like Melisandre, Selyse is wholly devoted to the Lord of Light, to the point where she tells Stannis that she wept with joy when she heard that he'd "impregnated" his red priestess. Also, she keeps her three stillborn sons in big glass jars. (One of them is apparently named Edric -- a reference to a bastard of Robert Baratheon's in the books who was excised from the show.) She keeps her daughter in a cage as well, but for different reasons. Stannis visits that daughter, Shireen, who has a scaly rash across her face. When she asks about her friend Davos, her father tells her he's rotting in the dungeon.
Davos SeaworthStannis's brusque dismissal of Davos's fate can't stop Shireen from visiting her only friend. Stannis tells her she should leave, that he deserves the dungeon for having disobeyed her father. But she's brought him a book on Aegon, which forces him to confess his illiteracy. She promises she'll teach him. First lesson: Aeg sounds like Egg (a small nod to Martin's GoT prequel "Tales of Dunk and Egg").
"Game of Thrones" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.