Although last week's episode was awesome, I bemoaned its almost total lack of sexy times. This episode made up for it with not one but two hot-tub scenes, at least two cases of Grade-A man ass, and some equal-opportunity nudity for the lady lovers. It also set up plotlines for the next chunk of the season and gave us important insights into several characters. And their butts.
Though interestingly, one of this episode's lovers was remarkably well clothed. Jon Snow and the Wildling Bunch talked some more about attacking the Wall, with Orell and Jormund Giantsbane prying info out of Jon about the defenses of the Night's Watch. Jon mostly told the truth, but lied when he said that 1000 men are garrisoned at Castle Black. Orell and Jormund remain unconvinced, but Ygritte is all about Jon Snow. And she wanted to make sure that he was serious about that oath-breaking, as she led him into a picturesque cave with a medieval Jacuzzi and stripped down to nothing. Ygritte didn't have to persuade Jon too much to throw away his vow of chastity, and in short order she discovered that there's apparently one thing Jon DOES know. It involves his mouth. Filthy. I couldn't help but notice that we barely saw any of Kit Harrington in those scenes, even as Rose Leslie gave us the Full Ygritte. Just so we're keeping track, Jon is getting down with a hot lady in a natural hot spring, and his Watch mates are starving, freezing, and slaughtering one another in a glorified pig pen. Enjoy this moment, Jon, because it all goes to hell in short order. (And I guess they're completely ditching the Wall-breaking horn subplot from the book? Admittedly, it kind of went nowhere...)
Speaking of Stark-related happiness that turns to shit, King Robb's kingdom crumbled to dust in one episode. The Karstarks -- seeking vengeance for the deaths of their kin - broke into the cells holding the two young Lannister cousins and murdered them in cold blood. This put Robb in an uncomfortable position. His wife and his mother both encouraged him to hold Lord Karstark as a hostage, since Karstark's forces - which totaled half of his army - would surely leave should he be executed for his crimes. But Robb, like his father, is a noble, just man. And like his father, that screwed him over, as he beheaded Lord Karstark and had the rest of the band of murderers hanged. The remaining Karstarks instantly defected, leaving Robb's military might significantly diminished. His last hope in winning the war against the Lannisters? Taking Casterly Rock whilst the opposing forces are ensconced in King's Landing. But to do that, Robb needs the help of Lord Walder Frey -- the man whose daughter he was supposed to marry. Do you hear that drum in the distance? It sounds like it's saying, "Doom, doom, doom..."
Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne ended up in Harrenhall, under the care of Lord Bolton. I believe. I will confess, at this point I find it difficult to keep track of who is in control of Harrenhall, and who is holding Jamie hostage this week. It's all blending together. I believe Bolton is the person currently in charge, and I think he's supposed to be one of Robb Stark's men. But I also believe he's clever enough to know that the Young Wolf is done, which is why he's being so careful with the potential golden goose that is Jaime. Qyburn, his deposed Maester, was less delicate with poor Mr. Lannister, as he dug around in the necrotic flesh of his arm stump to root out "the corruption." Later Jaime joined Brienne for a nice hot bath and we got some gratuitous back-end footage of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (not complaining). But more importantly, there was a really important moment for the two characters in which a wounded, exhausted Jaime confessed to Brienne precisely why he had to murder King Aerys. It was a great scene, and Coster-Waldau's Emmy nomination reel should pretty much be in the bag at this point.
The remainder of Jaime's family had a delightful episode (minus those teenaged cousins who got slaughtered), as Tyrion got a great scene with the Queen of Thorns (exclusive to the show, and basically just an excuse to give Diana Rigg more screentime - again, not complaining), and then Lord Tyrion played matchmaker for both Tyrion and Cersei. The dominos that have been stacking up around Sansa Stark for the past few weeks tumbled quite quickly, as Littlefinger got wind of the Tyrells' plans to marry Sansa off to Sir Loras. (This was ferreted out by one of Littlefinger's hunky male whores seducing Loras with a quickness - guess Loras has moved on from poor Renly.) Littlefinger then reported back to Cersei, even as he backed Sansa into a corner without her even realizing it in one of the more chilling displays of Aidan Gillen's affect-free acting we've seen yet. Tywin, being the practical man he is, came up with a plan that would cement his family's place of power and lock down the wild cards springing up everywhere: marry Cersei off to Loras, and marry Sansa off to Tyrion. Neither of his kids received that prospect warmly, but Tywin was out of fucks to give, blatantly telling his children that they are massive disappointments. A few notes: I don't recall the Cersei/Loras pairing being floated in the books, and Lena Headey was absolutely fantastic in that scene, practically squirming to keep Cersei from bursting into a cheshire grin while telling Tyrion about that vicious, vicious plot of hers.
In the River Lands Sansa's sister was learning yet more lessons about justice and those who deserve it. Sir Berric took on The Hound in a trial by combat. It was a robust fight scene, including Berric wielding a flaming sword that a friend of mine referred to as "a medieval lightsaber." Ultimately The Hound prevailed (although, I did not see The Hound's crippling fear of fire relayed in any significant way; it could have been anyone facing off against Berric in that scene), delivering Berric a fatal blow between his shoulder and neck. Except, it wasn't quite so fatal. After Berric fell, Thoros of Myr rushed to his side, whispered some words and - boom - Berric was back. The two of them relayed to Arya that this was in fact the sixth time that Thoros has revived Berric from the dead, using the power of the Lord of Light. (Interesting side note: in the books it is mentioned that Thoros was basically a nonbeliever, a drunken louse who nobody took seriously. Then suddenly he discovered that the powers he had been joking about having for years were actually quite real, right around the time Daenerys's dragons hatched. These things are all connected...)
Dany herself got a brief scene in which she met the self-elected leader of her new army, The Unsullied. His name is Grey Worm, as all Unsullied choose their own names based on vermin, to remind them of how low they are. Dany asked all of her soldiers to take new names that they could be proud of, and Grey Worm said that he likes his name - it is lucky, since it is the name he had when Dany made him a free man. If that whole fearless-warrior thing doesn't work out, Grey Worm has a big future ahead of him writing inspirational Facebook memes. Meanwhile, Sir Jorah compared notes with Baristan Selmy, sneakily trying to determine if Selmy knew that Jorah had been sending reports on Dany's progress back to Robert before his death. This is an interesting dynamic we never saw in the books, since neither one has been a narrator. And it establishes that Jorah knows that his past betrayals are going to come back to bite him in the ass.
Finally, we got several fascinating scenes with Stannis Baratheon on Dragonstone. Melisandre was nowhere to be seen, off on whatever mysterious errand she left to run last episode. Instead we finally got to meet Stannis's actual wife, Selyse, and his daughter, Shireen. In the novels Selyse is barely shown, and when she's described it's not flattering. She's supposed to be unattractive, cold, and borderline insufferable - Stannis is with her out of obligation. That doesn't seem to be the case here. I wouldn't call the scenes between this episode at all romantic, but it's clear that there is at least a mutual respect, and Selyse seems to genuinely care for him. I never got that sense in the books. Selyse is also, however, pretty clearly nuts, keeping all of her stillborn sons in jars in her bedroom, and referring to them by name. She is way, way in deep with the Lord of Light stuff and has no problem with the fact that her husband is schtupping the Red Priestess, because it was in service to their god. OK, then. Meanwhile, Shireen is potentially the more fascinating character here. The show seems to have merged Shireen and her fool, Patchface, into one character. That's interesting, because Patchface has a weird importance for such a minor character. Those songs he sings -- which Shireen was singing this episode -- sound like nonsense, but may actually be prophecies about the Others, etc. And Patchface himself is a possible candidate for another prophecy that has been bandied about in the books (although Davos is the more likely candidate). The show did not even attempt to explain what was going on with Shireen's face, so allow me: she has grayscale, a disease that turns a person's skin into, essentially, stone. It is often fatal, but in Shireen's case it seems to have been arrested (later in the books we see what happens when it progresses unchecked, and it is not pretty). Shireen is a sweet girl, and Stannis obviously loves her even as he is troubled by how to interact with her. After he tells her that Davos is a traitor, she goes to visit the Onion Knight in the cells and starts teaching him how to read. I have no idea how much time the show is going to spend with Selyse and Shireen, but I loved the scenes this episode. These are two terribly undeveloped characters in the books, and getting to see Stannis interact with them gave me a better understanding of Stannis than I've gotten after reading about him in five books.NEXT: I have no idea, because HBO Go wouldn't work to show us the preview.