Characters are getting cleaned up and married off in this week's episode "Kissed By Fire"

By James Hibberd
April 29, 2013 at 02:30 AM EDT
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Who knew Westeros had more hot tubs than Miami?

This week’s Game of Thrones featured Jon Snow and Ygritte stripping for steamy hot spring sex and Jaime and Brienne emotionally baring themselves in a tub as the fantasy hit continued its third-season streak of gripping episodes. Last week’s stunner was a very tough act to follow. Tonight there were a couple sluggish moments (they should just call the city Draggin’ Stone), yet otherwise Thrones kept up its strong pace. So grab your rubber duckies and water wings, it’s time for everybody to get into the pool for this week’s recap.

Brotherhood Without Banners Hideout: We pick up with last week’s Trial by Combat cliffhanger with Beric vs. The Hound. Beric rubs some blood on his sword and it catches fire. We’re not exactly sure why this happens, but we’re assuming it has something to do with Beric’s tight relationship with his fire-obsessed god the Lord of Light. Besides, who cares why? It looks cool when they fight, and it’s the closest in Thrones we’re getting to a lightsaber.

Beric and The Hound duel. It’s brutal and intense. Beric swings his massive flaming broadsword as The Hound recoils (he’s terrified of fire ever since his face was burned off by his brother The Mountain). Sword fighting in a tight cave isn’t the wisest idea and witnesses, including Arya, scamper out of the way to avoid getting skewered. The same thing happened during the Trial by Combat in the first season at the Eyrie; you’d think folks would know to give them more room. Beric knocks The Hound into downward dog on the floor. Arya shows raging blood lust, screaming, “Kill him!” But then The Hound delivers a killing blow, winning his freedom. Arya is pissed. She grabs a tiny knife and tries to kill The Hound herself, screaming, “Burn in hell!”

We’ve never seen Arya like this before. I suspect her anger is less about The Hound and the Butcher’s Boy but wanting to get revenge on at least one name on her Death Wish List.

Beric’s priest Thoros rushes to Beric and says some prayer and he pops up again — alive.

Wildling Camp: Tormund Giantsbane is grilling Jon Snow about The Wall’s defenses. We learn there are 19 strongholds defending The Wall, but only three are still guarded. He reluctantly gives up intel, though we’re pretty sure he’s lying about Castle Black having 1,000 men. Jon is warned, yet again, that if he’s deceiving the Wildlings he’s a dead man.

Then Ygritte somehow magically swipes Jon’s massive sword out of his scabbard like it’s a pen from his pocket. She runs into the local make-out cave, which is somehow well-lit and has a hot spring. You’d think there would be a line to use this place.

NEXT: Hot springs eternal

She strips. “You swore some vows; I want you to break them.” Jon is all conflicted. God knows why. I guess it’s because he vowed celibacy and he doesn’t want to risk having a bastard kid. But if he turns her down, she’ll know for sure he’s still a Crow. Jaime famously said, “The things I do for love.” For Jon, it’s the things he does for duty.

Ygritte fulfills a fantasy of some Jon Snow fans by running her hands through his bushy hair. Then she delivers her catchphrase: “You know nothing, Jon Snow” — as he dives into her Wildling patch. Clearly, Jon Snow does indeed know a thing or two. Though presumably not as much as Podrick.

Afterward Jon is … what is that on his face? It’s so weird. Is that … a smile? It is! Then Ygritte starts talking about all her ex-lovers and Jon gets irritated pretty quick for somebody who had to be talked into doing something with her just a few minutes ago. She notes that she’s been deemed “kissed by fire,” an affectionate Wildling term for having herpes for having lucky red hair.

Then Ygritte asks Jon a question I’m often thinking while watching characters on Thrones: “How long has it been since you had a bath?”

She jumps into the steamy pool and he joins her. You’d think they would have done that before fooling around, but okay. “Let’s not go back,” she says. “I don’t ever want to leave this cave, Jon Snow.” It’s a nice moment. I wonder if he’s tempted to tell Ygritte to just call him by his first name, though. It’s like being called “Jon Bastard” all the time, which can’t help his comfort level with all this.

Harrenhal: Jaime and Brienne are brought to the home of one of Robb’s bannermen, Roose Bolton. We’re not really sure about this guy. He seems civil enough, then seems to sadistically enjoy letting Jaime twist in the wind on whether his sister is alive.

Jaime is taken to Qyburn, that sole survivor at Harrenhal that Robb discovered in the season premiere. We learn he was a maester but was stripped of his license (and massive clunky chain — good riddance) for performing medical experiments that were “too bold.” They debate how to handle Jaime’s wound and he insists on having Qyburn treat him without any Milk of the Poppy (a term that one viewer wonderfully mistook in season 1 for “Milk of the Puppy”). Jaime comes across like he’s being masochistic, but he simply doesn’t trust Qyburn enough to allow himself to be sedated. Who knows how many limbs he’d wake up with.

King’s Landing: It’s like each cast member gets a one-on-one scene with Diana Rigg. This week it’s Tyrion’s turn as he wearily makes the case of the Tyrells helping pay for the royal wedding. The Queen of Thorns debates him into the floor, picking apart all of his arguments. Then agrees to pay for half the ceremony anyway, shocking him. She wanted to make it clear this is entirely voluntary  and not out of any obligation. She also smacks him for failing to live up to his drunken debauched reputation and instead coming off like a “brow-beaten bookkeeper.” But you can hardly blame Tyrion for not feeling passionate about an accounting job.

Rivverun: A disturbing sequence as the captive Lannister kids are awoken by a commotion outside — it’s Robb’s grumpy-cat bannerman Karstark and some of his men. This scene is really effective because it’s entirely shot from the kids’ point of view; we’re just as confused as they are. Karstark bursts in and kills them.

Later, Robb is furious. Also, he’s rocking that leather jacket. Between the chest-baring jacket, curly hair and beard, the King in the North is just one gold medallion away from posing for a 1970s album cover. His mom Catelyn is wrapped up in an unflattering green bathrobe, though.

NEXT: Robb’s wrath

Karstark (whose son was killed by Jaime Lannister during his escape attempt) taunts Robb, saying he’s just going to scold him and let him go. I bet the men captured along with him right now are thinking, Shuuuut up! Robb orders Karstark locked away and his henchman hanged. One pipes up that he only watched the guards and didn’t do anything. “This one is the watcher,” Robb says. “Hang him last so he can watch the others die.” Boom! That’s what you get for bitchin’.

Robb’s wife, mom, and her brother Edmure all urge him to hold Karstark as a hostage. Otherwise, they’ll lose the support of his men. Robb’s wife in this show is quite different than his wife in the books and some have speculated darkly on the boards that she might have been re-fashioned as a Lannister spy. But with this scene it seems not — her advice is clearly in his best interest.

Robb ignores them. Karstark called him a wimp. He practically dared him to do it. In a great scene, Robb has Karstark taken out to a garden and chops off his head, just like his father taught him in the premiere. In my favorite shot in this episode, Robb storms away in rain, fist-clenching, furious (this week’s director, Alex Graves, also helmed last week’s hour).

Robb’s decision seems out of character. The move feels like the culmination of so much that’s frustrated him during his campaign. Remember, it’s tough to be the decider. Perhaps one day there will be a Robb Stark Library with a Decision Point Theater where visitors can test themselves with the same multiple-choice options.

Sure enough, Robb has lost half his forces. But then he gets an idea — since the Lannisters won’t fight them in the open, and he’s not strong enough to taken King’s Landing, he will instead attack the Lannister home of Casterly Rock. Then Tywin will be forced to negotiate with him. “I’m going to take their home away from them,” he says.

In order to pull this off, however, he needs more men. The one man who might give help is Lord Frey, whose daughter he was supposed to marry.

Brotherhood Hideout: Gendry decides he’s going to stay on with the Brotherhood as their smith, annoying Arya. First Hot Pie ditches her for a day job, now Gendry, who likes the fraternity-vibe of the Brotherhood and figures he could do a lot worse. “I can be your family,” Arya says. “You won’t be my family. You’ll be m’lady,” he promises. Nice, yeah, but he’s still kind-of ditching her.

Later, Arya has a chat with Beric and Thoros. We learn the Brotherhood is going to take Arya to Riverrun and reunite her with Robb for a fee. Beric also says he has died six times and Thoros keeps bringing him back. There’s a big difference, fantasy fans know, between mostly dead and all dead. I’m unsure why Thoros was able to heal his bones and organs but not his eye. Perhaps the Lord of Light thinks eye patches look cool. Also, if Beric keeps getting into fights and keeps being killed over and over again, perhaps it’s time to retire and quit fighting people.

Dragonstone: Sullen Stannis pays his wife a visit. Yes, he has one. Of course, now that his sultry mistress Melisandre has taken off to parts unknown, Stannis wants attention from his devoted wife. The Hound’s not the only dog on this show.

NEXT: Tub of war

“I’ve sinned, I’ve wronged you, I’ve shamed you,” he says, dumping his guilt on her. But she’s actually cool with it. Seems she’s fallen under Melisandre’s spell too and is convinced their affair was what the Lord of Light wanted. Oh, that Red Woman is good! Stannis is stunned, and perhaps a tad bummed that he probably missed an opportunity for a three-way.

Then we see — ugh! — jars full of her stillborn babies. Rick Santorum has nothing on these two.

Stannis then goes down the hall to visit his daughter, who seems like she hasn’t seen him for a long time either. This is confusing — is Stannis keeping his wife and daughter locked up? But no, given the scene later with his daughter and Davos, they’re apparently free to roam around.

Anyway his daughter is all sweet and her face is scarred from having a disease called greyscale when she was an infant. (Greyscale is nasty; it’s contracted in damp climates and is sort of a cross between flesh-eating bacteria and leprosy). She wants to know about Davos, who is apparently really nice to her and made her a secret toy. Stannis brutally tells her that Davos is a traitor and is rotting away in the dungeon. Very nicely handled, Stannis. Surprised he didn’t add, “And there’s no Santa Claus, we all die someday and happy birthday.”

Harrenhal: Jaime crashes Brienne’s bath and his fans get some Kingslayer butt. Jaime starts reflexively insulting Brienne, like usual. When he makes one of his typical insults about her failing to protect Renly she overcomes her shyness and stands up, furious, exposing herself.

For perhaps the first time in his life, Jaime apologizes. It takes a moment for Brienne to realize he’s serious. “I trust you,” he says. “I’m sick of fighting.”

Jaime then launches into the story of why he killed the Mad King Aerys (I have this disconnect with Thrones where I have to remind myself that Aerys was Daenerys’ father — the two worlds just seem so far removed from each other). The Mad King was obsessed with Wildfire and had caches of it hidden around King’s Landing. When Jaime’s father Tywin showed up at the gates with his army swearing his allegiance ahead of rebel Robert Baratheon’s army, the Mad King ignored Jaime’s advice to surrender and instead took Pycelle’s counsel to let Twyin in the gates. Tywin sacked the city. Aerys told Jaime to ride out and kill his father and told his pyromancer to light the Wildfire — which would have destroyed King’s Landing and everybody in it. Jaime make the ridiculously correct decision to kill the king. Instead of explaining this to somebody like Ned Stark, he kept his reasoning to himself — he’s a proud Lannister lion, after all. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” he seethes.

Brienne watches this, riveted (as are we), and when he faints, Jaime tells her to call him by his true name.

Near Slaver’s Bay: We get a beat with Dany marching through the desert with her new soldiers.

Barristan and Jorah bond over war stories and bicker about the future. Barristan suggests Jorah will be a drag on the Dany ticket once they reach Westeros. That’s pretty rude and seems unlikely. She’s not running for office, she’s going to storm the country with thousands of Unsullied, three dragons and a rightful claim to the Iron Throne — who cares if one member of her cabinet doesn’t have a great reputation?

Meanwhile we finally see one of The Unsullied sans helmet. This one’s name is Grey Worm and we learn they were all given derogatory names. Dany wants them to choose names that empower them, but Grey Worm has decided his name is lucky because it’s the one he had the day Dany freed him.

King’s Landing: Sansa is watching Loras fight and getting all bothered. “Do you have any idea of when we might…” she begins to Margaery, a sentence that could end so many ways. Margaery continues the potential for innuendo by assuring she’ll “plant the seed” of Sansa marrying Loras after her own wedding to Joffrey.

NEXT: Weddings are coming

Later, Loras and his sparring partner get it on. Loras wants to know how he knew about his orientation. Turns out he’s not blessed with expert gaydar but was tipped off by his secret boss Littlefinger. He also wooed from Loras the Tyrell’s secret plan for him to marry Sansa.

So then Sansa and Littlefinger have a meeting where both flagrantly lie to each other. She makes it sound like she wants to stay in King’s Landing out of concern for him; Littlefinger pretends to be completely fine with it. You know he’s annoyed — he bought an extra feather bed for her! He also makes her kiss his hand, which is probably another way to get greyscale.

All this King’s Landing maneuvering is paid off in the episode’s final scene. Tyrion joins his father and sister for a meeting, and naturally Tywin is totally unimpressed with his successful haggling over the wedding. Cersei is beaming at Tyrion, which rightly makes him nervous. All three of these actors are great, of course, but Lena Headey is amazing with only a handful of lines here — every one of them is hugely entertaining.

Cersei is partly thrilled because her paranoia has finally payed off by Littlefinger discovering the Tyrell plot to marry Sansa to Loras. Tywin sees the maneuver in the darkest terms — “trying to steal the North out from under me” while predicting Robb’s “days are numbered.”

Tywin notes that “plots are not public knowledge” so they can kill the Tyrells’ plan without looking like they’re doing anything intentional. The solution is to have Sansa marry … Tyrion. He’s floored and revolted. “That’s cruel, even for you,” Tyrion says, and then he throws back at his father the sorest point of contention between them: Tyrion’s previous marriage, to the young woman who turned out to be a prostitute that his father ordered to be gang-raped by his men.

Cersei is delighted at Tyrion’s horror, but her happiness evaporates when Tywin reveals the other half of his plan — Cersei marry Loras. Cersei, of course, is in love with Jaime and absolutely hated being forced to wed Robert. The ever-pragmatic Tywin doesn’t care about the happiness of Sansa or his kids, only that their marriages will help secure the kingdom for the family. Legacy, legacy, legacy!

When Cersei protests, Tywin loses his temper like we haven’t seen before. He bellows at her that the marriage will “put an end to the disgusting rumors about you once and for all.” Ah ha! So Tywin does know about her and Jaime, at least in theory. All this time we’ve been wondering if Tyrion has been unfairly getting all of dad’s scorn while his sister has seemingly escaped his scrutiny, but no. Notice Tywin can’t bring himself to mention Jaime’s name when referencing this scandal. I bet he assumes if there is something going on between them that it’s all Cersei’s fault.

Tywin’s decision is a great example of George R.R. Martin’s twists — a surprising turn of events that you don’t see coming yet it all makes perfect sense and feels wholly earned. And look at what this means for us: There are now three potential weddings on the horizon — Joffrey and Margaery, Tyrion and Sansa, and Cersei and Loras. If she’s asked to help pay for two more weddings, I bet The Queen of Thorns isn’t going to need any prunes. And as much of an emotionally abusive father Tywin Lannister is, if he ran a corporation, who wouldn’t want to invest?

BEST LINE: Tough this week. I liked: “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?”

BEST SCENE: Jaime and Brienne in the bath, with that final scene with the Lannisters right behind.

Check out our interview with Kit Harington, Rose Leslie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie about this week’s bath scenes.

Game of Thrones episode titles are typically boring, often they’re some vaguely relevant Westrosi term or phrase that goes out of its way to not give any hint what actually happens in the episode. But next week’s episode has a blunt and descriptive title: “The Climb.” Ohh.

Now I have to set up some pitch meetings for a couple reality shows. First stop is HBO to pitch my unscripted hidden-camera docu-series Bathtub Confessionals — it’s all the candid human drama of Taxicab Confessions and the voyeurism of Cathouse rolled into one. Then it’s off to MTV and Syfy to pitch Trial by Combat. I could honestly see this one being a show. You know how people with minor legal disputes agree to have silly daytime clowns like Judge Judy or Joe Brown decide their case? Same thing, but instead the two parties duel in some kind of challenge to decide who prevails. Why it’s American Gladiators meets People’s Court! While I’m out pitching, sound off with your comments about this week below.

HBO’s epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.
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