Not to put too fine a point on it, but Theon Greyjoy is screwed.
The eponymous "Prince" of this week's episode started out with the best of intentions: seeking to win back his father's favor after Balon declared himself King of the Iron Islands, he naturally -- and foolishly -- assumed a little mission creep might advance the old man's cause and win himself a little much-needed respect.
Unfortunately, hubris is a rather unforgiving character flaw. Starting with the botched execution of Ser Rodrik and ending with the murders of "Bran" and "Rickon," Theon has worked himself into a corner from which it looks like no one can free him.
Plus, Jon's been captured by wildlings, Daenerys's dragons are still missing and war is coming to King's Landing.
Fittingly, we start things off at Pyke East, a.k.a. Winterfell. Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) has finally responded to little brother's summons, though probably not in the manner he was hoping, bringing a mere handful of men and asking him if he's "the dumbest cunt alive" Rather than reinforce his position, she's come to bring him home, correctly pointing out Winterfell is hundreds of miles from supply, and oh, yeah, those Stark kids were kind of fondly regarded, if not valuable as hostages. Theon makes it hard to be sympathetic.
Yara is unexpectedly nice to Theon (Alfie Allen) -- once her men are out of the room -- expressing her wish that he not die so far from the sea, but he rigidly insists on staying. As I mentioned earlier, he's hard to sympathize with.
No touchy-feely sentiments will be in the offing from Robb Stark (Richard Madden), who tells Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) to send his bastard son to take Winterfell back and kill Theon. And that's all without yet hearing the news of Bran and Rickon's quote-unquote deaths.
This is a pretty Robb-heavy episode. Not only does he continue to enjoy the company of the fetching Talisa from Volantis (and how!), he is also informed of the escape of one Jaime Lannister, freed by none other than his own mother. Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), distraught at the news of Theon seizing her other sons (again, she ain't heard nothing yet), decides in a fit of maternal pique to send Jaime back to King's Landing in exchange for Sansa and Arya. Neither Robb nor Rickard Karstark (John Stahl) is pleased by the news.
North of the Wall, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) presents Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) to the Lord of Bones, a kind of wildling field marshal. She manages to keep him from killing Jon, even though it looks like they've also captured Qhorin Halfhand, who understandably begrudges Jon for the deaths of the other rangers lost searching for him when he failed to kill Ygritte. On the other hand, he realizes Jon might be the Watch's best chance to figure out what Mance Rayder is up to.
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) isn't alone, as Catelyn has sent her briefly serving bodyguard Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to escort him home. The combination of caustic Kingslayer and honorable-to-a-fault would-be knight is sure to make for future hijinx. And maybe we'll get to see them fight each other.
Over in Harrehal. Lord Tywin (Charles Dance) is holding his war council. He plans to march that night to get the jump on Robb, leaving Gregor in charge. Arya (Maisie Williams) wisely decides now might be the best time to get the hell out of Dodge and is desperately seeking Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) again, this time to whack Tywin. Unfortunately, he can't promise to do the job in time, and so she gives him the final name: Jaqen H'ghar. Despite his assertion that Arya "lacks honor," he still kills the castle's gate guards, clearing the way for Arya, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie to flee.
Back in King's Landing, Tyrion and Bronn discuss siege tactics, with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) reminding him how valuable food will be (as a justification for why he had the city watch kill all the thieves). Tyrion takes note of the Mud Gate, where Stannis is most likely to land. His "pig shit" comment recalls Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, leading us to believe Stannis is in for a massive methane welcome.
At the Fist, Grenn, Edd and Sam (John Bradley) are digging latrine trenches (it's a man's life in the Night's Watch) and find something left by the First Men. A cache of "dragonglass" arrowheads and daggers buried in the snow. These are certainly of some import, but I guess it was too much to ask for the guy (a Brother of the Watch, going by the cloak wrapping the items) to leave a note: "So you've discovered my obsidian arsenal."
Cersei (Lena Headey) tells Tyrion she doesn't want Joffrey fighting, thinking the Imp wants him dead, but she knows Joffrey will be safe because she has Tyrion's "little whore," who will suffer if Joffrey is hurt. Of course, it's not Shae, it's Ros. Nonetheless, Tyrion promises his big sister, "Your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth." If I'm right about these things, and I always am, he's planning on putting out a cigarette in her wine.
Back in the Riverlands, Robb ends up...moved by Talisa's story of her little brother's near death and how that led her to her chosen profession. The two have a wide-ranging, intelligent exchange resulting in some frenetic tent sex. Will Robb act as if this never happened and go on with the betrothal to the Frey girl, like any other engaged dude? Or will he do the "honorable thing?"
He's Ned Stark's kid, and just made a speech about him being the "best man he ever knew." Take a guess.
Stannis and Davos, meanwhile, are preparing for the invasion of King's Landing. Stannis is still pissy about Robert's giving Storm's End to Renly after they defeated the Mad King, when it was he who held it during the siege. We also learn the source of Davos's "Onion Knight" nickname, as he broke through the siege lines to deliver onions and salt beef to the starving men (at least it isn't because of his BO). Stannis promises Davos he'll be Hand when he takes the Iron Throne.
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Tyrion and Varys briefly discuss the game (of thrones, duh) and Daenerys. There's a convenient segue, and Jorah wants her to sail to Astapor without her dragons, which is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard (maybe he's still on the Baratheon's payroll). Of course, Dany wants to go back to the House of the Undying to get her dragons. "They are my children."
Given Dany's storyline this season, a two-minute appearance describing what they're going to do in the future is about par for the course.
Finally, back at Winterfell, Maester Luwin spies Osha sneaking some bread down to the crypts. Somehow she and Bran and Rickon and Hodor made it back into the castle and are now hiding under Theon's nose. Luwin, unsurprisingly, isn't about to spill the beans.
Next week: The pig shit hits the fan in the George R.R. Martin scripted "Blackwater."