Ned wakes up in bed and discovers that he's the Hand of the King again. And King Robert's going hunting, so Ned has to stand in as king for a bit. Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane has been out burninating the countryside, so Ned sentences him to death and also orders his master, Tywin Lannister, to report to King's Landing. If that doesn't make peace between the Starks and the Lannisters, nothing will!
Meanwhile, speaking of Lannisters and Starks, Tyrion has a plan for getting out of the Eyrie. It involves promising his guard a large sum of money to get a message to Lady Arryn, but first he has to explain several basic concepts. He eventually gets it across and is permitted to leave his Sky Cell and appear before the court. He insists on a trial, which takes the form of his favorite scruffy mercenary killing one of Lady Arryn's knights. Tyrion leaves with a bit of a swagger, although he has to leave his coinpurse with the guard.
Up at Winterfell, Bran gets to ride a horse for the first time since he was pushed out of the window. He immediately rides out of sight and gets accosted by three people who are either wildlings, deserters from the nightswatch, or refugees from a community production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Two of them get killed, and the last remaining one is a lady who promises to be a good servant if she gets to live. Everybody wins! Also, Ros (who I've been calling "Rose") leaves Winterfell for King's Landing, leaving Theon Greyjoy bereft of female companionship.
Finally, and most awesomely, Viserys is getting more and more drunk and making a bigger and bigger nuisance of himself among the Dothraki. This culminates in him waving a sword around in their sacred city and threatening to stab Daenerys right in her pregnant belly if he doesn't get his golden crown. So Khal Drogo melts down his gold-medallion belt and pours it over Viserys's head. He makes a very satisfying clank as his dead body topples to the ground.
The thing about recapping HBO shows, aside from the fact that they're usually pretty good and thus don't allow for as much of the vicious mockery that you can unleash on, say, a The Event, is that they don't have commercials. A recapper doesn't get a break. A one-hour show on a broadcast network has like 45 minutes of actual content. HBO shows are packed. And on this show, I even have to pay attention to the opening credits. The credits! For the record, this episode has King's Landing, the Eyrie, Winterfell, the Wall, and Vaes Dothrak. There's an awful lot of land to the north of the Wall. Could be a whole continent. It's probably all covered in snow, but you never know. It could be populated by abominable snowmen or something. That would be a great plot twist in a later book: suddenly, Westeros has a yeti invasion!
Lord Stark, looking kind of sweaty, wakes up. Well, that's not so bad. It can sometimes be nice to wake up kind of sweaty. And he's in a bed, which is also all right. Cersei is looking down at him, which is probably bad, but so is Robert. Which could also be bad, actually. Ned tries to apologize for not being able to rise, but nobody else is in the mood for formalities. Cersei is specifically angry about Catelyn kidnapping Tyrion, especially when Ned claims that it was at his order. Nobody actually believes him when he says this, but it means he's not taking the opportunity to hang his wife out to dry.
Ned now feels he has ground for complaint as well, what with Jaime Lannister killing his men and all. He doesn't bring up the Lannisters allegedly killing Jon Arryn or Tyrion's apparent involvement in the (second) attempt on Bran's life. Robert decides to broker a truce between Ned and Cersei, but his idea of a compromise is telling Ned to make his wife free Tyrion, and also telling Ned not to seek revenge against Jaime. Cersei interjects that Jaime didn't even attack Ned; Ned obviously staggered out of a whorehouse, blind drunk, and attacked Jaime and his men. Robert ignores this story, and Cersei gets angry at him for not being sufficiently bloodthirsty. She tells him that she should wear armor and he should wear the gown, so Robert smacks her across the face, generating another few hundred posts for the "Is Game of Thrones Misogynist?" thread. She claims that she'll wear the giant red mark on her face as a badge of honor, and Robert says that if she doesn't wear it in silence, he'll honor her again. You can tell this show is fantasy, because even when people are apocalyptically angry at each other, they still have clever things to say.
Cersei leaves with as much grace as she can manage, which is actually kind of a lot. Robert relaxes a bit and says that he regrets his act, which he considers unkingly. Ned predicts a war, and Robert tells him to send a damn raven to the Eyrie already and get Tyrion freed. Ned would like something done about Jaime Lannister, but Robert is too much in debt to the Lannisters to risk angering them. He says that he can't rule the kingdom if the Starks and the Lannisters are at war. I don't know why not. I mean, I can see why he needs the Lannisters happy, but weren't the Starks tucked away in the north, not bothering anyone? Ned wants to return to Winterfell, which I personally think would be the best plan for everyone. But no, Robert wants Ned to stay at King's Landing. He says that he never loved his real brothers, because Ned was the brother he chose.
And that's about all the time Robert has for this discussion, apparently, because he has to go out hunting. But once he's killed a few things and gotten all bloody, his head will be cleared and everything will be all right forever. He tosses the Badge of the Hand (not to be confused with the movie Band of the Hand, which hardly anybody has heard of, so I probably shouldn't have brought it up) and says that Ned's going to sit on the throne while he's out. And if Ned ever takes off the badge again, Robert's going to make Jaime the Hand. One final order of business: Robert's still determined to kill the Targaryen girl. Ned looks unhappy, but he doesn't argue. And to be fair, he looks unhappy a lot of the time.
Speaking of the Targaryen girl, here's Daenerys! That's a professional segue right there. She's got a brazier full of hot coals, such as one might bring to a tailgate barbecue sort of event. She picks up one of her dragon eggs and carefully sets it in the middle of the coals. Then she lifts it up again. Her handmaiden comes in and gasps to see her picking up something so obviously hot. She rushes over to take the egg, but it's too hot and she drops it. We see that the handmaiden's hands are all red and burnt, but Daenerys's hands are still white and pure. So that's kind of interesting. Either Daenerys has some kind of immunity to heat or the handmaiden is particularly vulnerable to it. I mean, I know which one sounds like it's more likely for the plot, but I think it would be more fun if it just turned out that Dothraki handmaidens were really flammable.
We're back in that dream where Bran is practicing archery and is interrupted by a three-eyed raven. He follows it down a tunnel (you don't have to be Fellini to figure that one out!) and then wakes up. A tallish man enters the bedchamber with that saddle that Tyrion sketched out.
In the non-dream world (well, probably) Bran rides his horse with delight. Whee! Horsey rides! He's going in a big circle while Robb and Theon chat in the middle of the Godswood. Or it might just be a regular wood. It's kind of foresty, though. I'm pretty sure of that. Theon thinks that Robb should be raising an army on account of what happened to Jory. It's time for some war! Robb gets a little annoyed at how free Robb is with House Stark troops and tells him that it's not his House. They both notice that Bran has ridden out of sight. When Robb asks if Theon knows where Bran's gotten to, Theon smiles and says, "Don't know. Not my house!" Man, that came back to bite Robb really quickly, didn't it?
Bran rides his horse over a river and through some woods. I can only assume he's going to his grandmother's house. Boom! That right there? That thing you just read? It was a seamless reference to a Christmas carol. That was beautiful. Just like the forest Bran's riding through. The only problem is that there are three thugs in tattered clothing creeping after him. His horse is grabbed by the lady thug, who has theatrically crazy hair. She might as well be Helena Bonham Carter with hair like that. She has kind of a Nymphadora Tonks quality, too, if you know what I mean. The other two thugs are the usual brand of bearded miscreant. They observe Bran's nice silver pin, although they're equally interested in the horse itself. Bran says he can't just hop off it, and they notice that his legs are strapped to the saddle itself. In the process of cutting through the straps, one of the thugs cuts into Bran's leg, but he doesn't seem to feel it. If you like, you can pretend there's a parallel to Daenerys not feeling the heat from the dragon egg, but I think that's just a coincidence. They call him a cripple, and Bran tells them that he's Brandon Stark of House Stark and so on like that. He's trying that same imperious voice that Arya used on the guards at King's Landing, but it doesn't work as well. Castle guards are trained to respond to orders in a way that forest-based rogues aren't, I guess. Plus, it's hard to be impressed by him after he's been cut free of the horse and is lying on the ground.
They're kind of interested in who he is, but mostly because they can't decide who would be most interested in paying a ransom for him. They mention Benjen Stark and Mance Rayder as possibilities. Before they can form any real concrete plans, Robb shows up and tells them that if they let Bran go, he'll let them live. The thug with an axe runs directly at Robb and gets killed immediately. Okay, good safety note: don't run directly at Robb when he has a sword out.