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In season 3 episode 3 of Game of Thrones, a miracle happens to Podrick Payne. Tyrion gave Podrick a gift at Littlefinger’s brothel for his loyalty at the Blackwater; a session with three of Littlefinger’s best prostitutes. Podrick returns from his gift and gives Tyrion back the money and when Tyrion protests Podrick replies that the prostitutes refused his money. After some questioning, it’s revealed that the money was not accepted because the virgin Podrick was so stunning in bed that the pleasure was worth more than the gold for the girls.
This has become a legendary event in the show and in the fandom as well. Podrick has been hailed as the prophesized “God of Tits and Wine” Tyrion longed to meet, his member hypothesized to exceed even Tormund’s, and given more titles than the King of Westeros for his noble deeds in bed. But, are those titles and accolades deserved? Is Podrick actually the Azor Ahai of sex come again? I’m here to tell you no. Podrick is not the Lord of Orgasms, instead a pawn in the game of chess that is King’s Landing.
The first thing to keep in mind with the prostitute’s refusal to take Tyrion’s money is the context of the episode this happens in. The episode, “The Walk of Punishment”, is after the Battle of Blackwater. Tyrion has been demoted from Hand of the King to Master of Coin by the returned Lord Tywin. The reason Tyrion, Bronn, and Podrick are at Littlefinger’s brothel is collecting the royal ledgers from the previous Master of Coin Petyr Baelish. We learn later in the episode that Littlefinger has been taking out enormous loans from Tywin Lannister but also, more importantly, the vicious Iron Bank of Braavos. As Tyrion unravels the ledgers more, he eventually learns that Littlefinger has been spending most of the Crown’s money financing his own personal business ventures.
What this means is that Littlefinger, at this moment in the brothel, is handing over proof of his corruption and possible crimes against the Crown to Tyrion, one of the smartest people in King’s Landing. And he has to do it smiling knowing what enormous danger he is in if Tyrion catches on to his schemes. What he needs is a spy that will tell him exactly how much Tyrion has uncovered so that Littlefinger can evade justice. However, Littlefinger has no insights into Tyrion’s inner circle at this moment. Now let’s go back to the sequence of events with Podrick.
When Tyrion arrives, the first person he meets at Littlefinger’s brothel is Ros, the prostitute from Winterfell that Tyrion had so much fun with in the first season. She attempts at charming Tyrion then Pod and is rebuffed by both. With the context above with the danger Tyrion represents, having Ros front and center and working on Tyrion is a smart move from Littlefinger. He’s attempting a honey pot on Tyrion which is when you have one person feign sexual and/or romantic interest in another hoping they confide in your agent. Ros has a prior positive relationship with Tyrion and is an ideal candidate for this.
The initial honey pot fails but Ros’ interest in Podrick as well is telling with what happens next. With this is mind, let’s look at the dialogue in the scene.
“They wouldn’t take it my Lord” – Podrick
“Maybe they were trying to curry some favor with the new master of coin” – Bronn
“Have you ever known a whore to turn down gold? They’re happy enough to take it when I give it to them.” – Tyrion
“What did you tell them?” – Bronn
“I didn’t tell them anything” Podrick
“What did you do to them” – Tyrion
“Lots of things” Podrick
“And they seemed to like these things?” – Tyrion
“Yes m’lord” Podrick
“Of course they seemed to like it, they’re paid to seem to like it” – Bronn
“Only they weren’t paid” – Tyrion
“What are you saying? These ladies enjoyed him so much he gave them the time for free?” – Bronn
What we should be doing in this scene is listening to Bronn, he is rightfully skeptical of Podrick’s story. He guesses that the prostitutes were faking in an effort to get at Tyrion somehow. Then he asks if they pumped Pod for information. And finally notes that great prostitutes are actresses, they can fake pleasure easily. Bronn correctly identifies that even though Pod is only a squire, being a squire to Tyrion makes him valuable. If the girls can get Podrick to come back more and more, perhaps in between wine and pillow talk, they can get useful information for Littlefinger. Even innocuous details such as Tyrion’s mood or when he calls it a day as he begins analyzing the ledgers would be useful information.
Tyrion on the other hand is ready to believe the girls were genuinely overwhelmed by Podrick’s prowess almost instantly. He claims that because they didn’t take HIS gold they didn’t get paid at all. He’s overlooking that Littlefinger can pay his girls himself out of his own pocket in gold, favors, or advancement in his organization. It’s like if you get a dinner on the house at a restaurant. The staff working on your meal are still getting paid just by the owner instead of by you. Same concept here that Tyrion doesn’t even consider.
Also, Tyrion is horribly biased in this exchange because he deeply wants to believe that prostitutes aren’t motivated only by money. His first relationship with Tysha (which tragically is revealed as genuine) was one where Tyrion believed she loved him and he was told she was only a prostitute hired by Jaime. And also with Shae there is that same tension as Tyrion struggles with how much Shae actually cares for him. The things he is saying about Podrick’s encounter are the things Tyrion tells himself constantly when he doubts Shae. Bronn, bereft of that internal conflict, sees the easy truth immediately that Podrick is being set up somehow.
Tyrion also dismisses that the prostitutes were faking because Podrick claims he didn’t say anything about his life or Tyrion. He shows this as evidence that they weren’t interested in anything Podrick knows. However, there is an easy long game in Podrick believe he is amazing at sex and then, more importantly, spreading that rumor around. In the next episode Kissed by Fire Ros and Varys meet and Ros tells the Spider about Tyrion and Podrick.
The story being told is that Podrick is extraordinary yet not in any specific way. Ros even notes how odd it is that the normally descriptive girls have no details. Later we see the rumors about Pod spreading.
Random women are giggling appreciatively at Podrick as he runs by, when before he was invisible and looked down on. The long game here is less obvious, however it is planting the idea in Podrick’s mind that now strangers are rightly interested in him sexually. He previously would be suspicious of advances given his low social standing and average looks, and is also suspicious of Littlefinger’s girls. Now that he knows he has a reputation, the interest seems justified. What Littlefinger could now do is send one of his employees in disguise as a chance encounter and have Pod believe they are genuinely interested in him. That sounds convoluted though right? Not when you consider Littlefinger does this exact thing to Loras Tyrell with Olyvar.
Littlefinger sends his male prostitute Olyvar to pose as a squire for Loras Tyrell and seduces the Knight of Flowers. From then on, Littlefinger has a constant source of information inside the Tyrells that he exploits. Olyvar even becomes privy to conversations between Loras and Margaery. Part of the reason this works is that Loras believes it is reasonable that Olyvar would be attracted to him, so he does not question the chance encounter and then becomes taken in by Olyvar’s act. With Podrick’s sexual prowess buoying his self image, he too may be caught in a similar web.
Why this plan doesn’t work on Podrick is revealed in season 4. Podrick has been burying his nose in books instead which he shows off by naming the banners of the Dornish houses as they arrive for Joffrey’s wedding. Tyrion is one the few lords that encourages their squires to learn and actively teaches the boy. Pod’s work ethic and duties as a squire has rendered him unavailable for a continuation of the honey pot strategy. In the end it was a gamble from Littlefinger that failed, but not a high cost. Tyrion never realized what was happening and all it cost Littlefinger was a small pouch of gold.
It’s clever writing and planning by the show writers that despite Tyrion’s self-professed prowess at playing the Game of Thrones, he has a very large blindspot that can be exploited. There are games being played even above Tyrion’s head and he’s nowhere near in control as he thinks. Also the callback from Loras and Olyvar allows the viewer to go back and see this scene, which was played for comedic effect, and re-evaluate what is happening under Tyrion’s nose. Tyrion is in far more danger and scrutiny from Littlefinger than he ever realized. And that the hole in his heart left by Tysha is where Tyrion is the most vulnerable.
And that is the mystery of what Podrick did in that brothel: nothing special. Just another pawn being moved around the board by the real players in King’s Landing.